Cool Tool: Swingline Guillotine Trimmer


Maybe the ones we had in my school were poor quality, but the blades used to dull and it would jam pretty easily after a while. They were great when they worked properly though.

I think paper is really tough on blades. It dulls them really easily. I was really hoping for a larger guillotine. Something suitable for bankers.

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Guillotine trimmers have tendency to pull on the lower sheets of paper or card stock in a stack, so that those lower sheets wind up with misregistered cuts. Don’t try to cut too many at once.


Good point. I have an old one and I find that rather than cutting straight down, pulling the blade in toward the body (of the tool) seems to adjust that.

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I have both a “blade” type and a “disc” type cutter. Of the two, the disc cutter is easily more deserving of the “Cool Tool” title. It has a series of LED lights built into the translucent base, and uses a few batteries (or you can plug in a 6v adapter). When the lights are turned on, the cutting line, normally obscured by whatever you’re cutting, appears as a shadow on the paper, letting you perfectly align your cut. Disc cutter are geared more to for “craft” usage, and as such, they’re not intended for cutting more than a few sheets at a time. Oh, and my blade cutter can actually be locked closed, with a small luggage-type lock.

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When I worked for a French company the Sales and Marketing department were always losing their guillotine and broadcasting demands for its return over the PA system. Personally I felt safer with the S&M department not having their favourite toy.

I’ve had the misfortune of using these plastic bodied paper cutters before. The cutting arm has a tendency to wobble, warp, and snap. I also remember the blade of one of them coming loose at one end, and swinging freely. You might assume them to be a “home appropriate” version, but they’re just a cheaper, far less durable version of the metal bodied ones you grew up with.

The paper cutter scene from “Twisted Brain” (also “Horror High”) is at 1:15.

Where I work, those are called paper trimmers. Guilotines looks like this.

Actually, the ones in my office are a bit bigger than that. They easily cut entire reams of paper (500s, 80g A4). And possibly fingers and hands, they certainly look sharp enough.

This type of paper cutter demands precision. There can’t be any play between the blade and the cutting edge. For $29 I don’t think you’re going to find that level of precision. You’re going to find a lot of plastic, a lot of wobbliness and a lot of frustration.

I worked in a print shop for 10 years, and copy centers of various office supply stores for about the same amount of time *(sometimes simultaneously). I know about cutting paper.

This is the one you want if you’re going to go for a lever-style trimmer. Though, even with one of these I find that anything more than 3 sheets of any kind of paper tends to make for a sloppy, imprecise cut.

The rotary trimmers are an order of magnitude more precise, easier to maintain, and safer.

The best advice I have if you have a project that involves a lot of paper cutting is this: Patience. If you need to do it yourself, don’t try to cram as much paper into the thing as it can hold. 2-3 sheets at a time is all you’re realistically going to get. Just understand that it’s going to take a while to get the job done and settle into it. OR if you really have a large project, take it to a print shop and they’ll use one of These Babies to get the job done.


I have a really old version of the first one you linked to, as a hand me down. I’m glad I kept it.

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My dad is a book publisher and used to work over a book binder. A lot of this guy’s stuff was antique, including a manually operated guillotine. When my dad’s business was starting we had an even older one in the shed that looked like this:

I’m sure modern ones are a bit safer, but even at a very young age I could tell that not much was going to stop that blade once it started going down. It was still an endless source of fascination and I had a go a few times with (and without ) supervision.


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