Shop teacher needs advice

I am a public school teacher at a Middle School in Polk County Florida. This is my second year doing an engineering elective with 6th to 8th graders. Because money and materials are scarce ( and to make the kids think outside the box about everyday objects ) we use a lot of household items and recyclable materials.

We use soda cans, plastic bottles, Styrofoam and LOTS of cardboard. Most things the kids can cut with a decent pair of scissors, but I have not found any that hold up to extended daily use and teenagers that are not close to $20 a pair. So I have been using a retractable safety box cutter - myself -( do not dare hand it to a kid ) for all the cardboard. But that means I spend the majority of a class period slicing cardboard and each student has to wait in line for me to cut out their pieces. I have to change the blade every day ( sometimes flipping it to the other end after lunch ) and have learned to start out the day with a band aid over the ball joint on my index finger or I will have a blister there by the end of the day.

There HAS to be a better way … so I googled it and found a discussion posted here back in 2011 on the best way to make straight cuts in cardboard. It mentioned a couple of tools that looked perfect … but the later replies to the article said that those are no longer produced or are only available overseas.

I have talked to my Dad who is a contractor and to a couple of great guys working at Lowes, but no luck so far.

If you have ANY ideas for hand tools that might be feasible, I would welcome the input. Please e-mail your ideas to my school board issued e-mail address - - as I will most likely not be able to come back to the forum very often.

If I do get time, I will try to post some pics of all the crazy / amazing stuff my students have built.


Hm. Well, have you tried crash scissors (the kind that can cut a penny?) They are used by EMTs to cut away clothing, and are super-tough, but usually disposable, about $3 a pair. No sharp points.

Alternatively, a paper cutter, the kind that uses a round blade mounted in a track (that are replacing the guillotine-style cutters) might work for thin cardboard.

I have used utility shears in my shop for a while. They have serrated blades that might last longer. Similar to this:

I also have a rotary cutter and straight edge on order for cutting up shop rags for staining and cardboard templates.

Some of the Canary Brand cardboard cutters get good reviews:

Festool sell jigsaw blades made for this and they work really really well. I’ve used them on rigid foam insulation and cardboard sor far, no mess or dust, like you would get with a standard toothed cutting blade. These are a standard T shank blade so they should fit most jigsaws. I’ve only used them for straight cuts, not sure how they would fare with tight curves, but they may work for large radius curves if you need. $18 for a pack of 3, free shipping from most Festool dealers. This should save you some time and bandaids, just watch out for that extra long blade below the cardboard!

Bosch also makes these blades:

Quite a few years ago – we did some set construction for some shows and some film shoots.
On at least one – there were crews cutting both foam and cardboard for set dressing using this:

I see that the foam cutter has a variety of add on pieces , blades, shoes etc. that you may need to purchase separately.

My take is that in a classroom setting – a less expensive hand-tool approach might be better

Thanks SOOO much to all who have replied. I posted it at dinner time and had several replies by morning. You guys are awesome !

So far, I am leaning toward either a Fiskars rotary cutter or one of the Canary blades. Just wish they came with some sort of safety feature. ( retractable, or a cover so I can set it down and not have to put in a drawer if I walk away from the cutting station ). Also found some cardboard Scissors on the Canary site that were only about $10 a piece. May just order a single of all 3 and see what works best. I can hand the scissors to the kids, but the other two would have to be mine.

If anyone has experience with any of the 3 ( or any alternate suggestions ), your input would be most gratefully appreciated. Specifically looking for info on durability of the blade, how often to replace or sharpen and ease of blade change or what best to sharpen with.

Some of the Canary cutter are retractable:

Also these scissors get good reviews for cutting cardboard: