Cutting is where the magic happens.
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Your tool arsenal needs a good pair of scissors. Period. Don’t skimp and purchase cheaper scissors because you will inevitably be throwing them away. And definitely don’t use the scissors that came with your kitchen knife block on your craft projects (okay, so we’ve done that before but it is very unhygienic).
4-inch scissor for precision and detailed work
A good pair of scissors have a higher price tag but will last a lifetime with proper care. When dulled, take your scissors into a cutlery along with your knives for a professional sharpening.
Paper dulls the blade of scissors so you want to make sure you don’t use your fabric scissors on paper. Purchase different scissors for different uses and label them appropriately: one pair for paper and one pair for sewing, for example. A pretty bow works well as a marking, but so does washi tape or even a Sharpie.
Cutting aluminum foil can clean the scissor's blade and improve performance. Simply fold the foil into several layers and cut through.
Decorative scissors can be used to add flair to the edges of paper and fabric. Pinking shears were probably a staple in your grandmother’s sewing basket and are still a creative way to add a decorative edge to any craft.
Our favorite is a fringe scissor. The conjoined blades on a fringe scissor cut simultaneously to fringe or shread paper, similar to the mechanism in a paper shreader. Cut strips a second time in the opposite direction and you have instant paper confetti. Wowzer!
A few pairs of novelty decorative scissors are also fun to have on hand. Usually sold in affordable packs, the small scissors are of a lesser quality and have a short reach. Scallop scissors add a clouded finish to an edge while a corkscrew pair adds endless waves. A deckle edge softly tears the edge of paper making it useful for flower crafts, for example. A well-stocked craft room should have a set of six classic edges and a set of contemporary edges.
Our tool of choice for manual cutting is a craft knife and a ruler. Yes, it is dangerous, and we definitely have the scars to prove it from the wee hours of the night in architecture school – cutting with a craft knife is never advisable when you are sleep deprived. Still we like a craft knife because you can cut a very straight line with ease, albeit dangerously, and cut hard to reach areas. You do have to change the blades often for the knife to be effective, so make sure you have replacements on hand.
We use a basic scapel, err knife. When using a craft knife, you will also need to use a metal ruler and a cutting mat. A self-healing cutting mat has the longest longevity. And as mentioned in the scoring section, a metal non-skid metal ruler is a good investment for your crafting activities. It is helpful to invest in three different sized rulers:
The technique for using a craft knife is similar to scoring.
Grab a craft knife and a metal ruler. You will also need a cutting mat to protect your work surface.
Lay the ruler down along the line you wish to cut. The ruler will serve as a guide.
Place the blade next to the ruler at the top end of the line you wish to cut (the furthest point away from your body). Press the tip into the paper.
Pull the knife towards you, cutting the paper as you pull.
Straight lines can also be cut quickly and easily with a rotary cutter. Added bonus: rotary cutters are slightly less lethal than a craft knife. Still, we have managed to slice up our hands, so be careful. All the brands have a mechanism to retract or sheathe the blade in an uncutable position which is helpful.
A rotary cutter works very well on fabric – be aware that paper dulls blades so you want to maintain one rotary cutter for cutting paper and one cutter for cutting fabric. The technique for using the rotary cutter is the same as the craft knife mentioned above.
Another option for cutting straight lines is a paper trimmer. A paper trimmer is very useful for cutting down paper into more manageable shapes very quickly. When we craft our airline tickets, for example, we save time by quickly cutting each ticket down into a rectangle with a paper cutter. The corners can then be finished afterwards in a batch.
We have a vintage old-school guillotine paper trimmer, a workhorse, that we use to cut corrugated cardboard and other thicker paper. It cuts several sheets at a time, quickly. For everyday paper cutting we use this cutter – it cuts everything from cork to paper, well. And for more detailed work, like wave cuts and perforation, we have this trimmer. The latter is easy to move around, which increases its usefulness.
Cutting circles with scissors is difficult and unfortunatley circle punches only cut so big. One solution for cutting perfect circles larger than a 4-inch diameter is to use a circle cutter. It is a tricky contraption though, mainly because it doesn't come with clear instructions, so we will walk you through it. The brand in our toolkit is no longer for sale but this circle cutter is the same concept. One big advantage of this type of circle cutter is that it does not leave a hole in the center of the circle as many do.
Before you begin you will need a self-healing cutting mat to protect your surface.
Grab your circle cutter and center the circular base in the center of what you intend to cut. Don't forget to use a cutting mat to protect your work surface! Pull the knob on the blade shuttle up and slide it to your desired circle diameter.
Place your non-dominant hand (left hand for most) over the handle and brace it. Reach over your arm with your dominant hand and grab the arm of the blade shuttle.
Push down on the blade shuttle and pivot it around the handle.
Lift your non-dominant wrist so that the blade shuttle can rotate underneath your non-dominant arm.