Thursday, September 2, 2010

"The Die-Cutter Story"

NOTE: I apologize in advance for the length of this blog post. Recounting the events made me go a little trigger happy with the keyboard. You have been warned. :)

If you have been following this blog, you know that I love custom cards.

For years, I have been trying to find ways to make the cards I create, print and assemble more like those that you purchase in packs. I want to make my cards look as 'authentic' as possible.

How far will I go? At times, maybe too far.

For quite some time now I have been very happy with the layout of my Photoshop files in order to print my cards. I am also fairly content with the process of gluing one side of the card to the other (I'm getting better at lining it up). For the longest time though, I was disappointed with the way the cards were cut.

I tried many different methods. Scissors, a guillotine, exacto knife, you name it. The two biggest problems I found were that the edges were never quite straight and I could never get two cards exactly the same size.

So the brainstorming continued. Until one day I was perusing through the local craft store (yes, I know....what can I say. It's for the hobby!) and came across a fair size square hole punch. Almost 2 inches by 2 inches. I thought to myself - "Now if they made one the size of a hockey card....I would be in business".

And so the search began.

Store after store I was looking for an oversized, high-quality hole punch. Good luck with that. No dice anywhere. I found a bunch of machines that cut, printed, scraped, ripped, tore, basically magiaclly cut out shapes....but nothing that worked for me.

C'mon! Just a simple hole punch.

To my friend 'ebay' I went. It's amazing...once you type in the right keyword, a whole new world opens up.

Die cutter. (I guess that's two words).

The products I found were EXACTLY what I was looking for. EXCEPT for the fact that nobody made cutters with square corners. They were all round (for making playing cards). So close!

One company in particular seemed to have the most variety and highest quality cutters. So I took a look at their website. Sketchy to say the least. It looked like they were living in the 80's. Not a high-end, slick looking website. Heck, most of the links didn't even work.

Nonetheless, there was a phone number. So it was a phone call and the wheels finally started rolling on the die cutter train. I asked for exactly what I thought I wanted. A die cutter that will cut thick cards, 2 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches in size with square corners. Simple huh.

Well, first off I was told that something like that would be a custom build. 'Cha-ching' was the first sound I heard. Second, the guy told me that the industry norm for trading cards were 2 3/8 x 3 3/8. A small little difference I thought. So I went for it.

We'll get to the price later.

I was told it would take a little over a month to make. They didn't say it would take over a month to ship - from China! Add to that all of the customs and shipping costs and such. Ouch.

Finally, after much complaining and bickering, I finally received my die cutter. I was on cloud nine when I opened it.

It cut like butter.

The cards though were noticeably smaller in size.

Unacceptable. Frustration. Disappointment.

I was devastated. I was so close to solving this agonizing problem only to have to re-trace my steps.

I called and complained but it fell on deaf ears. "You made the decision to go with that size" I was told. "You knew it was a custom build". They weren't going to do anything about it.

So, as much as I hated to do it...I had them build another. The one I wanted them to do originally.

A couple months later, it arrived. And finally I cut my first trading card that I was absolutely thrilled about.

It's a simple looking machine. Looks just like a giant single hole punch. Essentially that is what it is. And it works great.

Every card I have cut since I bought it has come out the exact same size.

It makes me so happy that I can almost forget the price I paid for it.

$630 US ........for each one. :(

Oh, and add to that $40 shipping for each one. $40 delivery fees for each. Gas to drive across the city to pick it up (since they wouldn't drop it off). And $10 for a meal I bought while I was waiting for the parcel place to open after 'lunchbreak'.

Grand total = $1,430.00

As I type makes me cringe, but I will soon forget about it as I have had a blast using it over the past year.

No regrets on the purchase(s) at all.


  1. May I ask why you didn't stick to the original one in the first place....paraphrasing Obi-Wan, you should trust your feelings, Luke.....!!!!! Anyway I really enjoyed you post here and I'd like to see it working.....

  2. wow. you, my friend, are high on the commitment scale.
    plus, you have a waaaaay better job than I have ;)

    the big question is.... are your cards going to be affordable for us collectors? or $150 per pack?? :)

  3. Michel,

    I think I trusted them too much (they said they had made lots of die cutters in the past for trading cards).

    I agree....I should go with my gut instinct more.

    Captain Canuck,

    Only the super-high end. :)

    Actually, If this cutter can last for 10-15 years, I think I will have gotten a steal and more than my money's worth (even if it did cost me twice as much).

  4. Sweet! Been waiting to hear this story for a while.

    But yeah, that was a bit pricier than I thought it was going to be.

  5. Man, I'd love one of those. I use a small paper cutter right now (the razor is on a track). It's good for cutting things down to size, but doesn't get the edge perfectly straight.

  6. I highly recommend the die-cutter for those who plan on doing some serious customs (or if you're just anal - like me).

    It's not cheap - but it's the best I've seen for getting the results I want.

  7. Where can I buy this cutter? Also, would you be willing to rent it to me? I'll pay good $.

    1. I special-ordered it overseas. Not sure if they still have a website or not. If you are interested I can see if I can find the info on it.

      As for renting....I'll consider it. We can chat.