Sunday, November 8, 2020


When I began building models one of the first tools I acquired and used for many years was a Xacto number one handle with a number 11 blade.  I tried various handles to see if any were better than the one I had or maybe I purchased them because I am a “tool junkie”.  I still use one now and then.   In fact, I purchased the most recent handle available from Micro-Mark that has a movable end blade holder to allow the blade to be set at an angle.

Various handles with #11 blades.
(click or tap on this or any image to enlarge)

Handle with movable blade holder.

New handle showing blade in angle position.

Various handles with number 11 blades built many models.  My only complaint and irritating feature using the the handles with the number 11 blade was not with the handles but with the blade.  The tip of the #11 blade broke off many times.  I  wondered if there was a solution to this tip breaking problem.  When I read about a modeler using  a scalpel with a  number 11 scalpel blade I decided to give it a try as I guessed a  medical instrument should not have the tip of the blade break.  

Xacto No. 1 handle with a #11 scalpel blade.

Handles with #11 scalpel blades.

I purchased my first #11 scalpel blades at booth at the Minnesota State fair.  You can purchase surgical/sterilized or non sterilized  blades.  The non sterilized blade is fine for model building.  Another plus the non sterilized blade is it can be lower in price.  In addition, I found scalpel blades come in a variety types as Xacto blades do.

Various #11 scalpel blades.

 I found I could fit the #11 scalpel blade in a number two Xacto handle.  Some of the scalpel blades I purchased had to be ground on the top back edge to fit the No. 1 Xacto handle.  Easily done with a grinding bit in a Dremel tool.   I used the Xacto handle with the #11 scalpel blades for a number of years.  No more broken tips on a scalpel blade and the blade stayed sharp for a longer period than the Xacto type #11 blade. One day I decided I should try a metal scalpel handle and purchased one from a source I can not remember.

Xacto No. 1 handles with #11 scalpel blade.

Xacto handle above.  Normal surgical scalpel below.

I did not like the metal scalpel handle and continued to use the Xacto handle with number 11 scalpel blade.  One day at the doctor’s office I had a procedure which required the doctor use a scalpel.  He used a plastic scalpel with a retractable number 11 scalpel blade.  When the doctor was going to throw the scalpel into a trash receptacle I asked if I could have it. He said I paid for it, so yes  I could have it.

Scalpel with retractable blade obtained
from my doctor.

I took it home and used it to build several models.   I liked it.  Again, no more broken tips on a scalpel blade and the blade stayed sharp for a longer period than the Xacto type #11 blade.  So, I began my search on the internet to purchase this throw away scalpel with retractable blade.  I found some medical supply houses would not sell to an individual not employed in a medical office.  I found one supplier that did not have the exact scalpel; however, the supplier had one that looked good to me so I purchased a box of twenty-five (25).  I had to purchase 25 or none.

Scalpel I found with retractable blade (red handle).

Box of retractable scalpels with #11 blade.

Once the box of scalpels I ordered arrived and I used one to build a few models I found I had found a scalpel I liked and continue using it today.  I even found I could replace the blade in the throw away scalpel.  Just insert a screwdriver blade in the front and give it a slight turn allowing the blade to be removed and a new one inserted.  If the plastic handle cracked when inserting a new blade into the trash it goes and a new one comes out of the box.  One neat feature of the plastic handle is I could write the date I began using it on the handle with a Sharpie.  I also found the scalpel with #11 blade was excellent for cutting out decals.

Recently I noticed Micro-Mark had a new bigger metal scalpel handle without retractable blade sold with extra blades.  Being a “tool Junkie” I purchased one and used it.   I like it as well as the plastic one I have been using so I now have two handle types to use.

Scalpel handle available from Micro-Mark.

Scalpels with retractable and non retractable blades.

If you are irritated with the Xacto handle with #11 blade tip breaking or just looking to try another knife type cutting tool that can stay sharp for a long period, you may want to give a scalpel a try.  The scalpel and blades are not expensive and can easily be purchased via the internet from many sources.

Thank You for taking time to read my blog.  You can share a comment in the section below if you choose to do so.  If you choose to leave a comment please sign your name.  Please share the blog link with other model railroaders.

Lester Breuer




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