How Do I Choose the Best Craft Knife?

Valerie Clark
Valerie Clark
Some craft knifes are designed specifically for use on fabric.
Some craft knifes are designed specifically for use on fabric.

Having the best craft knife can improve your crafting abilities and overall enjoyment of your craft. The most desirable features in such a knife are a comfortable grip, solid construction and safety features. The type of craft for which the knife will be used also should be considered when choosing the best craft tool. Some crafters may choose to have more than one type of craft knife in their tool box, because certain features may be better for particular crafts.

Craft scalpels have a very thin blade best suited for cutting designs from thin paper.
Craft scalpels have a very thin blade best suited for cutting designs from thin paper.

There are two common styles of craft knife — cartridge and pen — with the pen being more popular among crafters. Cartridge knives are perfect for cutting card stock, scoring and paper modeling. Pen knives are favored for lettering projects that require a high level of delicacy. Depending on what you are crafting, you may require both types of knives in your collection of craft tools.

The cartridge style craft knife resembles a common box cutter, but it is much more. The best cartridge style craft knives feature aluminum construction, a die-cast grip and an auto-lock slider. Most cartridge knives can hold extra blades, and the best ones automatically load the blades for added safety.

A pen knife looks much like a calligraphy pen, except the ink tip has been replaced with a blade or lettering needle. The best pen knives have an ergonomically correct shape, soft-grip handle and protective cap. While most pen style craft tools do not self-contain extra blades, they should be easy to change out without risking injury. In addition, there are double-ended craft knives available that have a blade on one end and a lettering needle on the other end.

A good craft knife can last 10 years or more and is relatively inexpensive. If you really are satisfied with a particular style, you might consider buying more than one. Products in the crafting industry have a tendency to come and go with the latest trends. As a result, you may find yourself searching for refill blades long after the tool is out of production. When you decide on the right craft knife, consider buying extra blades at the same time.

No matter what type of craft knife you need, the best designs have earned praised for being solid, precise and smooth. When using a craft knife, you may be spending extended periods of time with your tool. Whether it is stenciling, engraving or scrapbooking, the right tool can make all the difference for your crafting project.

Discussion Comments


@JimmyT - It isn't made my X-ACTO, but I have a craft knife set with a retractable blade. The one I have I got for building model airplanes and such. It came with about 10 or 12 different types of knife attachments, but I only really use 3 or 4 of them. They all will retract into the body of the knife except for one that is kind of a large, flat knife. I'm not sure exactly what it would be used for normally.

I really think pen knives are a great thing to have just lying around the house, though. I started using mine to shave off the little pieces of plastic from the models, but I have found all kinds of uses for it. Just the other day, my niece was over, and was wanting to cut out a picture from a magazine, but it had a lot of curves in it, so I just pulled out my knife and traced around it to cut it out for her. It's amazing how sharp the blades really are.

Like the article mentions, I have never seen my same knife around again, but the blades are really easy to come by.


I was browsing at my local scrapbooking store the other day, and I saw this little Fiskars craft knife that was really interesting. Basically, it had a pen knife blade, and I would assume it was interchangeable with any other brand. It wasn't shaped like a pen, though, it was only about 3 inches long or so, and had a loop at the end that you could stick your index finger through for extra support and stability.

I guess it is kind of a novelty item, but I can see cases where it might come in handy. I could definitely see an elderly person or someone with arthritis having a much better time using one of those than a regular pen knife.

I am curious if anyone has ever seen an X-ACTO knife with a retractable blade. My craft store doesn't have any, but the lady said she thinks they make them. I always seem to lose the caps and am always afraid I'll accidentally cut myself.


@jcraig3 - I bought a cartridge knife a long, long time ago, and now I just don't see them around much anymore. Basically, the one I have looks a lot like a box cutter, but it has a slightly curved shape with a padded handle to improve grip.

I don't have one of the ones that will change its own blades, but it does have a little spot where you can store a few extra blades. They aren't the typical kind used in utility knives. They are two-sided carpet knife blades. I think they are a little more durable, and they can be used until all four corners are worn down, which takes quite a while just cutting paper.

The thing I really like about it is that you can make long cuts very easily, since the blade doesn't come to a point like a utility knife blade. I have tried using utility knives and pen knives, and you really have to be careful about the knife gliding away from your straight edge.

I would do a thorough check of you local craft supplies store for one of the knives, and if you can find one, maybe just buy a comfortable carpet knife from the hardware store.


I am pretty sure I have never seen one of the cartridge craft knives that the article was talking about.

It says it is sort of like a box cutter, so I would assume that this means it is a kind of retractable craft knife, right? I do a lot of scrapbooking and usually just use a regular utility knife to cut card stock and thick pieces of paper like photos. I think it would be nice if there were actually a knife made for that sort of thing. I like the idea of having extra blades housed within the knife itself. I have gotten a couple cuts on myself before by changing blades in the utility knives.

What kind of blades do the cartridge knives use? Are they the same razor-type blades that a utility knife uses, or is there something different about them?


I have had the same x-acto knife for almost 20 years now. I have had to buy many new blades of course but the body of the knife itself is that same one all those years.

Its a great knife and it has seen my through so many projects. I used to do a lot of paper art and some of my projects involved thousands and thousands of very precise cuts. The x-acto knife never let me down.


Durability is really important when you are looking for a craft knife. I have bought cheap craft knives in the past and some of them have broken after just a few uses.

It is worth it to spend the extra money and get something that will last for years, keep its edge and accommodate all the different projects you will do with it.

Post your comments
Forgot password?
    • Some craft knifes are designed specifically for use on fabric.
      By: Theo Malings
      Some craft knifes are designed specifically for use on fabric.
    • Craft scalpels have a very thin blade best suited for cutting designs from thin paper.
      By: roger ashford
      Craft scalpels have a very thin blade best suited for cutting designs from thin paper.