I’ll just say right from the beginning: the Fiskars Heavy Duty Knife is, hands-down, the finest hobby knife I’ve ever used!
Hobby knives may not command your attention like some of the more sophisticated tools of the trade. They’re not as sexy as, say, an airbrush, but no other tool could be more important. I own a multitude of hobby knives, always looking for the “right one”. The perfect knife will function well, be comfortable to hold, enjoy nice balance, and it’ll hold sharp blades securely.
Let’s take a quick look at a couple of more popular knives I’ve tried, and see how they stack-up:
- Of course everybody knows X-ACTO knives. I purchased my first X-ACTO as a youth, more than forty years ago. I started with a #1, modified it with a brass collet, later developing a preference for the #2 handle, with its larger diameter.
X-ACTO knives boast perfect balance, then score poorly in all other categories. With little surface texturing, they can be awkward and uncomfortable to grip. Their aluminum collet doesn’t grip blades as securely, forcing you to really tighten down on the collar to keep the blade from slipping. That often leads to galling, where the aluminum collar binds against the collet. I addressed that issue by switching to a brass collet and collar, which reduces binding.
These days, the biggest knock against X-ACTO products is they’re now made in China. The drop in quality is quite noticeable. Chinese made X-ACTO blades are nowhere near as sharp as the old made in U.S.A. blades were, and they loose their edge very quickly. You can still buy X-ACTO blades made in the U.S., the Z-Series, which are distinguished by a zirconium nitride coating. You get the same American-made quality, but you’ll pay more.
The second tool I want to mention is the Olfa hobby knife.
- The Olfa scores better across the board, with the sole exception being balance. Olfa’s knife feels more comfortable in the hand, with a nice rubber grip. The collet on Olfa knives is much better machined than any X-ACTO knife, with a tight slot to hold the narrow shank of Olfa’s smaller blades. Olfa’s blades are better than all others, including the Z-Series X-ACTOs. Olfa even thoughtfully moulded a small tab at the top of the handle to keep the knife from being able to roll away from you.
Sounds great, right? So, what’s the problem?
Balance is the problem. The Olfa knife is a bit too long for my liking, resulting in just a bit too much weight toward the back-end, when I’d rather reposition it nearer the blade. The plastic handle on the Olfa is ten centimetres long, and weighs ten grams. I sometimes wonder if lopping-off a couple of centimetres/grams from the butt end wouldn’t yield a more wieldy tool…
That brings us to my new favourite knife: the Fiskars.
- It seems Fiskars identified the best qualities of the competition, then combined them all into one perfect tool. The Fiskars has a wider diameter handle, with knurling, a comfortable, contoured rubber grip, lovely balance, and it has the unique ability to accommodate any standard #11 blade, whether X-ACTO brand or Olfa. The blade that comes packaged with the Fiskars knife seems to fall somewhere between the others in terms of sharpness and edge holding – better than X-ACTO, not as nice as Olfa. Since the Fiskars collet is a near-clone of the Olfa’s, I intend to always use Olfa blades in my Fiskars handles.