This is part 2 in the Die Cutting with Felt series! We covered steel rule dies in part 1 and now we’re going to talk about wafer thin dies. Wafer thin dies are exactly that; very thin metal shapes with a raised edge that cuts into your material as it passes through the die cutter.
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Die Cutting Tools and Equipment
Die Cutter & Accessories
There are many brands and styles of die cutters on the market. They generally all work the same way: A hand crank or motor draws the die+material through the machine, applying pressure as it turns and the die presses through the material. (FYI a die cutter is different from an electronic cutter such as a Cricut machine. More on that in another post.)
I recommend using the Sizzix brand of die cutter, and more specifically the Sizzix Big Shot Plus for felt. There are different sizes and widths of die cutter, and I just find that the Big Shot Plus is the best size for working with 9×12 felt sheets. There is a larger Big Shot Pro, but it is heavy duty and I would only recommend it if you are running a large business and have a dedicated space for die cutting. The Big Shot Plus is more easily tucked away when you’re done with it.
Typically when you purchase a die cutter it will come with the cutting pads and platforms that you will need for cutting. Those items are necessary, so make sure that you have them already or that they are in fact included in your purchase! For cutting with wafer thin dies, you will need the Platform and Adapter A pictured here as well as a set of cutting pads. Adapter B is used for other types of dies that don’t work as well with felt.
Wafer Thin Dies
Wafer thin dies are chemically etched, thin metal dies with raised edges that are not sharp to the touch but will precisely cut through your felt. Some wafer thin dies can be ‘hollow’ with just a thin outline of metal (like the leaf below) while other are a solid sheet of metal (like the heart). Both versions are used in the same way and will cut beautifully through felt.
Wafer thin dies may be known by different names for different companies. Sizzix calls their wafer thin dies “Thinlits“, I’ve also seen them called “Etched Dies” or simply “Wafer Thin”. They all work in the same way and they can only cut a single layer of felt at a time.
Where to Find Dies
Tracking down dies is not always the easiest task. But I have done lots of research and I’m happy share my finds with you!
My local Michael’s craft store has a small selection of wafer thin dies but often they’re not of use to me either because they’re the wrong shapes or they come as a set with rubber stamps which makes them more costly. I have been unable to find any steel rule dies locally. (Read all about cutting with steel rule dies here!). If you live in the US, I believe Joann’s has a selection of wafer thin dies, but I can’t speak to what you’ll be able find since I’ve never been to a Joann’s!
Instead, my one stop shop for all things die cutting is Scrapbook.com. I have purchased my die cutter and many dies from that website. It is reliable, with reasonable pricing and shipping options. They carry many different brands of dies, not just Sizzix. I’ve also purchased Echo Park, Little B, Paper Smooches and We R Memory Keepers brands of wafer thin dies from scrapbook.com and I would recommend them all as well. (Typically dies and die cutters from different companies will be compatible with each other, but always double check!)
I’ve also had excellent experiences shopping at SimonSaysStamp.com. They have a large selection of wafer thin dies, die cutting tools and accessories and their customer service is excellent. They also sell die cutter machines and accessories as well as steel rule dies.
You might also be able to find the dies you want on Amazon. But pay close attention to the brand, try to only purchase reputable brands and make sure the dies will be compatible with your die cutter. I’ve heard that Ebay is the place to go if you’re searching for discontinued dies.
ps. If you’re wondering about that cute little feather die, you can find it here. 🙂
Wafer thin dies can be a little tricky to store. You can simply pile them in a small container, but I’ve tried that and I just end up forgetting which dies I have or else I can’t find the ones I want. Instead I recommend purchasing a magnetic storage folder. They come in two sizes, are inexpensive and are super handy for keeping your dies organized and easy to find. Trust me, you’ll be so glad you invested in these things!
(If you would like to know the specific details of any of the dies you see in this post, just leave a comment and I’d be happy to give you the info!)
Using Wafer Thin Dies
Multiple Shapes at Once
One of the major benefits to using wafer thin dies is that you can cut multiple shapes all at once. I like to do this when I’m cutting out leaves for floral arrangements, it’s a great time saver! You can either use up bits and scraps you have left over or rough cut small sections of felt. This way you can cut multiple shapes AND multiple colours at once! Win!
Make a ‘Sandwich’
The bottom of your die cutting ‘sandwich’ is the platform. Then add adapter A and one cutting pad. Arrange the felt and dies with the dies face down and top it all off with the second cutting pad. (If you are using a brand other than Sizzix, make sure you use the equivalent platforms and adapters.)
When you run your sandwich through the die cutter, make sure that the edges of the layers are lined up perfectly with the edges of the machine. Forcing the layers through on an angle could damage your machine.
Efficient Use of Felt
Another big benefit to using wafer thin dies is that you can arrange them efficiently on your felt so that there is very little waste. And if you’re anything like me, you feel great sadness at having to throw away those bits of felt that are just too small. So the less waste, the better!
And I think that’s everything you need to know to get you started using wafer thin dies to cut felt! If you have any questions just leave them in the comments and I’m more than happy to provide answers! 🙂