How to Cut Cardboard – A Complete Guide

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Cutting cardboard is a little trickier than cutting paper; even more, if it’s a corrugated cardboard sheet. However, at some point, everyone has to get down to cut a piece of cardboard from their cardboard boxes. Crafters do it all the time and if you are new to cutting crafting or just want to cut your cardboard box, you have come to the right place. After doing some research I’ve compiled this comprehensive guide to cutting cardboards using your garage tools, professional cutters, and even die cutting machines.

Top Cardboard Cutters for Your Project

Cardboard Scissors 

Believe it or not, there is actually scissors designed specifically to cut thick corrugated cardboard. Although they don’t make a clean cut as other cutting tools, it is enough for most projects, especially if you are prototyping. Most crafters use specialized cardboard scissors to cut corrugated cardboard, cartons and other paper stock.

For paper, cardstock and thin cardboards you can use scissors such as Fiskars Recycled and Westcott 8 inch. You can use Fiskars Razor Edge and Titan Elite for chipboard and light corrugated cardboard sheets,  For thick corrugated cardboard paper, you can use Fiskars ShopBoss and Canary Cardboard Scissors.

Utility Knives 

If you want a more clean cut and more control over the cutting process, a utility knife would be the best option. Utility knives can be used for other purposes as well; plus, you can carry it around with you in your pocket. On the other hand, the utility knife blade is thinner than scissors and its edge could wear out over time; but they are inexpensive and won’t hurt your wallet to buy a new one.

Utility knives are a great cutting tool for thick corrugated cardboard and cardboard rolls or tubes. They are many popular brands you can choose from such as Husky Razor Knife, Stanley, and Alltrade utility knives which are retractable, easy to change the blade, and can handle even the thickest corrugated cardboard paper.

Rotary Cutters

Rotary cutters are like power tools for cardboard cutting. Electrical rotary cutters product sharp, straight cuts which make it worth the price if you are a professional crafter. Rotary cutters would be enough for most of your projects that involve cutting corrugated cardboards, be it for craft, signboard or repurposing cardboard boxes into something else. Some of the best rotary cutters are made by Paragon and SKIL. Other than that, you can buy a desktop machine and specialized cutter such as Dremel Multi-Max.

Paper Cutting Machines

If you need a professional result, you need a paper cutting machine such as Silhouette Cameo and Cricut Explore. These computer-controlled machines are much like desktop printers, only they cut instead of printing. These printers can be used for cutting paper, to fabric and even leather to get a precision cut design, almost giving a laser cut like finish. You can purchase one for home use for under $300

Laser Cutting Machine

Laser cutters are the ultimate cutting tools for complicated projects, but is done by a large CNC machine such will be very expensive and inefficient if you buy one. However, you can rent it for your complicated projects. If you are an eCommerce store owner and want to create something unique out of corrugated cardboard, you could rent or take service from Laser CNC cardboard cutters such as Ponoko.

What is the Best Way to Cut a Cardboard?

You might say, a pair of scissors should be good enough to cut cardboard, but that doesn’t sharp cuts, except for making small straight cuts on thin cardboard boxes. Here are some better options:

  • Using X-ACTO knives

A box knife or an X-ACTO knife is the best method to cut cardboard or any thickness. Simply trace out the shape you want to cut using a pencil and then score the top kraft paper surface it with a knife. Instead of cutting it out in the first go it is advised to make multiple passes, cutting deeper each time. Forcefully cutting the first attempt would usually take you to another direction, and you might end up with a shape you don’t want. Be it for thin carton papers or thick corrugated cardboard paper, a box knife is the best solution.

  • Using Hacksaw

     

For thicker cardboards such as a double wall or triple wall corrugated boards, a hacksaw is a much convenient option. It is the fastest and most accurate way to cut thick corrugated boards; it’s cutting a piece of wood. A mini hacksaw is the best tool for such projects; however, you can use any saw with a reciprocating blade. It is great to make cuts in straight lines but cutting out curved lines could be a little tricky, no that it can’t be achieved.

  • Laser Cutters

     

For more complex design and sharp cutout, a laser cutter is the best option. It is typically done by business owners who want to produce consumer products using corrugated cardboard. However, you avail services to cut your cardboard using a laser cutter if you are creating an intricate piece of craft.

How to Cut a Circle Out of Cardboards?

Cutting a circle out of thick corrugated cardboard is common in most crafts. It does take some preparation and few tools to cut out a circle especially if it’s not from the edge of the cardboard. Most crafter frequently requires to cut some shape in the middle of the cardboard. 

Whether you are cutting a circle or any shape from the edge of the cardboard or the center, you must have the right tools such as craft knife, and scissors. If you are using scissors, match the blade length to the size of the circle you want to cut; for small circles, use smaller scissors and for large circles, use larger scissors.

If you are cutting using a craft knife, remember it is going to pierce through the corrugated cardboard and will cut the underlying surface. Therefore, use a craft cutting mat instead of cutting it straight on the table. 

Next, draw a circle in the at the center of the cardboard using a circular object or compass. If you are using scissors, first punch a hole in the center and use the tip of the scissor to slide in and cut out the area piece by piece. When you remove all the pieces, you will be left with a perfectly circular cutout in the cardboard. On the other hand, if you need circular cardboard, you can do this by first scoring the circular trace mark and cut it using a pair of scissors cut through the edges and running it on the trace. However, if you want to save the rest of the cardboard and just want the circular part, you will need a craft knife or a utility knife. 

How to Crease or Fold a Cardboard?

Often in crafting using corrugated cardboard, you would need to create or make a fold in a straight line. Here, we are going to discuss how you can achieve that with perfection.

Corrugated cardboard is a sturdy material and has a fluted layer in between. Making a clean fold on cardboard is not as easy as folding paper.

Folding a Corrugated Cardboard along the Grain

  1. Place your corrugated cardboard piece on a table and look for its edges. The wavy line of the fluted medium visible as lines or ridges on the kraft paper is call grain. We will be making a fold along the grain which is much easier.
  2. Mark the area where you can the crease with a pencil using a ruler. Then take a pointy tool which is a little curved on the tip and not exactly sharp, and run it on the traced line using pressure. It will create a little depression along on the line and will make it easier for you to make a fold.
  3. Now take a ruler and slowly fold the cardboard on the crease. This will give you are sharp fold, but if you want a ‘U’ shaped fold, simply fold the cardboard on the grain without creating a crease. You can do it by pressing it down along the edge of the table.

Folding a Corrugated Cardboard Against the Grain

  1. Folding corrugated cardboard against the grain, be it perpendicular to the grain or at any angle, you will need to crease the cardboard.
  2. First, draw a line with a pencil using a ruler, the crease the line using a tool such as pointed dowel to make a groove on the traced line.
  3. Now, fold the cardboard by pressing it against the ruler to create a fold. Do it multiple times to prevent damage. You could also do it part by part if the crease is longer than the ruler.

Die Cut Cardboard Boxes

For a corrugated sheet of cardboard, die cutting means cutting out a single piece of cardboard in a shape that can be folded to make a box. Most home-based e-commerce companies need die-cut cardboard boxes. If you want to do it at home, it wouldn’t look as professional as it should, but if you will be using it just once for your personal purpose, you can do it using a ruler and a craft cutter.

Die cut boxes are typically made in companies using large die press or die cutter. First, the engineer would design the sheet of cardboard based on the box’s storing quantity. Then the boxes are customized by adding company logo, message, handing signs, product info, etc and fed into the die press that will precisely cut the sheets of corrugated cardboards based on the design.

Cutting Out Shapes Using Die Cutting Machines at Home

If you want to cut out little shapes of colored board and paper, you can use a portable die cutter at home. However, it may not cut shapes out of thick corrugated cardboard sheets. But, it works great for other types of craft paper.

There are manual die cutting machines and powered ones. It comes with a lot of dies which are basically cut out steel shapes which when pressed on the paper, the paper is cut in the shape of the die. Professional crafts frequently use die cutting machines to create paper cutouts; however, it can also be used to die cut fabric, leathers and other types of boards. 

For manual die cutting machines, a piece of craft paper is placed on the platform, over which the die of the desired shape is placed. The die is placed where the cut is required. Once the paper and die are positioned, the lever is cranked by hand which feeds the platform into the machine. The machine basically applies uniform pressure on the platform where the die cuts the paper in its shape.

The process is simple but it has a tradeoff. You can only cut shapes depending on the dies that came with the machine. Although technically you can create your own dies at your workshop out of metal but could damage the machine significantly, leaving you with a damaged machine and a void warranty.

If you want to have paper cut-outs based on your need, you should buy a digital die cutter such as from Silhouette and Cricut. It doesn’t require any die to punch out paper cutouts, rather uses a blade to cut material. It is accompanied by a computer software where you design your shapes which is used to feed the die cutter.

How to Create a Hole in a Cardboard Sheet?

Often times crafters have to cut small holes on the cardboard sheets for their projects. A utility knife or scissors may cut through the cardboard they may leave rough edges especially if the corrugated cardboard is thick. For a more precise cut, you can use a compass-style circle cutter, which is much easier than cutting using a knife or a scissor.

  1. First off, cover the work surface with a craft mat or discarded sheet of corrugated cardboard so that you don’t scar your table. Place the to-be-cut-out piece of corrugated cardboard on top of the prepared surface.
  2. Now, adjust the arm of the cutting tool to half the circle’s diameter you want to cut. If your circle cutter doesn’t have measurements, you can use a ruler to figure out and adjust the diameter.
  3. Draw a dot on the point of the center, using which you will be cutting a circle on the cardboard sheet.
  4. Set the pivot point of the cutter on the dot and rotate the handle on the top of the cutter around the circle and press the blade. Now, pop out the cardboard circle and your project is done.

How to Punch a hole in Cardboard Sheet?

Some intricate crafts require a small hole in the sheet, which should typically be done by hole punchers. But what if you don’t have the puncher and still need a small hole on the cardboard! In this section, I have explained how to use already available tools in the toolbox or garage to punch a hole in the cardboard sheet.

  • Punching through a stack of craft paper

    To punch a hole in a stack of craft paper or cardboard, a drill with a drill bit will be a safe option. Stack the craft papers of cardboard and align them to your need. Next press it down using some weights on top of it; you can use books, metal tools, bricks, etc. Select a drill bit depending on the size of hole you need to drill. Drill a test hole on a bunch of scrap cardboard to see if you get the required hole size. Mark a dot with a pencil on the top sheet, then drill down a hole all a way through the stack of papers of cardboards. The process is simple for a stack of papers, leather, metal foils, etc.

  • Using an Awl

    An awl is a pointed metal rod with a spherical handle at the end. Don’t stress on the handle, it could be in any shape. It too efficiently punches holes through papers, cardboard, and even plastic. Use several scrap corrugated cardboard sheets as a base and rest the craft paper on top of the base. Rest the whole setup on a sturdy surface such as a table. Similarly, if you have a few pieces of craft papers to punch at a time, you should align it well and use a small weight to keep it in position. Next, mark a dot on the upper sheet and push the awl through the cardboard or craft papers. You could also use a hammer if you are punching through a stack of cardboard or thin metal. However, punching a hole with an awl will leave a protruding backside, which has to be sanded down or trimmed to get a smooth hole.

  • Using Nails

    If you need a narrow hole, you could use iron nails or thick needles. We think thick needles should be a good option for ease of work. Similarly, place a few layers of scrap cardboard or another protective barrier. Place the cardboard or paper on top of the prepared base and punch a hole using the nails or needles. If you need a widen the hole you can use a skewer.

  • Using Eyelet tool set

    It can be used to punch seamless holes in thin materials such as craft papers, leather, or thin cardboard. It will have a number of dyes, which lets you select a hole size for the project. Slide the paper of cardboard and squeeze the jaws to punch a hole. You could also use a punch-and-die set. And, this has to be hammered on the surface of the cardboard to punch a hole.

How to Create Cardboard Cut and Slot?

We will create a small ‘X’ pattern using the cardboard cut and slot technique. Its application is many in commercial uses and even more in crafting.

  1. Cut out two pieces of corrugated cardboard sheets into the size of a Snickers bar.
  2. Draw two lines from the middle of the sides intersecting at the center of the cardboard cutout.
  3. Now place one piece of the cardboard on another vertically to measure the thickness of the cardboard 
  4. Draw the thickness of the board perpendicular to the length. It should be parallel to the breath, all the way to the intersecting point.
  5. Use a craft knife to cut out the drawn cardboard thickness a little narrower than the actual thickness of the cardboard.
  6. Repeat the same process for another cardboard sheet.
  7. Now slot the two pieces at the cutout to make an ‘X.’

Conclusion

Cardboard boxes do hold-up well even after cut-out to pieces, which makes it an ideal choice by crafters. You could also use rigid boards and cartons. But, they are either too tough to work with or too flimsy to be used. However, they are used in many conditions for crafts. Cutting corrugated cardboard takes patience and some skill. If you are new, don’t be let down just because you couldn’t get it right the first time. If you want to take on the hobby of crafting, learn to cut like a pro at much less time.

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