Best Crafting Knives & Cutting Mat

Whether you work with card stock, paperboard, foam core, or acetate: you’re going to need to cut it. Preferably without destroying your table in the process. Let me show you my favorite cutting tools.

Two Knives to Rule Them All

For daily use, you need a box cutter and a precision knife. That’s it. Or, to be more specific, you need a handle and blades for both of them. While you can save some money on the handles, trying to do that with replacement blades only leads to frustration. Not all knives are created equal.

Olfa L-1 Heavy Duty Cutter

Olfa box cutter

This Olfa utility knife (Amazon) is by far my favorite knife. I love it so much that I have three of these box cutters; one in my crafting space, one in my toolbox, and one at the office. Its blades are razor-sharp (more about that in a bit), and the knife is safe to use one-handed. Unlocking and locking it again is a breeze, and replacing the blade is easy. Be careful, though: there’s a reason I know how razor-sharp those blades are…

I mostly use this knife to cut anything thick or anything that isn’t some intricate shape – ideal for straight cuts or to disturb foam (which will dull your blade quickly).

X-Acto Style Precision Knife

X-Acto and Fiskars precision knives
Top: Fiskars, bottom: X-Acto

I include “style” on purpose because while X-Acto’s original blades seem superior, their handles aren’t. I like this Fiskars (Amazon) one with a rubbery grip best (as opposed to X-Acto’s (Amazon) roughed-up metal grip).

For anything not straight or thick, this is an ideal knife. Though all times I’ve cut myself, it was with a knife like this instead of the box cutter. Usually, when trying to put the protective cap back on.

Bonus: Fiskars Heavy Duty Kit

Fiskars Kit of various knives and saw blades

Though I don’t use this Fiskars kit (Amazon) often, it’s great because of the saw blades it contains. They make precise, thin cuts through plexiglass, acrylic sheets, or wood like balsa (it will cut harder woods or compounds, but I noticed the saw deteriorate quicker).

Replacement Blades

Replacement blades for box cutter and precision knives
Left to right: Mlife kit, X-Acto blades and Olfa black blades

Olfa

Olfa has two blades for the box cutter: black coated (Amazon) and bare metal (Amazon). The difference: the black ones are sharper because of the angle of the blade, but they also get dull quicker. The bare metal ones last longer but are a tad less sharp.

For crafting, both are fine, but the black ones are cheaper and easier to source, so I use those. I learned that the black ones don’t last long enough for home improvement projects, like scoring drywall. I replaced them with some Stanley ones I had laying around – which fit perfectly – and that got the job done, making Stanley also a solid runner-up. Handy if you need to buy something right now because they see much higher availability at local hardware stores (at least in my area).

X-Acto

The best replacement blades I’ve tried are of the genuine X-Acto brand (Amazon). I’ve tried to save some money by buying highly rated ones on AliExpress and Amazon, which were sharp but not as sharp as the X-Acto ones. I’m not ruling out bias and cognitive dissonance towards the “worse” blades, though, especially given the raving reviews the Mlife set of 60 blades (Amazon) and two handles receives. With over 1600 reviews and 94% of them giving 4 or 5 stars, it can’t be wrong. Note to self: give them another shot.

Self healing cutting mat

Fiskars Self Healing Cutting Mat

Before carving up your crafting table, it may be good to throw down some protection. I use what you’ll see most YouTubers use too, which is Fiskars’ “Self Healing Cutting Mat” (Amazon). While most of them use something moderately sized, I went for the A1-sized one – aka “The Biggest” – measuring 60 * 91 centimeters.

On one side, it has a metric-based grid (pictured above), and on the other imperial-based (the dark surface in the rest of the photos above). I use those markings for quick measurements or to align items when gluing them together.

I like its colossal size and relative thinness while it’s also sturdy enough not to move around too much. Of course, as with all these mats, the “self-healing” aspect is relative. You’re using sharp knives to apply a large force, so naturally, that will leave marks. They aren’t worse than any other similar product I’ve used, but I don’t expect them to last a lifetime.

Finally: Safety

There you have my collection of very sharp knives. Let me finish this article with two pieces of advice:

  1. Use sharp blades. You don’t have to use excessive force an the blade won’t slip. When cutting yourself, a wound caused by a sharp blade heals quicker, leaves close to no marks behing and – worst case – is easier to stitch.
  2. Don’t cut away (when working with material laying flat on a cutting mat). Cutting “top to bottom”, so towards your body, is many times safer than the other way around because of the level of control you can excercise. “Don’t cut away” applies to items you hold in your hand.

That’s it! Time to craft 🙂

If you buy an item from Amazon, AliExpress, or another retailer through a link on this site, I may receive a small commission at no cost to you. This doesn’t influence which products I mention.

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