Ever since the 15th century, when Johannes Gutenberg invented movable-type printing, technology has been improving the way we
reproduce words, two-dimensional
images, and three-dimensional
shapes. The shoe industry led the way
for die cutting in mass production,
and industrial die-cut machines led to
small-scale versions that are affordable
for home and school use.
Die-cut machines are perfect for
creating bulletin-board designs, math
manipulatives, greeting cards, and
craft projects. With the appropriate
cartridges and cardstock, you can
make colorful and durable letters
and numbers, as well as thousands
of shapes, borders, and decorative
Users typically select a shape from
large downloadable collections online, or they retrieve shapes from a
cartridge. After loading material, such
as paper, onto a machine’s cutting
mat, the unit electronically stamps the
shape, or the user does it manually.
Die-cut machines fall into three categories: peripheral, stand alone, and
manual. Peripherals connect to a computer by USB and come with operating software. The BossKut Gazelle and
Pazzles Creative Cutter Inspiration
allow you to create your own designs
using fonts already on your computer.
The Silhouette Cameo uses a blade
to outline and cut fonts and shapes.
With the Xyron Wishblade, you send
designs to a color printer and then cut
them out with the Wishblade.
Stand-alone machines do not
require a computer but operate
electronically with cartridges and
built-in keyboards. The Cricut’s
cartridges have large collections of
shapes and fonts. The electronic
storage allows you to organize and
save your favorites.
Manual units, such as the Provo
Craft Cuttlebug and Spellbinders
Grand Calibur, have a hand crank on
the side that draws material through
the cutter. The Cuttlebug has dedicated websites, blogs, and forums with
helpful tips and tricks. Spellbinders
offers a series of how-to videos, an
idea gallery, and a blog for its Grand
Some companies, such as Pazzles,
offer a monthly membership that
includes online classes, live chats,
videos, blogs, and forums. All companies offer some sort of free online
help, discussion forums, and phone
support. There are also many You-Tube videos about the operation and
use of cutting machines. These resources are valuable when searching
for ways to use your die-cut machine
to its fullest potential.
The initial cost of equipment is
a factor, but the ongoing cost of
specialized paper, cardstock, and
theme-based templates and cartridges can add up quickly. Die-cut
machines will work with many different kinds of materials, depending on the blades and pressure of
the cutters. Materials include cardstock, glitter and metallic papers,
chipboard, balsa wood, foam board,
vellum, plastic, vinyl, fabric, and
other media. Crafts stores and online merchants offer discounts, but
be sure to include the cost of materials in your budget.
With a combination of your imagination and careful planning, you
and your students can use die-cut
machines to create engaging classroom projects as well as colorful and
decorative classroom environments.
—Maureen Yoder, EdD, is on the faculty of
Lesley University’s Technology in Education
40 Learning & Leading with Technology | December/January 2011–12