Questions & Answers

Q. The project I'm working on requires me to cut a fairly detailed design. The material I'm cutting is masking tape, I'll be cutting it while it's already applied on a spray painted surface. Which crafting knife and blade would be best for this project? I want to avoid making the tape peel along the cut lines that curves. I'm also worried about cutting to deep and leaving marks on the painted surface. I assume I need something that offers a lot of control and a very sharp blade. If you have any advice I would greatly appreciate it thank you! Michael, Los Angeles.
Date: 25 Jan 2017

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Dear Michael,

We appreciate your question.

We would recommend the 10A surgical blade with the No.3 Handle if you are looking for control and dexterity however the most difficult issue is preventing you cutting too deep. The sharp tip of the blade will provide the precision you are looking for but might well damage the spray painted surface beneath.

It might be worth experimenting with a curved blade shape such as the 10 so although you don't have the pointed tip you still have the surgical sharp cutting edge and you may be able to control the depth of cut better with the curvature of the blade. Again this would fit the No.3 handle.

We do have other handles that fit these blades if you are looking for rotation movement which you might get with the B3 Surgical Handle or a larger grip like the 5A. These can be seen on our website and are all available in the US locally through Cincinnati Surgical who have a Craft and an Industrial section to their own website and you can also purchase the product on line for your convenience.

We hope we have at least provided you with some options which you can investigate further.

Q. I have bought a second hand box of knives for crafts but it had no instructions with it. Could you tell me what I would use each one for? One side of the box has all the blades in it placed on a magnet, the other side has all the handles - they are all different sized blades and different handles. Thankyou, I do hope you can tell me.
Date: 20 Jan 2017

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Hi Patrisha, It sounds like our ACM set and it contains a number of different handle and blade combinations. This link provides an insight into some of the different usages however the preference lies with the end user as to which blade is used for which task.

I hope the information on our website helps you better understand the product.

Q. I am looking to cut precisely into 1.4mm thick mount board for displaying photographs. I am unsure which product would best suit my needs?
The rounded handle seems to have mixed reviews with craft makers, however I was unsure whether it would provide the better weight to make the cut?
Any ideas would be greatly appreciated, Kayleigh.
Date: 19 Jan 2017

HI Kayleigh. In the Graphic Design Industry the 10A blade mounted on a No.3 surgical handle became the standard trusted tool for cutting and pasting projects and they are still used to this day for making mock ups and models. It should be ideal for precise cutting of the 1.4mm thick mount board and they are available from most leading stockists or online at scalpelsandblades.co.uk. Thank you for contacting us and we hope we have been of assistance.

Q. Hi, I have an ACM set used for craft bookbinding. I need to trim the edges of bookblocks held in a press. This needs the blade to have a clear depth of movement of 40-45mm clear of the blade grip and handle. The blades in the ACM set are about 10mm short of this requirement.
Do you have any blades or complete products that fit this requirement? I would appreciate any help you can provide. Regards, David
Date: 06 Jan 2017

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We have measured some of the standard surgical blades however even the largest ones in the range would only have a clearance of 25-30 mm from the front end of the fitment.

The only blade we can find that would have that clearance and more would be the Post Mortem knife.

Not exactly what they were designed for but it is a thicker blade so would have the additional lateral strength for cutting thicker materials.


David's reply:

I would like to thank you for the suggestions you made. I have tried a PM40 for bookblock trimming. The results are about as good as can be achieved with a professional bookbinding plough. I've tried it from 100 gsm paper up to 150 gsm card and it works without paper tearing or any sign of rough edges. The blade length is more than adequate for all the jobs I have in hand. I will pass on this information to the professional bookbinder I know who runs courses, because trimming is easily the most difficult task to perform well without expensive equipment.

It is a fearsome implement and needs to be handled with great care. Am I right in thinking that the blades are too large for your standard blade disposal box? Do you have appropriate safe disposal procedures? I also use 10A blades and would ideally like to implement one procedure covering everything if possible.


Further reply from Swann-Morton:

Hi David,

We are pleased the PM works well and yes it is fierce and you have to watch your fingers, however given its size, it is somewhat easier to get hold of the non-cutting edge in order to fit and dispose of it and to drop it out of the handle without touching it. There are various sizes of sharps containers so you would have to have larger one on hand.

As for the smaller blades such as the 10A we have various information (see image) and also options on removing the blade as shown on our surgical website where there are also a number of training films.

We hope this helps.

Q. I attended the Warley Model Railway Exhibition a year or two ago, and you had a stand. I was informed that the old medical scalpel handles from my school dissecting kit are no longer considered suitable. (I have used them for over 30 years!).
I forget why they are considered unsuitable, do you think you should make this information more widely available on your website?
I have re-equipped and how should I best dispose of the handles in the UK? Thanks.
Date: 05 Dec 2016

Dear Norman,

This was more from a medical perspective than general use for hobbies and craft.

In the hospital they were having increasing problems with nickel allergies amongst both staff and patients plus sometimes during the cleaning cycle the nickel from the handles would stain the stainless instruments being cleaned at the same time. To top it all off the price of Nickel suddenly rocketed which made it more cost effective to manufacture the Stainless handles that are in fact more hard wearing and should last longer.

You can dispose of the handles at any metal recycling facility or check with your local council.

Q. As these blades were created for use in surgical procedures and therefore discarded immediately I can understand the reasoning in not creating a "cover" for them.
With the insurgence of use by paper artists etc. who may use one blade for more than one session, is there now any thought being put into creating a cover?
I can see you had this question before, but the answer was to remove the blade. However for someone who does not want to remove it at once and instead wants to keep it safe for another time, what are the options, stab it into foam??
Anya.
Date: 19 Nov 2016

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Dear Anya,

We would suggest using our Premium Retractaway Handle so the blade can be retracted safely when not in use and easily changed once it has run its course.

The problem with guards is that although they protect the user from the blade when not in use and also protect the blade cutting edge there is always the potential for a sharps injury when replacing the guard over the sharp blade.

Alternatively there is the ACM Range of blades that do have covers on the blades.

I hope this answers your question.

Q. I have just returned to Aeromodelling after a lay off of many years.
As an old Sheffield lad I am very unhappy with all the knockoff rubbish knives, based on your own, available here, in Canada. Do you have a Canadian distributor?.
I don't want an American one as the price differences due to currency exchange rates, postage costs, customs fees and retail sales taxes add up to more than the item costs in many cases.
Thank you, Peter Snaith.
PS - the old brass handle knife was perfect when I was learning to butcher balsa as a lad. Do you still make them? I hope so.
Date: 25 Apr 2016

Dear Peter,

Our products are available locally through Canadian Hospital Specialties - yes I know they are a medical distributor but they have been willing to supply the local craft market in the past. Their telephone number is +1 905 825 9300.

We discontinued the Brass Craft Tool Handle last year as we cannot get the raw material anymore in the format we need it. We are looking at launching a new Stainless Steel version later in the year so please keep an eye on our craft website at craftknives.co.uk

Thank you for your kind comments and loyalty to Swann-Morton!

Q. Are your Acm blades stronger and thicker than the surgical blades, and are just as sharp. Because I trim small pieces of wood, and wondered whether they would better than the surgical ones. Thanks.
Sorry forgot my other question, do have a cover for the blade on the 5A acrylic craft handle.
Date: 07 Apr 2016

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Hi Ray. Firstly you are correct the ACM blades are manufactured from a thicker gauge of steel so they are stronger than the standard surgical blade which is probably more appropriate for cutting light weight material and finer more detailed work. Sharpness is a perception and often whether something is "sharp enough" for the task at hand depends on whether the correct blade shape and size has been selected however the cutting edge should be consistent and durable on the ACM range and more appropriate for medium to heavy duty materials.

Unfortunately we do not have a cover or guard for use with the 5A Acrylic handle. If you want to protect the blade when not is use then you need to look at the Retractaway premium knife.

Thank you for contacting us and I hope we have answered your questions.

Q. Will Nº 23 blades fit Nº5A acrylic craft handle?
Date: 13 Feb 2016

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Hi Clive and thanks for your question. The 5A acrylic craft handle has a No.3 fitting so unfortunately the No. 23 blades will not fit that handle. They will however fit the 6a acrylic handle which has the No.4 fitting for the larger blades in our standard surgical blade range.

Q. Do you have a protective sheath to fit the No4 handle with a 25a blade attached, up to recently I have been using the orange handled one that had a sheath supplied with it but I find that this sheath is a bit loose when used with the No4 handle. Ed.
Date: 05 Jan 2016

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Hi Ed,

You are correct, the guard would be loose if used on a standard No.4 Handle as it won't grip the shaft once over the blade.

I assume you have been using the red handled Trimaway knife which comes with the 25a blade fitted and a protective guard.

Unfortunately we don't have a guard to fit over the standard blade and handle combination unless you use a plastic blade remover as shown in the image and just close it over the blade when not in use.

Q. What blades fit a No 5A craft knife? A. Maxwell
Date: 04 Dec 2015

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Dear Mr. Maxwell, many thanks for your question about which blades fit the 5A Acrylic craft handle.

The blade shapes which are compatible and popular for use with the 5A are:

No.10, 10a, 11, 15 and 15A

However it is also compatible with sizes:

No.6, 9, 10, 11P, 12, 12D, 13, 14, 15C, 15T and 16

If you require any additional information then please do not hesitate to contact us again.

Q. Hi, I am a mature art student studying Jewellery at UCA Farnham and recently bought one of you most useful retractable scalpels for my tool kit.

My much younger fellow student who is from China fell on the tool and borrows it all the time. I offered to buy him one (he has no transport).
He glibly said they were probably made in China and he could get one cheaper there via the net.
With a sinking heart I nodded agreement.

I was delighted to find that you are a UK company and the product is manufactured here! I cannot wait to tell him and Im off to but him one this morning just so that I can point out made in UK.

Best wishes, Candy
Date: 25 Nov 2015

Hi Candy, we're glad you and your Chinese fellow student enjoy using your UK made retractable scalpels!

Q. I have a no 5 handle, its a longer, quite thin handle, I cant find it on your sites, can you tell me the correct blade for this handle please.
Date: 25 Nov 2015

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Hi Paul,

I think you will find the handle you are looking for at the link below on our surgical site. Probably 25 years ago now the designation for this handle was changed from 5 to 7 to encourage standardisation amongst surgical blade manufacturers across the World.

No. 7 Handle

Any of the No.3 fitment blades such as the No.10, 10a, 11, 12 and 15 will fit this handle.

I hope this answers your question.

Q. Hi, I am doing paper cut art in Malaysia. While the recommendation of 10a and 11 are mentioned, I would like to know the actual dimension of the blade, the size etc. Is 15A smaller than 11. We have a visual idea how small the blade is once the dimension are known. Will the blade withstand cutting a curvature? The blades we use bends and times the tips break.

Thank you, Brinda.
Date: 08 Sep 2015

Hi Brinda. The recommendations on the website are from other existing artists but as with all usage areas it comes down to personal preference. I have sent you a chart which although not actual size does give you more of idea of how big one shape is compared to another.

The 15A is smaller than the 11 yet it has an unsupported tip. If you look at the top edge of the blade it is straight which means that although the tip is sharp there is not a lot of strength in it. At this juncture you have to bear in mind that these are actually surgical blades designed for 'downward cutting action into soft tissue' all other applications have arisen overtime. The 11 itself is 'backed off' meaning there is a slope or a curvature from the tip to the main run of the back edge of the blade. This provides more support to the tip making it stronger and this is why the 11 is often used in other light industrial applications. If however you want a really sharp tip then the 11P (P is for pointed) is best but again the tip would snip off if cutting down onto a hard surface.

If cutting down it is important to use a cutting mat not a hard surface such as glass or metal as this will not only damage the cutting edge meaning you will need more blades to complete the project but again the tip may snip off when contacting the hard surface.

Placing lateral pressure on the blade when making a curved cut should not break the blade providing it is kept within reasonable parameters. The blade is designed to allow some lateral pressure however if excess force is applied laterally, being metal, it will at some point cause the blade to fracture and worse still break. As we said remember a downward incision into soft tissue does not usually involve any lateral pressure being applied so is the blade fit for purpose as you may be using it outside its design parameters. For cutting a curvature maybe the hooked No.12 blade would be more appropriate as again this is used in certain light industrial applications such as Jewellery manufacture for keying the moulds.

I hope you find this information useful and you will enjoy using our products in your papercutting projects.

Q. Please could you advise me on which scalpel I should buy as I am going to be studying Textiles at university and have been asked to buy an assortment of blades. Thanks, Imogen.
Date: 10 Aug 2015

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Claudette Cooling has always used the no. 10a & no. 11 blades with a No.3 handle. This combination has worked well for her on many different materials from mount board to leather and she has never had any problems. All universities advise you to get a range of blades. If you are going for cheap and cheerful blades then yes you will need an assortment because the cheap blades snap under any type of pressure, but in her opinion by choosing quality blades like Swann-Morton the no. 10a & no. 11 should be sufficient for all you need to do.

She hopes you have a fabulous experience and start to your new university course!

Q. Hello,

I am starting up paper cutting and wondered which knives you would recommend for this craft, bearing in mind I will be a complete beginner. Kind Regards, Kay.
Date: 28 Jul 2015

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Hi Kay, it would appear that the blade of choice for the Paper Cut artists is the 10a combined with the No.3 Surgical Handles. To begin with you can buy this as a carded set from reputable online outlets then just order in extra blades as you need them.

Q. Hi, I am just wondering how long the little orange plastic craft knife has been in production by Swann Morton, I can't remember a time when they weren't available!
Date: 16 Jul 2015

Yes the orange craft tool handle seems to have been around for ever and we are pretty sure it was first launched back in the 1950's. The original version was in fact black! A good example of something quite simple that is "fit for purpose".

Q. I need a good knife for cutting dollar tree foam board. What handle and blade would you recommend? Thanks, Phil Lyons
Date: 30 Apr 2015

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Hi Phil, that's an excellent question! We would suggest a No.11 Surgical Blade (0103) on a No.3 Handle (0933) or a Retractaway Premium Handle (2806) however having researched this on the internet it seems essential that you cut down onto a cutting mat rather than a hard surface to get a clean cut through the lower layer of paper. You could alternatively use one of our ACM No.11 blades (9303) with the ACM No.1 handle however I feel the surgical cutting edge on this occasion will outperform the ACM blade.

Assuming you are based in the USA, all our products can be purchased online here

Thank you for the enquiry.

Q. Hi, what would be best for cutting medium thickness photo paper?

Cheers, Joe.
Date: 21 Jan 2015

Hi Joe, thanks for your question. We would recommend the 10A blade as this seems to be the most popular product used by graphic artists.

Q. I order retractable knives for hallmark creative studio and have been asked to source a left handed retractable salpel.
Date: 05 Nov 2014

Hi Joan and thanks for your question. I would have thought you could use the Retractaway or the Retractable scalpels left handed without it effecting performance and dexterity. It may be harder for a left-handed person to load the blade but this is just speculation.

Q. Hello, I am a paper-cutting artist and was hoping you may be able to recommend a knife and blade for extremely fine paper cutting (perhaps a very small blade?..)
thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely, Bryan Zimmerman
Date: 05 Nov 2014

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Hi Bryan, I would still edge towards a 10A blade as it has always been used in graphics.

Q. Hi, ORANGE PLASTIC CRAFT TOOL - CLARIFICATION NEEDED

This may sound like a daft question:

The handle has a hole drilled into it for the nut and bolt to hold the blade into place when tightened. On one side of the handle, the hole has a larger recess, is this to account for the collar protruding from the nut which if inserted this way will accommodate the collar and both nut and bolt will meet flush with the plastic handle perfectly when tightened.

I ask this as i am supporting disabled people with the job of inserting the nut and bolt into thousands of handles and want to make sure we are doing this task correctly as you will be collecting the finished handles at some point.

In short, does it matter which side of the handle the nut and bolt is inserted? or shall I continue with my instincts?

Ray
Date: 22 Oct 2014

Hi Ray, it's not a daft question at all!

I have checked with our production department and from an assembly point of view it doesn't actually matter as the craft tool is disassembled again at the next stage of production.

However, from a user's point of view is does have to be flush.

Q. I am looking for a supplier of scalpel blades in Arizona for number 5 and 6, BP handle. I am a model maker, now retired, looking for a few blades I have run out of. I have both handles but couldn't find a supplier in the Phoenix area. Help. William.
Date: 11 Sep 2014

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Hi William, we should be able to help you out there. We have a long established supplier of our products in the USA and I'm sure they will be able to supply what you need. They are called Cincinnati Surgical Arts and Crafts - you can visit their website here

Q. I have an ACM no.1 handle. Do I need to purchase the ACM blades or will standard blades also fit this handle (specifically the 10A)?

Thanks, Simone
Date: 07 Sep 2014

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Thanks for your excellent question Simone. You will definitely need to purchase the ACM blades as they are designed to fir the ACM handles. Standard blades like the No. 10A may not fix in the handle correctly.

Q. Having recently purchased one of your beautifully made No3 Handle craft tool from my local Axworthy's with separate pack of no.11 blades, I was left feeling something was missing. And of course there is - a sheath to cover the lethal blade which I carefully inserted into the handle. So I am now left with a storage problem and wondering what to put on the end of the blade. Has this never been thought of? Thank you in advance of your reply. Hilary.
Date: 21 Jul 2014

Many thanks for your question Hilary. Safety and scalpel blades go hand in hand - may we suggest you use a Blade Remover clasped across the open blade or the retractaway handle would be the best option.

Q. I have recently bought a Single-use Blade Remover which came without instructions for use. The locating tabs do not appear to be that robust and so I am reluctant to take it apart unnecessarily. would you please give me some guidance, thank you, Brian.
Date: 04 Jun 2014

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Thanks for your question Brian.

We recently added some new videos to the Interactive section of our website.

One of the videos is on the Single Use Blade Remover you have enquired about. You can view it here: Single Use Blade Remover.

I hope this answers your question.

Q. What is difference in thickness of the trimaway blade variants (10A and No. 11) compared to the surgical blades
Date: 09 Apr 2014

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Hi Simon and thanks for your question. The Trimaway has a thicker medium duty 25A blade on it as does the Trimaway 01 which has an Industrial 01 blade on it. The 10A and 11 blades which fit the Retractaway are standard thickness surgical blades (no variation).

Q. Where can I purchase some of your blades 10A for one of your small black sliding blade knives - which is excellent is all respects -
I do not know how to obtain some of these blades - they are definitely 10A on the bottom of the blade - thanks very much.
Date: 06 Apr 2014

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Hello Mr Scoffin and thanks for your question and kind comments. The black handle you refer to is our Retractaway and you can order the blades to fit it (10A, 11, etc.) online from one of our stockists at Scalpels and blades or alternatively from Hannants on 020 8205 6697 or by email to: colindale@hannants.co.uk

Q. I have been recommended a no 15 blade for erasing ink on paper re calligraphy. I would prefer to add this to a retractable handle if possible . Could you advise please if possible which to buy. thank you.
Date: 11 Feb 2014

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Hi Deborah, thanks for your question.

We would recommend that you purchase a Retractaway handle

This is compatible with the number 15 blade

Q. Is there a suitable blade that would cut fabric i.e. to use with paper patterns to cut out fabrics for tailoring etc
Date: 02 Dec 2013

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Thanks for your question Margaret.

We would recommend the Trimaway

This has a thicker blade and could be more suited to your needs than a standard surgical blade.

For cutting the paper patterns we would recommend the 10A blade as this has been used for many years by graphic artists.

Also the no. 11 blade would be suitable as this is recommended by papercut artists.

Q. Do you have anything showing the application/purpose of the different shaped blades in your ACM kit? Thanks, Paul.
Date: 11 Nov 2013

Thanks for your question Paul.

There's some information under Community Pages, common usage. Here's a summary:

The following blades fit the ACM No. 1 Handle:

ACM No.10 Blade - General cutting and light carving.

ACM No.11 Blade - Light weight materials, trimming and high precision cutting.

ACM No.16 Blade - Stenciling,scoring and etching blades.

ACM No.17 Blade - Chiseling blade for light weight materials.

The following blades fit the ACM No. 2 Handle:

ACM No.2 Blade - High precision cutting of medium and heavy duty materials.

ACM No.18 Blade - Deep cross cutting and smooth chiseling blade.

ACM No.22 Blade - Carving blade for medium and heavy duty materials.

ACM No.24 Blade - Corner cuts, deburring, stripping and gasket cutting.

ACM No.28 Blade - Contour and shaping blade.

Q. We are often asked what is the best tool for the job?
Date: 28 Jun 2013

Maybe this link will help you to decide.

YouTube

Q. Do you have a stand, like for cutlery, to store the scalpels with blade?
Date: 29 May 2013

We don't have anything specific to store the scalpels/blades whilst in use but whatever you use you need to make sure they don't come in contact with the cutting edge as this will have an adverse affect on the durability and performance of the blade.

Q. Is there a safe or enviromental way to dispose of used blades as I am reluctant to throw them away with my household rubbish?
Date: 01 Apr 2013

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Hi Donna and thanks for your question. You are quite right, you shouldn't dispose of sharps in household rubbish from a health and safety perspective as well as for environmental reasons. You should invest in a sharps box or container to keep your used blades in then once it is full you can contact your local council who should be able to advise you on your local disposal point. You can usually buy the sharps boxes online via E-bay or Amazon however our associates at Jewel Blade offer a range of these boxes and should be able to advise you where to source one locally.

Q. Please can you tell me if you do thick handled craft knives? My dad loves carving but is finding it difficult to hold thin handles. Could you recommend one? Thank you.
Date: 25 Mar 2013

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Thanks for your question Sue.

We would recommend the Acrylic 5A and 6A handles. These can be purchased as part of a carded set including a few blades or individually so you can buy your blades separately.

Q. Do Swann-Morton have any knives that have a retracting blade for safe storage or when carrying it. ?
Date: 05 Feb 2013

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Depending upon the usage area we do have several knives that have a retractable blade.

The Retractaway knife is popular amongst the Arts, Craft and Modelling user groups whilst for light industrial applications or for cutting thicker material we have the Supa-R and the relatively New SMOR II knives with a selection of blade shapes.

Please refer to the product section for more information.

Q. Can I buy my Swann-Morton craft products on-line?
Date: 05 Feb 2013

Although Swann-Morton themselves do not sell products online there are a number of companies and resources that can be found on the internet from whom you can buy our products.

Please research your source before placing an order to ensure they appear reputable as we cannot be held responsible for any faulty, expired or counterfeit products supplied via this route.

Please also visit the distributor section of this site.

Q. How do I change the blade on my Craft Tool Knife ?
Date: 05 Feb 2013

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Loosen the metal screw ensuring you do not remove it totally from the handle. Slide your blade into the gap which you have now opened up at the front of the handle. Once the blade is in place tighten up the screw to hold it firmly in place during use. Please note the screw does NOT fit through the hole in the blade.

Q. How do I change the blades on my ACM Knife?
Date: 05 Feb 2013

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Twist the knurled collar clockwise to loosen the handle and pull out the old blade avoiding the cutting edge. Insert a new blade and turn the collar anti-clockwise to tighten. Always hold the knife handle with the blade pointing away from yourself.

Q. How do I remove a blade from my Retractaway Knife ?
Date: 05 Feb 2013

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Fully extend the handles blade carrier using the side trigger. Grip the blade with pointed pliers halfway between tip and blade stop, avoiding the cutting edge. With your index finger end, lift base of blade over locating slot and ease it off with pliers.

Q. How do I fit a blade to my Retractaway Knife ?
Date: 05 Feb 2013

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Fully extend the handles blade carrier using the side trigger. Grip the blade with pliers avoiding contact with cutting edge. Slide the blade into position on blade carrier until the slot locates fully over blade stop and clicks into position.

Retract the carrier back using the side trigger into the mid- usage position. When not in use retract the blade fully back into the handle for safety from sharps injury.

Q. How do I fit a blade to my Swann-Morton Professional Range Handle ?
Date: 18 Jan 2013

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Use the following procedure to attach a surgical blade:

  1. Grip blade with forceps, or similar, avoiding contact with cutting edge.
  2. Hold handle in left hand with bayonet fitting uppermost.
  3. Place blade partway over handle fitting and engage slots.
  4. Slide blade until it clicks into position.
  5. To improve assembly, flex blade slightly upwards when sliding onto the handle