Product Review: Sizzix Vagabond by Tim Holtz

Hi everyone,

My friend, Suzanne Dean, asked me to do this product review a while back for publication in Through The Craftroom Door magazine. It was published in the Christmas 2011 edition and I totally forgot to post it here for your benefit too. So sorry for the delay but here it is … Enjoy!

Product Review : Sizzix Vagabond by Tim Holtz
Reported by Stephanie Lee

I am the proud owner of the amazing, sought-after Sizzix Vagabond die cutting machine by Tim Holtz. After all the big hype about the machine after summer 2010 CHA, I caved after 2 months and had to see what I was missing. I LOVE it! What’s not to like about the machine – the outside resembles a trendy, well-travelled suitcase and the inside is a powerhouse workhorse. It’s designed by a man, what do you expect.

What’s in the box:

  • the machine itself
  • a set of stickers to decorate it with (what a fun way to personalize the machine)
  • a pair of standard cutting pads
  • one solo platform
  • one solo shim

The stickers don’t last too well though – they are a little worn from me opening and closing the machine. I don’t mind that they are worn – makes my machine looks more authentic. However, 2 of them have already loss it’s stickiness and fallen off. It’s probably been eaten by my vacuum cleaner some weeks ago.

The Solo Shim is a thin piece of plastic that fits securely on top of the Solo Platform.

They both measure about 6 1/4″ x 13″ and are to be used when cutting a Sizzlet, embossing with a Texture Folder, or using other-brand dies (e.g. Spellbinders Nestabilities and Papertrey Ink dies).

One thing that I immediately loved about the shim and platform was that it clearly stated right on it when you should use the Solo Shim (with thin materials), and when you should use the platform alone (when cutting folded card stock or materials thicker than card stock such as chipboard, Grungeboard, etc).

There was no fumbling around for the instruction booklet or racking my brain to remember what I should or shouldn’t do.

The outside:

On the top of the machine, on either sides of the handle bars, are the buttons to operate the machine.  One side’s buttons are just for decoration, the other side has a motor button and a forward/reverse switch.

Now, this won’t work unless you get out the power cord and plug it in.  Where is the power cord?  Tucked into a nifty side compartment for storage!  How well thought-out is that – an all-in-one machine without having to find another place to keep your cords. Also makes it super easy to take it for crops.

Dimensions: 12 1/2″ x 4 5/8″ x 9″ (Closed) and 15 1/4″ x 12 1/2″ x 10 1/4″ (with Handle Up and Doors Open)
Weight: It weighs about 14 lbs.

The inside:

I saw a comparison of the Vagabond’s motor with the Big Shot Express on Scrapbook Update and the vagabond’s motor is about twice the size of the Big Shot Express. No, I didn’t crack apart my ‘bond but here is a picture of the motor comparison.

Impressive isn’t it – and it purrs like a big motor should. With my greeting card business, I run the machine about 4 hrs a day and put all kinds of materials in it and everything glides through the machine like butter. Here are some of the things that have gone into the machine:

That was obviously the first thing that went into the machine – I’m a paper crafter after all. Easy Peasy – cuts like a dream – for thick or thin cardstock. No fraying or puckering or stuck edges that I have to cut apart. See for yourself.

Had to try something else,

Burlap & Canvas Fabric
I love making fabric flowers so I had to test to see if the machine is up to snuff. Sure enough, a flower came out on burlap – clean cut; works like a charm. I wanted to see if the machine could cut more delicate pattern, so I cut a flourish out with canvas. Perfect cut!

A little thicker material but quite essential to a paper crafter – easy cut again, machine purred like a baby.

At this point my husband came into the room to see what all that cheering was about. And he suggested some “real” material to try.

I was thinking transparency thickness acrylic but I had run out so instead I took one of my Spellbinders packaging acrylic (much thicker) and tried that. I have to admit I was nervous I might break my machine but the dove I cut out, just fell out of the backing the moment I removed the cutting plates. Crisped edges, smooth cut! Wow!

I had some difficulty photographic acrylic so I decided to emboss it – might take the glare away so I could take a picture of it.

Embossing Folder
Yup – no surprise by now – the vagabond embosses even acrylic like a dream!! I embossed cardstock too and it leaves a nice deep impression as well. Tip: for a thinning cardstock, sandwich another cardstock in to take the pressure off the embossing so it doesn’t tear through the paper.

(Nope – embossing didn’t take the glare away so I had to paint it as well)

By now, my husband was nodding his head, suitably impressed and he suggested that HE try metal. While he was setting up the sandwich, I started pulling up the Sizzix website for a customer service number and some warrantee information in case I needed one. I also sat across the room – in case something cracked or splinted and pierced whomever was near the machine.  Look at the result!!

Are YOU impressed now!! The vagabond cuts through everything like butter. No fraying, splintered edges, crumpled edges, no nothing. I included a photo of the negative space of the ornament die cut – it just fell out of the negative space, I did not have to cut out any stubborn, half-cut edges!!

Spellbinders, Papertrey Ink and other thin dies
No need to guess – cuts like a dream. You do need a Solo Thin Die Adapter (purchased separately) to add to your sandwich to give it the thickness it needs.

Most of my Spellbinders Grand Nestabilities fit into the width of the machine too – all with the exception of the very largest size and the 2nd largest size (for oval/circle/broader shapes)

The Verdict
Overall, I am absolutely in love with my ‘bond.  IN LOVE.  Mine’s affectionately called Big Daddy. Everything I tried in it either cut or embossed wonderfully.

Once, I put a wrong sandwich in the machine (my own oversight; not a machine fault) and the machine got jammed. Wouldn’t move an inch with my sandwich stuck in the middle. I nervously googled every possible solution to see how I could get my sandwich out without burning out the motor or breaking my Big Daddy. No result that could help me – it was too new at that time.

I called Sizzix customer service and they kindly walked me through inching the sandwich out manually, literally inch by inch. I finally got it out and the machine had eaten a big hole in my embossing mat. I ran the machine a few times (without anything in it) to make sure nothing else was stuck up in the rollers that could cause another jam. After picking off the pieces and dusting it off, it’s still working like new. Any lesser machine (AND any less motor) would have been decimated by me.

I think everyone should own a Vagabond! (No, I don’t work for Sizzix or Tim Holtz, although I wish I did)

The Vagabond retails for about $200 and is available online.  (*edited to note: the cheapest I have found online is $150) It is completely compatible with Sizzix products, and has a wide range of accessories to make it compatible with competitor’s products.

Thank you for hanging on with me till the end – if you are seriously shopping for a die cut machine, you wouldn’t regret this one!



  1. Becky D says:

    Hey Steph! Thanks for this great review of the Vagabond! I have been wondering about it. I really need a die cutting machine – have been looking at the Grand Caliber, but this is soo much cuter :) Now, I just have to start saving to get me one!

  2. Karla says:

    Thanks ;) I’ve been looking at machines lately. Now to save up for machine and dies…