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Monday, October 8, 2012

Kill Your Monday Blues with Hils Hints: Diecut Machines

Part 1: Die-cutting Machines -  Which One Is Right for You?

There are so many die-cutting machines on the market these days that it is hard to work out which one will best suit your needs.  

Should you choose an electronic or a manual one, what is the difference between, say, a Big Shot and a Cuttlebug, and which dies can you use in what machine? 

It can get very confusing, and it is all too easy to give up and not bother.  

But don’t!  

Die-cutting machines are a fantastic tool, and can help you to get more from your supplies, as well as jazzing up your crafty creations.

Today, I’m going to guide you through the different machines to make it easier for you to work out which is best for you.

The first thing you need to figure out is what you would like to do with the machine.  

Do you only want to cut paper and cardstock, or would you like to be able to cut other materials such as chipboard, fabric, thin metal sheets and felt?  

And what sort of cuts are you most interested in?  

Do you like Tim Holtz’s grungy, vintage style diecuts, or do you prefer a cuter look?  

Do you want to have a wide choice of cuts, or will you happy to start with a few basic ones and gradually build up your collection?

You also need to consider your budget, the amount of space you have available, and also how technically oriented you are.  

There is no point in going for a machine that relies heavily on internet and computer use if the most you are capable of is the odd document here and there.

Here is a quick rundown on what the most popular machines are capable of.  
Most of them are available from 

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The Cricut 
There are a few different models of Cricut available, but the main difference is the size of the cutting mat.  The smaller machines will cut up to 6” x 12”, the larger ones up to 12” x 24”.  There is a big choice of cartridges for the machine, and you can also download images from the Cricut website, using their on-line software.  The Cricut will cut through thinner chipboards and grungepaper, but you will need a deep cut blade and you may need to make the cut several times.  For paper or card, cutting is very easy.   You can buy special pens so you can draw images with your Cricut, or ink the edges easily.

The Silhouette Cameo
This connects to a PC or Mac, and images are downloadable.  There is a huge choice of images from a wide variety of designers and manufacturers including Hero Arts, Echo Park, American Crafts, and Jillibean Soup to name but a few.  You can also download SVG images (SVG is the name of the particular type of computer file) from many other sites online, so in terms of die-cuts the world really is your oyster.  It will cut paper, cardstock, vinyl and other thin materials, and you can buy a range of special pens for drawing and edging.  Cutting size is up to 12” x 10 feet.

Craftwell e-Craft
This is similar to the Cricut in terms of the material it can cut, except it can cut up to 12” by any length.  And rather than using cartridges, it uses design cards which hold selections of images.  However, unlike the Cricut (which can only be used with Cricut cartridges or Cricut images), the e-Craft comes with computer software that enables you to use SVG files with it, giving you a much greater choice of cuts.  It also doesn’t require a cutting mat, which reduces ongoing costs.

Making Memories Slice Elite
This is cordless, light and portable yet is still capable of cutting through chipboard, felt and fabric as well as card and paper.  It uses design cards only.  The downside is that the cutting area is not as big – I believe it is 6x6”.

Sizzix Vagabond
This is more like a manual die-cutting machine than the other electric ones, in that it uses metal dies, embossing folders, etc, and doesn’t use cartridges, design cards or internet downloads.  The main difference between it and the Sizzix Bigshot is that the Vagabond is electrically powered, so you don’t have to crank a handle each time you use it.  


Sizzix Big Shot  
This is the best-selling die-cutter.  Its popularity is based on its strength and its ability to cut through a wide range of materials with ease, including chipboard, grungeboard, leather and felt.  It also embosses.  Sizzix offer a huge choice of dies and embossing folders, including ones from Tim Holtz, Vintaj, Karen Burniston and Hero Arts.  It is compatible with virtually any brand of die, from their own mega-thick Big Shot dies (which will cut through virtually anything), to the very thin metal dies such as those from Spellbinders (which don’t cut through some of the thicker materials but are still very versatile).  Some of the dies, especially the Big Shot ones, can seem quite expensive when you are only getting one or a few images from them, but they are very long-lasting – you would have to be cutting on an almost industrial scale to wear them out!

Provocraft Cuttlebug
This is similar to the Big Shot.  It can take most dies, including the Big Shot ones, and cut through most materials.  I think the main reason you would choose this over the Big Shot would be if you preferred the Cuttlebug products to the Sizzix ones.  You can use both brands in both machines, but the instructions for the own-brand products tend to be a bit easier, and don’t require research to find out which “sandwiches” of cutting pads and platforms you should use.

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For the record, I have a Cricut Expression (cuts up to 12” x 24”) and a Vagabond.  I love them both, and use them both often.  There are things I can’t do with my Cricut that I can with my Vagabond,  (for example I daren’t use felt in my Cricut – I’m concerned that even if it cut the fibres could get into my machine and break it.  I don’t have any such worries with the Vagabond).  But my Cricut enables me to cut any size I want, and while a cartridge costs more than a die-cut, it has a lot more images to choose from.

If you are still confused or have any questions, please just ask and I’ll do my best to help.

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HINTS!!! {hot tips}
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TESTING OPPORTUNITIES generally have one or two die-cut machines available at any one time at their TOOLS CENTRE (read here) in the Scrap.Abode. Though the TOOLS CENTRE is no longer fully operational, I'll advise you to contact them at to find out more about the machines, what's available for testing and what's in stock - the latter especially as Die-Cut Machines are  really hot, hot, hot!

For newbies, do also check the online store often as sometimes carry pre-loved (second hand) die-cut machines. These machines are generally in GREAT condition, otherwise, will not advertise them in their online store! 

Where do the machines come from?'s own collection - used no more than 10 times by participants of a Crop.Arty's own stock - badly damaged packaging due to shipping
Supporters of who upgrades their machines, and on the rare occasion relocation countries and do not want to ship them.


Angeline Choo said...

where can we see these pre-loved machines @ store?

rnalilboogie said...

Where can we see that?

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