Cutting with Detailed Dies

by Lori Craig

Learn tips for getting the best cuts using intricate dies.


  • Detailed dies (Spellbinders™ Floral Ovals used here)
  • Die cutting machine with cutting plates
  • Wax paper
  • Metal Shim
  • Piercing tool
  • Nylon brush (Spellbinders™ Tool 'n One used here)
  • Tape (optional)


  1. Step 1

    Start with a clean die. Make sure any remnants of paper from previous cutting have been removed.

  2. Step 2

    Use the recommended plates for your die cut machine, and layer metal shim, die with cutting edge up, wax paper and cardstock between cutting plates.

    Tape wax paper and cardstock to the die template to prevent shifting in Step 3. Be careful that you are not wrapping tape around to an edge that will be cut and potentially show on your finished project.

  3. With small intricate dies, several layers of wax paper against the cutting edge will help loosen both the cut embellishment and the cut chads from the die template. I tested up to 4 layers of wax paper.

  4. Step 3

    Roll appropriate stack through preferred die cut machine according to manufacturer directions.

  5. Step 4

    After one pass through the die cut machine, the scrap pieces of cardstock may turn loose from your die cut shape, but a second pass will help ensure the little bits are cut as well. Turn your metal shim (if plate size allows), die template, wax paper and cardstock stack 90 degrees on the cutting plate.

    Try shifting the die and cardstock stack to a different edge of the plate before running it through your machine a second time.

  6. Altering the stack position will allow for machine pressure to emphasize different areas of the die. Run the entire stack through your die cut machine a second time.

  7. Step 5

    The wax paper helps the cut cardstock fall from the die when removed from the cutting plate stack.

  8. Step 6

    Separate wax paper from paper die shape. Punch any hanging chads with a paper piercer (or nylon bristle brush) if necessary.

  9. Smaller, more intricate dies may need to be worked with a piercing tool to separate the wax paper from the die cut cardstock.

  10. Step 7

    Use a combination of nylon bristle brush and paper piercer to release small chads of cardstock from the back of the die template to your trash can or work surface so that it is ready for the next use.

    Hold the die in one hand while brushing or tapping so that the chads have room to move when poked by bristles or tapped with the piercing tool.

  11. Step 8

    The wax paper layer does help to loosen the cut pieces of cardstock, both the intended shape and the chads, from the die template. Tap and gently brush over the back.

  12. A piercing tool will be especially helpful on smaller die cut shapes to remove any pesky pieces of cardstock that remain after brushing.

  13. Step 9

    Use cut pieces to complete a card or other project.


Your Turn

You've seen the tutorial, now you try it! We've got a section of the gallery set aside for Cutting with Detailed Dies. Try this technique, then upload your artwork to the gallery. Show us your creations!

***Please note - Internet Explorer/Edge is not a supported browser, and will not allow you to see the videos. Please use Chrome, Firefox or Safari to view our tutorial videos.

Questions and Comments

We'd love to get your feedback or questions. Leave your comment below.

This was a really helpful video! I have been frustrated so many times with paper stuck in the die and cuts ripped out in frustration. I just purchased the metal shim - I hope it works as well for me. This was a very well done presentation. Thank you!
ribbongrass  |  Wed Sep 10, 2014 at 6:35 AM
These are terrific tips for using the dies! I will have to find a metal shim and brush now.

Thank you,

Anne Fletcher  |  Wed Sep 10, 2014 at 6:45 AM
Have had problems in the past and now use cereal packet wax paper. It works like a charm and finish off with the brush. So thrilled to have one. Great tutorial, thank you.
Celia Parkinson  |  Wed Sep 10, 2014 at 7:26 AM
Great tutorial today Lori. I have the brush and having been using the wax paper technique for cutting my intricate dies for a long time. It was a gentleman from Cheery Lynn Die Company that showed me this tip/trick at the Mesa, AZ Stamp Show. Aside from the great teaching tutorial, it's always so nice to hear the voice of those we have chatted with during out time here at SCS. Here's another tip: I cut a number of waxed paper pieces and keep them in an organized area with card stock. Always ready when I am.

Susie ~
Susie Lessard  |  Wed Sep 10, 2014 at 7:27 AM
Great video. I have been looking at the brush and now will be adding this to my must buy list.

Helpful tip for cleaning your work table of the chads. Use a lint roller to pick up all those small paper pieces.
Mary Anne Perlmutter  |  Wed Sep 10, 2014 at 8:00 AM
Thanks for the great tutorial! I'm definitely going to have to find a metal plate.
Who makes the small, round die cut that you used?
SuzanneQ  |  Wed Sep 10, 2014 at 8:37 AM
I love the tool-n-one. It has saved many an intricate cut. Also magnetic platform---really really helps me.
prissequito  |  Wed Sep 10, 2014 at 8:45 AM
What is the make of your die cutting machine? Thanks for the tutorial. Will have to get one of those metal shims and the brush.
Doris  |  Wed Sep 10, 2014 at 8:48 AM
Thank you for the sweet comments. The small metal die is part of a 4 die set from MFT called Mini Delicate Doilies (LOVE)
Lori  |  Wed Sep 10, 2014 at 8:54 AM
I have several different machines that I use depending on my mood, how clean my craft room is and the size of whatever I'm cutting. smile I used a Spellbinders Grand Calibur in the still shots. In the video, I used a Vagabond by Sizzix. Thank you!
Lori  |  Wed Sep 10, 2014 at 8:55 AM
Where can we get one of those metal shims you used?
Laramie Coyote  |  Wed Sep 10, 2014 at 9:18 AM
Hi Laramie Coyote - there is a link to the shim up in the supply list.
lydia  |  Wed Sep 10, 2014 at 9:19 AM
Oh my goodness, I've been using my metal shim the wrong way! I was told by the vendor to use it with the cutting edges facing the metal with the paper in between... 😟
Naomi  |  Wed Sep 10, 2014 at 10:56 AM
I picked up a stiff bristled brush (vegetable brush or "hard" toothbrush) at the $ store and it works great!
Momsnack  |  Wed Sep 10, 2014 at 12:06 PM
I love your card and would like to know who makes the stamp you used on it.
Marilyn  |  Wed Sep 10, 2014 at 3:23 PM
I've always used wax paper and the metal plate but multiple layers of wax paper is awesome. Also, if you have an airbrush pump, you can blow the paper chads out from the reverse side straight into a trash can!
Wanda Thomas  |  Wed Sep 10, 2014 at 3:35 PM
I'm wondering what is the advantage of using a metal shim as opposed to just adding a layer or two of cardstock?
Debbie Ramseyer  |  Wed Sep 10, 2014 at 3:44 PM
Great tips!!
Lydia Fiedler  |  Wed Sep 10, 2014 at 4:03 PM

I have used both paper and cardstock shims in varying sheet quantity. I can't confirm why it works better, but it certainly does for me. There is no guess work, and I feel like the results are much more consistent. My guess is that the stiffness of the metal shim equalizes the pressure across the entire surface of the die.
Lori  |  Wed Sep 10, 2014 at 4:11 PM
Hi, thank you very much, I never thought of using more than one sheet of waxed paper at a time. Can't wait try!
janelle winchcole  |  Wed Sep 10, 2014 at 4:14 PM

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