Paper cutter

A paper cutter (or paper guillotine) is a tool often found in offices and classrooms, designed to cut a large set of paper at once with a perfectly straight edge.


A paper cutter as described below is different from what is called a "guillotine" cutter, which is also known as a "stack cutter". The former is designed to cut large blocks of paper in one motion in an action resembling the execution device, the primary difference being the blade, or knife. The blade on the execution device fell vertically, and was angled for a clean cut through the victim's neck. The stack paper cutting blade is straight across, but as the handle is depressed to cut the paper block, the blade moves slightly from right to left while moving down through the block.

The paper cutter was invented by Guillaume Massiquot in 1840.


Paper cutters can be at least in length on each side for small work, though they can often be longer than on each side. Industrial cutters used in design workshops can be found in length. The surface will usually have a grid either painted or inscribed on it, often in increments, and may have a ruler across the top. At the very least, it must have a flat edge against which the user may line up the paper at right-angles before passing it under the blade. It is usually relatively heavy, so that it will remain steady while in use.

On the right-hand edge is a long, curved steel blade, often referred to as a knife, attached to the base at the top right-hand corner. Larger versions have a strong compression coil spring as part of the attachment mechanism that pulls the knife against the stationary edge as the knife is drawn down to cut the paper. The other end of the knife unit is a handle. The stationary right edge of the base is also steel, with an exposed, finely-ground edge. When the knife is pulled down to cut paper, the action resembles that of a pair of scissors, only instead of two knives moving against each other, one is stationary. The combination of a blade mounted to a steady base produces clean and straight cuts, the likes of which would have otherwise required a ruler and razor blade to achieve on a single page.

A variant design uses a wheel-shaped blade mounted on a sliding shuttle attached to a rail. Advantages of this design include being able to make wavy cuts, perforations or just score the paper without cutting, with the use of various circular blades. It is also almost impossible for the user to cut him/herself, except while changing the blade. This makes it safer for home use.

An even simpler design uses double-edged blades which do not rotate, but cut like a penknife. While cheaper, this design is not preferable for serious work due to its tendency to tear paper, and poor performance with thick media.


Most paper cutters come equipped with a finger guard to prevent users from accidentally cutting themselves or severing a digit while using the apparatus, however injuries are still possible if the device is not used with proper care or attention. Additionally, it is possible for a person to unscrew or otherwise remove the large curved steel blade from the base and use it as a weapon.

Due to these factors the paper cutter has been criticized for being too dangerous of a design and companies who produce them have been targeted for lawsuits.

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