10 Hobby Knife Upgrades

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X-Acto Gripster Knife, https://amzn.to/2TQ24uD
Soft Grip Hobby Knife, https://amzn.to/2D8HJvp
Fiskars Craft Knife, https://amzn.to/2ANKa4G
Fiskars Easy Change Knife, https://amzn.to/2Dac5gX
Fiskars Heavy-Duty Knife, No. 2 Blade, https://amzn.to/2ST1RXN
Excel Blades K47 Hobby Knife, https://amzn.to/2M8YCc2
Replacement Excel Blades, https://amzn.to/2M8YE3E
PenBlade, https://amzn.to/2TRLxGR
Slice Precision Cutter, https://amzn.to/2D9kAZH
Fiskars Fingertip Craft Knife, https://amzn.to/2M9Uk4e
Fiskars Circle Cutter, https://amzn.to/2AKA6t8

… 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….