Goldblatt's BladeRunner drywall cutter wasn't even on the market when I first heard about it, but it sounded so cool, I knew I wanted to try it out: a tool that scores both sides of a panel at the same time, and makes drywall cuts a very quick snap. I even dreamed about it one night, and woke up hoping I had just invented something in my sleep.
Now that I've tried it, the BladeRunner has become a regular in my drywall tool arsenal. Typical drywall cuts are a three-step process. You use a utility knife to score through the paper on one side of a sheet. You then snap the piece away from the cut side, and finish by cutting the paper on the back side to free it. The BladeRunner turns this into a two-step process by cutting the paper on both sides at once.
The tool has strongly magnetized top and bottom halves, each with a rolling cutting wheel much like a mini pizza cutter. They are stored held apart by two hinged, spring-loaded legs which fold in when you start a cut at the edge of a sheet. Now separated by the drywall, the two halves are magnetically held exactly opposite each other with their cutters lined up. By sliding the top piece along the cut line, the bottom piece drags along, and the cutters score both paper faces. As you finish a cut and run the tool off the other edge of the sheet, the hinged legs spring out, and the two halves reconnect, ready for the next cut. Now all you have to do is snap the sheet.
You must be careful not to run the tool off the edge too fast or with any kind of a twisting motion, or the legs may not extend properly, and the two halves will snap together tight. This pinch hazard is good reason to keep your fingertips off the BladeRunner's edges.
The cutting blades are easy to replace and stay sharp through a lot of cuts. The manufacturer claims you can cut 3,700 lineal feet before changing them–that's 925 crosscuts. I didn't test that distance, but I can see why they last so long: They are scoring the paper faces and not cutting into the drywall core, which is what typically dulls the edge of a utility knife.
After figuring out how the BladeRunner works, I took it to a drywall job and used it in place of my utility knife. While I had to make some adjustments to the way I usually work, I found I could make all my cuts using just the BladeRunner. Here are the comparisons:
To make a cut off the end of a sheet, I usually would use a T-square as a guide for my utility knife. The BladeRunner has curved edges that won't guide along any straight edge, so I stuck my tape measure hook in the alignment slot at the front of the BladeRunner, and drew my tape measure along the end as a guide. In a race with one of my employees, the BladeRunner was twice as fast and much cleaner at this crosscutting.
You must allow space under the cutline for the bottom half of this cutter, and when you reach the end of a cut, there has to be room for the tool to glide off the end and snap back together. You either can work off your flat stack and slide a sheet off the pile part way to provide access, or you can make vertical end cuts on a drywall cart because the panels are up off the floor.
When you make cuts off the end of a sheet, the beveled edge is tougher to cut because it is recessed and not always smooth. Make sure you apply more pressure at the start and end of these cuts.
I often trim drywall that is already in place over doorways, windows, and on short walls. The BladeRunner won't work in these situations, but you can use it to cut these pieces to fit before installing. You can cut out inside corners by overshooting the corner a bit from each side. It'll generate much less dust than trimming with a router or jab saw.
The BladeRunner will cut 3/8-, 1/2-, and 5/8-inch thick drywall. Cutting the 5/8-inch is harder, so make sure you apply extra pressure as you push the tool forward. The cutter also worked great with paperless drywall and other mold resistant types of drywall.
One application where this tool really shines is cutting curves. All the work you have to go through with a utility knife-scoring one side, checking and scoring the other, and usually finishing up with a jab saw–is made a lot easier with the BladeRunner, even on tight radius curves.
Will this tool replace your utility knife? If you're a pro drywaller, I don't think so. We're just too used to using our knives and T-squares for straight cuts. But I do think this tool will find a place in the hands of a lot of professional drywall contractors to increase production on rips, corners, and curves. This is a versatile tool that can help with complex cuts and in situations where dust is a big issue. And for the occasional drywaller, the BladeRunner can improve their speed and accuracy, all with a tool that is much safer than the traditional utility knife.
Myron Ferguson is a drywall contractor and construction writer in Broadalbin, N.Y.
Goldblatt Tool Co.