Saturday, June 29, 2013

A Better Knife? Exactamundo!

Like most folks in this hobby, I've "grown up" using the classic hobby knife affectionately known as the Xacto knife.  Many of us incorrectly use the term to refer to a specific type of knife, but as we all know, it's actually a brand name.  There are several manufacturers of these types of knives, but the original and best-known is X-Acto.  Buying my first real X-Acto knife was a big deal - I felt like a real modeler.

Before long, I was buying replacement blades in bulk, because that's what real modelers do.  That, and because I kept breaking off the tip of the blade.  A knife blade with a broken tip becomes useless pretty quickly, requiring a replacement.  Those broken blades aren't completely ineffective - they'll still penetrate a shoe when the knife rolls off the table, as X-Acto knives are prone to do.

About a month ago I came across a discussion on an Internet forum talking about hobby knives made by Olfa, a Japanese company.  Some of the discussion participants were making claims that the Olfa blades were sharper and more durable than the X-Acto blades, and that the knives were in general better products. I decided to try one myself.

My first impressions upon taking the knife out of the packaging was that yes, this is a better knife.  It's heavier than an X-Acto, biased towards the cutting end of the knife.  A padded rubber grip makes the knife comfortable to use and easier to hold on to than the smooth metal body of the X-Acto.  Olfa has even taken steps to prevent impaled-shoe-Syndrome - the knife handle includes a small plastic nub to stop the knife from rolling off of your work surface.  I can put away the steel-toed boots!

So far, I've cut 50 window openings into pieces of black matte board with a single blade.  The tip hasn't broken off, and the blade still seems to be plenty sharp.  It's too early to call me a convert, but it's looking good at this point.  I haven't found a source for bulk blades yet, but if the blades really are this durable, maybe the little 5-pack that I bought will last a long time.

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