Generally speaking, the ability to cut and craft without actual metal dies, or the cartridges that are packed with digital dies, is considered a good thing. Most crafters prefer a die-cut machine that operates like a printer you map out what you want on your computer screen and then have the machine cut it out. There is something to be said for the simplicity and strength of manual die-cutting machines, though. You can turn a crank that sends your project through a set of rollers that press a metal die into your paper or other materials, to cut or emboss them. These and other manual cutters offer a lot of benefits for certain project types. If you are interested in a manual unit, consider these:
Sizzix Big Shot
Sizzix makes electronic die-cutting machines now too but there are still plenty of fans of the Big Shot, which you operate by pulling a crank. The cutting surface is small. You can cut up to 25 inches long, but it is fairly shallow.
This unit is also ideal for embossing if you want to add texture. All of the manual die-cutting machines are more portable than electronic units because they are cordless. Big Shot adds another layer of portability with its handle though. Also, it weighs only 7.5 pounds so you can take it with you.
Teresa Collins Cut'n'Boss
Cranking a die-cutter handle is not exactly hard labor but having a machine do it for you can still be nice. The Cut'n'Boss is sort of a hybrid because at least part of the process is automated. This unit pulls your projects through on its own so they go in one side blank and come out the other fully cut or embossed. You don't need to turn the crank.
This cutter makes it possible to use all of your old dies from past systems. If you haven't given them away, you can break out your AccuQuilt, Spellbinders and Sizzix dies, sandwich them in with the Teresa Collins Cut'n'Boss platforms and cut fabric and cardstock.
There are less expensive manual die-cutting systems but this one has the girth and the sturdy construction to be low maintenance and long lasting. At 34 pounds, it is not exactly portable but if you just craft in one place that might be fine. You can use a range of compatible dies you own already or you can shop AccuCut Craft's online store. New die shapes are released once every few months.
This Cricut machine is just as cute as its name with its petite size, purse shape and soft colors. Cuttlebug can help you cut or emboss, and you can even do it in one pass. This unit comes with a suction system that makes it sturdier than it would normally be with such a small footprint. As you open the platform doors, the machine anchors to whatever surface it is on. With its handle and small size, this is a good unit for portability.
The best die-cut machine is the one that gets used. Being on the cutting edge of technology can be exhausting. If you prefer something a little more traditional, there are some excellent manual machines that can help you cut and craft.