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Crafting dies makes cutting out shapes quick and easy whether you are cutting fabric or paper. To effectively use a die-cutting machine, you need a set of good cutting dies. Purchasing multiple dies to cut unique shapes can become pricey. You might be concerned about the lifespan of cutting dies and how often they should be replaced.
Crafting dies will wear out after hundreds if not thousands of cuts. It is not a length of time for how long they will last but a number of cuts, layers, and types of material. Dies that are used frequently will need to be replaced when parts of the die stop cutting fully through the material.
Crafting dies last a very long time but they can eventually wear out. AccuQuilt and Sizzix are two of the top brands of manual die cutting machines. They produce quality dies that should last for many hundreds of cuts when used properly and stored correctly. But what happens if the dies don’t perform as they should? Can they wear out, and how often should they be replaced?
Why Do Crafting Dies Wear Out?
Crafting dies don’t last forever, unfortunately! The cutting edge of a die is made from steel or thin metal, so it does eventually wear away or suffer from the effects of wear and tear. Learn more on how to use these dies in my article, How To Use Metal Die Cuts: The Complete Guide.
Your dies can become blunt and dull when too much pressure is placed on them during the cutting process. The quality of your dies determines their lifespan, so always buy the high quality dies that are meant to be used in your machine.
Dies that are used many, many times will slowly lose their sharp edge and start cutting less and less well. This should be a slow process over hundreds of cuts as long as you are using your dies correctly.
If you cut material that is too thick or dense or try to cut too many layers at one time, you die can dull prematurely.
If your brand new out-of-the-box die is not sharp enough to cut your material, make sure you are following the manufacturer’s directions for correct usage and recommended material. If the die is still not cutting a single layer of fabric or paper properly, contact the manufacturer. There are ways you can use a blunt crafting die but brand new dies should cut crisply and cleanly right out of the box.
How Long do Crafting Dies Last?
How long do dies last is a question I commonly come across in my AccuQuilt and Sizzix message boards. Unfortunately, there isn’t a specific time based answer to this question. It all depends on each die and how much they are used and how they are stored.
Some AccuQuilt users have had their dies for over a decade and rarely have had issues. Dies made by quality manufactures like AccuQuilt and Sizzix should last for many 100’s of uses.
One crafter said she used a die to cut thousands of fabric triangles for several different quilts. She used 4 layers of fabric on her die and ran the die through over 80 times. That’s over 300 hundred cuts! She said her die still works but there are a few places she needs to finish the cut with her scissors.
Another quilter said she had made 300 bags and each requires 44 squares. That’s 13,000 cuts! And her die is still cutting perfectly!
If you notice your die isn’t cutting well any more there may be ways to fix it with cleaning, oiling or simply replacing the cutting plate.
How To Prevent Crafting Dies From Wearing Out
You can take some easy steps to prolong the life of your crafting dies and prevent them from wearing out. Use good quality dies and ensure that the machine has regular maintenance to keep it in top working condition.
An excellent die-cut is determined by the cutting plates, the machine’s condition, the design of the die, and the thickness of the material used. Follow these quick tips for a great die cut!
- Always use the die cutting machine on a firm, solid, stable table or work area to prevent the machine from moving or rocking while cutting.
- Place the die on a different spot on the cutting plates each time it is used. Simply rotating the cutting mat or flipping it over will work. This will expose the die to different pressure each time, preventing wear and tear on the same location.
- Don’t force anything through the die-cutting machine. If the sandwich is not going through the machine, check it and try again.
- Store the dies correctly. Keep the sets together in a container. Dies with small parts can be stored on magnetic sheets so that they are not misplaced. Larger dies should be stored vertically like a book not stack on top of each other.
- Run the die through the machine on a angle instead of lined up with the rollers. This allows even pressure over the die and makes it easier to roll through the machine. AccuQuilt has built this feature into their dies.
Do Die Cutting Plates Wear Out?
Die cutting plates will wear out and need to be replaced after extensive use. They should last for 100’s of cuts. A worn out cutting plate will likely be warped, etched, and can even crack over time. If the cutting plate cracks or breaks, replace it immediately to prevent damaging the die-cutting machine. If they warp or etch, they can still be used.
When you notice your dies are not cutting well it is usually the cutting plate that is the culprit. You can try rotating your cutting plate or adding a layer of paper or card stock on top of the cutting plate when you run your sandwich through the machine.
This increases the pressure on the die slightly to improve the cut of the die. If that doesn’t help then it’s time to replace your cutting plate.
Watch for sales on cutting plates for your machine and pick up a couple of spares. Cutting plates are not meant to last forever so it’s a good idea to pick up an extra or two on sale to have in your stash. Check for sales at AccuQuilt, Sizzix and Amazon for the best deal on a cutting plate for your die cutting machine.
How To Prevent Warped Die Cutting Plates
Warped die cutting plates are a common issue when using a manual die cutting machine. Warping is caused by the pressure being exerted on the plate by the rollers of the die cutting machine. Fortunately warping usually doesn’t impact the use of the cutting plate.
The best way to prevent warping is to flip or rotate the mat after every cut. This changes the location of the die on the cutting plate so the same spot is not being used every time. Flipping the mat also puts pressure on the cutting plate in the opposite direction to help reduce and remove any warping.
Can You Sharpen Worn-Out Crafting Dies?
If some of your dies seem to not be cutting well anymore and you’ve already tried a new cutting plate, there are a few things you can do to improve their cutting such as cleaning and to an extent sharpening.
If you use steel-ruled dies such as the AccuQuilt dies then try running a lint roller over the die to clean bits of fabric and material out of the cracks. If your dies come with a die pick, use it to clean around all the areas of the die.
Not surprisingly a clean die will cut better than a dirty one.
You can also try sharpening your die. Some manufacturers say you can’t sharpen or don’t need to sharpen your dies but if you have tried everything else and your dies are still not cutting simple, single layer materials like fabric or paper then it’s worth a try.
Sharpening a die is as simple as running several layers of aluminum foil through your machine. Build your die cutting sandwich as you normally would but for your material place several sheets of heavy duty aluminum foil on the die. Run the sandwich through your machine several times.
After you’ve run the tin foil through, repeat the process but with parchment or wax paper. This will help to lubricate the blade resulting in a crisper cut.
Cutting dies and cutting plates will eventually wear out with extended use. Buying high quality dies and using them according to the manufacturer’s directions will help them last a long time for many hundreds if not thousands of cuts.
Regularly cleaning your dies and storing them properly will keep your dies in top shape so you can use them for years to come on many crafting projects.