The Pen Knife | Bookbinding Tool 101

The Pen Knife is one of the most versatile tool used by crafters. However, because of its versatility, many crafters tend to over look the humble pen knife.

I mean, as long as it cuts, it doesn’t really matter which pen knife you use right?

That is…until you find yourself in a well-stock craft store…faced with the numerous options of ‘Pen Knives’.

Fret not, this guide will get you up to speed. So that you can zoom into a craft store, get what you want and start making that book asap.

Here’s what we’ll be covering in this quick Pen Knife guide:

Let’s go!

Introduction to the Pen Knife

The Pen Knife is one of the key tools or equipment you’d find in most crafter’s toolkit.

It is used in many forms of craft from card making to scrap-booking and of course, to the craft of bookbinding.

The pen knife can be used to cut a variety of material.

And, provide a wide range of cuts:

  • straight cuts
  • tight curves
  • tiny ends
  • and many more

You name it, a pen knife can help process the cut.

But, not all pen knives would give you the same cut. Some are designed to give you better control over tight curves or detailed cuts, others are for general cuts or just cuts that do not require precision.

Types of Pen Knives

Because of the wide variety of cuts a pen knife can perform, the market has evolved to provide a wide range of pen knives.

Within the general category of ‘pen knife’, you’ll find a wide range of knives. Here are some of them:

Hobby Knife

X-Acto Knife


The X-acto pen knives are frequently used by scrapbook-ers, architects, wood crafters, model crafters.

X-acto has a wide range of blades for different purposes. I think the greatest advantage of getting a X-acto knife is its versatility.

Plus, they do have knife handles that look like they provide great grips.

But, it is also known for the weird injuries it can cause…especially for the new hobby crafters. :S

Snap-Off Blade Pen Knife / Utility Knife

You’ve probably seen these knives. And you might even have one of them on your desk right now.

They look something like this:


Utility knives or snap-off blade penknives are multi-purpose penknives that are also frequently used as letter openers.

But don’t discount them just because they are ‘multi-purpose’.

If you can get a good brand that provides sharp, reliable blades (like these ones we got on Amazon), these are one of the most cost-efficient pen knives you’ll ever need in your crafting journey.

Plus, they can be easily obtained from stationary stores too.

Pocket Knife

Like the famous Swiss Army Knife

Pocket knives is a huge category, with many options.

You can learn more about selecting pocket knives at Knife Depot.

We do not recommend using the swiss army knives for your bookbinding project as the blade tends to be less efficient. Plus, it wasn’t built for craft work.

But! If you own Japanese pocket knives (also known as Higonokami knives), you can consider using them.

This is how they look like:

The blades on the Higonokami are usually sharp enough to cut paper efficiently.

However, these knives might be dangerous for newbies. Nor are they designed for paper craft work either.

In this guide, we’ll not delve too much into the wide range of pocket knives or foldable knives.

Instead, we will just focus on these kind of pen knives:


What’s in our tool kit?

In our toolkit, you’ll see the snap off blade pen knives that are easily obtained from stationary stores.

We prefer these knives because:

  • they are easily available
  • their blades can be easily changed (hence there is no need to worry when the knife gets blunt)
  • their blades are interchangeable (mostly)

They are not perfect, some crafters dislike these snap on blade knives because:

  • poor grip (depending on the design you get)
  • these are created for multi-purpose cuts, hence they do not do well for detailed cuts

What to look out for when choosing your first pen knife for bookbinding

If this is your first pen knife for bookbinding, we’d encourage you to just grab a snap off blade pen knife from a stationary store.

If you head to a art store with a wider offering of pen knives, always take note of these 2 considerations when selecting your pen knife.

1. Handle Design

handle design

This is most important to me for 2 reasons, safety and comfort.

The handle design determines your grip. If you have large hands, you might want to avoid pen knives that are thin. And vis versa.

A poor grip can result in slipping of the knife during usage, which leads to cuts.

A poor grip can also cause pain in the palms, the fingers and the wrist after prolong use.

So, always choose a penknife with a well designed handle or body. It is most ideal to test the pen knife in person before purchasing.

2. Angle of Blade

blade angle

Regular snap off blade knives usually come with blades angled at about 60 degrees.

However, you can also find blades that are angled at 30 degrees. These are easier to use when cutting thicker paper or card boards.

30 degree blades may be difficult to control when you first use them because they generally provide very smooth cuts that do not require too much energy.

3. Maintenance

As hobbyists, we want to spend our time working on our craft rather than on the maintenance of our tools.

Hence, we look for low maintenance options when selecting tools.

Snap off blades allow us to simply snap off a portion of the blade when it gets dull.

Instead of learning to sharpen our knives, and spending our budgets on sharpening stones, we get to spend more time dreaming up the next bookbinding project.

Now go forth~

That’s all we think you’d need to know to select a suitable pen knife. Go forth to purchase your own pen knife at any art store. And let’s get started with our bookbinding projects!

2 thoughts on “The Pen Knife | Bookbinding Tool 101”

  1. hello I am attempting to access the video binding tutorial but the webpage fails to link.
    can someone please contact me in regards to this issue I will check back periodically to see if the problem has been resolved.


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