Today’s Cool Tool is going to feature the mighty X-Acto hobby knife and the ubiquitous #11 blade. While most hobbyists have a set of X-Acto blades in their hobby supplies, did you know there are a bunch of other blades to use?
Right tool, right job.
For our hobby, having a sharp blade helps with all sorts of things. Removing parts from sprues, scraping mold lines, cutting off unwanted bits, creating battle damage, and cutting plastic card for kitbashing.
Affiliate disclaimer: links to amazon are affiliate links, meaning that if you buy them through my link, I get a tiny cut from Amazon (at no change of price to you). Other than the scalpels that I mention below, everything else is products I use and recommend. So if you need new blades and want to help pay for my server bills, consider the links below.
The General #11 Blade
That is where the mighty #11 X-Acto blade comes in. This is the ‘standard’ blade that comes with most knife kits and the one you see in the checkout line. It makes sense; it has a straight blade (great for scraping) and a sharp tip (great for scoring or fine detail work).
What most hobbyists don’t realize is because the X-Acto hobby knife blades are so sharp, they dull quickly as well. Especially when you are doing lots of mold line scraping. So it is important to replace the blade often, not only to be efficient, but a sharp knife is safer than a dull knife.
But they are expensive!
I hear ya, if you are buying the X-Acto brand in tiny five packs at the grocer, yes they add up in a hurry. Instead, I recommend picking up a 100-pack like these on Amazon that are only $15. They are off-brand but so are the one’s I use, and they work great (just read the reviews).
I’ve had my 100-pack for years, and because I no longer worry about the price of each blade, I end up switching blades more often.
But enough of the standard blade, X-Acto has about a dozen different knife blade types that fit into two categories based on the handle size: lightweight and heavyweight. Most of our hobby needs fall into the lightweight category, but I did list a heavyweight blade that I use from time to time as well.
The #16 Scoring Blade
This is much like the #11 but only has the first part of the blade. This makes it great for getting into tight areas of the model or removing insignia as a very small chisel tool. It seems odd having such a small blade at the tip, but I have found more than once that it gets the job done much easier than the #11.
As this is a specialty blade, I don’t pick up a big pack. I use it for what I need, then put it back away. So a 5-pack works just fine.
The #17 Lightweight Chiseling Blade
As the name suggests, this blade is a small, perpendicular blade meant for chiseling out material. One of the best uses of this blade for me is to remove Imperial Aquilas from kits to use for my Chaos armies.
By setting this blade flat against the surface, I can press against the raised detail and remove it, while leaving a flat surface behind.
The #18 Heavyweight Chiseling Blade
And where the smaller chisel blade won’t cut it, it’s big brother can get the job done. This is one of the blades that fall into the heavyweight category so won’t fit in the typical hobby-sized knife handle.
What could we use a knife like this for on our little army men? Terrain mostly. The larger size works well when modifying building kits or hacking away at Styrofoam hills.
Just use extra caution when using this blade as it can be tempting to cut away too much at once and end up with the blade in your leg. ALWAYS use a cutting mat, cut away from you, and ideally a pair of safety goggles – yes they look stupid, but at least you will continue to be able to see that they look stupid.
The #15 Keyhole Saw
I didn’t know about this one until I started writing this article and looked up the different blades X-Acto made. But now I can’t unsee it’s potential! I’ve already put one in my cart for later.
While the ‘keyhole’ name implies it is meant to be inserted into a hole to cut out interior sections, the tiny saw blade would work great for cutting off bits that are a bit too large to slice with the hobby blade.
There are alternatives to X-Acto hobby knives that offer different uses, or usually cheaper. I mentioned the off-brand #11 above as one way to go, but here are a few others to look at.
The first alternative is the super cheap, snap-away box cutter. The idea of these blades is that as you dull the tip (where most of the work is done), you can just snap off that section, leaving a new tip below it.
The retractable nature is also handy, so you can just throw this in your hobby drawer/box/desk, and not work about stabbing yourself when you rummage through looking for that missing bit. You can pick up a 24 pack for $12 on Amazon, and since each blade has about ten segments, that is a pretty good value.
I haven’t used scalpel blades before, but I have seen others use these for hobby work. Similar to the X-Acto hobby knives, the blade is replaceable and attaches to a standard handle. Considering they are typically used for surgery, they are going to be sharp and have a fine point.
Back to You
What are some of your favorite hobby blades? Did I miss one that you found is invaluable to your kitbashing? Leave me a comment below with your thoughts.