What Can You Cut with a Hotknife?


A question we get asked a lot around here at Sailrite is “What can I cut with my hotknife?” We thought that we’d not only answer that question for you today, but also give a little demonstration of things that cut nicely, and what happens when you cut something that is not recommended.

As a general rule of thumb, if the material is synthetic (man-made) then it will cut well with a hotknife and if it is a natural material it will not. Natural fabrics don’t have any material that will melt with the heat and therefore they tend to burn.

However, there are exceptions to this rule. For example, vinyl is a synthetic material but cutting it with a hotknife is not a good idea. The hotknife melts the vinyl leaving an unsightly edge (not to mention that melting vinyl smells terrible!).

Take a look at our roundup of materials that work well with a hotknife and some that don’t.


Top 7 Materials to Cut with a Hotknife:

  • Acrylic Fabrics (like Sunbrella Marine and Upholstery Fabrics)
  • Polyester Fabrics
  • Nylon Fabrics
  • Dacron Sailcloth
  • Webbing
  • Rope
  • Zippers

4 Materials to Avoid Cutting with a Hotknife:

  • Cotton
  • Cotton Blends
  • Vinyl
  • Leather

Now you can make an informed decision before using your hotknife during your next project! Get your own Sailrite Edge Hotknife exclusively at www.sailrite.com.

What do you use your hotknife on most often? Share your experiences in the comments!

  1. Sally Bibro said:

    Your posts and DIY videos are always so informative. I never thought about cutting zippers with a hot knife, but what a good idea. Keep the info. coming.

  2. I love my Edge. Prior to getting it, I was using a soldering iron from the 50’s with a cutting disk. I didn’t realize how terribly inefficient that was until I got the Edge! I use it on Sunbrella, binding, zippers, nylon line/rope.

  3. Mark said:

    It would be good for your customers (and you) to put a big “Buy Now” button on this page, so we could buy a Hotknife right now. Now, I have to go searching around to find out how to buy one and will probably lose interest along the way.

  4. Billy mcgrew said:

    Can you use a hotknife on phifertex plus vinyl sling material ?

    • Nikki said:

      Hi Billy,
      You can use a hotknife to cut Phifertex Plus, but take extra care when cutting to make sure the edges don’t burn. Hope that helps!

  5. Ks said:

    I’m wondering if you are using hotknife with some ventilation system above cutting table? In our workshop we do it near the window and only to cut webbing, it feels like if we would start cutting fabric all day with it would not only smells terribly everywhere, but they fumes I believe are not harmless to inhale as well. How are you dealing with that?

    • Nikki said:

      We do all our cutting with hotknives in our large warehouse, where we haven’t noticed any lingering fumes. Also, we also are not continually using our hotknife all day long, just for steps in projects that require it. All that to say, we’ve never had an issue with fumes.

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