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I would like to know from more experienced modelers which brand and model of hobby knife you prefer.  I like the K1 aluminum model from Excel, but the threads give out after about three blade changes and it won’t tighten up anymore.  I’m sorry if this was covered in an earlier thread, but I couldn’t find anything.  Thanks for any advice you might have.

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Focusing on the #11 shape cutter:

This is about as individual preference and what you are used to subject as it gets.


A quick view at Widget Supply  comes up with:

Fiskars 167000 Softgrip Ergonomic Detail Knife  - comfortable in my hand

X-ACTO X3254 Black Ergonomic Knife - Safety Cap - Type A

X-ACTO X3627 Black Gripster Knife - Safety Cap - Type A

Fiskars 167110 Heavy Duty Knife

Excel 16019 K18 BLUE Soft Grip Knife

These want a superior quality steel blades - usually sold per #100


Scalpel blades   - sharp, excellent steel  funky attachment.
Several sizes of handle,  but long term hand comfort seems a low priority in design.
Sterility and not being a microorganism dispenser seems to dominate design.


The ultimate is Violin-Makers knives
Several widths  
no handles -  sort of like holding a pencil
It is as sharp as you strop.
Expensive - once in a lifetime - several choices for cutting edge length

Edited by Jaager
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Matt, rather than a hobby knife, I use a scalpel.  The blades seem to remain sharp longer and they're comfortable in the hand (at least for me).  The only caution would be not to get your blades from a surgical supply outlet - they're too expensive.  You'll do better at a veterinary supplier of even a chiropody supplier. Some hobby shops also carry scalpel blades.



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I tend to go for the thicker handles - big mitts. Not sure what brand of handle; could be either exacto or excel. Probably excel. I will say to use Excel blades, because they seem to use a better steel and hold their edge longer. I've tried scalpels with the thicker handles. They're good, but swapping blades is wonky.

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I just started using Swann Morton #3 handle with a 10A blade and for a bit heavier work I have a #4 handle with a #26 blade. I was using an Exacto handle with #10 blades but found they dulled quickly and the handles never lasted. I am very happy with the change. 

Edited by toms10
Fixed an auto correct mistake. Dulled was filled
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15 hours ago, Matt D said:

this was covered in an earlier thread

this was covered few days ago in the same section:


Photo of  a test showing how a knife can cut:


If you compare the results, you can clearly see  how a standard exacto blade is not  performing very well, in fact that blade got the worst results!


Understanding what bis a good hobby knife is not as easy as we could thing


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I've used Swann Morton scalpels since I was about 12yrs old, so I'm very used to them.


A few years ago, I switched to their retractable handles which hold the same blades. For blades, I use 10a, 11 and 15 (the latter are small curved blades which are great for awkward cuts and scraping).




Screenshot 2021-01-30 at 14.20.16.png


Screenshot 2021-01-30 at 14.20.25.png



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I gather it depends on how heavy the work is you intend to do with them. (Disposable chirurgical) scalpels are designed for incisions, with the main force in the plane of the blade, not necessarily at an angle to it. Dito the handles. I am doing mainly light cutting work and not carving, so I am happy with the Swann-Morton scalpel handle and the various blases. I guess the one most frequently used is the No. 11, but I got a life-time supply of vavrious blade types via ebay quite cheaply: they are sterile ones on which the guarantee time for sterility has experired, so some medical establishment had to dispose of them.


Scalpels for heavier work are those used in post-mortems and anatomical work. Swann-Morton has a series of blades and handles for that. However, I inherited from my father, who had trained as a medical doctor, a whole bunch of anatomical and biological scalpels with ebony handles. One was given to me already while at school and this remains one of my work-horses, being honed from time to time.

Edited by wefalck
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22 minutes ago, Gaetan Bordeleau said:

As the doctor said, scalpels were never intended to cut wood.

For small uses,  it cuts well but for larger ones,  it is worthless  especially when you apply a small tangential push, it often breaks.


I've been using Swann Morton scalpels to cut timber for models for 20yrs, and for plastic/resin for almost 40yrs...BUT I sometimes use the No.10a for heavier work as they are less likely to break. However, I rarely get an SM No.11/15 blade break on me. I've probably had a couple break last year, so not many, and I use a lot of these.

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I'd bet S-M have a better steel in their blades. I like Excel over Exacto, they seem to hold an edge longer. Forcing the blades sideways will lead to breakage. At least, that's been my experience. I don't recommend using these blades for thicker stock, since they want to twist. A heavier blade or small saw is a better bet.

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I personally like scalpel blades.  

An X-Acto blade usually dulls out on me within a couple hours of carving/shaping.


Excel brand blades/handles are better than X-Acto.  They are sharper and last longer.  I can use one of those blades for a day, maybe two, before it dulls out.


I LOVE scalpels.  They are super sharp and I can build for a week before I need to replace a blade.

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Thank you guys for the feedback.  I really appreciate it.  It looks like the Swann Morton handle works quite a bit different from the Excel and Exacto style handles.  That might solve the problem of them loosening up and wearing out.  I'm perfectly happy with the Excel #11 blades, which are carried by my local hobby shop.  Just not the handles.

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Learning to find a good knife looks like to be very easy. In fact, it is much more complicated. When we begin the hobby of model ship building, one of the first we will use is a standard hobby knife like Exacto. Until you find a better one , we will think the Exacto is the perfect knife.


On day you discover the Surgical blades which performs better than an ordinary blade. There are many blades but #11 is the most used. For the light work, it works very well. If you are never going to do bigger work, you could stop your search there.


The question now is: Is there a knife  which can cut easier and be more effective than a scalpel with a#11 blade? The answer is YES. There are many reasons why this is true. First, you need to be in control of the tool you use  to cut.  It is a lot easier to control a knife with all your hand instead of only a few fingers to hold a scalpel handle. Scalpel has a very small handle, it is easier to control it with a bigger handle. The profile of the blade. Even if we think that the #11 blade is the most cutting blade, there are profile more suited for wood like a V shape. Japanese did understand that many century ago. There is also the kind of steel. Actually, the powder steel blades are some of the most performing blades on the market.


In a photo, in an upper answer, I did show a test with 7 knives, scalpel did classified sixth on 7 knives, and the Exacto arrived the last one.  


The easier it will be to cut, the better the results will be.

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  • 1 month later...

I switched to Excel and like the Xacto the knurled collars tend to loosen so I'm going to use some plumber's silicone tape ( super thin to stop plumbing joints from leaking) figuring that will stop the threads from slipping.


I bought an Xacto mitre box...way too wide slots. Not sure if I should buy a better brand or just use harwoodd jig.


My Xacto saw dulled very quickly....anyone use Excel and get longer life , or opt for Tamiya or Zona?

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  • 2 weeks later...

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