Proper studio maintenance can mean the difference between reprinting and recutting 100 posters because the blade was dull or the crop marks wonky vs. well, not doing that. In a classic case of do as I say and not as I do, I'm here to tell you it is worthwhile to pause every now and then to give attention to the little peccadilloes of printing that have collectively cropped up since the last time you paused, which in my case is never years ago.

As 2021 winds down, I am spending some time (and money) on taking care of my studio. Two paper cutters need their blades sharpened and one MZ1090u needs a new guage plate for Drum 1... that last one might prove tricky since this model Riso was discontinued in 2014 and parts are scarce. But that's a whole other story. While I search for a replacement part, I'm taking the opportunity to tune up the paper cutters.

My ride or die studio equipment over the years have been a sturdy Kutrimmer board shear and an antique Pearl guillotine my mom bought me as a gift one year in my early twenties. My mom was always eager to support my interests, even while kvetching over my lack of focus. She really knew how yo give a gift. But I digress.

Neither paper cutter has had its blade sharpened as long as I have owned them, but both were cutting just fine until recently, so blade sharpening just wasn't a thing I thought about. In fact I have preferred not to think about it and the requisite effort and care it would take to accomplish.

But the Pearl gave out one day this fall in the middle of a greeting card project and refused to cut any more. Not too long after that the Kutrimmer started getting a little bitey with some zines, and we can't be having that.

The Pearl blade is a simple 18" long piece of steel that pops right out after you take out 3 bolts. Very straightforward, and yet still anxiety-filled to do. Several years ago I sliced my thumb on this blade when cleaning and haven't looked at it the same way since. Today I wear nitrile rubber gloves when handling it, gingerly sandwiching it between sheets of cardboard for transit.

The Kutrimmer proves surprisingly more difficult to manage. I can't get the last nut loose to detach the 32" curved blade, so I end up taking the whole swing arm with me. 30 minutes later at the blade place, I learn I need to bring in the bottom steel plate from the Kutrimmer too, the piece the blade shears against. Whoops.

Back at home I and spend an hour trying to remove a stripped machine screw — the last one keeping the Kutrimmer bottom plate attached. It was stuck hard, with nothing for a screwdriver to grip but a smooth divot. It took carving out a new groove with a Dremel tool before a flathead screwdriver saved the day. Needless to say, a hardware store trip looms.


Dropped off the Kutrimmer plate earlier, and when I arrived they let me know they were able to get the blade off the swing arm, and surprise, the nut WAS superglued on, so I'm not just incompetent or weak, haha.

— Talia Bromstad