Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Tools of the Trade ~ The Rotary Cutter

When I am cutting a quilt I spend a lot of time looking for my rotary cutter(s).  I guess I am a messy quilter; I don't fold and return fabric as I go, rather allow it all to pile up until ... I can't find anything.  Amidst a lost rotary cutter crisis I was asked the question "How many rotary cutters do you need?"


Well, I actually don't need all that many but I do have a favorite cutter.  After just over a decade of sewing I have accumulated a total of four rotary cutters, all are OLFA brand cutters.  Three of the four cutters are 45mm Rotary Cutters and  the fourth one is a smaller 28mm Rotary Cutter.


The Olfa 28mm Rotary Cutter is great for small scale projects and I have found it useful for cutting around straight-edge and curved templates.  The smaller the size of the blade the easier it is to trace around plastic templates.  I don't use this particular rotary cutter very often.

I almost always use the larger 45mm Rotary Cutter for cutting quilts, and my pick of the bunch has to be the "Quick Change Rotary Cutter" ~ I use this cutter almost exclusively. The split blade cover provides extra safety protection while cutting. Each side slides back and forth independently for right and left handed use and therefore only a small part of the blade is exposed.  A nice safety feature although I am not complacent about safety around such a sharp tool, and always - habitually - slip the cover back when I finish cutting.
http://www.olfa.com/RotaryCutters.aspx

I change blades only when required. A change of blade usually coincides with having run straight over a pin (which is rare as I don't use pins very often) or  when cutting the corner off a ruler (a much more common occurrence).  Changing the blade of this rotary cutter is a simple and effortless 1-click procedure ~ no screws, no springs.

http://www.olfa.com/Mats.aspx

And my tip for rotary cutting mat?  Buy the largest mat you can afford and have sufficient space for on your cutting table.  My cutting mat (also Olfa) measures 24 inches x 36 inches and makes cutting long strips of fabrics so much easier.  Keep your mat away from direct sunlight and heat as it will warp, rendering it useless ~ this I know from personal experience.

I hope you find this information useful. I receive several emails everyday from new quilters and rotary cutting tools seem to be an often asked for topic.

Thank you for stopping by.
Rita

31 comments:

  1. That is good to know! My mom heard you are supposed to change your blade with each project, but that just seemed ridiculous to me. Good to know when you change yours - thanks!

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  2. I'm glad to hear that I'm not the only one who nicks the corners of my rulers. Do you turn the mat over and use the other side?

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  3. That is just what my mug of cutters looks like!! Yes, that is right, I have a mug full of cutters. About 5. I most frequently use the 45mm, the larger one if I am cutting through layers. And I do change often. I found out the hard way that a dull blade leads you to pressing harder, which then leads to neck and shoulder pain. Therefore the sharper the blade, you don't have to press so hard and.... ahhh... pain free.

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  4. I bought a rotary blade sharpener at joanns for 8 dollars or so at joanns (half off coupon) and I haven't had to replace a blade in months!

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  5. I wish I had sprung for a larger cutting mat like the one you have! I only have one cutter and love it (even if it did slice off the tip of one of my fingers).

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  6. I think I have three rotary cutters and end up only using the biggest one...I don't change blades every project, but just about.

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  7. I have quite a few cutters but find I usually use my Olfa with the ergonomic handle. I like how the blade retracts when you release the handle. When I use my other cutters, I find I'm careless with closing them up. A friend of mine was always forgetting to close hers , so I bought her one too.

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  8. I've discovered that you can buy cutting mats by the roll online...much more economical to buy a large one that way (lines marked or not, and even cut to a custom size if you want to affix it to your cutting table).

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  9. Sorry yet another question :D How often do you change your mat? I just bought one and I am already having issues with it, the groves where I have been cutting....grrrr (maybe it's my brand)

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  10. I read on another quilting blog recently that rotary cutter blades are sold at Harbor Freight tool store on the cheap. I stopped by the other day, and had a heck of a time finding them, but I did!! Including tax, the cost was $1.85 for a 2 pack! They are called "carpet cutter blades" or some such. I was worried that they wouldn't fit right or would be dull, but nope. They work like a charm for 45mm cutters!!! YAY! I was having a really hard time coming to terms with the cost of replacement blades even WITH a coupon at Michael's and Joann.

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  11. This is WAY useful! I'm looking into a safer cutter, and I realllly want a bigger mat.

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  12. I wish I'd splashed out for a slightly bigger cutting board when I bought mine. It's 23" wide which means that when you're cutting WOF you can only see the numbers and markings at one side. Really not useful!

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  13. Very spooky, I was just wondering about how often to change cutting blades. If there was some time period they are good for.

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  14. Oh, I left my mat in the trunk of a car, in September, in Arizona. I had to buy a new one, needless to say.

    I rarely change blades, just to save money (though eventually I'll probably lose a finger), but I did hear about the Harbor Freight cutters another person commented about. That would probably change my life.

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  15. Cute post. I have more rotary cutters than I probably need, but I also like the ease of having one in my bag that I take to classes, retreats, workshops, as well as my regular rotary cutters at home. Then there are the extras for small, medium, large blades, not to mention the benefits of ease of having a rotary already setup with a fancy blade. We didn't even touch upon household security...and how rotary cutters are excellent household protection tools (LOL!).

    SewCalGal
    www.sewcalgal.blogspot.com

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  16. How do you always know what I'm thinking?
    I think you are a reincarnation of my (beloved by all) grandma she was a dressmaker and her name was Rita!!

    I have just borrowed my Mums 28 and cant get on with it, keep cutting my ruler.

    Can you do a post on rulers too, because I want to buy the right one, as they are pricey here!

    Thanks
    Clare

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  17. It's nice to get more info on the quick change one. My 45 mm looks just like your smaller one. Since I can use either hand for cutting, I've avoided the ergonomic ones that are one handed.
    Mats ... I've heard a shower poof is great for getting those fibers out of the grooves. I finally replaced one of mine after 3 or 4 years. I'd used both sides until I noticed green sparkly dust on my fabrics after cutting them. The mat was being shaved by the rotary cutter.
    BTW, I like your photo of your cutters in a teapot!

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  18. Thank you for this post! I reblogged it on me and my friend's sewing business blog. Check it out if you want to! :)
    PS I am constantly inspired by you!
    www.stripedfeatherco.blogspot.com

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  19. I love my Olfa cutters and mats too. I have 5 rotary cutters! This is surprising as I am not much of a gadget buyer. I have three different sizes for fabric and one for paper. The fifth is a recent purchase of the cutters that close automatically. I use this one most of the time now.

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  20. Such a helpful post! Where did you get your cutting mat from? I need a bigger one but our local quilt shop is EXPENSIVE! Do you think the brand of cutting mat matters as much as the cutter?

    Would love for you to consider linking up one of your beautiful projects for my Wed craft link up!

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  21. Amen on the sunlight/heat, sista! I ruined my first out-on-my-own-no-longer-using-my-momma's 24x36 mat by storing it vertically leaned against a table in front of the sun for a few months (then it was just a U shaped piece of junk) so now I have a 18x24 mat and I miss the 36"!!!!

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  22. I agree with your assessment of the rotary cutters and the larger Olfa mat. I have everything you've mentioned and few more. I would add, though that the 60mm cutter is extremely easy to use...in fact, it's my favorite and I cut a LOT of fabric! :) I have also heard the Harbor Freight rumor about replacement blades but haven't had a chance to get over there yet. I hope they have the 60mm size.

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  23. Ok thats it. I'm definately buying a bigger mat and a 45mm cutter! Thanks for the tips!

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  24. What a great post with lots of good info! I too have created a wavy mat thanks to staying in the car too long when it was hot. I think I need one of those quick change blade cutters. So nice to find your blog.

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  25. Yep, I've warped a HUGE mat before too. Such a bummer. Tried everything to flatten it again without luck. Grrr.

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  26. What are your thoughts on rulers? I have the Omnigrid 6" x 12" which I like, but I often wish that I had bought the 6" x 24" for bigger cuts. What do you use?

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  27. Thought I would add... don't leave your laptop on your mat, just saying ;)

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  28. LOL - peoples are saying bigger ones are better! I have two 45mm Olfas (ok, one is DH's) and a 45mm pinking Olfa, two big mats, one medium and one small (the small is great for putting on a book and trimming pieces whilst listening to a DVD). I bought a cheapie little cutter from Scroatfight so that I can cut circles with my circle templates.
    Funny how many people assume this is an American blog.

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  29. Awesome! Thanks for this info!! Very useful.

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  30. Good to know. I need a bigger cutting mat!

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  31. Back in my college days, my classmates and I all had these same mats for model-building. When they became warped, we would lay them out on the hood of our car to get nice and hot, and then put them flat on our desk stacked with heavy books. I had to do it at the start of every semester. That was before I was quilting, so I won't vouch that it definitely gets flat enough but it is worth a try!!

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