I have been waiting for something like this for a long time. At least since I have discovered die cutting at home. They are individual letter dies. Many of the letter dies I have seen before are strips or blocks with the entire alphabet (and sometimes numbers and symbols) on the strip. Therefore if you want to die cut the word "hello", you would have to run it through twice to get the two "l"s, and if you used a strip of paper, end with a bunch of other letters you don't need - I have a little compartment box with a bunch of little die cut letters waiting to be used. Or you trim a bunch of little pieces of card stock, fit them over the letters you need, and hope they don't shift as you run it through the machine; in the meantime, still running the strip through the machine, wearing on the blades of all the letters and marking up the cutting plates for just a couple of letters.
Regardless, I was in love when Tim Holtz announced these were coming out and have been stalking the sites waiting for this to be released. It is his set of letter/number/symbol dies called Alphanumeric. They are thin metal dies that are a 3/4" high, and individual letter dies so you only use what you need. Also, there are multiples of each letter, ranging from 2-7 of each (depending on the letter) so you can form whole words or phrases - great if you want punch out letters laid out on a page.
The packaging was very slim, and included a little plastic envelope for storage. The label fits inside it nicely, but it has a flap closure and I noticed when I opened the shipping envelope that the loose little dies were already sliding out the flap. The dies are very thin, and some VERY small, so it would be so easy to lose pieces. Until I have a better plan, what I did was count out and separate the pieces then place them in labeled mini zip bags. They fit nicely into the bigger plastic envelope.
I had not definite project in mind, but I decided to just give the dies a try and at the same time, play with another new purchase of mine. A couple of weeks ago, I found the magnetic platform at a new local Michaels, and bought that with my 50% off coupon. It was designed to work with thin metal dies and to help hold them in place when die cutting - a good idea, especially if you need them precisely placed, such as die cutting a frame with Spellbinders nesting dies, or with these letters.
What you are supposed to do is layer one of your cutting pads over the magnetic die, place your dies, cutting side up, on that pad, and then your material, then the other pad over the material and run that sandwich through the machine. I was worried that layering the cutting pad over the platform would not allow for enough magnetic grip to hold the dies - but I was wrong - this is me holding the platform and the pad totally upright - nothing shifted. However, I did find that the magnetic hold was not consistent on the pad - in some areas there is some magnetic repulsion, sometimes the letters shifted, and I had to move the dies elsewhere to get them to align. Maybe this may change if I were using larger frame dies?
Also, the magnetic platform is just a minute amount too wide to run through the Cuttlebug, meaning you have to use it with a Sizzix machine - but then again, it is a Sizzix product, so be it. Luckily I have a Big Shot too. However, this may mean that <hint, hint> Cricut needs to make a magnetic platform as well!
Remember that the dies are laid out backwards, so when you are laying your material to be die cut over the dies, you will want your right side down over the cutting surface. This is a piece of inked paper I had leftover, that I placed over the dies, and ran through the Big Shot. Now I am seeing whey the cutting pad is placed between the platform and the dies. Instead of fighting to pull up the cut material and the dies off the magnet (there is no gripping edge, just that thin little frame along the cutting edges), all you have to do is lift the bottom cutting pad. Smart!
The paper stays inside the cut edges, but that is why, when you look at the dies, there are some small holes piercing the frames. You can take a small item, such a small ball stylus, to poke the letters out. A needle, or sharp stylus may puncture the letters, but the small ball stylus pushes out the letters without puncturing anything.
Sweeeeet. Since this is my practice run to trial the dies, I spelled out the name of the dies, and adhered them to a strip of inked card stock, and glued the letters to it using gel medium to make a label for the back of the envelope. When the gel medium dries, I will pick out the letters with a gel pen, and maybe add some more decoration for the heck of it.
Sizzix magnetic platform -
pros - now I have a way to use the thin metal dies and have them held in place nicely, without having to use any double sided tape or tape to hold dies in place, or worry about shifting of dies when running the platform through the machine. It does what is says, and I like that it is just one layer. The tabs of the base platform annoy me.
cons - it can't be used with other machines (step it up Cricut!). It is not a perfect magnetic surface. It comes in one size, not extended length (not a problem for me right now, but I can't help but wonder about some of the larger thin dies out there).
Alphanumeric Dies -
pros - lot's of dies for a great low price of $19.99 - it really is a steal. A good size, at 3/4". A good general font that would work for many things, with a good variety of pieces - at least 2 of every letter, with commonly used letters, such as O, S, E, A, Y, I, N, etc having more. Includes numbers and several punctuation marks, including periods, and commas, which are not listed on the packaging. Comes with a storage envelope.
cons - the "?", and ";" comes as 1 piece, but the "!" comes as two pieces and the little dot on the bottom is tiny - I can see that getting lost quite quickly. It is a thin metal die, which means that materials cut are more limited to thin things such as card stock, vellum, etc, and may be too thin to cut other materials such as felt, foam, etc. I hope that it works with shrink plastic! It only comes in capitals. The storage envelope is a great addition, but not secure for the small little pieces, so I stored them in fully sealing zip bags for better security.
I am crossing my fingers that in the <near> future, a lower case version will be available and other fonts would be considered for the future! Please!