knife review

10 Hobby Knife Upgrades

X-Acto Gripster Knife,
Soft Grip Hobby Knife,
Fiskars Craft Knife,
Fiskars Easy Change Knife,
Fiskars Heavy-Duty Knife, No. 2 Blade,
Excel Blades K47 Hobby Knife,
Replacement Excel Blades,
Slice Precision Cutter,
Fiskars Fingertip Craft Knife,
Fiskars Circle Cutter,

… Let’s start off by quickly going over the pros and cons of a classic X-Acto brand hobby knife. These are easy to find, inexpensive, and they use a standardized system of replacement blades.
What stinks is that they roll around, they get loose because you’re constantly gripping the element that tightens and loosens it, and even when it’s fully clamped down, the blade can still slip out. The hard, slick design can also hurt your hands after awhile.
X-Acto has their own answer to these complaints. This is called the Gripster, it’s around $6. It has a soft rubber coating on the barrel, and the tensioner is moved to the top, along with a flat-sided nut that prevents it from rolling too much.
It’s alright, but again, no matter how tight I make this thing, I can still just pull the blade right out. For both safety and precision, that’s a deal-breaker.
Fortunately, there’s a better version of this design that’s cheaper and even made in the USA. This soft-grip hobby knife from Excel is just $3.50, and you can see why it does a better job. The gripper for the blade comes at it from four directions. The blades on the X-Acto models I have only squeeze from two directions.
You’ve got the tensioner in the back where it’s out of the way, and the flat-sided hex nut has more surface area to keep it from rolling around.
If you do nothing else, stop this video here, drop $4 on this option and call it a day.
But, here’s one from Fiskars that surprisingly got it wrong. It’s the Fiskars Softgrip. It sells for around $7. Same idea with the adjustment at the top and a four-point grip on the blade. And arguably a better barrel design with this ergonomic rubber grip.
Problem is, on mine at least, the adjustment is really tough and twists inside the barrel. I can get it to release the blade by gripping near the blade, but it doesn’t feel safe.
Fortunately, there’s a better version of this from Fiskars called the Easy Change Detail Craft Knife. It sells for $8 and has a nearly identical shape that’s very comfortable to hold and doesn’t roll on your table.
This is my favorite craft knife. I probably should have saved it for the end. Here’s why it’s so cool. To change the blade, you pull pull the end back until it clicks, bend it down, and you can gently remove the blade.
Despite the fact that the blade is only gripped from two sides, it is really stuck in there. I don’t know what they’re doing to get such a great fit, but it works and hopefully won’t loosen up over time.
While we’re at it, here’s another Fiskars quick release design, but for a heavy duty No 2. Blade. This one is around $6. It has a bigger, chunkier handle, and one side is somewhat flattened out and uses a grey rubber that’s got a little give to it.
Overall, it feels more like using a big Sharpie. I imagine if you’ve got a little arthritis this might be less painful to hold, but I can’t say for certain.
The balance is unusual for this, because the back of the knife is not only bigger, but also has the easy-change hardware. I can’t say that’s good or bad, but you notice it.
I also noticed that the blade grip on here isn’t quite as tight as the smaller detail knife. It’s good, but without a way to do any fine adjustment on it, you either have to live with it or look for another option. I also thought the blade cover for this was insufficient. It’s kinda hard to put on without stabbing yourself.
Now here’s a really unique option. This one’s from Excel, who also made that great, cheap option I showed at the beginning. This is a retractable blade, in a metal, clip-on pen design. It’s $10, but feels very James Bond.
There’s a fine knurled grip on the tip of the barrel. A button above the clip retracts the knife with a very satisfying click. As you’d imagine, the blade itself is about half the size of a standard #11 blade. This also makes them a specialty to reorder. A 2-pack of replacement blades on Amazon runs around $7 — almost as much as the knife.
Still, it’s a cool design, and neat that it completely retracts into the barrel for safety. That said, there’s nothing to prevent it from accidentally getting engaged if anything pushes up against the plunger. So, I wouldn’t keep this in a pocket….

29 replies on “10 Hobby Knife Upgrades”

I actually wouldn't recommend any of these, and don't let price be the only factor when you are using open stupidly sharp blades.

For less than a dollar, I got a precision knife with EVERY ONE of the features you describe as being the best: tightener at back, four-way grip of blade, hex nut so doesn't roll on the table. Has a great cap, too. Why pay more? Oh, and I cannot pull the blade out no matter how hard I try unless I loosen the grip. Perfect.

Really cool tools. I'm also a papercutting artist and know how important is to have a good cutting knife. Very informative. You you will like my art work.

If only I had seen this before! My partner and I started ErgoKiwi as a kickstarter 3 years ago. the Kiwi is essentially a complete redesign of the conventional hobby knife. We started making handles for ourselves in architecture school, something ergonomic to make model-building more bearable. Over two years we made started making them for our peers too, giving us the chance to study how everyone uses a knife and how the form relates to the human hand. It took about 200 iterations to find the design we have today and all it turned out so well we brought it Kickstarter and now we're bringing Kiwis to the world! We've only been selling for a year, but already we've got some of the top designers and creatives in the world become supporters of Kiwi. Also, we work closely with Excel blades, they're our favorites! 🙂 Anyway, you should check us out!

Sorry, but you state right at the beginning that these knives use a standardized system of replacement blades, however if you look at the slot in the base of that first x-acto "#11" blade that you show right at the beginning of your video, you can see that it is longer than the slot of several (maybe most) of the other knives you show. So, they are not standardized in this respect, and if you have a tool that uses blades with one slot size, they may not work properly at all with a "#11" blade with a different slot. I have pocket utility knives that use these blades, and the blades are not necessarily interchangeable in all the knives. In fact, if you go to a hardware store or arts/crafts store to buy replacement blades, you'd better take an old blade along to make sure you get the blade with the correct slot. Many of the newer "#11" blades are made in China and have smaller slots, and even on the same exact peg of the same exact brand of knives, you may find packs of knives with different slots. It seems as though the more recent blades are coming with the shorter slots, so for whatever reason (hopefully not greed), you may find that you have to buy new blade holders in order to use newer models of blades. 😐

I just got a stainless steel scalpel handle and a pack of 100 blades for like 10 bucks, not as strong as xacto blades but does the work

Never thought they were that many options, especially for people who have difficulties with gripping! Thanks for the video.

I never understood why the x-acto brand is still synonymous with crafts. Their knives are so godawful designed for no good reason. It'd be so easy for them to add a little knob or flat face to prevent the knife from rolling off. And those damn safety caps never stay on.

Stanley also makes one with four-sided grip on the blade. Same as exacto except it really grips the blade and doesn't come loose. Home Depot sells it for less than $4.

The "Fingertip" knife looks like it is a play on the classic Swivel Knife used in leathercraft. ( Don't be fooled! While I'm not dissatisfied with it, it does not swivel at all. It does completely change where pressure is applied when making firm cuts. Way up at the base of the finger. I find it to be less tiring than pressing firmly with a standard pencil-style hobby knife when cutting on large flat surfaces.

There seem to be 2 versions of the Fiskars Easy Change Knife. I bought two from the link and they both have no grip on the blade. I contacted Fiskars and they sent me replacements that are awesome! The replacements are Fiskars Easy Change Fabric Knife (3 blades) 164010-1001. The only visible difference is that the handle's cap is gray tinted translucent (rather than untinted). I hesitate to provide a product link as none that I found show the packaging. If you do find a package image it should look like

You forgot to add the link to the Excel K18 blade. Also, you don’t mention the blade’s model number in the video…could you add it to the text description instead? Many thanks!

Nothing beats a Swan Morton Scapel holder and size 10A blades. Far superior to any exacto blades.

I've been hearing you talk about the Cool Tools for about a year now, but it wasn't until I subscribed to your email newsletter and clicked the link that I realized it was a separate channel. I just assumed YouTube wasn't feeding the links to me. I'll have to check out your back catalog now.

Olfa has a great range. Comfortable to hold and easy blade changes and they hold the blades very tight. Only a bit on the expensive side.

I like the fiskars finger tip knife myself and might have to try that excell. Really nice video, thanks!

I found a video about using surgical knife blades for hobbies by Paul Budzik. In it, he explained the advantages of using a #6 scalpel handle with a #25A blade (Both the handle and the blades are more stout than the usual surgical knives) I tried it, using blades and a holder I found on eBay, and like it so much I bit the bullet and purchased a full on, Swann/Morton metal handle for those blades. Now the plastic handles you can get are comfortable, and, at around $ 4.00, affordable. The metal handle is about 10X that, but the feel of it in my hand is better than anything else I have tried in 40 years of modeling.

That said, I will be getting one of those little Fiskers finger knives to try out as well. Thanks for the review!

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