What is a die cutting machine? When I started crafting many years ago, I heard the term but had no idea what it was. Now, I am a crafter who earns his living by selling my makes online, and as such, I’m so glad I looked into the question.
Crafting for me is a way of life. It gives me the chance to express myself and to create things that give pleasure to others. I started as a card maker with paper art, and as a result, the question of what is a die cutting machine remains very close to my heart.
What Is a Die Cutting Machine?
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A die cutting machine may be either hand-operated or electric and cuts many different materials. You may cut fabric, paper, cardboard, thin metal, foam, and even plastic through a die cutting machine. Used in conjunction with metal dies, the die cutting machine can cut all manner of shapes, from simple squares to highly complex and intricate designs for your crafting.
However, before we consider what is a die cutting machine, why would we need one?
Why Do We Need a Die Cutting Machine?
Most crafters will have a die cutting machine at their disposal. And some of us have more than one! But what do we use these gadgets for?
I use my die cutting machines for card making. The machine cuts the base of my cards as well as all the layers which go into the design. Hand made cards require a lot of cutting, and the die cutting machine takes all that out of my hands for me. Because it cuts card and paper, I can cut as many different shapes and designs as I want to make my cards.
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A die cutting machine will also cut fabric. In fact, it will cut at least four layers of cotton at the same time. Because you can buy metal dies specifically for quilt making, the die cutting machine significantly cuts down (pun intended) on the time it takes to cut all your blocks to size.
A die cutting machine will also cut craft metal. Craft metal consists of thin sheets of metal, usually copper, with which you may make jewelry or home décor items. Die-cutting machines will cut shapes and emboss patterns into craft metal with ease.
And it doesn’t end there
Because a die cutting machine can cut foam and vinyl, the crafting applications may seem infinite. You can make iron-on T-shirt designs, stencils, and even stamps with your die-cutting machine. It really is that versatile.
What Is a Metal Die?
You cannot consider the question, what is a die cutting machine without wondering about metal dies. They form as vital a tool to the crafter as the die cutting machine itself.
Introducing the metal die
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A metal die is a piece of flat metal with a shape. Many shapes are available, from simple geometric shapes to complex frames and even flowers. The metal has a raised groove or edge to it, which forms the shape.
How does the metal die work?
The die-cutting machine comes with several plates. You put the metal die on the first plate with the raised groove upwards. You place the material you want to cut on top of the metal die. The other plates then sit on top of that in a kind of sandwich.
You then feed the sandwich through the mouth of your die cutting machine. The machine applies intense pressure as it feeds the sandwich through, and this cuts the material to the shape of the flat metal die.
Is a metal die sharp?
Absolutely not. The groove is blunt. The die-cutting machine cuts by applying intense pressure on the material, and the metal dies by passing the sandwich through rollers. Consequently, die-cutting is something that children may do without the risk of cutting themselves.
Types of metal dies
There are not enough words in the world to list how many different types of metal dies exist. As a card maker, I have accumulated hundreds of dies. I use a lot of frame dies and flower dies to create all sorts of magical things. Some dies will help you make gift boxes as well as dies for cutting fabrics.
Personalization is something I do a great deal with my cards and paper art, so I also have several alphabet dies.
How Does a Die Machine Work?
Every die machine has several plates on which to place your metal dies and materials. The combination and order of plates will vary with each type of device. Also, the thickness of the material you cut will determine the order and number of the plates you use.
Essentially, you sandwich your metal die and material in a sandwich of plates.
Feeding them into your machine
Once you have created your sandwich, you then feed it into the mouth of your device. With hand-operated machines, this will involve you turning a handle to move the sandwich through the die cutter. Be prepared to have strong arm muscles!
Electronic machines work slightly differently. You offer the sandwich up to the mouth of the machine, and it will take it from you. The device will draw the sandwich through its mouth automatically.
As a professional crafter, I favor the electronic machine because it is speedy and effortless. However, I also have a smaller hand-operated machine, which I use in conjunction with the electronic one. While the machine is cutting for me, I will run some smaller flower dies through the hand-operated version.
There exist many superb brands of die-cutting machines on the market.
Each machine has a series of metal rollers and highly engineered gears inside to power the device. When you feed the sandwich through, it runs between the rollers under extreme pressure. As a result, it forces the material into the metal die to cut the design.
What Is a Die Cutting Machine When There Are No Dies?
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Though not strictly die-cutting machines, there exist certain electronic devices that you can program to cut materials without the use of metal cutting dies. They are called automatic cutting machines. Usually used in conjunction with computers and cloud-based apps, you load the shape you want to cut into the machine's memory. A blade housed within the device then cuts the material for you.
I must point out that these machines are relatively expensive and not for the faint-hearted. They can prove tricky to use until you get used to them. I have had one for several years and find I still struggle with the way it cuts.
What Is a Die Cutting Machine, Answered
A die cutting machine is an essential piece of equipment for crafters of all skills and levels. By passing materials through high pressured rollers, the die cutting machine works with metal dies to create all sorts of shapes and designs.
Whether you make intricate paper art or simple cards, the die cutting machine is the perfect tool to make your crafting life easier.
Do you have a die cutting machine? Perhaps you have more than one! Why not tell us how you use yours? Share some of your crafty tips with us because we would love to hear from you.