Video: Is Your Paper Cutter A Huge Safety Hazard?

Hazards in the art room exist. From smelly paints to sharp objects, safety should always be in the back of your mind when teaching art. The one item that keeps me up at night in MY art room is the paper cutter. In this video I will talk about some of my safety concerns and precautions surrounding paper cutters!

Weigh in with your ideas:

How do you keep the art room safe with sharp objects like the paper cutter?


4 years ago

Jessica Balsley

Jessica Balsley is the Founder and President at AOE. She is passionate about helping art teachers enhance their lives and careers through relevant professional development.


  • Erica

    I have the back corner of the room basically blocked off by having my desk on an angle, creating my little “teacher triangle area” I do tell/warn the students about the paper cutter, but mostly having it somewhere the kids don’t go is what is most helpful for me.

    • Teacher Triangle is a great idea!

      • K Hyman

        Jessica, I keep my blade turned to the wall when not in use, too and usually have the bed piled high with things to make it look un usable, I also have it on a high counter out of the reach or most little fingers and behind my desk in a no kids zone. I try to get all my cutting done before school starts or the night before so I won’t even have to access it during the school day. The first thing I do when I arrive in the A.M. is review my daily plans with cutting thoughts in mind. Planning ahead helps to avoid any mishaps. I did cut the tail of a vest once when I leaned over the cutting board. Lesson learned, I’m definitely more careful about what I am wearing and whether it comes anywhere near the blade and I take off my scarf when using the paper cutter. : )

        • I would agree – When students aren’t actively watching you cut, the idea of the paper cutting is much less tempting. You seem to have a great plan on place.

  • Alyssa Mattheis

    I take the paper cutter very seriously. After nearly chopping the end of my thumb off on a paper cutter that was not equipped with a safety guard, I am very aware of how dangerous this tool can be. I have my paper cutter in an area of my room that is set off from anywhere the students normally go, and no one is allowed to use the paper cutter without expressed permission (never for K-6 students). I always inform the students that even a teacher can have a misshap with tools and this segways into a nice discussion about classrooom safety and how to appropriately use all the materials and tools we have access to.


    I use red vinyl tape on the floor to mark of no-go-zones. I have one by my desk area at the school I’m at now and my previous jobs. I had one around the paper cutter at my last job and it’s on my very long to-do list to add at my new location. Thankfully, my paper cutter is not in a “high traffic” area, as you said, so it hasn’t been a worry. The red tape can be explained if needed but most often, students see the red lines know it means “stop”.

  • Matthew Martinez

    After a few years of being in the classroom, I moved it into my office. At the beginning of the year I explain about it and that students are to use it only with my permission. One year, I demonstrated how sharp it is by cutting an apple. I am not worried about scarves being cut in two, only neckties.

  • artswim

    I keep it on my file cabinets and take it down when I’m going to use it!

  • Pam Tycer

    When I was pregnant, I would always have these little cuts in my shirt because I couldn’t see over my belly and my shirt would get in the way! Luckily a lot of my shirts were prints so I could mend them and no one would notice. I really like the idea of putting the blade toward the wall. Great idea! I will do that from now on.

  • Jean Bullock

    Most of the time I had my guillotine cutter locked up and used it when the students weren’t there. I used the cutter to cut panels for Mother’s Day cards, but I always stood behind it and positioned myself so I was facing the students. I explained very graphically what might happen if they tried to use the cutter. Guess my warning was effective. No one ever did. If I had to work away from the cutter I put it on a wide counter with the lever facing the wall.

    I work for a parochial school and our diocese has now forced everyone to remove guillotine cutters from the schools. Only rotary cutters may be used now.

  • Laura

    I made up a little story about the paper cutter that I feel gets the message across. At the beginning of the year, or whenever someone gets very close or might look like they are going to touch it, I will tell my class how when I was in third grade, a fourth grader was playing around on it and cut his finger off, and while I didn’t see it, I remember seeing the ambulance. Depending on their age, I will embellish it by saying that the hospital couldn’t reattach the finger, or I might say that the blood stain was still on the carpet of the art room (which always gets a gasp). As bad as I may feel about lying to my students, the very last thing I ever want is someone to get hurt using that very dangerous classroom accessory, and if thats what I have to do, thats what I have to do. Reality is that I have no prep time, I can’t be locking it away immediatly after using it, and I have classrooms that hover around 30 kids, and I can’t keep my eyes on everyone and every moment.

  • I eventually gave in an opted to get my paper trimmer mounted on the wall. Same as one the earlier posts, my tops and dresses ended up with so many pulls and small cuts it was costing me a fortune :)

    In the end I decided to buy a wall mounted trimmer (Dahle 554) its an A2 paper trimmer so its quite big but I found that it is so useful and now allows me to work on much larger scale commissions.

  • Kimberly DeKay

    Wow, I can’t believe I never thought to TURN the cutter so the blade was against the wall. YES, YES, YES!!! Thanks :)