3 Tips for Better Hole Cutting

Item # X-HT-300009

Hole cutters are handy tools that help you punch a hole in canvas or sailcloth to install grommets, eyelets and fasteners. There is a knack to cutting a clean hole, and often new canvasworkers struggle to use their hole cutters effectively. If you’re having a hard time, don’t worry — it’s common. You can easily master the technique, and if you set up your cutting area right, you’ll be cutting like a pro in no time. Here are our three tips for better, cleaner hole cutting.

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1. Always use a cutting block.

To protect both your hole cutter and your work surface, always have a proper cutting block underneath the fabric you are cutting. We have three cutting block options: the Sailrite® Rubber Poundo Board (#123963, #123962), the Sailrite® Poly Cutting Board (#123964) and the Sailrite® Cutting Block & Die Holder (#121597). The Sailrite Cutting Block & Die Holder has a hard plastic cutting block as well as a second resilient rubber cutting surface so you can choose which surface works best for your hole cutting needs. However, if you will be using the Sailrite® Twist-Lock Eyelet Hole Cutter or the Lift-The-DOT® Hole Cutter, you should use the rubber surface as it is better suited to those more intricate cutters. Never use a rotary cutting mat with hole cutters. It is not thick enough to withstand the force of the cutting tool.

2. Use a mallet, not a hammer.

A mallet sends the most even force to the cutting tool and will cut the hole in as few as one or two strikes. Our favorite mallet for this application is the Barry King Hammer Style Mallet. It works great, looks really nice, and was designed by a professional leather- and metalworker. If you already have upholstery tools on hand, a Rawhide Upholstery Mallet will also work with your hole cutter.

Here’s a quick video that shows the difference between various mallet approaches.

3. Cut on a solid, steady surface.

When you cut your hole, be sure that your cutting block and fabric assembly are sitting on a solid, sturdy surface. If you hit the hole cutter and your table shakes, vibrates or bounces, chances are you didn’t cut the hole in the fabric. You need all of the force from the blow of your mallet to be focused on the cutter, not dispersed across the tabletop. If you don’t have a table that is sturdy enough, a concrete floor is a great alternative.

Sailrite® Drill Hole Cutter Set

For the easiest, most precise hole cutting, nothing beats the Sailrite Drill Hole Cutter Set. Instead of using a mallet to punch a hole in your fabric, these hole cutters secure to your drill for easy and fast hole cutting. The Sailrite Drill Hole Cutter Set is an all-in-one kit that includes everything you need — except the drill — to cut holes in multiple layers of fabric, webbing and leather with low impact. The kit includes seven hole cutter sizes (1/8 inch to 5/8 inch) and the Sailrite® Cutting Block & Die Holder, which includes two cutting blocks so you can choose the one you want to use. The hole cutters and cutting block fit in a well-made carrying case to keep everything safely stored so you don't lose any components. This is the best hole cutter system available today that allows for easy, portable hole cutting without the use of a heavy mallet.

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We hope these tricks help you to cut holes for grommets and fasteners more easily. If your hole cutter starts to get dull, check out our post about sharpening your hole cutter (#300051XHT).

You can find hole cutters in various sizes as well as all the necessary accessories here at Sailrite.

This blog was updated in June 2020 to reflect new products and recommendations.