Today’s blog entry is all about die cutting for beginners! I will be discussing the very basics of die cutting, the machines used to die cut, and will strive to answer your most pressing questions. If I leave any of your questions unanswered, please do not hesitate to leave me a comment.
The video posted at the end of this post will answer most of the questions beginner die cutters may have; however, I will also post it here in written form for those of you who prefer to read. So, let’s jump right into Die Cutting 101 class!
First off… What are dies?
Dies are usually made of metal and come in various sizes and shapes. They are most commonly used to cut into paper for a desired shape. They not only come in shapes, but they also come in text. They must be used with a die cutting machine (which we will go over later).
How do I prepare my new die for cutting?
Some dies are ready for cutting, straight out of the package. However, there are other types of dies that come with many pieces. In this instance, they are typically joined by a tiny metal wire and will come as one unit. You may leave them as one unit, however, it’s best to cut them apart using wire cutters.
Which side of the die will cut my paper?
On most dies, you’ll notice one side has a ridge and the other side is smooth. The side that will cut your paper is the side with the ridge/blade. When placing paper and the die in your machine, put the ridged/blade side down towards the paper you wish to cut.
Why are there tiny holes in my die?
This is a normal variant with most solid dies. The reason for the tiny holes is in case your paper gets stuck in the die. If this happens, simply use a die pick and poke through the tiny holes with it to release the paper.
How does a die cutting machine work?
Most machines will work the same – with minor differences for each machine. There are various machines on the market, but the two most popular are the Sizzix Big Shot and the Cricut Cuttlebug. Both machines work similarly with a manual handle crank. Again, most die cutting machines will work this way but you may also find some machines, such as the Crafter’s Companion Gemini, that work automatically with no manual handle crank. Typically, die cutting machines will both cut and/or dry emboss. In order to dry emboss, separate embossing folders are needed. Without going into embossing, please note that dry embossing is different than heat embossing. I have a blog entry all about embossing linked HERE if you’re interested.
Which die cutting machine is easiest for beginners to use?
I would have to recommend the Cricut Cuttlebug for beginners, and here’s why… The cutting plates are more simplified and easier to understand, as they are labeled “A”, “B”, “C”. The machine usually just comes with the “A” plate and two “B” plates – the “C” plate is a separate purchase and is not really necessary to get started. Another reason I recommend the Cuttlebug for beginners is because it is compact and perfect for smaller craft areas. Additionally, the retail price for a Cuttlebug is lower than it is for a Sizzix Big Shot or Crafter’s Companion Gemini. The Spellbinders die cutting machine is also an affordable option – however, I cannot vouch for the quality of it since I have not used this brand of machine. I can say, though, that the Cuttlebug is a durable machine that stood up to my “beginner mistakes” when I was first starting.
My machine makes popping/cracking noises… Is this normal?
Yes. This is totally normal. With extended use, the cracking and popping noises aren’t as evident but still present. This is simply the machine doing it’s job. The cutting plates will be fine and are created to withstand this pressure. However, in order to ease your mind, please note that the cutting plates for most all machines can be purchased separately. 😉
My die cutting machine handle is hard to crank… why?
There could be three possible reasons that come to mind… Firstly, it could be that your machine is new or hasn’t been used very often. In this case, the handle may not be as “broke in” or as loose/easy to crank. Secondly, it could be that what you are die cutting is too thick to go through the machine with ease. Most all dies can be universal and should work in various machines, but I suppose there could be an instance when the die may be too thick. However, if it’s not too thick but just being stubborn, I have found that putting the die in at an angle helps with this problem a bit. Additionally, it could be that your cutting plates are warped and it’s time to purchase some new ones. And lastly, it could be that your machine is broken. This is unlikely the case, but it is worth mentioning, just in case.
I hope you found this blog to be informative and helpful. The video posted below will give you a better visual of all that was discussed in this blog, so please check it out. Don’t hesitate to leave me a comment if you have any questions. Happy crafting! 🙂