Surgical Scalpels

Hobby knife blades are expensive, and with the abuse the average modeller heaps upon them, they don't last very long either. A great alternative to them are surgical scalpel blades. They come in a lot of different shapes and sizes- here are the ones that are most likely of use for the hobbyist:

  • #10: This blade is the traditional rounded-top blade most people think of as a scalpel.
  • #11: This blade is almost identical to the standard X-Acto blade- now you know why it's called a #11.
  • #12: This one is a hooked blade, which can come in handy, especially for cutting open silicone molds.

Scalpel blade holders also come in a few different sizes, to fit the different sizes of blades. The three blades mentioned above (as well as many others) fit into a #3 holder. However, they will also fit into a standard hobby knife blade holder. I like to use both- the scalpel holders are nice in the way the blade locks in, but they aren't quite as comfortable to hold as some of the more ergonomically designed hobby knives. Some sellers also give out free holders when you buy a box of blades, though the holders can be had for around $4 USD.

Scalpel blades also come in two different materials: carbon steel and stainless steel. Carbon steel blades start out sharper than stainless, but are more brittle and will lose their sharpness faster. Stainless blades are usually also sterilized and individually foil wrapped, which is nice if you want to toss a few blades into your paint kit for traveling, as you don't have loose sharp objects bouncing around in your tool box. Price-wise, there's isn't much difference between the two.

BE CAREFUL! The hobby blades you're used to are already plenty sharp, but scalpel blades are very literally designed to cut human flesh!

Best of all, they're much cheaper than most hobby knife blades. Hospitals and medical centers are required to dispose of them after they've been used, even if only making a single incision. At the end of a surgery, all the blades that were opened are disposed of, whether they were used or not. Because of this the blades are produced in far greater quantites than hobby blades, which keeps the price down.

Last I looked, a 15-pack of X-Acto blades was around $6.00 USD, but you can get a 100-pack of surgical blades through Amazon for around $12.00. Be wary, though- often you will see a box of 100 blades for  around $6.00, but they usually include about $6.00 in shipping, whereas the $12.00 boxes usually ship for free. Make sure you watch the final price to get the best deal. You might be spending a little more up front versus hobby knife blades, but they're better and last longer, and 100 of them will last a very long time.