Cutting Tools

The Classroom Cut-Ups: All Grown Up

Many people can remember the craft-making they did in school. It involved gluing cotton balls to construction paper, coloring with markers, and sprinkling an obscene amount of glitter everywhere. There was lots of clipping and cutting going on, too. The standard classroom cutting tools included scissors, guillotine paper cutters, and a handheld paper hole punch. These items worked fine for the schoolroom arts and crafts for kids, but times have changed, people have grown, and their crafting implements have matured, as well. The cutting tools needed to do arts and crafts for adults must be sharper, smarter, and more accurate in their actions than their schoolyard counterparts.

Take scissors, for example. Most people think about the scissors they had in school, and recall them as being small and plastic. They were light, could be purchased at any store, stowed easily in a pencil case, and were perhaps the best scissors for cutting paper, whether it be from a notebook or ream of construction paper. The paper scissors could also be used to cut up yarn, stickers, and tape, which made them invaluable tools for making holiday decorations, like Halloween arts and crafts or Thanksgiving arts and crafts.

These children's scissors would not be of much use to grown-ups making crafts today, however. One reason for this is their propensity to jam up during use and tear material they are trying to cut through. Many adults construct their arts and crafts using supplies that are not cheap, like gold leaf sheets, decorative paper, delicate films, and sheer fabric. It is imperative that the scissors they use will not mangle these stuffs, or else the projects will turn out looking poorly, and the folks will have to spend a lot of money to get new supplies. Instead of using the tacky, potentially ruinous, children's scissors, grown-ups prefer non-stick scissors because they will not gum up, and can cut through material with precision. They may visit an online store to buy Fiskars Non-Stick Scissors, or some other comparable brand.

Another reason adults purchase advanced cutters is because they can do more than just sever stuff. Some crafting scissors will leave a decorative edge behind on materials. Pinking shears, for example, put a wavy edge on the material they are cutting through. Fringe scissors turn a medium's borders into delicate strips. Other craft scissors can leave a semi-circle, or zigzag pattern on paper and textiles. Many different kinds of arts and crafts scissors are available for sale in fabric warehouses and art supply stores. A few retailers even sell craft scissor sets, which conveniently feature several pairs of shears with different design-making edges.

Some people do not like to utilize traditional scissors for certain crafts, because doing so will make the projects take longer. Cutting circular shapes out of construction paper, for example, takes forever with a pair of regular scissors. A circle cutter for paper, or compass circle cutter will accomplish the task much more quickly. Such cutters pivot 360 degrees to slice out a circle of any material easily. Quilters also lament how long it takes to cut up small pieces of fabric with heavy dressmaking scissors. Those shears are meant for cutting smoothly through large sections of cloth, and not suitable for cutting out little bits. Many people have turned to using rotary cutters for this task. Rotary cutter blades are very sharp, and can pierce through several layers of material stacked on top of one another. It is speedier to make quilting patches using an Olfa rotary cutter or Fiskars rotary cutter, but a cutting mat should be put down beforehand to protect the surface the fabric is resting on. Many sewing shops now sell rotary cutters, but since they can cut so much more than fabric, they can be found on the online catalog of any arts and crafts store, too.

For decades, schools have utilized paper cutters, or guillotine paper cutters, to quickly chop out large numbers of forms, documents, tests, award certificates, and reading materials for their students. A guillotine paper cutter consists of a thick base with a solid steel blade mounted on its side. On the same edge as this blade there is a spring-mounted arm which is also a steel blade, and it has a handle at one end. When the arm is pressed down, the two blades make a scissoring motion, and easily cut through materials like paper, thin sheets of metal, cardboard, and plastic. Many teachers find these kinds of cutters helpful to when they have to disseminate a big amount of paperwork, however, students could still injure their fingers while operating them. A lot of schools now purchase guillotine paper cutters with finger-guards to prevent such accidents.

Some artists and crafty moms would like to buy guillotine paper cutters to use at home, but the presence of children and safety issues dissuade them from doing so. Fortunately, many manufacturers of paper cutting devices make smaller paper trimmers that are perfect for home use. A Martha Stewart Paper Trimmer, for example, is diminutive and lightweight. It can be easily stowed away after use, so the kids will not play with it and injure themselves. Rotary paper trimmers are also good to have when crafting with kids about. Instead of having one long exposed blade for cutting, a rotary paper trimmer has a circular blade that glides down a covered track to slice through material. The blade is impossible to reach without removing the cover, so there is little chance of someone getting injured while using it. Most rotary paper trimmers, like the Fiskars Rotary Paper Trimmer and Carl Rotary Trimmer, can also do more than cut paper. They can perforate it or score it without actually cutting through. These paper trimmers cost a lot more than guillotines, but many hobbyists are willing to pay the higher price for the precision work.

Another cutting staple that has made its way from kids’ hands to crafters’ tables is the paper hole punch. The single circle paper punch is often used by teachers to make holes in educational materials, which are then put on metal rings and flipped through by students. When the class makes pieces of paper art that need to be hung, the hole punch is used to create the necessary puncture in the artwork for the string to pass through. Most teachers also have a 3-hole paper punch, which makes three identical and equally spaced holes in paper stacked several layers thick. When the punched papers are dispersed to the class, the students can easily secure them in a three-ring binder for later usage.

An adult who likes doing arts and crafts will take using the classroom hole punch to a completely different level. Instead of buying the traditional small-circle punch, he/she will purchase a custom paper punch, or perhaps an entire paper punch set that includes many different designs. The paper punches can then be utilized to put the finishing touches on a plethora of homemade items. For example, a person can make nice cardstock into a card, and give it a beautiful border with a decorative paper punch. He/she could use an elephant paper punch if the card was for a child, or a heart-shaped paper punch for a valentine. Another craft-lover can give his/her holiday-themed hanging window medallions added flair with a star paper punch or snowflake paper punch.

The paper shapes cut out by the punches are also useful to have when making crafts at home. For instance, the little paper butterflies made by a butterfly paper punch can be used to adorn birthday gifts wrapped in solid-colored paper. Sparkling stars can be punched out of colored foil and used as party confetti. Even flowers and leaves can be made with colorful tissue paper, a flower paper punch, and leaf paper punch, and then strung together on wire to create 3-D paper flowers for a Mother's Day bouquet. The applications for craft paper punches are endless, and it is not unusual for people to develop a paper punch addiction. Decorative paper punches easy to find. Almost every arts and crafts store carries paper-punching products. Some of the most popular ones are Martha Stewart craft punches. Her website features lots of ideas for unique crafts to make with them.

Grown-ups often wind up working with mediums that are stronger than the ones children encounter at school. To cut through these materials, the adults will need stronger tools than the classroom has to offer. They will need utility knives, which have heavy-duty blades for severing rope, scraping wood, trimming plastic, and sawing through cardboard. These knives come in many different sizes and lengths, and can have fixed or folded blades. Hardware stores and home improvement centers have large selections of the best utility knives, but department stores also carry them.

Arts and crafts stores sell smaller versions of utility knives that are easier to wield and cut out intricate pieces with. They are little more than fine razorblades mounted on pencil-like bodies made out of aluminum, and most people refer to them as X-acto knives. They are very popular among hobbyists, especially photographers, stamp collectors, and model-makers. X-acto knife blades are very sharp, and perform with great precision. They can trim balsa strips, sculpt model-making foam, and render paper, foil and film into little bits which can then be manipulated with ease. X-acto blades are replaceable, and most models come with several spares in case they get broken or worn down quickly.

Most people who use advanced cutting tools like fabric shears, utility knives, or X-acto knives when they make crafts put down a cutting mat beforehand. Cutting mats are rectangular pieces of vinyl or rubber that serve two functions: they will protect surfaces during material cuttings, and provide the craft- maker with measurement tools to ensure that the cutting is done precise and evenly. The materials comprising them are extremely durable, and the self-healing cutting mats can survive for a reasonably long period of time after being sliced and nicked by errant blades. Most stores stock cutting mats alongside their utility and craft knives. Custom cut mats can be ordered from an art supply store's online catalog.

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