Review – Tach-It Metal Tap Knife (Carton Cutter)

Depending on the size or type of art (or craft) works one is doing, carton or box cutters may or many not be on one’s radar or considered a useful tool. But even if one isn’t using them for opening supplies or actually during the art-making process, it still isn’t a bad idea to have one around since they’re cheap and easy to use. The dozen-for-five-dollars that these are priced at might be a bit larger set than most people would need, but it’s still inexpensive enough that it wouldn’t be hard to pick up.

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Tap knives are one of the simplest types of box cutter. On this model, the outside sleeve is a single aluminum piece that has been bent around on itself. Inside is another piece of aluminum that has been folded with a cutout at one end and a flare at the other. A standard single-edge razor blade fits in the cutout end (and can be replace by sliding the insert out of the housing) while the flare prevents the knife from protruding too far forward.

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Use is simple. Tapping the back of the knife against a hard surface will extend the blade until it is stopped by the protrusion on the back. And when the cutting is done, the front of the knife can be tapped on a hard surface to retract the blade. Very little of the blade is exposed making it fairly safe to cut with, and it’s held in securely enough that I wouldn’t worry too much about accidental deployment of the blade. How well it cuts and how long it lasts depends on the razor blade used. And the ones that come in the package are not the greatest. The points are especially brittle, and while they can keep an edge for a decent amount of time, they will crack and split with too much stress.

As far as a cheap, effective, and simple box cutter goes, they work well enough. The fit and finish leave something to be desired: the edges are rough, the tolerances vary quite a bit, and no surface is smoothed and finished, but they are so inexpensive they are practically disposable. They cut, they’re reasonably safe, and they could last quite a long time since there’s not much too them. One could get better quality, but I’m not convinced you’d really need to.

Review – Excel #11 Hobby Knife Blades

X-Acto knives with #11 blades are an art, crafting, and modeling staple. But is the brand name worth it? Will a pack of Excel blades do just as well, or should you just buy the no-name brand from eBay if you want to save money?

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To start off with, the Excel brand 5-pack that you buy in hobby stores has a tube to store the blades in. It’s nothing special, but it gets the job done, is clear so you can see your supply, and is flexible so it doesn’t shatter.

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The blades fit securely in all hobby knife and scalpel handles that I tested, and should fit in all (unless there’s a proprietary system I don’t know about). The blades come sharp enough to cut paper, and hold their edge through cutting plastic. They dull and bend at about the same rate as X-Acto blades and can easily make it through several projects before dulling or being nicked. I’ve had no rusting yet (they come oiled), but I do keep them fairly moisture-free. The tip is “flexible” in that it doesn’t shatter and has some play (bouncing back when bent), but the point and the blade are hard enough that a single blade could take weeks of daily use (depending on the use, as plastic and metal are obviously harder than paper and cardstock).

Overall, these blades are less expensive and at least as good, if not better, than the name brand competition. They cut well, hold an edge, and resist breaking. They’re a reliable blade that is at least worth a look.

 

Review – Master’s Touch Palette Knife

I’ve been painting recently, and have a new appreciation for palette knives (foolishly I never used them before), both for controlling paint on a palette, and for painting. Unfortunately I’ve found no real resource that says if there are consistent sizes and shapes for palette knives, and I don’t believe there really is. So instead of this being a review of a specific size or shape of knife, this will be a general look at the quality of the Master’s Touch brand of inexpensive and easily accessible palette knives.

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The particular knife style here is slightly unconventional, and appears in the least amount of photos I see online, though it is the shape used by Bob Ross, so it’s got that going for it. The handle is a light, okay finished wood with a lanyard hole and the Master’s Touch logo imprinted on it. It’s sturdy enough and it works. Following that is what appears to be a “brass” “section” ring that is dented and losing its finish. It holds the blade in place, fairly sturdily, but also not centered. The blade is stainless steel, quite flexible and tapers down to a very usable edge. It is finished well enough, and doesn’t get thin enough to cut easily, but I suppose if one really tried they could make it dangerous. In some places the brushed finish isn’t nearly as well done, but these places don’t really matter in the scheme of things.

Overall it’s a nice introductory tool. It obviously has some quality control issues, but they aren’t major and don’t prevent the tool from functioning or make it dangerous. It’s inexpensive, and I would recommend it to anyone who isn’t sure if they really want to paint and are just trying to get into it, upgrading in the future is always possible and still isn’t a lot of money. And even if one doesn’t this tool will likely be able to last a painting lifetime.