How to Use a Guillotine Cutter

May 27, 2022

One of the most important steps for getting your premium cigar ready to be smoked is how you deliver the cut. Cutting the cap of a cigar is essential for drawing the smoke through it, and there are many different cutting styles and tools to accomplish this necessary task. There are three main types of cigar cuts, punch cut, V-cut, and straight cut. However, a straight cut is the most popular style.

The most common tool used to deliver a straight cut to a cigar is called a guillotine cutter. Guillotine cigar cutters come in a wide range of sizes, designs, shapes, and varieties.

However, they all have a common method of delivering a cut. Although the most popular cutting tool, guillotine cutters offer the least margin for error, so we are going to tell you how to get the perfect cut every time!

Brief History of Guillotine Cutters

Guillotine cutters have been around for a long time, but only within the last 50 years have they become a key element in the cigar smoking ritual.

Cigar smokers, like the famous Sir Winston Churchill, would use rudimentary methods, like punching a hole in the cap with a matchstick or even using their teeth or fingernails to pierce through a cigar’s cap.

A knife was also sometimes used to remove the caps from cigars. The first true guillotine cigar cutters started cropping up in the late 1800s.

However, for many years these were only used for figurado vitolas. But by the time of the 1990s cigar boom, almost every aficionado and their mother had a guillotine cutter to deliver a refined cigar cut.

How Guillotine Cutters Work

The aptly named guillotine cutter is actually a very simple machine. Like the medieval execution devices, a guillotine cutter is designed to remove a cigar’s head, which is called the cap, in a smooth motion.

This is done with one or two blades that are driven through the cigar with a squeezing action by the fingers. With only a single movement, a guillotine cutter allows you to clip the cap off just about any cigar.


Where to Cut

This is where the most practice and skill are required when using a guillotine cutter.

A cigar’s cap typically takes up the last 1/8 to 1/2 inch of the head of the cigar and can be visually identified by a line that encircles the top of the cigar or the place where the edges of the cigar’s body start to converge and curve inward. This is what is called the cigar’s shoulder.

You should never cut a cap past the cigar’s shoulder. Cutting this far down on a cigar will run the risk of the wrapper unraveling from the rest of the cigar, giving your smoking experience an untimely end.

It is a matter of personal preference and dependent on the individual cigar where you want to cut on the cap. However, you should never go past the shoulder when using a guillotine cutter.

To help get an idea of where a proper cutting location would be, rest the cigar cutter on a flat surface with the blade open. Place the cigar within the aperture (the hole you stick the cigar through), and the distance from the surface to the height of the blade should be the perfect placement.

For torpedoes or other figurado vitolas that have a tapered cap, aficionados will often angle the guillotine cutter. By cutting at an angle, the cap will still maintain its taper and the cut will be at an angle rather than perfectly vertical, allowing the smoke to be funneled upward toward the palate.

This is a more advanced type of cut, however, so make sure you have some practice before attempting an angled cut and should only be reserved for figurado or oddly shaped cigars.

Delivering the Cut

Now that you have figured out where you want to cut, you now have to actually cut the cigar. The specifics of this may be different depending on the type of guillotine cutter you have, but the action is generally the same. It is also supremely important that your cutter is sharpened, otherwise, it may damage your precious stogie.

Measure up your cut while keeping the aperture open. Once measured, double-check by gingerly squeezing the blade closed, so it meets the cigar, but do not deliver your cut yet; ensure that the blade does not go beyond the cigar’s shoulder. Like the barber tells me, you can always cut more, but once it’s cut, it’s cut.

Now that the blade is lined up to where you want to cut, give a firm, swift squeeze to the blade. You want to be decisive with your cut, as cutting too slowly can cause the cap to tear unpredictably rather than cutting right through, due to the tobacco getting caught on the blade. After you have clipped the cap from the cigar, check the draw to ensure it is to your liking. You can cut more if the draw is tight.

Types of Guillotine Cutters

There are two main types of guillotine cigar cutters: single blade and double blade. As their names suggest, one style utilizes only one blade to do the cutting, while the other uses two blades. You may feel that using these two styles of guillotine cutter are incredibly different from one another, yet their core mechanics are exactly the same.

Single Blade Guillotine Cutters

With only a blade, body, and finger grips typically comprising an entire single-blade guillotine cutter, this style of guillotine cutter tends to be the most affordable of all species of cigar cutters. While the advantage of this type of cutter is the price, single-blade guillotine cutters do not offer the best cut around. These cutters can sometimes fail to cut completely through a cap, leaving some still attached.

However, if you don’t mind your cigar not being the prettiest stick in town then a single-blade guillotine cutter will easily get the job done.

Double Blade Guillotine Cutters

Just as a single-blade guillotine cutter cuts directly across a cigar to remove the cap, so does a double-bladed guillotine cutter, with the main difference being that there are two cuts that meet in the middle rather than a single blade moving entirely through the cigar. Double-blade guillotine cutters come in a variety of different styles and shapes.

Many double-blade guillotine cutters have a single stationary blade along with a moving blade. This reduces the number of moving parts the cutter relies on to operate along with the chances of something breaking. These cutters may take a little bit of practice getting used to however since the body of the cutter and the affixed blade might do more cutting than the moving blade.

Double blade guillotine cutters that have two moving blades are the most widely used style of cigar cutter. Many of them look like the guillotine cutters we have been looking at throughout the article, where the blades move up and down through the body of the cutter.

Some of the more luxury double blade guillotine cutters on the market move across the body instead, such as this Colibri Double Guillotine or the top-selling Xikar XI-2 cutter. This horizontal cutting action makes for a much more comfortable motion in the hand, and while this style of cutter may be a bit pricier, you certainly get what you pay for.

In closing

The most important thing to keep in mind when using a guillotine cutter is to not cut past the cigar’s shoulder. Cutting past the faint line that marks where the cap starts can irreparably damage your cigar, as the cap is essential for making sure a cigar stays properly wrapped.

With this guide, you should be well-prepared for properly using a guillotine cutter, so get on out there and start giving your cigars the perfect cut to start your smoking experience!

Other Quick Tips for Beginners

  • Never knew what an actual cigar is? Click here to find out more!
  • New to cigar smoking? Check out our new sampler for Beginner Cigar Smokers. This sampler has seven cigars, a cutter, and a lighter.
  • Some popular cigar sizes to smoke are a Toro-sized cigar, a Churchill-sized cigar, and a Robusto-sized cigar for you to enjoy.
  • If your cigar happens to crack, here are some suggestions on how to repair a cracked cigar.
  • If you come across some mold in your humidor, here are some tricks and tips to clean up a moldy humidor.
  • Interested in knowing the inner workings of a cigar? Well, check out what is Filler TobaccoBinder Tobacco, and a Wrapper today!
  • Want to know how to cut a cigar with a Punch cutter? Go here for more information!
  • Want to know how to cut a cigar with a V-Cut Cutter? Go here for more information!


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