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.

Marilyn, The stamp is called Wheat Sheaf from Serendipity Stamps. It is my favorite stamped wheat image. Thank you!
Lori  |  Wed Sep 10, 2014 at 4:15 PM
That brush is a great idea!
Naomi  |  Wed Sep 10, 2014 at 4:17 PM
Thank you so much for responding, Lori. Fall is my favorite time of year and i love wheat images! Your card is absolutely gorgeous!
Marilyn  |  Wed Sep 10, 2014 at 4:23 PM
This works wonders on all my dies but one. I have the tea time doily die by cottage cutz and I cannot get a good cut now no matter what I try. Any ideas? I do not want to sit and pi k every piece out of the die plus most of it doesn't cut all the way through. Its a beautiful die but I've had nothing but trouble from day one.
muscrat  |  Wed Sep 10, 2014 at 7:20 PM
Muscrat - That is a beautiful die! I can see why you'd keep trying. I did see a tip today that discussed 'spot shimming' on intricate dies. You would put tape on the non-cut side of the die where you are having trouble getting a clean cut. This helps put extra pressure where it is needed vs. pressure on the entire die. You could try this with a metal adapter plate. Let us know if that helps!
Lori  |  Wed Sep 10, 2014 at 7:54 PM
I have been making cards about 3-4 years now & loving every minute of it. Have bought quite a few dies, stencils etc. I am learning so much from all the "tips" & ways to put different things together. So glad my daughter got me into all this FUN !! I get card ideas & take it from there. Thanks so much for all your help & inspiration !! "PJsMusic"
Peg MacDonald  |  Thu Sep 11, 2014 at 3:46 PM
Awesome tip!!..thanks for sharing!
Jamie Patsilevas  |  Fri Sep 12, 2014 at 6:25 PM
Wow!! Thank you so much for this tutorial. This is the first I've heard of using wax paper to help not only with the cutting process but getting the odd bits and pieces out of the die. I've got several sets of intricate pattern dies and would get so frustrated when the cuts just would not come out. Also, the use of a metal shim makes absolute sense when using a die like that. Again, thank you for this very helpful tutorial.
Jeanne  |  Sat Sep 13, 2014 at 6:35 PM
Thank you for this wonderful tutorial. It inspired me to get moving with my cards again. Do you happen to know what the smaller die is that you used in this tutorial? It created such a beautiful little medallion. Thank you in advance for any info you can provide.
Kate Lorenz  |  Mon Sep 15, 2014 at 6:53 AM
Thank you! The smaller die is from MFT's Mini Delicate Doilies - beautiful set of 4. wink
Lori  |  Mon Sep 15, 2014 at 7:01 AM
Thank you soooo much for your reply. I just ordered that set of dies and am excited to give this technique a try. Have a great week, and thanks again.
Kate Lorenz  |  Mon Sep 15, 2014 at 8:10 AM
I have tried the baking parchment method of cutting intricate dies....and it helps...but I have found that rubbing these intricate dies with a tumble drier sheet before cutting (and you don't even need to do it every time you cut) the dies cut better first time pass and the shape just pops out without any problem at all.
Diane  |  Sun Sep 28, 2014 at 12:22 PM
Very good concise tutorial, I do tap my used die on the edge of the table, as Tim Holtz recommends, most chad fall easily out unasisted.
Alene (Lynn) Lopau  |  Thu Oct 2, 2014 at 11:01 AM
I have a Sizzix machine and was having trouble with an intricate die, so I bought a metal sheet. When I tried to run it through the Sizzix, it felt like I was going to break my machine, so now I'm afraid to use to the metal sheet. Anyone else have this problem? Because of this I gave up on using my intricate die cuts, which is a shame.
Lisa Sutton  |  Sun Oct 12, 2014 at 7:13 PM

The metal shim does make for a tighter sandwich when you are putting it in your machine. What is the name of the Sizzix machine that you have? I have personally used the metal shim with the Big Shot, Vagabond, Big Shot Pro, Wizard and Grand Calibur, and it is a tight fit (that extra, even pressure is what gives the cuts a more crisp finish), but I've not had any problems.
Lori  |  Tue Oct 14, 2014 at 6:47 AM
Thanks for the tips. Will be using them with the new butterfly dies from the 2015 Occasions catalog.
Chris  |  Thu Jan 8, 2015 at 8:48 AM
I'm new to Split Coast Stampers so I'm not too good at navigating your site yet. I understand that you have a plate stacking order sheet for cutting dies but I have been unable to find it. Would someone please direct me?

Thank You
Robie Sweet  |  Thu Feb 26, 2015 at 4:59 PM
Hi Robyn, the order of the stack is at the top of the page next to the tutorial. Step 2. 😁
Naomi  |  Thu Feb 26, 2015 at 5:34 PM
Oops ! My apologies! "Robie" !
Naomi  |  Thu Feb 26, 2015 at 5:36 PM
Thank you Naomi.
Robie Sweet  |  Fri Feb 27, 2015 at 2:47 AM

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