Easy Drywall Cutting Tips, How To Cut Drywall Karate Kid Style

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Drywall. There are those that don’t mind it—and those that detest it with a seething hatred usually reserved for demons, evil masterminds, and in some cases: in-laws.

I fall into the latter category. Drywall, or my term of endearment: “Sh@#rock” is a chore I would rather not spend a lot of time doing. Because of this, I was resolved to find ways to expedite my time spent with this vile, dusty, and wholly necessary construction material. If you fall into the category of not minding drywall: Feel free to stop reading. Your techniques and skills do not need honing. If you enjoy drywall you are probably either: A demon, an evil mastermind, or someone’s in-law.

For those with the good sense to not enjoy it, allow me to explain a helpful tip for measuring, and cutting drywall with ease using the “Score & Pop” method. (For those keeping track at home, yes I count that as at least two points on the innuendo scale). For simplicity’s sake, let us assume we need to cut a 4’x 8’x 1/2’’ sheet of drywall in half lengthwise. In the trades this is known as a rip. Cross cuts are across the material the short way. (2x4x8’ cut across the 3 ½’’ standard size). Rips are the long way.

Place the sheet against a wall on the 8’ side. Take your tape measure and lock it at 24 inches. Put the tape measure so that the hook end is “in the field”. Meaning, the hook end is where you will be cutting. No need for pencil marks or chalk lines. Take your utility knife and place the blade on the inside of the hook of your tape, and apply pressure. Move the tape with one hand, while you simultaneously “score” (1 innuendo point) the drywall. It is important that you move the tape measure and knife as close to parallel to each other in order to stay as accurate as possible.

Scoring the drywall will allow you to make a couple more quick passes with your knife without having to use the tape measure. Get in there good. Make sure you’ve cut through the paper, and gotten into the actual “rock” part of the drywall. Now comes the cool part. Lean the sheet away from the wall, and seat the bottom edge against the base of the wall. Channel your inner Ralph Macchio. (He was the Karate Kid, and if you haven’t seen that movie cease reading and go rent it. Now.) When the inner Karate Kid fills your soul, give the drywall a good “pop” by slapping along the score line on the opposite side of your cut. Doing so should get the drywall to break along your cut—but not separate.

What you should have is a piece of drywall that is roughly in the shape of a “V”. Taking your utility knife, draw it along about half to three quarters of the length of your cut, on the backside, or opposite the original score cut. Bring the drywall back out of its “V” and as you get close to vertical, give it another good tug while using your foot to keep the bottom half seated against the wall.

If all goes right—it will “pop” and separate from the bottom piece. Blammo. One ripped piece of drywall. (5 total innuendo points. 2 bonus points for a Karate Kid reference, and that weirdo relationship between Daniel-San and Mr. Miyagi–that somehow flew above my head as a kid.)

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4 thoughts on “Easy Drywall Cutting Tips, How To Cut Drywall Karate Kid Style”

  1. Excellent points both of you about speed. For me, projects involving sheetrock come along once every year or less if I’m lucky, so I use my trusty drywall square to make a strait line. I can totally see the tape method as superior if you do it often enough to become proficient.

    As for the knife I mentioned, I don’t remember the brand name of the one I have, but I found an identical item called the ‘Nack’. (See http://toolmonger.com/2008/12/08/utility-knife-revolver/). Pretty sure I got mine at either Home Despot or Lowe’s, though I couldn’t find it on either of their websites. I know for sure last time I picked up a replacement blade cartridge was at one or the other.

  2. Semi-automatic blade magazines? Now this is something to explore.
    This method saves on the snapping of a line–and (to me) the tedious process of accurately scoring that line, and then making a couple passes to get the cut.
    Drywall square/sharp blades: Absolutely.
    In my experience–especially in larger drywall jobs–this method just ends up being faster, minimally less accurate, and saves on snapping that line. With a little practice–it can be done really quickly. (I’m not claiming that skill–I’ve seen the drywall pros do it).
    Thanks for the input Drew!

  3. If you’re doing anything more than the smallest of sheetrocking jobs, a drywall square is an invaluable tool. Barring that, snapping a chalk line is probably the second best method.
    I like your method for its simplicity, but I think it would be more challenging to keep a strait line with one hand on the tape body & one with the knife.
    A sharp knife is also crucial. I’m a big fan of the kind that has a double ended 15 blade rotary cartridge. When the blade gets dull you just retract it all the way, twist the base cap, and have a new blade. You never need to handle the blades, and when the first 15 are dull, swap the cartridge end for end to get 15 more.

    • Hey Drew! Thanks for the latest comment. I have to chime in here since I’ve been around a few drywall guys. All of the guys I have watched work didn’t bother with a chalk line or a drywall square, they just made their cuts using the technique Ty suggested. Me personally, I use a drywall square since I don’t have much opportunity to practice the measuring tape only cut. The drywall pros I’ve seen use Ty’s described technique do it incredibly well, and they’re probably about 10 times faster than me and and my drywall square (and sadly for me, just as accurate). Like many home improvement skills, Ty’s technique takes practice and isn’t practical for some homeowners just making a couple cuts on a small drywall job. So, where do you get these crazy semi-automatic rotary drywall blades?!


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