Best die cutting machines 2020

Looking for a solid and reliable die cutting machine that won't break the bank? You are in the right place! We showcase the best machines to invest in for your card making future

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Gemini die cutting machine

A die cutting machine is one of the key tools that a card maker can invest in to up their crafting to a new gear. What’s more, they are the only real way to make use of the metal dies and plastic embossing folders that come with so many card making magazines.

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If you are very new to card making and want to understand what these machines are and what they can do, click to find the What is a die cutting machine article. If you are ready to invest in a machine for yourself, and you’re wondering which is the best value die cutting machine for your needs, we’ve rounded up our favourites for you.

Best manual die cutting machines

  • Tonic Tangerine
  • Spellbinders Platinum
  • Gemini Mini Die Cutting Machine
  • Sizzix Big Shot Plus
  • Sizzix Big Shot Foldaway

Best electronic die cutting machines

  • Crafter’s Companion Gemini
  • Crafter’s Companion Gemini Junior
  • Sizzix Big Shot Express
  • Brother Scan N Cut
  • Cricut Explore Air 2
  • Create and Craft Todo

More than just a die cutting machine

  • Create and Craft Todo
  • Cricut Explore Air 2
  • Brother Scan N Cut

Best manual die cutting machines

Manual die cutting machines tend to be cheaper and typically have a handle that is turned to feed the cutting plates through the machine. The following are all ones we have tested in our offices, and the ones we use in our everyday crafting.

1

Tonic tangerine

best die cutting machine tonic tangerine

This A4 die cutting machine from Tonic has a lovely slimline footprint, with a baseplate with suction cups that can be twisted out to stabilise when in use, or turned under the machine when stored. This makes it a surprisingly good portable option, though it is pretty heavy, and, although the handle can be removed with an allen key, this is not especially practical use to use. Its A4 cutting plates are all most card makers will ever need, and their different colours and clearly-labelled functions make this clear and easy to understand when you are putting your sandwich together – though they do look a bit like they belong in the kitchen as chopping boards!

The fact that the plates feed through the centre of the machine is a great plus for the average craft desk – there is enough clearance underneath for stray rolls of washi or Stickles to sit beneath the moving plates. But it is possible to knock boxes or tubs of embellishments over, so keep this in mind – clearance is advisable.

We love the tangerine for its unique styling – it’s orange!!!! – and its no-jargon accessories that make it easy to understand and simple to use.


2

Spellbinders Platinum

best die cutting machine spellbinders platinum

The Platinum is a sophisticated and high-spec die cutting machine, with a wonderfully smooth cutting action. The manufacturers boast of a solid steel core construction, and trademarked VersaCut technology for unsurpassed power, strength and durability – certainly the machine in our office saw a lot of use over several years and was still cutting beautifully, even after its plates were so battered they were practically opaque! Using Spellbinder Contour™Steel Rule Dies with these machines lets you cut up to 6 layers in a single pass, or thicker materials like cork or felt, so this machine is a good choice if you are mass producing or looking to work with other materials beyond card.

The Platinum comes in both an A4 and a smaller 6inch-wide cutting plate version (Platinum 6). Both options have side that fold down for use and up into the body of the machine for easy storage and transport – the built-in carry handle at the top makes it look a bit like a suitcase when its is folded. The handle can be removed with an allen key, but this is not usually practical on a day to day basis.


3

Gemini mini die cutting machine

best die cutting machine gemini mini

Gemini’s core machines are electric, so the mini is their foray into the starter, mini manual die cutting machine market. It typically costs less than £30, which is hard to argue with, and the bijou cutting plates can accommodate mini dies and embossing folders up to 3 inches wide. This will work fine for lots of small decorative dies, but this machine is likely to be to small to work with the most common A5 embossing folders, and you certainly wont be able to get a card blank through this machine, so its only appropriate for decorative flourishes.

We’s recommend this for card makers taking their first steps into the hobby, or for kids who like cardmaking as it is small, light, portable and easy to use. But don’t expect it to do too much. It will barely take up any space on your craft desk, however, so could be a good to keep on hand for cutting quick flourishes  and it is adorably dinky to have on display!


4

Sizzix Big Shot Plus

best die cutting machine Big Shot plus

So many card makers swear by their Big Shot machine! The one shown here is the A4 version (Big shot Plus) but the machine that made the brand such a big name has an A5 cutting width. The Big Shot Plus retains its great build quality, and the feature that made is such a crafters favourite, we think – the cutting sandwich layers are all tabbed together like a book, so you can’t lose different plates. The instructions for which ones you need are printed on the back plate, and you fold in the ones you need for your particular cutting sandwich. This can be a little awkward as the folded out, unused ones can flap around a little as you feed the sandwich through the machine but, all things considered it is an ingenious feature and one that has been a big hit with crafters.

This is a weighty and sturdy machine with a 3 year warranty – its not something you want to be lifting in and out of cupboards all of the time, and it has a large footprint, but is a wonderful choice for crafters with a large craft desk where it can live as your go-to machine. There is a handy storage caddy available that clips on the side without the handle for neat extra storage, too.


5

Sizzix Big Shot foldaway

best die cutting machine big shot foldaway

The Big Shot foldaway is the newest machine to the Big Shot family. It has the same a5 cutting width as the regular  Big Shot – you can use the plates from each in both machines – but the foldaway comes with separate plates, not tabbed together in the way detailed in the review above. This makes them smaller and easier to store, like the foldaway itself. In the picture here, the machine is positioned for storage with the sides folded up, and the handle twisted around to tuck neatly into the curve in the side of the machine – we love this feature! It is much lighter than the regular Big Shot and designed for people who want to take their machines out and about with them, or move and store it easily if you don’t have a bespoke craft area for a machine to live on.

The foldaway also has a little inbuilt storage inside the arms –  plenty of space to store a collection of small dies or some go-to washi tape to secure you does in place when using the machine. It’s a very elegant option for the mid-level crafter.

Best electric die cutting machines

6

Crafter’s Companion Gemini electric die cutting machine

Electric die cutting machines are where it is at if you have any hand mobility or strength issues – or if you simply feel like letting a machine do the work for you! The Gemini from Crafter’s Companion is flagged up as being a dual function die cutting and embossing machine, but all of the die cutting machines reviewed here will also emboss – you just need the appropriate embossing folders to work with your machine. A rubber mat is included in your Gemini pack, which lets you use dies designed to add embossing details as well as cutting shapes.

Unlike the other machines, the Gemini comes with a magnetic shim included in the pack, which is useful to help hold your die in place in  the cutting sandwich – no washi tap required. Just make sure you assemble to sandwich as directed to avoid die cutting the magnet shim instead. Other precision plates like a metal cutting plate let you work with leather, foam, blouse wood, mount board and even brass sheets – this is one heck of a powerful machine. The original Gemini has a 9 x 12.5inch cutting platform, so can easily handle a4 cards, and even has the space to accommodate several dies at once which, combined with its electric function, is very handy for mass production for all these craft materials.

The Gemini is whisper quiet to use, and feeds the sandwich through quickly and easily for precision cutting. It is much harder to break an electric die cutting machine through user error as you can’t force incorrectly assembled cutting sandwiches through the metal rollers as you can with the manual ones.This is a very valuable feature for many crafters!

best de cutting machine gemini

7

Crafter’s Companion Gemini Junior electric die cutting machine

best die cutting machine gemini junior

The Junior is a more compact and lower priced version of the Gemini original. It has a 6 x 8.9in cutting platform for cutting A5 card, and the same plates and mats as the the original to let you cut different materials. Though the Junior is not recommended for leather and balsa wood – you’ll need the original for those – it can handle craft metals, thick cardstock and will cut up to 6 pieces of fabric in a single pass. Because this machine is more of a fit for card makers, and because it is lower priced than the original, this is the machine you see most often on craft desks, and is the one that Crafter’s Companion are creating accessories for – their hot foil press system is designed to operate with the Junior rather than the original Gemini. Unless you are looking to cut thicker materials or need the larger cutting area, this is the machine we would recommend you buy of the two – why spend the extra money when you can get quality at a lower price?


8

Sizzix Big Shot Express

best die cutting machines big shot express
This machine is just like the manual Sizzix Big Shot, apart from the fact it has no handle to crank! Instead there is an electric motor attached where the handle would be, which will power the cutting sandwich through the cutting rollers at the push of a button! If you dont like the unbalanced look of the motor on one side, you can always balance it out by purchasing the Big Shot storage caddy to sit on the opposite side!

The plates are the same tabbed option that makes it straightforward to fold in and out the ones you need which crafters will either love to hate depending on their preference. We love it that the plate you need is always to hand with this system. We found the Big Shot Express slightly louder on operation than the Gemini, but this is a very marginal difference.

This is a great choice for Big Shot lovers who struggle with dexterity in their hands and want to take the work out of die cutting. But for about a 50 precent increase in costs verses the manual Big Shot, we recon that most crafters would get better value for money by sticking with the manual version.

More than a die cutting machine

9

Brother Scan N Cut

best die cutting machine brother scan n cut

The Scan N Cut is not die cutting machine at all – you don’t need separate dies to cut shapes here, and therein lies the beauty of this machine. The cutting blade can cut any shape that you need! Choose from an inbuilt selection of shapes stored in the machine, or download or draw your own in Canvas Workspace to sync with the machine. The Scan N Cut can cut up to 1.5mm thickness of material with the deep cutting blade, so you can cut super-thick cardstock, and thick material like demin, too.

Switch the cutting blade out for different tools and you can emboss detail, add rhinestones, add foiled details or use pens to draw and colour different patterns. Once you have tried out Canvas Workspace a few times and got your designs synching with your machine, you’ll see how versatile and easy to use the system is. We find the display screen a really lovely extra feature to the the mystery out of operation, too.

Serious crafters will be awed by the versatility of this machine!


10

Cricut Explore Air 2

best die cutting machine explore air

Well, hello beautiful! Can we say how much we love the look of this machine, and especially the sunflower yellow version shown here.  The Explore air 2 is a slightly lower spec version of Cricut’s Maker which won’t work with thick fabrics, but is instead intended for cutting card and paper – It still cuts vinyls and iron-on fabrics, but wont work with denims or leathers so is a better, less expensive option for papercrafters with a significant cost reduction on the Maker.

You can use the Design Space software to create your shapes, and then synch with the machine to cut the shape you want – or swap out the cutting blade to emboss, or add in a pen to have the machine write or draw for you. And it does this really quickly and quietly. It also come in a white and mint version if you don’t fancy the yellow – but where’s the fun in that?


11

Create and Craft Todo

bst die cutting machines todo
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The Todo was created to be a multi-functional tool for card makers.  As well as having a manual die cutting function, it can hot foil, letterpress, and emboss, too. Its a very clever concept, and good price point for all those function compared to the Scan N Cut and The Explore Air 2, but our experience is that it can be fiddly to swap between those functions and get them working as well as they could. If you really want all these functions, we’d recommend spending the extra money and getting one of the two cutting machines listed above. Or be prepared to invest some time in learning how to adjust the Todo to make the most of its functions.

Which is the best die cutting machine?

There are a few key factors to consider when you are choosing the die cutting machine that is right for you

Size

Rather than the size of the machine, it is the size of the cutting plates that will really affect how you can use it in your crafting. Will you just be using the machine to cut small decorative shapes, or will you want the option to use large kinetic card blank dies? If you want to use dies to make your own aperture cards, you need to consider the width of the cards you’ll be making, too – the card will need to be opened out to run through the machine.

Quality

cheaper machines usually work fine in the short term. They tend to have plastic rather than metal parts in their rollers. Ultimately these do break so you can end up with areas of the machine that wont cut dies, or sometimes that dont work at all. If you anticipate being  a long term carmaker, better to go for a machine with metal rollers that will last longer. This higher build quality will be reflected in the price tag.

Storage

This is where the size and weight of the machine is important! Typically a weighty machine reflects quality metal parts, and makes it easier to use as the machine keeps steady as the die cutting sandwich runs through it. But if you are going to be carrying the machine around with you or  lifting into a cupboard for storing, a foldaway machine, or a lighter version may be more practical for you.