Thursday, April 14, 2011

Technique Thursday: Review of Tim Holtz's Vagabond

by Sharon Jeffs

I have an absolute devotion for all things techy. Put that with a tool to make life easier and I am hooked well and truly. I try really hard to stay away, to read reviews before I purchase but more often than not I end up buying and having a go for myself no matter what anyone else says.

With the vagabond, I tried to hold off but the appeal of an electric die machine as opposed to a manual one was too great a pull. So, I took the plunge and bought one despite some nervousness about what it could actually do. I chose the Vagabond over the other competitive electronic devices solely because of how it looked but once it arrived I was more than thrilled with it. I love that it is so compact, the support platforms fold up and hide within the case as does the power cord in a small side compartment. It is a bit heavier than I had anticipated but it also feels very solid, like it could last forever which I want it to after it's price tag!

I think my biggest concern was it being able to cut using the Nestabilities and other dies within the spellbinder and/or Quickutz range. Nothing on the internet suggested it would and many forums were listing it as incompatible. I did however find some interesting PDF notes available at the Sizzix website that helped me immensely. Once it arrived (impossible to not notice it either because it’s quite heavy) I experimented with different dies and different cutting mats until I got the perfect cut with each different die from different companies.


The Vagabond comes with an extended spacer, shim (plastic sheet used to add depth to the extending pad), 2 standard cutting mats.

In my research I found I needed a Wafer-Thin Die Adapter from the Sizzix range if I wanted to successfully cut with the quickkutz and Spellbinders dies. In addition, I needed the Sizzix Texturz Impressions pad and silicone mat to emboss the edges of the Spellbinder dies.

This collection of mats is all I needed to cut Sizzix bigz, Sizzix Sizzlets, Cuttlebug dies, quickutz dies and spellbinder dies. I can also use them with the Sizzix embossing folders, Tim Holtz embossing folders and the Cuttlebug embossing folders.

Die/Mat Configurations

The Vagabond come with a fairly comprehensive instruction book telling you exactly which pads/mats to use when cutting with the Sizzix range therefore I’m not going to say much more about the mat use with this range.

But for the other dies that are commonly available, here goes …

Cuttlebug – Dies

The Cuttlebug dies are very much the same as Sizzlets so I followed the same rules for cutting with Sizzlets. I began with the Solo Platform and shim then added the sizzix standard cutting mat; my Bazill card and die then finally the last sizzix standard cutting mat. I tried this way twice and found that if I placed the die in the centre of the mat then the cut was deeper and much more successful which is really important when working with intricate scroll cuts.

Cuttlebug – Embossing Folders

Use the same combination as the cuttlebug dies.

(solo platform/shim/standard cutting matt/embossing folder and card/standard cutting mat)

The Vagabond did a beautiful job of embossing the Bazzill card, see in the photo.

Quickutz Dies

I was a bit nervous about using these dies as I kind of felt that they were too thin to be usable but I worked it out in the end. I found the best combination listed at the Sizzix website.

(Solo Platform/shim/ Thin Die Adapter/standard cutting pad/die and cardstock/standard cutting pad)

I found this worked really well. There were a couple of sections where the Bazzill wasn’t cut all the way through but as these were in the intricate scrollwork areas that catch in other machines, I didn’t worry about it too much. However, I did work out that if you centered the die along the mat so that the length is running vertical then you get a perfect cut, intricate cut or not.

Nestabilities and other Spellbinder die instructions

Ok this was definitely the challenging one, there are two steps. To cut the Nestabilities shapes out I followed the same configuration as the Quickutz dies.

(Solo Platform/shim/ Thin Die Adapter/standard cutting pad/die and cardstock/standard cutting pad)

This cut the shape really well but of course doesn’t emboss the edge. So it goes back into the machine using the following configuration –

(Solo Platform/shim/impressions pad/cardstock and die with card still in place after cut/silicone mat/Standard cutting mat)

This gave me the desired effect with these dies that was originally intended.

So, after all that I bet you're thinking ... Is it worth it? The machine that is... and yes it is. Despite my initial trepidation about the weight of it and the price and the fact that - eek! - I may just break it; I found it far much easier to get the cuts I want. Initially when it arrived I felt quite fearful of the instruction manual because seems very thick at first but when you open it up its all step by step images and only a third applies because the book contains the same instructions but in different languages. It is not techy at all. The machine cuts with a more even cut (important to me because I just don't want to spend time trimming my design where it didn't cut properly) and I love the idea of pushing a button to get my cut rather than having to hold the machine steady with one hand while I crank a handle with the other. For me, this is a huge timesaver!


  1. I agree! I purchased one from Fran's first shipment that arrived, but I had been watching YouTube for months about this product, so I had made up my mind already when Fran listed them. I believe that the price, is really a reflection of the quality of the machine, and, it's so unique in style, that it looks great even when not in use. I just wish the die selection was a bit cheaper, as that is truly where the money goes!
    Great machine! Love mine!
    Victoria, B.C.

  2. Hi there
    Just wondering if you can tell me if the Vagabond works with the Spellbinders new Mega Dies?
    This machine is just about to be released in New Zealand and Australia so am wondering about purchasing one. They seem to be a lot dearer in New Zealand Dollars via our retailers than they would be if purchased from America with the conversion rate, but we can't use the American ones here due to the plugs, such a shame!
    Hoping you can answer my question.

  3. This is such a great post and the info is so useful when deciding which machine to buy. I agree that it is far easier to push a button and that the Vagabond looks great but it comes with a price like everything else.

  4. Hi Friend!! I remembered that you posted about the Vagabond awhile back, but I didn't have one until yesterday! So I quickly came back today to see what you had said about it and I have to tell you, you may have just saved a sale!! I was frustrated that it dosn't cut Nesties or Memory Box dies (at least not with the same platforms as my Big Shot), and figured I'd do some research before I return it. Now you've given me hope (and valuable direction!) on how to fall in love with this machine like everyone else!! Thanks for the wonderful, detailed post!!

  5. My Cuttlebug crashed and I decided to splurge on the Vagabond...Glad I found your very detailed post! It will save me much frustration and I've already ordered the "extras" i"m going to need! Thank you!

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  7. Fran, THANK YOU for your very detailed review! Because of your thoroughness, I purchased my first Spellbinder dies, the Vagabond, and the extras (wafer-thin adapter, SIZZIX impression and silicone pads)needed in one order saving additional shipping cost and the frustration I would have incurred without those extra items. I have no doubt that you shortened my learning curve and increased my immediate satisfaction.

  8. This is a positive and negative sandwich post...I'm from Canada....I could not find a Vagabond near me, and that was affordable....I went to Buffalo N.Y. And found one for just over $200.00. I was happy, until I realized I needed the solo platform, and those 2 black ones for embossing...I was very disappointed, because the advertising made you think you didn't need anything else...I drive to the States again, and NOT ONE CRAFT STORE CARRIES THEM...waste of my time, and money! I gave my Cuttlebug away...I haven't opened my vagabond....I will have to settle for a BIG SHOT I guess...I'm saddened.....

    1. Hi Carol,

      I'm sorry you were unable to find supplies for your Vagabond locally or on your trip to Buffaly.

      We are an online store ( serving customers all over the world. We are more than happy to ship to you in Canada! No running from store to store trying to find something the store might or might not carry.

      The Vagabond is a sturdy machine, and not at all a "waste of money". Once you start using it, you will love the ease with which you can cut all your dies and emboss your texture folders.