The way how to use an X-Acto knife is somewhat different from the conventional ways on how you use a normal kitchen or utility knife. X-acto knives are not difficult to learn how to use safely, and we discuss this process below
How To Use an X-Acto Knife
What You Will Need
- Safety glasses (optional).
- Prescription glasses or contacts (for better vision).
- A cutting mat or board.
- The material you are cutting (wood, plastic, etc.).
- Lubricating oil (optional).
- Clean, dry rag or cloth (optional, for wiping grit or grime from the blade).
- Small pliers (optional, for changing the blade, or handling the material).
#1 Gently get to know the parts of the knife, the location of the blade, the twist cap, how it feels in your hand. Put on work gloves for extra safety if you choose.
#2 Select the right knife for your task out of the X-acto knife sizes you own. For cutting heavier, thicker materials, you will best be served by using the heavier-duty X-acto knife.
#3 If there is an old blade on the knife, change it out to a new one. Make sure to be careful and cover the edge of the old blade with tape or cardboard before disposing of it in the trash. Use a Sharps container if you have one to store the old blades. While putting on a new blade, attach the tape to the edge of the blade before installing it and remove it when finished. Change the blade if it is chipped, dull, or covered in grime.
To remove the blade, grip the handle with one hand then use your thumb and forefinger to grip the twist metal cap at the base of the blade. Point the cutting edge of the blade away from while you turn the handle. Slip the blade out and replace it with a new one. Make sure to choose the right x-acto knife blade for the cutting or chiseling task at hand.
#4 To cut materials, use a firm flat surface that can withstand cutting. It is recommended to use a cutting board or mat on a stable table or countertop.
#5 Use a ruler to measure the material and also to cut alongside to make a straight edge.
#6 Keep your fingers away from the blade edge. If you use a ruler, this means keeping them away from the edge of that as well.
#7 Place one hand on the material to stabilize it while you cut. However, make sure to keep your other hand out of the cut path. Press the blade down firmly and keep a grip of three fingers on the handle with your thumb on the other side so it does not slip.
#8 Do not force the cut when cutting thicker or firmer materials. If you press too hard, the knife could slip and cut your finger or damage the material. Only use light pressure on the blade when cutting.
#9 Take it slow. The project will be there tomorrow and the next day after that. Rushing the cut could end in ruining the material, or causing an injury.
#10 When finished, place the knife back in the X-acto knife holder for storage (if you have one).
Using an X-acto Knife Board
When cutting with an x-acto knife, it is safest to cut on a special x-acto knife board. This will protect your table or desk, as well as keep the material from slipping underneath your cut. If this happens, you can easily cut yourself, or ruin the material. You can get a self-healing board that is also non-slip and easy to clean.
X-acto Knife Practice Exercises
You can practice cutting with an x-acto knife using throwaway materials like loose paper, or cardboard. This is great for when you need to make a precise cut and cannot easily replace the material or design.
You can practice the setup using a ruler and cut along the edge to prepare for making a straight cut. You can also use this practice to figure out where to place your fingers and hands so they keep the material in place and also prevent injury.
Using an X-acto Knife Set
You can buy x-acto knives in sets with all the blades you need to get started on your hobby project. A three-knife set will have the light, medium, and heavy duty handles and most or all the blades you need. It may or may not include replacement blades.
When you use a knife from the box, make sure to close the box and place it where it will not be knocked off the counter or table. When finished using the knife set, store it in a location out of the way and in a place children cannot get to it.
X-acto Knives Are Very Dangerous!
X-acto knives were originally designed as surgical knives, so they were made to be very sharp and to easily cut skin. For more information see our post History of X-acto knives. Since then, their razor sharpness has not diminished at all.
For this reason, you must always respect an x-acto knife’s ability to cut your fingers or hand, or if you drop them, your feet! Just like other sharp knives, always be as safe as possible when handling x-acto knives.
When you use an X-acto knife it is important to take special care, to protect the material you are cutting and your fingers and hands at the same time. This is why you should take special precautionary measures. Always point the X-acto knife blade away from you as much as possible (except when cutting). Also, you should never try to cut any part of the cloth or paper with this knife haphazardly because there is the possibility that it might slice the skin. All you have to do is follow the right steps to cut material safely with an Exacto knife and you should have no problems or injuries.
Nick Klamecki is a certified Fire and Workplace Safety expert with 15 years experience in product research and testing. He has a degree in Economics from U.C. Davis, is an active outdoorsman and spent years ensuring the safety of special needs children. Nick researches and tests workplace, industrial and safety products and provides advice on their safe use.