REVIEW : Rotatrim Mastercut MCA2 (M26) Rotary Cutter

 The Rotatrim MCA2 Rotary Cutter

The Rotatrim MCA2 Rotary Cutter

I accept up front that paper cutters don't fit a need for everyone.  But if you print, at some point you will need a good paper cutter, and I want to save you some pain and money by helping you buy your last cutter first.

I print a fair bit.  Mostly it's for myself, because for me, there is nothing like holding a print in my hands.  The experience is far beyond looking at an image on the screen.  It's tactile, I have a wide choice of surfaces and reflectance and a print creates a framework that really tells a story.

Sadly most photographic paper in the mid size variety comes as 8 1/2 x 11.  This would be just fine IF I was using it for business documents, but I'm not.  I'm using it for photographs.  This means that EVERY single 8x10 print needs to be trimmed if it is going in an 8x10 frame, being mounted to a Gatorboard, foamcore or card stock mount board.  This means, I end up doing a LOT of cutting.

What are you going to do?  Use scissors?  I do have a professional cutting matt, a series of OLFA blades and steel straightedges but while accurate, no one is going to call this speedy or efficient.  So for the last several years, I eventually come around to wanting a trimmer.  Now sadly the big wooden and metal guillotines are hard to find where I live.  I have bought a Fellowes trimmer from an office supply store.  Plastic crap.  I bought a Royal trimmers from Costco, both rotary and guillotine on opposite sides.  The plastic guides that you use as a straight edge are not at 90 degrees to the cutting edge so that's useless.  The rotary cutter hangs up on 240gsm photo paper, so also useless.  I then bought a Kaiser from a local photo store.  Expensive plastic crap that couldn't find a 90 degree angle with a map and a personal guide.

ARRRGGGHHHH

I had a dream recently that took me back to high school.  While that was a very long time ago, I learned an enormous amount from our school AV Specialist, now long passed, by name of Jim Brotchie.  Jim was a true renaissance man.  He was a talented graphic artist, was an accredited draftsman, forgot more about live audio than most folks have learned and was one of the finest people I've ever known.  I remembered that he also had an enormous Rotatrim cutter in his office.  Teachers and admin would come to him after tearing and ripping their work on the board issued guillotines, complaining all the while.  Jim would nod sympathetically, take their projects from them and then let them out.  Then he would shake his head, and in mere minutes perform perfect straight cuts on all manner of materials using the big Rotatrim.

I was talking to fellow photographer Navy Nhum about trimmers shortly afterward and mentioned the Rotatrim line, because like me, Navy was frustrated with crappy trimmers.  This past week, I found a special promotion on the M 26 model and ordered one right up.  

So to the point.  This is a seriously well built product.   It is a monorail design where the cutter rides on a rigid steel tube.  The box and manual are explicit to not move the unit around by grabbing the tube.  This makes sense as skewing the tube will wreck the cutter.  The plate is heavy duty and rests on firm rubber feet.  It will not move around on you like so many plastic trimmers will.  The blade holder is all metal, and the construction is very robust.  The plate is engraved with clear and legible markings to aid in alignment and the grid is fine so you have many options and less guessing.  The edge guides are aluminum, and etched in both imperial and metric measurements.  There is a plastic sight guide that your material slides under to keep it flat at the cutting edge.  Unlike other cutters, you don't have to put pressure on the sight guide.  There is also a paper hold down that rides in a dovetail track on the edge guide.  It has a tension knob so you can lock it down to hold your materials snugly.  

You run the cutter from right to left, and the cutter moves past the paper edge on the left side so you can remove your material without having to pull the cutter head all the way back.  I have used the machine a lot since I got it, cutting RC paper, heavy rag fibre paper and some heavy canvas, all with great success.  

One of the things that really appealed to me is that while my unit has a 26" cutting track, the plate is only just over 12" wide.  This means I'm not bent over uncomfortably when doing repetitious cuts.  As the cut goes from right to left, you are always cutting towards the straight edge so there is no tendency for the cutter to pull the material away from the edge, unlike guillotine cutters and many rotary options.

Rotatrim is made in the UK.  The quality is awesome and there are a variety of cut length options from 12" all the way to 54"  I have the MasterCut series which is very competitively priced, but for those needing even heavier duty gear, there is the Pro series.  A MasterCut 18" model retails for about $260 CDN right now while a Professional 18" model is about $470 CDN.  The Professional series have the cutter ride on two parallel round rails, while the MasterCut models have the cutter ride on a single square steel tube rail.  I cut a lot and am very confident that the MasterCut will serve me for a long time.  The blades are self sharpening and made from renowned Sheffield Steel.  All Rotatrim products are assembled by hand.  The company has been around since 1966.

If the office supply store or web store cutters are making you nuts, or you are smart enough to want to avoid being made nuts, and you need a quality cutter that you don't want to replace every year, order yourself a Rotatrim.  There are plenty of sizes to choose from, so finding one that fits your needs will be easy.