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Substitutes for scalpel blades

Scalpels were used for removing tiles from a church wall during a project in the Netherlands. Chisels could not be used as they were too thick to fit in the join and constant sharpening was inefficient. Not only is this super wasteful (the blades break extremely easily), it's also very expensive!


We have asked on social media for ideas to make projects like this more sustainable and economical.


Suggestions from our Facebook community:

  • “Sharpening” and thinning down the ends of long palette knife blades for similar usage. They are more flexible/less brittle than scalpel blades, though you may need a certain amount of stiffness if you’re trying to pry from behind the tile.

  • If you have access to tool steel and an acetylene torch, it is possible to make your own mini-chisels although sharpening on a grinding wheel is necessary. 

  • A great tip for health and safety: Putting a bit of masking tape along the scalpel blade when doing jobs like this keeps the blade from pinging off and hurting someone when it breaks.

Source: Caitlin Southwick (photos)

Do you have any questions about this tip or would like to share your experience and adapted version of it? Please let us know in the comments below.

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Sustainability in Conservation is an online network providing resources and information about environmentally responsible practices  in art conservation and related fields. Within a practice that produces so much waste, we hope to inspire collaboration and awareness to make cultural heritage a more sustainable profession. 

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