From Jane in San Diego
Some of you may have noticed that at the end of my explanation of basic die families that I was kind of vague
While the same sandwich will work most of the time across brands for the same family of die, you will run into problems sometimes.
Here are some of the most common problems, their possible causes and some fixes to try regardless of the brand of machine you are using. Try to use a bit of caution and start out loose and work your way through the problem. I really don't want anybody breaking their machine(s)!
1) Problem: Die doesn't cut all the way through.
Possible causes: Slight variation in thickness of the die; uneven cutting mats; cutting mat too soft; material too dense.
Shimming with tape or paper usually solves the majority of issues relating to dies that don't cut all the way. It can be as thin as one sheet of copy paper on the back of the die to bulk up the stack. Do not shim too much! If you overdo it, you could damage the die or break your machine. If you can't get a die to cut after about 3 pieces of cardstock shim, look for another root cause.
If you have old cutting mats or your mats have warped, you may need to replace them or put them under some weight to help even them out.
If you have a soft cutting mat, you may need to create/buy a harder mat. Clear acrylic mats are the hardest cutting surface available to the home crafter at this time. Sometimes dies will 'mush' instead of cut when the mat is soft, leaving you with an outline or emboss instead of a cut.
Another thing to keep in mind is that all the machines have 'sweet spots' that have more pressure between the rollers. This varies with the different machines. Know where that area is and try to process/position the die so it will pass through that section of the rollers.
Finally, be sure you are not going beyond the capability of the die you are using. For example, Sizzlet dies are not rated to cut through chipboard, so don't be disappointed when it doesn't. Use a different material.
2) Problem: Creases on some dies cut through instead of making a fold line.
Possible cause: Cutting mat too hard; stack too tight; material being cut too thin or 'acceptable' manufacturing variance in the die.
[COLOR="rgb(153, 50, 204)"]Possible solutions: [/COLOR]If you get cuts on a die that is supposed to crease (like an envelope or folder design), your cutting mat could be too hard. Some manufacturers make 'crease pads' or you can make one up by using a self-healing craft mat cut to size and then shim if needed.
If your stack is too tight, try an alternate sandwich if one is available for your machine.
If you are using a delicate material (thin vellum), consider buffering the material with scrap pieces of printer paper.
If it is a manufacturing variance in the die, see if you can return the die and try another one to see if it works better.
3) Problem: Die is too long for machine mats.
Possible cause: Manufacturer has not come out with mats in support of longer/larger formats.
[COLOR="rgb(153, 50, 204)"]Possible solutions:[/COLOR] Wait. Most manufacturers will eventually come up with supporting mats and pads to 'keep up with the Joneses'. Otherwise, you can sometime subsitute mats from other brands or make your own by improvising with bookboard and self-healing craft mats.
Another solution is just to run the die through as many times as needed to get the job done. Just shift the position of the die on each pass, making sure you don't move the paper/stock when you shift.
Hope that helps! Sometimes you can't see the problem with the naked eye. The variance could be so slight that it is literally just a 'hair' off that will make the difference between having a die work perfectly or not at all.
Jane in San Diego