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Monday, October 29, 2012

Kill Your Monday Blues with Hils Hints: Diecut Machines Part 2


Part 2: Die-ing for Dies -  Which One Is Right for You?

In Part 1 we ventured into the world of die-cutting with a look at the main die-cutting machines that are available, and how you could choose the one which best suited your needs.

This week we are looking at the dies themselves.  There are so many die manufacturers to choose from these days, it is hard to know which dies to go for.  Which will cut chipboard or felt?  Which will work with which machine, and what sort of combination of sandwich plates do you need for it to work properly?

The sandwich plates issue is actually pretty easy if you have access to a computer – and since you are reading this you must have!  Just Google die-cutting sandwiches, plus the name of your die-cutting machine (eg Cuttlebug, Big Shot, etc) and you will be presented with a choice of compatability charts that should tell you exactly what plates to use with which dies.

As for which dies to go for, well that is somewhat more complex.  Some will only cut paper and cardstock, others will cut virtually anything – felt, chipboard, grungeboard, foam, cork, and so on.

Sizzix are very good at making it absolutely clear on their website the materials that their various types of dies will cut.  If you have a specific material in mind, simply go to, scroll down slightly and on the left you will see a menu item “Material Compatability”.  Click on this, choose the material you want to cut, and you will be shown all the dies that will meet your needs.

As a general rule of thumb though, Sizzix Originals and Sizzix Bigz are the ones which are most versatile.  Chipboard, felt, fabric, foam, magnet material, leather, craft aluminium and grungeboard are among those listed as compatible.  These dies are a little more expensive than others, but their high quality, versatility and longevity makes the extra cost well worth it.

Coming soon to is a popular, relatively new, brand of die called My Favourite Things Die-namics.  These are thin, metal dies, and so are more limited in their cutting abilities than the Sizzix Bigz and Original.  Nevertheless they can still handle felt, cork, acetate and more.  They also have the advantage of having stamps that match some of the die-cuts.

Another manufacturer that is currently very much in demand (though not yet available at is Memory Box.  These are favoured for their amazing and very intricate cuts.  Like the MFT dies, they are thin metal dies, and will cut card, felt, fabric, shrink plastic and more, but not thicker materials such as chipboard. 

Spellbinders have had a loyal following for some years now.  They produce Nestabilities, Edgeabilities, Shapeabilities and more.  Many of these emboss as well as cut but, to the best of my knowledge, are largely limited to cardstock and paper.

These are just a few of the many manufacturers who are now producing dies, and it is worth spending some time surfing the net to see which styles and dies you prefer.  Be careful though, not all manufacturers put on their website what their dies are capable of cutting.  I think it is wise to assume that if they don’t say otherwise, then you should stick to paper and card only.  You could experiment with other materials if you wish, but I really don’t recommend it as there is a serious risk of spoiling the die, or, even worse, your die-cutting machine.

Over the next few weeks we’ll look at some fun ways of using and making the most of your dies.
Top tip – Don’t panic if your cutting plates make a worrying cracking sound as they go through the machine.  This sound is completely normal!

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