Friday, September 6, 2013

Manual die cutting ~ which machine to choose?

A little history first...

While there are many different manual die cutting machines out there, the one that started home die cutting is Sizzix made by Ellison.  And, they must be doing something right since they are still going strong and getting stronger with their die collections.  They have some pretty awesome designers; from Tim Holtz and Karen Burneston to Stephanie Barnard and many, many others.  Their selection of dies is unparalleled; and with the addition of texture/embossing folders, it is my opinion, that no other company can touch them. 

When the Sizzix die cutting machine first came out many decades ago they had the red levered machine with red, yellow or green steel ruled dies.  Steel ruled alphabets were blue.  Then they brought out the Sizzlits, wafer thins dies.  Most of the Sizzlits were alphabets and their fonts available were, and still are, fantastic!  They became collectors’ items and many people just collected their fonts.

I still have many fonts that I collected during that time as well as my original levered machine, which now is a source of inspiration in my studio.  It seems that I also collected a lot of red tag dies.  Until I got them all together, I didn’t realize that I had so many different tag dies.  The funny thing is all these dies still work perfectly after all these years; and believe me when I say they’ve gotten quite a work out over the years.

When the Big Kick came out, I had to buy one right away.  At that time you couldn’t use a 40% coupon on anything Sizzix, so I had to pay full price for the machine; but, since I have had no reason to replace this machine to date.  I feel that the investment was certainly well worth it.  The Big Kick and Big Shot is the same machine.  You can use any steel ruled dies, which the exception of the Sizzix Pro size dies; Sizzlits, wafer thin dies, and embossing folders.  You can use other company’s dies and embossing folders in the Big Kick/Big Shot.  The only other exception is the Spellbinders extra large nesting dies; the largest sizes are a bit too wide for the Big Kick/Big Shot. 

AccuCut was getting into the home die cutting arena as well several decades ago.  They, as well as Ellison, had been in the educational field for some time with large machines as well as very large dies.  At the time most local scrapbook stores (LSS) had one of the large machines and a selection of dies in their store.  When you purchased cardstock from the store you could use the die cut machine for free or join a die cut club to use the machine. 
AccuCut did come out with a small home machine called the Zaz.  This machine was absolutely adorable.  It came in several different colors and was relatively easy to use.  AccuCut left the home die cutting arena and stayed in the educational field.

Cuttlebug by Provo Craft, Quik-Kuts and the Wizard by Spellbinders were next on the scene.  Cuttlebug first had wafer thin dies and then brought embossing folders into the forefront with nice designs.  We started liking to add texture to our cards and scrapbook layouts and Cuttlebug responded with more designs.  Most big box stores only carry Cuttlebug embossing folders now.  It seems that their wafer dies have been discontinued.  If I am mistaken in this regard, please let me know.

The Wizard by Spellbinders was at first a purple hand-ratcheting machine with thin dies as well.  Their designs were innovative and intricate.  Spellbinders has since evolved into the nesting dies, with very intricate, gorgeous designs.  They have many talented designers as well.  Their nesting dies have a tendency to replace most punches too due to their ease of use and storage.  Spellbinders came out with the Grand Caliber die cutting machine.  This machine has a wider platform than the others for their extra large Nestabilities.  However, it cannot accommodate any steel ruled dies.
Quik-Kuts handheld scissor-like machine had some simple designs.  While they were very popular for their smaller size, in my opinion, their designs just didn’t do it for me.

At this point in time, the major players are Sizzix, of course, Cuttlebug and Spellbinders.  The machine I recommend time and time again is the Sizzix whether it’s the Big Kick or the Big Shot doesn’t matter since it’s the same machine.  The only difference is their coloring.  In the Sizzix machines, like I said earlier, you can cut the steel ruled dies, wafer thin dies, Sizzlits and embossing folders.  Sizzix does make a Pro machine that has a larger platform with larger dies.  These Pro dies do not fit in the regular sized machines.  The only other drawback with the Sizzix is the Spellbinders extra large nesting dies.  The larger dies in those packs are too wide to fit.  However, you can cut dies and use embossing folders in the Sizzix from any of the other companies including Cuttlebug, Spellbinders, Cheery Lynn Designs, Die-namics, My Favorite Things, Darice and the many, many other companies that make wafer thin dies and embossing folders. 
The Cuttlebug is a nice machine taking up little space since it folds up when not in use.  It’s great for traveling to crops due to its compactness.  It does produce a nice result embossing or cutting wafer thin dies.  

The Grand Caliber from Spellbinders is a little larger but, in my opinion, is awkward to use as it moves around on the table even though the suction is supposed to be engaged and no matter which way I turn the machine seems backward to me.  It does produce a nice result with the nesting dies and embossing folders. 

In my ever so humble opinion, Sizzix Big Kick or Big Shot is the way to go.  The ease of use, durability of the machine and variety of dies and embossing folders available to use in this machine are practically endless.  If you can only afford, or only want, one manual die cutting machine in your studio, get a Sizzix!

 The opinions are solely those of the author.  Thanks to Google Images for the pictures of the machines.

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