I get a bunch of emails each month asking how I make my papercuts and the materials I use.
I thought it might be a good idea to make some posts about my techniques so others can give it a try themselves. Plenty of room in the world for more papercutters!
I'll be focusing on knives. I use exclusively Xacto products just because they are, in my opinion, the best available. Trust me, I've tried them all.
A quick note on terminology: Knife is the handle, blade is the sharp part that the knife holds.
Here are my two main knives (I have pretty much every product Xacto makes, but these are my most used ones)
Xacto X3627 Gripster Soft Grip Knife- available everywhere
and my piece de resistance: Xacto 3051 Professional Swivel Knife. (shown with some blue painters tape to thicken it a bit and make it more comfortable for my hands)
Xacto no longer makes the 3051, and I only have one that was given to me by a friend who did rubylith cutting for billboards in the 70s (that's how old the knife is). If you find one, I'll buy it off you! Actually, my birthday is coming up on Feb 3rd...
The Gripster takes standard #11 blades. I use this knife for all my straight cuts as it is very easy to cut a perfectly straight cut with a standard xacto knife/blade.
The Pro swivel knife, however, is pretty much the greatest thing ever and I'd love for Xacto to start producing the knife again (are you listening Xacto???)
This swivel knife, unlike the swivel knife Xacto makes today, is entirely made from metal. There are tiny ball bearings that allow the blade to rotate in the knife without having any wiggle to the blade. The currently available swivel knife allows way to much movement of the blade inside the knife, so trying to put the tip of the knife exactly in the right spot is difficult because the blade wiggles a bit as you press it into the paper (bad).
While they say you cant use the current swivel knives available at stores (they come in a tiny plastic tube and each blade is encased in a white piece of plastic), I found that you can still use the blades for the old style knife, you just need to take the blade out of the plastic case. This is very easy.
I really wish Xacto did not package these blades with the point down as they are very sharp yet delicate. When they get jostled around on the shelf or in shipping, the tips can sometimes break off in the package. At $1 each, I don't want to waste ANY blades in the package and I'll check every one before I buy them.
I use a pair of pliers and squeeze the plastic case just below the blade. This crushes the plastic and loosens the blade, then I take the pliers, pull the blade out, and put the blade directly into the pro swivel knife, which holds the blade in a brass mechanism. A bit of work, but totally worth it for the stability of the pro knife.
The best thing about the pro knife is that the blade swivels inside the knife so incredibly smoothly, you can cut your work just like you would drawing with a pen. Here's a video of my using my swivel knife to cut a piece. It doesn't cut straight lines very well though, that's why I use the traditional knife with #11 blades.
I hope this was helpful to all of you. Please feel free to ask any questions in the comments, I read them all, and I'll try to answer them all.
I'll be doing another post on paper, adhesive, and design.