Guillotine Not Only Paper Cutter




About: I"m back.

Weel, it's been a while since my last instructable, but I'm back, and here's the thing for you. More specifically - a guillotine paper cutter. Or, as I know it - a Saber Cutter It's main porpouse is to cut sheet materials (mostly paper), and If you have to deal with this kind of job more or less frequently - this tool can save you a bunch of time and effort. You probably have seen one theese elsewhere, and know how they work.

I had a bunch of possible implications for the cutter in my head before making one, and now, hawing it built, I'm getting even more ideas. In my following instrucatables I'll try demontrate them, along with different materials you can cut with this tool.

So,let's begin.

At the moment when I decided to make a guillotine cutter, for my workshop, I was able to find only one single tutorial on Youtube - this one:

For me the problem was that I didn't have neither a good quality steel for making massive blade, nor more or less capable power tools for working it. Thus, the main feature of my design was born - a thin blade, backed with rigid wooden holder. It reducess the ammount of metalworking to minimum, while producing perfectly capable tool.

Step 1: Materials

So, I've started vorking on this project quiet few months ago, and initially It had to be an entry for Trash to Treassure contest. It mostly explains my choice of the materials, and some extra steps I had to make to bring those to required condition. But, to be honest, wouldn't it be the contest, it probably would still be some junk I found laying around.

In general, to replicate my design you'll need a few wooden bars for the basis (I used pine), an iron angle bar for cutting edge (I'll talk about this later), a piece of plywood for the top surface, a plank of hard wood for the blade holder (a piece of oak wood flooring in my case), and an old broken saw will do perfectly for the blade itself. Glue, screws etc.

Some other materials will be introduced later: like an aluminium angle bar for the fence and a wooden ruller for the scale - those are optional choices.

Step 2: Derusting the Thing

For named reasons, the most reasonable thing for me was to begin with derusting the iron angle bar for the straight edge.

I usually use a citric acid to derust iron/steel instead of vinegar. Where I live, it has an economical advantage, as well as few others: it's readily available; takes little place to store; doesn't smell. Other than that it works exactly like white vinegar (in terms of the result). I'm planning on writing an instructable on derusting stuff including a couple of other things, they usually don't tell in most tutorials.

Basicaly, toss a bunch of citric acid, and add water. Leave your stuff soaking for how much it will take, depending on the state of your stuff, then rince it with fresh water brushing off loose material. The final step is to clean the surface with metal brush (not shown on pictures).

It took a couple of days for my angle piece, so meanwhile I was able to work on other components.

Step 3: The Base Frame

To make the frame for the base I used for pieces. WHen choosing the size of a working area for my cutter I was aiming for it to be larger than A-4 sheet of paper, while, naturally, considering the size of scraps I had.

The constuction is simple - a rectangle frame with one side "flying" out for some distance. Later this ptrotruding bit will be used for housing the blade axis.

As you can see, I tried to use my newly built router table for making the joinery. While it worked well enough for mortises, I didn't quite nailed it for tenons, which resulted in my frame looking less then stellar. Partially I dealt with it later (for cosmetic porpouses mostly), but it had no influence for structural integrity, so, who, kind of, cares.

Everithin is held by glue.

Also, one more thing to mention - the thickness of the wooden beams here - is obviously quite an overkill for what this construction is destined to endure, but it was the only material I had at the time, so...

Step 4: The Working Surface

For the working surface I used a piece of 6mm (I guess) thick plywood. I traced the frame onto it and cut a bit oversized rectangle based on that.

Then I predrilled and screwed the piece down to the frame.The amount of screws I used for that is yet another overkill for this project.

Step 5:

Now, when the "lid" is firmly secured (no need for using all screwa at this point) I could trimm the excess material flush on my router table, or it can be done just with router alone.

Step 6: The Little Bit

Then I dealed with the that little portion.

Step 7: Making the Recess

The first photo may scare you. I know - it scares me too. But I swear, noone here is going to work metall with that flush bit. It was done to set the depth of cut solely.

Anyway, with few passes on a router table the recess was made to acomodate the cutting edge angle.

Step 8: Cutting Edge

And now about the iron angle bar itself.

What I call a cutting edge here - is a piece with a straight edge presented against the cutting edge of the blade. You know - thtat thing.

Idealy, the blade and the cutting edge are have to be made of equally hard steel. Othervice, the harder edge vill gradually eat the softer one (which is my case). I can't tell how much of an issue it is, since I haven't been using my cutter for long, but it works now, and probably will work for long enough. And even later I'll be able to file the detail down to prestine condition. But If you concerned about this, you can het treat your detail to mach the hardness of the blade, use epoxy to glue a strip of the same metal (saw blade) to the top surface of the angle, or simply make the blade and the cutting edge of the same type of steel.

Since the angle bar piece I was using was in a quiet decrepid condition, there was a lot of work for me to be done to remove all the pits and fall on the surface. I've done a part of the job with power tools, and the rest was finished later (I'll return to it in further steps).

The piece has already had three convenoently situated holes on one side, so all I had to do is to countersinc them.

With three screws and some predrilling, the cutting edge piece was then attached to the basis.

Step 9: Shaping the Blade

As I mentioned earlier, for the blade itsef I used a blade of an old saw. This steel is quiet decent for the job and will hold the edge well enough.

One thing the guillotine cutter blade has to have to perform well is the curvature. This way the blade is able to "strike" the material at constant (somewhat) angle. I'm prety sure, there's some sacred geometry and reasonable calculations are have to be applied to this, but I'm just doing what feels right.

A strip of wood supported in two points (off shot) is bent to create the curve. Then the curve is transfered onto the blade and excessive material is grinded off.

Step 10: Making Notches

Three (or more) notches then have to be cut on the blade for it to be secured on the blade holeder later.

Step 11: Blade Holer

Next - is the blade holder.

I'm tracing the shape of the blade onto the oak plank to determin it's shape. The handle is incorporated into the design then.

The shaping of the piece can be done with variety of tools.

The bevel, coming down to the blade's cutting edge is aded.

Step 12: Establishing the Curve

If you'll take a look at regular scissors - you'll probably notice that often two blades are slightly curved toward each other and produce a springy force to provide the shearing action in the point where cuting edges are meating.

To achieve similar result a slight curve has to be produced to the blade in giullotine cutter. But in this case, instead of curving the blade itself, the responsibility for this is laid onto the blade holder. Thus, the inward curve has to be established on the surface housing the blade to be then transfered to it.

Mark a straight line on one edge for a refference and sand piece to the shape.

Step 13: Rounding the Edges

Rounding the handle and the spine finishes the shaping of the blade holder.

Step 14: Securing the Blade

Position the blade with upon the blade holder into it's finite position and mark the holes to made.

Then the holes are drilled and the blade is secured with bolts and washers.

Step 15:

The blade holder is conectedto the frame of the cutter with a bolt, which also acts as the rotation axel, so necessary holes are drilled in required places.

Step 16: The Fence

One of the most essential parts in the cutter is the fence - the staight edge, you put material against on cutting.

You can make it probably out of anything as soon as it's capable to present idealy straight edge. Aluminium corner profile for LED lighting worked perfectly for me. Although, if using an iron, an magnet can be used later as movable stopper with the fence for repeating cuts, so consider this option as well.

Cut your piece to lenght for it going from one edge of cutting board to another.

You can also see the ruler, but on that - later.

Step 17: Securing the Fence

I'm drilling a series of holes for attaching the fence part.

Try to make holes as closer to the diameter of screews as posible.

At this point it will be enough to just screw the piece at at two holes at opposite sides, as the further adjustments will be made. Use the squere gauge to set the fence strictly 90* to the cutting edge.

Step 18: Marking the Scale Gauge

While not necessary, the scale gauge can be added to the working surface. A simple wooden ruler was used in my case to act as one.

Using another rectangular aluminium profile against the fence as a spacer the ruler was positioned and traced along the sides onto the working surface.

Step 19: The Gauge Recess

The plan is to to make a recess for the ruler to sit fush with the surface, so firstly lines are cut with the knife to prevent further tear outs on routing.

The thickness of the ruler is used to set the depth for the bit and, with guide beem secured the recess is cut in multiple passes (two) with the router. The remaining material was cleaned up with a chisel.

Step 20: Sanding the Working Surface

At this point I decided to send the wirking surface with 100 (or 120) grit paper.

Step 21: Refining the Cutting Edge

As I mentioned earlier, this project was abandoned for few months. I knew, that the angle bar cutting edge piece was far from perfect with lot's of pits and dents, but I dreaded to think of spending hours grinding it against a sheet of sandpaper to bring it to the condition I would be really happy with.

Luckily, along time ago I have bought this file at the fleamarket. As far as I aware, it's specially used to bring the metal surfaces to the flat plane. So I decided to try it, and it worked good. Initially, the bar had a slight bent to it, but I was able to iliminate most of it by partially hammering it, and later - filing it down.

Although, afterall I was able to to remove most of the deffects on the surface, a couple of dents still remained present on the cutting edge. So use new materials, live in harmony with yourself, and don't be a f*****g masochist, as I am.

Step 22: Trimming the Gauge

When the cutting edge is installed, the ruler can be trimmed and incorporated to the working surface.

Match the zero with the edge and mark, where to cut.

Cut off the excess and don't neglect on doublechecking the results.

Overhanging bit on the opposite site is up to be trimmed as well.

Step 23: Securing the Gauge

To secure the gauge three holes were drilled in the ruller, and, unsurprisingly, three screws were used to pin it down.

Step 24: Finetuning the Fence

Now, when the cutting edge was worked out to it's finite dimensions, the fence can be finetuned and secured to it's final final position.

As you remember, previously, it was screwed down with only two screws on opposite sides. Now, drill one of those holes one (or more) milimeter bigger. It'll give a bit of a wiggle room on one side to reposition the fence (this is what is shown in the video).

Use a square gauge to set the fence first and tighten both screws. Then take a sheet of office paper, align it against the fence and make a cut (the blade doesn't necesarily has to be sharpened at this point). Then flip the sheet and align it against the fence and the cuting edge at one of the corners. This way the deviation from 90* (if existant) will be doubled, and thus will be either visible (comparing to the cutting edge) or sensibele (with your finger you will feel an overhanging material over the cutting edge closer to one of the created angles).

If some unsquareness was found - loosen up the screw at the bigger opening and move coresponding side of the fence the required amount. Secure it by tightening the screw afrewards.

When the fence is set on its final position, the rest of screws can be applied to solidify it's state.

And one more thing about the fence. I didn;t do it, but I can recoment to make a recess for it to be sunken a bit below the working surface, since thinner materials can slip onderneath it sometimes.

Step 25: Guidelines Marking Preparation

There's a bunch of ways, you can put the guidelines onto the working surface. The simplest option is to on include them at all. It's up to you to decide.

I decided to burn them down because it looks cool, but also because the lines created this way lay below the working surface, thus more resistant to wear and tear.

Althiugh I have a special woodburning electric iron, I wasn't quiet satisfied with it's performance, so I ended up using more powerfull soldering iron.

Firstly - is to mark the boundaries for our lines. A lines made with a regular pencil can be easily removed afterward with an eracer.

Two rulers were used to guide the soldering iron: the square one, positioned against the fence, and a straight one, positioned against the first one, thus to be parallel to the cutting edge.

Needless to say that the straight ruler, that serves to guide the iron has to be made out of metal.

Step 26: Marking Parallel Guidelines

The first set of guidelines is formed of lines paralel to the cutting edge. To space them out the gauge ruler was used as a refference, and 1 cm was the lenght of the step.

Step 27: Marking Angle Guidelines

The second set of guidelines represents the array of angles originating at the point where the fence crosses the cutting edge and presented in 15* increments.

You can make it stepping at any increment you want. Personally I find 15 degree most useful for most implications.

You can easyly create 45* angle using the square ruler as shown on the picture. But to create other angles you'll have to do something different. Offcourse there's special tools existing to help enyone with any similar task, but I don't have them. And if you don't have them either - here's a couple of options, that were relevat to me.

Firstly, you can use simple protractor expanding the lines with longer ruler. And if you have a gig one it's fine. With the one as small as I have, the ammount op possible deviation is just a thing to considere.

But you can also create 30 and 60 degree angles by applying some sacred geometry to a sheet of office paper. Here's the link:

This is what I ended up using, since it seamed, although yet not perfect, but reasonably precise for the job. So this way I marked 15, 30, 60 and 75 degrees on the working surface.

Step 28: Finishing the Working Surface

To finish the working surface I used nitrocellulose lacquer, mainly because it was the only lacquer I've had.

Few coats will be sufficient enough to protect everything from rubbing and staining.

Step 29: Prettying Up

Initially the whole thing was planed to made just to do the job, so the looks kind of didn't matter. But at this point it started looking just a little bit decent, so I decided to adress some aestetic issues to improve on this quality. So I stripped the whole thing back to the frame.

As I mentioned, I tried to make tenons with a router initially. It all went wrong and eventually ended up on me giving up on it and doing the rest traditionally - with the saw. In the result, some holes ended up looking odd. So here I'm filling those holes with new wood, as well as plugging a couple of nail holes on front.

After some planing and sanding it ended up looking somewhat ok. At least on the outside.

Step 30: Thinning Down the Frame

To adress the issue with overly thick frame, I used router with a roundig bit to remove some material from the inside of the frame first to reduce the weight at least a little bit.

I also routed the outside at the bottom, leaving sections at the corners square to represent the legs. It mostly was done to make the frame apear thinner visually - a trick very similar to the one used in traditional japanese furniture.

Step 31: Making Rubber Feet - Center Hole

For sure, you can buy those. But what fun in that?

To make rubber feet for my cutter I used a piese of ~5mm thick sheet rubber.

Firstly, four half way deep holes were made with 12mm spade bit. A wide-head screw should fit in remaining below the surface.

Step 32: Making Rubber Feet - Cutting Off

Then with a crown bit, circles were cut based around created earlier holes.

They all ended up being of somewhat different size though. Probably, it has something to do with the preassure applied on drilling.

Step 33: Making Rubber Feet - Refining

Both flat surfaces were then sanded, and the rim was cleaned against the sanding paper, with the detail rotating in a drill secured on a bolt as shown.

Step 34: Attaching the Feet

The feet were attached to the bottom of the frame with wide-head screws.

Step 35: Finishing the Frame

To finish the frame I used boiled linseed oil.

Step 36: Refining the Blade

At this point the blade was quiet usable as it was, but it had a couple of dents on the cutting side I wanted to get rid of.

So, I marked the ammount of the material along the edge, I wanted to get rid off and filed it all down with the same file I used on the angle bar.

After that a slight bevel was established to create sharp cutting edge. Although, make sure, yoyr blade is not too thin when sharpened.

A round notch was also filed down near the end of the blade to engage with the stopper (more on that later).

Step 37: Blade Holder Finishing and Assembly With the Blade

I sanded the blaed holder to 120 grit and gave it a coat of linseed oil aftrwards.

I bet, I missed this step earlier, but three holes were drilled in the blade holder matching the slots in the blade. Also the hole for the axel bolt was created on both: the holder and the blade (I killed a drill bit trying to drill throug the saw steel, so instead of the hole I ended up grinding a section out with an angle grinder). The blade is firmly attached to the holder with series of bolts with wide washers helping to spread the pressure.

This configuration allowes for the blade to be moved down on the holder as it'll gradually become narrower after repeating sharpening.

A long bolt serves as an rotation axis for the blade-blade holder, and by means of it the whole saber assembly attaches to the frame of the cutter utilizing the hole in that funky protruding bit.

Step 38: Blade Stopper

And finally, the last bit - the blade stopper. It fixes the blade on the closing motion preventing it going further than we want to.

I made one from this old furniture oin, but any bolt driven into the hole will do the job.

At this point you can consider your cutter being done. Although I consider incorporating one another feature to it, so will see. If I'll do it - I'll include it as an add-on to this instructable

Step 39: Testing

To demonstate the abilities of my cutter I prepared a little test including a few materials, and not including a couple (I forgot the Tetra-Pak and the camera has run of the memory, so I didn't picture the rubber sheeth). Watch the video to see the results.

In the bunch were present:

1 - A sheeth of ofice paper;

2 - Corrugated cardboard;

3 - A plastic bottle (two layers);

4 - An aluminium can;

5 - Paper roll (camera glitced out all three attemptes, so I just patched it in editor);

6 - 4-5mm thich sheeth rubber (not presen in the video).

So, in general, the cutter deals reasonably good with thin paper (the result can be imroved by more presise sharpening of both cutting edges). It deals really good with thicker and more dense materials as thin catdboard (tested off camera), plastic (from PET bottle) and thin sheet soft metals. It deals reasonably well with thicker cardboard and rubber, but with the increase of the thickness it begins to struggle,

One thing to mention here is that some amount of force is should be applied, with the hand on cutting pushing the handle toward the cutting edge to produce optimal conditions. In industrialy produced cutters a strong spring is usually incorporated to do this job.

Step 40:

Ugh... finally. It was a long going project turned into a pretty long instructable. If I would make it agan, It would probably resulted in more efficient and rational process, but it's ofthen how the things are for making something for the first time. The thing ended up looking and workig good enough.

As I said at the beginning, I'm planning to produce at least few instructables showcasing usage of this tool. Also, maybe some agmentations will be made, so stay tooned for more.. But this is it for now, thanks for your attention, and If you have found a a wholw pile of typos in the text - it's because I'm tired, and havent proof read it yet.

If you like, what I do and what to support me, you can revard my job with the Amazon gift card. You can choose any amount to be sent, and any amount will help me to develop my content here. Use this link to order the card over the internet:

And my e-mail to send the card to:

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    14 Discussions


    4 weeks ago

    I have seen the plastic office ones but your wooden version is so much better. Good write up, thanks.

    1 reply

    4 weeks ago

    Outstanding! Our office has one with a plastic base which cracked after the first few uses. I think I'll make a new wooden base using your instructable as inspiration. Thanks!

    1 reply
    Waldemar ShaPrfesser

    Reply 4 weeks ago

    We had a metall ome in ours. I'm kind of missing it... Well, not that much anymore. Thak you.


    4 weeks ago

    This is one very impressive tool, you have done an amazing job! Good luck in the contest, I voted for you!

    1 reply

    5 weeks ago

    That is one heck of an impressive finger nail trimmer you made.

    Well done!

    1 reply