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How to Use a Guillotine Paper Trimmer

Updated June 13, 2017

Guillotine-style paper trimmers feature a long, exposed blade attached to a handle that the user presses down to make the clean cut. Taking its name from the device used to behead criminals and aristocrats throughout the French Revolution, the guillotine trimmer's sturdy blade can cut through materials like chipboard, cardboard, metal mesh and thin metal sheets. Whether you're using a smaller version for paper crafts such as scrapbooking and card making or an industrial model in an office, use the proper cutting technique to ensure your safety and to produce crisp, straight cuts.

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  1. Sit the guillotine trimmer on a sturdy surface to ensure it doesn't tip over or rock back and forth as you use the device. Ensure that the trimmer's base is set evenly on a flat surface.

  2. Draw a 1/2-inch cutting guideline on your paper, or the material you wish to cut, with a pencil. This will help you align the paper with the cutting blade to ensure you trim the material to the proper size.

  3. Lift the handle at the end of the guillotine trimmer's blade all the way up and let the blade sit in the "open" position. There may be a safety latch in place holding the blade in place; if so, flip this latch up and off the blade.

  4. Place the paper on the trimmer's flat surface. Slide the paper under the safety guide bar along the right edge of the trimmer if the model you're using has one.

  5. Push the paper up against the bar at the top of the guillotine trimmer to get a straight cut. Ensure the entire top edge of the paper butts up against the guide bar. Align the drawn cutting guideline with the top edge of the cutting blade.

  6. Hold the paper securely with your left hand and grasp the trimmer's handle with your right hand. Press the handle down in a single, fluid motion to create a smooth cut.

  7. Remove the paper from the trimmer and discard or recycle the paper trimmings.

  8. Tip

    While most office-style guillotine trimmers feature self-sharpening blades, you can keep craft-style guillotine cutters sharp by cutting through three layers of heavy duty aluminium foil three to five times. Sharpen the craft trimmer's blade when the unit starts producing cut edges that are slightly ragged. Most guillotine trimmers allow you to cut more than one sheet of paper or cardstock at a time. Unless you're using an industrial, high-capacity model designed to cut more than 100 sheets at once, however, limit cuts to 10 sheets at a time for office styles or three sheets for craft trimmers to ensure the paper doesn't shift while cutting and result in crooked or ragged edges.


    Never let children operate a guillotine paper trimmer. Even if the unit you have on hand has a protective guide bar designed to protect your fingertips, it's still too easy to touch the long, sharp blade. Be careful when the trimmer's blade is resting in the open position since the entire length of the blade is exposed.

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Things You'll Need

  • Guillotine trimmer
  • Paper or other material to cut
  • Pencil

About the Author

Drea Christopher

Drea Christopher is a freelance writer with a bachelor's degree in English. She has more than 10 years of experience producing features and SEO articles for national consumer publications, trade magazines and industry leading Web content providers. She has a particular interest in craft, entertaining, education, home and garden and health-related topics.

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