How To Sharpen An X Acto Knife In 2 Simple Ways
Knife Sharpening

Posted On March 26, 2017 at 7:40 pm by / 6 Comments

Why Can’t I seem To Find Mine!?

If you’re like me, you probably have a couple of x acto knives lying around your house. The thing is I can never seem to find mine when I actually need to use them. Kinda weird, but I bet I’m not the only one who this happens to! X acto’s are small precision knives that have many applications: crafting, modelling, box cutting, and any other work that requires precision and detailed cuts. There are really no limitations as to what you can use them for, so for your next home project you may want to pick one up if you don’t already have one. Before we get into the nitty gritty on how to sharpen an x acto knife, I want to touch on something important.


Safety Comes First Before Anything Else!

If you’ve ever used an x acto knife, you’ll know how easy it can be to get cut. It really doesn’t take much to end up with a nasty laceration. Since these blades are extremely sharp one should be cautious, both when using and attempting to sharpen them. I would even go the extra mile and suggest that you use cut resistant gloves especially if you find yourself getting cuts frequently. More importantly, don’t rush and take all the extra time you need. One way to increase the chance of injury is by rushing things, so please……seriously slow down!

Safety Is Paramount: You Should Always Have A First Aid Kit Handy In Your Home
Safety Is Paramount: You Should Always Have A First Aid Kit Handy In Your Home


Before Going Any Further, Here’s Something You Should Know!

Before we discuss further, it is very important to note this one thing: not all x acto’s are the same. Each blade is different in a way from the other and they all have different uses. One may be used for wood carving, while another may be used for slicing. Others could be used for scoring, deburring, or even chiseling. The point is that each blade style is different from the other, and as a result the cutting edge will also be different. What does this mean as far as sharpening is concerned? It means that each blade will need to be sharpened differently from the other. More details on this below, so read on. Below is a video that explains the basics of x acto’s (all credit to Saint Jovin). Watch the video as it better explains what I was talking about above!

Watching the video above, you probably came to an important realization: Why do I need to learn how to sharpen an x acto knife if I can just buy replacements? Definitely a fair point. But here’s something to think about…..replacements may or may not be expensive depending on the blade. For example, a 100 pack of #23 style blade costs upwards of $100. A 100 pack of #11 blades is significantly cheaper. My advice to anyone who is unsure of whether to buy replacement blades or simply sharpen their own, is the following:

  1. What style of blade do you have? – X acto designates their blades with a number (#). This number is etched on each blade so you should have no difficulty identifying it. Some blade types may be more difficult to sharpen than others, so if this is the case a replacement would be a better choice.
  2. How often do you use your x acto? – If you’re not using it frequently or you find that a single blade lasts you a while before it dulls, then you may not care to sharpen and instead pick up a 5 pack of replacements.

So you’ve identified what number you have and how frequently you use it (the more you use it, the more it dulls). If you use it frequently and replacements are expensive, then go with sharpening. If you don’t use it frequently and replacements are relatively cheap, go with replacing the blade. That’s really all you need to consider! Below I talk about 2 different methods on how to sharpen an x acto knife. There may be other ways to do it, but this is what I’ve found to work for me. Let’s get to it, shall we!


Method #1 – Use A Diamond Stone

Diamond is hard enough to abrade anything! I’ve found it works particularly well at sharpening x acto blades. I’ll be using diamond stones from my Work Sharp GSS, but you don’t have to necessarily use the same system. Any diamond stone with the same grit should be fine. I’ll be using a 600 grit fine diamond plate. Here’s what you need to understand before sharpening: Identify the cutting edge on your blade. Mine is a #11 (see the picture below).

Identify The Cutting Edge Of Your X Acto Blade
Identify The Cutting Edge Of Your X Acto Blade

Okay, now that I have identified the cutting edge, I will proceed to sharpen each side on the fine diamond stone. Here’s how I do it:

  1. Since the cutting edge is much smaller in comparison to that of a knife, you only need a small area of the stone to work with. Push the blade against the abrasive for a total of 6-7 passes. Be careful to take your time so you don’t cut yourself!

    Drag The Blade Across The Diamond Stone To Sharpen
    Drag The Blade Across The Diamond Stone To Sharpen
  2. Switch and repeat the same on the other side. Check the blade for sharpness. Try to use it on a piece of paper, or you can even try the nail test (the blade should not slip from your nail if it’s sharp).

    Now Flip Over And Do The Other Side
    Now Flip Over And Do The Other Side

That’s all there is to it! If you’ve done it correctly, you’ll have restored your edge to being wickedly sharp. Sometimes even sharper than the original factory edge. However, what if you don’t have diamond stones then what? Method #2 addresses this question.


Method #2 – Use A Medium/Fine Sandpaper Grit

This is a popular method that has been tried and tested by many. It’s easy, cheap, and only takes a couple minutes. There is no special equipment required other than sandpaper, so if you don’t have some, go to your nearest Home Depot or Lowes and get a medium to fine grit! Rather than explain what you need to do, I’d like you to watch this video which explains it really well (all credit to Dick Gibson).

Did you watch it? If you did, you probably noticed how much steel comes off when he moves back and forth. That’s why you will want to use a light sandpaper (fine grit), so you don’t remove too much steel. But pretty simple right? These are the 2 easiest ways in my opinion on how to sharpen an x acto knife.


Something To Ponder (Final Words)

You’ll need to decide whether to replace or sharpen your x acto knife. Each person’s situation is different because not everyone uses the same blade type. If you’re going the route of replacements, be sure to do your research to not only find the cheapest alternative, but also quality blades that hold their edge for long. I recommend only buying x acto replacements. Click below to find replacement blades on amazon.

Pack Of 100 #11 Replacement Blades
Pack Of 100 #11 Replacement Blades


If you decide to sharpen, allow yourself some practice to get the technique right. Buy some sandpaper or use an abrasive stone that you would typically use to sharpen your kitchen knives. In the long run, you’ll be saving $$$ should you choose to sharpen. Finally whatever you decide, the most important thing is to always be safe. Take extra time, and wear protective gear if need be.



***Also, if you’re in the market for a knife sharpener, why not check out our reviews?***
Electric Knife Sharpener Reviews
Manual Knife Sharpener Reviews

6 thoughts on “

  1. Thank you! That was a really good description of the different blades and also tips on sharpening. I wasn’t sure I could use the old fashioned Chinese whetstone for my kitchen knives to sharpen but I’ll try using the finer grit side. I read elsewhere that using a leather strop, away from the cutting edge, works too!

    1. Natalie,

      You are most welcome. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment! The leather strop will polish your edge, not sharpen it. If you’re looking to sharpen your edge, you need to use an abrasive (diamond stone is an example). If I can help with anything else, do let me know. Cheers!

  2. Sandpaper is marked with the grit rating. This dude in the video was not very helpful at all and kept it a secret.

    The fingernail filing boards sold in the drug stores that women use to file their nails works very well. Use the coarse side a couple of strokes to remove any burs and then finish on the fine side to put the edge back on the blade. Finally, stroke a time or two on an old leather shoe to polish the edge.

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Clinton. I’ve never tried a nail file, but I’ll definitely give it a shot next time I need to sharpen my X Acto blades. Appreciate you sharing what’s worked for you! Cheers!

  3. I used to use x acto #11 a lot in my last job for cutting copper tape. The most common breakage was the tip. A lot of others used to throw the blades away. But you can turn the blade over and grind the back of the tip back to create a new sharp tip, saves time and blades.

    I am surprised you are final sharpening the blade towards the edge in your pictures, I have always thought you pull the blade away from the sharp edge when you get to the final stages, then draw it through a soft material- like wood – to get rid of the burr you create. Thanks for the post!

    1. Thanks for leaving a comment, Phil. It’s hard to tell in the pictures, but I do draw the blade downward as I near the tip. Sharpening the opposite side of the edge will get rid of the burr. You can also alternate i.e. do one side and then do the other. This will also get rid of the burr. Once you’re done sharpening, you can strop (leather works perfectly) if you really want to. This will polish your blade further. Hope this helps and if you have any more questions, please let me know!

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