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Vendor Spotlight — Spellbinder’s Presto Punch

Reported by Susan Reidy

Hanging on one wall in my craft space is a shoe organizer crammed full of punches. I’d show you a picture, but no one wants to see that. I don’t even want to see it.

If only Spellbinder’s Presto Punch had come into my life much sooner. As Spellbinders puts it, this handy tool is the first automatic punching and embossing machine. Instead of a hefty heave-ho sometimes needed to use a standard punch, with the Presto Punch, you simply push a button. That’s perfect for those with any strength issues or hand problems like carpal tunnel or arthritis.

And, it solves the problem of storing bulky punches. According to Spellbinders, you can store 30 punch designs in the space of one standard punch. Sign me up!

Spellbinders says the Presto Punch works best with craft foil, fun foam and up to 65# cardstock. I didn’t have any foil, but I tried all the others, and more.

Out of the box, you receive the Presto Punch machine, a purple cutting booklet, and a white embossing booklet.

In addition, there’s seven templates included.

These guys are tiny, but cute! I like that they are nice basic shapes, and that they come with your initial purchase.

Spellbinders also has additional templates available, including basic shapes that come in sets of three for $9.99, fun themed shapes in packs of 5 for $14.99 and fonts including letters and numbers for $39.99.

Spellbinders sent me the scalloped circles.

And the Christmas Joy. Love that snowman, and all the little Christmas icons.

To use the machine or either need eight AA batteries, or the power adapter, which is available separately for $29.99.

Eight is an awful lot of batteries, and I’m not sure how long they would last. I would definitely recommend the power adapter, which is what I used.

The adapter plugs into the back, under the battery component. There’s a notch in the battery compartment door so the cord can come through.

To use the machine, you’ll first have to cut your paper to fit the 2.5 inch square purple cutting booklet.

 Put your paper on the magnet side of the booklet, and put your template on top, raised edge down. The magnet is a nice touch, because it holds the template in place, at least on lighter weight paper.

Put the booklet in the machine.

Push the left/down button.

Once cutting is done, push the right/up button and remove the booklet.

And here’s the punched leaf.

To emboss, remove the template and your punched shape, and put it cutting edge down in the white embossing booklet.

Put it in the machine, press down until the motor stops and then press the up button to remove the folder. Here you can see the nice, deep embossing.

When you’re done with that, you can keep the template in place and use it like a stencil to add some color via chalk, ink, market, etc. to your punched image.

Here’s my cute finished leaf.

I do wish the directions that came with the machine were a little more complete. They give the general guidelines, which I just explained. But what they don’t say is how long to push down the button. When I first did it, the loud, grinding sound scared me and I stopped pushing the button. When I removed the folder,  my paper hadn’t punched.

I went online and found further instructions, including videos, that said to keep pushing the button until the motor stops. Once I did that, my punches turned out much better.

The machine is loud, and the sound might be a little off-putting to some. But I didn’t find it any louder or annoying than any other electric die cutting system I have used (Cricut, Vagabond).

I did find there is a certain amount of trial and error involved in getting a good punch. The more I used the Presto Punch, the better my punches turned out. I tried the machine on heavier cardstock than recommended, including the Die Cuts with a View textured paper I used for my leaf up above.

I found with the smaller shapes, the Presto Punch could handle the heavier paper. However, with the  larger shapes, it had a hard time cutting through Papertrey Ink (110#), DCWV and Stampin’ Up (80#) cardstock.

One tip: If you try cutting heavier than 65# paper, make sure you have the machine all the way up, and punch all the way down, so you get the maximum amount of punching time. When I was doing lighter weight paper, I didn’t worry if it was all the way up.

I like that you can nest shapes like this.

But unfortunately, I couldn’t successfully cut the two shapes effectively at the same time, even when I tried plain old copy paper. However, it wasn’t hard to cut the circle first, remove the circle die, add the candy cane, and punch again. I got this.

I thought this would be super cute as Christmas tags. I cut a few more, and then thought I’d get a little fancy. After cutting my tag and layering a solid scallop underneath, I tried embossing the candy cane on that lower layer.

I put the template over the precut candy cane and put it in the embossing folder. Here was my result.

Not too bad, but you can see my template shifted a little. In the future, I will add a little piece of tape to my template to keep it in place.

Here are some of my finished holiday tags.

I was really into the nesting thing, so I tried making a wreath with two of the nested scalloped circles.

I again had difficulty getting it to cut all the way through in one punch.

But again, I got a good result punching it in two steps and using a lighter weight patterned paper. Here’s my finished wreath, with an added punched and stencilled holly leaf, also from the Christmas Joy set of templates.

I love that you can use the templates to emboss and stencil, to add more interest to a punch, and used the technique a lot. For this tree, I brushed liquid glue right over the template and added glitter.

The glue and glitter wiped right off my template with a baby wipe.

I cut and embossed the cute snowman, then added some details with chalk.

So cute! He would also be cute with some bling buttons or eyes.

I added him to a journaling pocket I plan on using for a Christmas layout or maybe my December Daily.

I wanted to try the Presto Punch with fun foam. I dug around, and finally found a small piece (but just the right size for the 2.5 inch platform). I was pleased with how well the templates cut through the foam, although the edges were a little rough. This was one of the last things I cut, and my cutting mat was looking really rough, so that may have had an impact.

The directions included with the Presto Punch say not to use template in manual die cutting machines because “doing so will damage the templates and the cutting mats.” So I didn’t try it.

I did however try some of smaller Spellbinder Nestabilities in the Presto Punch. They worked great, but you’re limited to the dies that are small enough to fit on the cutting/embossing surfaces.

After all my testing and playing, my purple cutting booklet looked like this.

The magnet sheet on the surface started bubbling up, and came off altogether in some places. I think it’s definitely time for a new cutting booklet. Replacements are available in a pack of three for $5.99.

Once I got rolling, I really enjoyed using the Presto Punch. It really is easy on the hands, has great “nesting” capabilities and takes up much less space, even when you include the size of the machine. I love that you can emboss and stencil with the templates, much like Spellbinders Nestabilities.

However, there are some trade-offs when compared to traditional punches. You need to cut your paper down to size before you can punch, your results are varied with heavier cardstock, and it takes longer. With a traditional punch, you have your image punched in about two seconds. With the Presto Punch, it takes about 10 seconds to push the punch down and then back up. If you include cutting the paper down to 2.5 inches square, it’s even longer.

Still, the benefits of the Presto Punch make it worth it. While I won’t get rid of my traditional punch collection, I will definitely look to add to my Presto Punch template collection before buying traditional options.

Pros:

  • Great for people with strength or hand problems.
  • Easier to store than traditional punches.
  • With same template you can punch, emboss and stencil.
  • After the initial investment, it is cheaper than traditional punches.
  • Templates can be nested for fun results.
  • Cute shapes available, as well as fonts.
  • Can cut up to 65# paper, fun foam and craft foil.

Cons:

  • Directions included with the machine are incomplete, but lots more information is available online.
  • Needs eight AA batteries, which is a lot, or the purchase of the adapter for another $29.99.
  • Takes longer than traditional punches.
  • Paper has to be precut to fit 2.5 inch square cutting/embossing booklets.
  • Results vary when using heavier cardstock.

Have you tried the Presto Punch? How does it compare to traditional punches? Leave us a comment and let us know what you think!

Company Feature and Giveaway: Spellbinders

Reported by Sarah Moore, Founding Editor

Founded in 2003 by Stacey and Jeff Caron, Spellbinders is a leading innovator in manual die cutting tools.

An avid crafter, Stacey noticed the lack of detail in the dies available for paper crafting.  She decided to change her longtime passion for paper crafting and her vision of exquisitely detailed and sophisticated dies into a business. In 2003, Stacey and her husband, Jeff, invested everything, including their life savings, into the business. Together, they decided to create a universal die-cut system with die templates that are the most detailed on the market.

The first 2,500 Wizard die cutting and embossing machines and 10,000 dies were hand made.  They were known as Geometrics and are the inspiration of the famously popular line of Spellbinders Nestabilities.  From the start, Stacey committed to bring the best possible dies to market, offering good value at a fair price.   There are no other dies on the market that offer the intricate, sophisticated details that Spellbinders offers.

Spellbinders’ mission is to develop and provide exquisitely detailed, quality craft products that offer value and versatility.  The goal is to design crafting products that cut, emboss and stencil to inspire the creation of beautiful, professional projects.  Equally important are Stacey’s core values of providing opportunity and fostering innovation through partnerships and working together in harmony.

Spellbinders has partnered with companies and licensed designers that are endorsed and approved to develop products that coordinate with Spellbinders’ patented die templates.  Stacey has partnered with and mentored a number of small and start-up companies, providing business guidance and sharing her vision.  Through these partnerships Spellbinders continues to strengthen the crafts community.  The synergy between the companies allows customers to understand the unlimited creativity together they can provide for inspirational crafting.

What makes Spellbinders unique is unlike any other company in the crafts industry, Stacey sponsors her design team, bringing them to Phoenix, and educating them in the company culture and the Spellbinders brand. This process has empowered the design team, which is key in today’s social media network, to become knowledgeable Spellbinders ambassadors for creative and inspirational use of all Spellbinders’ products.

Those interested in becoming a Spellbinders Design Team Member must submit projects and write an essay on why they want to be a Spellbinders Design Team member.  There a two rounds of project submissions. Call for Design Team members is announced the beginning January every year.  New Design Team members for the year join the team in April.

Among the most popular products Spellbinders carries are their Spellbinders Nestabilities.  These delicate dies cut and emboss and are sold in nested sets of multiple sizes.  Visit the Spellbinders website to see the full collection of dies.

Most intriguing from Spellbinders are the new Edgeability Dies.  These new dies create delicate edges for your projects as well as intricate designs. Each set comes with an edge and two designs that can be mixed and matched to create different looks.

You can purchase Spellbinders products from their website, or your local craft store.

Follow Spellbinders on Twitter.

Like Spellbinders on Facebook.

Be inspired by Spellbinders on their blog.

Read reviews of Spellbinders products on Craft Critique.

One of our lucky readers will win a set of Edgeability dies.  Just leave a comment and let us know if you have used Spellbinders dies yet, and which designs are inspiring to you!

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!