How to use a scalpel when model making

Anyone can pick up a knife and cut some material?

But from my experience it all boils down to which knife, blade & handle you are most happy with!

I prefer like many! to use a swann morton no 3-scalpel handle, with a 10A blade.

You can find them hear:

It is the most common, precise and general-purpose knife, with the most support for the blade.

The cheaper hobby knives you can buy for graphical and model making work, which have round handles and a knurled grip, come undone no matter how tight I do them up, and they allow the blade to flex and bend to much when applying any extra pressure, they are also not as sharp as proper surgeon’s scalpels! In my view.

For the sake of a maximum of £5.00 inclusive of p&p, for a tool used day in day out, and the time spent fixing or re-doing work having used an inferior scalpel and blade, it is worth it!

But every tool has its job! So, see what works for you!

*A blunt knife is a dangerous knife! *

If you have and use a sharp blade, you respect it!

You know it is sharp, and you know it can cut you like a hot knife through butter!

If you use a blade over and over again, never sharpening it or changing it, it becomes more and more difficult to use, and the friction created requires more force to pull it through the material being cut!

At some point you will be applying so much force to cut the material, when the blade starts to get stuck, it will come free! And you will run it across your hand or fingers! Spilling claret all over your model.

Always keep your blade sharp or renew it regularly.

So, the manner in which a scalpel is used when creating models, Is as important as its manufacture and maintenance!

Unless you are cutting from one edge of a piece of material to the other, the scalpel should not be held like a knife you eat your dinner with, in the palmar grip fashion, it should be held lightly between the tips of your thumb and index finger with the handle resting just at the bottom of the last knuckle on your index finger, you should be above the work piece so the scalpel is in an almost vertical position, and it should be used with smooth purposeful motions from start to finish, so you are in control of it the whole time.

Make sure it is comfortable to hold, or you will be getting cramp in your fingers!

So, the scalpel is one of the model makers essential tools, and it is a piece of equipment that demands respect!

When properly used in scale model making, a scalpel can cut you the straightest line possible in the right place, or a perfect circle, but practice is required again and again to achieve this.

Now that doesn’t sound so bad!

Unfortunately! There are a whole host of different materials out there, and you need to master every type of material you are going to use!

Time should be taken, to get a sense and feel for how the material cuts against the grain flow, and with the grain, the different thickness of each material can also change the feel.

When using a straight edge or a steel rule, you should practice freely running the knife along the cutting edge, and feel how it flows, the blade should be against the edge firmly with the metal blade slightly flexing.

Dependent what material you are cutting! You can use a sawing action to cut through it or several steady strokes across the material, just remember you don’t need to cut through in one go!
Make several passes until you are cleanly through the material, because in applying to much pressure while cutting you can crush the fibers in the material, making it harder to cut and distorting the material, which will not give you a crisp sharp edge.

If you struggle to cut the material having followed these tips, and have tried with a little more pressure! It is more than likely you are using the wrong tool for the material.

You can try changing the blade of the scalpel! Which should be done with care! If it has been in use for a while.

Changing a blade on the swann morton no 3-scalpel handle!

New handles can be a tight fit and it is advisable to use a pair of pliers!

With a new handle requiring a blade! Open the blade packet by the end with the split, making sure it is the end without the sharp edge.

Then using a pair of pliers hold the blade, before removing it completely from the packet.

Figure out which way the blade fits on the handle! There will usually be a mating angle on the handle which matches the blade base.

Use the pliers to slide the blade down into the grove, by Holding it at the top near the cutting end, it will click, when it is fully home as the blade springs flat again.

To remove the blade, use a pair of pliers, and lift the bottom of the blade up, and slide it forward, make sure no one is near you as you do this!