What Type of X-Acto Knife Is Best?

X-Acto knives are very useful cutting tools designed to make fine, precise cuts. Different types of X-Acto knives are available, and each one is useful for specific cutting applications.

So, which one do you need? Read on…

Types of X-Acto Knives

X-Acto knives come in a variety of models. Here’s a simple guide to which knife is best for your intended use:

  • #1 Knife – a thin precision knife used for fine cutting of wood, paper, plastic, metal foil and textiles
  • #2 Knife – a medium-weight knife used for all-around cuts on wood, paper, plastic, thin metal and textiles
  • #5 Knife – a heavy-duty knife with larger plastic handle for cutting, trimming and whittling thicker materials such as leather, rubber, foam, wood, copper, tape, plastic, rope, thin sheet metal, etc
  • #1 Z-Series Knife – very fine craft knife for delicate cutting on thin materials. Ultra-sharp blade with zirconium-nitride coating.
  • #2 Z-Series Knife – medium-weight precision knife with heavier aluminum handle. Ultra-sharp blade with zirconium-nitride coating.
  • X2000 Knife – similar to standard or Z-series #1 knife, but with a comfortable knurled all-rubber handle that does not roll
  • X3000 Knife – similar to standard or Z-series #2 knife, but with a contoured all-rubber handle that does not roll
  • Cut All Knife – general craft knife with a plastic handle suitable for thin materials like cardboard, wood, plastic, rubber, leather and more
  • Wood Carving Knife – specialized whittling and wood carving knife with a 5″ long heavy-duty wide rounded handle that fits in the palm of the hand. It works well with a sharp curved wood blade, gouges and other wood carving attachments.
  • Retract-A-Blade – a safe retractable blade knife that allows you to carry it without a protective cap and not get cut. Ideal for office environments and traveling arts and crafts work. Blades interchange like all other X-Actos.
  • Axent Knife – similar to a #1, 2 or 5 knife with anodized red aluminum handle
  • Gripster Knife – similar to a #1, 2 or 5 knife with a rubberized no-slip handle
  • Curve Knife – similar to a #1, 2 or 5 knife with a contoured comfort handle
Exacto Knife Cut Material
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High Quality X-Acto Knives

The X-acto company designs and manufactures high quality x-acto knives. Other quality hobby knife brands include Tamiya, Mr. Pen and Fiskars.

Here are a few recommended X-Acto knives to check out:

X-Acto X5285 Basic Knife Set

X-Acto No 1 Precision Knife Z-Series

Fiskars Softgrip Craft Knife

X-Acto Knife Kits

You can purchase x-acto knives in basic small and medium sized kits that include several handles and multiple blades.

Here are some X-Acto knife kits to choose from (links to Amazon):

Sizes & Dimensions of X-Acto Knives

The size of an x-acto knife follows its intended safe function. These include:

  • Small #1 dimensions: 6 in long x 0.25 in wide handle
  • Medium #2 dimensions: 6 in long x 0.35 in wide handle
  • Large #5 dimensions: 5 in long x 0.6 in wide handle

Parts of X-Acto Knives

X-acto knives are made of multiple parts, including:

  • Blade – shaped according to the intended material and cut type
  • Handle – knurled aluminum, rubber or plastic ideal for holding with the fingers and palm
  • Collet – grips the blade itself
  • Collar – twists to compress the collet onto the blade
  • Safety cap – prevents accidental cuts and punctures

The blade is held in place with the collet and replacing the blade requires twisting the collar. The safety cap keeps the blade protected from damage as well as the from harming the user when they pick it up.

X-Acto Z Series vs Classic

The classic x-acto knife and Z-series knives are essentially the same. However, the Z-series includes a special blade that is coated with zirconium nitride. The extra coating on the blade increases longevity and helps maintain its sharpness.

The Z-series blade has a golden hue, which is matched by the gold coating added to the handle collar.

Types of X-Acto Knife Handles

X-acto knife handles come in 5 types: #1, #2, #5 , gripster, and cut all, each corresponding to fine, medium, heavy-duty, or rubberized. Both #1 and #2 are fairly interchangeable for the same tasks. #5 is much more heavy-duty and is best for cutting and chiseling heavier materials. The handles are listed as follows:

  • #1 Handle – Precision knife handle for fine cutting made of aluminum and colored silver. Uses #2, #10, #11, #16, #17, blades.
  • #2 Handle – Aluminum, silver colored, medium handle. Uses #18, #22, #24 blades.
  • #5 Handle – Red, Plastic, Thick Heavy Duty Handle. Uses #18, #22, #24 blades.
  • Cut All – A black, lightweight plastic handle permanently fixed to the Cut All knife.
  • Gripster – A rubberized, thick grip handle for the Gripster knife.

Each knife handle should be labeled for you to see before buying. Many newer x-acto knife models have rubberized handles for easier gripping.

What Blades To Use On an Exacto Knife?

X-acto knives are designed to use only specific types of blades. You can purchase blades from the X-acto company or from other blade companies that will fit X-acto knives.

Types of X-Acto Knife Blades

X-acto blades are numbered from #2 to #24 and each one has a specific purpose:

  • #2 blade – Long, fine-pointed blade
  • #10 blade – Rounded, general purpose blade
  • #11 blade – Fine pointed classic blade
  • #16 blade – Scoring blades
  • #17 blade – lightweight chiseling knife blades
  • #18 blade – Heavy chiseling blade
  • #22 blade – Heavy-duty carving blade
  • #24 blade – Deburring blade

X-Acto Knife Blade Sizes

X-acto knife blades have a range of sizes that are generally:

Length: 0.5 – 1.5 inches

Thickness: 0.01 inches

Height: 0.2 – 0.4 inches

What Metal Are X-Acto Blades Made Of?

X-Acto blades are usually made of carbon steel and have an additional oxidized coating to prevent rust. Alternative brands may also have a thin layer of lubricant added to further stop rust from forming. 

X-Acto Z Series knives have an additional zirconium nitride blade coating that helps keep them razor sharp for longer. This coating has a gold hue that makes the Z Series knives look distinct.

Exacto Knife Cutting Mat – Do You Need One?

No, but they are very much recommended. You can cut material with an X-Acto knife resting on cardboard or a wood cutting board. These will save your desk or table top from damage, but are not ideal for fine cutting.

An X-Acto knife cutting mat will allow you to cut without worrying about digging the blade through the material and into the surface beneath it.

They are also thinner and lighter than a typical kitchen cutting board and much more durable than cardboard. This makes them more portable and manageable than a thick wood cutting board. Exacto cutting mats come in a variety of sizes as well.

Exacto knife cutting mats also have measurement markings or grids printed on their surface. This helps you line up your work and maintain straight lines to your cuts.

Who Makes X-Acto Knives?

An “X-Acto” knife is a brand named hobby tool made by the X-Acto company. You can learn more by reading our History of X-Acto knives article

Other craft knife manufacturers similar to X-Acto include:

  • Fiskars
  • DIYself
  • Mr. Pen
  • Beaditive
  • Mulwark
  • Tamiya
  • Elmers

Where Are X-Acto Knives Sold?

X-Acto knives are common cutting instruments and can be found in a multitude of online and physical retail locations. These include:

  • Amazon
  • Micheal’s
  • Walmart
  • Walgreens
  • Target
  • Craft Warehouse
  • Office Max
  • Staples

How Much Do X-acto Knives Cost?

Individual X-Acto knives cost between $6 and $12 while X-Acto knife sets cost between $20 and $100. You can purchase competitor knife brands for possibly less.

The cost of an X-Acto knife will not break the bank, unless you are planning to buy many of them at a time.

To Close

Choosing which x-acto knife you need may ultimately depend on your personal preference. While the Z-series have special blades, an ordinary X-Acto knife will suffice in most applications. Just remember to keep safety in mind, as the blades are very sharp and can easily slice through fingers and hands, sending you right to the hospital for stitches.

NEXT UP: Can Children Use Exacto Knives Safely?

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Nick Klamecki, Author
About Nick Klamecki, Author

Nick Klamecki is a certified Fire and Workplace Safety expert with 15 years experience in product research and testing. He has a degree 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. Learn more about Nick here or connect with him on LinkedIn | Medium