I was just involved in a quite lengthy discussion about how to cut cardboard. My first instinct is to recommend a utility knife and straight edge, but I was asked about alternative time and effort-cutting methods. To be honest, I’m stumped here.
It was suggested that a Dremel type tool with rotary cutting blade can be used, but I thought this would be extremely inefficient. Plus, it would be damn near impossible to cut longer pieces straight enough.
Well what about other types of saws? In my opionion, other saws would tear away at the coardboard, leaving a jagged edge.
I would think that an oscillating tool with a fine cutting blade might work, and Sonicrafter’s SiniShear attachment would definitely work, although longer lines would again be difficult to cut straight.
I reiterated my initial recommendation – a utility knife with sharp new blades and a straight edge. I’m relatively certain that heavy duty rotary paper cutters might work as well, as would large shears, but my colleague is looking for a low-budget solution.
What would you recommend for making many straight cuts in cardboard?
Cutting cardboard with a circular saw is a ridiculously good time, but make sure you’re outdoors. Think plywood makes a lot of sawdust?
I had to cut up a clothes washer box this fall and I was surprised how clean a cut it made.
I create a cardboard cutter made of circular saw with a 4’ x 8’ table. We have tons of cardboard measured 1/2 to 3/4 thick and 7’ lenght. But the OSHA people did not like my idea he said the circular saw blade is not design to cut cardboard but it can use to woods ???. How stupid is that.
Low budget would be a utility knife with sharp blades. There are some nice battery operated scissors out there but the price goes up dramatically.
If you want a clean, straight cut, then a sharp knife + straight edge is the best way to go. If that’s too much work, then you shouldn’t be doing this project in the first place. Just go back to the sofa and open another beer.
Although the beer sounds good, I’m a teacher and just need an easy way to cut cardboard. Hmmmm, any of you guys happen to be a parent of mine who would do all of the cutting and duct taping for me? 🙂 Thanks for the suggestions!
hey, these guys definitely have something for you: https://www.make.do/ they have a serrated cardboard knife and cardboard fasteners, so you can use it for any sort of cardboard related craft project.
I use a drywall t-square and box cutter with good results. I just made a cardboard skylight insert shade out of a HDTV box.
I’ve never thought of using a saw, but my ryobi trim saw with a ply blade would probably work great, might try that out the next time.
My first job required me to cut some heavy wall (1/2″ thick) cardboard boxes. They would cut 100 boxes or so every week and had a dedicated bandsaw setup for this. Worked well, was fast and left decent cuts with a little bit of fuzzy edges.
The guys in the shipping dept for my company use utility knives when resizing cardboard boxes or creating unusual shipping boxes.
What can be more ‘low-budget’ than a utility knife and straightedge? That’s also the best and fastest method to cut cardboard.
My mom used to work on a lot of crafts projects using cardboard, and she would always use a very sharp circular rolling cutter. She thought that an exacto or utility knife would always start to pull and tear the cardboard. She usually used some kind of pad underneath. Always worked for her!
Are we talking corrugated or just paperboard? Depending on the sizes I think I’d fire up the table saw with a zero clearance insert. It works great for foam board, multiple layers of corrugated cardboard is similar.
Sawzall! 🙂 Gonna have to try a circular saw though – thanks Alan.
Seriously, utility knife and straightedge. Can’t really get any more low budget than that, and works like a charm every time.
The easiest way to cut cardboard is with a jigsaw (saber saw) and a knife blade. They actually make a knife edge blade for them but they are hard to find. This setup works effortlessly, although if you cut much the blade will get very hot, so its good to let it cool off often. I have made a number of cardboard chairs with this method.
Black & Decker SZ360 3.6-Volt Ni-Cad Cordless Power Scissors
Skil 2352-01 3.6-Volt Lithium-Ion Multi-Cutter
ZipSnip Cordless Cutter
An interested party
Thank you, the only person who actually gave me names of tools
We use our panel saw with a diamond tile blade to make packaging for our products. Works great.
I have to cut lots of boxes down to flat pieces frequently. I’ve used scissors, what a pain. The Black & Decker battery operated scissors work on thinner cardboard but tend to bind a lot. Utility knife requires a lot of muscle and gets old after a few boxes. I’m going to try to find the jig saw knife blades mentioned earlier. The thing that works best so far is an electric knife, like a turkey carving knife. Least amount of effort of things I’ve tried.
I cut down cardboard nearly daily. I’ve spend much time experimenting with this. I will give you a complete run down of every avenue i’ve tested.
If cost is no barrier:
water cutter is the best (water you say? no perceivable wetness)
laser cutter is next best (discoloration does occur, but you actually have a chance at using this kind of machine, unlike a water cutter, many people (mostly overpaid people who change their hobby every week) can actually afford this too)
vinyl cutter: most vinyl cutters are not designed to cut a flat thick surface like corregated cardboard, as they take rolls of flat films/papers. unidirectional blades that look almost like plotter pens sometimes seen on vinyl cutters or come as add ons for plotters without rotating heads that come to a pin point WONT work on cardbard.
flatbed plotter w/ knife: a flatbed plotter with a knife CAN and WILL do this well with the follow exception that i personally feel is not acceptable: cutting cardboard with a straight blade dulls it faster than most things you’d cut with a sharp utility knife. blade changing would occur CONSTANTLY if your volume was high. a dull knife and a sharp knife makes an impressively obvious difference in terms of work to cut and aesthetic of cut. i’d recommend against this.
circular saw of any kind (table/hand/etc): blade make a big difference in cut. table is better than hand for the obvious reasons when precision matters (and i personally believe it usually does for cardboard, which is why i say no to this class generally) ultra-fine finish 96T or (not sure if this intuitive or not to you) a tile-cutting or other abrasion-based blade. two problems that may really be a no-go for you: corrugated cardboard is an extreme analog of wood grain and the effects of cutting techniques have a very contrasting effect on “ripping” vs “crosscutting” cardboard if you will call it that, obviously due to the very specific structural engineering behind cardboard and the variance of effect a blade changes design) secondly, the loss from the generally wide kerf of a circular saw blade (like 1/16th of an inch) is pointlessly wide for the medium. theres a bunch of weird small model table saws, these might work ok but you will have to try yourself, as i have not.
rotary cutter: make sure you have a wide-diameter blade, and a guided one hand+matt ‘works’ but problems are analog to circular hand vs table. therefore the more commercial/industrial big 15-sheet rotary trimmers on a steel guide are AWESOME for this job. great for both crosscut and rip of cardboard. blades are very durable, designed with the abrasiveness of paper in mind, depth is good. some better deeper ones can even cut 2 sheets deep of cardboard. BUT you are stuck to straight lines. if this is a concern, well, go get the lazer cutter or the last option.
band saw: if you have to go with a power tool go with this. less kerf, better cut.
jigsaw: kerf wider, poor cut.
utility knife: this really is the fastest, easiest, least messy, cheapest, technically best cut quality (tied with rotary, and ZERO KERF!) of the mechnical blades (not lazer/water). but utility knives are many (box cutter/xacto/break-away tip disposables) and their sharpness and durability is variable. xacto isnt the best unless you have a good good waterstone knife sharpener ( or 8000 grit+ system to sharpen with, like the “scary-sharp method”) because you will be sharpening it a lot, so please be good at it, if youre not then dont use this technique. box cutter blades are more durable than xacto and tend to sharpen better. inteerstingly ive have the best success with those cheap disposable break-away utility knives in the case where sharpening is not an option. for some reason these things are pretty sharp, and break it off!) the xacto has a lot of blade options so non-straight lines are an option, but you need SKILL to use this technique for non-straight-edge-guided cuts. so if you have skill and need non-straight cuts go with this, otherwise go with the guided rotary cutter, unles youre broke then go with the break away. also all the people who say use power tools, are you kidding me? just consider space, power, cleanup and kerf compared to these last two options.
forgot to mention if you do go with a laser cutter, keep in mind that its kerf is non-zero and perceivable. rotary is more-or-less zero just like utility knife, and in my opinion, better if you are straight-cutting usiung a guided one.
What about an electric kniff? you know the old electric one our grandparents used to cut the Ham or Turkey at Holiday dinner. Has anyone tried this?
While I can see an experienced person using a electric kniff, I sincerely doubt your average person would be able to use this item without a great deal of practice without the potential for cutting them selves or damaging the surface they are working on. I’ve heard of people using routers with very honed blades, but I think that is just going over kill.
I just use my Ofla brand snap knife or my Ofla brand utility knife to cut cardboard. Rather than spend more than 50-100+ dollars on a machine rather than $3-5 dollars? Especially since all Ofla brand products are made in Japan as well.
SKIL makes a wonderful small hand held rechargeable battery operated tool that cuts leather, cardboard, linolium, carpets, etc. that is great. Its about the size of an electric shaver. It sells at Lowe’s for about $34.00. I purchased one to use on my crafts.
What is the model of the skil saw you mentioned?
Also tin snips work pretty.
I make cardboard working models of tool and kitchen holders before I make the finished product. I often have to cut small squares, rectangles and slits to accommodate knives and shop tools. I use a serrated stead knife to do the job. You will need a steak knife that you use at the table and not one with large teeth. Use it just like a saw.
I use an electric turkey carver knife. It works well to quickly break down a box. For straight cuts on a flat piece I put a bend in it where I want to cut, it helps guide the blade. The blade is too long for the job so I have to be extra careful.
I need to make custom size boxes. To make the cuts for the flaps there needs to be about a quarter inch or so gap so the flaps don’t interfere with each other. I tried a router with a dovetail bit, but it leaves a ragged edge. I’m in search of a better bit or a better way.
I use really sharp lots of pointy bits scissors
I use a SKIL CUTTER. It has about a 1 1/2 ” blade, is auto sharp I misplaced the manual but it has #2352 and a 108 numbers. 3.6 v rechargeable. cuts cardboard,rugs etc. very handy. from Wallyworld maybe 3 yrs ago. For around the house it’s great.
My Japanese wife gave me a knife with finely serrated edges on both sides, sort of like a steak knife but sharpened on both sides with a rounded off tip like a pair of safety scissors. The cut is not especially precise but it is lightning fast and much much easier than a utility knife or any of those things. Just saw with it and you can cut curves, sharp corners, etc. I have had it for over ten years and it is still as good as new with just occasional usage.
Ok, it’s called a 段ボールカッター (danbohru kattah = cardboard box cutter); asked my wife what they’re called in hopes it helps someone here…
There is one here on Amazon.co.jp (Japanese Amazon). Sorry for the Japanese on this…there is a $10 one on Amazon.com here but it is not the one I have.
Gary "Wiz" Burns
Wow! Thanks so much for that! I just ordered one! I have to package my carvings and wondered if there was a better way to cut cardboard!
The Canary Cardboard cutters are brilliant.
I give one of these as a gift whenever a friend moves house.
Better than a box cutter in every way: faster, safer, more satisfying.
YouTube review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9O-cPrAv3_4
The best way is the knife edge sabre ( hand jigsaw) blade. I am on my last one from Craftsman and cannot locate a replacement Sears does not carry them now.
With all the internet shopping, we have a lot of cardboard boxes to break down and could sure use some more of those blades. They cut thru cardboard lile butter.
They are 3 1/8 inch long are great.
Have you looked at Bosch?
A few years ago I had a great coupon and bought some Bosch-made Craftsman jigsaw blades.
I just made some doll furniture and I used a Rada paring knife. I kept the sharpener close. But really didn’t need it. These are double cell cardboard boxes from my husbands PD at home dialysis treatments. We have LOTS of boxes, lots! I really want to find aomething to cut a better curve. By the way, the furniture turned out awesome. Not bad for no pattern and just playing. They are for an American Girl doll 18″.
My wife is on PD and we’ve got lots of boxes! I’m looking at making small sculptures but need clean edge curved edges.
I need a cutting tool for cardboard boxes, I work in a steel foundry so these are not office boxes. I get very big and thick size boxes that I have to cut down into pieces and dump into my recycling compactor . I use a blade to do the job but it is a lot of work to cut many of them using a blade, these boxes are a half inch to a inch thick, I need something that will cut them down with less labor. any suggestions/
Hand held battery powered rotary cutter and keep a utility knife handy too.
50 years ago I worked on some docks. My boss came back from town with a big cheap pocket knife. He used a grinder to put a serrated edge on it working on both sides of the blade. He used it to cut up some tires. He seemed pretty happy with how it worked. Sounds pretty similar to the Japanese knife described above.
If you’re cutting cardboard boxes up and the cuts don’t need to be very accurate, try cutting at a 45 degree angle to the horizontal rather than at 90 degrees to the horizontal. Using a simple craft knife that brakes off at intervals. The difference in the effort needed and the effectiveness is quite striking.
I just showed this to my wife. WHY does this 45 degree trick work? It makes no sense.
I know, and try as I might, and I have asked some very bright engineers, I’m unable to find a plausible answer. Point is though …… It works !! ……. Tom
There are cardboard knives out there. I bought this one and it works well: https://www.amazon.com/CANARY-Corrugated-Cardboard-Fluorine-DC-190F/dp/B008RIS0UY
I use it to cut boxes. I’m not sure if or how things change if you’re cutting cardboard for artistic or crafts purposes.