A new, sharp rotary cutter can make life easier for quilters, sewers, and other crafters. Rotary cutters cleanly cut through fabric and thread, delivering precise edges to your sewing project.
However, rotary cutter blades dull over time and can lead to a more frustrating cutting experience if not replaced or sharpened regularly.
Here’s How Long Rotary Cutters Last:
The fabric, its thickness, and the quality of the blade will all impact how long your rotary cutters last. Some rotary blades last months, while others might not last longer than making a single quilt. When your rotary cutter begins to leave threads uncut, it is time to change or sharpen the blade.
Do Rotary Cutters Dull Faster than Scissors?
Your rotary cutter’s blade will likely need to be sharpened or replaced long before your scissors need the same attention.
Of course, a cheap pair of scissors will likely dull faster than high-quality, titanium-coated rotary blades. When comparing two tools of similar quality, your rotary cutters will dull faster.
However, it is quite easy and inexpensive to get your rotary cutters cutting precisely. Replacement rotary cutter blades can be purchased in bulk to keep on hand. You can easily change the blade yourself when the time comes.
You can also buy easy, at-home tools to sharpen your rotary cutter blades as you sew. While these blades will need to be sharpened more often than scissors, you can take care of this task yourself without visiting your local repair shop or consulting the manufacturer.
What Factors Dull Rotary Cutters the Most?
What you are cutting will have the biggest impact on the life of your rotary cutters.
The more resistance your blade encounters, the quicker it will become dull.
Resistance can be found in the type of material or the thickness of what you are trying to cut. For example, cutting leather or denim will wear out a blade much faster than cutting a thin layer of cotton fabric.
Similarly, cutting through all the quilt layers will wear out a blade faster than cutting through a single layer. The harder the job is, the more quickly your blade will need to be sharpened or replaced.
Do Cutting Mats Dull Rotary Cutters?
When you use a rotary cutter, you need to use a cutting mat underneath the fabric.
If you forget to cut on your mat, your blade and the impromptu cutting surface can suffer significant damage.
Using a rotary cutter on a cutting mat helps keep the blade sharp for longer periods. You can purchase a self-healing cutting mat. These mats are specially designed with elastic fibers to bounce back after a cut.
This property leaves the surface smooth, even every time you use it.
When using your rotary cutters on a consistently smooth, forgiving surface, they will not dull as quickly as if they were cutting over uneven areas. If you don’t have a self-healing mat, you will need to watch for significant wear and tear.
When the cut marks on your mat are widespread and noticeable, you will want to replace your cutting mat. Cutting on an uneven mat will dull your rotary cutters more quickly.
Can You Buy Replacement Blades for your Rotary Cutters?
Purchasing replacement blades for your rotary cutter is a great option.
You might even receive your first replacement blade included in the package when you purchase the rotary cutter itself. If not, you can easily buy a set of replacement blades to keep on hand.
You can also sharpen your existing blade at home. Keep in mind that most blades aren’t designed for lifelong use. You might be able to sharpen them a few times, depending on the steel they are made from. However, they will need to be discarded eventually.
However, a little at-home sharpening can still go a long way to prolong the life of your blade and the ease of your cutting. There are several different tools on the market for DIY rotary blade sharpening.
You can choose from electric-powered sharpening machines or hand-sharpening options:
- You will simply need to remove the blade and carefully place it inside the machine for electric sharpening machines.
- Once it’s in place, you close the lid and press a button to begin sharpening.
Hand sharpeners, on the other hand, sharpen your blades without any disassembly. With this manual sharpener, you simply glide your blade through the sharpening groove several times.
This simple, repeated movement will sharpen up your blade and make it easier to make clean cuts through your fabric.
For a glimpse into sharpening your rotary cutter blades at home, you can check out this informative video on Youtube:
How Often Should You Change Your Rotary Cutter Blade?
Several factors will influence how often you should change your rotary cutter’s blade. The amount you use your cutter, the materials you use it on, and the quality of the blade itself will all impact when to change your blade.
Essentially, when your blade is no longer making a clean cut, it’s time to either sharpen the blade or replace it.
For quilters, a new blade will typically last through making a single quilt. Your rotary cutter should last even longer if you are consistently cutting thin cotton for garments.
If you have a titanium-coated blade, these are designed to stay sharp and last about three times as long as other stainless steel options. These require more of an upfront investment, but you might find it worth it if it means you do not need to purchase as many replacement blades.
To get a more detailed answer for your rotary blade, keep a close eye on your rotary cutter as you use it. You will notice its transition from making perfect, clean cuts to skipping threads and requiring more effort from the user.
When this happens, it’s time to change or sharpen your blade. You will thank yourself once your rotary cutter is sharp and effortlessly working wonders again.
What Can You Do to Avoid Dulling Your Rotary Cutter?
No matter what, your rotary cutter will gradually get dull over time and use.
However, there are several precautions you can take when using your rotary cutter to help slow down the process and prolong the lifespan of the blade.
First, always cut on your designated cutting mat. These mats give your cutting blades an ideal surface to work on. Keep your mat in good shape and replace it when it is starting to be visibly worn out.
Always cutting on smooth surfaces will help retain the sharpness of your blade.
Second, take care of your blade when it’s not in use. Ensure your blade is protected in its plastic guard when you’re not using it.
Some rotary cutters automatically store the blade as a safety feature, but you will need to lock the blade in place on other models manually.
Keeping the blade locked in a safe position when not in use serves multiple purposes:
- First, it will protect you, other family members, and your furniture from an accident with an unattended sharp blade.
- Second, it keeps the blade safe from coming into contact with surfaces or objects that could dull or damage it.
Keep in mind that some of the fabrics you are working with will contribute to a dull blade more quickly than others.
If you are working with particularly thick fabric and need to apply a lot of pressure when cutting, you can expect the blade to dull faster. Thinner fabrics won’t require so much effort and will have less of an impact on the life of your blade.
Metallic threads are known to dull your blade faster than standard sewing threads. While sometimes you can’t avoid cutting through the thick fabric and metallic threads, you will want to sharpen or replace your blade sooner than usual.
How to Store and Maintain your Rotary Cutter:
Once your rotary cutter has a sharp, new blade, you will want to store and maintain it the best that you can.
This is important for both the longevity of the blade and your own safety.
You want to build the habit of always ensuring the blade returns to its locked safety position anytime it is not in use. With some rotary cutters, this will happen automatically as soon as you let go of the handle.
You will need to release a button for the blade to retract manually for others.
Whichever way your rotary cutter works, get into the habit of always locking it into its safe position before setting it down. This will keep you and the blade safe.
After your sewing session is complete, you can also keep your rotary cutters in a special rotary cutter case. Most cases have room for two cutters or one cutter with extra blades.
Place your rotary cutter inside the case and zip it up. Now your tools are contained and protected in between uses.
For a full guide on how to store and care for your rotary cutters, you can check out this video on Youtube:
Rotary cutters are essential cutting tools for all kinds of quilters, sewers, and crafters.
Make sure you use your cutters on the right surface, think about the material you are using, and store your rotary cutters properly after use.
Anytime you notice your rotary cutter requires more effort from you or is skipping threads when you cut, it is time to sharpen or replace the blades.
Ecopeco: All You Need To Know About Self-Healing Cutting Mats
National Quilters Circle: How to Change A Rotary Cutter Blade