(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.)
Whether you are into leather carving already or you are just discovering a new hobby and a potential career, you probably know already that certain knives should never miss from your collection. Some of them are suitable for cutting, while others are more appropriate for carving designs. This is when you realize how important it is to have the best swivel knife for your projects. It is by far the most reliable option when it comes to carving designs on leather.
The more sophisticated your design is, the more important the swivel knife becomes. When it comes to buying a leather swivel knife, you will most likely feel overwhelmed with the plethora of options out there. Some of them are better than others, but prices also vary widely. If you are experienced, you may know what you need. If you are not sure about it, a little research will point you in the right direction.
About swivel knives
Whether it comes to a classic Henley swivel knife, a traditional Ballenger swivel knife, or a modern Barry King swivel knife, most options follow the same principles. The design is relatively similar, yet small embellishments may be implemented to make tools more attractive or versatile. They usually feature a chisel edge on the blade. It is held upright and it is fitted on a pivot. The top of the pivot has a saddle to hold your finger comfortable – great for extra control over your carving moves too.
If you have never used such a knife, you should know it must be held like a pencil. You need to use the middle fingers and the thumb. As for the forefinger, it sits in the saddle above the pivot. While it may seem awkward at first, it provides more control over your carving project, but it also allows going deeper when needed. Most leather carvers need a few days to get used to this knife. Despite its design, it will easily become your primary tool when it comes to carving.
It is important to know that the swivel knife is mostly used as an initial knife. Practically, it is most commonly used on clean and clear skin. It designs the initial outline and cuts the design, but this is only the first stage in the process. Later on, you will probably require other tools to enhance the leather with various decorations. Getting there without outlining everything with a swivel knife is almost impossible, hence the necessity of this stage.
Now, what are the top-rated knives in commerce, and what makes them so special?
2022’s 5 Best Swivel Knives
Precise operation – The X Acto swivel knife is originally designed by women and aimed at women, but at the end of the day, anyone can take advantage of it. It is a sturdy unit with a comfortable handle that you simply cannot go wrong with. It is a bit different from the classic swivel knife design, meaning it does not have the saddle on top to rest the forefinger. However, it provides just as much precision.
Versatile uses – The swivel knife is not necessarily designed for leather though. It might be a bit difficult to use on such materials. Instead, it is recommended to thin and soft materials. While it can carve through fine and thin leather, it is also great for stencils, paper, film, balsa, and other similar options.
Comfortable handle – The handle is ergonomic and easy to hold. You can hold it like a pencil. It is soft and ensures a good grip. It feels like a mix of soft plastic and rubber, so it is less likely to slip out of your hand even if it gets sweaty. The handle has an ergonomic design that matches the hand, while the thicker top rests comfortably between the thumb and the forefinger.
Durable blades – The blade is small but extremely durable. After all, you only use it on soft materials. It is so small that sharpening it would be a nightmare. Instead, you will need to replace it. Replacement blades are inexpensive. You have a rear blade release that allows safe and simple operation. Other than that, the blade rotates to 360 degrees to allow easy maneuverability.
- Comfortable to hold and operate
- A durable super sharp blade
- Replacement blades are widely available and inexpensive
- Includes a cap for storage protection
- Fully swiveling blade for easy maneuverability
- Not designed like a classic and professional swivel knife
Fiskars Fingertip Swivel Knife
Versatile uses – The Fiskars fingertip swivel knife will not let you down. It is extremely versatile and comes with a plethora of operations. While widely used to carve leather and other similar materials, it is mostly recommended for paper, card stock, photos, and so on. All in all, as long as the material is soft, you should face no problems at all.
Excellent handle – The handle is ergonomic and soft. The saddle follows the same standards. They are covered in a rubber material that prevents rolling off work surfaces. Given the nonslip surface, you can count on exquisite carving results in the smallest details. The blade on top allows more or less pressure on the knife – based on how thick the material is.
Solid blade – The blade is what makes the difference in a knife. It can make or break a knife. The best swivel knife from Fiskars comes with a swiveling blade – it rotates up to 360 degrees. You can come up with extremely detailed patters without having to reposition the blade or even lift it. Precision will never be an issue. Blades can be replaced when overused, but replacement options are not expensive.
Extras – There are not too many extras in such a knife. The fully swiveling design is a plus, but quite standard in this industry. The rubber surface ensures a good grip, which is a plus. Other than that, Fiskars has also included a safety cap in the package. It is perfect for the knife and it acts like a sheath – great to protect the blade or prevent injuries when the knife is not in use.
- Fully 360-degree swiveling blade
- Ergonomic handle covered in a nonslip material
- Easy to use without even lifting it
- Easy to replace blades
- Great precision on more materials
- The top saddle is almost closed, so those with thick fingers may find it a bit uncomfortable
Tandy Swivel Knife
Excellent value for money – Tandy has designed the best value for money swivel knife. The package is complete and allows carving out of the box. Apart from the actual knife, you also have two blades to use – an angle blade and a filigree blade. Changing them is fairly simple and does not require any special tools. You can also find inexpensive replacement blades.
Great design – The design is classic, but it comes with a few improvements. Blades are a bit longer than what you can find in an average swivel knife. In other words, there will be no awkward shades when you need to go into small details. Other than that, the saddle on top of the knife is quite open and allows fingers of all sizes – no more nightmares for those with thick fingers.
Nonslip grip – The handle is often overlooked in swivel knives, but it can make the difference. There is a decent chance your hand or fingers will sweat while working on intricate details. The handle is metallic and has a nonslip grip. It is textured, meaning it will not slip out of your hands, regardless of how sweaty they get. It is quite slim and it feels like a thicker pencil.
Superior blades – Since blades are a bit longer than average, you will get a better view of your intricate designs. At the same time, they are less likely to rust or corrode. They can even be sharpened a little, yet it is more convenient to just get replacement blades. They go in and out without too much hassle.
- Great for multiple soft materials
- Nonslip ergonomic handle that feels like a thicker pencil
- Comes with a few blades
- Great value for money
- Durable blades
- No fully swiveling capabilities for the blade
Owden Swivel Knife
Multiple options – This unit is available in three different sizes. Blades will be identical in size. The main difference is in the handle thickness. The largest option measures 0.5 inches in thickness, so it is suitable for those who want stability or those with large palms.
Full package – Get your Owden leather swivel knife and you can start carving leather out of the box. Unlike other similar products, this one comes with two different blades, as well as a hex key to fit them in. There is no experience needed – the whole process is intuitive and quick. Make sure you do not tighten it too much – just enough to hold the blade in place.
Different blades – Blades are different in size. The large one has 0.39 inches in width, while the smaller one has 0.31 inches. The smaller one is suitable for more precise carving, while the large one is great for general carving. Both blades are made of stainless steel. They will resist rust and corrosion. They are also heat-treated, so their hardness will not disappoint you.
Superior handle – The handle is metallic and textured. Made of brass, it will last forever. The textured surface ensures it will not slip out of your hand, even if it gets sweaty. Other than that, you do not have to worry about losing its color because it is not painted. Instead, it is electrophoretically processed into a beautiful black design. It is worth noting that the handle height can also be adjusted for even more precision.
- Made of quality materials – both the handle and the blades
- Comes with a full package and good value for money
- Handle height can be adjusted
- Available in three different sizes
- Textured grip to prevent slipping
- No swiveling capabilities
Aiskaer Swivel Knife
Adjustable for convenience – Aiskaer’s best swivel knife is less likely to disappoint. While only available in one size, it has a bit of adjustability in the handle. In other words, whether your hands are too small or too large, you can make it feel right. At the same time, adjustability also prevents awkward shades on the carved material while performing intricate cuts.
Superior blade – The blade is straight and a bit thicker than average, so it is likely to last longer. It is made of a special type of steel. It can resist corrosion over time, and it comes with an impressive hardness. Corrosion is less likely to be a problem anyway, especially if you use the knife a lot. Chances are you will need a new blade before corrosion kicks in anyway. Other than that, the blade measures 0.35 inches.
Good looking handle – While the overall design is less important than the functionality, this leather swivel knife has both. In terms of functionality, being able to adjust the handle is certainly a plus. Other than that, the handle is textured, so you get a good grip on your knife without worrying about messing up your carvings. It is plated with chrome for a more attractive appearance.
Full package – The knife comes with the handle, a blade, and a hex key. The hex key is used for adjustments, but also to replace blades. Replacement blades can be found in commerce for a good price, so the overall value of this knife will not skyrocket overtime.
- Good looking chrome design
- Easy to adjust
- Replacement blades are inexpensive
- Comfortable and nonslip handle
- Hard blade
- Chrome tends to go off after intense use
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I get an open or a closed saddle on top?
Most swivel knives come with an open saddle design on top of the pivot. The general idea is fairly simple to understand – you need to rest your forefinger there and put pressure on the knife when needed. Since it is open, large and thick fingers will also fit in.
Then, you will find swivel knives with a closed saddle design – or almost closed. Usually, those saddles are quite large, so they can accommodate most people’s fingers, but there are a few exceptions too. They provide a bit more control, as you can also slightly lift the blade when carving.
Should I get a thicker or a thinner handle for my swivel knife?
This is up to your personal preferences. Swivel knives are held in the same way – the handle goes between the middle fingers and the thumb, while the forefinger goes on the saddle on top. Some people find thin handles more comfortable – usually those with small hands. Some others find the thicker handles to be easier to use. Try out both options and figure out what works for you.
Can I sharpen swivel knife blades?
Swivel knives come with fairly small blades. A bit of sharpening is handy when it tends to go dull, but you cannot do it too much. Sooner or later, you will need to buy replacement blades anyway.
Given the size of these blades, you will need a fine or medium grit sharpening stone – be it natural or synthetic. Some stones may also require a bit of water or honing oil. All in all, the sharpening procedure involves positioning the blade at the optimal angle. It should be attached to the swivel knife for a better grip. You can do it yourself or reach to a professional.
Here is a video you may refer
Read this if you’re looking for other types of knives suitable for leathercraft
Choosing the best swivel knife on the market is often a decision influenced by personal needs and preferences. Swivel knives may have similar operating principles and designs, but small things make the difference – blade width, handle thickness, swiveling capabilities, and so on.
While you can find swivel knives that cost less than a blade, it is highly recommended to go for a reputable brand’s products. You can count on good quality standards and there will be proper support from the manufacturer. Plus, you will be able to find replacement blades without worrying too much.
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.