While many people make great use of cutting tools like Cricut and Silhouette machines, you can’t beat a good craft knife for that hands-on experience. The best craft knives should glide through paper, card, vinyl, and other materials with ease for a clean line. You can be more precise than with scissors/electric scissors when using these knives along with a good cutting mat. It also gives you a little more control than putting your faith in cutting software. However, you need to be sure that your knife is effective enough for the task, safe to use, and will actually provide a more convenient alternative.
In this guide, I have highlighted a series of the best craft knives, with a focus on high-quality tools with great features for safety and productivity. This includes some simple retractable craft knives, some stylish pen-like knives, and some multi-purpose sets. Before we look at those in more detail, let’s talk about some of the important considerations for choosing the right knife.
The Best Pen-Like Craft Knives
1) X-Acto No 1 Precision Knife
This is a smart little knife that looks like something you would be proud to use. The style is completely removed from products like box cutters and more industrial retractable knives as there is a slim aluminum body with a gold-colored grip at the top and a #11 fine point blade at the tip. There is the promise of an easy-change blade system should you want to swap this out. However, there aren’t any spare or alternative blades in the pack. You do get a safety cap though, which helps to keep the tool safe when in a drawer or case.
2) Excel Blades Fit Grip Knife
While the option above is the more stylish and professional-looking option, I do like the shape of this one from Excel Blades. The body of the knife is more contoured with a rubber grip all the way around for added comfort. The bright pink isn’t going to suit everyone, but this bold color and the highlighter green both make the knife more visible safety. There is mention of any cap or any spare blades. But, you can get this as a three-pack. Either way, the carbon steel blade seems to be sharp enough for precise cuts.
3) ELMERS Xacto Black Gripster Knife
Next, we have another option like the X-Acto knife before with the more simplistic shape to the pen-like body and the #11 fine point blade at the tip. Here you get the best of both worlds with the nice design and the rubber grip. Also, the shape isn’t completely round to stop the knife from rolling away on angled cutting boards. The product comes with a safety cap and there is a simple release mechanism on the back of the knife so you can swap out the blade. As with the others, there are no spare blades here. But, it shouldn’t be too hard to find a set to add to your purchase.
The Best Retractable Craft Knives
1) Nova Precision Craft & Hobby Knife
The first of these top retractable craft knives is one with a great shape to the body and that same #11 fine point blade that is so helpful. The body is made to be “super slim and safe”, with a thinner design and a nice grip below the blade. The shape is also said to be ideal whether you are left-handed or right-handed. As for the retractable element, I like that there are three clear points along the blue sliding mechanism. This allows for various lengths and different cuts. As a result, this tool could end up being more multi-functional than you think. The only concern is whether this thin body is less durable than the others.
2) EPIX3204 – X-acto Retract-A-Blade Knife
Heading back to X-Acto for a moment, this next product does something similar to the Nova knife. There is another graduated approach to the retractable knife that allows for different cuts. The main difference is that instead of using a nicely positioned slider on the side with a good grip, this has a smaller device on the top of the body. This seems a bit more awkward to me. The blade is another #11 fine point blade and you can swap this out if you need too.
3) Beaditive High Precision Detail Craft Knife
This option from Beaditive has the same kind of mechanism on the top to retract the blade. This also has an auto-lock. This could be helpful in terms of stopping you from moving it accidentally. But it could also take some getting used to. There is a transparent clamp for the blade, which should make it easier to switch the blades over. There is also a nice grip and ergonomic shape. The only issue is that it isn’t clear what blade it has with it.
The Best Sets of Craft Knives
1) X-Acto Basic Knife Set
As we have spoken about X-Acto in all the other categories, and they are such a go-to brand in this category, let’s continue with this set. This set offers a series of three precision knives and 10 spare blades. These spares cover a range of different shapes and lengths so you can find the ideal option for whatever you are working on. The knives are mostly along the lines of the X-Acto Number 1 at the start of this guide. But, there is also a larger one with a big red handle that may offer more grip. What I like most here, however, is the fact that they come in a nice wooden box with a latch.
2) Syarme Exacto Knife Combination Suit
Finally, we have a set with a difference. I like that Syarme decided to add in a few interesting extra features to make this more appealing and add greater value. There are two very different precision knives – one thinner and one more industrial. You also get 20 blades, all in their own individual cases. There are also safety caps on the knives for security. On the other side of the zippered case is a mesh pocket holding a whetstone, deer velvet cloth, and a ruler. This makes the set a bit more functional for different crafts.
What to Look Out for When Choosing the Best Craft Knife?
1) Does it have a retractable blade or a safety cap?
Either feature should come as standard for the benefits of health and safety. Retractable blades are great. a little mechanism on the side should be enough to withdraw the blade into the housing so it isn’t a risk when in storage. The alternative is to use a little cap over the top. I prefer the retractable solution as caps are easily lost or could come off. Check the product details first to see which is provided, or if there is an alternative safety feature.
2) Does it come with spare blades?
One blade might not be enough as this could become damaged, snap off, or simply dull with age. Also, you might find it useful to have blades of different lengths and thicknesses depending on your needs. Some companies will provide spare blades in the pack to cover these situations. There should also be a good storage solution to keep them all safe. Again, check the product details to see exactly what you get.
3) Can you change the blades with ease?
It doesn’t matter how many blades the set comes with if you can’t swap them out. The best models should have a simple structure where you can take the casing apart without tools, remove the current blade, and swap it for something more suitable.
4) Is it comfortable to hold?
This is a big issue that some companies may overlook. When we use knives like this, we tend to grip hard as we put pressure on the blade and get a more steady cut. So, an ergonomic handle with a nice grip and perhaps a softer feel could make things a lot easier. You don’t want to end up with cramps, trapped nerves, or just a stiff index finger during a long crafting session.
5) Is it built to last?
It isn’t just the blade of the knife that is at risk of damage and breakages. You could find that the handle is a bit flimsy too. There are some great durable options out there that don’t cost that much. It is better to invest in something that will last – with those spare blades and safety features – than something cheap and short-lived.
Choosing the Best Craft Knife for your Needs
In short, there is more variation in these products than you might think. While I prefer the retractable option for their greater safety and functionality, I can see the appeal in the more stylish non-retractable options. If you are serious about a more diverse set of tools, these sets can help a lot. Just make sure to find the model you more most comfortable and confident using.