Will cutting paper dull a knife?


Cutting paper with a knife might not be something you would often do. But since the paper is very thin and to cut it with a knife seems relatively straightforward, does it also dull the knife in the process?

Cutting paper with a knife does dull the blade in the long run. Paper is (minutely) abrasive, and when you use your knife to cut paper, it will dull even though it’s very minimal. However, depending on the type and thickness of the paper, your knife may dull even faster.

Most people use paper to see the sharpness of the knife. So basically, when you have sharpened your knife, you use an old magazine or something and use a page to cut the knife with it. If you attempt to cut it with a dull knife, the paper will wrinkle under the knife. However, with a slice motion, a sharp knife will cut cleanly through the paper.

A razor-sharp kitchen knife can cut the paper cleanly by just pressing down on the edge of the paper without any slicing at all. But this is, of course, just to see it’s sharpness. If your kitchen knife is the main item to cut paper all the time, you might end up with a dull blade quite fast. It’s really not that good to use a knife to cut paper, because it’s simply not made for it. Since we are on the discussion of dull knives, did you know that your knife can even dull without use?

If you are interested in checking out the best knives, you can find them here.

How are knives dulled by a weak, soft material like paper?

Although it may sound crazy, it’s actually not as crazy, you might think. If you take a stainless steel knife, for example, and take a piece of meat. Which one is sharper and harder? The knife, right? I mean, meat can simply not be harder than stain steel. Now, if you were to hold the knife in a vice and beat it with the piece of meat, you’d end up with a blade that is bent in half. But how is that possible with meat being much less hard than the knife? Well, that’s what’s happening on the edge of a knife. But it’s happening on a microscopic level, so it’s impossible to see with the naked eye. You see, the tip is made of countless tiny daggers of metal like fine little teeth that look like its grown from the edge. As you cut things, these microscopic metal teeth start to bend, even though the ingredient or item you are cutting might be much much softer. And this leads to the edge having tiny misalignments of the teeth.
One crucial thing to remember is the type of paper being cut. Rough paper, such as recycled paper, soft paper such as newspapers, and books, can all significantly reduce your knife’s life. You can quickly correct this by honing the blade, you probably have seen chefs do this by scraping the blade on a rod, which takes the bent teeth of the edge and stands them back up straight. Honing does not mean sharpening, so no metals are removed in this process. The only thing that is happening here is straightening the material already there. Once done, your knife will be back to its original state, being sharp. You might have seen barbers stropping a blade with leather before using it. They are basically doing the same thing. The leather re-aligns the teeth on the edge of the blade.

Here are some types of paper that effect the edge of your knife differently. 

  • Glossy paper: Arguably, the worst kind of paper to cut with your knife with and to keep it sharp. 35% of glossy paper is made out of clay. As you are cutting through it, that same clay is destroying your knife in the process.
  • Recycled paper: Because the process for recycling paper has become cheaper and environmentally friendly, it’s also becoming very popular. However, many things in this paper can dull your knife quickly, like tiny bits of string, metal, and other foreign matter.
  • Pure paper or bond paper: Even though it’s recycled, you won’t find the same harsh abrasive materials like recycled materials in it. It’s considered the one paper that is the safest to cut with your knife without losing its edge that fast.  
  • Weight:  The odd one in the group I know, but it’s an essential factor to consider nonetheless. The heavier the item, the quicker your knife will dull. To understand how paperweight is determined, you need to know how much 500 sheets weigh. And that’s basically the thickness of the paper.  
  • 3-Hole Punched Binder Paper:  Cutting this paper feels like as if you are cutting through butter. You could cut binder paper all day and not see a difference in sharpness.

Does cutting cardboard dull a knife?

Oh yes, and it makes it dull extremely fast. Cardboards are made out of silicates, glass, etc. and the harder the material you are cutting, the heavier it is on the edge of your knife. Also, there is the thickness of the cardboard we should not forget. The thickness is what makes it a lot of substance to cut through and will dull the knife quicker than any other paper material would. The density and the weight of the cardboard are what make it so hard cut through. Your best bet is to use a Corpse imitation plastic blade or Wally type round-point scissors. Lastly, cutting boards are made out of recycled materials, and just like the examples above, they can really cause some damage to a knife blade by scraping and dulling it. Overall, I would not recommend using a knife to cut paper and cardboard. But if it’s only happening every now and then, I think you’ll be fine, as long you are careful at what you are cutting and what the material is made out of.

Here’s is a really helpful tip. Did you know you can strop any metal blade using nothing but cardboard? Yes, you read that right, cardboard is a very rough kind of paper, and it is very high in mineral content like silicates, glass, etc., which are harder than the steel in the knife. Just cut a piece of cardboard and lay it on a tabletop, take a dulled blade and scrape it backward, so the edge is dragged back across the cardboard. Do this enough, not forgetting to always pull back against the edge, and not pushing forwards against it. But, making sure to do it with a light touch and rotate the sides of the blade every few strokes. Do this, and you can get any knife razor-sharp again.

See the video below here, where they show how.

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