The meaning of “Boxing day” (Ergonomic cardboard cutters in action)

I’m not a fan of cardboard, at least not in January. As hosts for our family Christmas celebration, we were busy in December preparing for the gang to show up….planning menus, shopping, and figuring out where everyone would sleep. I don’t mind – Christmas is exciting and I can always recruit help for these tasks. But after Christmas, well, that can be another story. When our guests leave with their toys and gadgets, the boxes often get left behind. (And since I did a lot of online shopping this year, a good number of boxes belonged to me!)

Our recycling company is pretty particular about what they will take, so our cardboard has to be broken down quite small, and bundled together. At this time of year, after the excitement has worn off, I don’t have a lot of volunteers for this task. I’m thinking perhaps if I had better tools available, I’d be able to get more help….?

There are many, many knives on the market. I found a few interesting ones at OHS Online. Here are a few points to consider when setting up your in-home box cutting business:

    1. Protect your hands from cuts using cut resistant gloves. First off, consider that the hand that is NOT holding the knife is more often the target of the blade, not the cutting hand. So a cut-resistant glove on the non-cutting hand should be a priority. (I found some good cut-resistant grippy gloves while browsing at Princess Auto.)
    2. Choose safe tools. Companies who use knives routinely usually have fairly strict rules about how they are used. Many clients will permit only retractable blades, so the user has to hold the blade out with the thumb in order to cut. This makes sense from a safety perspective; I imagine many cuts occur when knives are being carried or picked up with the blade on a “typical” utility knife left unintentionally exposed. However, the “thumb press” to hold the blade out also creates an extra physical demand, which should be considered if there is a lot of cutting to be done. Some new tools require the user to push the blade out, but it does not need to be held once it is extended.
    3. Your “workers” might be left- or right-handed. When you use a knife with a retractable blade, you will want to push the blade out with your thumb. If the thumb button is against your palm (i.e. you are left handed and the tool is designed for a righty), you’ll be frustrated. Many tools are now designed for use in either hand. (Yay!)
    4. Check out the latest tools. Many have protected blades so the risk of cuts is reduced, and the user does not have to push the blade out every time. I’ve seen a brand new “Slice TM” in use for cutting tape, and it worked wonderfully. (It’s not meant for cutting cardboard, but it makes folding down taped boxes much easier than punching down the box, or peeling and ripping off the tape.) The cutting forces were low and it fit easily and safely in a pocket. Most of these types of tools are disposable – the blades cannot be replaced. Once a blade gets dull or gummed up with adhesive, the cutting forces will be quite high (and the risk of cutting yourself actually increases with a dull knife). This cutter (also from Slice TM) has a replaceable auto-retractable blade, and could be used with either hand – I like the look of it but I haven’t had an opportunity to use it yet. (How I wish I’d planned better for “boxing month” at our house!) If you have tried this tool (or any other great cutting tools), please let us know what you think.
    5. Set up the job comfortably  Workstation design is a bit beyond the scope of this blog, but if the job involves kneeling on the floor of the c-c-c-cold garage, you’ll have fewer volunteers. If you provide a nice clear work bench or counter, you’ll be able to attract more recruits for the task. Save a box that is just right size to use as a container for the cut-down pieces, to minimize bundling demands.

Happy boxing month!

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