I've inadvertently cut a piece of paper that I wasn't meant to.

Cut Paper

I've repaired it pretty well using single sided sticky tape and I think, so long as no-one looks at it too closely, I'll get away with it. However, if you look close enough you can still tell it has been cut.

enter image description here

Given the importance of this document, I don't feel sticking the paper back together again is good enough. What I really need to do is 'uncut' the paper.

I order to do this I need to know two things I thought Physics.SE would be able to help me with:

  1. What happens to the paper as I cut it?
  2. Is the process reversible (even if impractical), if so, how so and if not, why not?

I'll remove this section in due course but just a friendly hello and a heads up that although this is my first question on Physics.SE it isn't my first on SE altogether, so Comments and Suggestions for Improvements are gratefully received (I was particularly uncertain about the tags), I'd rather you commented than Downvoted / VTC but you are of course welcome to vote as you please! If you do choose to vote this way it would be appreciated if you could explain what caused it and what I can do to reverse it!

  • $\begingroup$ Damn you duplicates! I found this in the 'similar question' display physics.stackexchange.com/q/209529/205916 I've posted anyway as I don't believe it to be a duplicate because A) That question claims the process is irreversible, mine asks if it is. B) I discuss cutting, not tearing, which may be a significant difference. C) The answers on that old question aren't quite satisfying enough D) The questions are worded fairly differently (stackoverflow.blog/2010/11/16/…) E) I really don't want it to be one! $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 6, 2018 at 21:06
  • $\begingroup$ Well, this is quite dupey. $\endgroup$
    – Mithoron
    Commented Sep 6, 2018 at 21:40
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Paper no, but there are some new polymers that heal themselves under pressure: youtube.com/watch?v=VJCX0xgQFBE $\endgroup$
    – user190081
    Commented Sep 6, 2018 at 21:45
  • $\begingroup$ Something worth exploring is what does it mean to be "cut" and what does it mean to "reverse a cut?" I'll point out that book repair is an art and they do have methods of mending which are visually very hard to distinguish from an uncut page. The more you try to exclude such mending techniques from "reversing the cut," the less likely it will be that someone can find something acceptably reversible. $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Commented Sep 6, 2018 at 23:10
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks @CortAmmon, I've been continuing to read about this and now that I have a bit of a better idea of what paper actually is I can see how the concept of 'not sticking it back together' could be a, well, sticky one, given that at a base level all paper really is is small bits of pulp stuck together. I was more looking to avoid the addition of a 'foreign body' into the mix (glue, tape) but if the process of 'uncutting' would depend on that then I feel that is quite valid as an answer (so long as it explains why!). $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 6, 2018 at 23:16

1 Answer 1


ordinarily, you cannot "uncut" paper because it consists of a matted mass of microscopic fibers pressed together with a little glue mixed in to hold them together. cutting the paper causes the fibers themselves to be cut, and once cut, their ends cannot be butted back together without more glue.

An exception exists for papers which have very little or no glue in them at all, like paper towel stock or tissue paper. in this case, if you put a very small amount of water on the cut, the fibers readily let go of one another and the cut can be then massaged back together. If pressed and allowed to dry, the fibers that cross the original cut will then hold fast... but it's really hard to accomplish this in practice.


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