Wondering which crafting tool is the right one for the job? Today I’m telling you how to cut anything!
Have you ever been in the middle of a craft or DIY project only to try and cut something and totally ruin it? Or not be able to cut it at all? I totally get it. So today I’m going to tell you how to cut anything.
How do I know the answers to this question? Well, if you’re new here, I have a Master’s degree in architecture which I affectionately call “a Master’s of cutting and gluing”.
I literally spent 3 straight years crafting, making and building models, diagrams, art projects & displays… Some of them were completely theoretical and abstract and were more like art pieces than what you’d think of as traditional architectural models. Even in traditional models we used lots of different types of materials.
We even used to go to the science & surplus store looking for weird, wacky & unusual materials. So I can tell you how to cut anything, because I pretty much have cut everything! (The gluing portion of my degree will have to wait ’til later!)
And of course, because you’re visiting me here in my crafty little corner of the internet, we’re primarily talking about how to cut craft supplies and materials today. If you’re looking to cut construction/DIY materials, well, you’re gonna need some power tools and a different website. (But my advice on sharp blades still applies 😉
What do I need to know before I start cutting?
1 . The most important piece of advice I have for how to cut anything is that, if you are using the right tool, and you’re still having trouble cutting something…YOU NEED A NEW OR SHARPENED BLADE!
This is the number one cause of cutting problems and you need to change or sharpen your blades WAY more often than you think you do. It is also the number one cause of cutting INJURIES. So if you take nothing else out of this discussion, please, absorb it, repeat it, practice it. Change. Your. Blade.
2. Pay attention to your other hand, the one not holding the cutting tool, and make sure it is out of the way. Safety is so important. Ask me how I know… (ouch!)
To this end, consider a safety straight edge which has a handle so the hand not holding the cutting tool is above the surface and out of the way
3. When you are cutting a straight line, always cut against a metal edge, like a metal ruler, straight edge, or metal triangle. You should not cut against a plastic or wood straight edge because your blade can shave off tiny slivers of the surface and your straight edge will no longer be straight! (The exception to this is cutting fabric with a rotary cutter and plastic quilting ruler)
How to Cut Paper
For all you scrapbookers and teachers out there who have to cut a lot of paper and are almost always cutting it in straight lines, you should definitely invest in a nice paper cutter. Don’t fall for a lightweight plastic “portable” paper cutter, I promise you, it won’t cut straight. Go for a heavy duty trimmer. Guillotine or slide style are fine, it’s up to you.
If you want to cut irregular shapes in paper by hand, then your best bet is a craft knife. If you really want to use scissors, make sure they are detail scissors with a sharp point so you can be accurate. But I almost always prefer a craft knife because it’s much much easier to cut details with it.
And finally, don’t forget paper punches. If you have to cut a whole bunch of one shape a paper punch is a great choice. Don’t forget, you can re-sharpen your paper punches when they get dull by punching through a sheet of aluminum foil a few times!
How to Cut Fabric
If you are cutting rough shapes, clipping edges or trimming hems then go ahead and use a nice pair of fabric scissors. And never ever use your fabric scissors to cut paper or any other material, it will ruin them!
For most other fabric cutting including sewing patterns & quilting, you should use a rotary fabric cutter (and a ruler for straight lines). This will always be faster and more accurate than scissors. Don’t forget to change your blade frequently on a rotary cutter too!
How to Cut Yarn, Cord, and String
It’s easy to cut yarn and string with good old-fashioned scissors. Just make sure they’re sharp fabric scissors, DO NOT use the scissors from your junk drawer that you use to cut paper unless you want raggedy awful ends. This is especially true when making things like pom poms, tassels or macrame projects where the ends are important.
How to Cut Vinyl
Vinyl is probably one of the most trendy craft supplies out there and there’s a reason, it’s so handy and fun! If you’re going to cut vinyl then you definitely need a computerized cutting machine. It’s fast, accurate, and cuts more evenly than any other tool.
How to Cut Cardboard
There are two types of cardboard, corrugated and what I was always told is called chipboard. Corrugated cardboard is the kind made of two layers sandwiching a layer of corrugated material and is usually at least an 1/8″ thick. Chipboard is cardboard without corrugation. Think the back surface in a yellow legal pad or a thick cereal box material.
How to Cut Corrugated Cardboard
For corrugated cardboard, I recommend a utility knife. There are the kind that takes razor blades, some people would call that a box cutter. And then there are the kind of utility knife with a snap off blade. They both work well for corrugated cardboard. Just make sure you retract the blade when you’re finished using them! Be sure to keep the blade of your knife vertical for an even cut.
How to Cut Chipboard Cardboard
For thinner, non-corrugated chipboard, a utility knife might be overkill. For this material I’d stick with a standard craft knife with a brand new blade. For super thin chipboard like a generic brand cereal box or poster board, you might be able to cut through in one pass. For thicker chipboard, go slowly and make a few lighter passes until you cut all the way through.
How to Cut Mat Board
Mat board is the material used to make mats for picture frames. It comes in many colors and tends to be harder and more dense than chipboard. If you are using mat board for a craft project that is not a picture frame mat, go ahead and cut it with a craft knife. But if you are cutting picture frame mats, you should invest in a mat cutter which allows you to angle the blade to 45 degrees which is traditional for photo mats.
How to Cut Foam Board
Foam board, also known as foam core is a material with a thin layer of styrofoam sandwiched between two paper layers. It’s usually white or black. To cut foam board, I recommend a craft knife with a brand new blade. You will NOT be able to cut all the way through in one pass, but a craft knife is a good choice because it allows you to cut details easily.
The trick to cutting foam board is to make sure that the plane of your blade remains completely vertical while you cut, otherwise you will cut the foam at an angle and it won’t look good. Also, foam board dulls cutting blades very very quickly. If the foam starts to look jagged or tears as you cut, that means you need a new blade.
How to Cut Craft Wood
Craft wood is those sticks or sheets of wood you find at the craft store that are made of balsa wood or basswood. It’s often used for model making but it’s handy for all kinds of things. In a pinch, you can cut thin sticks of craft wood with a craft knife. But if you want nice, even, perpendicular cuts then you need either a miter box or a chopper. If you want to cut the 3″ to 4″ wide sheets of craft wood and they don’t fit in your miter box, you can cut them carefully with several passes of a craft knife.
How to Cut Plexiglass
For plexiglass thinner than 1/8″ in thickness, keep the protective plastic film on and cut with many light passes with a utility or craft knife. Really, take it slowly, use a straight edge and be patient. When the cut goes almost all the way through, you can snap it off.
For plexiglass that’s any thicker than that, you’re going to need a table saw. Sorry.
Don’t forget to lightly sand and buff the edges of your plexiglass!
How to Cut Glass
Don’t try that Pinterest pin where you tie a string around a wine bottle, set the string on fire and plunge the bottle into ice water. Just don’t. Instead invest in a bottle cutting tool. You’ll be much happier (and safer).
To cut flat pieces of glass you need a glass cutting tool which you use to gently and repeatedly score the glass. Some of these tools hold oil in the handle to make scoring easier. Then snap/break the piece of glass along the score line with some glass running pliers. Make sure to wear gloves!
How to Cut Metal
If you want to cut metal pipe, (I used some for a decorative accent on a craft project here) you need a pipe cutter. You put this around your pipe, tighten the screw and spin it around and around, tightening the screw a little more every few turns until you’re all the way through.
To cut sheets of metal for crafting, you can use power tools or a handheld jigsaw (often marketed as jeweler’s saws).
Don’t forget to get a set of metal files to smooth the edges of your metal project!
And that’s it! I think I’ve covered almost all the craft supply materials I can think of, but if there’s something from the craft store that you want to know how to cut, let me know!
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