A computational study of vorticity reconnection, associated with the breaking and reconnection of vortex lines, during vortex cutting by a blade is reported. A series of Navier–Stokes simulations of vortex cutting with different values of the vortex strength are described, and the different phases in the vortex cutting process are compared to those of the more traditional vortex tube reconnection process. Each of the three phases of vortex tube reconnection described by Melander & Hussain (Phys. Fluids A, vol. 1(4), 1989, pp. 633–635) are found to have counterparts in the vortex cutting problem, although we also point out numerous differences in the detailed mechanics by which these phases are achieved. Of particular importance in the vortex cutting process is the presence of vorticity generation from the blade surface within the reconnection region and the presence of strong vortex stretching due to the ambient flow about the blade leading edge. A simple exact Navier–Stokes solution is presented that describes the process by which incident vorticity is stretched and carried towards the surface by the ambient flow, and then interacts with and is eventually annihilated by diffusive interaction with vorticity generated at the surface. The model combines a Hiemenz straining flow, a Burgers vortex sheet and a Stokes first problem boundary layer, resulting in a nonlinear ordinary differential equation and a partial differential equation in two scaled time and distance variables that must be solved numerically. The simple model predictions exhibit qualitative agreement with the full numerical simulation results for vorticity annihilation near the leading-edge stagnation point during vortex cutting.