Die Cutting Machines: A Comparison
A lot of folks have been asking me about which personal die cutting machine to get. I'll be honest: There are a LOT of different personal systems out there now for the consumer. What I like may not be what you do, so you need to make a decision based on what your personal needs and wants are in a machine and whether or not it meets them. (wink!) I am primarily a card maker, so keep that in mind as well!
The following is limited to comparing 3 machines, not every single one available on the market, and is based on information gleaned online, and my own personal experiences only with the Big Shot, which I ordered first, and the Cuttlebug, which I ordered when it became available, just because I got so excited to see it finally released (insert sheepish grin). I ordered my Big Shot through Costco.com and the Cuttlebug through Joann.com
The Cricut by Provo Craft CANNOT pressure/dry emboss, and card stock is most likely the thickest material it can cut through (no felt, chipboard, fun foam, leather, stencil plastic, etc.). It requires electricity and operates on computerized die cartridges; the cartridges can only be used on a Cricut machine and no other. The Cricut cannot use steel rule dies, of course, nor die cartridges made for other brand electronic die cutting systems. MSRP* on the machine is $299. MSRP on the cartridges is $89, and can feature perhaps a hundred+ die shapes in various sizes, per cartridge.
The Big Shot by Ellison is manual, operating on a roller pressure system. It has its own series of Thick Cuts dies (steel rule) (similar to Sizzix Originals), and Thin Cuts (similar to Sizzlits) Cuttlebug and Sizzix steel rule dies are compatible with the Big Shot, as are Sizzlit and QuicKutz Wafer style dies, although you may need an adapter or shim to get the best cut on these. MSRP for the Big Shot Basic Starter Kit is $119, and the system features pressure/dry embossing folders based on brass templates. With the addition of an optional Big Impressions Starter Kit (which features a silicone rubber sheet and impressions pad), you should also be able to pressure emboss using other brand brass templates, as per the manufacturer's claims.
The newly released Cuttlebug, by Provo Craft and designed to compliment the Cricut, is a manual roller based pressure system, nearly identical to the Big Shot, however, it features a revolutionary platform that folds up, saving counter space. It ends up taking only half the footprint in storage that the Big Shot requires. MSRP is $80. Cuttlebug machine has its own line of dies and is also compatible with Big Shot Thick Cuts, Thin Cuts, Sizzix Originals, Sizzlits, and QuicKutz dies (with the appropriate adapter plate), and has its own line of embossing folders that are made completely of plastic (no brass). Although the manufacturer does not make any claims, some folks are finding they can emboss with non Cuttlebug brand brass templates if they can find the right medium that will cause the paper to be pushed up through the brass templates. Some have tried thick old fashioned mouse pads and claimed success and others have reported dismal results.
Good friend and now, fellow die cutting maniac!!! (chuckle!), Ellen Hutson, has discovered that the Wizard Charm Embossing Kit (the Wizard, by Spellbinders, is yet another personal die cutting and embossing tool) actually enables her to dry emboss with all her old brass stencils, on her newly acquired Cuttlebug, with great success. Please read up on her discoveries at her blog, if you're interested in exploring that!
I discovered that both the Cuttlebug and the Big Shot, because of their manual systems, can easily flatten new, unused bottle caps (found at home brew suppliers)! (serious bouncin'!) aaaaaaand, Mooshie_stamps, over at Splitcoast, discovered that she can actually set multiple eyelets all at the same time on her Bug! COOL BEANS!!! Thanks for sharing that tip, Mooshie! (grinnin'!)
Thick Cuts, Sizzix Originals, and supposedly Cuttlebug (?), will cut through all the following, when used with either the Big Shot or the Cuttlebug: text weight paper, card stock, fabric, lightweight chipboard, coaster chipboard, felt, fun foam, leather, thin sheet metal, polyshrink, acetate, and plastic stencil material, etc. Although Cuttlebug dies are classified as "wafer" dies, the manufacturer states they will cut through the aforementioned.
Sizzlits, Thin Cuts, and QuicKutz are wafer style dies that will perform best on textweight paper and cardstock, as opposed to any thicker/heavier type materials.
WHICH MACHINE DID I KEEP???
In the end comes down to personal preference and whether or not the fold up platform of the Cuttlebug is of vital importance to you for storage purposes.
One thing I did notice after giving each machine a serious workout? If the Cuttlebug's suction gizmos disengage, for whatever reason, all the weight on that machine is located dead-center. The machine can teeter while cranking, and you'll have to steady and anchor the machine firmly with your other hand on the top, or stop to raise and re-lower the platforms to re-engage the suction, which would require pulling the die back out to do so, of course. There's nothing "wrong" with that; just something you need to be aware of.
The Big Shot, on the other hand, has the weight evenly distributed across the entire platform. While it might slide or shift a little on the table surface during cranking, the machine itself cannot teeter, due to its design. I naturally place my left hand on the carrying handle of the Big Shot while cranking with my right, so any shifting is minimal if any at all.
Other than that, the two machines are equal in capabilities, and cross compatible with each others dies and embossing products.
After a LOT of deliberation, I decided to keep the Big Shot and sell the Cuttlebug to a friend who will give it a good and loving home. (chuckle!) My reason for keeping the Big Shot over the very obviously cute, celery, and more compact Cuttlebug? I suffer from tendinitis in my hand and arm. The handle grip on the crank of the Big Shot simply feels more comfortable in that bum hand, and for me, that outweighs the other admirable, but, for the most part, "cosmetic" attributes of the Bug.
Happy die cutting to all!
*MSRP = Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price. I quote these based on what I've found on the internet, and sales or discounts available at various retailers, whether B & M or online, are NOT taken into account as they vary considerably from retailer to retailer. Check out the manufacturers' websites for more info on price ranges of dies for the respective machines. Deals abound; do your homework!