A hot knife is a tool used for cutting and shaping various materials such as braided sleeving, rope, plastic, and fabric. The blade of a hot knife is heated to a high temperature, which allows it to melt through the material with ease, resulting in a clean, precise cut.
To determine which hot knife is best for your needs the first question you need to answer is should it be handheld or bench mount? Both types have their own advantages and disadvantages so here are some pros & cons of each to help you decide:
These hot knives, as their name suggests, are mounted securely to a work surface (like a table or workbench) to reduce movement & increase cut accuracy. These hot knives usually offer a larger cut area than hand held options making them ideal for larger materials. Bench mount knives also allow for longer operating time without overheating making them ideal for industrial use. Some potential drawbacks to bench mount hot knives include decreased portability and an increased cost compared to hand held knives.
These hot knives are, you guess it, hand held! (You did guess it right?) These knives are lightweight and ideal for users who do not have a dedicated workspace and are always on the go. In addition to their portability they are also versatile in the amount of different materials they are able to cut. If that’s not enough perks, hand held hot knife varieties are often the most economical option for hot knife users. Unlike their bench mount counterparts, hand held knives require a bit more skill and practice for effective use because they are not as stable as mounted alternatives. This also means the cutting area is smaller than bench mount varieties limiting the size of the items you can cut. Hand Held hot knives are intended for brief, or intermittent use and if left on for extended periods of time can overheat requiring a cool down break.
A hot knife is a very easy tool to use, but it’s also a very easy tool to hurt yourself with. Hot Knife safety is essential so follow these steps to prevent potential disaster:
Use Protective Gear: Wear heat resistant gloves & eye protection while using a hot knife to protect yourself against accidental burns or hot debris.
Keep Away From Flammable Materials: Using your hot knife next to your new curtains is probably not your best idea. To prevent fires, be sure you are using your hot knife away from any flammable materials including (but not limited to) loose fitting clothes and papers.
Use In A Ventilated Area: Always cut with a hot knife in a well ventilated area to avoid inhaling fumes & gases released from the melting materials.
Use A Heat Resistant Surface: Place your hot knife on a solid sturdy surface like a silicone mat or metal table to avoid fire hazards.
Have Spatial Awareness: When using a hot knife be sure to use the knife in a slow steady motion. Be aware of the location of your fingers & hands as well as their proximity to the hot blade. Avoid sudden movements that could result in an unexpected burn.
Clean After Use The materials you cut with the hot knife likely left behind residue which can build up and become hazardous over time (in addition to making the knife harder to use). Once the hot knife is off, unplugged, and cooled use a wire brush, steel wool, or very fine sandpaper to clear the residue from the blade.
Proper Storage: After use, turn off, unplug, and allow the hot knife to cool fully before storing it in a safe place.