Sewing accessories and scissors

What is exactly a die cutter machine? If you are new to die cutting we are here to help you understand it and to choose the die cutting machine that will suit your needs. Die cutting machines are designed to cut paper, fabric, or other materials to a specific shape. It allows you to create the same shape over and over again. And you don’t have to use any other tools like scissors and stencils. You can use these shapes for a variety of projects, such as scrapbooking, quilts, different kinds of cards, decorations and many more. So, it is used mostly for crafting, and it is limited only by your imagination. Choosing the best die cutting machine is quite a different story. Since you may need it for a wide variety of projects, it is important to buy a machine that will fit your needs well, if not perfectly.

There is a wide variety of die cutting machines out there as well. And the price range is quite extensive, too. Usually, if you are not sure, what is good, you look for the most expensive products made by the most reputable brands in the industry. If this is your instinct as well, don’t follow it. Buying a die cutter machine is a bit more complicated. With so many different uses, no machine is a jack of all trades. The tasks are just too different to create a machine that covers it all while producing a perfect results. For example, a machine that is powerful and designed to cut through metal, probably won’t be the best for a thin paper. So, you need to consider several things before you decide which machine you should buy.

Manual vs Digital Machine for Die Cutting

Basically, there are two types of die cutting machines – manual and digital type.  Manual die cutter machines have a lever or crank. As you turn the lever, your material and die pass through the machine. The machine applies the pressure and cuts your material into the shape of the die.

Electric die cutting machines have an electric motor that runs the machine instead of you. They are usually used for harder materials, as with a simple manual die cutter you would get tired quickly. Digital die cutting machines are controlled by computer software. These machines cut with perfect precision and offer much more possibilities. They perform almost independently, as all you have to do is to arrange the settings.

So, should you choose a manual or a digital die cutter machine? It depends. If you plan to work a lot you will probably end up with a digital model, but it might be a good idea to start with a manual one. Manual die cutters are more affordable, they are simple to operate, and they can cut through multiple layers of fabric. On the other hand, digital machines are more precise, offer more versatility, and once you learn to adjust pressure and blade depth, you can do almost anything.

So, neither is a better choice for everyone. It depends on how frequent you want to use it, on your budget, and type of projects you will do the most. Let’s see all the things you need to pay attention to and you can come back to manual vs digital machine question in the end.

Strength

This is one of the most important features of die cutting machines. The strength determines the cutting force and therefore capability of the machine to cut through a given material smoothly with clean cuts. It is actually the amount of pressure that the machine applies to a fabric or any other material.

Law cutting force will not cut clean through tougher materials, but it will do great on paper. So, power and strength make the machine more versatile. However, stronger machines are usually more expensive. If you need it only for paper or scrapbooking, you don’t really need a powerful beast.

Versatility

I believe that it is a good idea to buy a versatile die cutter machine. Once again, it depends on your usual work and your preferences. But, even if you work on only a handful of different projects, chances are you will want to try some new projects sooner or later. And if your machine isn’t versatile enough you will be stuck or in need of a new machine. This doesn’t mean that you have to pick a most versatile die cutter machine.

My advice is to buy a machine that is one level above your current skill and range. Anyway, when we talk about versatility you should consider piercing, engraving, and embossing capabilities or lack of them. Also, digital die cutter machines should have a range of adjustments for pressure, cut speed, and blade depth.

What Will You Use It For

Die cutter machines are usually used to cut paper and fabric. Both materials don’t require extreme force. Quilters will need more advanced machines to deal with different fabrics. If you predominantly use paper and cardstock, you can create all kinds of stickers, labels, and cards. Or you can use it for scrapbooking. Anyway, for these projects, almost any die cutter machine will do a decent job.

Many die cutters can cut vinyl, thin foil, plastic, rubber, leather, while some of them can cut even metal sheets. It is a wide range of materials, but for most of them, you will need more advanced models. And the harder the material, the stronger your machine needs to be. Well, that’s kind of obvious, isn’t it?

Ease of Use

Die cutter machines used to be very simple and easy to operate. However, with the digital age, new digital machines are being made. They offer a lot more possibilities, but some learning curve is necessary. It is not rocket science, at least not yet, but if you need a die cutter machine for occasional simple projects only, you should look for a more simple model. Besides operating, ease of use includes size, weight, and portability.

To enjoy your craft, you need a cozy working environment, so you should look for a machine that will fit your furniture and workspace. A small and lightweight die cutter is convenient because you can carry it to a friend’s house or wherever and whenever you want. Most of the die cutters are not too big, but some models can be quite heavy.

Support

If you decide to buy a simple manual die cutter you probably don’t need customer service. But if you opt for a digital one, you can’t be your own handyman. Highly regarded brands will always have a quality customer service to back up their products. So, if you have any problems or difficulties, you know where to look for help.

Best Models to Get You Started

These are some general guidelines on what to look for and how to avoid mistakes when choosing a die cutter machine. Now, I will recommend a couple of best-rated and best-selling models to start with. I chose different models for different projects. The ultimate choice is yours and you should make a decision based on your preferences and ambitions. Anyway, these are some good choices to consider.

Sizzix 660425 Big Shot Cutting and Embossing Machine

Great value for the price. It is my choice as the best budget die cutting machine. This die cutter is affordable, yet versatile and precise. It will cut through many different materials from paper to leather. 

READ  Janome DC2013 Vs DC3050 – Detailed Comparison

It is one of the most popular manual die cutter machines. Also, with the machine, you gain access to the Sizzix project library with countless designs, tools, and accessories.

Pros
  • Affordable.
  • It is versatile.
  • Cuts different materials accurately.
  • It is small and lightweight.
  • Can be extended for larger projects.
Cons
  • Requires a learning curve.
  • Being lightweight it is a little bit unstable.

Silhouette SILHOUETTE-CAMEO-3-4T Wireless Cutting Machine

It is an affordable digital die cutter machine. This machine is wireless, with many high-tech features such as auto-adjusting blades. It has 2 mm-high clearance to allow you to cut thicker materials easily. This machine can cut 100 different materials, most of them are light, though. You will get a list of these materials. 

You also get access to Silhouette Studio software. So I’d say that this machine is both performing and inspiring your creativity.

Pros
  • It is very versatile.
  • Wireless connectivity.
  • Cuts through 100 different materials.
  • Allows almost unlimited creativity.
  • Matless cutting.
  • It is lightweight.
Cons
  • It gets unstable with larger materials.

AccuQuilt GO! Big Electric Fabric Cutter

This die cutter machine is designed for serious quilters. It is not the most versatile one, as it is not meant to be. However, it performs great when it comes to strength, precision, and speed. This machine combines simplicity and power. 

So, it is a beast that quilters will love. However, if you are more into scrapbooking or papercraft in general, look for another machine.

Pros
  • It is fast and powerful.
  • 14” wide cutting mat.
  • Easy to use.
  • Cuts 6 layers of cotton at once.
Cons
  • It is relatively large and heavy.
  • It is expensive.

Cricut Maker

Cricut Maker is a versatile and powerful digital die cutting machine. However, it stands out of the crowd for its ability to cut through heavy fabric and very different materials, from paper to balsa. 

It comes with several different blades that provide versatility and accuracy regardless of the material that you use. The software will allow you even more versatility and creativity.

Pros
  • Cuts through thick and thin.
  • Wireless connectivity.
  • It cuts, writes and scores.
  • Variety of tools and features. 
Cons
  • With 15 pounds of weight, it is on the heavier side.