Rotary cutting helps you cut fabrics and assemble quilts in record time, but it's a technique that can cause injuries if a few basic safety guidelines aren't followed. Don't be afraid to use rotary cutting methods, but do become familiar with rotary safety rules before you pick up that first cutter or attempt to change a blade.
Keep the Safety Shield ClosedGet into the habit of closing your rotary cutter's safety shield every time you lay it down. Leave it open and I guarantee that someday you'll brush your hand against it and get cut. Every manufacturer makes a slightly different type of safety latch, and in some rotary cutters, blades automatically retract when you release pressure on the trigger after making a cut. Try out several cutters to see which ones have safety devices that are easiest for you to manipulate -- many quilt shops have cutters set up on a cutting board so that quilters can experiment.
Handle Replacement Blades with CareBlade replacement techniques are another area where rotary cutter styles differ. Many cutter blades are replaced by removing a nut and washer to access the old blade; the process is reversed after slipping the new blade in place. Handle both blades carefully during replacement (that old blade will still cut fingers). The blade in EZ Quilting's Quick Change rotary cutter comes off as a single unit with its own protective cover, so you never touch the blade at all.
Don't Throw an Old Rotary Blade Directly Into the TrashEven dull blades are sharper than most knives and can cause serious injury to someone taking out the trash. Many replacement blades come in plastic containers. Keep them and put your used blades in the containers for disposal. Wrap some masking tape around the container for a bit of extra insurance. If you don't have a case, wrap blades in layers of heavy paper and then carefully surround the paper with packing tape. Put all used blades into trash that kids and pets can't access.
Keep Your New Rotary Blades in a Safe PlaceKeep your new rotary cutting blades in a safe spot, one you're sure kids and pets can't find. Don't unwrap the original packaging until it's time to install a new blade.
Always Rotary Cut Away from Your BodyThe rotary cutter should always roll away from your body. Never attempt to cut "backwards," towards yourself. It's just too dangerous. Move the fabric and do it the right way.
Don't Make 'Crossover' Rotary CutsWhen I refer to 'crossover' cuts, I mean do not hold a ruler with your left hand and cross over the ruler to cut on its left side. There's just too much risk of injury to your arm and fingers when you attempt that type of rotary cutting maneuver.
Keep Your Fingers Away from Ruler EdgesA right-handed cutter must hold the ruler steady with the left hand while cutting down the right side of the ruler. Lefties reverse the process. Keep those fingers away from the ruler's edge and out of the path of the cutter, and put fabric grips under the ruler to keep it from slipping around on the fabric (grips are available commercially). Your cuts will be more accurate and your fingers won't slide into the path of the cutter.
Always Rotary Cut While Standing UpDon't attempt to rotary cut with a typical rotary cutter while sitting down. You can't hold the ruler or the cutter correctly in that position, and that's a scenario that leads to accidents. Some quilters report that Maretelli's Ergo 2000 cutter works nicely from a sitting position, too, so it might be a good choice for a quilter who cannot stand.
Always Use a Rotary Ruler and Rotary MatRotary rulers and mats are designed specifically for use with rotary cutters. Regular rulers do not have the depth that's required to keep the blade running alongside the ruler -- away from your fingers instead of skipping across the top and across your hand. Make cuts on a surface that's not meant for rotary cutting and you'll end up with damaged furniture, nicked blades and fabrics that scoot all over the place when cut.
A Rotary Cutter isn't a ScrewdriverUse your rotary cutter for the tasks it was created for. The blade isn't a handy screwdriver. The heavy circular top isn't a small hammer. I know that sounds silly, but we sometimes grab the first thing we see when we need a tool that's not nearby. Use your cutter for the jobs it's meant for, follow all of the safety guidelines, and you'll have more fun cutting fabrics than you ever thought was possible.