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We often use craft sticks in kids projects, but I have issues whenever I need to cut them. They'll often split down the grain, all the way through the stick, making it useless. This happens no matter which direction I'm cutting, but it's only useful if I'm trying to split them lengthwise.

Is there a way I can cut these sticks reliably, without tossing every other one out?

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Craft sticks and Popsicle sticks are not known for their quality when it comes to grain and warping. So when you are cutting them, the stress is released in the easiest way possible which is along the grain. This is especially true because of how thin they are.

One of the following methods should work. They are both related in that I am suggesting multiple cuts.

Scoring

Instead of trying to do one cut you should try and score your sticks first. Scoring will help guide the break and prevent it from going through the rest of the stick. So, score it once then do the rest of the cut.

Multiple shallow cuts

Essentially scoring all the way though. The slower safer method is cut though the sticks in several successive cuts. Use a ruler to help cut straight so you can focus more on your depth of cut. Put more sticks under the ruler to help keep it flat.


Either way you need a thin and sharp blade. You want to cut the fibres of the sticks and not push them apart. So something like standard scissors would be a bad choice.

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    I'd also add that the blade should be a straight-edge, not serrated. Serration will just tear the wood apart. – Eris May 2 '16 at 16:52
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    Fine serrations (e.g. a razor saw) are OK; it's larger serrations that will tear the wood apart. – walrus Sep 6 '17 at 8:32
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The best way I've found is to do it with wire cutters (as described here).

You pinch/crush the wood at the correct place to weaken the stick (no need to try and cut all the way through), and then bend the cutters back and forth to snap the wood fibres until you've cut right the way through.

It can still be a little fiddly and you will have some losses because it won't be a clean cut - I know it kinda seems like a lot of trouble for such a small, humble item as a popsicle stick - but if you need them cut, it seems to be the way to go as it gets you the best result for the least time and most common tools.

I actually found this while googling for a better way to cut popsicle sticks, guess there isn't one yet:P

  • Welcome! Please explain the method in your answer rather than relying on the link. Links often age or change, so there's no way to ensure that the guide will remain available. Answers that fail to do this may be removed. For more information, see the MSE post regarding link-only answers (yes, this isn't quite link only but it's relying on linked information very heavily). Thanks! – Catija Sep 5 '17 at 23:04
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Put the popsicle stick in a vice such that the line to be cut is just above the flat top of the vice's jaws. Tighten the vices grip on the stick to support and hold motionless the material just below the cut line. Then use a razor blade to cut the wood using the scoring/multiple cuts technique described in Matt's answer.

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You can use a scroll saw, band saw, or copping saw. No warranties, given or implied. Use this set of suggestions at your own risk. Use proper ear and eye protection. Make sure you have proper current prescription glasses if needed. Stacking and taping them may make them more stable.


As I've thought this over again, my ONLY recommendation would be to make a jig, on a scroll saw. Use the finest blade you may have, even perhaps a metal cutting blade, with the smallest curf (spread of the teeth/width of the cut). After proper adjustment, you should be able to make exact center cuts!

  • This doesn't sound terribly helpful. – bowlturner May 2 '16 at 2:07
  • @bowlturner Taping and staking is the most reliable method! I was giving options, and safety warnings. It is not a simple thing to do, as they do split almost as easily as shake shingles. – Joel Huebner May 2 '16 at 2:46
  • This answer might be better if you edit it to explain why the types of saw you mention would solve the OP's problem. As it stands, we have no way of judging whether or not this is likely to be a useful answer. – Rand al'Thor May 27 '16 at 2:20
  • This seems like overkill. Like using a fire hose and hydraulic press to wet and apply a temporary tattoo. – David Starkey Sep 7 '16 at 20:13
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When I want a scraper that won't scratch the surface being scraped, I cut the ends of a popsicle stick or tongue depressor (wider) with a new single-edge razor (HomeCheapo) held at a compound angle, which results in a chisel edge at a 45-degree angle or a simple chisel edge 90-degrees to the length of the stick/depressor.

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    Hi PeteW, it's not clear if you're actually answering the question that was asked - are you saying that cutting the stick with a razor at a compound angle won't cause it to split? If so, could you edit your answer to more directly address the question? – walrus Sep 6 '18 at 8:29
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A fine-toothed coping saw or jewelry saw would work okay, but I’d think it’d be unwieldy. I own an xacto extra fine saw blade and find it to be fantastically helpful for making straight cuts across all sorts of small stock, including popsicle sticks. The blade fits into a utility size handle. I use mine so often I keep it in my kitchen drawer. http://www.xacto.com/products/cutting-solutions/blades/detail/X239

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My dad has a small axe. This was very useful when it came to cutting the popsicle sticks - once he deeply scored the popsicle sticks he then bent it and it was a decent cut with the exception of two or three pieces of wood sticking out which could be cut off with scissors.

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