When you already have a die-cut and embossing machine and assuming you know how it works, this post is not for you.
When you are debating if a die-cut and embossing machine is something for you, if you really “need” it, if this kind of machine is worth the cost, then this post is for you!
Now, there are several brands that sell die-cut and embossing machines: without wanting to make a complete list, you have, for example, the Cricut Cuttlebug, the Sizzix Big Shot, the We R Memory Keepers Evolution, the Silhouette Cameo, the Spellbinders Platinum’s VersaCut and so on. When I was debating with myself if I would want to buy a die-cut and embossing machine and which one and how much I was willing to spend I found all this information very confusing.
If you don’t know yet if you are going to use this machine a lot and if you are not sure if you like using die-cuts or embossed pieces on your cards then I personally would not go and splurch on a machine that cost over 200 euro’s/dollars, then look in a different price category. If you can’t use a manual machine, for example because of a physical inability, then you do can look for an electronic operated machine like the Sizzix Vagebond.
For myself: I was watching all these YouTube-videos and every half year debating with myself if I needed one and trying to convince myself that I did not! And of course I don’t “need” one, I don’t die when I don’t have a die-cut and embossing machine, but it looked darn handy to me!
So every half year I had the same discussion with myself, debating if it would not be too expensive (could I justify spending that much money on a single machine and accessories) and especially what the heck I needed to buy additionally to make this machine work. And besides that the dies are quite an investment as well.
So, finally I caved and bought one: for me the race was between the Cricut Cuttlebug and the Sizzix Big Shot. I choose the Sizzix Big Shot.
Because I did not like the teal coloured one and being a woman, I was looking for other options. I found pictures of a black with light pink one and because I decorated my crafting space with light pink and bright red these colours fitted nicely. It’s the Sizzix Big Shot from Stampin’Up. I have a demonstrator living not that far away from me and they had a good deal so I went for it.
For the record: I bought the original regular size Big Shot and the regular size plates, no Pro version, no extended platform/plates. I make cards so this size fits me well. When you buy your accessories separate from your machine be careful that you buy the right size platform/plates.
What made me choose the Big Shot over the Cuttlebug apart from the colours:
- I do not want to travel with my die-cut and embossing machine so I did not needed it to be as small as possible;
- In our new house I have the luxury of a room just for myself and we placed the former baby-diaper-changing table in this room (my stepson is 14 years of age now so we did not needed it for that anymore and we didn’t have room in the kitchen for it where it stood in our old house) and it is about waist-high so I can stand using the Big Shot, what I find convenient. I find a separate table for my die-cut and embossing machine very handy because the desk I work on is a disaster-zone and leaves no room for this machine to work it;
- Somehow the Big Shot looks more sturdy to me than the Cuttlebug, I know it has suction feet but the Big Shot has its feet further apart;
- And a lot of the people I admire in the card-making world use this machine for their work so it could not be that bad, could it?
- So I guess, in the end, it comes down to personal preference.
What do you need to buy extra for your Big Shot to make the most use of it?
Where I live you can buy the Big Shot without the "multipurpose platform" or "cutting plates," so read the ad well when you buy something (especially online). Mine came with the multipurpose platform and 2 cutting plates.
Can you use your machine without the multipurpose platform or without the cutting plates? Nope! You really need these. With these items you can do your die cutting and your embossing (with you embossing folders). Read the instructions on the platform for using the right “tab” of the platform for die cutting or embossing.
What you can buy extra but don’t need right away are the “silicone rubber” and the “impressions pad” (both black: one is flexibel, one is sturdy).
You buy them separate but you use them together as a matching pair of gloves. What do you use them for? Some dies don’t only cut but they have an embossing part in them as well (many dies from Joy! Crafts and Marianne Design, here in the Netherlands, have those abilities). You use your cutting plates first to cut the image and then go to “tab 1” of your platform and use 1 cutting plate, the die high site up, the cut- out (make sure you don’t shift the cut-out during the transfer), the silicone rubber and finally your impressions pad. The silicone rubber puts pressure on the openings in the die and leaves an embossed area.
What you also can buy extra but don’t need with every die is the “precision base plate” (it is a little heavy, sturdy and has writing/images on one site). What do you use that for? If you have very intricate dies with lots of tiny parts you use this precision base plate to give pressure and sharp edges for all these tiny little pieces to cut out of your card stock. If you don’t have intricate dies then you don’t need this, if you have intricate dies then I can recommend it (but you can use your intricate dies without it and look for yourself if they work without the precision base plate in your specific machine). Don’t put your normal dies through your machine with this precision base plate, just your intricate ones ( it can bent your normal dies ). If you use the precision base plate make sure that the words/images are facing downwards, if you see the words/pictures you are using it wrong!
Additional to the precision base plate you can buy the “die brush and foam pad”: I have this but I don’t really use it. It works faster than pushing the little parts out of an intricate cut-out with a pokey tool but I don’t seem to reach for it.
Do I regret buying my Big Shot?
Hell no! : I love this machine: my cards look so much more put together and more professional, the edges are straight and not having to measure and cut every mat for my cards by hand saves me a lot of time! I especially love the little rounded edges where the die cuts the card stock.
I have my Big Shot for half a year now and I use it with every card that I make: I use it a lot for making my mats for layering (see the example photo of a card that I will make a post for shortly). I would recommend if you buy a die-cut and embossing machine you invest in a good set of dies that you can make mats with for your cards (single or layering). I personally love to use the Crea-Nest-Lies XXL nesting dies (because they fit the card sizes that we have here in the Netherlands and there are a lot of different sizes in one set). https://www.crealies.nl/n1/23159/Stans-Crea-Nest-Lies-XXL.htm
And if you’re wondering if it is hard to work the machine? A little muscle-power is enough though I find it more comfortable for my back to use the machine when standing up.
A few little tips at the end of this post:
- Is it normal that your machine makes (a lot of) noise when you put your sandwich (cutting plate, die, card stock, cutting plate) through? Yes, this is normal, don’t worry about it;
- If your sandwich does not go through with just a little muscle-power: check if you made the sandwich in the correct way, that you used the right tab on the platform and that there are no extra unwanted items between your layers that don’t belong there. If it really does not go through then don’t force it, you will kill your machine!;
- There is one sort of embossing folders that needs a special direction when using them with your Big Shot: these are the We R Memory Keepers Next Level embossing folders: instead of the regular sandwich on the regular embossing tab your can try the following: Tab 2 of your multipurpose platform, the embossing folder with your card stock inside and only one cutting plate (if the embossing is not deep enough for your liking ad a piece of extra card stock under your embossing folder)!
- Your cutting plates will look awful after a while (at least mine do): there are several YouTube-videos on cleaning them. But besides all the little paper pieces sticking to the plates they will look used after about a half year. What I recommend doing is: use one “cutting plate” as your cutting plate and one “cutting plate” as your do-not-cut plate and build up your sandwich always in the same order (the nice site of your card stock will damage less this way). In the future I plan to change out my plates (they are not that expensive to buy): when I buy a new set I will use one of the new cutting plates as my do-not-cut plate and my old do-not-cut plate as my actual cutting plate. The other new one I will keep as a back-up. This way you make full use of your materials. And make sure you turn your cutting plate and do-not-cut plate around now and then, this way it bents less and keeps sort of straight;
- I store my most used dies (for me my nesting dies that I use for making mats for my cards) next to my machine in a "letters" box, together with my silicone rubber and impressions pad (actually I keep my silicone rubber and impressions pad in the package the precision base plate came in) and the precision base plate, so that they are easy to reach (I also have a little notebook in there in which I put directions for use of the machine with the proper tabs and accessories, because I don’t seem to be able to remember these when in need);
- I plan on making a post about storage: here I will just mention that I find it convenient to store my dies in envelopes, with or without a magnetic sheet depending on the die.
If you have any questions about this post feel free to ask!
This post, as always, contains my option: you should investigate what are your own needs (manual or electronic for example), what you would want to use this machine for (card making, cutting felt/metal/vinyl, big or small die cutting, scrapbooking or designing things yourself) and what amount of money you are willing to spent!