I know almost everyone has used an X-Acto knife at some point. I know I have had to use them in my personal and professional life a lot over the last 10 years. I remember when I took my first class at college, the first thing the professor did was show us how to use an X-Acto properly and how to cut a mat board. She went over every detail, told us to be extra careful because they are sharp little bastards. And what happens? Not five minutes later, a girl cuts open her hand and, as I later found out, had to get stitches and couldn’t work with that hand for a while.
So here are a few little tips for other DIYers. I mostly just wanted to address common things I’ve seen done that end in injury. I’ve searched through a lot of DIY specifically for projects that include X-Actos and there were quite a lot. Especially if you are doing projects with them for the first time or have only used one a few times, it can be dangerous. It is so easy to be cutting something and the next thing you know you’re living the SNL skit with Dan Aykroyd as Julia Child — blood everywhere!
So, here we go…
1. Get a good ruler
Most times you’re using an X-Acto, a ruler is required. Having a nice solid one is a life saver. What kind do I mean? The best option is metal with a cork bottom. They are great at helping to prevent the ruler from slipping and can hold up to the blade. Plastic ones slip, A LOT, and you need put Hulk-like strength to stop them from sliding sometimes (experience). Also if you get too close to a wood or plastic ruler with the blade, you could slice off a piece or two and goodbye straight ruler. Metal rulers aren’t expensive and are well worth the cost.
2. Stay away from the edge
This has two meanings: the edge of the ruler and the edge of the blade. Common sense, I know, but be hyper-aware of where your hand is. For the ruler, use the numbers on the ruler as the safety line. As long as they stay at least a half-inch from the edge, that is a nice safe area. When holding the knife, use the same rule: hold it at least a half inch (or more!) above where the blade is. Just always try to have that cushion.
3. Don’t force it
Put light, LIGHT pressure on the ruler and blade when using them. I’ve seen this happen a lot (to people who have used them more than I have)… you are pressing down SO HARD on the ruler to keep it steady, that it suddenly moves under the force. Or you are pressing down on the knife with the force of a dying star because you want to be sure you get through the sheet, and the knife slips or the blade breaks. Light pressure is all you really need on both, especially if it is a new blade and if your project needs a ruler, light pressure will keep it from moving. Being overly agressive trying to get through on one cut can lead to slip-ups and potentially injury, which leads me to my last tip…
4. Slow down
The project isn’t going anywhere, so take your time making the cuts. If you have to go over the same thing twice or 10 times, so be it! By slowing down you will likely also get a more accurate cut. I’m not saying super slow… just steady. Around two inches per second is safe. Fast enough to keep the momentum, slow enough to be accurate.
Like I said, I am offering this up because I have seen and done these things before. I love DIY projects, but they can stop being fun quickly if you get hurt. There are probably other little tips but these are the four big ones I have always seen come up. What are yours?