knife cutting the tip of a Cuban cigar

Micheal Laffey

No Cutter? No Problem: How to Cut a Cigar with a Knife and Other Ways

If you want to know how to cut a cigar with a knife, consider this your complete guide. We walk you through two different ways to cut a cigar cap using a knife, what type of knife to use, and other methods for cutting a cigar without a designated tool.

Why Do I Need to Cut the Cigar?

You can’t smoke a cigar unless you cut it! This is something that every cigar lover knows. Almost all cigars come with a cap on the head of the cigar. The head is the end of the cigar you will puff from or that goes in your mouth. If you do not cut your cigar, you won’t be able to pull any smoke through because there won’t be an opening.

The cap holds the cigar together, so the wrapper doesn’t fall apart before you smoke it. It also keeps the tobacco inside the cigar fresher for longer so it won’t go stale. Cutting the cigar is an art, as the perfect cut will provide a smooth and ample path for the smoke so you can enjoy the cigar to the maximum.

Two Ways to Cut a Cigar with a Knife

There are two ways that you can cut a cigar using a knife. We recommend option one over option two, but both will get the job done.

Option 1: The Twisting Cut

  1. Grasp the cigar firmly with your less dominant hand.
  2. Take the sharpest part of your knife and place it a centimeter or two below the cigar cap.
  3. Twist the cigar, following the same direction of the leaves on the wrapper.
  4. Slice in a twisting motion slowly and firmly until most of the cap is separated from the cigar head.
  5. Using your fingernail or the knifepoint, gently detach the cap and discard.
  6. Light your cigar at the foot and enjoy!

Cutting the cap off in a twisting motion ensures a smooth cut that won’t compromise the roll. However, if you don’t feel comfortable holding the knife in this manner or want to simplify the process, there is another way.

Option 2: The Bread Slice

  1. Place the cigar on a durable surface.
  2. Hold it firmly with your less dominant hand, with your hand holding the end closer to the foot.
  3. Using a knife, slice a centimeter or two below the cap using a sawing, downward motion. Cut the cigar just like you would cut a slice of bread from a loaf.
  4. Discard the cap, light your cigar, and enjoy!

Option two is less ideal because it could result in a jagged cut. Because you don’t allow the blade to follow the spiral of the wrapper, the cut won’t be as even or clean. Nevertheless, this is still a viable method to remove the cap and smoke the cigar.

Best Type of Knife to Cut a Cigar

To give you an idea of the kind of knife you should use, the three knives below are your best bet if you want to make a clean cut on your favorite cigar. While practically any knife will get the job done, we want you to have the best cigar smoking experience possible. If you have access to one of these three knives, we recommend using it over something else.

knife on woods

Pocket Knife

Most pocket knives are straight blades with sharp points, making them excellent for cutting off the cap. They also offer an extra grip on the handle for care and precision. Plus, many people carry pocket knives, so they’re convenient when you need to cut a cigar in a pinch.

Straight Kitchen Knife

It’s okay if you only have large kitchen knives because you’re more a cook than a smoker. Just try to pick the sharpest blade that has a straight edge. The straight edge will slice through the wrapper smoothly.

Paring Knife

Out of all the kitchen knives, a paring knife is the best. These knives are small, sharp, and designed for precise cuts. The blades are small enough that you won’t feel overwhelmed by the knife when cutting this tiny cigar cap off.

Worst Type of Knife to Cut a Cigar

Now that you know the best knives to use, let’s talk about the knives you should avoid when you need to cut a cigar.

Steak Knife

Steak knives are for rigorous, rough cutting. Cutting a cigar should be done gently, so these knives are a poor choice for this task. Unfortunately, steak knives are the most common household knife, but we urge you to find another option.

Serrated Knife

In general, you should avoid using serrated knives. Serrations, or the jagged teeth on one side of the knife, will result in a wonky cut and may cause your cigar wrapper to fall apart.

Bread Knife

A bread knife is hands down the worst knife you could use to cut a cigar, except maybe a literal saw. These knives are super long and large with deep serrated teeth that will hack away at and likely destroy your precious cigar.

Other Ways to Cut a Cigar

Don’t have a knife on hand either? No worries, there are other ways to cut a cigar. Below, we discuss more DIY options and fancier ways to cut a cigar like a pro.

Punch Cutters

Cigar punchers are not the same as cigar cutters. Cutters chop off the entire cap, creating an ample airway for you to pull smoke through. Punch cutters, on the other hand, leave the shoulder intact and punch out a hole in the cap. A punch cutter offers a tighter smoke that many a cigar aficionado prefers, but this is subjective.

This small device is usually metal with a circular razor. They are very portable, usually about the size and shape of a bullet.

Cigar Cutters

Cigar cutters are a small metal tool that resembles a crown cork bottle opener. There is an opening in the piece of metal where the cigar cap can fit. Then using a mechanism operated by your thumb, you can slice the cap off in one smooth motion. Cutting your cigar will provide large puffs of smoke when you pull.


If you want to punch your cigar cap but don’t have a puncher, you can use a screwdriver! Be careful when doing this, as you don’t want to punch too deep into the cigar.

Hold the cigar firmly horizontally, and place the tip of the screwdriver over the center of the cap. Gently push the screwdriver in one quick motion, pulling back immediately. You should have a small opening over the cap where you can pull smoke through.


Using your fingernails is one of the more difficult ways to cut your cigar, but it is possible. You will have to have fingernails for this to work, so if you’re a nailbiter, you likely won’t be able to do this.

Using your thumbnail, puncture the side of the cap. Slowly twist the cigar around, following the spiral of the roll. Take your time doing this, as your fingernail is likely not super sharp and it will take some finessing. Once the cap is off, you can enjoy the cigar.


Another primitive method, but it can work in a pinch! This method is the roughest. All you do is place the cap squarely between your teeth. Bite down, hard, but don’t tear it in a pulling motion. Do not pull the cigar away until you feel that the cap has come off the cigar. Then discard the cap and smoke the cigar.


In summary, if you find yourself ready to smoke a cigar but don’t have a cutter, don’t worry. There are many ways to prepare your cigar for smoking without having a cigar cutter or puncher.

From your handy pocket knife to your trusty screwdriver to your own teeth, if there’s a will, there’s a way!

cigar in cutter


Below are frequently asked questions about cutting a cigar. Read these for some more information on this action.

What can I do if I cut the cigar wrong?

You can save some cigars but not others. If you didn’t cut enough off and have trouble pulling the smoke, you can cut the cigar again. If you cut too much, there is no fix.

If you produced a jagged cut, we suggest trying to clean it up with a knife or a pair of small scissors. But in the end, a cigar cut should be a one-and-done thing, so try to make your first attempt count.