Cutting dies are expenive to have made professionally for a custom application, and oftentimes it just seems easier to cut with an exacto knife than get a die made, especially if you will be making an unknown quantity of items. Depending on the complexity of your design and how precise your dimensions must be, making your own die can save you quite a bit of time and effort. If you must have ultaprecise dimensions, this method is not for you, but if being off by 3/32 won't cause the sky to fall, making your own cutting die is a straightforward process.

This die is designed for cutting paper. If you want something that you can put in a press and stamp thin sheetmetal with, you will need to use a different source for the blades (actual sheet or flatstock, not just the trash from last night's chili), and you will need to set these blades in wood or metal. If it's metal, tacking them in place with your arc welder is a good idea, but you will need to run a full bead (or braze) before you apply 12 tons of force. If you are building a press die, you will also need to get a small square, to make sure you have your blades at the right angle. For just cutting paper, it's nowhere near as tough, and that's what we'll be doing today.

Don't be an idiot like me and forget to sharpen all your blades before you bend them and stick them in tight corners. I have not actually sharpened this die yet, and if/when I do, I will update this with photos. Until then, you get a verbal description of what to do. It will work.

Step 1: Get your materials

-- You will be needing a block of floral foam large enough to fit your whole pattern on.
-- One or two metal food cans (empty them first. Yum)
-- Tin snips (don't just try big scissors
-- Gorilla glue
-- Needlenose pliers
-- Leather gloves (optional, but there will be edges ranging from kinda sharp to razor sharp)
-- Dremel tool or handheld drill (no drill press), or even a bench grinder if you are so lucky
-- Clamps or a vice (to hold things while you sharpen)
-- Grinding/sharpening attachment for your electric spinny thing of choice
-- A flat object big enough to fit over your entire pattern
-- Ruler or calibrated eyeball
-- Time and the patience to use it
<p>Would this work with stainless steel cookie cutters do you think?</p>
<p>I'll add in...start a cut with a can opener on the non-lined variety (after consuming the peaches or pears)on the non dispense end first. Pry the incision upwards enough to cut off, leaving the cans beveled edge exposed just enough to pry the can opener slot upwards a slight degree with a small durable flat head screwdriver, (I wish there was a sniglet term for the perpendicular section of a cylinder; something universally applied for craft instruction), and followed up with a small needle nose, making sure that this initial cut is more than enough to allow plenty of room to allow a no-nonsense double incision with metal snips. The bottom can then be pulled back, and should resemble the generalized shape of a pop-top with its lifted up circumference edge. Glove handling on the dispensing end is all that is necessary for this starter cut. Cut the lifted tab off with the snips and hold the can in place on the bottom end of the can with pliers, made allowable thru this expose-cut step, ofcourse. Now you begin to create the serrated v cuts on the spout end securely using the snips and second pliers. Wear leather construction gloves at all times!</p>
<p>Your step by step writing method is wonderful. You must be the &quot;go to&quot; person in your corner of Colorado. I haven't yet read the rest of the method for this, but I'll add in that cutting a serrated edge like so IWWWWWWWWI from the edge of any metal can, with metal snippers, is effective. Keep the can intact while cutting and extracting the semi attached remnants holding the can in place with one pliers while twisting, wiggling, and yanking the excess with the other. Wear leather construction gloves for protection.</p>
<p>i was thinking where to get other kind of almost ready steel rule.</p><p>Maybe a bandsaw inverted where we would sharpen the wrong side?</p><p>Like this? they are usually bendable ...</p>
I am writting in re to a post on Jul 22, 2009. 11:36 <br>&quot;I might try this to make some fabric dies but I'll probably just get some thin sheet metal&quot; did you make a die and if so how did it work for fabric. Tracy
Thanks for the walk through. I'm going to give this a try on a small paper craft project I'm planning.<br><br>In addition to metal cans, builders flashing would seem to be an excellent source of metal. You can find it at the big box hardware stores. They sell it by the foot and it already has a nice curve to it, which would make it ideal for curved areas like your tires. Anyway, just a thought. Thanks for the good tutorial.
would you think that pink or yellow foam can work too?
Thanks so much for publishing this.. I'm gonna start one in the morning.
Nice job.&nbsp; I need to cut flat papers.&nbsp; How would I be able to creat a creasing line within my diecut?<br> Thanks
Could I use this to cut .002" shim stock? I'm trying to make a deck of cards with steel is the core material and the face and back of a standard rider back bicycle deck. Because I'm using pre-made faces and backs, the dimensions of the card and the curve at the corners would have to be exact. Can this method get that degree of precision?
You can definitely get that degree of precision. Try making a jig using dowels of the proper radius mounted on a board at the proper locations and bend around that. Use one continuous band of steel, not multiple pieces, or you'll have to do a tad of sanding on each card. I've cut aluminum soda cans, but I've never tried it with any thickness of steel.
Thanks! That helps me a lot. One more question though, if I'm cutting metal would I need a press with a few tons or could a vise clamp work?
A sturdy clamp could probably do the deed, if you try hard enough. I once needed a press and (carefully) jacked up my car on top of the offending object. Two-ton press right in your driveway! (I take no responsibilty if someone else tries this bonehead idea and gets crushed. I got lucky. You've been warned).
With this kind of weight, what would I need to use for the blades? And also, how would I join the two ends of the blade after bending it to shape?
A couple of posts below this one, Mefromliny talks about cutting gaskets using industrial-weight food cans. The fasteners section of the local hardware store has some slightly thicker steel that looks promising. If you have an electric welder, you can probably gently tack the two ends of the blade, but I wouldn't try it with oxyacetelyne. If that's all you have, I imagine some careful soldering would be more effective for you.
it wouldn't be two tons, you would have to balance the whole car on your jack, if you did that, then yes, close to two tons
Good point. Maybe somewhere between a half ton and a quarter ton. Whatever it was, it was more than I could get with clamps or the vice, and it worked.
I might try this to make some fabric dies but I'll probably just get some thin sheet metal. Thanks :D
Oh you know what I might do? I don't trust the floral foam too much because I have crushed bits of it with little pressure before. I'll try it on a balsa wood block. Fabric requires a bit more pressure to cut through than paper.
Sounds good!
This is interesting, I want to make dies for paper/felt cutting and appliques. Just to make this less scary for me re using grinders (and without having to ask my husband to do it), if I were to cut up a can, could I sharpen the edge on an electric knife sharpener ? Would it be too much hard work for it? also I would be making smaller simple shapes, if I used the top or bottom edge of the can where it is rolled do you think that would be enough support on the non cutting edge? Thanks, Helen
Helen, to address your last question first, yes, I believe the rolled bit will be enough support--provided you bend it and do not allow it to "kink." I have never used an electric knife sharpener, but if it sharpens your knives it will certainly sharpen a can. I would do a test piece first, since I'm afraid it might "chew" the can and make it either too short or bend it badly. If it did stacking multiple layers of can together and supergluing might fix that. Do make sure to wear leather gloves and use your husband's tin snips, not office scissors or kitchen shears or even those huge garden shears while you make the die. If you have any more questions, I'd be happy to offer guidance. Happy crafting!
Very useful! Thanks!
Hey, great ible! It's a little lightweight for my purposes, but you've given me some ides. I just got a 5 ton jack last week......
Thanks! This is the craft-weight version; if you want heavy-duty, I've had good luck with using a 1/8 inch scroll saw blade to cut out my design in wood, kept all the pieces, then fitted the blades into the kerf. Please let me know how your method goes. I've lost access to a scroll saw and need to do a bit of gasketmaking.
I used this great instructable to make a die for a simple 1/16" gasket that I had been making about fifteen a week for one of my customers. For my metal, I used a big can from a deli, it was a lot stronger than regular household vegetable cans and except for one small part that didn't cut all of the way, it works great in my simple hand-operated one ton press that I got from Ebay for Thirty five dollars. AND USE GLOVES WHEN YOU'RE FORMING THE DIE (I VOLUNTEER AS AN EMT AND LET ME TELL YOU THAT THE CAN WILL SLICE DEEP...). If you have a pair of vice-grips, they would help a lot when you're sharpening you metal. Excellent Instructable and it saves me about half an hour's work a week, which equates to more time spent at the playground with my daughter! Thanks, Ken
Thank you, Ken! I'm glad to hear that it worked for your application. Did you use the foam, or some other substrate? I wouldn't have thought the foam would survive a ton of pressure, but if it can, it'll save me a lot of scrollsaw-ing the next time I need to make a die for use in a press. In fact, I might actually have to make a few gaskets in the next few months...
do you have any pictures of the end product? The die-cut pieces of paper.
Unfortunately not from this specific die, as I haven't sharpened it. I once made one out of wood and cans that I put in the shop's 12-ton press and stamped out Steal Your Face keychains with, out of aluminum soda cans. I might have one of those still laying around someplace. I'll see what I can find.

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Bio: I've dabbled in pretty much everything. If I haven't odds are I'd like to learn how and try it. I'm one ... More »
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