Friday, January 20, 2012

Paper Cutting 101

Today, I wanted to start a series called Paper Cutting 101. I want to introduce you to some of the tricks of the trade that I have learned along the way. I will introduce you to a project that I am working on and show you step by step how I do a paper cutting.

The impetus of this series was a question that I received regarding loss of feelings in one's fingers after completing a paper cutting project. The biggest problem that people have is that they grip their cutting tool too hard. Rather than letting the cutting tool cut the paper, people apply too much pressure to the cutting tool while thinking that the extra pressure will cut the paper better.

As a first issue, I want to introduce you to a collection of cutting tools that I use. The most common tool used by people is the Exacto knife. The Exacto knife is held in the hand very much like a pencil or pen. While this grip is familiar, it can lead to hand and joint problems because people apply too much finger pressure in order to cut paper.

There are three common types of Exacto knives. In the picture below, the knife in the middle is the most common on the market--in this case, it is covered in rubber for ease of grip. The first version is an ergonomically correct handle that places added weight in the back of the handle to offset the pressure normally used when cutting. The knife on the right is a swivel blade that is best used when cutting curves.

The knife that I use most often in my scalpel which is the same knife that doctors and surgeons use. Like a Exacto knife, the blades are exchangeable. The major differences are the weight and handle design. The profile of the handle is slim and flat (rather than round like the Exacto handle). The benefit of this handle is that it fits the web of the hand between thumb and forefinger. For my work, I use a rounded blade and a straight blade.

Other tools that I use for a variety of purposes are snap blades, punches, and pin tools. Snap blades (like Olfa blades) are useful when cutting thicker materials (like foam core, etc.). Also, I extend the blade when I need to mitre corners when bookbinding. This type of blade allows you to snap off the dull blade that then exposes the new sharper blade. Rather than cutting small circles, I use hole punches for nice clean circles. I will write a separate post about hole punches-especially the Japanese hole punch. I also use a pin tool to punch holes in paper when I need start and stopping points in paper. This will be explained in a separate post as well.

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