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Manual Die Cut Machines and Dies

Die Cuts and Stamping
By Marion Davis, Artistic Guide

Let me state up front that I still adore stamping. However, when I made the decision to try selling my cards, as discussed in my last blog, I had to take a long hard look at the die cuts available. Die cuts have evolved in the last few years. They have improved and become much more varied. There are several excellent companies out there. My craft budget can tell you that.  I will mention a few but please understand that there are several companies whose dies I don’t own …yet.

In this article I am going to focus on the manual machines.

I started years ago with Sizzix. I had the old red one and then got the adapter so I could cut Sizzlets. I did like the machine, but the handle action hurt my shoulder if I was doing a lot of cutting. I still have and use many of the dies that I started collecting with that machine. Unfortunately, these original (thick) dies only cut on a few machines.

My next machine was a Big Shot which was then an Ellison product. I loved the crank handle. After Ellison bought out Sizzix I became a Sizzix Preferred Instructor. That meant I needed to own the machine I was demonstrating, so I sold the Big Shot to a friend and bought my Big Kick. I still own and use that machine.

Photo: Big Kick

Tim Holtz worked with Sizzix to bring a motorized version to the market. You know it as the Vagabond. Not comments from me. I have never used one. I can’t justify another machine while I have one that is working well.

I have used the Cuttlebug for Demos when I worked for local stores. I liked the machine but the suction on the bottom did not work well through no fault of Cuttlebug. The stores where I demoed always gave me a textured table and the suction needs a smooth surface. The machine itself worked great but the width was a little smaller than the Big Kick so I never saw the need to own one.

The Spellbinder Wizard was the next one that I became aware of.  However, the lever action that it had was similar to the one I had not liked on the original Sizzix. The machine itself worked well. I have never heard a complaint about it. When Spellbinders moved to the Grand Calibur I eventually bought one for the wider bed.

Photo: Grand Calibur

This is a great machine for the thin dies that Spellbinder produces but I still go back to my Big Kick. The metal gears and the fact that I own so many of the original thickness dies were the convincing factor for me. Add to that the industry has designed the thin dies so that they work on all the manual machines with which I am familiar and you will understand my personal preference.

Enough about the machines! Let’s talk about the dies.

Sizzix dies were my first exploration into dies cuts and I have a large collection of these. They cut cleanly and the original depth which have steel rules as a cutting element will cut several cardstock layers at a time. Sizzlets need to be cut one layer at a time because they are made differently.

Photo: Sizzix

The new thin dies are so detailed that they have moved the art of card making to a new level. I won’t even try to name all the companies that make them. They are lighter, easier to store, and work on all the manual machines that I know of. Sometimes the differences in thickness require shimming with layers of cardstock. I place these between the base plate and the die so it doesn’t impact the cutting. I also use a piece of wax paper over the die to help the little pieces come out of the dies more easily.

Cut Emboss

Memory Box

Cheery Lynn Designs

Recently I became aware of several companies that are creating dies to help with interactive cards. I purchased one that cuts the slots on spinner cards. Of course we have cut that slot by hand for years, but this is so much easier. I made 2 dozen card fronts for Easter cards in less than 5 minutes with no measuring and no mistakes!!!

Another type of die that has recently come out are the ones that cut the shapes and backings for Cut and Tuck style cards. This one is a no brainer for me. The cost of the brass stencils is roughly equal to the cost of the dies. I adore the fact that I don’t have to cut through the stencil with a craft knife. The big plus is the coordinating backing shape that I used to have to hand cut with scissors.

Geo Dies

Most of us are aware that the nesting types of dies are great for creating shaped elements in layers. Spellbinders has given us a plethora of shapes to work with and there are other companies offering a similar concept.  I used to do this by tracing templates and hand cutting them. Sometimes they ended up looking like a 5 year old had done them and they took a long time. The best part of the Spellbinder type dies for me is that you can cut, emboss, and even use the die as a stencil for coloring background on the elements.

Cut-emboss stencils

I have been using many of these dies with punch art to create my cards for sale. For me they are the difference between pretty and WOW. If you haven’t tried die cuts on your cards choose one (or more) that you love and enter the world of die cuts to embellish you stamping. Remember they are paper embellishments. You can do anything to them that you do in stamping.

Explore the possibilities!


(Editor's Note:  All products reviewed in this article were purchased by Marion and not provided by the company's/companies' products being reviewed.)






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8 Responses »

  1. I bought a Big Shot a couple of years ago after doing some research. I have never regretted it! It is so adaptable! I've even used one of the Grand Nestabilities with success. If you just look up the sizes, you can go up to six inches wide. I think the only way I would buy any thing else would be if Sizzix had a wider Big Shot that was way less expensive than their Pro model.

  2. I agree with all the comments about loving the die/embossing machines. They have really changed the look of my work for the better. Glad you all enjoyed the article.

  3. I can answer that privately. Contact me at marionddavis@verizon.net. I believe that it would be considered an advertisement which is not allowed on Stampers Quest.

  4. I recently purchased a huge lot of the old regular Ellison dies. It did not have the cutter with it so now I need to sell them. Would anyone know who might be interested? Please let me know. Email me at craftnut2@aol.com
    Thanks everyone

  5. You talk about "several companies that are creating dies to help with interactive cards". Can you possibly name a few. They sound very useful.

  6. That's a good summary of the topic, Marian. I have the Big Kick myself and lots of Sizzix dies and wouldn't be without them. Love the Spellbinders dies, too. Thanks for all the information.

  7. I have a Big Kick and it seems to satisfy me for all my die cutting needs. And, I have many types of dies too as well as lots of embossing folders. I love the look they give a card too. And, I still add stamped art to each of them as well. Card making has taken a whole new level since I first started making them and I love it.

  8. I have so many dies and keep buying more. Love them. They make your card so much nicer. edna