(This site is reader-supported. When you buy something using retail links on our articles, we may earn a small commission. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)
Paper knife! Well, what this word indicates to you? A knife made with paper? A knife made for cutting paper? Well, the latter is what we are discussing today. Now, you may ask why you would use it when there you have scissors for cutting papers. Well, that’s because a paper-knife gives a more accurate cut when you are crafting something out of a paper. Hence it’s called craft knife or even a utility knife. We created this guide to help you find out the best paper knife fro your craft projects or just for everyday utility. We’ve also provided a list of our favorite craft knives.
Anatomy of Paper aka Craft Knives
Designed to cut folded papers, a paper knife is used as a typical knife. So, it has a blade and a handle, both of which are made of a single material, at times. The blade is typically blunt and flat; it is not as sharp as a pen or kitchen knife but still enough to deal with different paper sizes.
Gradually, a paper knife evolved into a tool with a long, broad blade featuring circular edges and a blunt, circular tip. The smoother the knife’s surface, the easier it is to cut the folds without damaging the paper. The smoothness is optimum with ivory or mother of pearl as the construction material.
Still, many metals and highly polished hardwoods were used to make paper knives, such as brass, silver, rosewood, mahogany, ebony, and walnut. In no time, this knife became a standard desktop item with the blade mostly in stainless steel and handle in wood.
The blade is usually a surgical or the standard craft blade. The handle is ornamental, with a sculptured pattern, which is an attraction. It could be made using any high-quality wood. Most handles are polished. However, you can even find customized models to suit your taste.
A paper pocket knife aims to give a clean, precise cut. If the sharpness is sufficient, the knife glides quite smoothly for making a cut. Today, the prime concept of a paper knife is transformed into an electronic mechanism that functions similarly. At present, paper knives are not widely used, but they are trendy among enthusiasts.
2022’s 5 Best Paper Knives Reviewed
X-ACTO #2 Knife With Safety Cap
This knife is Amazon’s best seller knife known for its precise cuts in medium to heavy materials, such as paper, plastic, wood, film, and even metal. The credit goes to the large blade with a fine point for sharpness and strength. The handle is made up of aluminum for allowing easy, agile cuts. While a simple blade system allows switching to another blade quickly, a safety cap takes care of storage and ensures portability.
Stanley 10-099 6 in Classic 99 Retractable Utility Knife
This knife is known to stay sharper than a standard heavy-duty blade. It comes with an interlocking nose for securely holding the 3-position, retractable blade in the handle. There are three blades of carbon alloy steel, each for cutting paper, roofing shingles, and drywall.
Fiskars 163050-1001 Fingertip Craft Knife
This knife is ideal for making intricate details on cloth, paper, and other lightweight materials. The knife comes with an ergonomic handle that gives enough comfort and rest to your fingers as well as maximum grip. Its shape is such that the knife does not roll off the table. It also comes with a safety cap as well.
Retractable Razor Knife Set
This knife offers three knives in one set with retractable blades. It is useful for scrapbooking and crafting tasks involving cutting sheets of paper, plastic, and cardboard. The blades are replaceable.
NT Cutter ABS Grip Auto-Lock Utility Knife (A-300RP)
This knife is the most cost-effective option in this list and cuts paper, film, vinyl, wallpaper, and card stock. This knife boasts a high-quality grip, an automatic blade lock, and a replacement blade. It also has a sliding track of stainless steel. The knife is suitable for both left- and right-hand use.
Overview of the Paper Pocket Knife -Applications: Historical and Modern
Source: Daniel Pimley
Most of us are unaware of the fact that there was a time when the paper was rare, and thus, an expensive commodity, as it was handmade. Well, this was perhaps the cause of the birth of paper knives.
Due to a high price range, many people used to save paper pages by folding and cutting them into equally-sized pieces for use soon. Cutting with hands was risky, as the paper in those times was so thin that its edge was sharp like a razor to hurt quickly.
This led to the invention of a paper knife. It was released as a tool for cutting paper smoothly and accurately. It was used to cut the folded pieces into equal shapes. Instead of wasting paper, people used to cut the sheet to the desired size by folding the paper in half or quarters.
The flat part of the blade aided in pressing the folds to a sharp wrinkle, just as a bone folder. The sharper the wrinkles, the cleaner was the cut. These wrinkles were then more easily cut by the blade’s edge into a sheet of a smaller size.
It’s another use to separate the pages in a book, which were folded. In the olden days, books for reading often came with a few folded pages. The readers then used a paper knife for separating these pages to enjoy a better reading experience.
In Europe, a paper knife was used for opening the book pages that were not removed or cut while the book was manufactured. Further, in some time, paper knives replaced pen knives that were used for sharpening a quill. This was because a pen knife did not cut the paper inaccurately because of its relatively sharper blade.
For many, since the olden days, paper knives are simply the items of the collection. Why? This is because these knives come in a variety of shapes and highly intricate blade and handle patterns. The aesthetic appeal, especially of the handle, is such that people are motivated to make their paper knives. At times, they are made to with the home or office décor.
Even today, you can use a paper knife for all these applications. Although paper is cheap now, the knife still makes you an efficient user of the paper resources.
One more application of paper knives were for opening the envelopes. However, this usage was later widespread, after which they were manufactured exclusively for this purpose. These unique paper knives featured a thinner and pointier blade than the original models.
Nevertheless, these paper knives are different from letter openers. This is something you need to know while buying a paper knife.
Paper Knives versus Letter Openers
The phrases paper knife and letter opener are used synonymously to refer to a tool functioning as a knife. However, both have different functions and were in use at different times. A letter opener was required when the self-sticking envelopes were widely used.
Unlike a paper knife, a letter opener features a longer and blunter blade whose only aim is to open envelopes. It is a fact that these openers evolved from paper knives. This is, perhaps, why both are referred to as the same tool.
However, they typically differ in terms of purpose and appearance. The main differences between the two are the blade’s tip and width. The blade of a letter opener is narrower, and the tip is more pointed than that of a paper knife.
Most letters had written across the full paper, and a small portion was left blank for the address once the letter was sealed. Using a paper knife for opening such a letter is risky, as it damages the paper. It cannot even break the seal, due to the too thick rounded blade and tip getting easily beneath the seal.
For this task, a completely different knife was in use, which was the erasing knife featuring a small, sharp blade and a short handle, much like the modern X-acto knife. It lightly scrapes the ink off the paper in case of a mistake and glides under the sealing wax for its removal.
An electric version of a letter opener is also available, which uses motors to slide the envelopes across a blade, and is also able to handle increased amounts of envelopes. Still, the blade can slice into the contents of the envelope and damage them.
Unlike paper knives, letter openers may be made using metals, wood, plastic, ivory, or even a mix of materials. However, just as a paper knife, the handle of a letter opener is styled more than the blade. A few latest designs for the openers feature a retractable razor blade hidden inside a plastic handle. This is something that even modern paper knives tend to have.
Both these tools are also available in electric versions. They work by using a motor to slide a paper or an envelope across a blade. This mechanism is more beneficial for industrial uses, as it can manage a greater volume of documents and envelopes. However, the risk is that the blade can slice up the content, if any, on an envelope or paper.
Unlike an opener, a paper knife gives more accurate cuts and facilitates cutting even intricately detailed shapes. It is easy to use, as you only need to hold them like a pen. Alternatively, you can use the knife for trimming all the unwanted ends.
How to choose the Best Paper Knife for you
Today, the market is filled with a variety of paper knives, with a difference in the blade and handle design and price. These tools also differ in terms of size, applications, and brand. So, which one is the best paper knife for you? Well, this depends on the type of work or project you have undertaken, your budget, and personal preferences.
In other words, there is no single best paper knife that is suitable for all users. You need to find the best paper knife by mapping what it has or gives to what you want. For this, you need to know what you will do with the knife. Here are the factors to consider while choosing the right paper knife.
The selection of a blade depends on your style of design as well as cutting. Usually, there are round, thin blades, which are ideal for thicker papers or a set of paper layers. Apart from that, there are some useful types of blades to consider as per the application:
- 11 ACM: Is a craft model used in craft knives and is sturdy. Although it is less flexible, it has a good point at its end. Due to more thickness than a surgical blade, this one ends up giving a larger detail than intended. These blades are ideal for cutting straight lines, as they are the most rigid ones. They are also the most expensive ones.
- 11 Surgical: This is the most used blade for cutting papers, as it is quite flexible when it comes to having curves. It is even ideal for small details and larger areas. It is available in sterile and non-sterile versions, of which the latter is cost-effective.
- 10a Surgical: Is the blade with the ACM blade’s nice point and relatively more flexibility. It sits in between the 11 Surgical and 11 ACM blades. Such a blade fits well into the Fiskars soft-grip models, although it is tough to find a suitable knife for it because of its shape of the base.
- 15a Surgical: This is a rounded, pointed option for those who are into detail and need a longer blade. Its flexibility is not equivalent to that of the other surgical blades due to the length. However, this blade provides much control, although the ACM blade’s thickness is missing.
- Swivel: Is another commonly used blade and is ideal for making curves. The blade can make pretty curves in a single motion smoothly rather than turning to do the same. Theoretically, this blade has its handle. However, practically, Fiskars, X-acto, and Jakar use it for their handles.
Blade Construction Material
The construction material can be one of the following, most of which are hardened that can be measured on the Rockwell C Scale:
- Regular Steel or Laid Carbon Steel: This is softer steel with the hardness ranging from 62 to 63 and is fine for cutting smaller paper lifts. Carbon boosts edge retention, hardness, as well as the tensile strength of a knife. It is perhaps the most vital hardening element. However, it does not add to toughness.
- High Carbon High Chrome (HCHC): Is D-2 steel featuring 12% chromium and a hardness level of 58 to 60. It has excellent impact resistance and keeps wearing and corrosion away. It is suitable for smaller knives. Chromium boosts toughness, tensile strength, and hardness. 13% of chromium makes steel as stainless steel. Still, it is a fact that any steel can rust if you do not maintain it well.
- Inlaid High-Speed Steel (HSS): This is softer steel featuring tungsten alloy and is hardened to a level of 62 to 63, which is known for its ability to boost the life of the blade while retaining an intended cut for a long time. This material is widely used in paper cutting tools. It is also an ideal choice of upgradation over the laid carbon steel if the latter is proving too costly for frequently changing the blade. Tungsten adds to hardness, toughness, strength, and wear resistance. When mixed with molybdenum or chromium, tungsten gives high-speed steel, such as M2 or M8, of which M2 contains high tungsten content.
- Inlaid Tungsten Carbide: This is softer steel with the hardness level of 91. It boosts the life of a blade by ten times more than carbon steel. The quality of the cut remains for a long and is uniform. It is preferable for high production applications.
Choosing an ergonomically designed handle is wise, as it gives comfort while gripping your hands tightly. This is how it is safe, as well. Currently, in trend is a retractable knife that holds the blade and allows quickly changing it.
Versatility and Modern Touches
Most paper knives today can cut not only paper but also materials such as plastic and cardboard. Many of them come with safety caps for storing the blade safely and an automatic lock for safe usage and storage.
We hope this article was enough to get you to have an idea before going to buy the right paper knife for you. Do read the reviews of paper knives from market places such as Amazon as well. Let us know if you have any questions or comments.
Hi, I am Jay. I am the creator of Knife Guides, your one-stop site for everything related to knives. I am a computer engineer by profession, knife aficionado by passion. Here I work with a group of people who’ve always had a passion for knives and blades. Over the years we’ve kind of become experts and decided to share our knowledge and ideas. I am also an avid hiker and enjoy offshore gamefishing.