3 Tips for Better Hole Cutting

Item # X-HT-300009
Hole cutter, grommets, mallet and cutting mat.

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.

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 two cutting block options: the Rubber Cutting Block (#378100) 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.

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 March 2020 to reflect new products and recommendations.