Comparing Scrapbook Die Cutting Systems: Slice, Wizard, Cuttlebug, Cricut, (Coluzzle)
I’ve been comparing die cutting machine since I don’t have any at all for cutting shapes and letters. It is a lot more expensive to buy a ton of punches than to invest in one of these, so I’m in the market for one. Here’s what I’ve been finding, for anyone interested in comparing die-cutting machines.
The cheapest Slice (click to see video)I could find was about $109.00 tonight here. The other day I saw one in a special deal where you got a pre-order free cartidge that would ship in February. The Slice is very cool. But, I often craft while watching TV with the fam, and it might be too loud for me (note that in the video, they voice-over the sound…it cuts into a glass matte, so it is going to make a razor against glass sound–search other videos on youTube to hear that). I think another possible con for me might be the need for a sticky surface I like using my cutting surface fully for several products, all the time–I am imagining a hairball of all sorts of paper getting stuck on my cutting mat. I’m also not sure I’d want to go all the way through the digital screens to find each letter I needed. But, I love the font selectionsand it just looks so darn fun to play with! LOVE how up to date the cartridges and fonts are, and the variety of alpha sizes for each letter on one cartridge as it’s electronic.
The Wizard, an all metal, very sturdy die cutting machine, creates GREAT embossing with it’s like 500 or 5000 pounds of pressure…I can’t remember, but has a loud ratchety sound when you push the level up and down to feed the plates through (again, interferes with card making while TV watching, or crafting after The Hub is in bed (often, when I’m hitting a creative surge). I craft in the guest room right next to our bedroom and right next to the TV room. This same company also makes the wonderful “Nestabilities” dies which greatly reduce the cost of punches for frequently used stacks geometric and scalloped shapes. Their dies look best in the Wizard, but people say they also get great results with the Cuttlebug (next), once they learn the correct “sandwich” to use without breaking their Cuttlebug “B plate” (replacement cost approx. $7 for 2). I would love to have this one if it were easily to store, lighter weight, and didn’t make the noise.
The Cuttlebug is raved on scrapbooking forums as a compact, handy, low- cost die-cutting machine that will accept any manufacturer’s dies. Drawback (as with all manual die cut machines)…letters have to be done individually and projects that may require repeat cutting would take a while. Dies only come in the size of the die (as compared to the Cricut or Slice where multiple sizes can be acheived). A plus is that you can use tiny scraps of paper and just place them over letters without having to pre-cut paper with any precision, AND it’s a simple approach requiring no computer.
The Cuttlebug embosses as well, (though I’ve read not to the very sharp extent that the Wizard does, still very pleasing results for users). The Cuttlebug also embosses it’s own nice Provocraft brand “A2 folders” (which is the size of a small card). The Wizard will emboss these folders as well. They are called “folders” because the card sort of sandwiches between the positive and negative imprints of the embossed design, the the machine smashes in the image as you roll it through. (I found that applying pressure using a Pampered Chef mini muffin wooden tool works pretty well also with these folders if you don’t have a Cuttlebug, especially if you spritz the paper with alcohol mist first for a stronger imprint).
The cheapest Cuttlebug I could find in my comparisons online was $39.99 at Custom Crops. If you order today and place an order above $100.00, you get free shipping with their code posted on the home page. This machine is currently compatible with all dies on the market, simply by changing the plate thickness “sandwich”. You can look up those “recipes” online in scrapbooking forums. Just the fact that every person I know who has one uses words like: “I LOVE my bug…once you have one, you will love it and not regret it” is a selling point.
I would personally have this machine simple to use with nestability dies. I love cards done with these. I have been working on my collection and have my family buy me sets for Christmas each year. It try to wait a year to avoid the “new die” markups. There are machines now like the “bug” that allow for even larger dies. I probably won’t upgrade, but know some friends who love this flexibility.
The Cricut, another electronic cutter, allows operation without a computer using font cartridges, or you can hook it up to a computer with a program called SCAL (acronym for “Sure Cuts a Lot” at $75.00). SCAL is a third-party software program unaffiliated with Provocraft (makers of the Cricut) that will allow you to cut any font on your computer, or any .svg file. Here’s a link that gives you “all the details” on SCAL in conjunction with the free downloadable program, Inkscape, which converts your font layouts to an .svg file needed by SCAL. SCAL has a WYSIWYG editor so that you can see what the machine will cut, eliminating the need for the package sold by Provocraft. (Cricut Design Studio or something like that, also about $70.00-$75 at Wal*mart). I’m told you can update any drivers with older free trials of this program, but they are getting hard to find…Provocraft is trying to block the sale of this product as their company doesn’t own it. I personally would not buy the Cricut without the ability to cut my own fonts…they should just get on board with the program or something. I love SCAL.
This is a good video showing the settings on the Cricut machine keypad and how to adjust them for papers from a thin vellum to a thicker cardstock.
The “personal” sized Cricut also called “mini” will cut 6″X12″ paper, perhaps 6X24 if you CUT A 12×24 mat and get creative with it. If you have already the EK Success Cuterpede paper trimmer, you know how easy it is to cut 6″X12″ cuts by swinging out the side extension arm which gives you a perfect 6″ guide. The best price I’ve found for this machine new online with one standard cartridge post black Friday sales was at Custom Crops for $119.00. They promise to ship within 2-4 days and free shipping with purchases over $100 with a code from their home page. I considered one with no cartridge since I want to hook it to a spare computer, but if I want to use it at crops, thought it would be nice to have at least the one “traveling font” (I’ve also since read that you need at least one cartridge to make SCAL work…
don’t know if this is backed up by science or not). That is the case.
The Cricut “Expression” is also available this year on their site for $219 which will cut 12X12 papers. I didn’t think I’d need this size, but have seen wall applications using vinyl where I can see the benefit of a larger size…for, say a family wall Monogram with a big circle around it. I think I can design around that for now, though using quotes or words rather than large objects. (I have since upgraded to the Expression. Prices have come down on black Friday sales. I think I got mine at Wal*Mart this year  for $180 with two free cartridges. I’ve also seen them on ebay with four cartridge packages for about that much.)
The pluses for the Cricut are: if you need to cut out duplicates, you just tell it to cut again without having to cut shapes or letters out over and over as with a traditional die machine. Also, you can cut any dingbat on your system with the upgrades discussed above. The negative is, is doesn’t emboss, which is something I’m really into for cards right now.
The Coluzzle: This isn’t really a “die cutting” machine per se, but it is, then again. You take a specially made knife with a swivel blade and run it around thin, plastic templates to create your shape. I personally own and love this system for it’s lightweight and compact storage and portability. It is harder to do alphas and the ones I do have are HUGE. I love that about them…then again, not much flexibility. I have continued to add to my Coluzzle system, however, even as I look at other systems simply due to it’s usefulness in addition to other systems. I like the basic shapes best and love them…use them all the time. I use them a lot of Sunday School projects, or to mass cut images for cards if I have time to work while we are traveling. It cuts very well in my lap and is lightweight for travel.
Useage: currently, I love to use it to cut two size shapes and follow the pattern of the smaller shape to create a scallop on the larger with my decorative scissors. I am using a lot of my decorative scissors in this way for cards…I think the results are very beautiful and clean, simple…and a lot of fun:
I actually cut four coluzzle ovals for this card, cutting one down with scissors.
Also, I often use it in my 2nd grade Sunday School class–the kids love to watch me do them. For portability and ease of storage and use…I love this product.
Negative: cutting the leftover areas where channels end is a bit tricky. I often need to do cleanup with scissors. I bought a Creative Memories Oval Cutter off ebay this Christmas for clean edges on my ovals and circles, such as in trimming actual photos. I love that with my Coluzzle, I can just lay the necessary mat over my work space and cut, whereas with my CM trimmers, I’ve got to have a cutting mat. I tend to keep a dirty work surface, so all that to say, there are times I prefer to use both.