Scalpel for Book and Paper Conservation


In book and paper conservation, there are many times when a substance or material needs to be mechanically removed or scraped off. Standard scalpels with replaceable blades are ok for cutting, but less than ideal—even dangerous—for scraping. The blades are very thin, flex unduly, and are easy to break where they slide into the handle. The blades often stick out wider than the handle, making them uncomfortable if you choke up close to the cutting edge. Older surgical and dissection scalpels are useful, but often are flat or hollow ground which is not great for slicing thin layers and scraping.


This precision instrument has a convex bevel which helps it to skate along the surface of a substrate, lessing the change of digging into it.  The shape of the cutting edge allows it to be comfortably held either at a very low angle or a higher, 45 degree one (similar to holding a pencil). This knife can be used for delicate lifting or separating adhered materials, and is very useful for removing encrusted glue on spines. Depending on the angle you hold the knife, the cutting edge can be a barely above the surface, and the knife rests on the rounded side bevel.


The convex bevel creates a very durable edge that can be used for chipping hard glue, etc. The steel is softer than my paring knives, making it less brittle and easy to strop. The thread wrapped handle and carved hardwood handle make it comfortable for working long periods of time, even if your hands start to sweat.


The sides of the blade are carefully rounded to make it comfortable to hold and well balanced to use. The high carbon steel is hardened to between Rc 50-55, is 1.5 inches long (40mm) and 1/16 inch (1.5mm) the hardwood handle 5.5 inches (140mm) long.  The knife is about .5 inches wide at the widest part. Overall length about 7 inches (180mm) and weighs .7 oz (20g), though the weight varies and depends primarily on the species of the wood handles. The current batch has Lignum vitae handles.

ITEM # WS: $175.00

6 Replies to “Scalpel for Book and Paper Conservation”

  1. I’ve had one of these knives for years, it’s one of my favorite and most useful tools ever,

  2. I made these some of these 7 or so years ago. For whatever reason they didn’t sell well so I took them out of the catalog. Recently some of the people and institutions that bought some initially wanted more, so I hope I’m not jinxing myself by putting them back in the catalog.

  3. Jeffrey:

    I just got back from Japan and learned about all sorts of useful information, primarily about hand scrolls and Japanese papers. We all got knives that look a little like this one. Yours looks like a left handed into knife (line over the o). We used this into knife to shave/chamfer our mends. The into knife can be used by pulling toward you or slicing away from you.


  4. Thanks for the info, I’d like to see a picture. The scalpel pictured above is actually double beveled, so it can be used either by right or left handers.

  5. This looks like a very nice tool! The pictures show a right handed person using the tool. My question as a left handed is if you also have the tool made for us left handed?


  6. Hi, The knife is double beveled, so it can be used by right and left handers. And the person using it is me!

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