Thursday, 11 June 2015


In my last post on my new die cutting machine Big Shot Plus I talked about the features of the machine and why I bought it, what you get, plus how to assemble for use (if you haven't seen it, here's the link - Big Shot Plus Part1 )

In this post I'm showing you my initial experiences with it and how it has compared to using my other two manual machines (Grand Calibur and Cuttlebug).

The biggest frustration I have had with my Grand Calibur (apart from being unable to use steel rule dies in it) has been it's 'dead spot' in the middle of the rollers...and area of less pressure and evenness which resulted in an inability to completely cut through some larger dies without having to rotate and move the dies and paper about numerous times....and in the case of large embossing folders a patch in the centre with no clear patterning. For a small number of my dies rotating them has not been possible because in order to place the dies (and embossing plates) in an area to reach the uncut/un-embossed sections, I would have to rotate a 'one quarter turn' (ie 90degrees), and the width of the opening of the machine just doesn't allow the die or folder to fit through. Even adding paper shims to the process didn't really help and I was too worried at adding too many, putting too much pressure on the machine and damaging the mechanism. These dies and folders became my 'nemesis' pieces...rendering me frustrated and giving up....rendering them pretty unusable. The following photos probably explain this a bit better.

Firstly I'd just like to make it clear that I am not running down Spellbinders (their dies are fabulous) or saying the Grand Calibur is rubbish...because it's has served me reasonably well. After trying a couple of other GC machines I am led to believe that each machine has dead spots of varying's seemingly common...and is found on most machines, NOT just with Spellbinders...even the new TODO machine has weak spots! The other Grand Caliburs I tried seemed pretty good and better than mine so I seem to have an unusually bad one. I'm told this is due to the machines being hand assembled and no rollers are placed the same, so there can be minor discrepancies in settings. There are also some pretty poor quality dies out there too so throw those into the mix and I was onto a loser from the word go. Anyway, there ARE some niggles with the original machine that Spellbinders did take into account and they have slightly tweaked and improved on the mechanisms and brought out an updated model....namely they have removed the white plastic tray in the opening which had 'wigs/lips' at each side that limited the width to 8 1/4 inches. The newer model has an opening of 8 1/2 inch...slightly better and many people love using their GCs...but sadly it still doesn't fulfil all my requirements.

So, on to the new Big Shot Plus machine. As I talked about in the previous has a 9 inch wide opening. Ok, so not that much bigger than the upgraded Grand C...but enough to make a difference...and yes, still not wide enough to rotate some of my dies 90 degrees BUT the difference is in the powerful metal mechanism with much more even pressured rollers that meant I found I was rotating and moving the dies about less...and in some cases eliminating the process altogether. ALL my 'nemesis' dies are now once again useable.

Lets have a look at my 'nemesis' dies and how they faired with my Big Shot Plus -

In order to conduct a fair experiment I used the same type of paper with all the dies...and decided to give the machine a good testing by using my personally hated craft construction paper -
This paper is a low quality paper, with soft loose fibre construction, cheap and excellent for sketching on, using to cut and make proto type models etc but not quality enough to use on cards and is a nightmare to use with intricate patterned dies because it does not readily release and tears so easily.

Nemesis die number 1 - Tattered Lace 'Bella'
 I LOVE this die...such a pretty delicate design, yes small enough to rotate BUT it has never cut cleanly in my GC nor Cuttlebug! I've never managed to get a complete and successful cut without at least 4 rotations and runs through the machine and nerve wracking peeling out of the die and trying not to tear the thin intricate sections. I've also tried using wax release paper with limited success. I've never doubted the quality of the Tattered Lace dies...they are top notch, but have held off from buying many as I didn't think my GC coped with them well enough.
VERDICT - I was shocked to find I ran this die through my BSPlus and it came out fully cut FIRST PASS rotating required what so ever! I couldn't believe it so tried again, placed the die dead centre in the rollers at what I thought would be the dead spot...and again it cut out first problems what so ever. It was still a teeny bit difficult releasing some of the areas out of the die but I put that down to the poor quality paper used.

Nemesis die number 2 - Spellbinders Romantic Rose S5 230.
Another intricate patterned die that I could not get a clean cut around the edge in the middle bits.
VERDICT - This die also cut cleanly first run through and released form the die easily. YAY we were on a roll! (The eagle eyed amongst you might notice a bit missing from the left hand side halfway down.....this happened after cutting. I stacked the die cut pieces together and they got tangled up and a couple ripped as I tried to separate them for photographing...doh!)

Nemesis dies number 3...and 4 - Create & Craft Couture 'Summer Blossoms' and 'Holly Jolly' (largest template dies)
More large intricate dies that wouldn't cut cleanly. Small enough to rotate if you are completely cutting out the pieces for frames...but again needed at least 4 passes through the machine and also presented big problems if trying to cut negative/aperture style directly from the card stock base.
VERDICT - They all cut clean and easily with just two passes (with one rotation) through the Big Shot Plus...and came out even better when tried using a better quality paper.

Nemesis die number 5 - Create & Craft Couture Collection 'Deco Boutique' (largest template die)
I found this one a real nasty to cut with my machines, so much so I avoid using's a fantastic design, beautiful patterning but I have only ONCE managed to get a full cut which required so many nervous rotations and passing back and forth through the machine with more pieces of tape holding the paper and die down than I care to talk about. Even after a successful cut I never quite managed to fully release it from the die without tearing a bit...the stems of the flowers are so thin even wax release paper didn't help. Being 7 inches at it's widest point I couldn't rotate it if used to create an aperture in a cardstock base
VERDICY - It cut cleanly with just two passes (and one rotation) BUT the poor quality construction paper was a nightmare to release from the die and tore to bits. So success in cutting, but the paper let me down. I cut again using a better quality paper (smooth printed 200gsm) and it ran through in two passes and one rotation AND released cleanly....

Whoop whoop! A great success and I can now use this wonderful die again!

Nemesis die number 6 - Xcut frame
Another die that suffered from dead spots and being over 8inch long it was a squeeze to rotate 90 degrees and run through the Grand Calibur. A total no go with the Cuttlebug because it too didn't cut clean and I was not able to rotate at all.
VERDICT - It cut clean and fully in ONE pass through the BSPlus rotations required! Success!

Nemesis die number 7 - Tonic Dies 'Keepsake Cracker'
This die does actually cut out....but the dead spots running down the centre meant the three score lines that enable you to fold and form the main body of the cracker, were not achieved. I've had to try to score by hand and this is time consuming to make sure you can get clean enough lines and sharp edges....careful measuring required...not as easy as you think when you got many to make at Xmas time! The die measures approx. 8 x 9 3/4 inches so you cannot run this through a Cuttlebug...and you cannot rotate it 90 degrees in the Grand Calibur to overcome the dead spots.
The Tonic Keepsake Cracker die...showing the three lines running horizontally through the mid section. These are not cut lines...but score lines and the dead spots on the rollers miss them out and you cannot rotate the die to try to rectify this.
This image shows the die all set up in the plates ready to cut...this is a full sheet of construction paper that is nearly 23 cm wide, larger than A4 size and I haven't had to cut the edges down to fit it through! My Grand Calibur only just manages to take the width of A4 paper, but only if you are precise and accurate and get the paper and plates dead square and lined up exactly or else the paper catches on the sides and wrinkles up. So, that's another 'plus' for the Plus!
VERDICT - With even pressure and power of the rollers this die went through the BSPlus fully cut and fully scored in ONE pass! Hurrah! No need to rotate...which is good as it would fit this machine either!
and even with the cheap quality paper, it cut and folded neatly and precisely to form a 'cracking' cracker!

and now on to my most hated die...

Nemesis die number 8 - Marianne Designs 'Anja's Squares'
I love Marianne Designs...especially the ones with the fretwork designs, have many of them and use them a lot and I'd never had any problems cutting MD dies...until I got this one. It's barely 10cm square in size so easily to rotate but boy it has NEVER cut cleanly and it has proved difficult to rotate and pass through the machine because it shifts and falls away from the die and double cuts. But it suffers dead spots badly. The outside edge is not a is the fretwork parts that won't cut properly. It is THE most difficult one to cut out of ALL my die collection (and I have many dies!)
Using construction paper was asking for trouble...and I had lots of masking tape at the ready too...I wasn't very hopeful...
VERDICT - Just TWO passes through with ONE rotation and this was the first time I'd managed success and to see the die cut in all its glory!
what was even more amazing was that the pressure of the BSPlus rollers actually embossed the paper while it cut it...I didn't have to re run the piece through with an embossing mat...something I've never managed to achieve with this die anyway.

and finally.....

Nemesis die number 9 - ALL Border design dies
Not just the Memory Box one pictured...but ALL the border dies in my collection that has one side or more that does not cut out. It was ok if I cut with them on the vertical, so they could be placed under the best parts of the roller avoiding the dead spots...but if I wanted to cut on the horizontal, then I couldn't get a clean cut through the centre and couldn't rotate the card 90 degrees if the card stock itself was too 'wide' to fit through the machine. This card below shows the border die cut on the horizontal. I had to borrow another friends machine to run it through and it still took two passes through their machine to get a clean cut.
The height of the card meant I couldn't rotate it to have the paper placed on it's side and thus die cut on the vertical, or even place the die at an angle which is an in trend thing to do on cards at the moment too. It limited what size and design cards I could make and use these dies on.
VERDICT - I happily found that all my border dies went through my BSPlus with one pass...two at the very most and fitted through comfortably both placed vertical and horizontally. This Memory Box die 'Kensington border' is pictured because it's the most intricate design of my collection of border dies...and it cut and released perfectly in one pass....even with the poor quality construction paper!

and finally.....onto embossing folders!

I don't own many A4 embossing folders because those I did have didn't run through my Grand Calibur cleanly and I was left with bare patches in the it put me off buying more. Even some of the smaller folders had dead spots and needed constant rotating and moving about. Those I tried to use I had had to cover up the bare un-embossed sections with mats and flowers and other embellishments...which meant I was limited with what I could design using them.
I'm happy to say ALL my folders emboss perfectly through the Big Shot Plus....all only requiring ONE pass through, not rotations required. The even pressure of the rollers provides a great deep clean embossed image...fantastic! I guess that means I can go and buy some more A4 folders! ;)

So, that rounds up what I've managed with my 'problem' dies and folders...I'm a very happy gal now and LOVE LOVE LOVE my new Big Shot Plus. 
The grotty bits of masking tape are already accumulating on the machine...which means one's found it's's here to stay!