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Cutting by Hand

November 11
As promised, today, I will outline the steps I use to cut material by hand. I’ve been meaning to post about this for a long time because this is a huge issue for any bookbinder or book artist…or any artist. No matter your preferred concentration, it is common to find yourself in the position of having to cut several pieces of board or paper down to consistent sizes. The process can be frustrating and time consuming but there are a few ways to make it easier on yourself all while being consistent.

For each method, there is a corresponding gallery of images. Click on one of the images to see photographs of the steps described. Or, see the post with large photos under “Downloads and Tutorials”.
Instructions are for right-handed cutters. If you are left-handed, just know you will want to reverse the images and the instructions for yourselves.

Method 1 – best for cutting long material
I have two methods but both start the same way. Begin by making a left stop with a thick ruler (not cork backed) or a piece of metal stock. I use a piece of aluminum stock 1/8 inch thick and 1 inch wide. Using any clamps from the hardware store, I clamp the piece to my table on top of my cutting mat lining it up with a line on the mat. Using the grid on the mat, I then mark my cutting line with masking tape so I know where I will line up my ruler each time. If your cut falls between the marks on the mat, simply put down tape on the mat and mark the cutting line with a pen or pencil on each piece of tape. Even more accurate is to cut through that masking tape and peel away the left side. Using a weight on my ruler, I can cut long lengths of paper or board without the ruler shifting during the cuts.

Method 2 – best for cutting short material
The second method begins with a left stop like the first method. Next, instead of using masking tape to mark your cuts, place the ruler or straight edge you will use for cutting on the cutting mat where your cuts need to be. Then, put a weight on the ruler while you tape stops (board scraps thicker than the dimension of the material to be cut), on the left side of the ruler, to the cutting mat. Remove the weighted ruler and place your material to be cut against the left stop. Your straight edge then butts up to the taped down stops and you will cut on the right. This way, there is no lining up your ruler when it is time to cut. If you’ve tape the cutting stops securely, you just put everything in place and go to town. This is best for cutting short material because it is not always possible to have enough room to fit the cutting stops on either side of the long material.