Monday, January 05, 2009

Savvy Scrapbooking

(Non scrapbooking friends and family, this will be terminally boring and mostly unintelligible to you. You can leave now. Sorry.)

I have longed for a die cutting machine to use in my scrapbooking for a long time. When we lived in California, my friend Sandi had the Quickutz system, which consisted of a tool and multiple sets of metal dies. The problem with the system was that each die cut only one size of the shape or letter, and I wanted more flexibility in terms of size. I scrap in sizes from 4x4 inches to 12x12 inches, so one size does not fit all.

In addition, each alphabet set had to be purchased individually. Numbers and punctuation were purchased separately, too, and for some letter sets there were "shadows" that outline the main shapes and can be used with contrasting cardstock to define or highlight the letters.

The tool is about $90 and each alphabet is about $100, although they were closer to $150 when we were in Cali.

I was thoroughly unwilling to spend that much money. And it never seemed to bother Sandi, but the little binders that held the dies got heavy with all of that metal in them, and I already haul half my life around with me if I go out of my house to scrapbook. I didn't want more to carry.

Then we moved back to Minnesota and the Cricut came out. It's little, it's pretty portable, it cuts letters and shapes in multiple sizes, but it is limited to cutting letters and shapes from cartridges that you have to purchase.

It's $300. Alphabet and shape cartridges range in price from $50 to $100. Now there is a new machine they call a "Jukebox" which holds 6 cartridges along with the books and keypad overlays. The Jukebox ($90) hooks up to your Cricut, allowing you to access any of the cartridges in it. It appears you can hook up to 3 of these up to your Cricut, giving you access to 18 cartridges at a time. A lot of people sing the praises of Cricut's portability, but I am skeptical about hauling a machine and 3 fairly large accessory pieces.

For a couple of years I've been wanting the Wishblade. It hooks up to your computer and cuts any True Type Font that you have installed. But the $450 price tag put me off.

The Craft Robo is the exact same machine sold by a different company. Price point is similar to Wishblade.

And then Quickutz started selling the Wishblade/Craft Robo under another name -- the Silhouette. I believe it retailed for about $300 (still too rich for my blood) when I first saw it, but it has come down in price since then.

So here was my line of reasoning, which came down to flexibility and price:

Quickutz Squeeze and dies (with 5 fixed-size alphabets): $590 and up
Cricut (with 5 alphabets 1"-5 1/2"): $550 and up
Silhouette (using most True Type Fonts installed on PC, not Mac sizes 1/2" - 8"): $200 or less (and I have TONS of free fonts I've downloaded from the web)

There are 2 more machines that Cricut sells now that offer more flexibility, but they are more expensive, too. And there is free software available on the web to allow some Cricut machines to hook up to a computer and cut True Type Fonts, too.

I know people who use all of these machines, and they are all happy with what they've chosen. If you're looking for a die cutting machine, be sure you know what features you want and whether you want to use it at home or at crops, whether you're willing to pay (for example) the full $1500 for a Cricut, 18 cartridges, and 3 Jukeboxes (and that is a conservative estimate that doesn't include trademarked cartridges like Disney or Hello Kitty), and how large you really need your cut items to be (for me, 8 inches is plenty). Also be sure to look into things like cutting mats and blades that will need to be replaced periodically.

So .... for Christmas my wonderful husband got me the Silhouette. I don't know how much he paid for it, but he said it was less than $200. It set up quickly and I was cutting letters within about 15 minutes. It offers a multitude of sizes and will cut cardstock (but not chipboard). I anticipate that I will use it mostly for alphabets but there are image files (like flowers and snowflakes) that are included with it as well as options for purchase through the Quickutz website. There are also a ton of sites out there where people share tips and images with each other at no charge.

The Silhouette was clearly the best choice for me. I don't have a problem with anyone buying the products that work for them, but I know that the expense of the cartridges required for the Cricut made it a completely unrealistic option for me.

If you're looking for more comprehensive comparisons of the machines, you can do a search using the machine you're most interested in, view the excellent chart which includes many options I didn't mention here at Paperthreads, or visit the CUT!!! forum at Scrapjazz.


  1. Anonymous2:40 PM

    Well, yea! You got a Silhouette for Christmas! My Cricut is going to sit on a shelf and collect dust for a while while I digiscrap. :duh:

  2. I'm glad you got your srappin' desire!

    I do know a Cricut owner and she says the best deal is to buy the stuff at, hopefully using a coupon and during free shipping times. She says it *almost* makes it reasonable.

    I agree with you though, I have enough crap that I can barely manage now, I don't need more things cluttering my clutter.

  3. Not that I need one of these anyway (LIKE to have yeah, NEED to have no...not scrapping for over a year doesn't justify such you see) but I wouldn't be able to use it as Dave is planning to dump our MS platform as soon as humanly possible and it might not run on Linux.

  4. whoohoo on the new Silhouette! Cut it up baby!