So this countdown is actually for three items...so maybe it's be more like #6, #5.5 and #5? You really use all three simultaneously and none of them work without the other two. But it didn't seem fair to take up three whole spots...and conversely, didn't seem right to cram three items into one spot! As a compromise, I decided to take up two real spots and add in a half spot. It doesn't make sense, I know. Just play along, okay? :)
#6 - Self-healing cutting mat
A cutting mat is pretty basic for anybody that likes to do crafts or sew. It helps to protect your work surface and also has guide lines that can help you as you cut. The self-healing mat hides any cut marks or lines, so it provides a nice even surface for cutting each time. You can pick these up at any Michaels or craft/art/hobby store. Don't forget to bring a coupon!
#5.5 - Xacto knife or Olfa utility knife
Throughout my first year of architecture school, I mostly stuck with an Xacto knife (pictured on left) and constantly became frustrated with its lack of control and its seemingly perpetually dull blades. And then at the end of my second year, one of my architecture buddies let me borrow her utility knife to do some basic cuts on paper. One cut, and I was hooked. I love that it feels strong and substantial in my hand, giving me the control I need to make firm, accurate cuts. I use my Olfa knife for 99% of my cutting needs now. My Xacto knife is used only on those occasions when I need a super fine point for cutting or for separating things like label paper.
#5 - Stainless steel cork-backed ruler
The cork-backed ruler is another item I picked up back in my days in architecture school. It was actually one of the items listed in my supply list that I had to buy my first week. A lot of those items now sit unused in a drawer back home, but I actually use this ruler so much that I brought it with me to Grenada. If you're cutting any type of paper stock on your cutting mat with an Xacto or Olfa knife, you have to have one of these. The corked back prevents the ruler from slipping, and the steel edge gives you a crisp guide line each time.
Each of these items work best when used in conjunction with the other two, so do try to get all three if you do a lot of cutting at home!