Tuesday, July 19, 2011

My review of the Sizzix Big Shot Machine

Recycled Soda Tin Floral Barette
Above is a cool view of a recycled project made from aluminum soda cans.  The flowers were cut out using the "Sizzix Big Shot" die cutting machine.
Big Shot Machine
Lately, it seems like every craft show I attend has someone demonstrating and/or using a 
Sizzix Big Shot Cutting-and-Embossing Machine at their booth.  I have seen people use such a variety of materials with this machine that it never ceases to amaze me.  Even beyond that, is the projects people make with their die cut pieces.  This tool appears to be one of the "must haves" for an avid crafter and recycling junkie.  
At the "Unique LA" show I attended recently, I watched my friend Stefanie Girard (author of 


 Sweater Surgery and reporter for Craft Gossip), demonstrate how to use the big shot to cut shapes out recycled felted wool sweaters and make fun jewelry.  These were popular workshops that were sponsored by various groups and organizations, including Craftside Publishing.   The folks in attendance just loved being able to use the "Big Shot" to cut up the sweaters to make cool jewelry pieces like the ring below.  For more great recycled project ideas, just visit one of her many blogs (included the card album blog).
Recycled Felted Wool Sweater Ring
Seeing all these cool demonstrations, has made me want to own a die cutting machine of my own.  I have a very limited crafting space so I had to do a little research to figure out which machine would do the most for the price, size, and cost.  The "Big Shot" retails for $99.00 (plus shipping) on the Sizzix website.  I did a google search and found the price on the Sizzix Big Shot Cutting-and-Embossing Roller-Style Machine varied depending on the retailers and some of the specials they were holding on machine.  Amazon offers it at a great price.  Also, I have seen it sold with accessories in kit form at various scrapbooking and craft shows (ex:  beginners kit, advanced kit, etc.).  So the price can vary. 

The "Big Shot" itself comes with:

  • Big Shot Machine (14 1/4" x 8 1/2" x 6 1/2")
  • Multi Purpose Platform
  • Directions imprinted right on the platform so you wont lose them (unless you misplace the platform)
  • Pair of standard Clear cutting pads
My first question upon opening the box, was "what is this multi purpose platform for?"  It looked a bit odd so I did the smart thing and read the instructions.   I love the fact that the machine is so easy to set up.  The cool multi purpose platform itself has flaps called tabs.  Each tab gives the directions for using various dies, embossing and texture sheets printed right on it. The multi purpose platform is important because it shows many of the Sizzix products and how they are compatible with this machine. If you shop at the Sizzix website it has a button that leads you to all of their products that are compatible with the big shot.  Additionally, the platform allows you to use other company dies, embossing, and texture sheets with this machine. 

The base of the big shot is sturdy which is helpful when trying to use the extra long dies like the "Suitcase" die (#657124).  

Upon reading the directions, I realized that the Big Shot cuts and embosses a wide variety of materials.  Since, I had a limited amount of dies to test out, I decided to take advantage of my local craft store sale on dies and pick up a few to help me test out the machine's capabilities.  Once I was armed with enough dies, I had a field day running different materials through the machine and trying out the dies.  

I tested an wide assortment of materials including, acetate, card board, corrugated card board, card stock, 
aluminum and plastic from soda containers

chipboard, papers (different weights and textures), plastic, place mats, fabric, thin leather, some hand 

made papers, tin, sticker paper, rubber, and more using the Sizzix Die's.  Basically anything that was less
the blue felt material above is 1/8" thickness

than 1/8" went through the machine.  I tried out some craft wood that was the thickness of wall paper and very soft.  It went through without any problem.  

I have listed below some of the different materials and results I got from testing the Big Shot. 

Aluminum Cans
I started with some rinsed soda and energy drink cans then using an old pair of scissors, I cut up the cans.  I wore my leather 

gloves to protect me from the sharp edges that I was bound to encounter while cutting up the soda cans. This was a smart move, as I ended up with quite a few sharp edges.  I flatten out the piece of a aluminum and then ran through the "Big Shot" using my

butterfly die (#654996 ).

The finished piece was very cool and since this die is a butterfly and I could fold up the wings to give it more dimension.  


Burlap
I decided to test a nice orange burlap place mat that I had on hand.  I put a small piece through the big shot and used my Flowers Layer (#654982) die cut.   It did cut the burlap but the burlap started to unraveled fairly quickly.  So I decided to try the old stand by "Modge Podge" on the burlap.  

I used the my favorite gloss-lustre because it gives everything a little bit of shine.  I applied it to both sides of the burlap (allowing to dry between applications). Once the material had dried, I ran it through Big Shot machine.  This time it cut the burlap without any unraveling problems.  The dried Modge

Podge also made it easier to shape the petals.  I added a bit of glitter to the petals,  then attached a pin back to make it into a flower pin.


Cork Board
I tried a round cork board drink coaster in the machine that was a little thicker than 1/8".   I found that it was too thick to run through the machine.  So I decided to try a thinner piece of cork board (less than 
1/8") and then ran it through the "Big Shot" using my butterfly die (# 654996).  It worked just fine.

Aluminum Can and Cork Project:
I combined the aluminum can pieces that I had cut earlier with the cork board pieces to make some fun butterflies.  

Then my girls mounted them onto some plant sticks for one of many teacher's aid gifts that we have been working on.  My daughter added some sequins onto the butterflies to catch the light and make it fun.  
I love that my girls can join me in using the things we die cut from this machine, as well as its' applicability to kids crafts.

Felt Craft Sheets - Self Adhesive
I wanted to use one of my "Hello Kitty" dies that I had on hand, so I decided that one of those self

adhesive felt craft sheets would be fun to test the "Big Shot" on.  I tried a single thickness and it worked very well.  
Hello Kitty Die Cut in Felt

I decided to try a double thickness and it did not cut as cleanly as the single thickness did…so I think I will stick to a single layer of the felt for future reference.   

Second Project - Hello Kitty Tote
Since the felt is flexible, I decided it would be a great accent on a tote bag for one of my girls.
Hello Kitty Tote Bag


Foam Sheets
I received a really cute suitcase die cut that I was curious to try out and see if it would work with the foam sheets you can find at the craft store.  The suitcase die is very long and requires using longer clear

extended platforms to run this particular die through the Big Shot.  The felt sheets were a little less than 1/8" thickness.  I cut the sheet to fit the die and ran it through the machine.  Running the extended platform through the big shot takes only a bit more work than the shorter ones.  You need to hold them together until the die is 1/4th of the way through, then it run slowly through to get a nice cut on your paper or material.  Needless to say, it worked great and the thickness of the foam made the suitcase a little bit sturdier than if I had cut it out from card stock paper.   The foam did not fold as easily as paper would have and it did need to be stitched with thread to stay in the suitcase shape. However the end result was worth that little bit of extra effort. 
Foam Suitcase
Plastic 1 liter bottles
I washed out the bottle, then using very sharp scissors I cut the top and bottom from the bottle.  Then I cut down the center and laid it under some heavy books to flatten it out.  Once it was flat enough, I cut the plastic to fit the die.  I ran the die through the machine and it cut it out quite nicely.

It was very sheer so I decided to paint the petals before I put them together to create the flower in layers.  I used the Plaid Enamels to paint the plastic and they worked really well together.  Once the paint dried, I shaped the petals by pinching the ends and then put the flower together.  Since it was  plastic, I realized it would be great to use to decorate a pin wheel for the garden.
Plastic Bottle flower attached to pinwheel
Plastic Place mat
I had a plastic place mat made from a harder plastic than the 1 liter bottles.  The animal print just screamed to be used in some type of fun flower.

I cut the plastic to fit the Flowers Layer die cut (#654982) and put it through the "Big Shot" using the extra long clear plastic pads.  I was glad to see that it worked well cutting out the petals without leaving any sharp edges.

Third Project - Animal Print Flowers
Using the plastic flowers I cut out from the animal print place mat, I took the pad from my pergamano set so I could use a stylus to give the petals some shape.

I glued the pieces together, added a brad in the center, and then glue them to pin backs so they could be used as a pin.
The animal print flowers were so cute that I decided to add them to a gift bag to decorate it and for  the receiver of the gift to be able to use the wearable pin later on.
I also made some cute barrettes from some of the many flowers we had cut from the placement (which was a very large place mat).

Rubber Shelf liner
I picked up some the non-slip rubber shelf liner and put it through the machine using my Flowers Layer (#654982) die cut.  I was able to run 2 sheets at a time with out any problems.  It probably would have done 4 but I only needed a few flowers for this test.  It did cut the through the rubber without any problems.  I tried putting the petals together to make a flower but it was too thin to hold it's shape well.  So I decided to coat the rubber with the Modge Podge and glitter to see what would happen.  I let it dry overnight and it stiffened it up the petals so I could attach them to some flip flops to make them a little more decorative.  They came out cute!

Self Adhesive Plastic Shelf Liner
This is a little thicker than most shelf liners, however,  it cut without any problems.

The girls used the cut outs to decorate journal pages and an old tag I had from a trade show.
decorate tag
Competitor Dies
According to the information on the tabs, you can use the wafer thin die and other competitors dies on this machine.  So I decided to give it a try. I had a set of the "Spellbinder Nestabilities" frames in my craft box to try out. These are so versatile and it would be fabulous if I could use them with the Big Shot.
I placed one of the clear pads on top of Tab Number 2 (which means both tabs are under the pad).  Since the Spellbinder frame die is considered to be fairly thin, I decided to see what would happen if I feed it through without the proper backing (foam pad).
It went through without any problems but did leave deep marks on the clear plastic cutting pads.  You can see below how clean this machine cuts through the paper.

Then, I followed the actual directions on the tabs for wafer thin dies.  I placed the die face up on the pad.  I put a piece of paper stock on top of the die followed by a piece of foam and the second clear pad.  It cut clean without any problems.

Using the impression part of the die, was a little trickier.  I put Tab Number 2 through the machine first to hold the platform in place.  Then, I placed the Spellbinder Nestibilities die face up directly on top of Tab Number 1.  Then placed the paper.  I covered the die with two pieces of foam, and the clear pad I ran it through slowly.  

When I removed the pads, the die had left an impression perfectly, 

however it did leave some cuts on the piece of foam.  
I checked the Sizzix website and found that this problem is easily fixed by using the sizzix silicone pad and by following the directions on that packaging.  However, for now at least I know it works with what I have on hand.
Next I tried the Sizzix die "Shells & Starfish" (1/8" thickness).  This is a fun little die with a summer beach theme.  The shells and starfish on this little die are so cute!

I put it through the big shot and using card stock and it cut through cleanly.

I decided to try to cut another piece of soda can tin and I was surprised to see that it cut through the tin cleanly.  

Texture and Embossing
I also read that you can use texture sheets and embossing tools with the Big Shot.  I do not own any embossing tools, so testing those were out.   However, I did have some texture and embossing sheets from other companies to test out.  I decided to try one of the Cuttlebug embossing folders (Provo Craft) out in the Big Shot.  I used a piece of

aluminum can that I had cut from an energy drink.  Using the enclosed platform, I made sure that tab
number 2 went through the machine first.  I placed the cutting pad with the "Cuttlebug Emboss Sheet"
(Victoria) sandwiched between the top and bottom pad.  I laid them on top of Tab number 1.  I ran it through the machine.

I carefully removed the aluminum from the embossing sheet.  The design embossed beautifully and looked great on both sides of the aluminum piece.

I then tried the "Makin's Clay Plastic Texture Sheet" and the "Shade-Tex" rubbing plates (Scratch Art) which are significantly thinner.  I put a piece of foam down onto the platform, then I placed the texture sheet on it.  I put a piece of parchment paper on it and then a piece of foam followed by the top pad.  I ran it through the machine.  The texture sheets are not made of the same material as the Cuttlebug sheet and they did not work well on this machine.  Both did leave a slight impression on the paper but it was not much of one.  I think the texture sheets you use on this machine need to be made of sturdy materials to work well, instead of the lighter plastic or rubber.

For the money, this machine is a great investment because of its versatility and portability.  My friends and I enjoy having outdoor crafting parties and often there is no electricity easily available.  The Big Shot offers a tremendous potential for both my crafting needs and my upcycling projects.  The fact I can use it too cut so many different types of materials is a real plus.  I often switch between fabric projects and paper projects, to be able to use the machine for both is a not only a spacesaver but a money saver too!  Also, having seen some my favorite recycling gurus out there utilizing this machine to create some really cool art is inspiring as well. I would highly recommend this machine, for its many great qualities and affordable price.

Tips:
  • Always use the right platform or cutting pad board with the appropriate die.
  • Carefully place die or texture plate facing the correct direction (according to manufacturers directions).  If you are new to using these types of machine, just know that the clear plastic pads will get scratched and cut over time.  The die cutting process does leave its mark behind on those, so try to remember to rotate and flip the clear pads to get even wear on them.
  • Local craft stores do not have a large selection of these dies in stock, they are trending towards the electric die cut machines which I think is a mistake.  There is a need for both types, especially if you want to take your die cutting machine with you somewhere where there is not electricity readily available. Anyway, you can find a great selection on die's online.
  • Check the Sizzix website to get some more project ideas to make the most of your machine.
  • The Big Shot comes wrapped in a huge plastic container.  If you cut it carefully, you can use that same plastic and run it through your big shot to die cut it and use it for craft projects or mini books.
  • The longer dies are harder to push through the machine, but have patience and it will go through.  If you put a rubber anti slip mat under the big shot while using those longer die's it helps keep it from moving.



Leave me a comment, I would love to hear about your experience with this machine and hear what types of materials you have cut with this machine.

54 comments:

  1. I bought my Sizzix over a year ago and have not used it. :( I was kind of intimidated by it and was not sure about the die cuts, after reading this post I am now excited to try mine out...this post has such a wealth of info.... Debb

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  2. lovely post...how much does big shot costs to u..??
    here in india we dont get these kind of machines :(

    mail me @ missambitious@gmail.com

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  3. great tutorial with trial and error. New to big shot and found this really informational!!!
    Thanks

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  4. I have just ordered a Big Shot as my Zip E mate although great and I love it is not wide enough for a couple of Sizzix dies, I live in Dubai and the Big Shot is almost double the price of the States but I have wanted a Big Shot for ages so I saved money from the sale of my cards( not told my husband ) and have ordered one, all the info you have given is so helpful and can't wait for mine to come.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Amanda, I am also in the UAE and have been searching everywhere for this machine- Where did you find it?

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    2. http://paperlane.blogspot.ae/search/label/Our%20Location

      have fun
      nensbadge@gmail.com

      Delete
  5. I found the Big Shot on sale for $49 last week, so I bought it. I'm excited to start using it! I was pretty confused about the tabs and which dies go where, but your review helped. Thanks!

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  6. Just got my Big Shot. The very first die cut was a sizzix flower which came out perfectly; but, resulted in the clear plastic cutting pads being cut into as well. Was afraid I'd done something "wrong" so really appreciate all the information you have here including the fact that the pads will get cut. (Makes sense; but, there's always that touch of uncertainty when using something new.)

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    Replies
    1. I had this exact worry too, just got mine, used it and was horrified that I had broken the cutting pads too!! Found this site first go round and the answers are here. So happy that I'm not the only person worrying!

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  7. I received the Big Shot as a Christmas gift from my daughters. I haven't experimented with different materials yet - your information is extremely helpful. Thank you for sharing and looking forward to start my new projects.

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  8. I so appreciate the different materials and tools you reviewed. You did an excellent job!

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  9. Finally, a proper review of what the Big Shot can and can't do! I'm hoping to get a Big Shot soon, if not before Christmas this year and I have been reading reviews online, but yours is a lot more informative. I've bookmarked it for future reference.

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  10. Thank You SO much for your excellent and informative review! I just received my Big Shot and was discouraged when my first cuts left a mark on the clear cutting pads. Knowing this is "common" was a huge relief. "Keep Calm and Craft On" was exactly what I needed. I love and appreciate your crafting style, the examples you shared, your advice and tips! Thanks again. I join others who have bookmarked this page!

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  11. I just bought this machine and stumbled across your blog while searching Google for some ideas. I also was concerned about the marks my machine left on the clear cutting pad, I thought I was doing something wrong. Thanks so much for all of this information, it was so helpful! :)

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  12. Such a well written review!
    Cheers from Bangalore, India
    Sonia
    cardsandschoolprojects.blogspot.com

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  13. thnx for a fab review of the Big Shot!! I just got a great deal on one on Overstock.com and can't wait to play with it now!! guess I need to get the extended cutting pads and platform though for the one die I bought!! ( I wanted to make these flowers a friend sent me!!) I did get 6 textured embossing folders with it and now need to figure out how to use them the best way! do you have suggestions on that???? thnx so much for a great review it really helped!!

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  14. I've just stumbled across your blog whilst looking for reviews for the Big Shot, as I'm trying to pluck up the courage to buy one. Have seen a great deal, but doesn't come with any dies or embossing folders. Have never been sure whether I would make use of a machine, but having read this post I'm sure it will be put to good use!
    Thanks for such a clear and informative post.
    Helen x

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  15. thank you i just recieved the stampin up big shot for Christmas, and I was really un sure how and what to do with it. although i knew i needed to have the machine. i found this review very helpful. great ideas and alot of dos and donts, so thank you.
    happy crafting to all.

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  16. Wonderful site and huge information. The information present here is helpful for the readers I'll come back to this blog for sure!
    Crafting Shop

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  17. sissex

    havent shown how to cut and emboss with extended platform

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  18. Thank you so much!!! I have been toying with buying a Big Shot but worried that it would be a one trick pony machine. Your review and advice has given me a whole lot to think about, applications that I would not have thought possible: Cans and plastic bottles and no-slip mat material - wow! thank you again for a thoughtful and thought provoking article. Cheers, vee

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  19. this information was great. thx for taking the time.

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  20. Well that was really a great post. Thanks for all that information.
    I was apprehensive about buying the big shot, but now I have made up my mind to buy it. Thanks to you.

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  21. I have had my Big Shot for over 5 years. So well used looks ancient to the pretty new ones. Use it constantly but still found even more uses reading this article. Thanks millions. Love my BIG SHOT!Geraldine

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  22. I have a Big Shot and ahve been using some Spellbinder Dies, I found that the handle squeeks and will not turn right around.
    This has just happened is there anything I can do to fix this machine?

    I love the Big Shot.

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    Replies
    1. I would contact the manufacturer and let them know what is wrong with your machine. Also, check and see if it is still under warranty.

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  23. I just got mine about a week ago and a few times when I have used it with fabric and with the XL Flower Folds it has cut the flower on parts of the fabric that aren't suppose to be cut.... does anyone have any tips or advice for this problem?

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  24. Hi Lauren, If you are talking about the XL flower folds die from Stamping UP, there is a good video on YouTube that shows how to properly use that die with the Big Shot. Also, since fabric can have different textures, you may need to use some type of backing (sheet of paper, etc) to improve how well the die cut works with it.

    Hopefully someone else will have more information for you on that particular die.

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  25. Here is a link for using the XL Flower Folds Die cut with the Big Shot on YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LVlQFd0LVKE

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  26. Thanks for the great review! I had narrowed my choices down to a couple of different machines but think I am going to buy the Big Shot after reading your review. I mainly want to cut and emboss aluminum cans for crafts. Thanks!

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  27. Thank-you for a great review. I like that you were not intimidated by it and tried all different kinds of materials. Thanks for taking the time to do this.

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  28. hi maria...how to buy that bigshot machine and ho much?

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    Replies
    1. The bigshot can be purchased on amazon and ebay. The costs can vary.

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  29. loved ur blog,design and products...new liker from http://www.chikki-thecraftfcator.blogspot.com
    N Thanks a LOTTTTTT for such detail review on die cutter...Evn i was thinking to buy the product..Can u plz tell the price of it.

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    Replies
    1. You can do a google or bing search to find out the current prices on the Big Shot machine. Prices seem to vary according to location. Good Luck!

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  30. I am a newbie to the big shot as well and I had only tried the machine once and it made deep grooves on the cutting plates, so I thought I had done something wrong. Thanks to your informative piece I am confident to go and use the machine again.
    I think the manufacturers should state that the FIRST time they are used they will be marked.

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  31. Thank you for the information. I got a "Big Kick" and was so upset when the die cut through to the plastic cutting plates. I bought mine at Hobby Lobby. They allow you to use your 40% off coupon too. So does Michaels, although they are about $20 more.

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  32. Love this post it had a lot of useful information, I have been thinking about purchasing the Big Shot but was somewhat hesitant about it. This has given me much needed hope and inspiration. I'm ready to purchase my first die cutting machine .... the Big Shot it is! Thank you.

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  33. Hello - I have recently been given a big shot and would love to cut wood with it - is that possible and if so what sort of wood can I use. My other question is about the lovely butterfly you made from the can. After the die is cut are the edges still sharp ? Thank you

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    Replies
    1. The manufacturer does not recommend it. I did run very thin pieces of balsa wood (much less than 1/8" thick). It tends to affect the cutting blades on the die's and then they do not work well with other materials. So I now use that die only for that purpose.

      I would not recommend it since dies can be expensive. The one piece of wood that work well with it, was a paper thin sheet of wood that I picked up at the art store. That one worked great without harming the die.

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  34. Mybe some one can help my bigshot won't turn I have had it about 4 yrs but usen about three times

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    Replies
    1. Are you turning the handle in the right direction and it is still not working? If yes, then I would contact Sizzix about your Big Shot Machine at http://www.sizzix.com/shop/bigshot. There is a contact button at the top right hand of that web page that should get you in touch with their customer service people.

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  35. I am thinking about purchasing this after a very disappointing experience with the vagabond. Stay away from that. Motor burned out JUST OVER A YEAR FROM WHEN I PURCHASED IT. Can anyone share the expereince with the big shot?

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    Replies
    1. The difference is that the big shot is made to use without electrical or batteries. It is a work horse, however, you still have to follow the manufacturers directions to make sure you are using the machine correctly.

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  36. I thought it was too good to be possible that this machine could cut aluminum! As a newbie with my big shot barely out of the box, how did you do it? what are the steps?

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    Replies
    1. Try this link to see a demo of this technique at: http://bit.ly/18VGKf2

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  37. I thought it was too good to be true that the big shot could cut aluminum! As a newbie with my .sizzix barely out of the box, could you explain the process?

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    Replies
    1. Hi Flo, Sorry this has taken so long but I found you a video on YouTube that shows the process at: http://bit.ly/1aFDRNy

      Hope this helps.

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  38. I purchased a Big Shot Pro and have been terrified to use the thing with all the different platform changes. You are so brave!! I did want to share a site, Cut At Home, where if you become a VIP member you can purchase dies for 30-40% off every month with a coupon they send directly to you via email. The choices are endless. I'm bookmarking this site for when I finally get up the nerve to wrestle that baby onto my worktable. It weighs a ton and like I said, is quite intimidating. Thanks for the inspiring post, fantastic!!

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  39. hi
    I am interested to buy Big shot or cuttlebug . Kindly suggest me which one is better for me . Waiting for ur reply .Kindly answer me

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    Replies
    1. Hello, You need to know what you want to use the machine for to make a choice as to which one is the best for you. Each machine has its own limitations. I love my Big Shot but barely use my Cuttlebug. Since I cut a log of larger pieces, the big shot is the better choice for me. I would recommend looking at your potential project, looking at the two machines and what they do. There are also some very good reviews on both machines on Amazon so you can read about what different users think about the two machines. Good Luck!

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  40. Hi! I am wondering if you can answer my question about embossing with the big shot. I am wanting to use thick card stock to emboss and it will not go through the big shot. A little thinner card stock works fine, but I have to use the platform with NO tabs, whether the card stock is folded or not. Is there really no way to emboss a little thicker card stock? Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. The Big Shot (like any machine) does have it's limits. You may need to consider a thinner card stock or check out the machines at your local scrapbooking store to see if they have anything that will work on the thickness of card stock that you have in mind.

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    2. Thank you for your reply! If I know that the thick card stock just doesn't work, I will stick with the thinner stuff for my cards. I just wasn't sure if there was something I didn't know about! Thanks again & have a good day!

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