Cultural heritage conservators are always borrowing and jerry-rigging tools from other trades and industries. We also benefit from exposure to the tools and methodologies of our conservator colleagues in other specialties. My latest favorite new acquisition for the Library Lab is this humble, disposable seam ripper (stitch cutter) blade. The blades seem designed to snap onto some sort of handle (much like disposable scalpel blades), although the place I bought them from didn't sell handles. To make the blades safer and more comfortable to hold without needing a special handle, I wrapped some blue painter's tape around the end for better grippiness and modest cushioning.
My undergraduate intern, Yan Choi, has been working on a number of circulating collection books which need resewing. In order for Yan to pull (disbind) the books quickly, without damaging the fragile inner folds of each textblock gathering, I picked up these disposable seam ripper blades for her to try. The back of the curved blade is flat and blunt, while the cutting edge is inside the curve only. She can swiftly and easily slip the blade under even the tautest stitch of thread, and deftly cut through it with a small flick of the wrist, eliminating the risk of puncturing the paper that comes with using a straight-bladed scalpel or scissors.
We'll definitely be keeping a box of these blades on hand in the future, and may even loan some to our textile conservator colleagues down the hall.