Card making · Craft · My other ramblings

Cutter VS Cutter

Not a dodgy rip off of some 1970s film about warring parents but a debate, discussion and critical comparison of my two biggest cardmaking purchases, in terms of cost and storage. I am very lucky that over the years I have been able to save up and purchase both a manual die cutter (a Cuttlebug and then a Sizzix Big Shot Plus) and an electronic cutter (Cricut personal cutter). When I was making a card the other day using the Cricut it got me thinking, which is better? Which would I give up if I had to? There’s a lot to consider, so I’ve broken it down into sections that were relevant to me and pitted them against each other. In the red corner we have the electronic cutter, and in the blue we have the manual cutter. Let the battle commence!

Initial Costs

These obviously vary depending on what type of machine you buy, whether it is new or preloved, whether it comes as part of a bundle or standalone etc. Both of my machines were purchased through eBay. The Cricut was a small bundle with cutting mat, 2 cartridges and the machine for around £80, the Big Shot was around £100 with cutting plates but no extras. It’s quite hard to compare which was better value, but if I hadn’t already got a selection of cutting dies then I would have looked around for a bundle. As it was, it was only intended to replace my Cuttlebug which had sadly given up after 6 long years. It looks like the electronic cutter wins this round!

Running Costs

In this section I have included consumables as well as more permanent resources. Both machines have certain requirements in terms of consumables, the Big Shot has cutting plates which will need replacing eventually, though in 6 years I only bought one new set for the Cuttlebug so they aren’t something that needs to be regularly replaced. When I looked into it, they were around £20 for a set for the Big Shot Plus (which is slightly larger than A4). The Cricut has higher running costs as it requires both new blades and new cutting mats quite frequently. Both items cost around £10 for a set of 2, and are replaced on average once or twice a year. the life of the mats can be extended by using temporary adhesives, which I have managed to do successfully a few times now.

Both machines also require images to cut. The Big Shot uses metal dies, which vary in price from as little as 99p to as much as you are willing to pay! I have a few sets which I’ve bought, and they are becoming more common as gifts on papercraft magazines too.

The Cricut uses cartridges which have themed sets of images, fonts or both, along with different options for each image. (This is a real generalisation as each cartridge seems to have different features depending on the content.) The cartridges vary in price but as a guide they can be purchased from eBay for £10-£20 each. Other electronic cutters use digital images which can be downloaded or bought on CDs, and some let you design your own.

I think in the running costs category, the Big Shot wins as it needs minimal upkeep and can cut a lot of shapes with one set of cutting plates.

Ease of Use

Both machines take a little bit of getting to know, the Cricut has lots of settings to vary for different materials such as depth, pressure and speed. The Big Shot needs different combinations of plates for different types of dies, and the sandwich of plates, dies and cutting material has to be made up in specific ways for best results. In terms of positioning of images, the Big Shot is quite easy to use as you just place the die where you want it. If you want absolute precision then a tiny piece of washi tape can be used to stick the die to the paper to prevent any movements when sandwiching the plates. With the Cricut, you can move the starting point to wherever you like manually, or if attached to the computer you can position the images on the on screen cutting mat and the machine will replicate this. The only slight issue with this if done manually is that different images may have different starting points so you might get a surprise at the end.

Intricate designs come with their issues on both machines too. With the Big Shot, detailed dies (such as Tattered Lace) may need to be run through the machine twice, perhaps with  a shim to ensure a clean cut. A pokey tool might also be required to remove the tiny pieces of paper from the die. The Cricut sometimes gives incomplete cuts on detailed images, particularly if a small size is selected. It is fairly simple to sort out these minor issues using a craft knife very carefully to follow the lines and remove any unwanted parts.

For me, the Big Shot wins this too, as it is easier to sort out any issues without worrying about settings and experimenting too much.

Flexibility

This is where the unique features of the cutters come into play more obviously. The Big Shot allows you to place images wherever you want, you can also cut through multiple layers and, by placing the card and die carefully, only partially cut a shape to make different types of cards. However, the size and shape is essentially fixed by the die you use. What I do love about the Big Shot Plus is the size-you can do a lot with the A4 size cutting area. You can also cut fabric, card and any other materials easily with a manual cutter.

The electronic cutter is a completely different ball game. Each cartridge has a large selection of fonts or images, with 6 different features and a range of sizes to choose from. This gives 1000s of potential options, and when it is connected to a computer you can pretty much adapt them however you like, for example flipping images, removing lines to make solid shapes, typing text to be cut using the fonts. The possibilities are pretty much endless, literally! (I am not currently using mine with a computer, but I don’t really feel limited by the options on the machine.) One thing which I find limits me with this machine is the 6 inch wide cutting area. There are much larger cutters available and if I had saved up more I’d have bought one. It’s a good size for cutting out toppers, but for options such as frames it would be nicer to have a larger cutting area. The Cricut definitely prefers to cut card; I have yet to try it on felt (or any other materials).

Overall in this category I think the Cricut wins, although the Big Shot is a close second. 

Storage

Even though we’d all like to craft all of the time, it’s not possible, which means our treasured crafting possessions need to be stored. The Cricut is more compact to store as the machine itself folds up neatly. However, the cartridges take up a reasonable amount of space. The Big Shot is anything but compact, it takes up a huge space in my working area. Luckily, the dies are quite neat to pack away and store in a box in my craft cupboard

This one is definitely a draw!

Which one wins?

I’m still sitting on the fence about which machine is the overall winner. It genuinely depends what you are trying to achieve. If you want to make different base cards, cut out some mats to layer or want precision your way then the manual cutter is better. For cutting fonts, making detailed layered toppers and for flexibility with size then the electronic cutter is a winner. (Or if you are repeating the same image hundreds of times, as I did with my wedding stationery, then it will save you from getting an arm ache!)

With the electronic cutter, it is worth bearing in mind that it can go ‘out of date’ quite quickly and need updating through the computer, as well as new technology being released constantly which can mean the machine is quickly old news. That hasn’t been a problem for me so far, and I just use the cartridges as they are quite happily. I’m also blissfully ignorant of how ‘old fashioned’ my machine may or may not be now it is 3 and a half years old. If you buy cartridges preloved, they may have already been linked to a computer and this means you can’t link them to yours (different brands of electronic cutter work in different ways and some don’t rely on cartridges at all, which is worth considering). The manual cutter comes with none of  these issues, it also doesn’t rely on electricity so you could quite happily keep crafting during a power cut if you fancied. However, your options are limited by which dies you purchase. The main reason I bought the Cricut was for cutting text, as for around £15 you get a font cartridge which can be cut in several sizes, whereas for similar money you get one metal die set which will cut the text only in that size.

If someone made me choose (and it would be absolute torture!) I would probably go for my manual cutter as I would just print text for my cards and use the die cutter to make layered mats. For now though, I will let both have a place in my crafting stash!

Which cutters do you use? Do you have both types? If you have both, which do you prefer? What would you do if someone made you choose between them?

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22 thoughts on “Cutter VS Cutter

  1. I have three die cutting/embossing machines:
    My first machine was the Big Shot (the one with flourishes of pink) which I absolutely adore.
    The second machine is an Ebosser – the pink machine. This was bought so that I could cut larger sized dies.
    Finally, I bought a little Spellbinders Sapphire, which lives on my desk and never gets put away.

    Apparently the Spellbinders Sapphire cuts 79% of all the dies crafters normally use – and I can actually believe this because it really does cut rather a lot of my dies. But … if you wanted to emboss a border along the bottom or side of your card … then you’re out of luck. It will emboss … but only in strips (or as big as the plates) to the small size it is. However, I’ve had this for over a year and love it to pieces. A truly fabulous little die cutter.

    I’ve had my Big Shot for about 4.5 years and truthfully wouldn’tbe without it. It’s a real work horse, and will cut through pretty much anything I throw at it. I’ve only ever had to include a shim of paper on Tattered Lace Dies. All other dies it cuts through like a hot knife through butter. AND .. best of all … it cuts through those deep dies like the Bigz dies and some of the Tim Holtz.dies. I’ve had no trouble with it and wouldn’t give it up ever.

    The Ebosser (pink) I’ve had for about 2.5/3years. It sits on my desk taking up room, and yes, it does get used, but not as much as I though it would. It will also stall and refuse to cut, even for the addition of a sheet of copy paper for an extra shim. It either reverses and spits it out, or, worst scenario … it will stall and hold the plates complete with the dies, in the machine. (If this happens, turn the machine off and leave it alone for about 5 minutes. Turn it on again and it ‘SHOULD’ reverse and give you the plates and dies back, so that you can start all over again.)

    If I were told to give one machine up, it would be the Ebosser. I can actually ‘feel’ this product has a ‘shelf life’ and at some point – long before I’ve had enough use out of it for the price I paid – it will turn up it’s toes and die. Woe betide it if it does that with one of my dies in it, because I swear I’ll tear the machine apart with my bear hands!!

    If I was looking now for a larger size cutter, I’d buy the Big Shot plus. You can feel the power any Big Shot has, and you can use it for all size dies. (obviously depending on which Big Shot you’re using).

    That, for me, would be my perfect combination. Big Shot + Big Shot plus + Spellbinders Sapphire.
    Awww… see … now I’m in the land of make believe. Fluffy clouds. Pinks and blues for the sky. Twinkly little stars …. and these three cutting machines.
    Oh .. and a clean and tidy craft room, with no bits of die cut remnants on the floor. LOL. OK.. now we’re in cloud cuckoo land!

    GREAT POST Mrs.Craft! It will be lovely to read the comments from others and get their views of their own machine(s)
    Sending squidges to your corner from mine ~ Cobs. x

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Wow, thanks for that reply! I’ve seen the little die cutters and always wondered whether they were worth it, now I know so if I see one on a super offer I will consider getting one. It’s a shame you aren’t getting your money’s worth out of the ebosser, I never considered one as I thought they looked too scary. The big shot plus was a big purchase for me and was my birthday present this year. I’m so glad I went for the larger model, though I did see some very good offers on the regular big shot. Thanks again for the detailed reply, it’s great to hear from you. x

      Liked by 1 person

      1. REALLY great post Mrs. C and once I read it I actually wondered why someone hadn’t done this before! (including me)

        Such a great idea to get everyone’s views in one place where they can chat honesly and not think that their ‘review’ is either going to be rejected or cut somehow to make it kinder to the product. (if you get what I mean. lol)

        Well done on a truly fabulous and inspired blog post. ~ Cobs. x

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I wanted a die cutting machine for years but I could never justify continuing to buy new dies whenever I wanted to cut somethings new. At the start of the year I bought a digital cutter (silhouette portrait) so that I could cut whatever design I wanted. It was a pretty big outlay to begin with but now I don’t have to buy any dies. I do have to buy a new cutting mat every now and then but the cost is minimal. I’m really happy with it because I don’t have enough storage as it is. I have no idea where I’d keep dies or cartridges!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That sounds fab. A friend of mine has a similar one, if I’d looked into it more I think that’s the type I’d have bought too. Thanks for reading and replying, I was a bit worried it was a ‘boring’ post after I’d hit the publish button! x

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I have a Big Shot and have had it for a very long time. I LOVE the Big Shot and it stays on my desk and I use it all the time for my card making and scrapbooking. I would be lost without it. It’s super simple to use and the results are always fantastic. I don’t own a Cricut and never would. I have friends that them, but I think they are too much like a computer and too much thinking involved. I want my images fast and easy so the Big Shot wins with me. Nice break down of the features of each.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for commenting, I get what you’re saying about the Cricut and other electronic cutters. I am about to use the Cricut to make 45 labels for party favours and I’m glad I have it for that, but those occasions are pretty rare! I read lots of reviews before choosing the big shot and there are definitely no regrets. 😊

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      1. I can see where the Cricut would really come in handy for printing lots of things. Once you have the initial size and font, you can just print them all probably quicker than the Big Shot. I know you are having fun with both and getting great results and that is all that matters. Happy crafting! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I have the Cricut Exlpore. It has a sketch then cut feature, which I love! I can also upload any image onto the USB & upload it into the design space. It’s a really nice feature because I don’t have to buy all of the cartridges! The only separate machine I have is an embosser that I got from Stampin Up, which I think is pretty much the same as Sizzix. Apparently you can emboss with Cricut too, but I find that using the crank machine with the folders is much easier. Thanks for sharing! I love making crafts!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ooh good post! Nice boxing match analogy too! I have had three die cutters and two Cricuts. Spoilt, I know. I recently replaced my old Cricut Expression with a new Cricut Explore, but have yet to play with the new one much, but the cut is so far more consistently good. It was a bit hit and miss with the old one for me sometimes. I also had a Grand Calibur but we did not get on at all. None of the recommended sandwiches worked, it always felt like the machine was about to break and one day, it did. But my trusty old (I think maybe +10 years?) Big Shot is still my favourite and the one I would not be without. I also have an Ebosser for bigger dies and folders. It works great, and if I was batch making I would use it no matter what size die, just to save my elbows!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Good rundown! I have a Sizzix Big Shot. I love it but do find it quite expensive to keep buying dies. And it is quite chunky so storing it is a bit of a pain. But I do love it’s ability to cut all manner of materials.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Interesting read! I have a Big shot. I got married in 2012 and being creative – made everything myself from save the dates to thank you cards to place settings and token gifts. Could not have done it without my Big shot 😊

    Liked by 1 person

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