Ream cutters, as their name suggests, are intended for cutting reams (500 sheets) of paper at a time. A powered electric guillotine will do the job but cost you thousands of pounds. The cheaper end of the manual cutters starts upwards of £500. It was not a cost I could see being absorbed into my hundred books and leaving much over.
But a heavy duty guillotine I had to have if I wanted my books to have that beautifully even fore-edge that you probably take for granted but would certainly notice if it was not there.
Then I came on this (on the site that shall be nameless) :
(Though in fact the price at that time was £80) True, the spelling did not inspire confidence, and the YouTube demonstration that I found in the course of my research was not the most professional bit of filming I’d ever seen –
but it did appear to demonstrate the capability I wanted, which was borne out by the online testimonials, at least one of whom had used it as I planned to, for trimming a number of books. Another offered the useful tip of wiping the blade before use, as it came with a protective film of oil. Only one seemed to find it a bit too much –
However, though several others commented on its weight, they saw it as an advantage, and having found my earlier guillotine purchase flimsy and prone to flex, I inclined to agree with them. Since I had two Am*z*n vouchers for £20 from my downstairs neighbour as a thank-you for feeding her cats when she was away on holiday, an outlay of £60 did not seem an excessive risk – if all else failed, it should at least have substantial scrap value.
It shipped from China, which made me think of the interesting reversals that a century or so makes. Time was when an article such as this – sturdy, solidly made, simple in operation – would have been ordered from one of the workshops of Empire (probably Birmingham) and shipped to destinations around the globe. Now China, in the last few decades, has undergone a rapid industrial expansion very reminiscent of Victorian Britain and supplies manufactured goods of a similar sort around the world.
And I can personally testify that this item, at least, is a credit to them and does exactly what it claims to do. It is both heavy and rigid, which are exactly what you want in a guillotine, but it is something less than the quarter ton that the testimonial above might lead you to expect. No cranes were required, and though I am neither Mr nor still less Mrs Universe, I did manage to carry it up the stairs myself and set it on the table, where it performed admirably, being simple and straightforward in operation – there is a fixed ‘wall’ along one side, and at right angles to it a sliding bar sets the limit against which the paper abuts (there is a grid pattern on the surface to aid alignment) and a clamping bar is screwed down to hold it in place at the end to be cut. A safety catch prevents inadvertent operation of the long handled lever, which gives ample shearing force.
Simple soul that I am, I found the operation of the clamping bar afforded me much childish pleasure, since the handle works like the regulator on a steam locomotive. I may even have whistled while I worked.
All-in-all an excellent investment, and all at a cost of 60p per book!