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Fact or Fiction: Cutting paper is bad for your knife

Discussion in 'General Knife Discussion' started by Dekz, Oct 29, 2007.

  1. Dekz


    Oct 26, 2007
    Seems to be common knowledge among my friends/family that cutting paper is bad for a knife (dulls the blade quite quickly)

    This makes absolutely no sense to me. You would think that paper of all things would be the easiest thing a knife can hope to see during its use.

    So I ask the experts, is there any truth to this? If not, does anybody know where this myth comes from?
  2. SIFU1A


    May 12, 2001
    no paper does NOT dull your knife quickly, no truth to it at all, i have never heard that before and dont have a clue where it came from, lol.
  3. Jamesh Bond

    Jamesh Bond

    Jan 14, 2007
    Cutting ANYTHING dulls a knife.
    Paper cutting is actually an accepted standard for determining minimum adequate sharpness of a blade...

    No magic or myth to it, just common physics. Paper is (minutely) abrasive, and is even used to "fine tune" an already sharp edge... I strop my blade on cardboard, newspaper, or even my pants after every single cut I make, and thus substantially reduce blade wear by keeping the blade shaving sharp for weeks instead of days before it has to be touched up on a stone.

    PS... welcome to BFI
  4. SIFU1A


    May 12, 2001
    well certainly cutting anything dulls a knife lol, the question was does it dull the blade quickly and the answer to that is "no".

    sure doesnt on any of mine anyway, YMMV lol.
  5. jonnymac44


    Sep 27, 2007
    Paper cutting is not more detrimental to your knife's edge than any other soft medium. I too have heard that old wives' tale over the years, ever since I was a little kid, but it seems to be more myth than anything else.

  6. jill jackson

    jill jackson

    Sep 5, 2006
    Cutting paper depends on the type, as to if it dulls a knife blade quickly. (Everyone knows cardboard is very abrasive and will dull a blade fast). I found the following information on the commercial cutting of paper:

    Knife blade life, or the time between sharpenings, can be affected by many factors. One important factor is the type of paper being cut. Abrasive paper, such as recycled paper, soft paper such as newsprint paper, and bound books can all significantly shorten knife blade life. Also, if the knife depth is set too deep, the knife will cut too deep into the cutting stick and can dull the knife blade.

    A knife can last anywhere between 2,000 and 5,000 cuts before it needs to be sharpened. Cutting soft paper (such as newsprint paper) or paper with high post-consumer recycled content can cause the knife to need sharpening after only 2,000 to 3,000 cuts. Cutting pure paper, such as bond paper with no recycled content, or hard paper can allow the knife to be used for as many as 5,000 cuts before it needs to be sharpened. In all cases, the operator should continually check the quality of the cut to determine when the knife blade needs to be sharpened. Some characteristics that indicate a blade needs sharpening are:

    The knife hesitates or stalls while making a cut.

    The sheets are not all cut to the same length (usually the top few sheets are longer than the rest of the sheets - this is sometimes called “draw”).

    Cut marks appear on the cut face of the paper.

    The profile of the cut (side view) is not perpendicular to the table.

    The cut does not appear straight when viewed from the top.

    The knife makes a “rougher” sound as it passes through paper.

    Nicks are visible on the cutting edge of the knife.
  7. HoB


    May 12, 2004
    Well, I wanted to answer along the lines of Jill. Maybe your family took cardboard to imply all kinds of paper. Cardboard is quite abrasive and can dull a knife quite quickly.
  8. Greg


    Jul 15, 2004
    Paper is generally wood fibres plus fillers and glue to bind. The wood fibres are OK, but the glue and fillers can be quite abrasive.
  9. Dekz


    Oct 26, 2007
    Maybe I should have been more specific in my wording.

    I understand that pretty much everything dulls the knife as it gets used.

    I mean, really, REALLY bad for it. Abnormally bad, avoid cutting paper at all costs bad.

    Judging from most of the posts in this thread, that is not the case. I wonder where this myth came from, perhaps it started out as being about cardboard and as it was passed along it changed to all paper.
  10. HoB


    May 12, 2004
    I think it came from scissors. Paper is more abrasive than natural fabrics. A taylor would not have his scissors abused by cutting paper with them.

    Asside from that is the notion of avoiding at all cost to cut anything that is softer than hardened steel of course complete nonsense. Knifes are made to cut. When they get dull (and they will eventually one way or another), you sharpen them, end of story. Cutting glass (its actually more a scatching before breaking it) is EXTREMELY hard on an edge, but what can you do? It's not as if you have much of a choice when you want to make precision glass-breaks. Additionally, you can adapt the steel and the edge geometry to the cutting task. You are not going to put the same kind of edge for a tool to turn aluminum, copper and steel (yes, those are cutting applications as well) as on a scalpel. By and large you are not going to use the same steel for a chopper as for a knife that cuts cardboard all day long. After all this is in part what this forum is all about. But what non-knife-person (NKP) has thought about those things.....and what NKP knows how to sharpen a knife.
  11. GronK

    GronK Gold Member Gold Member

    Apr 1, 2001
    +1 for scissors. I always thought it was an old wives tale made up to keep the kids from trotting off with the good shears and losing them.
  12. mete

    mete Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 10, 2003
    You guys don't know too much about paper !!!! Papers vary.The one that is VERY abrasive is the heavy, shiney type. This is filled with CLAY ! Much of paper and cardboard is now recycled and could contain almost anything ! For cardboard I use my Sebenza where the great abrasion resistance is useful ! A fine knife or fine scissors meant for fabric is never used for paper in my house.
  13. Redguy


    Nov 11, 2003
    Some papers - or the added glue - may consist little specks of kaolinite or even glasspowder or quartz and those materials are harder than steel.
  14. jill jackson

    jill jackson

    Sep 5, 2006
    I've always heard the old timers say paper will dull a blade fast. But wood is easy on it by comparison. Besides the wood fibres, pulps may contain fillers such as chalk or china clay, which improve the characteristics of the paper for printing or writing. That must be why paper will dull faster than wood. I've even read cardboard contains small metal particles.
    You can see a SOG Jungle Primitive have trouble slicing an orange, that it sliced fairly well right before Noss used it to slice a sheet of cardboard into small strips. At his website- www.knifetests.com
  15. Kaizen1

    Kaizen1 Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 4, 2006
    If cardboard can really be that rough, is it reasonable to have your blade chip on it every once and awhile? Or maybe little micro chips?

    I just think I remember someone saying that their S30V blade had chips or micro chips in it after cuttig cardboard.
  16. switchman1


    Nov 27, 2003
    Just to add to the conversation, my father told me when I was around ten or eleven yrs. old, (I'm fifty- eight now) that cardboard was one of the worst things you could cut with a knife, I don't know how true it is, but I have always used box cutters for cutting cardboard.
  17. spyder10


    Dec 19, 2005
    Ya, only the paper/cardboard that has the clay added will do much to the edge of a knife.
  18. hardheart


    Sep 19, 2001
    ignoramus, I got microchips in S30V and a couple other steels when doing some cardboard cutting. The S30V was the worst, but it was one of those "I had to sharpen it a bunch to get to good metal" situations. Someone else may have had a similar situation, I think sodak has voiced concerns.
  19. Jeff Clark

    Jeff Clark

    Apr 27, 1999
    Paper dulls knives relatively fast for its volume. Typically we only cut a small volume of paper so it is not very noticeable. I almost never use scissors when I can use my pocket knife. When you do this you notice dulling. A common example of this dulling is to observe how fast Xacto knives used for doing paste-ups get dull.

    Clay is a standard component of paper. The amount varies. It can be really surprising when you look at magazines:

    "MOST MAGAZINES are printed on coated groundwood paper, which is the same kind of paper used by newspapers. Clay, the most common coating, smoothes the surface of the paper and creates a surface glossy inks can adhere to. A two-sided, coated paper sheet used for magazines will normally have 30 to 35 percent clay and filler and 65 to 70 percent paper fiber content."

    Here is a little more info on minerals used in paper making:

    "The most generally used filler is clay, which is a natural white mineral, formed by the weathering of certain types of rock. It is prepared for use by washing, separating sand and mica, and drying for shipment. Formerly much of the clay came from England, but the greater part now used in this country is of American origin. The important properties for a filler clay are good whiteness and freedom from grit and mica. Particle size is not nearly as important as in a coating clay and little attention is paid to this property in selecting a filler. Uniformity of color is also not as important as in coating clays because the filler is dispersed among the fibers and its effect is much less marked than when in a surface coating. This does not mean that the properties of a filler clay are unimportant and need not be controlled, but merely that they are less critical than for coating work.

    In the early days clay was added dry to the stock in the beater, being measured by weight or more roughly as so many buckets full. Modern practice is to prepare a clay slip by mixing with water, adjust its dry clay content to a definite and constant value, and measure this to the beater by volume. In either case it is customary to add the clay fairly early in the beating process on the theory that if beaten into the fibers as they are cut and fibrillated its retention would be greater as the sheet is formed on the paper machine wire. It is very doubtful if this point is of any importance. No mat-ter how the stock is prepared a certain amount of the clay or other filler passes through the wire with the water, but much of this is later recovered in the white water save-ails and used over again.

    The filler next in importance to clay is precipitated chalk, which is calcium carbonate. The natural ground mineral is seldom used and the manufactured product is made in several different ways and in very different degrees of fineness. Chalk is much whiter than clay and is of more help in increasing the opacity of the sheet. It is an alkaline material and its presence makes it extremely difficult to size the paper with rosin and alum. Because its alkalinity overcomes the acidity of the alum used in the beater contents, the permanence of paper filled with chalk is far greater than of that filled with clay and made acid with alum. Chalk was first extensively used in cigarette papers, which are often very heavily loaded with it, but its use in printing papers is now quite general.

    Calcium sulfate in the form of ground gypsum, or more often artificially prepared as "pearl hardening," "crown filler," or material sold under some other trade name, is sometimes employed as a filler. Its crystalline form and transparency make it of doubtful value in improving the opacity and color of the paper, and its moderate solubility in water makes it of questionable economic value."
  20. udtjim


    Sep 4, 2007
    Today I cut one of those blue heavy paper chamois in half while folded, it dulled my Kabar Warthog big time. I couldn't believe it and I don't know what is in those things. Next time its the scissors.

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