Buying metal dies from China – my experience

Hello my fellow crafters.  Many of you have noticed a trend lately of off brand dies purchased from China and may have questions on how, why, quality, etc.  This post is my recent experience in buying dies and stamps directly from China.

Let me say upfront that I am not going to discuss the political issues that may surround these purchases.  I would need a book to go into all the details regarding issues of currency, worker salaries, environmental issues, etc.  I will just state that if you look at my craft room you will see very clearly that I am a big supporter of American businesses.

That being said this all started when I went searching for some stitched or pierced dies in the regular shapes – square, rectangle, circle and oval.  I have all these shapes in the regular cuts but was looking for the stitched or pierced look.  What I found gave me sticker shock!  I had not purchased dies in awhile since getting my silhouette cameo some years ago.   Based on several vendors that I usually shop with I determined that one set of nested stitched dies would cost me anywhere from $20 – $30, plus shipping (about $6.)  If I wanted all the shapes it would cost me between $80 – $120, plus shipping.  So, I went looking for less expensive alternatives and ended up stumbling on a place called Aliexpress.

What is Aliexpress?  In the most simplest terms, it is the Chinese version of Amazon and a way to let Chinese businesses sell worldwide at extremely good prices.  In fact when I went looking at the products I thought I was mistaken at the prices – they were just too good to be true and it took me about a month of asking other purchasers on various facebook groups about their buying experiences.  I finally took the plunge.  Here is what I can tell you:

Store buying ease:

It is not easy to navigate Aliexpress.  It takes a lot of time and patience.  Register for an account first before putting things in your cart.

Trying to do a search is frustrating.  The descriptions are either too generic or they just don’t make sense.  I ended up doing a search of “rectangle metal dies” and went from there.

There are many, many, many sellers selling the exact same thing.  But prices are all over the place.  So, if you find something you like, keep looking for it and get the best price.  I saw the same die set ranging from about $2 to $12.  For the same item!  Yes, you read that right .around $2 for a set of dies.   You need to take notice of the size of the dies.  Since everything is in metric measurements just google the conversion of cm to inches or mm to inches and you will get an idea of the size.  This is important!!

Shipping – All the dies I purchased had free shipping.

Shipping time – I was warned by people who had purchased before that the wait can be long – anywhere from 4 to 8 weeks.  So if you are in a hurry this could be a problem.  I was willing to wait.   For the dies – most came in 2 weeks with the remainder in 3 weeks.

Packaging – if you hate that so many things are over packaged these days…well you will love this.  The packaging is about as minimalistic as you can get.  My dies were sent in a small padded envelope.  When I opened it up the dies were in a clear envelope.  That’s it.  Nothing else.  No fancy packaging at all.  And they all came undamaged and in good shape.  Here is a look at how one came packaged.

Cost – Here is a picture of the die sets I purchased. A total of 6 sets – total purchase price for everything (shipping was free):   $16.50.  That’s right.  For less than the cost of one set of dies from any of my favorite stores I was able to get 6 sets.  Now you can understand why it was very easy for me to hit that buy button! These are all stitched dies. I ended up getting Stitched designs in Oval, Circle, Square, Rectangle, Fancy Edge and a set of Curved Borders.

Ahhh…  I know what you are thinking (because I was thinking it too) – what about the quality?  Do they work well?  How do they really cut?

I can only compare the China dies with what I currently own, which is a mix of Spellbinders, Cheery Lynn, My Favorite Things, and Papertrey.  The China dies are metal, but a different material, much more lightweight.  I was a bit worried when I took them out of the package but figured  even if every single die was bad I would only be out $16.50 and would consider it a cheap lesson and one that I could pass on to my crafting friends. You need to be very careful about sizes too.  Here is a comparison of the rectangle stitched die set vs my Spellbinders nestability rectangle die.  The Spellbinders are true “nested” dies and have ten pieces vs. the 8 piece set from China. That being said, I am very happy with what I received.

As soon as I received the dies I ran every single one of them from every single set through my cuttlebug.  How did  they cut?  In a word….beautifully!  Every single die cut very nicely the first time through.  Here is a close up of some of the die cuts.

Now, I only ordered these basic shapes and there are many more detailed ones available on Aliexpress.  I cannot tell you how well those detailed ones cut.  If I order again I may just buy one to test it out.  I will say based on my experience with these dies I would very much consider buying again.

What about stamps from China?   While looking at dies I noticed many clear stamp sets – all made of silicone.  I have not had much luck with silicone stamps but I decided to order a couple (again, prices were very good) and do my own testing.  I will let you know in a later post my results with stamps.

Other products – while looking through  Aliexpress I found pure silk ribbon at a much lower cost than my favorite at May Arts, so that may be a future purchase.  Also, there are alcohol markers that look exactly like copics but a different brand name for those people who want to get into the alcohol marker trend but don’t want to pay the copic marker price. I’m sure there are embellishments  galore but I figured I would stop at this point!

Whew – this was a long post!  If you have any questions please drop me a note and I will do my best to answer!