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Cricut E2 vs. eClips

Reported by Marti Wills

Cricut Expression 2
Sizzix eClips

When it comes to making the jump to an electronic die cutting machine there are a lot of choices.  It is quite an investment and there are so many things to consider.  Most importantly, you want a machine that will cut well and is easy to use.

Today I want to tell you about the results of my comparison of two of these machines, the Cricut Expression 2 by Provo Craft and the eClips by Sizzix.

Most important is how well the machine can cut. So I began by testing both on a variety of materials.  Both cut cardstock and paper just fine but I wanted to see what else they could cut.

First I tried chipboard – actually the backing from a paper pad.  This is slightly thinner than regular chipboard but it is free, it is a great way to recycle and it WORKS.  First I cut a cupcake – these are on the large size – 4″:

Both machines cut the chipboard perfectly.  I decided to try a smaller and more complicated design with the chipboard next:

The results with the eClips were not as clean as the Cricut.

Next I tried some acetate – another recycled material – I used the plastic covering that my embossing folders come in – you can use any type of plastic clamshell packaging but I like the embossing folder and Spellbinder types because they are so flat and easy to store.

I cut the same cupcakes first – nice basic larger shapes.  Both machines did a great job, however the Cricut cut cleanly through whereas the eClips required some punching out.  However this did not effect the final result.

I also cut the smaller more intricate images again:

Once again the eClips did not quite get the smallest detail cut all the way through:

Those teeny pieces on each tip would not come out without doing some damage to the overall shape.  The Cricut did not have this problem:

even the tiny circles/dots required no punching out.

Finally, I cut out some fabric appliques with each machine.  Before you can cut fabric you need to add something to stabilize it and keep it from stretching as the blade makes the cuts.  I tried Steam a Seam Lite first but this was not enough and neither machine cut through.  Next I used Heat ‘n Bond Ultra which is much thicker.  Both machines cut the fabric perfectly:

One advantage the Cricut Expression 2 had was the ability to set it to cut each image twice which is probably why it cute through more successfully.  One of the features of the eClips is the pre-set cut settings for various materials.  I used these pre-sets to do all of the cuts above.  Better results might be gained by adjusting the settings manually, but I have not tried that yet.

In addition to the cutting ability there are a lot of other considerations when comparing cutters.  Here is a table with some of these other things to compare:

Sizzix eClips
Cricut E2
Price – Starter Kit Machine
$499 – includes 2 blades, 1 cartridge and 1 mat
$349 – includes 1 blade, 4 cartridges and 1 mat
Footprint
22 1/2″ x 5″ x 7 1/2″
Price/mat
12.99 – 2 pack
12.99 – 2 pack
Price/blade
9.99 – 2 pack
9.99 – 2 pack
Price/cartridge
39.99 –  25 designs plus features
24.99/34.99/55.99 – 68 images/168+ images/200+ images
Cartridges available
36
228
Cardstock
5
5
Fabric
5
5
Chipboard
4
5
Acetate
4
5
Store avail.
1
4
Ebay
4   29.99/53.99
5    15.00 & up – open bidding

Both of these machines have a viewing screen.  The eClips screen is on a separate handheld device and is controlled by buttons that allow you to scroll through menus and make your choices.  The Expression 2 screen is mounted on the machine itself and is a touchscreen controlled with a stylus.  I personally preferred the screen being attached to the machine as I have limited space and found the separate screen and its cord was always in the way.

Pros:

  • Easy to set up – Both
  • Easy to use – Both
  • Great mats and sharp blades – Both
  • Ability to save cut settings for future ease of use – Expression 2
  • Huge selection of cartridge images – Expression 2
  • Free web-based program that allows you the freedom to design and customize shapes on Cricut cartridges you already own – Expression 2

Cons:

  • Separate screen/control device – eClips
  • Cartridge based system – Both
  • Price – Both
  • Cutting pre-sets did not work on smaller more intricate items – eClips

Had I compared the eClips to the original Cricut Expression the eClips would have come out ahead.  However, with the vast improvements made on the Expression 2 recently released by Provo Craft, I found the Expression to be a better machine – the cutting ability was better, the price is lower, and the image selection is vastly larger.

Do you own either of these machines?  What do you think of them?  Do you own a different one?  Let us know!

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CHA Summer 2011 | Silhouette America

With the long list of electronic die cutting machines on the market, it takes something truly amazing to grab people’s attention these days. Well, Silhouette America may have done just that. Like the Silhouette SD, their new Silhouette Cameo offers the ability to cut a wide variety of media from cardstock to fabric, create and cut your own designs, and use all your existing fonts. Oh and did I mention it is 12″ wide!?! This new machine will not be available until October and will be $299.99 MSRP.

Their new Fabric inks kits come with everything you need to get started inking up fabrics and clothes. The inks are also sold separately and come in ten colors. They can be mixed to create different shades and colors as well.

They’ve also added some colors to their existing palette of colors available in their premium and adhesive vinyls.

And their Heat Transfer kit makes transferring your images to clothing so simple. They have flocked as well as smooth materials sold separately. There’s even a printable heat transfer material!
We can’t wait to put this new machine to the Craft Critique test. What are your first impressions? Might this replace your current machine? Do you use their other materials like vinyl or heat transfer?
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Vendor Spotlight & Giveaway!: Sizzix eClips

I am a total die cut junkie – my introduction to papercrafting came by way of an electronic die-cutting machine given to me as a gift nearly 5 years ago. Needless to say it has taken hold and not let go. When I had the opportunity to test out the Sizzix eClips machine recently, I was thrilled. I had not seen any others in action besides the one I owned and I was curious.

As you can see the box comes with everything you need to get going right away – the machine, full instructions both in a manual and on DVD, your cords and a cartridge. The eClips is a cartridge based machine which means you can only cut out images from a Sizzix cartridge. Additional cartridges of images can be purchased separately. The directions are easy to understand and I had the machine set up and ready to cut in less than 15 minutes.
The machine is controlled by a handheld part that connects with a cord. I found this to be slightly intimidating but once I began using it I found it to be fairly simple to understand though I DID have to refer to the directions to do it. I am not sure why the handheld portion is separate and everything is not just on the machine, but I did find it comfortable to use.

The handheld controls everything – you put your cartridge in and then pick your images on the handheld like you see above. In addition, you can set the paper size AND pick the type of material you will be cutting. This feature is actually pretty amazing. No guesswork when cutting a wide range of materials as it is all pre-set for you. The list includes:

  • cardstock – light
  • cardstock – medium
  • cardstock – heavy
  • construction paper
  • vellum
  • adhesive sheets
  • vinyl
  • light chipboard
  • foam
  • shrink plastic
  • can also be set manually

The paper sizes are also pre-set to some of the most common sizes like 12″ x 12″, 8.5″ x 11″, 8″x8″, 6″ x 6″, 12″ x 24″, A4 as well as having the option to pick your own size OR have the machine determine the size with the laser – very handy when using up scraps but you want the machine to know when it is at the edge of the paper and needs to start a new line of cuts.

Shapes are chosen from the handheld device right on screen from the cartridge that is inserted. Each image can be sized independently which is a big advantage. Scrolling through images and choosing features is quick and easy.
Here you can see the Shadow feature is highlighted and on screen you see the image is now the shadow one.

You can also move the blade around to begin your cut anywhere on the paper with buttons on the handheld. I had a few different items to cut so I put squares of all of the colors on the 12″ x 12″ mat at the same time.
This way I can maneuver to each color, cut what I need and then move on to the next color without having to unload and re-load my mat.

Here is a layered flower I cut from cardstock – the cardstock medium setting worked perfectly for both Stampin’ Up! and Papertrey Ink cardstocks. Layering is incredibly easy with the eClips. Simply choose the layer feature and you can choose which layers to cut or you can cut them all. This is nice when you want to do layer pieces in several different colors.

I tried several other materials in the eClips. The red portion of the rose is Spellbinders Craft Foil; the stem/base layer is cut from a cereal box. Both of these materials cut like a dream.

I also tried the clear plastic packaging from Sizzix embossing folders and it cut cleanly and completely through.
I inked the edges of my cardstock layers for definition before layering. I also gave the green center a coating of Distress Stickles.

I played around with several more cuts from the an additional cartridge – Flowers & Phrases to make a get well gift bag:
One of my favorite things to do with layers of die cuts is to cover them in glitter – here I used Glossy Accents and then covered the flower centers and wording with Martha Stewart Glitter.

As I mentioned, I also cut out a sun from the plastic packaging of an embossing folder and then I covered the layers with alcohol inks:
I added some great texture to the sun’s center with a Sizzix Embossing folder.

I used the Craft Foil & chipboard rose for a simple little tag:


The eClips also includes features on the handheld that enable you to fill a page with an image, cut a mirror image, fit to page and cut one shape inside of another one. You can also load/unload the paper, search the shapes on a cartridge, and load the cutting blade to the last point you cut.

Pros:

  • Incredibly easy to set up and use
  • Cuts cleanly through many different materials with pre-set depth and speed functions.
  • The handheld interface makes choosing, manipulating and cutting your images fast and easy
  • Cartridges are less expensive than some.

Cons:

  • This is a strictly cartridge based system – this is a con for some and not for others.
  • The cartridge selection is fairly limited compared to some and each cartridge has a limited number of shapes.
  • I was unable to find cartridges or other related items in my local craft stores

GIVEAWAY!

It’s Sizzix Week at Craft Critique! Our friends at Sizzix have graciously provided some of their products for us to giveaway to our very lucky readers. We have a Big Shot and an eClips to give away, both of which you’ve read about this week. Just answer the following question to be entered in the giveaway:

Have you used an electronic die cutting machine? Which one(s)? What about the eClips by Sizzix appeals to you?

One comment, per person, per Sizzix article, please. Winners will be selected on Saturday, July 16, 2011.
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Vendor Spotlight & GIVEAWAY!: Sizzix eClips Electronic Shape Cutting Machine

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Ever since this winter’s CHA, the scrapbooking world has been buzzing about the debut of the Sizzix eClips Electronic Shape Cutting Machine.  I can tell you:  I was waiting for it to be released, too.  Even though I am anything BUT a scrapbooker.

Then why would I want it?

Well, the eClips cuts fabric and materials other than your standard scrapbooking fare.  Craft foils (different thicknesses even) and chipboard?  Yep.  Vinyl?  Yep!

IMG_0570
The starter kit comes with one machine, 2 blades, the handheld unit, cradle for the handheld unit, starter cartridge with booklet, software update, 12×12 cutting mat and user manual.  Note the small purple cable – it’s a mini-USB cable that you’ll need to do the software update; it’s not included.

The eClips boasts 700 grams of pressure and adjustable blade speeds/pressures so you can power through most anything.  I was able to stump it, but I had to really try!  🙂  In fact, the only things I could not get it to cut are craft foam (though it scored it nicely!), thick felt, and corrugated cardboard.

IMG_0581

One of the best features of the eClips is the Handheld Remote Control.  It slides open to reveal a full keyboard, adding to the ability to completely customize your designs.  The display is large and easy  to read.  There is a very slight delay once you select a design, but it is minimal and you get used to it quickly.  You also input into the unit what kind of material you are cutting and it sets everything automatically for you.  All you have to do is adjust the blade thickness right on the blade cartridge.  Easy peasy!

It really is to use.  Right out of the box.  To show how really easy it is to use:  here is a video I’ve put together while drinking my morning coffee showing how to use the eClips from start to finish (and let me just say that crafts before coffee is usually not a good idea around here!)

IMG_0582
First I cut a little sign from vinyl for my front door sidelights.  Admittedly, I hate how this came out.  The font is just too silly for something so serious.  A more neutral font would have been great to include in the “Starter” cartridge versus the Rockin’ Janey font.  It’s just hard to read when cut this small.

Here is a screenshot of the designs on the “Starter” cartridge included with the eClips.  Cute, right? 6a00e54ef8884488340120a7ffb1bf970b-800wi

Next, I put the eClips to my “REAL” test.  Fabric is always on my mind, so naturally this was the MAIN reason why I wanted to use this machine.  It works!  I suggest slowing the machine down one more notch than the “preset” to prevent any tearing at sharp inside corners.

To cut fabric, press it really well with the addition of spray starch, and apply your favorite fusible web.  I tried a few different brands, all with the same level of success.  The key is to starch it, and slow it down a bit more.

Here I cut out a Birthday Cupcake and a pair of ties.  Note that I cut the cupcake pieces from different scrap fabrics.  It was really easy to do, so don’t worry!  The ties are actually an “embellishment” for the sweet teddy bear, but since you can cut anything within the design card at any size, it doesn’t matter!
IMG_0583
My daughter decided I had made a “Flying Cupcake” no matter what I told her!

I fused the shapes onto cheap $1Store cotton tshirts, zigzagged around the edges and my kids had cute customized shirts within about 30 minutes total.  From initial eClips cutting to snipping the threads.  That’s awesome, right?!
IMG_0588
That same afternoon, I whipped out a receiving blanket and coordinating burpcloths for an unexpected early arrival.  Of course, I was in such a rush to deliver them that I didn’t get a picture of them!
IMG_0609Lastly, a birthday surprise for my darling husband!  I don’t normally decorate for birthdays around here – but I just knew once I found that the eClips did so well with fabric that I had to make a bunting of some kind.  The Mister had been having lots of late night meetings the week of his birthday, so while he was out one night, I whipped this CELEBRATE bunting up with scraps and it took about 2 hours total.  He really loved it and said it made his day!

Pros:

  • IT WORKS!
  • Handheld remote design center
  • Cuts a wide variety of materials
  • Laser Cut Preview
  • Speed control, pressure control, depth control – all to ensure you can cut just about anything!
  • It will also draw with a pen (holder required) and score certain designs.

Cons:

  • Cost of cartridges ($39 – $89 each)
  • No option to connect eClips to the computer so you can design/cut from there if desired (there are rumors something is coming soon, but nothing concrete as of today)
    • I’d like the computer connection so I could download only the designs I need immediately and to be able to use my fonts.
  • Some of the designs have details that are cut before outlines are cut.  If the extra details are not desired and are cut afterward, you can cancel the cut at the desired place and be done.

GIVEAWAY!

It’s Sizzix Week at Craft Critique! Our friends at Sizzix have graciously provided some of their products for us to giveaway to our very lucky readers. We have a Big Shot and an eClips to give away, both of which you’ve read about this week. Just answer the following question to be entered in the giveaway:
Have you had a chance to see an eClips in action before?  What feature do you think you would like the most or would be most useful?
 
One comment, per person, per Sizzix article, please. Winners will be selected on Saturday, July 16, 2011.
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Vendor Spotlight & GIVEAWAY: Silhouette SD

Reported by Jessica Ripley

Of all the craft products that are on the market today, it seems to me the most difficult one to reach a decision on when it comes to what to purchase is a die cutting machine. Not only does there seem to be a version of every shape and size from capability to budget, choosing a die cutting machine is not really a “this one is the best” type of purchase. When reviewing all that is out there, we also have to take into account our personal feelings and needs, because in truth all those machines are “good,” it is just a matter of which one is “best” for us.

We are faced with questions such as:

  • Do we want excellent portability, or will the machine stay in one place on our craft rooms never to move?
  • Do we want the capability to cut our own designs or are we okay with strictly pre-made ones?
  • How computer-savvy do we need to be to use the thing?
  • At what point does the price (and future costs associated with) no longer equal a good investment?

I have asked myself all of these questions before, and that led me to originally choose a different die cutting machine for my needs. I won’t be comparing the two in this article, as again which machine we prefer can be just as much of a personal choice as anything, however I do feel like I should mention testing out and playing with the Silhouette SD has probably changed my mind on which machine I would recommend to a friend if they were faced with those same questions above. Here’s the lowdown that I’d share with them, which I hope you find helpful in your pursuit of the perfect machine for you too.

What you get

Out of the box the Silhouette SD comes complete with just about everything to get you up and running.

  • The Silhouette SD machine, which is lightweight and not overly bulky (a must for precious craft space).
  • An electrical cord and USB cord for computer connection.
  • 2 cutting mats (one for thick media, one for thin media).
  • 3 blade caps (you replace a cap on the blade for different cuts when it comes to the Silhouette SD rather than the blade itself, which I did like).
  • 1 installation CD (complete with 50 preloaded designs) and 1 detailed tutorial CD (Software for Windows XP/Vista/7 and Mac OS X 10.5.8 and higher).
  • A basic manual.
  • $10 download card for the Silhouette Online Store.

What else you need (or might need)

  • A computer, Mac or PC.
  • A longer USB cord. I found the cord which came with the machine too short for my particular set up, however an existing (much longer) cord from another machine I had on hand worked great.
  • Material to cut of course (paper from your stash, or anything from Silhouette’s line of other materials including heat transfers, temporary tattoo paper, vinyl, etc).
  • Basic computer skills.
  • An SD card to make the most of the Silhouette SD’s capability (it seems to me like they could have tossed one in the box, but most of us probably have one on hand).
  • Patience and time for the learning curve.

Set up

Initial set up of the Silhouette SD was quick and easy. The software installed on my Windows 7 PC in minutes (though do make sure all Windows updates have been applied to your computer first, as this did add to the total time for install on my end).

As far as physical space, the machine does not take up a lot of room. You do need space in front and behind it for the material to move while being cut. The machine cuts 8 1/2″ x 12″ size or smaller using a mat.

The technical side (software and online)

The paper manual which comes in the box is enough to get you up and cutting quickly, however the array of tools and options in the software does require you take some time to watch the tutorial CD and learn the basics. The tutorials are very well put together and easy to understand, especially if you are a visual learner like I am.


I liked the look of the software; it is slightly customizable in appearance (color and button size), and pretty easy to navigate. Here’s an image of the basic desktop you start off with for each new design.


I especially appreciated that hovering with the pointer over a particular tool brought up its name until I got the hang of what they all were. If you are familiar with photo editing or drawing programs, the software will seem very intuitive to you. If not, the tutorials (which are very specific) will give you a great handle on it quickly.

You are able to cut just about any design (pre-made, your own, or a traced scan) with the Silhouette SD. All True Type fonts installed on your computer can be cut, which opens up the flood gates for font possibilities in projects.

As mentioned above, the Silhouette SD software comes pre-loaded with 50 extremely usable designs:


Right at your finger tips is also a link to the online store with thousands of options to choose from (most are 99 cents each, though subscription programs are available which reduce the cost greatly), including designs from well-known companies like Hero Arts and Donna Downey. I quickly spent the $10 download card that comes with the machine while looking at all the great options!

Of course, possibilities are endless when you take into account designing your own images as well. Here’s a simple project made by creating my own design using standards fonts (Impact and Lucida Handwriting). The weld tool makes easy work of combining letters.

My design in the software:


And the finished project:

Performance

Though I only had opportunity to test the Silhouette SD on regular cardstock and paper for this review, it worked absolutely great. The machine is noisy when cutting, but does the job. I appreciate the 2 different cutting mats for different thicknesses of media, between which the only difference is the amount of adhesive (the lesser amount of adhesive meant for thinner materials).

As far as actual cutting, the Silhouette SD has more than just one option too. It also perforates. I love this option which makes super quick work of folded projects such as this pillow box (this template comes with the software).


Other features

The Silhouette has a Print and Cut feature which for me was the tipping point on why I’d now lean towards recommending this machine to a friend. I am a very big fan of cutting elements out of patterned paper for projects, and this option is quick, easy, and works great.

As an example, these 3D flowers were available in the online store.


First I printed them with the necessary registration marks so the Silhouette knows where to cut (this is covered in the tutorials) and then simply loaded into the machine for cutting. Here’s a peek of the Silhouette SD in action with the lid raised.


And the result:


Here’s a card using the finished flowers (which would have been about $2.99 in a pre-made pack).


The card template and sentiment also come preloaded with the software, and the dress form is from the online store.

To make the Print and Cut feature even more appealing, the software also includes a trace tool for tracing scanned images you wish to cut out. The trace tool takes a little getting used to, but once I practiced a bit I was able to make a near perfect replica of this vintage doily in a few easy steps. First I scanned the doily into Photoshop Elements and saved the image as a bitmap, then opened the bitmap image in Silhouette SD Studio and followed the steps to trace it, and finally proceeded just like I would with a print and cut image:



Finally, the Silhouette SD has portability thanks to the SD card slot located on the machine.


Designs are able to be loaded onto an SD card and then retrieved by the machine for cutting while not connected to a computer.

To sum up, let’s revisit those primary questions above when purchasing a die cutting machine.

  • Do we want excellent portability or will the machine stay in one place on our craft rooms never to move?

You don’t have to necessarily choose with the Silhouette SD. Thanks to the SD card slot, you are able to pre-load designs to be cut onto an SD card (not included), unplug the machine from your computer, and take it with you to a crop or anywhere else. You must, of course, take the time to load up the SD card with images first, however if you do so with ones you use often that can become very handy. I myself don’t crop out of the home much, but traveling from my craft area (where my husband is playing a loud video game) to the dining room table (where I don’t have to hear “watch your back!” every few minutes) is a nice option.

  • Do we want the capability to cut our own designs or are we OK with strictly pre-made ones?

Again no choice necessary here. Countless designs are available online, many great ones come with the machine preloaded in the software, and designing our own is a piece of cake once you get the hang of the software. And, no need to buy many designs we don’t care for either just to get a few that we do.

  • How computer savvy do we need to be to use the thing?

Basics are definitely needed, and knowledge of working with other drawing type programs would put you that much further ahead of the learning curve, however the tutorials are very good at explaining each and every tool. So there should not be any intimidation about the computer needs as long as you are willing to take the time to learn.

  • And of course at what point does the price (and future costs associated with) no longer equal a good investment?

There is certainly more freedom in how we can answer this question with the Silhouette SD versus other machines currently on the market. For one, designs can be purchased separately for 99 cents, however if you become good at it you can also design your own for free (or download the weekly freebies from the online store to build your collection also). If you find you are constantly wanting to use new images, you can choose one of the subscription plans available which roll over from month to month if you do not use them up. Also there is no third party software to purchase in order to increase the capability of the machine, it simply comes with the flexibility we wish they all had.

Pros:

  • The Silhouette SD can cut just about any image, increasing its value potential over other machines.
  • The software and online store are user friendly and fairly easy to navigate after a bit of learning time.
  • Many options are available from cutting style (straight line or perforated), cutting mat (thin or thicker media), to material which can be cut (Silhouette also offers vinyl, heat transfer material, flocked paper, and even temporary tattoo paper).

Cons:

  • Initial purchase price of around $200 is expensive and may not fit your budget, no matter what the possibilities for use could be.
  • The Silhouette cuts a smaller size overall than other die cutting machines (8 1/2″ x 12″ vs 12″ x 12″ or larger), and if you have large 12″ x 12″ stash you will be trimming a lot before cutting is possible.
  • Like other machines, eventually the blade and mats will need to be replaced which will be an added cost.

Good DEALS…
Our friends at Silhouette are providing our readers with some fabulous offers… from now until June 29, 2011, you can get…

1 Silhouette SD 
2 Packages Temporary Tattoo Paper 
for $199 (U.S. only) (that’s a $120 savings!)

Also, (wait for it…)

25% off all other products in the Silhouette shop (excluding gift cards and download codes). So if you already own the machine but want to get some of that cool Tattoo Paper or Heat Transfer material, now is the time.

To partake in this amazing offer, head on over to Silhouette and use Promo Code CRITIQUE. Offer ends June 29, 2011.
 
AND A GIVEAWAY!

They’ve also given us a Silhouette SD and two packages of their Tattoo Paper to give away to one of our very lucky readers. First enter by leaving a comment below answering the following question(s):

Do you own a Silhouette SD or are you considering purchasing one? What are your thoughts on how this machine can do versus other machines you know of? 

We can’t wait to hear from you on this one! This will give you one entry but wait, there’s more…

Optional Bonus Entries
Earn additional entry for each of the following:

■ Tweet about the giveaway! (example): WIN a Free Silhouette on @CraftCritique from @silhouetteam and read the Reviews. http://is.gd/QxOcYB

Like Silhouette America on Facebook and let them know you saw them on Craft Critique!

■ Link to the giveaway on Facebook!

Please enter one comment per entry. So, once you have done any of the additional entries remember to come back and comment to let us know. Contest closes at midnight. Good Luck!

Disclosure

Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!

Vendor Spotlight & GIVEAWAY: Slice Elite by Making Memories (1 of 2)

Reported by Taylor Usry

I recently had the opportunity to review the new Slice Elite Digital Cordless Designer by Making Memories. This is a little machine that packs a big punch! The Slice Elite weighs less than a pound, is 5″ by 5″ of creative power, and can cut. emboss, and draw on a variety of paper, card stock, and photos. As advertised, the Slice Elite can cut shapes and letters from one to four inches, in half inch increments. The machine can be powered by its rechargeable battery (works for about an hour), or by plugging in the power adapter.

Making Memories sent me an amazing package for review. It included the Pink Slice Elite Starter Kit, which comes with:

  • Pink Slice Elite Digital Cordless Designer
  • Basic Elements design card
  • Basic Elements design card booklet
  • 6″ x 6″ glass cutting mat
  • five blades
  • blade replacement tool
  • blade adjustment wrench
  • power cord
  • re-positionable adhesive for the cutting mat
  • foam brush
  • user manual
  • quick start guide

They also threw in some great paper and embellishments from their Dilly Dally and Tie the Knot product lines – what fun!

I read through the included User Manual a couple of times, and was surprised at the lack of information it provided, especially with regard to embossing and drawing. However, the tips to utilize those features were not included with my starter kit, so I didn’t get to test them out anyway!

I went online to check out the how to videos, and they were super helpful. As instructed, I began by putting a thin line of repositionable adhesive down the left side of the glass cutting mat. I then used the included foam brush to spread it out thinly all over the surface, and waited the recommended two minutes before applying my paper. An interesting note – I thought the adhesive smelled awful. My husband and daughter couldn’t smell a thing. Weird, huh? Regardless, it leaves no residue on your paper and washes off the glass mat easily with soap and water.

Once you’ve made you choice about shape/letter, size, etc and are ready to cut, the process is fairly simple. Place the machine on the desired location on the mat (it is easy to determine placement, as there is a small “x” on the screen where cutting will begin), press down with light pressure, and push the “cut” button (pictured above, just under the handle – it is the small pink button toward the rear of the machine). The button is perfectly placed to press while you are holding the machine to keep it steady. There is an optional Hands Free kit you can purchase, so that you won’t have to hold the machine while it cuts. But really, it cuts quite quickly and it isn’t difficult at all to hold it!

It’s easy to tell when the machine is done cutting, because it tells you. Down the left side of the screen you can see that it is “working”. Once the cut is completed, a large check mark appears, indicating the machine can be picked up and your die cut can be removed from the mat.

If you don’t wait the full two minutes for the adhesive to dry, or if you apply a bit too much and it doesn’t dry in the specified time frame, this is what will happen when you try to pick up the paper. A total mess. It washes off with a bit of warm soapy water and some scraping.

When applied correctly, your paper will peel off the glass mat very easily and leave your die cut behind. You can purchase a spatula to lift it off, but my fingernails worked just fine. When placing the paper on the mat, you want the side you want to use to be facing up (so, you will be looking at the “right” side). You do not have to wash off the re-positionable adhesive each time you use it. You can store the glass cutting mat with a scrap piece of paper covering it, and gently peel it off for the next use. Once it begins to lose its tackiness, wash it and reapply the adhesive. Making Memories also offers some spray adhesive, although I did not test that out either.

The Slice beautifully cuts out words! And using the shadow feature, you can make an outline in no time. The machine also has a mirror image feature, which is a great idea for shapes. I did change the cutting speed from high to low. When I cut my first word on high speed, the edges were a tiny bit jagged.  I did not have to adjust blade pressure at all. The Slice just cut what I wanted – no fuss, no stress, no feeding the paper in and positioning it the right way. No making sure I had tons of space behind and in front of my machine so the paper could work back and forth. That, I think, is my favorite feature about the Slice – the compact size. Easy to store, and the cartridges are the size of memory cards for a camera. So they just don’t take up as much space.

The Slice is so easy to use that I let my five year old try it out (with very close supervision, of course). I talked her through the steps, and let her watch me do it. She was able to pick out her shapes, choose different sizes, and position the machine on different areas of the paper to cut out the heart and the flower. Then she cut out the word giggle. All three die cuts took her maybe ten minutes, and most of that was deciding exactly which shape to do next. So in my opinion, this makes the Slice great for kids crafts and projects. Many of the design cards are kid friendly!

With the included Basic Elements design card, my favorite thing to make was the tags. What a super useful option! On the tag above, I paired stamps from Lizzie Anne Designs with the tag (and shadow) I die cut, a paper flower from the Making Memories Dilly Dally line, and some Making Memories ribbon. The card stock is Neenah Solar White and Papertrey Ink Kraft – I wanted to test out how the Slice cut different wights of paper. It cut through them just fine!

I mass produced this tag, using stamps from Stampendous, and more paper flowers from Making Memories. I left off the ribbon, so I can use them on a variety of gifts. I think I made about 30 of these! I’m not sharing samples I made using textured card stock (Stampin’ Up), vellum, and acetate, but the Slice cut them all perfectly. I do want to stress that I used the low speed to cut with, but the Slice still seems faster to me than my Cricut.

I could not be more thrilled with this machine, and plan to invest in more design cards to further utilize it. Check out my quick list of pros and cons:

Pros:

  • compact size and portability
  • ease of use; wastes less paper than a Cricut
  • online support and video help – great resource!
  • wide variety of accessories available

Cons:

  • the user manual could be more descriptive
  • I wish the starter kit came with at least one embossing tip
  • can’t cut an shape or word larger than four inches (which is fine for card makers, but maybe not for scrapbookers)

GIVEAWAY!
The great folks at Making Memories are giving away the newest member to the Slice Family, the Slice Fabrique to one lucky reader. Just answer the any of the following questions in the comment section of this article on this blog to be entered:

Do you own a Slice Elite? How do you like it? If not, what are you currently using for your die cutting needs?

You have until Monday, April 18th at 6pm CST to leave your comment.

Disclosure

Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!

Wishblade by Xyron

Reported by Kristine Fowler

In a number of my posts here on Craft Critique I have mentioned my Wishblade digital craft cutter by Xyron, but I just realized now that I had never actually reviewed it officially. So, since a number of our readers have asked questions about it, I figured that it was time to do just that and give you my two cents on the subject. Since I’ve owned it for a few years and use it quite frequently, I won’t spend a great deal of time telling you how much I love it (and I do!), but instead I’ll try to stick to the how-to and the what-for of the little pink machine.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with the Wishblade, it is a digital craft cutter that connects to your computer via simple USB. Using the included software (or any other program that will draw a vector image) you can draw practically anything and send it to the machine for quick and easy cutting. The machine houses a swivel blade that cuts your image one line at a time while the paper is passed forward and backward across the machine’s platform.

What’s in the box?

  • Wishblade Digital Craft Cutter machine
  • All necessary power and USB cabling
  • Wishblade “Create and Cut +” Software
  • Wishblade 4.1 Software
  • 1 Blade Pack with Pen Holder and Plunger Tips
  • Instruction Manual and DVD
  • Cutting Sheet
You might be thinking that the Wishblade sounds and looks very much like the Silhouette by QuickKutz that our own Julia Stainton reviewed on Craft Critique back in April of 2009 (click here to read Julia’s article). If you are thinking that – you are absolutely correct. In fact a little online research tells me that they are actually manufactured by the same company (Graphtec, and they actually make the Craft Robo as well). The machine’s functions are identical and in fact they look almost the same both inside and out. There are slight differences though and they are:

  • software bundle
  • compatability
  • price
  • availability

A few words about the Wishblade software bundle:


I mentioned earlier that I’ve had my machine for quite some time, so the software bundle the ships today is a bit different that what I originally received. Here is the description from Xyron on what you can do with each of the included pieces:

“The standard Wishblade software offers Print and Cut technology, drawing tools, create outlines and shadows for images and allows for the cutting of any True Type Font. The new exclusive Create and Cut software enhances Wishblade functionality to include welding word and creating outlines (shadows) for text and images with the click of your mouse.”

“Create and Cut Plus adds further power for your crafting projects an Advanced Autotrace feature, Print & Cut, Outlining, Word Welding, Shadowing Distortion and a host of other function will bring life to your art!”

{I don’t currently have Create and Cut Plus – but after reading about it at Xyron.com I just bought the upgrade! It includes a few features never before available like twain compliant scanning capabilities allowing you to scan an image and then cut it, and also allows for the ‘vectorization’ of bitmaps (think cutting computer clipart images). It also brings forward many of the features I love about the original Wishblade design software (like Auto Trace and Print and Cut) to the Create and Cut foreground. I would much prefer using only one software design tool instead of two.}

So what does all this mean – let’s see it in action.

Here are just a few of the MANY things I’ve done with my Wishblade!

Created a page title for a scrapbook page by ‘welding’ a font. Welding means that you can take separate typed letters and ‘connect’ them to form a continuous shape. This can be done with any font, but works especially well with ‘scripted’ or ‘cursive’ letters.

Create custom text complete with a coordinating shadow like the one I used for the title of this scrapbook page.

And here, I cut letters for a title – then embellished them with stamps, ink, ribbons and a flower before adhering them to my page.

For fun, I auto-traced (using the original Wishblade software) this dragon from a coloring book image cut it out and assembled it. How fun is that?

And, I cut vinyl letters for my bedroom wall.

I have also used it to cut basic shapes like circles of ANY size almost instantly like I did for this card. Because you can scale your designs, you are not limited to the sizes of shapes dictated by templates or other traditional die-cut systems.

So what if you’re not interested in designing your own shapes – do you still need a Wishblade? I say yes! Even if you never design a shape yourself there are tons available for purchase or to even download FREE online.

There is a bunch available from Xyron at http://www.xyron.com/enUS/Categories/Wishblade_Shapes.html
each for just 99 cents. Here is a sample of what you’ll see there.

Or, check out these sites for literally thousands more to choose from.

There are also a ton of generous folks out there who post FREE cutting files to their blogs/sites all the time – just Google Free Wishblade files to see what’s out there!
There are also a few groups on Yahoo where Wishblade users can connect, ask questions and share.
So….by now I would guess that the difference between traditional die-cutters and the Wishblade is pretty clear, and you’ve probably figured out that the biggest difference between the Wishblade and a cutter like the Cricut is that the Wishblade doesn’t require cartridges, but you might be wondering just what exactly is the difference between the Wishblade and the Silhouette?
Well, the truth is that the Wishblade and the Silhouette are indeed the same machine. In fact, a little web surfing made me realize that they are actually both manufactured by the same company Graphtec (and they make the Craft Robo too!) The Wishblade is then branded/sold by Xyron, and the Silhouette branded/sold by QuickKutz. There are differences though if you look beyond what you see – the biggest differences being the included
  • Software Bundles
  • compatability: the Wishblade is both Mac and PC compatible

Pros:

  • Unlike the Silhouette, the Wishblade is Mac and PC compatible (including Windows Vista)
  • Shapes purchased from Xyron are only $0.99 compared to the Silhouette which are $1.99 – but of course you can design your own for free!
  • Create Welded Words, Outlines and Shadows with single click.
  • Cut any True Type font – no restrictions to words/fonts included on cartridges
  • No cartridges to buy – if you can draw it, you can cut it
  • Weld words at the click of a mouse
  • Cuts any material up to 0.3mm thick (think vellum, cardstock, textured cardstock, vinyl, transparencies etc.)
  • Cuts items from 1/2″ to 8″ wide and up to 39″ long
  • Once you have a shape designed, it can be scaled and cut in ANY size (subject to the restrictions mentioned above)
  • Replacement blades, mats, cutting strips etc. available from Xyron.com for reasonable prices
    • Blades and Cap set MSRP $40
    • Cutting Mats (2) MSRP $22
    • Cutting Strip MSRP $20
      • {Note: I have used Cutting mats and blades designed/marketed for the Silhouette in my Wishblade without problems and these are available at my Local scrapbook store so that is a bit more convenient than ordering online}
  • easy to use once you get the hang of the design software
  • capable of cutting very fine intricate designs – nice crisp cuts

Cons:

  • A fairly hefty upfront investment MSRP $399 US – but this is it, there are no future cartridges to buy.
  • It’s not overly portable. While the machine itself isn’t that big (it’s about the size of many standard desktop printers), it needs to be connected to a computer to operate. So, if you have a laptop like I do, taking it with you to crops is a bit cumbersome, but still doable. If you use a desktop computer though – I think you’re out of luck when it comes to travelling.
  • It’s a bit noisy – this was a bit of a surprise initially, but I’m used to it now and don’t give it a second thought.
  • Sadly, it won’t cut chipboard – media can only be up to 0.3mm thick. Material closer to that 0.3mm maximum (e.g. textured cardstock) usually requires more than one pass of the blade to make a clean cut, but sending the multi-pass request to the machine is simple – so again no worries there.
  • To master it takes time. While you can use the machine quite readily out of the box to create basic shapes and cut letters, you need to spend time with it in order to appreciate just how functional this unit can be.
  • No pre-designed shapes are included with the software. That means that even to make a test cut, the user must first design something to send to the machine. Upon setup, the inclusion of pre-designed would give the user almost instant gratification as it would be super simple to see the machine in action within minutes of opening the box.
    In summary, I think that the Wishblade definitely has more going for it than it does against it – and I’m glad I made the investment. It is a must-have tool for the die-cut-a-holic, and a handy addition to the tool chest for anyone who traditionally hand-cuts a lot of page elements. Just remember, only by taking the time to learn how to use it will you be able to fully appreciate the Wishblade’s power and functionality.

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