Paper Cutting

I’m tackling my first job and after purchasing some 100% cotton 140lb 100ct. paper from Holyoke paper for business cards, I needed to cut down the 8.5x11 sheets to business cards. (I’m printing the cards one at a time)

I don’t have a paper cutter and don’t currently have the money to purchase one. I was told by another printer that she used Kinkos to cut down her lettra with great results.

I took 50 of my 100 sheets down to Staples and they did a horrible job. Some of the cards were far from square, while others had dinged up edges.

I took the other 50 to a local printing and paper supply place and they also did an equally poor job.

I’m curious if these places just don’t know how to cut soft cotton paper? Does anybody have any suggestions for me in regard to getting my paper cut property? I would love to know before I throw another $50 down the drain. Thanks!

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Honestly, they probably don’t. High bulk cotton papers need attention paid to clamp pressure (so as to not have clamp marks on the stock) and stock height and require the most important element—a SHARP blade, and I know a lot of small printshops skimp on this very important element. Unfortunately, finding really well trained bindery people is getting harder and harder all the time.

Thanks for the info Mike.

I figured there was some sort of special care in cutting this kind of paper. I’m assuming these places rarely, or never cut stock like this and have no idea how to properly handle it.

I’m curious if anybody has any affordable paper cutter suggestions for a very small printshop or hobbyist. I don’t necessarily need to cut many sheets at a time, as much as I need to get a really clean cut.

It’s a pain, but I’ve used Ingento shears and similar cutters to cut this stock one at a time. You just need to set up a jig for each cutting run in order to maintain a register among your sheets. 2 square cuts of the stock taped into position will work nicely.

As for shops, look for a higher volume offset shop, preferably with an owner/operator who really cares about quality. I do all of my cutting at a place down the road from my studio, and the owner really is a great knowledge base for me to tap into.

But that said, when I take Holyoke to him, I place piece of chipboard on top of the stack along with any misprinted pieces, finished with a piece of chipboard on the bottom. This minimizes any clamp pressure and helps prevent ragged edges at the bottom of the stack.

Don’t give up the search!

James Beard
Vrooooom Press
Austin, TX

Hi evancalkins,

I don’t have a paper cutter, either, so I take my work to a commercial printer to have it cut. I think what you have to look at is the kind of cutter they use. I don’t know anything about cutters, but the fellow I go to has a massive electronic machine that cuts tall stacks to the thousandths of an inch, it seems. He told me that once he had to have the controller replaced, and it cost him $8000 for that part alone. So if someone has a machine that fancy, I’m assuming it will do a fine job on any kind of paper. Also, with an investment like that, the shop is likely to have operators who can use it skillfully.


Whatever you do, don’t get a QCM paper cutter. I just ate through $100 of Crane’s 110lb Lettra, and it’s totally uneven. No cut is the same, and it slices on an angle. Frustration reigns.

There must be something aside from purchasing a $1000+ challenge cutter that a small shop could get? Getting my offset printer to cut things for me is so time consuming…and far away….anyone got any ideas?

just responded to your post on the other thread. It only cuts as uneven as you have the side-gauge set-up, and I’ve been having trouble getting it perfectly square. I use the method they recommend of clamping down a metal square and pushing the side-gauge against that and I’ve gotten it close, close enough that when cutting business cards you don’t notice any discrepancy, only when cutting a full sheet of letter paper do I notice it’s not straight.

What do you mean by no cut is the same though?

Hey Widmark, thanks for the reply — When I say no cut is thesame, I mean that each stack I cut, no matter how hard I clamp, slides forwards as I’m cutting. This means I can’t line it up with the top ruler as the cutting motion shoves the stack into the rule and bends the paper, I have to cut in the middle of the cutting surface. Cutting a stack also causes a downward shifting in the stack. The cut, from top to bottom piece, is uneven. Does that make sense? I hope so!

Oh, and I did see that Challenge cutter, but I’m in Edmonton, Canada. I can’t even begin to imagine how much it would cost to ship that thing!

Vikki- regarding your comment here and in the other thread… I can’t imagine why it would move it you clamp it hard enough. Even on the big pro cutters, you have to use a few sheets on top that will take an impression of the clamp then throw them away. Are you clamping hard enough for that to happen? Maybe the clamp isn’t holding?

if I had the space, I’d go for a vintage model, something like the one I linked to above.

I have seen this Challenge Cutter that in White Bear Lake.
It is as advertised…in pristine condition. Bench Model,
“Challenge Pony Lever “

On soft stock if you clamp too hard it tends to bulge out at the middle. Also if your blade is dull it will pull sheets out of true. Try smaller lifts and if possible put some chipboard or other stock on top to protect it from the clamp. I use 110# index and then use the cut sheets of that to find my position on the press and get every thing straight and do basic makeready, that way I don’t waste expensive stock just getting something straight. there will still be minor adjustments but you don’t use as much good stock.


Why no take it to Kinkos? I believe they all have big Challenger cutters. They sure can cut some biz cards

Bindery never gets respect.

However, it is the part of printing that can destroy hours of work in a single cut. Kinkos (Fed-Ex Office) maybe is more sophisticated than I give it credit for, but they are not a trade bindery and if somebody screws up your print job, what recourse do you have?

While a paper cutter seems like a unnecessary item in this age of getting pre-cut stock, the paper cutter can vastly expand what you can create with a flat printed sheet. Bindery is still an added value operation than can elevate marginal printing to greatness and cast down a masterpiece into the trash bin.

Come on Mike - Kinko’s has always been one of my best sales tools.


… I’m confused as to why you didn’t just purchase the pre-cut business cards from Holyoke direct since you’ve mentioned your printing one-by-one. It’s not that expensive to purchase packs of 500 or even packs of 100…

evseidl, in retrospect, that may have been a good idea. I wasn’t aware how difficult it was for these businesses to cut paper square. You can get a good deal more business cards for your money if you don’t order them pre-cut - I was think economically there.

This is my first time ordering paper and printing - Although it’s a shame my paper was ruined, I guess I have a little room to make mistakes and learn from them.

I just had about 600 business cards cut by a local print shop that I’ve used before without issue & almost all my cards are trashed. They were printed on Lettra 220lb-first time for me to print on-and I am sending them out to be edge-painted which I also explained to the shop owner. The print shop charged me $50.00 & they are all frayed and torn-why did this happen? I’ve cut 110lb Lettra & had them cut by others without issue-is it the paper or was the cutter just dumb & dull? Has this happened to anyone else with duplex? How do I ensure this does not happen again?

Another possibility would be to die cut them out yourself.

Softer papers were never intended to be cut in thick stacks, there is way too much give in them and since a cutting blade usually comes down at one side first (on anything smaller than a standalone, powered cutter), it will pull one edge and skew or wave the cut… Like someone suggested, cut smaller stacks at a time (less soft paper means less compression to be made) and put a thicker and stiffer stock on top and bottom, those help avoid marking from clamping and also harder papers don’t get pulled as easily by the blades movement.


I just had the same problem; although I do have a cutter it isn’t big enough for the 26x40 sheets of Rives Heavywt. White 175gsm. It’s also a soft surface paper. I took it to a local copy place in Berkeley where I know they have a huge electronic cutter. They did a perfect job (only one cut required to reduce the format by half) & charged less than six dollars the 250 sheet stack. They cut with the thin card interleaving between stacks at the same time. There was no surface disturbance from the clamp. Just good luck I suppose, but sharp blades & accurate positioning are the critical factor. Norman

This subject comes up often and is a source of frustration to many. I went through much of it myself and learned some things. This of course is just my opinion:

Buying paper in large parent size is the most economical and gives you more options to be creative with different products.
Not everyone has the time to bring paper to someone else to cut.
Not everyone has access to someone that will do a professional job of cutting it.
No one will cut your products more carefully than yourself.
Poor cutting will ruin your finished product.

Therefore, I believe it pays to own a good press and a good cutter.(actually I have more than one)

So, if you agree with the above, what cutter do you look for.

1. The inexpensive stack cutters are not worth the money. They are poorly made, have inferior steel blades, poor clamping and are not large enough to cut parent sizes.
2. The large hydraulic cutters capable of cutting these size sheets are too expensive and heavy to consider owning for most.
3. The smaller electric stack cutters like the Triumph/MBM work well, but are still on the expensive side and not large enough to cut down the parent size paper
4. Traditional guillotines like the Ingento or Premier are cheap enough to own, can cut parent stock, but, it is difficult to impossible to get even cuts because they do not hold the paper while it is being cut.

5. The Kutrimmer guillotines are the answer! They can cut down parent stock. They are very well made, have good German steel blades/knives that leave a perfect edge to the cut. They have adjustable cutting guides to the left and right of the blade to make repetitive cuts when you get the sheet down in size a bit. They have a paper clamp that absolutely holds the paper giving accurate cuts. I cut two or three full size sheets at a time when large, and can increase that as the cut length decreases. Having good square guides and quick clamping allows you to reproduce cuts with great accuracy. They may be too pricey for some to buy new, but, Kutrimmers last forever. Mine is twenty years old and hardly differs from new. I purchased it used one for a couple hundred dollars. The only difficulty is being patient to find a used one. I have not tried one, but, I believe the Dahle cutter is probably an equal.

I also own a used 18” MBM electric stack cutter and love it. They both have their place. When we produced our first softcover book, that was the cutter to use, not the Kutrimmer. It cut full reams of 70# text perfectly clean and square, and trimmed the completed books after binding.

If I only did letterpress, and could only own one cutter, it would be the Kutrimmer!

I’ve got a nice hydraulic cutter but the thing was reduced to uselessness when I moved to Louisiana. We used to use Tri-state Knife Grinding in Trenton, NJ, and they did a flawless job.

After moving to LA I took my blade to the local guy who “sharpens all the paper knives for all the copy shops and the city offices”. Charged me $30 and it looked like he thought the damn thing was a lawnmower blade.

So maybe the local sharpening guy is to blame. If you live in the sticks your local shop might not have affordable access to professional knife sharpening.

We have to UPS the blade to a shop with a real knife grinding machine - The Sharpening Center of LA outside of New Orleans. It costs, man, it costs!

if you are doing small runs, maybe look into having a die cutting die made. run a slightly over-size sheet and die cut at the end, on a pass of its own. or, have a mulitple image die made and make your own cards. they will be straight, true, and identical.

if you are doing small runs, maybe look into having a die cutting die made. run a slightly over-size sheet and die cut at the end, on a pass of its own. or, have a mulitple image die made and make your own cards. they will be straight, true, and identical.

Thanks for the tips-I had thought of getting a die made for business cards after my cutter died :-(
I didn’t because I had such good service from this local shop & they were very reasonable in their prices at first. Monday morning I am calling my die company for a quote because at $1.50 a sheet-I can’t afford to waste one slice of paper.
In the meantime I am going to try to sand down the edges of the cards that I might be able to salvage. Any ideas what coarseness of sandpaper I should try?

Don’t get a die made. set up cutting rule at 3 1/2” cut your stock then set up at 2” and run it back thru. Dick G.

well,,, dickg is correct this can be done also. but, now you have turned an extra operation into 2 extra operations. the die cutting process is simple enough,and, with a small variety of dies you could offer rounded corners, shaped cards, all from any color of stock you chose. the over size could be as small as 1/8 inch on all sides. that should not break you. the standard cards are just that, make some money back though renting out the special shapes. with care, you will make your money back on the dies.

I’m interested in diecutting, but am curious about the costs. My husband can make me a jacket, so I’m not worried about that. I called Apple Die since they were recommended on here. I told him I was looking for some general pricing info and the guy was about as unfriendly as possible. He refused to give me any kind of info on prices stating that he can’t quote without a drawing in from of him. I even asked what the cost would be for a 2”x3.5” basic rectangular business card die would run and what a 4”x9” single vertical-fold folder single pocket with business card slits would cost. He refused. I was so annoyed I just hung up on the guy.
Can you guys give me any idea of what costs would be for a custom die? I’ve seen some really cheap on ebay, but not the shapes I’d be looking for.

Jeeeez. You sound like a real fun kind of customer to have, JamieK_77. He probably sensed you were trouble and knew you’d hold him to his off-the-cuff quote even if it wasn’t quite right.

Maybe he could tell you a business card die would be between $50 and $100 but the folder thing would obviously need some thought and calculation.

??? why am I a difficult customer? I was friendly, I told him up front that I was looking to get started and was just looking for a general ballpark of what kind of cost I’d be looking at to get a die made. He told me he couldn’t give me a quote without knowing what I wanted. I said I completely understood that and asked him ‘for example’ what would this cost vs. this… that way I’d have a BALLPARK of what a simple, small die would be vs. a larger more complicated one. I wasn’t looking for exact numbers and I wasn’t “holding him” to anything! The $50-$100 number was all I was asking for. He knew that (because I very clearly told him) and refused to give me any info without a drawing in front of him. He may have been stressed or on a time crunch or whatever, I don’t know… but he was nasty to me and obviously didn’t care to help.

I’m not sure why you are taking such offense and making judgments about me, but it’s unfounded and unnecessary. Or maybe you work at Apple Die and answer the phones?

Jamie, almost any die maker will want to see a drawing to quote from, there are so many variables. don’t know where you are but i use a man in Braintree, MA, he’s been making my dies since the 1960’s, will get his info for you if your interested. Dick G.

I completely understand that and told him so… I even told him “a hundred dollar range would be fine, I’m really just looking for a ballpark and have no idea what things run”.
I am in South Carolina, but am in MA frequently and would definitely be interested in your die-maker.
Thank you for the helpful response!

in milwaukee here, i don’t know ANY local die maker who can’t give an accurate quote for a 2 x 3.5 in rectangle. even with rounded corners all you give them is the radius.
for instance, i just called a local here and got a price of $36.00 for 1 square corner die AND one round corner die (1/8 in radius), price is for both…this took 95 seconds…i can get these made for you and shipped out within 48 hours. just cover the cost.
P.S. this quote is not from Apple…

Just thought I’d follow up on my original post as I noticed this thread has been revived:

Since my original post I was able to track down an old 26” Chandler and Price cutter for $100. It was in excellent condition and goes well with my 10x15 C&P press.

I just got the blade back from a sharpener in Portland Oregon called Messenger Knife Grinding Co., Inc. They were incredibly helpful and did an amazing job! (Wow.. that blade is sharp!) They charged me only $18 and gave me a nice wooden holder for my blade that they screwed it to and wrote my name on. Incredible service - Highly recommended in the Portland OR area.

I cut my first stack of 140lb cotton Holyoke paper on it last night and it did an incredible job. I’m cutting some 20x26 Lettra tonight.

I’ve learned about back-cutting and some other cutting techniques that have made the paper come out beautifully!

One quick question before I’m finished:

Do any of you experienced paper cutters have a good online resource for ordering chip board for cutting? I need some decently thick stuff to protect my soft paper from the clamp. Where do you get yours? Thanks!

I don’t know an online source, but every paper vendor I’ve worked with carries the stuff.

I completely missed your response to this thread. Thank you for the help! If they are that inexpensive, there are several that I would like to get made. I would love to get the diemakers info of he will ship to SC. That way you don’t have to be a middle man.
Thanks again,

contact: john fischer…414-431-1953. [email protected]

contact: john fischer…414-431-1953. [email protected]
reference to me, Eric

thank you so much! I will definitely be sure to let him know that you referred him.

I am new to letterpress and have a question about cutting printed 600 gsm stock. Will using a bulk cutter or guillotine harm the paper or the printing?

Your questions are answered on this site many times, in short cut a few sheets at a time, use a chipboard top sheet to avoid dinging the paper, it will take time, but slow and steady is better than ruining your printed materials.


last job shop worked at, used set up scrap
to pad the soft paper, chipboard is great
but scrap paper is cheaper

yours truly