On low end furniture such as bookcases and entertainment centers, the backs of them are usually sheets of cardboard nailed on.

I have a bookcase with a cardboard back already assembled. I would like to make a rectangular cutout above one of the shelf boards to allow cords to pass through.

What's the best tool to allow me to make this cutout in place without disassembling the bookcase and ensuring the cutout has clean, straight lines? I tried using a utility knife on the back of my entertainment center and that required a lot of effort to saw through and it got messy.

  • 1
    Side note: In the UK, "cardboard" is what is used for disposable packaging you can tear with your hands, "hardboard" is what is used for backing bookcases etc. – RedGrittyBrick Dec 29 '14 at 15:37
  • @RedGrittyBrick Same with US terminology. – Doresoom Jan 6 '15 at 15:26

A good utility knife is all you need. It will give you a cleaner cut and it's faster.

  • Probably simplest answer, with a straight edge to guide the first few passes. – keshlam Dec 28 '14 at 15:51

You can use a drill to make a hole in each corner and a jig saw to cut out the rectangle sides. Though it's a bit overkill for cardboard (perfectly fine for plywood though).

With a utility knife You should use a ruler and keep scoring the line until you are through. It will work best if it's sharp.

Then a bit of sanding to clean up the edges and you are good to go.


Use a multipurpose tool to make the initial penetrations. Then finish the cuts with the multipurpose tool or a jigsaw.

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    A power saw for thin cardboard? Seems a bit overkill. – Tester101 Dec 28 '14 at 15:07

Saw-zall? Reciprocating saw? Multipurpose Tool?

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    A power saw for thin cardboard? Seems a bit overkill. – Tester101 Dec 28 '14 at 15:06
  • I was first one to answer here. My take on this question was "Come on!!" Cardboard and you cannot figure out how to cut that?" So I answered with tongue in cheek as more of a joke. Others seem to have followed, although I did edit my first response from "Torch?" to "Multipurpose Tool?" – Michael Karas Dec 28 '14 at 16:52
  • In other news... a Sawzall® is a name brand reciprocating saw. – Tester101 Dec 28 '14 at 17:15

You could use a hole saw, if you're willing to accept a circular cutout.

  • A power saw for thin cardboard? Seems a bit overkill. – Tester101 Dec 28 '14 at 15:07
  • If you want to use the hole saw (a kind of drill bit) by hand, feel free... – keshlam Dec 28 '14 at 15:49

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