We use a small knife with a very sharp blade (Xacto is a familiar brand name). I’ve been using these blades for a really long time, but sometimes volunteers need help with knife skills. And I need the reminders, too.
We don’t cut everything with a blade. Occasionally, we need a torn hinge because it has a softer edge. On inspecting old repairs we see cut hinges tearing the pages.
1. No running or gesticulating.
2. Know where your fingers are at all times
3. Put the knife away. Don’t let it get buried under things.
Use a sharp blade. Notice how it “grabs” the cutting mat. A dull blade runs over the paper denting it and or cutting unevenly. When your blade isn’t sharp it tears rather than cuts. And you need to exert too much pressure.
Discard old blades in a container for blades or somewhere safe. (At home I have a glass container that I will eventually bring to metal recycling.) And don’t try to save money on blades. Change. Change Change.
A little tricky: when cutting hold the blade perpendicular to the cutting surface and against a metal straightedge (ruler). The handle won’t be perpendicular The grip is pretty much like a pencil grip. You use relaxed pressure to cut paper.
With your other hand, your left hand for you righties, you will apply pressure with stretched thumb and forefinger to the metal straightedge.
(Metal because the edge won’t get nicked when you accidentally veer into the blade.) This is the time when your check that your splayed fingers are positioned on the ruler so that you won’t injure yourself.
Here’s where the safety of a sharp blade comes in: you won’t need a lot of pressure to cut through the paper so you have a lot of control-no death grip on the knife.
Cut away from the area to be saved. For example, if you are trimming a spine label before you glue it on to a new spine, line up where you want to cut (that might be another post!) and position the ruler over the protected area. Cut on the waste side and if your ruler slips!!! you have not ruined the spine. On the last spine I forgot. Fortunately, I checked my hand in time and gave myself a mental dope slap. (See rule #1.)