That is my Big Shot. Also pictured are the multipurpose platform and two clear cutting plates (pads). These are the basics that will get you started. Most of the time you'll be using the multipurpose platform (MPP) as your base with your die sandwiched between the two cutting pads on top of it. The die is usually placed with the cutting side facing up and your cardstock or paper on top of it. Sometimes you'll see folks use their dies with the cutting side down. I'm not sure how big a difference it makes, but I know that the thinner dies can bend if used that way. They tend not to bend if used blade up. Makes sense to me to just use them face up, eh?
But before I get too far, let me show you what one of these cutting pads looks like after it's been used a few times. I know this takes some people by surprise.
Don't worry. This is normal. It's a cutting surface that the blade of the die cuts against. It's gonna get marked up.
Here's what mine looks like after years of use. Looks like that on both sides. And yeah, it's cracked in a couple of places, but it still works. I'll probably retire it soon though. :-)
Let me talk about the multipurpose platform. I love this! I like easy and foolproof and this platform helps accomplish that.
It's hinged and tabbed, and it has diagrams and instructions printed right on it! You flip the tabs open or closed to change the thickness of the platform so that it can accommodate the different dies, folders, texture plates etc. You don't cut directly on the platform. It's there only in a supporting role. Most of the time you'll have a clear cutting pad on top of it. You use this tab (Tab 2) for wafer-thin dies. I'll summarize just which ones at the end.
Here is the MPP open to Tab 1. Tab 2 is off to the left and I've already passed that 'page' through the opening of the Big Shot to the other side. Now some folks have supposedly unscrewed the hinges so that they don't have to bother with open 'pages'. Yikes. I'm sure it works, but to me it sort of defeats the purpose. I find this set-up to be very convenient as is and not a problem to handle. This is the Tab setting that you'd use for slightly thicker dies, for texture plates*, for brass stencils*, and for embossing Spellbinders die cuts* like Nestabilities. Note the asterisks--these are cases where you don't use two clear pads; for these items you'll need a silicone pad and the Impressions pad. More on what these do later. But in short, here they take the place of the clear cutting pad that would usually go on top of the stack.
Here is the platform with No Tabs selected. It's supposed to be used with narrower embossing folders. I use this one with the Cuttlebug embossing folders of all sizes. I've used Tab 1 for these in the past, but I get good crisp embossing without my cardstock tearing as often when I go with no tabs. Try it both ways and see which you like better.
I wanted to show that there are times when you won't use a platform at all. This is when you use the Thick Cut, Bigz, XL Bigz, or Original Sizzix dies. You just pass the die through between the two clear cutting pads. No platform needed. No room for one!
And these are some of the accessories than can be useful when using the Big Shot.
The blue pad on the bottom is the Premium Crease Pad. It's made for use with the Cut 'n' Fold dies--these dies have lines that are meant to be scored in addition to lines that are supposed to be cut. Think of box templates as an example. This pad helps assure that the score lines turn out to be scored and not cut. If you use the clear cutting pads, often they'll end up cut. Not good. This pad can also be used to cut and emboss Nestabilities dies in one pass. You may see these around in red and black, too.
The black pad is the Impressions pad. It comes in the Texturz Starter Kit or can be purchased individually. This used to come in the Big Impressions Starter Kit, too. If you've seen references to the BISK, that's what people are talking about. It's slightly thicker and narrower than a clear cutting plate.
The very pliable black mat that you see is the silicone embossing mat. It works the same way as the tan Spellbinder embossing mat, also pictured above, developed for use with Wizard dies. These are both very soft and are easily forced into the sometimes intricate designs of metal dies or stencils to create crisp, detailed embossed images. I included a smaller piece of the tan mat to show that it can be cut down to allow embossing of a stencil image without embossing the edges of the stencil. I think it's great to have smaller pieces as well as the larger ones that can be used for big texture plates. These silicone mats can be bought separately. The kits that I mentioned above include this, the Impressions pad, and three texture plates (six designs).
Let me summarize which MPP settings you'd use with various dies, plates, folders....
Tab 2 for wafer-thin dies:
- Nestabilities and other Wizard dies
- Quickutz dies and GooseBumpz embossing dies
- Bosskut dies
- Cuttlekids dies
- Sizzix Cut 'n' Emboss dies/Embosslits
- Sizzix Window Cut dies/Clearlits
- Thin Cut dies/Sizzlits
- Cuttlebug dies
- 4" Sizzix embossing folders (Easy Emboss or Simple Impressions)
- Ellison/Sizzix/Fiskars texture plates*
- metal stencils*
- embossing Nestabilities and other Wizard dies* (same set-up as with metal stencils, leave die cut inside die to emboss)
- 2 1/2" Sizzix embossing folders
- Cuttlebug embossing folders of all sizes
- Sizzix Original or Thick Cuts dies
- Bigz dies
- XL Bigz dies (does require XL cutting plates)
- Sizzix alphabars
- Sizzix long decorative strips dies (require extended spacer platform and 13" decorative strip cutting pads)
Edited to add: I've compiled the above information into a chart. The post with the link to that chart can be found HERE.