Friday, May 22, 2009

Do I Need a Diecutter?

Hi, everyone! Welcome back to Life on the {Scrap}beach!

This is the first post in what will be a three part series about die cutters, both electronic and manual. I hope you don't get too bored with my musings!

For about six months now, I have been contemplating getting a die cutter. The way I see it, I have four options:

1. Get an electronic “die” cutter.
2. Get a manual die cutter.
3. Get both an electronic AND a manual die cutter.
4. Do nothing.

So far I have been doing an awesome job with Option Four! But I have decided I want to stop thinking about die cutters and make a decision already so I can start to budget for one {if I decide to get one} OR decide not to get one so I can stop rehashing this issue at least once a month until I drive myself completely insane and get woken up at 3:00 a.m. by my husband who is begging me to stop screaming "Quickutz" because I am having a nightmare about cookie cutter dies.

So, setting my rapidly diminishing mental stability aside for the moment, I’ll break out the pros and cons of the four choices above as I see them. Maybe I can finally make a decision about this issue!

Option One: Get an electronic “die” cutter.
An electronic cutter certainly provides more flexibility and images for less money than a manual die cutter. There's just not question about that. However, electronic cutters are not without their own issues. I know them well, for I once owned a Cricut Script which I hated with the fire of a thousand suns.

{Okay, so that may be a slight exaggeration. But I did find the machine so frustrating that I hardly ever used it & eventually gave it away to someone who actually wanted one. I know they get a great deal of use from it, and that makes me happy.}

My problems with the Cricut Script included: paper tearing {I could never seem to get the blade set right}, the mats {either too sticky or not sticky enough}, limited fonts {I didn’t love any of the fonts/images on the cartridges out at the time}, and more. I now know that all these problems have solutions. There are plenty of Cricut message boards with “cheat sheets” for blade depth and cutting speed. There are ways to make the mats more or less sticky. And there are Cricut Design Studio and Sure Cuts A Lot {SCAL} to weld images for continuous titles, as well as open up a wide variety of fonts already stored on my computer.

{I know that most of my problems with the Cricut were pretty much my own fault. I just didn’t care enough about the machine to find all this out at the time. Which makes me wonder if I care enough now to utilize all the resources available to the owners of my hypothetical electronic cutting machine?}

Anyway, moving on: let’s assume that I have decided to buy an electronic cutter. The next question is, which one would I purchase? There are so many. In my recent research into the land of electronic cutters, it seems to me as though the Cricut Expression + Sure Cuts A Lot {SCAL} is king. It cuts images as large as I could want {up to 12”x24”} which would enable me to make my own “diecut” 12”x12” paper and borders {you know how I love my diecut paper and scalloped borders}. The addition of SCAL to the Cricut, while voiding the warranty, would allow me to cut any TTF {true type font} on my computer as well as any I download going forward. It will also allow me to cut any SVG files as well. These are all very good things that open up a ton of possibilities. And, of course, there are always the cartridges if any catch my eye. I could even make my own "chipboard" letters by cutting multiples of a letter and layering them like I did in my Easter Eggs videos ~ only not by hand!

But it’s … pricey. Even if I could find an amazing deal on this machine, it would still be a large investment. Then there's the added expense of the software, cartridges, etc. And I had a Cricut before and really didn’t like it. I’m better educated now about the available features and programs, but would I really take advantage of them? I can’t be sure. Plus, there’s the time factor. It seems to me like it takes more time to design and program an image for an electronic cutter than it does to run a die through a manual cutter. I already spend enough time on the computer as it is between photo and video editing and whatever else. It just seems so much easier just to put some American Crafts Thickers on the layout and call it a day {I love Thickers!}.

In many ways, the simplicity of a manual die cutter is much more appealing at this point. Maybe I need to look more closely at the manual cutters and forget about the electronic cutters. Or maybe my problem is that I am lazy...?

Life's a beach. Scrapbook it.


  1. Birds of a feather. I've been looking into this for some time now. Although I do aspire to own a cricut at some point in my life I just can't justify the cost right now. So I went with the cuttlebug, primarily since I make quite a few cards and the size is perfect for card making. And it can be used with most all dies by many different countries. And I can justify the cost with it being less than $60 plus my obsession with nestabilities has just started. Lol.

    I just ordered it on wednesday.

    Hope this helps.

  2. I have the manual die-cutting machine from Quickutz (The Revolution) I love it. I've also been thinking about getting an electric one, simply for the fact that I can create large titles and weld them together on the computer. My thought on this is the Silhouette SD also made by Quickutz. It does everything the cricut does, but it's all on the computer..... it is a large investment up front (Around $250) but there is no added expense of cartridges... you can use any True Type Front with it. I haven't bought it yet, so I don't know much more than that, but I hope this helps in your search.

  3. Hi Kathryn,

    I have two die-cutters. The zip-e-mate is my firts one, which is an old one. It is a manuel die-cutting machine. I think you cannot buy the zip-e-mate anymore. But at that time I wanted one and I was crazy about it. And still I am crazy about it. It is at my table and I use it many times. On the zip-e-mate I can use many different dies from different facturies. If I need to choose a new manual die-cutting machine I think it will be the cuttlebug because this one is a little bit bigger than the zip-e-mate.

    I have also the slice from making memories. This one is electric but you don’t use the computer but it is with little cards. I like the slice because it is small and you don’t need the computer. I don’t want to scrapbook and go to the computer everytime I need a letter or a die cut. That is why I choose the slice, it is small and easy to use. The slice is at my table and I can use it any time I want. A electric die-cutting machine which you need a computer is nothing for me, I go nuts everytime I need the computer for someting I want quickly.

    I hope you figure out what you want and I wish you good luck!

    Greetings, Nanda

  4. I understand where youare coming from, so here is my take. I have a Cricut (baby bug) and I love it. I have just started using the deisgn studio and it is really easy. Also I am lazy so I often go to the cricut message board and there are TONS of people who share their cut files so all I have to do is download thema nd press cut! I thnk the electric ones are better only b/c the dies for the manual ones are expensive!!! and you don't get that many things on it. for 20 you can cut 5 different flowers in different sizes but for a $50 cartidge (Say walk in my garden) you get flowers in all sizes, bigs, butterflies, scrolls, cards, shapes, pots, grass etc. More bang for your buck and you don't have to store hundreds of dies! Also, Sure cuts alot fixes the font issue. Paper rips when the blade is too fast. I just have mine set slow for intricut cuts.
    I just think it is crazy to have loads of dies that only cut a few images. That being said if I were to get a manual it would be the Big shot b/c it fits all other dies. That's my 2 cents!

  5. Hi, everyone! Thanks so much for commenting ~ I never knew this was such a hot topic!

    Angela: I know exactly what you mean ~ it's the nestabilities and embossing folders that have drawn me to diecutters in the first place. I have looked at the Cuttlebug & like it. I also like the Big Shot. They both seem like they cut pretty much everything except the long Quickutz border dies. I had pretty much narrowed it down to one or the other when I saw a post on Two Peas about the Quickutz Epic 6. It's supposed to be able to cut all the QK dies + all competitor dies. So now I don't know anymore.

    Shelly: I like the idea of the Silhouette SD, but I don't think it beats the Cricut Expression + SCAL combo in my mind since one of the main allures for me in an electronic cutter is the ability to make my own 12"x12" diecut paper. Technically you only need one Cricut cartridge if you have SCAL & then with SCAL it can do anything a Silhouette can do, just with a larger cutting surface. So I know that if I get an electronic cutter it will be a Cricut Expression. If the Silhouette was larger, I would definitely prefer it over a Cricut.

    Nanda: I agree with you about the computer thing ~ it would drive me nuts to use the computer every time I scrapped. I already got frustrated when I was doing my journaling on the computer & am so glad I have found a way to do it by hand now.

    The simplicity of a manual die cutter is much more appealing to me, even though there are not as many options available. Just grab the die I want, stick in the machine & go! And, quite possibly, it is a good thing that the options are more limited. I really believe that having too many choices slows my creative process, which is why I scrap from page kits and not from my stash as a whole.

    Anonymous: That's interesting to knw about the Cricut MB ~ I didn't know that people were haring their designs/welds online like that. That definitely appeals to the simple/lazy gal in me. I think later I will go check out the Cricut MB and just see what is going on over there!

    Thanks for sharing your opinions, everyone! I really appreciate it!

    Life's a beach. Scrapbook it.

  6. I have the Cuttlebug (I can cut the biggest Ellison dies down to the thinnest Nesties/QK. it's much cheaper than the big shot & a lot more compact.

    I also have the Cricut Expression. That thing continues to amaze me. There are a lot better carts out there now than when you first got into it. I love making my "faux thickers" no more running out of letters & sitting there thinking what title can I make with what I have... but at a press of the button I choose the color, font, size & what I want the title to say.

    Provo tries to scare people in saying that SCAL voids the warranty but it's software on your computer so I really don't think they could tell if you used SCAL or not.

    But for any tool to be worth it you have to want it & want to learn how to use it. All diecuts are labor intensive compared to popping open a package & sticking it on a page. But there is value in being able to use it again and again & make it what you need not the size it comes in

  7. Hi, Suz, thanks for taking the time to respond!

    I am not overly concerned about the machine {electronic or otherwise} taking more time to make something than just using a pre-made embellishment as I make a lot of my own embellishments/letters now. But my experience with my Cricut {which was bad, I admit, and probably atypical} made it feel like the end product wasn't worth the time and aggravation. Being able to make faux "Thickers" is one of the big draws {love those things}, as well as being able to make 12"x12" shaped papers for my projects.

    Now for the manual diecutters, I understand that the Cuttlebug cuts everything except the QK 12" dies ~ is that correct? I was looking at the QK Epic 6 because it cuts everything under the sun {or so it claims} but it seems like it would actually be cheaper to get a Cuttlebug and a QK Revolution than to get an Epic 6. The dies I am most drawn to are the Nestabilities and the QK cookie cutter & border dies.

    I wonder why this is so hard for me? I must be weird.

    Life's a beach. Scrapbook it.

  8. I think choice 3 is the most natural solution!
    I have and like the big shot. I make my own chipboard alphas w/ the dies; however it is a big investment on the long run and it takes a lot of room, but I will never part with it. Also the pro for manual die cutter is the ability to use those embossing folders!!! You can use most dies with most machines, but I belief you can use all of them on the big shot.
    I also have the baby bug, only used it once or twice, but will use it more in the future as I have also seen a lot of tutorials about it. I like the magnetic platform of the QK revolution, and if I found one for a good price I would get it too. Now I don't mean to add to your dilemma, but consider that the big shot also can be electric!!!

  9. I don't know about that, Genny ~ I seem to be doing a great job with choice number four! :D But you are definitely right in the sense that choice three would settle the matter permanently!

    I think that the Big Shot and the Cuttlebug are pretty much interchangeable in the sense that they both do all the dies except for the QK border dies. The biggest difference {I think} is that the Big Shot takes up more space than the Cuttlebug & is heavier/less transportable.

    I like the electric option because I do have some {minor} hand problems {caused by two random and completely unrelated freak accidents in which I severely broke both my thumbs & caused permanent damage to the ligaments in my thumbs/wrists}. I also like the idea of the QK Epic 6 because it is supposed to take all QK dies {even the border dies} and all competitor dies.

    I just don't know. This is very hard for me for some reason. Maybe I should just pick a machine out of a hat and go with that!

    Life's a beach. Scrapbook it.

  10. Hi Kathryn,

    I don’t know exactly but maby it is possible for the cuttlebug to buy an extra plate (i don’t know how it is called) to use the long 12” dies. I know that you need a 12” plate to use the 12”dies and I have the zip-e-mate and I can use the 12” dies if I have the 12” plate. The nestabillities are no problem for the zip-e-mate and the zip-e-mate is smaller than the cuttlebug so the nestabillities are easy to use for the cuttlebug and other manual die cutting machines.

    Greetings, Nanda

  11. Thanks, Nanda! I will do a little more research and see if there is a longer cutting plate for the Cuttlebug so it will do all the dies.