Box cutters are incredibly useful tools if you know how to use them correctly. They seem easy to use from quick inspection, and they certainly can be.
Steps to Using a Box Cutter
#1. Check the box cutter to make sure its screws, slider, or blade are not loose. Repair or replace the box cutter if it is malfunctioning in any way.
#2. Make sure the blade is sharp and clean. This will prevent a cut on the skin from being as harmful and not introduce grime or other infectious materials. Replace the blade if needed.
#3. Keep the blade retracted until you are ready to cut.
#4. Lay a straight edge or ruler on the material to form a line you want to cut along.
#5. Use your free hand to steady the material or box but do not put it in the path of the blade.
#6. Slide the wrist (with the hand you hold the box cutter) against your other hand (the hand holding the material). This can stabilize your cut and is especially useful when you use a ruler or straight edge to make a line. If using a “slice” box cutter with a finger handle, make sure the front and back of the handle are flush against the cutting surface.
#7. Puncture the material, then pull towards you with the box cutter. Don’t use any extra blade than necessary or too much force.
#8. Keep your free hand and arms and legs outside of the cutting path.
#9. When finished, make sure the blade is retracted, and be wary about putting the box cutter into your pocket. You could grab the box cutter and end up grabbing the blade or dropping it. Store the box cutter out of the reach of children.
Box cutters can easily cut your fingers, but using one safely is not difficult if you follow the right steps.
Changing the Blades
Changing blades can cause cuts on the fingers. Be patient and cautious handling blades and do not yank on them if they are stuck. Use pliers to pull the blade off our out and always wear safety glasses while doing this. Dispose of the used blades in a sharps container or other homemade blade container. Do not leave used blades laying around to be picked up, stepped on, or reused by yourself or another person.
Adjusting the Blade
Box cutters will have either a finger slider to adjust the blade or need the blade pulled out of a slip by hand (for slip box cutters). The finger slider will have a clicking mechanism to lock the blade in place but pushing down and releasing the slider?
How To Hold Box Cutters
Hold box cutters with one hand. Use the other hand to stabilize the material. Use your thumb to adjust the blade extension slider. Have a firm grip on the handle and do not let it slip from your grasp.
Use a Shallow Blade Angle For Thinner Material
Use a shallow blade angle (a small distance between the wrist and the material) to allow for a smooth cut for thin materials and packaging tape.
Use a Deeper Blade Angle For Puncturing Thicker Materials
Use a deeper blade angle, or hold the wrist and arm more perpendicular to the material to puncture it. This is also useful for thicker materials that are more difficult to cut.
Wear Work Gloves and Safety Glasses for Extra Safety
Believe it or not, you can easily cut yourself while handling cardboard, not just from the box cutters. Box cutters work great if you wear work gloves as you can still grasp them. When using lots of pressure on the blade, you risk breaking it off. Wearing gloves and safety glasses can help protect you from an injury that could result.
Cut Towards You
Box cutters are best pulled towards you while you cut. It is generally safer to pull it towards you regardless of the type. You can also bend your arm and wrist and cut sideways and down. Cutting upwards or away from you is not recommended as it can lead to losing control and possible injury.
Do Not Wave Box Cutters Around
Put down the cutters when not using them. And close the blade so as to not cut yourself when picking them up, bumping into them, or dropping them.
Close the Blade When Finished
When not using the blade, retract the blade or slide it within the slip. Putting it back into your tool bag, pocket or on the counter or workbench.
Store the Box Cutters In a Tool Pouch or Tool Box
When finished using box cutters, make sure to put them back in the tool pouch or toolbox to keep kids (if you have them) from getting hold of them.
Disposing of Box Cutters and Blades
If the box cutters break or otherwise stop working, dispose of them in a sharps container, homemade plastic container, or in the garbage or recycling bin?. Make sure to retract the blade so no one can get cut by reaching for them. Do not keep broken box cutters because you or the next person could attempt to use them and this could result in an injury.
For more information see our post Where To Dispose Of Box Cutter Blades.
Nick Klamecki is a certified Fire and Workplace Safety expert with 15 years experience in product research and testing. He has a degree in Economics from U.C. Davis, is an active outdoorsman and spent years ensuring the safety of special needs children. Nick researches and tests workplace, industrial and safety products and provides advice on their safe use.