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Show a photograph of how you use the #11 or exacto knife

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This thread is for sharing how and what you use the #11 or exacto knives for. 

Get someone else to take the picture or use a tripod, because using these knives usually takes two hands.


I will include some pictures of how I sharpen the blades as well.



Current builds  Bristol Pilot Cutter 1:8;      Skipjack 19 foot Launch 1:8;       Herreshoff Buzzards Bay 14 1:8

Other projects  Pilot Cutter 1:500 ;   Maria, 1:2  Now just a memory    

Future model Gill Smith Catboat Pauline 1:8

Finished projects  A Bassett Lowke steamship Albertic 1:100  


Anything you can imagine is possible, when you put your mind to it.

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   You are right.  No one tells you, shows you, or teaches you how to use that craft knife. Most people would say that is true of modeling in general.  When I was a kid I was always saving and looking forward to my next plastic model kit.  Mostly ships, some airplanes(most of those at 1:48) and various 1;72 infantry support pieces, little trucks, jeeps etc.  I loved those little guys.  I think my little favorite of all time was a German 88.  It elevated, rotated, it detached from the limber and the supports folded down.      I digress.


   The point is, I had a model and at first a pack of 5 single edged razor blades.  I could not buy more because it would cut into my model budget and I needed to buy glue as well, and then all those little Testor bottles of paint, then Humbrel and brushes etc.  An air brush was a dream. No one ever heard of a sprue cutter back then. That X-acto with the #11 was a significant upgrade and all us kids were reluctant because the blade replacement was more expensive and not available unless mom took you to the hobby shop. A place most of our mothers detested.  These are the same mothers who turned us loose in Woolworth and had to come looking for us on the model aisle when it was time to go home.   I could get more single edge blades on my bike by riding to the closest garage or the 7-11.   Then we all know what happens in high school.  You have a driver's license, more money, more freedom and Lori is now you primary diversion.   It takes marriage, kids, jobs and a mortgage or two before you finally splurge and buy that X-acto handle to maintain your sanity.


  Anyway, now you are 30 something and still there is no one to teach you about that blade. Apparently none of us ever learn and have all the cuts to prove it.   One of my biggest fears is that it is going to fall off the table and I will find it sticking out of my foot or my dogs back.  I am still looking for a lesson.


With any blade, I find it very hard to make a straight and square cut.  That's why I own a Northwest True Sander, which I use mostly to square up my cuts.  If any one wants to know how poorly you make cuts, I invite you to put together an inexpensive Guillow's balsa airplane kit.  The Chooper does little to help because it crushes the wood and  getting the angle is tricky.


To be clear, I am not talking about cutting a straight line, I am talking about keeping the blade perpendicular to the work as you cut. Perhaps there is technique or perhaps it is trial by error for everyone.  This is a skill I would like to learn.


PS  I also use the blades as scrapers because the thickness or rigidity of the blade makes it well suited to the use.



Phil Roach

Former Director, Nautical Research Guild

Member Shipmodeler's Guild Southwest Florida

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Phil, almost any wood or plastic I cut over a 1/16 thick, I saw cut, usually in a miter box. I own 2 choppers (One a NWSL :) , the other, some knock-off :o ) and they're great for thin stock. Cutting anything over that 16th, I find the blade deflects and the cuts get out of wack. Hence the saw/miter box combo. It's essentially a hand powered chop saw. Might save you a few trips to the True Sander. ;)


And balsa is very tough to cut, way too soft. I might use it internally to hold a structural shape, but it's too weak to use anyplace else.


Started: MS Bounty Longboat,

On Hold:  Heinkel USS Choctaw paper

Down the road: Shipyard HMC Alert 1/96 paper, Mamoli Constitution Cross, MS USN Picket Boat #1

Scratchbuild: Echo Cross Section


Member Nautical Research Guild

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OK we are ready to see the sharpening photos ;o)


I learned how to handle sharp cutting instruments in Hospital Corps School; U.S. Navy.  It included the #11 blade.  Most important lesson, keep the blade at a 90 degree angle, handle straight up. Never try to use the blade laying it diagonally because it snaps rather easily.  And always remember it was a deep cutting tool, if you want to cut thinner or less deep use a #15 blade.


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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 1 month later...

I would love to see some sharpening methods.  I usually sharpen X-acto or Excell blades before the first use if it is going to be used for carving.  These blades, including the #15 and the square nosed chisel shapes come with a very sharp, hollow ground edge. I have always found it easier to control a flat ground edge or a slightly convex shape.  It only takes a few seconds on a belt sander to reshape the edge and the improvement in control is well worth it.  The belt that I use is a very fin grit and well worn so It is more like a polishing process.  It does produce a slight wire edge on the tool which I remove with a few strokes back and forth on my saw table.  For some operations I also modify the profile of the edge...rounding the corners or the tips and modifying the square nosed chisel tips to a slightly round nosed shape.

You will never know if you can do something until you try... and even then you may not be sure.

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My No 11 blades have a very short life expectancy. I find that I regularly snap the tip off them. This often occurs while the blade is still sharp. For this reason I tend to buy my blades in packs of 100 and I don't get too attached to them. In saying that, checking out how other's sharpen their blades sounds interesting.


I have found a use for broken No 11 blades. See glue scraper on following link.



Edited by hornet



Current Build: - OcCre Shackleton’s Endurance. 


Completed Ship Builds:

                                     Caldercraft - HM Bark Endeavour. (in Gallery)

                                    Caldercraft  - HMAV Bounty (in Gallery)

                                     Caldercraft - HM Brig Supply (In Gallery)

                                     Aeropiccola - Golden Hind

                                                        - Constitution

                                     Clipper Seawitch (maker unknown - too long ago to remember!)

                                     Corel - Victory

                                     Modeller's Shipyard - A Schooner of Port Jackson - In Gallery

                                                                      - Brig `Perseverance' - In Gallery

                                                                      - Cutter `Mermaid'- In Gallery

                                                                      - Sirius Longboat (bashed) - In Gallery

                                                                      - Sloop Norfolk - In Gallery

                                      Completed Cannon:   - French 18th Century Naval Cannon

                                                                      - Napoleonic 12 pound field piece

                                                                      - English 18th Century Carronade

                                       Non Ship Builds - Sopwith Camel - Artesania Latina

                                                                   - Fokker DR1 - Artesania Latina


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  • 4 weeks later...

When I use a new blade I always take a test cut to be sure it is sharp enough. :D




Current build Cross Section USS Constitution  http://modelshipworld.com/index.php/topic/10120-cross-section-forward-area-of-the-uss-constitution/

Finished USS Constitution:  http://modelshipworld.com/index.php?/topic/103-uss-constitution-by-modeler12/


'A picture is worth a  . . . . .'      More is better . . . .

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