Skip to main content

Types of Cutting Tools and Their Various Uses Around the House

Many hobbies and tasks involve an array of cutting tools. Loretta has found these to be very useful for home and personal use. Have a look.

Fabric scissors, kitchen shears, spring loaded scissors, pruning shears, paper trimmer, craft knives, thread clipper, rotary cutter and more. So much to cut, so little time.

Fabric scissors, kitchen shears, spring loaded scissors, pruning shears, paper trimmer, craft knives, thread clipper, rotary cutter and more. So much to cut, so little time.

A List of Cutting Tools: Names, Uses, and Photos

We all cut something. We cut fabric, thread, food products, plants, paper, foam for upholstery or fursuits, and lots of other things. For the best results of the task at hand, it helps to use the best tool. Here are introductions to several types of scissors, snippers, and shears, along with information on when and why to use them.

Kitchen Shears: For Food and Heavy Packaging

If you have a kitchen, you need a good pair of kitchen shears. These are distinct because they easily separate into two sections for a thorough cleaning, either in the dishwasher or by hand.

These are great for opening all kinds of cardboard packaging and any inner packaging. I find that more and more household items come in heavy cardboard and thick plastic blister packs that could survive re-entry from the atmosphere. A good pair of kitchen shears can take care of these quickly as opposed to a pair of school scissors. The key here is a good, sturdy pair. Spend a few extra dollars.

One common purpose for kitchen shears is to cut up chicken and other meats. I don't really do that because I purchase for convenience. However, they are still very useful for food products. I will slit open a package of bacon, split open a bundle of hamburgers, and cut open packages of brisket from the butcher shop. You can also cut off celery tops and carrot ends and cut dough when baking!

When I use these with any food, I always give them a squirt of 409 All Purpose Cleaner no matter which way I end up washing them. This product contains dimethyl ammonium chloride, which can kill giardia, so I know it kills other unwanted bugs.

Kitchen shears and pruning shears.

Kitchen shears and pruning shears.

Pruning Shears: House and Gardening Uses

There are a variety of pruning shears for your home and garden. If you don't have many plants, or if they are simple indoor plants, you may not need a pair. Old scissors you already have can probably trim these.

Otherwise, you can choose from 8-inch shears with a curved or straight blade, manual or spring-loaded shears with long handles with short blades, short handles with long blades, or long handles with long blades. There are many configurations.

Consider what you need to trim. Low hedges, high branches, thick or thin stalks. Maybe you need safety features for latching and storage. Your particular needs will dictate which of the many blade options will be the best match for you.

We own a pair of all-purpose 8-inch pruning shears which easily cut all of our indoor plants, many outdoor plants, and 1/2-inch woody stalks around the yard. If I work at it, I can cut a larger diameter on occasion. If you need that ability, go ahead and buy larger shears, like our green ones, instead of risking injury.

Thread clippers and rotary cutter.

Thread clippers and rotary cutter.

Thread Clippers: For Home Sewing, Travel, and Clothing

Thread clippers are much smaller than fabric shears or other household scissors. They typically have fairly short, very sharp blades with a good point.

  • The major use is to clip threads, especially when sewing your own garments or home decor. You can get really close to the fabric and make a clean cut.
  • If you have embroidered cowboy boots, you may find a stray thread that wasn't trimmed properly. Thread clippers can nip right next to the leather to banish the offending string.
  • Purchased clothing sometimes has a thread poking out from a seam or dragging from the hem. Thread clippers get right to a small area where regular scissors might catch the fabric.
  • I find them useful to take on a plane when we travel with an only carry-on. They are smaller than school safety scissors and haven't been confiscated yet. We find there is always a need to cut something on a trip. Tags from a souvenir, a package of something or other that we bought, or some totally unexpected need.

Rotary Cutter: For Fabric, Paper, and Leather

If you are a quilter, you probably already have a rotary cutter.

If you quilt and don't have a rotary cutter, I urge you to get one as soon as possible. (You may also want a cutting mat that springs back after use.)

Rotary cutters are indispensable for strip quilting. They are wonderful for cutting curved quilt pieces and also great for straight quilt pieces. There are slightly different sizes, very different handles, and different purposes.

Most will easily cut fabrics and paper, but if you need to cut leather pieces, you will need to verify that the model and blade size is appropriate. You will also want to purchase extra blades because these cannot be sharpened like the blades of a knife or scissors.

Fabric shears and spring-loaded scissors.

Fabric shears and spring-loaded scissors.

Fabric Shears: For Fabric Only!

If you sew at all, you need a good pair of fabric scissors. These should be reserved only for fabric, and not even every kind of fabric. For example, "silver cloth" is a gritty material used for storing silver objects. This fabric would dull your good scissors. Other materials could also damage the blades, so be aware.

  • Take good care of them, store them in their sleeve or box..
  • Don't cut paper or other craft items.
  • When you cut something fuzzy, or after a while of regular use, clean between the blades at the hinge with a small brush or a puff from a can of air
  • If they become hard to open and close, a drop of sewing machine oil on the moving part or the center screw may help.
  • If they become dull, you can take them to a fabric store to have them sharpened.
  • Fabric shears should have a good heft, fit your hand size, and also fit whether you are right-handed or left-handed. Yes, there are special fabric scissors for the "southpaws" among us!

I have right-handed Gingher dressmaker shears, and they are fabulous. They are easy to operate, have stayed sharp since I've had them, and can slide through some fabrics without even having to use a cutting motion. They also come in a left-handed option, as do other brands.

Spring-Loaded Scissors: Various Household Uses

Say what? Yes, spring-loaded scissors. This style is a great all-purpose household tool and especially great for anyone with a touch of arthritis or other types of gripping issues.

The spring keeps your hand from having to both open and close the blades. You push closed to cut as normal, release your grip, and they spring open ready for your next cut. Essentially you are doing half the work of regular scissors. I use them for the mail, light cardboard packages, light plastic packaging, cutting ribbons from gifts, just many tasks.

They can be a little pricey, but they could be worth it to you. I have a pair by OXO Good Grips and they have lasted for years. I have a pinched nerve, and sometimes my right hand and arm aren't as strong as I like. These are very helpful at those times. They also have a latch to keep them closed for storage.

Paper Trimmer: For Crafts, Photos, and Handmade Cards

A small office-style paper trimmer is a very useful tool in our household. It cuts a few sheets of regular paper at a time, or 2 to 3 pieces of card stock simultaneously, and trims photos to precisely fit a frame.

We own this Fiskars paper trimmer. It fits easily in a drawer and suits all of our hobby and craft needs. We've used it on regular paper, photo paper, and card stock. It makes a really straight cut with no curving. You may need a larger or heavy-duty model, depending on your task requirements.

I painted a picture of poppies, and we printed those on card stock, two per sheet. It was very easy to then cut the card stock into two individual note cards.

We sometimes create our own Christmas cards from a family photo. If they print out two or three photos per sheet, we can cut them precisely.

Hobby Knife or Utility Knife: You Name It!

This is a very handy tool for arts, crafts, schoolwork, and any exacting work. Some are almost the size of pencils, and they increase in size from there. Click through all the thumbnails above to see the variety.

Different hobby knives have different size blades for a variety of projects. You can cut an exact size of any shape with the right blade. They are very sharp, so do not let a small child use them.

We have used them through the years for many school projects that involve mylar, plastic, cardboard, shoe boxes, poster board, and foam board.

We also use them when we cut stencils for certain painting projects. For our "Baking Days Aprons" (another article), my husband cut all the separate elements of our Christmas Tree stencil from mylar sheets. This includes the tree, the ornaments, the trunk of the tree, and the star.

Electric kitchen knife cutting poly-foam.

Electric kitchen knife cutting poly-foam.

Electric Kitchen Knife: For Carving Meat and Cutting Foam

An electric kitchen knife is an excellent tool for use with food items. I use ours to cut the brisket into nice, even slices. I have also used it on cabbage, chicken, Thanksgiving turkey, and pot roast.

You may be surprised to know this tool can also be used in crafting. It cuts through poly-foam padding like warm butter. It can cut exactly straight lines, curves, or other sculpting shapes. Fursuits could benefit from the precise cuts from this knife. It might be used on styrofoam also, although I have not tried that myself.

What Are You Cut out to Do?

I hope this article will introduce some new devices or give you some new ideas on how to use common household cutting tools.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 The Sampsons


The Sampsons (author) from The Ozarks, Missouri on April 26, 2020:

To complete the photo above, with all the other cutting items, here is the link. HUB made me make two articles and not reference the other one, but I'm going to try this.

The Sampsons (author) from The Ozarks, Missouri on January 27, 2019:

Oh, good!! I fancy myself a teacher so I’m very happy you enjoyed it.


Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on January 27, 2019:

Thanks for the lesson. Feels like I've been to class and learned some new facts. Good presenter, too

The Sampsons (author) from The Ozarks, Missouri on January 26, 2019:

Tim - Thank you so much.

It just occurred to me one day how much I cut, and why, and with what. I thought a general overview might be useful, especially for someone setting up a household or attempting various crafts.

Enjoy your weekend as well.


Tim Truzy from U.S.A. on January 26, 2019:

Hi, the Sampson Family,

The one quality I really like about this article is that it has something for both the outdoor person and a person who may work in the kitchen. My wife has all of these sewing cutters, and I have a huge pair of shears for working in the yard.

This is great information, and thank you for sharing. At least, now I can get the names of these cutting tools correct.

Much respect and may your weekend be pleasant and rewarding,