Fast, accurate paper and fabric cutting with a rotary cutter


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But will it cut pizza?

According to the reviews this particular model, despite the ability to switch around the blade, is not leftie-friendly.

I’ve had a lot of trouble with rotary cutters. How do you control the things, so they cut where you want to cut, and don’t slip and cut somewhere else? Yes, I’ve tried using a straightedge…

Are these any more accurate, or any easier to use, than others?

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Brand new Exacto #11 is the gold standard for paper cutting. “Brand new” being the key. They cost a dime or so and last only a short time before needing replacement. I have had a few of these dealy-ma-bobs and agree with @MarjaE that they go off track very easily. Replacing the blade isn’t cheap either leading to frustrating attempts to extend the life of a tool that is finished. I have been in more than a few studios where there is a coffee can full of used #11s waiting patiently for their retired brothers to join the party. On the other hand I have bought and tried out a lot of substitutes along the way, so there is a market for these things in the hopeful cheap guy demographic.

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Practice, a straightedge and just the right amount of pressure works best for me otherwise they’ll go drifting off somewhere unintended. I’ve got a fairly thick metal ruler, keeping it weighted or even clamped reduuces drift.
They’re great for long straight cuts, like across the width of fabric, but for curves and points, give me scissors every time. Scalpel or guillotine for other stuff like paper/card.

They’re not the perfect solution for everything, but they’re handy enough to keep around the place and for a couple of jobs, they excel for me.

Dunno about lefty-friendly, but the model I use (Fiskars comfort loop) is comfortable for me in both hands. Southpaws will want to check position of the lock/release button as that’s the only item that’s one-sided.

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Yeah, I would use them to cut counters. I never managed the hang of the thing, with or without a straightedge. I would also use the ones with the solid track and the board. Those worked better, but those never cut all the way through. I would use those, and then run the hand cutters along the groove.

I found the Olfa brand handles to be the best. They will last 5 - 10 years of daily use cutting fabric, leather, card, etc. I tried other handles and they were poorly designed.

Best results are with a good blade and a metal straightedge with a cork backing, cutting on a proper mat. Once you nick a blade on the edge of the straightedge you must toss that blade - it’s toast. I found the Olfa brand blades to last a little longer - but they are pricey. Buy in bulk packs on Ebay or try knock-off blades.

If your cutter is wobbly it is either because you have a bad handle - or do not have the round spring and screw adjusted tightly enough (Olfa handle).

With experience you can cut extremely precisely. Tight curves are an issue with the 45 mm blades. You must use enough hand pressure and cut confidently with a smooth single motion - no back and forth sawing.

And FFS - always cut AWAY from you ! No weird awkward positions where you are twisted around cutting towards yourself = dangerous and bad. The blades are super sharp and could do major damage in an unguarded/careless moment. Keep a glass jar, etc. handy to dispose of the used/nicked/dull ones.

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A straightedge for straight lines and practice. It also helps to always keep even pressure and follow the cutter with your whole arm, not just your wrist. Even if you’re cutting curves areas, if you can cut against something that’s very helpful. Before I cut out fabric for a project I trace off the pattern and cut it out right to the cutting line. That way, even without a straightedge, the cutter runs along the pattern edge.

The size of cutter you’re using also makes a difference. For tighter curves use a smaller cutter - the big 65mm cutters are for nice long straight lines.

With practice, you’ll love the rotary cutter. I have $300 worth of shears that never get used since I picked up a cutter and mat a few years ago.

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My Olfa cutters have been stable until the point where they get too old and the central post that the blade fits on has started to loosen. If the blade is screwed on tightly it should not wobble.

I am right handed. My cutting patterns are on card. I trace those onto the fabric, leather, etc. (Pro-tip: do NOT cut around your cardstock patterns as these will gradually get smaller and smaller as tiny pieces get accidentally sliced off. Always trace around the cardstock pattern instead !). I position the straightedge with my left hand, so the the cutting line is on the right side of the straightedge. I put a little weight on the straightedge while also using slight pressure with my right hand which is doing the cutting AWAY from me. The straightedge helps to sort of clamp the fabric to the cutting surface which will give you a smoother cut. If your fabric, leather, etc. starts to ripple or drag while you are cutting it means your blade is dull and should be replaced.

This style of Olfa cutter can be easily used by right or left handed folk:

I have proprioceptive issues.

I can’t tell exactly where my hands are unless I’m watching where that hand is. I have a lot of trouble doing anything that requires watching something else and watching where my hand is, or coordinating both hands at once, or watching both hands at once. I can’t type with both hands. I can type with my good hand if I watch the keyboard and my good hand. I can’t form the dynamic trislip pencil slip. I can use a sideways pencil grip, with my hand on the writing surface, but can’t write if I can’t brace my hand on the writing surface. I can’t easily use touchscreens or the like.

I can’t tell which of “these are awkward devices,” “these are my proprioceptive problems,” and “this would be moderately awkward, but becomes ridiculously so with my proprioceptive problems,” applies here.

I can hold the things with the hand pointing towards myself, I haven’t tried holding them otherwise. I always cut towards myself, I would expect even worse trouble trying to control it if I was trying to cut away from myself.

When you are holding the rotary cutter, you will (should be) cutting close to your traced line - like a few millimeters away from your hand. The hand with the straightedge just needs to be holding it down firmly enough not to slip. You do not need to watch this hand except to check that no fingers are in the way of your cutting area before you cut. It is important to very aware of your cutting line if you are making clothing(seam allowances) or something that requires precision like quilting. You really need a little bodyweight behind you to help push the blade firmly through the material. This gets more important if you are cutting something firmer/thicker like belt leather or matt board. You cannot use your weight/force as efficiently if you are cutting towards yourself.

Using the rotary cutter properly is an acquired skill. But - trying to use any tool incorrectly will only yield frustrating and occasionally dangerous results.

  • Edit* I should also emphasize that you need to be cutting on a matt that is on a stable surface -like a table that is not wobbly. Table height is also important so that you can see what is being cut. Too high and it gets tiring on your elbows and awkward. Too low is harder on your body. Cut while standing - not sitting. No trying to cut while sitting cross legged on the floor with the matt sort of beside you - no no no ! These blades are SUPER sharp and can quickly and easily cut deeply and very cleanly. You will hardly know you have been cut until you are dripping all over your project ! This tool - like many other tools, needs to be handled respectfully and cautiously because it can be very dangerous in careless or immature hands.

I think I’ve just been trying to use it like a knife. It didn’t come with any directions. But I still expect better control when cutting towards myself than when cutting away.

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Try it the other way. You will probably be surprised at how a frustrating tool suddenly becomes miraculous. There are lots of You Tube videos, esp. from quilters showing it in use. I learn faster from watching and doing v.s. reading.


This tool is great for some applications but not others - same as there are different types of hammers and mallets for specific purposes.


It looks like a toucan!

Speaking of cheap person, I routinely sharpen my x-acto blades on fine sandpaper. You would be surprised how well they come back to life. I have seen sharpeners made explicitly for x-acto blades but have never found a place to buy one.

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