Sunday, June 11, 2017

Hobby Knives

A good hobby knife is an essential part of just about any modelers tool box. We use them for: nub clean up, masking, decals, weathering panel line scribing and more. In my opinion it's important to understand what options are available and which knife should be used with each task.

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated, sponsored by or have any connections to any hobby tool manufacturer or reseller. The statements made below are strictly my opinions based on my experience as a modeler.

The classic Xacto #11 light duty hobby knife with X-life blades

In the US I can't think of a more widely used or iconic hobby knife than the classic #11. Until December of 2016 this style of knife was my primary knife choice for most hobby applications. Handles come in a variety of different shapes sizes and colors, and the blue oxidized carbon steel blades are extremely sharp and have decent edge retention.

The good:
  • A good general purpose knife. If I could only own one hobby knife this would be it.
  • A sharp blade is usually good for one full HG kit
  • The long fine point of this blade makes masking in tight places a breeze
  • Large packs of replacement blades are widely available an inexpensive
The bad:
  • The blade is not "locked" into the handle and I have somewhat frequent experience with the blade becoming loose to the point where it could fall out from the handle.
  • The thin point of the knife is prone to snapping.
Things to consider:
  • Handles come in many different shapes and sizes pick one that feels good in your hand. The standard silver metal handle is slightly too narrow for my large hands for example.
  • The #11 handle can be used with other styles of blades.

Precision Hobby Knife by Olfa

This is the style of knife that replaced my #11 xacto for just about all nub removal duties. The shape of the blade provides a better cutting angle and requires less force to cut through the plastic than the traditional #11 blade. Another benefit of the shorter blade length is that I have significantly reduce the incidents of accidentally cutting myself.

The good:
  • The best choice for removing nubs of all sizes.
  • Good edge retention, equal to the #11
  • Despite having blades that are .05 mm thinner on average that the #11, they feel much sturdier under compression. 
The bad:
  • The shorter cutting surface makes it a poorer choice when cutting masking tape or decals. 
Things to consider:
  • Like the X-acto #11 above the handles come in many different shapes and sizes pick one that feels good in your hand. Olfa manufactures some of the Tamiya branded hobby knives too. Due to the parallelogram shape of the blades, this style of knife tends to have a wider handle than the Xacto knives do.  

Snap off blade aka: Asuka's progressive knife

As a young teenager back in the bygone era of 2000 I used a knife like this to cut nubs off of kits. At the time I had no idea what I was doing, nor did I have access to the internet resources that we have today. It's unsurprising that many of the models I built were junk, considering I was using a tool like this.

The good:
  • Great for opening boxes, breaking down boxes or cutting tape.

The bad:  
  • Generally the blades on these knife are inferior both in sharpness and edge retention to the hobby knives listed above. 
  • The ergonomics of these types of knives are generally poor for long modeling sessions.
Things to Consider:
  • We use tools to make problems easier to solve. For a given problem there usually exists an "ideal tool". Learning to use a certain tool in a certain situation is a skill we spend most of our lives learning and scale modeling is no exception.
What are your preferences for hobby knives? Did I miss a blade type that you swear is the best solution? If so, please leave a comment below to let me know your thoughts!

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