Quilting Blog

Are You Using Your Rotary Cutter Safely?

Rotary cutters can be a fast and efficient way to cut fabric, and it’s not just for quilters either! Learn tips on how to cut your next project safely with these thirteen tips.

Rotary Cutter Safety Tips

1. Use a ruler.

Give yourself a safety barrier between the blade of the rotary cutter and your hands by only cutting along the edge of a ruler. But not just any ruler will do — use one that’s at least ¼” thick to give the blade something to cut alongside so it won’t jump up onto the ruler, possibly hitting your hand.

Need help picking the right ruler? Check out the 5 rulers we think every quilter needs.

2. Close the safety.

Get in the good habit of closing the safety after each and every cut so that the blade is protected by the plastic cover. As you pull the cutter up from the fabric, close it right then and there so it can’t fall to cut your fabric, bare feet, or even worse, a pet or child.

3. Keep it sharp.

Anything sharp can dull with use, and the blade of the rotary cutter is no exception to that rule. When something sharp gets dull, it’s a much more dangerous tool — you need to apply even more pressure, making the possibility of cutting yourself greater, since you are pressing harder than usual. Simply change your blades when they are dull to avoid this problem.

Get Olfa 45mm refills here.

4. Discard blades safely.

If you change your blade often, you’ll soon have a round blade to have to throw out. But if you just toss that into the trash, you’re bound to cut things along the way. I take thick tape and cover each edge of the blade with the tape before throwing it away so I don’t accidentally cut myself.

5. Cut on a mat.

A self-healing mat helps the blade glide along the surface in an even motion, keeping the blade moving in a safe manner. If you cut on an uneven surface or one that will cause the blade to move unpredictably, this could result in the rotary cutter jumping and moving in an unsafe way.

6. Remember that the blade is sharp!

This is probably obvious, but do not underestimate how sharp the blade is. It’s not just a craft tool — it’s a round razor blade, and razor blades are to be handled with care. So be careful not to touch the edge or tap it on your skin, as it can easily cut you!

7. Store safely.

When the rotary cutter is not in use, be sure to store it somewhere out of reach for kids and anyone else that might not understand its use and sharpness.

8. Cut away from the body.

When pushing the rotary cutter, only ever push it away from the body and never pull the tool toward you. This can quickly go terribly wrong if you were to slip in any way and pull it into your body. Pushing it away from you moves the blade in a safe direction at all times.

9. Stand up while cutting

Only use a rotary cutter when in a standing position, so you can put your body weight into the cut. If you’re sitting, it’s hard to gain any leverage and it’s also hard to see where the blade is going, which can result in a cutting accident.

10. Change the blade carefully.

Since you need to change the blades from time to time, be sure to handle the blade and cutter with care when switching from an old dull blade to a fresh new sharp one. Carefully undo the screw as instructed by your cutter’s manual, and insert the new one.

11. Match the blade to the project.

Rotary cutters come in many sizes and it’s important to match the blade with the size of your project. For example, if you’re cutting something small, it’s dangerous to use a large cutter. The opposite is true as well, where using a small blade on thick layers will result in over pushing, and possibly an accident.

12. Apply even pressure.

Cutting with too much or too little pressure can make for uneven cuts and inconsistency. The safest approach is to apply even pressure while cutting so you cut through all the layers and don’t have to go back over any spots after the fact.

13. Match the brands.

To make sure the blade matches the cutter, be sure to use the correct size and brand as the original rotary cutter. If the blade and cutter do not match, this might result in the blade being too big or too small for the tool.

fiskars rotary cutter

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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in August 2014 and was updated in January 2018.



I bought myself a new rotary cutter about six months ago and the blade began to lose its sharpness so I replaced it. Now I cannot get it to cut at all. I thought perhaps I had tightened the screw too tight so loosened it, that didn’t work. I tried another new blade and that doesn’t work either. I can’t figure what I’m doing wrong. Help anyone, please?


Check and make sure you’re only putting one blade on the rotary cutter. They’re thin and they stick together.

Othello Wuilter

You may have damaged the screw or it was rubbing against it. I destroyed a past rotary cutter that way. The new blade would not rotate after I changed it. I could have tried to replace the screw, but threw the cutter away after I took off the new blade.

Joy French

I don’t know of any quilting rulers made for cutting fabric that are at least 1/4 inch thick. Only long arm rulers are that thick.


I put the old blade into the plastic package the new blade comes in. This way the old blade is safely stored and won’t cut anyone including workers who pick up the trash. Once full, I shut and secure the plastic container even more with strapping tape before it goes into the trash. If it is a 5 blade package, then using a Sharpie pen, I write “old” on the container and collect up to 5 old blades in it.


I use your method for disposing of used blades, but I never thought of using strapping tape around the plastic package before putting it in the trash. Excellent idea that I will definitely use. Thanks!

Ellen Oppenheimer

I use a kitchen magnet to grab and hold the rotary blade when change it. This protects my fingers from cutting cut and gives me good control of the blade.

Georgia Wilson

That is a great idea! I have a magnet in a drawer for my canning lids, I could use it in the sewing room and be able to find it in my with my marking pencils. Thank you for this great tip.


While changing out a blade, take the time to clean the rotary cutter, before putting the new blade back on. A small square of muslin works wonders to grab oily lint out of the underside of where the blade sits. I too reuse the package that 5 blades come in. I always keep them and label with ‘old’ and ‘new’ with a Sharpie, so as not to confuse them. The magnet also helps to get them apart, as they do tend to stick together.


These are good suggestions. I don’t think that rotary cutters are as important for garment sewing and I use them only for sharp curves and bias strips. I would add:

Don’t cut when tired or drinking alcohol.

Don’t talk; give the process your full attention.

Always place the cutter in the center of the table, where it cannot be brushed off.

Don’t use a cutter bigger than 28mm.


I disagree about the size of your cutter. I have them from 18 mms to 60. Each has it’s place, no one is more important than the others, though I probably use the 45mm the most.


What would you recommend to minimise slipping of the large rulers when cutting with a rotary cutter? I bought a handle with suction caps but it doesn’t seem to work well on the large rulers, user error perhaps, must get it out to retry. I don’t quilt but use the large ruler a lot for bags and on those long cuts it is harder to keep the bottom part from moving. tia

Btw I used to think quilters were from a different sub-species to me that could so accurately cut all those pieces and sew them together neatly but when I started to learn to sew making bags I discovered the tools! Though I think some are more naturally inclined to fine accuracy than me 🙂


After a mishap in which my ruler slipped and I sliced a small amount of my left pointer finger off, I purchased to items: a quilter’s safety glove for my left hand and those little clear plastic nonslip disks that you adhere to the underside of the ruler. The larger the ruler, the more little disks you place on each side. Both items are available on Amazon or at stores that have quilting supplies. The glove gives me a little more safety when changing rotary disks.


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