A site for my handmade cards, accompanied by my photos and written meanderings which are occasionally witty, often tongue-in-cheek, and rarely profound. Beginning in June 2013, you'll also see lots of NBUS, which is an acronym I coined for Never-Before-Used-Schtuff. Note: my Privacy Policy can be found at a tab below and you can find my NBUS Challenge online. I hope you'll join in the fun there! Thanks for coming by! Have a beverage and enjoy!

December 5, 2012

Cuttlebug vs. Big Shot

Hi Peeps,

I resisted the whole die cut / embossing folder fad for a long time.  Like years.  Turns out it was here to stay.  My stamping friend, Donna, who is usually the more cautious of the two of us, got a Cuttlebug.  She loaned it to me with some of her embossing folders about a year ago.  I ran off 300 a few papers in different colors and thanked her.  She warned me that I would be getting one for myself.
She was right.  As it happens, about that time I started my blog and began visiting numerous other blogs.  I was amazed by all the crafters out there making creations which often used embossing folders or dies, or both.  Well, hold the phone.  I'm off to see Joann.  That was in February of this year.
In the ensuing months, I've spent more time ordering and organizing dies and embossing folders than I have actually using them.  Anyone?
Still, I did use it and today I'm writing about how I fell out of love with my Cuttlebug after a few short months, particularly after I fell IN love with each and every Memory Box die and discovered that my Cuttlebug bucked and win kneed like a wild stallion as soon as an MB die came within six inches of it. 

Hereafter, I'm going to call the Cuttlebug, um, well, I guess some people might object if I call it that ... I'll call it CB. So I found I was having trouble cutting dies with the CB.  I bought the recommended thin steel shim for it.  I tried using silly cone mats. I tried adding pieces of cardstock, one on top of another, and small posties right in those hard-to-cut places.   Some of these shenanigans worked, some didn't.

But what did happen every time was physical injury.
I don't know if the CB needs to get new feeties every six weeks or what, but that thing hops around on my table like Mrs. Rabbit trying to avoid Mr. Rabbit.  It seems like now the CB has trouble with even the simplest dies and embossing folders.  The more delicate the die, the hoppier it gets.  This results in me struggling to crank 'er forward and reverse and reverse and forward while keeping 'er still. I haven't cranked that hard since I helped Mama do the washing on the ancient used 1932 wringer washer. But back then I was young, with mally able bones and mussels. 

I put up with this until I needed to use the CB just about every day for my holiday cards.  And a lot of my holiday dies are made by MB.  I was heck bent to make a card with a particularly intricate MB die and, well, let's just say I went through some gyerations.  First off, I put all my considerable weight on the top of the CB with my left hand and being as how I'm still pretty agile for my age (yes, okay, thanks to Lyrica), I am able to also put my left foot up on top, along with my left hand, only slightly squishing my pinkie finger. 

Even with that, and even pressing my substantial bazooms into it (risky business, being careful not to pinch the saggy bits), I still struggled to turn the handle with my right hand.  Slowly it turned, ever so slowly forward and back and back and foward and forward ... I lost count until, Ureeka, I could hear the CB crunching and crackling and I knew I was finely cutting through the entire die!! 

Too late, I realized that the crunching and crackling was my L4 and L5 discs and the potato cuff in my right shoulder had given way.


I can't remember which beautiful card of hers made me start a dialogue with my friend, Kelly Griglione of Notable Nest about how she liked using the Big Shot for her die cutting and embossing. Her cards almost always include some die cutting and/or embossing and they always look crispy and delicious.

So I ordered the BS.  Hmm.  I'm guessing that's not the accepted abbreviation for the Big Shot, right?  Somebody will have to clue me on that.

I showed enormous self-restraint not opening up the package from Joann until after I had finished my calendars.  (I told you I'm simple-minded and can only do ONE thing at a time!)  Finally, I could give her a whirl. 
I took a photo sort of diary of my "findings." (I'm not allowed to use a video camera after what happened to my granddaughter Kim that time.) 

First, here are the steps necessary for me to cut a MB snowflake die with the Cuttlebug.

If you click on the following photo, you can see the recommended sandwich I used and that it barely cut through.
Next, in the following photo, you can see how well it cut after I added a metal shim.  Not so well.
In the following photo, I've used the recommended sandwich, the metal shim, and a piece of cardstock.
And another piece of cardstock, and so on and so forth.  Seriously, speaking just on my own behalf, that's too much trouble and the risk of injury made me decide it's not worth it.
So I did the same spearmint with the Big Shot.  In the following photo, you can see the cut I got using their recommended sandwich.  To be fair, it did not cut through.  Also, to be fair, however, I should point out that I find the Big Shot to be lighter and yet it hugs the table effortlessly without hopping, and I feel like I'm simply turning a handle, not churning butter. 
In the following photo, you can see that the entire die cut through when I added a "Solo Thin Die Adapter" and a piece of cardstock just big enough to cover the die.  If you buy the Big Shot, I recommend you get the Adapter, but you should not need the extra piece of cardstock except on the most intricate of your dies.
I don't know why I wrote "heavy" piece of cardstock on my note below. It was just a normal (for me) piece of cardstock, visible in the upper right of the photo above.
It is a pretty die cut!
I still had to use my needle to poke out a few of the teeniest pieces, but it was nothing compared to the work involved with the CB.  
So I found the CB is just fine for embossing folders or doing very simple die cuts.  But for more intricate dies, I prefer the Big Shot.  Fortunately, Joann likes a sale and everything I got was half off, plus free shipping. 
Who knows, I may evolve into something else down the road, but for now, I'm delighted I made the switch.  I'm back to having fun at my hobby, not working at my hobby.  Thank you, Kelly!
Maybe this will help someone else going through the decision-making process.


Edited to add

The consensus of comments is that there is no consensus.  People like them both, or prefer one over the other, or like entirely different machines.  I do want to pass on some great tips, in the event you don't want to read all the comments:
1.  From Michelle Lupton:  I use a tip from Jennifer McGuire - stick some masking tape (or washi tape or eclipse tape or some such) onto the smooth surface of the die, but only covering the bits that don't die cut well (usually the middle) - and leave them there as a permanent shim! You may need multiple layers of masking tape, and you may still need a metal shim, but it works really well!
2.  From Caz:  Have you heard the tip of using a sheet of grease proof or wax paper next to the cutting surface of the intricate dies before putting your cardstock on?  You end up with a second die cut but it makes it soooo much easier to get the die cut out of the die if it's really intricate.  
3.  Similarly, from Karen:  When you use the really intricate dies, I would suggest using a piece of freezer paper on top of the die before you add your card to be cut - that way most of the little itty bits just fall out.
Thank you, everyone!
Enjoy your day!   No, seriously, enjoy your day. 


Kathyk said...

I've often wondered at the direct comparisons between the CB and the BS (Honestly, Darnell!*?) and now think I'll stick with my BS!


Redanne said...

Hi Darnell, great review! I have to say that my CB does not seem to have a problem with thin dies and it does not jump like yours. BUT, I have the electronic BS (a bit like Tim's Vagabond) and for a year or so it was fabulous but now it 'chokes' every other cut and stops half way through. I guess it depends on how old the machine is, how much use it gets. I still love both but for speed I have to use my CB now...... Hugs, Annie x

Sandy said...

I love my bigshot... Sandy :)

Unknown said...

I love my Big Shot!!!

P.S. you are the FUNNIEST PERSON ON THE PLANET!!! (And I know a lot of funny people!). Thanks for making me laugh each day...I so look forward to your posts!!!

Claire said...

Your post cracked me up Darnell But I have to stick up for my CB here...I've had it about 6 years and I'm still using the original plates for it (although one got it's first crack last week!) Looking at your pic, I think I have an older model but I've truly never had any problems. Enjoy your BS! (That sounds as though I'm being really rude to you..but you know what I mean!)

Jean said...

I totally agree ~ love my Big Shot ~ and the memory box dies ~ Congrats on the 50% off! FANTASTIC snowflake ~ can't wait to see it on a card!

Kelly Griglione said...

YAY!!!! So fun to read your review, and so excited you like using the BS. I feel bad that it didn't cut the intricate die the first time. I haven't had a problem with that, but my plate is warped (maybe from so much use?!?) and I'm guessing that serves to apply more pressure to the die. I do need to poke pieces out of the die occasionally.

This is definitely the most hilarious review I've read on the CB vs BS! : ) Can't wait to see what else comes out of that magical machine!

Marybeth said...

Like Kelly said YAY!!!!! I agree I recently got a big shot as well and love the stability of it! I bought one of my granddaughters the CB she was only five, poor thing she was born missing some fingers and It is way too hard for her to roll…. but, she does it!
I think when she gets more into it i will get her a BS too. She mostly makes cards when I am with her. Like you and the twins
I did the same got it at 50% off.
Again, fun post and you are the giver of smiles.

Paper Creations by Shirley said...

Hi Darnell, I had a cup of tea in my hand, so thought that it was a good time to check out your blog :) Still think you need to write a book. I laughed a lot through this post and can relate a little. But I have not put out any discs using the CB.

However I have been frustrated using dies from Cheery Lyn. They say they work but a fancy dancy beautiful butterfly requires, lots of extra paper. I bought the shim but learned later that it doesn't work with this particular die. So how many times have i used this beautiful die ? Never since the trial run.

I also tried hard NOT to get into the dies & embossing folders as I already have a large collection of metal stencils that you 'hand emboss with a lightbox'. They are beautiful but they are stashed away waiting for me to take them out for air again some day. I too have a growing collection of embossing folders & cutting dies and most of the time I don't use any of them on my card designs. I must fix that ! In fact I just bought dies yesterday for beautiful rolled roses because I admire them on blogger's cards.

Anyway, if I need a new machine (but I have been happy 95% of the time with the CB) then I'll look into a BS !

Thanks for the chuckle & advice. Have a great day, Shirleyx

Tracey McNeely said...

Darnell, this is such a funny funny post and great review! I have the CB which occasionally gives me grief because of the muscle power required, especially with the metal shim and the slip slidin away. Yours is one of many great BS reviews! Sorry that sounds bad--hee hee.

Michelle Lupton said...

Hi, Darnell,
I'm glad I have a Big Shot, not a CB! I love my Big Shot - and I was incredibly luck to be given it as a Christmas present 2 years ago. I find that there are some intricate dies that I have a problem with - so I use a tip from Jennifer McGuire - stick some masking tape (or washi tape or eclipse tape or some such) onto the smooth surface of the die, but only covering the bits that don't die cut well (usually the middle) - and leave them there as a permanent shim! You may need multiple layers of masking tape, and you may still need a metal shim, but it works really well!

Unknown said...

I've just gone from using a well used CB to the Big Shot which I'm having a few teething problems with. I don't have the multi purpose platform with mine so it's just finding the right combination for the job I think. Trial and error I guess.

Hettie said...

I was fortunate enough to be at a retreat where we used a Cuttlebug before I bought a die cutter. I did not particularly like the CB and the person whose CB it was said to go for the new (haa haa) Big Shot. I am so glad she did as I use it almost on a daily basis.
Glad you like it to. I call mine Bessie! Love her. I would not even swap for a Vagabond after all the horror stories I have heard, plus also whenever I go to a workshop I would be sitting on my own near a wall so I could get to a plug. Bessie does not need electricity!
I have even helped Santa this year by getting one for my friend from her Hubby for Christmas. Love playing Elf!!

Caz said...

Great review!!
Have you heard the tip of using a sheet of grease proof or wax paper next to the cutting surface of the intricate dies before putting your cardstock on - I've typed that three different ways and it still sounds wrong(!) you end up with a second die cut but it makes it soooo much easier to get the die cut out of the die if it's really intricate.
I got my BS last Xmas and hubby's bought me a Grand Calibur for this Xmas. Love the BS for my Tim Holtz dies but wanted the GC for the larger cutting surface (making large shaped cards etc!)
Love your posts - you always make me laugh - especially the description of what body parts you used to hold the CB down!!!

TAM said...

I always enjoy your posts Darnell, just what I need after a long day at the office.
My chosen machine is a CB - bought many years ago now and still working well. I chose this over a BS because it is the smaller more compact machine for storage (essential when you don't have a designated craft room) I have used friends BS on occasions and think it can be very much the individual machines and how much pressure there is in the rollers that make the difference - only last week I was at a demo with a friend when she was questioning why a particular MB die wouldn't cut on her BS and even the very experienced demonstrator had trouble and he was also using a BS.

Allisa said...

Hmmmmmmmmm, I have had both the BS and the CB. I ended up selling the BS due to the CB taking up less real estate on my work station. I do more embossing than die cutting. I almost think it is the MB dies that are the issue, not the CB. I love the MB dies as well. Why is it some cut like butter and others....well I go through all the same trouble you do! I have found the thin metal adapter plate fixes most problems, but not all! If you ever get tired of cranking the handle, BS makes an electric version too...just the push of a button!

Kim S said...

I've gone through all of the same struggles. I still have a Cuttlebug on my desk - it works for 95% of what I do and I have such limited desk space, I simply can't fit the Big Shot. But...if I happen to be cutting out of a one-of-a-kind piece of paper - OR if I have already tried two or three times with the CB - I wander down to my closet of "holiday" supplies in the basement that also happens to hold my Big Shot!!

Words and Pictures said...

Stunning snowflake die... love the MBs too, and so relieved that I have the BS (I rather like that). At the point when I bought it, I didn't even realise there were so many alternatives!! I do have to add extra card shims, so will investigate the Adapter - thanks for the tip...
Alison x

Linda said...

You are soooo funny Darnell, I love reading your blog. I can just picture you and the CB - gave me quite a giggle!
I must say I have both machines, and I love em! My CB is the old model and, touch wood, I haven't had any trouble with it. I use it mainly for my Spellbinders dies. Anything a bit more meaty (ie Sizzix Bigz) goes through the BS.
Great review of both machines by the way, and I love your snowflake die.
Enjoy the rest of your week. xx

Carol L said...

You are the pun princess of all time!! You have a potato cuff in your shoulder?!?! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Girl, you crack me up :)
I just caved and bought the BS last week too, but only because I completely wore out my Big Kick through years of hard loving :) Better luck with your new machine! You'll love it I'm sure :)

Julia Dunnit said...

I had a cuttlebug from the first manufacturing...I was a demonstrator for the UK wholesaler. It was marvellous and I couldn't fault it. But inevitably, after hundreds of hours use, it wore out after about five years. When I looked around it occurred onto me tht the manufacture was looking a bit puny and erm, cheap. So I bought a BS. ( I know what you Ameeeracans use BS for..but really, it's easier..!). I hate the hinged book of shims. So I unhinged it. After that, day by day, I've come to really like it. Although I must say, I still hold onto it with my left hand while cranking it with the right...it's still a bit of a jumper.....I don't have a solo thin die adapter and it cuts my MB dies just fine. However, I don't have shed loads of the intricate ones. Like that beeyoootiful snowflake.
Great review.

Unknown said...

Hi Dippy - gosh what a road you've traveled. I also am a HUMONGOUS fan of MB dies but I'm keeping to myself just how many I have got (might take a photo sometime just for your eyes!!!). I could say I didn't have trouble with using my BS with them but by the time I'd collected a few I had a Joy A4 die cutting machine - definitely didn't have problems with that. But now...........tadadeedahhhhhh! Drum roll please folks.......I've got an eBosser made by Craftwell. Not only is it A4 but it's also automatic, doesn't move an inch on your desk and also doesn't fall out the other side, so you can go and create some more whilst it's doing your work for you - BLISS! When you use the really intricate dies I would suggest using a piece of freezer paper on top of the die before you add your card to be cut - that way most of the little itty bits just fall out.


Karendipity xxx

The-crafty-corner said...

Ah,i have never used the Cuttlebug-I used to have the old fashioned Red Sizzix,phew gave me tennis elbow after a good old die cutting session !(we crafters do have to take good care of our joints during ous daily die cut work out!!)But i luff my Big Shot
Have a good day Darnell :) xx

Shelly N. said...

I started with the old Spellbinders Wizard, which is great for their dies. Not too great with everyone else's dies, contrary to what they told me about it.
I also have a Cuttlebug, Big Shot and Side Kick (mini Sizzix die cutter). If I am having trouble with one die and machine combination I just try another machine. Works great. BTW, got all machines on sale really cheap of I would never dream of having all of them. I layer tape on the backs of dies, shim and change the angle of dies in the machine.

MaryH said...

Hi Darnell, trying to geta round to visit folks. Slow progress. This was an interesting post. I have recented returned the Electric Big Shot (loved it, used it for over 2 yrs...problems began). The C/B works great for some things, I broke my lovely oldie one using the S/B Mbossibilities first time using one. (My fault, not the Bug's). I do NOT like the newer style bug, handle drives me nuts. On my BSE (Big Shot Express...electric), what was happening was that apparently the motor began to overheat. I could let it sit and eventually it would work again. However, one late night, it stopped with plates, nice dies, etc all under the middle of the roller. Nothing I did could persuade it to go again. I'm thinking "Uh oh, lost some supplies here". So I emailed Sizzix, told them my problem. Currently it has been returned at their request...this is a KNOWN problem, and they no longer make the electric model. I understand they are to replace it with a TH Vagabond. Now I have one of those, but don't use it much, (it's not in a convenient place). Have lots of friends who have the vagabond & love it. I think each machine works great for some things, not so much for others. The painters tape shim on the intricate MB dies, works a treat. Especially on the LaReux heart (some others too, but I forget at the moment!). Thanks for this post...I think it will be so helpful to a lot of people. Your trials were so amusingly described. Now I had not tried putting bazzooms on my bug, but I did find that a certain couple of words (muttered when no one else was around), could sometimes be effective. Then again, sometime not!!! Thanks for ending my day with a good laugh.

kingstonmama said...

This was a really interesting post, Darnell. I have a Cuttlebug and have always been happy with it. However, I really don't have any very intricate dies. If I get some in the future I'll have to remember these tips that have been shared! Ann

Anonymous said...

Great post and review, Darnell. I have a Cuttlebug, which has never leapt about, but I have only ever used it for embossing (I have a Circut for cutting). However, I've discovered MB dies since arriving in Blogworld and they're gradually being added to my wish list, so it's really useful to know that p'raps I need to think about adding a different machine to the list too! Thanks for the entertainment, as ever! Anita :)

Kim Heggins said...

Too funny! I do not own a CB and have only used one once before so I really don't have much of an opinion other than I think it is just so cute looking! I had one of the original Sizzix die cutters, it weighed a ton, it was great it you were trying to build up your muscles. I tried to resist the Big Shot but after seeing one used could not pass it up. Love that roller thing too. I use mine almost every time I sit down to craft.

Queen Lightwell said...

Thanks for writing this up...I had wondered about the CuttleBug but now I know I've got the best machine for me, the Big Shot. I do hope to upgrade, one day, to the Big Shot Pro so I can get the grand dies from Spellbinders or I may just get the Grand Calibur since it's much more affordable than the Big Shot Pro...oh, some day! :)