Cutting Tools

Here are the cutting tools I use most often.

  1. Multi-purpose scissors - I've had these forever and I use them for practically everything non-fabric related. I heard once that cutting paper and cardboard wears scissors down faster, so these are the only ones I use for that. To give you an idea of how long a good pair of general-purpose scissors can last, I remember using these on my first costume back in 1993.
  2. Fabric scissors - These are exceptionally sharp scissors I only use for cutting fabric. I've had them for years and they've never lost their edge. They are spring-loaded - that orange tab holds them closed normally, but they spring open on their own once it is disengaged. They're quite comfortable to grip and allow for easy cloth cutting. This exact model doesn't seem to be available now, but I've linked a newer version.
  3. Small fabric scissors - These are good for precise cutting, nice and sharp. I primarily use them for fabric, but they are also very handy for trimming the flashing from rubber latex casts, and for precisely cutting plastic mesh.
  4. Angled scissors - These are sometimes sold as surgical scissors or toenail-cutting scissors. I mostly use these for trimming the flashing from rubber latex or resin casts in hard to reach areas. The bent blade makes it very easy to get places ordinary scissors can't reach!
  5. Paper trimmer This is a straight cutter for paper, which also works well on vinyl and thin cardboard. I really don't care for the big "guillotine" style cutters, both because they are less precise and because I really would like to keep all of my fingers! This style of cutter is ideal. Paper is inserted beneath the clear ruler, and the orange tab is simply slid down the length of the ruler. Some, like this one and the one linked, have a pull-out perpendicular ruler which is also really handy!
  6. Hobby knife - Also called "precision knives", these surgically sharp blades can cut through paper, foam, fabric, and just about any other thin material. X-ACTO(R) is the most common brand, though there are many others as well. The blades are easily replaceable, and many knives come with a set of replacement blades like you see here. I recommend getting one with a safety cap. Mine doesn't have one, so I have to keep it stored in its original packaging, which is not very convenient! Use these razor-sharp knives with extreme care!
  7. Box cutter - For thicker materials, like foam and cardboard, a box cutter is very handy. The blade is hidden within the handle and can be extended when needed. Some, like the ones linked, have snap-off blades that ensure you're always working with a sharp edge - this is great for foam, which can wear down a knife blade quickly! Again, these blades are very sharp, so use with caution.

Not displayed: When using a hobby knife or box cutter, a cutting mat will prevent you from cutting into the table or floor underneath the item you're working on. Self-healing cutting mats made especially for precision crafting are available. Many of them also have measurement tools printed on their surface.

Shears and wire cutters

  1. Heavy-duty snips - These multi-purpose snips are like extra-strong scissors, able to shear through materials like thin metal sheeting easily. They are great for cutting where standard scissors just don't have the power or leverage required.
  2. Wire cutters - This is a heavy duty wire cutter, able to easily cut through the 16 gauge stainless steel wire I use for many projects.
  3. Small wire cutters - These are light-duty wire cutters, best suited for thinner wire like electrical or jewelry wires. Tip - you can find these in jewelry and craft stores, but they're often much less expensive at hardware stores.

A wire stripper

  1. Wire cutter/stripper - This multi-purpose tool is capable of cutting electrical wire, as well as stripping the protective coating from the ends of wires. It also has a built-in bolt cutter. Note: This was a tool I had on-hand for stripping wires, but while it is adequate for the job, I am looking for a smaller, more precise tool to use with small electronic devices. I would not recommend a tool like this for that purpose.

A PVC pipe cutter

  1. PVC pipe cutter - These are specialized tools that allow you to make very cuts in PVC, PEX, and other kinds of plastic pipes and tubing. These tools allow you to insert a pipe and turn it slowly while exerting pressure on the cutter. A small cut will appear and deepen as you continue to rotate the pipe. Once it shears through, the pipe will come away very cleanly. This cutter is decades old but still serves me well. I highly recommend getting a specialized cutter if you plan to do much work with PVC pipe at all - the newer ratcheting ones, like the one linked, work even better than this old workhorse!

With any cutting tool, make sure you keep your fingers out of the way and don't try to force a cut. If you're having trouble cutting something, trying to force it can result in broken tools - or worse, injuries. To be on the safe side, I wear safety glasses when I'm using a hobby knife or when cutting wire that might spring up when severed. The last thing you want is a flying piece of sharp metal in your eye! Leather gloves are also a good precaution for making heavier-duty cuts.

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Categories: Costuming, Materials and Tools, Tutorials, Materials, and Tools
Tags: blade, cardboard, cutters, cutting, fabric, foam, knife, knives, metal, paper, scissors, shears, snips, tools, trimmer, wire, X-acto
Live Date: 4/14/2013 | Last Modified: 9/29/2022