Do all budget knives cut it?


As a maker on a budget, I am always looking for ways to enhance my shop without breaking the bank. I learned long ago that budget tools have a place in every shop, sometimes because you are forced to go budget, but more so for me, I like to practice new skills with tools that don’t cost too much to replace. And then, every now and then I see what appears to be a deal, and despite my better judgment, I click the buy now.

For all of time, when asked what hobby knife I use, my answer has been X-ACTO.  There has never been an alternate.  But a few weeks ago, Amazon hit me with a ‘you make like this’- a three pack no-name hobby knife set, for the price of a single X-ACTO knife.

I feel I need to explain myself here. Two is one, and one is none in my shop.  Relying on a single hobby knife is folly. If it breaks, I am stuck. If I lose it, I am stuck. If it’s on the other side of the shop and I need it in my hand now, I am mildly inconvenienced. First world problems. Keeping a handful of small tools just makes sense.

So, a day later a package arrives brimming with three new hobby knives. With all new tools, I immediately set about finding something to tinker with. I had some scrap foamboard, so I set about measuring and cutting.

Ugh. Three knives for the price of one, it was too good to be true.  Let’s start first with the weight and feel of the knives, as compared to an X-ACTO.  The no-name feel lighter in hand, and while that sounds like a benefit, there is something to be said about having positive control of a blade. The weight difference isn’t much, but to me the X-ACTO lets you know it’s in your hand without being too heavy.

Now onto the part that drives me insane. Throughout about four hours, I consistently found myself stopping to tighten the collar that keeps the blade secure. At one point, it becomes so lose the edge dropped out while I was setting up for another cut. In over twenty years of making, I have never had that problem with a knife.

Image of X-ACTO Z Knife

I appreciate every maker needs to stay within their budget, and if you only have $10 and are weighing the benefits of three cheap hobby knives or one quality knife, I encourage you to think of the bigger picture. Cutting cost often has consequences, and in this example, the results were primarily the loss of $10. Why? I won’t use a tool I can’t trust.  If you are at the start of your maker journey, how disheartening would it be to use a tool that would waste precious materials or a device that continually forced you to stop and reset?

I guess, not all hobby knives are cut out for us makers.

## Full disclosure. Neither X-ACTO or no-name have sponsored this review.

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