How do you choose the right cutting mat for the job? Here are a few things to look for when selecting a quality cutting mat and how to properly care for them.
Cutting Mat Types
For every project where you use either a utility knife or a rotary cutter, you also need a cutting mat
. Cutting mats protect the work surface from damage, and prevent the blade from dulling quickly. Cutting mats
are described as either hard-surface or self-healing (soft surface). Hard-surface cutting mats (self-sealing) are more rigid and more rugged, since the blade skims over the mat surface without cutting into it. Self-healing cutting mats
are thinner and more flexible and usually have a thin layer of colored vinyl on the cutting surface. Cutting blades create tiny scratches in the mat surface that reclose afterward; thus the description self-healing. Both types are appropriate for sewing, quilting, signmaking, printing, and many other uses.
Cutting Mat Size
In general, choose the largest mat that fits the work and storage areas available. If using a rotary cutter to cut pattern pieces, a full-size cutting-table mat is ideal. For quilting, a fabric cutting mat
24" or larger permits cutting strips across the fabric width with only a single fold; providing greater accuracy. The largest self-healing cutting mat we offer is 4' x 8' (48" x 96"). Any size larger than this will require one of our oversize or large cutting mats
available from 24" by 48" up to 6 feet by 12 feet.
Cutting Mat Thickness
Self-healing cutting mats are generally either 2 millimeters (mm) or 3 mm in thickness. 2 mm mats have more of a plastic texture and are often either too smooth or too rough. 2 mm mats are often referred to as "hobby mats" and are not suitable for straight knife use. 2 mm mats generally have thin cores which makes them much more susceptible to cut-though. 2mm mats (such as OLFA and others), are more of a "hobby grade" mat and are not a professional-grade mat. A sign of a poor-quality cutting mat is one where the laminations have separated.
Our professional-quality self-healing cutting mats
are 3 millimeters thick and made of 3 plies. The outer plies are .75 mm thick and give the mat self-healing properties. The inner core is 1.5 mm thick and prevents mat cut-through and extends blade life. We have self-healing cutting mats up to 48" x 96".
Large, Oversize, and Custom Cutting Mats
Need a large cutting mat
or custom size cutting mat
to fit your production table? We have a great selection of tough, long-lasting, 3/16" thick, polyethylene, self-sealing large cutting mats up to 6 ft. by 12 ft. We are happy to custom cut your mats at no extra charge. Optional printed alignment grid underlays are available for all our large, oversize, and custom-cut mats. (See second photo above.)
What Tools Can Be Used?
When looking for a cutting mat, make sure it is suitable for both rotary and straight knives. Most 2 mm "hobby" mats are not suitable for straight knives. All of our cutting mats are suitable for both rotary cutters and straight knives. To prevent leaving cut marks in a self-healing cutting mat, always make sure your knife is sharp. Change blades often. Any plastic surface will leave a knife mark when used with dull knives.
Cutting Mat Surface Texture
Cutting mat texture and glare are important. Too smooth a texture and the items you are trying to cut have a tendency to slip. In addition, some cutting mats are shiny and reflect light. Too much texture and it affects the consistency of your cut. A cutting mat should have a medium tooth made of a non-glare surface; one that is not too slick or too rough. Thin, 2 mm mats and hobby-grade mats have a tendency to have either too little or too much tooth. All of our pro-quality, cutting mats have a medium tooth and non-glare surface.
Cutting Mat Graduations
When selecting a cutting mat, you should look for one that is graduated and fully numbered on all four sides of the mat. Hash lines should extend past the board of the mat on all four sides. The hash lines and full graduations on all sides help with alignment.
Our self-healing cutting mats are graduated on all four sides. Hash lines extend outside of the border. Mats are hashed to every 1/8-inch and graduated to every ½ with every inch marked with a heavier line. Every 5th grid has an extra-thick line. This is useful for sewing and quilting. Also make sure the mats have lines for cutting diagonals. Tip: For the most accurate measurements, use a ruler as your guide. The lines on a cutting mat are generally thick, which reduces accuracy, and theyre also subject to wear and distortion over time.
Our self-sealing large and custom size mats are available with optional 1" grid underlay for alignment purposes.How Long Will My Cutting Mat Last?
Cutting mats eventually wear out, they do not last forever. Most of them are designed to last for years, depending on how they are used. All our cutting mats can take repeated cuts without gouging; they are made for heavy professional use. However, most any material will show a knife mark unless it is made of stone or hard metal. Do not be alarmed if you can see the knife marks. Cutting mat performance and longevity is dependent on several things:
- Type of material being cut
- Type of knife being used
- Sharpness of cutting blade
- Cutting pressure by user
- Please be sure always use sharp, new blades when cutting and change blades often.
- Rotate your mat often to avoid frequent cuts in the same area.
- NOTE: Our cutting mats are not recommended for cutting cotton batting; the tiny fibers will get caught in the knife cuts. We recommend scissors for cutting batting.
It is best to store self-healing cutting mats flat. Do not roll them. Most of our self-healing cutting mats have a convenient hanging hole for easy storage. Rotary cutting mats are made from plastic materials that are heat sensitive. Improperly stored mats will warp and are impossible to repair. Keep your cutting mats away from heat such as direct sunlight to prevent warping. Don't leave your cutting mat in a hot car and do not store it in an attic. Avoid storing your mat in a cold room to prevent brittleness and cracking. Most of our large mats are shipped rolled. Remove rolled cutting mats from their packages immediately. Do not store cutting mats rolled.
To prolong the life of any cutting mat, keep it clean. We recommend using your favorite all-purpose household spray cleaner or warm water and mild detergent. Avoid abrasive cleansers and solvents that can damage the mat or remove the printed markings. Use a lint roller or a napped lint brush to remove surface lint and fabric crumbs. A nylon net scrubber can be used to loosen any stubborn dirt or debris on your cutting mat. Microfiber cleaning cloths/towels can also be used to remove tiny fibers from knife cuts on your cutting mats.