Surgeon use for obsidian scalpel blades

It's hard to believe but the sharpest knives that have ever been used in recent years were mounted with stone flakes made of obsidian

Obsidian is used by some surgeons for scalpel blades, as well-crafted obsidian blades have a cutting edge many times sharper than high-quality steel surgical scalpels, the cutting edge of the blade being only about 3 nanometers thick.[34] Even the sharpest metal knife has a jagged, irregular blade when viewed under a strong enough microscope; when examined even under an electron microscope an obsidian blade is still smooth and even.

Good quality obsidian fractures down to single molecules which can produce a cutting edge 500 times sharper than the sharpest steel scalpel blade ("American Medical News", Nov. 2, 1984:21). On the cellular level an obsidian knife can cut between cells rather than tear the cells as a steel knife will do. A sharper cut will allow a wound to heal more rapidly with less scarring.

One study found that obsidian incisions produced narrower scars, fewer inflammatory cells, and less granulation tissue in a group of rats.

While they probably never practiced the art of surgery, our Paleolithic ancestors did use tools that have been extolled as more precise than the most modern metal scalpel.

Although very sharp the obsidian blade is very thin and cannot withstand lateral force on the blade. Surgeons must be very careful to cut only soft tissues with the obsidian scalpel. Attempting to cut or scrape bone could result in breakage, which could leave obsidian flakes inside the patient.

Ancient Technology in Contemporary Surgery (US National Library of Medicine)

Lee A. Green, associate professor of family practice at the Medical Center, uses obsidian knives for removing moles and repairing torn earlobes. The black volcanic glass is up to 100 times sharper and much smoother than stainless steel scalpels.

Obsidian has been used as a cutting tool since the Stone Age, but modern versions of obsidian scalpels are manufactured by a Virginia archaeologist using a pressure flaking process. Each knife can be used from 10 to 20 times before being discarded, Green says. He keeps his blades in a cold sterilizing solution to preserve their sharpness.

"I like the obsidian knife because it traumatizes the tissue less," he says. "It is very sharp and very smooth at the microscopic level." Green says he first learned of the knives in a brief article carried by Scientific American a few years ago and has wanted a set ever since.

Green says that he knows of no other surgeons in the area who use the same blades, but that there are now a few dozen nationally who use the Stone Age technology for surgery in cosmetically sensitive areas.

Surgeons use Stone Age technology for delicate surgery

Diamond or Obsidian scalpel?

Modern, and very recently-developed synthetic diamond scalpel blades have a "sharpness" of 3 nanometers or better. This is achieved through plasma-polishing. This gives a blade edge of about 30 angstroms. 1 angstrom, is about one atom's width. These modern blades have been processed to be more sturdy than before, without as much brittleness problems than earlier blades.

However, the obsidian that our ancient ancestors were using on spear and arrow points and cutting implements (etc.) were better than 200 angstroms, and all they did was flake it off with a bone or antler club. The men and women who were the camp's pros at flaking were incredible at what they did. So, 15 thousand years ago, they were still only 7x thicker than a modern blade. Pretty good, in my book. The benefit of natural obsidian blades is that they are much more durable than even the new synthetic diamond blades. They will hold their edge much longer, and for almost every purpose, they're more than adequate. They're also obviously, much cheaper.

Tested Benefits, Obsidian scalpel

A comparison of obsidian and surgical steel scalpel wound healing in rats.


Department of Surgery, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore.


There are several anecdotal clinical articles claiming wound healing and scar superiority using obsidian (volcanic glass) scalpels. In order to determine if skin incisions made with obsidian were superior to those made with standard surgical steel, wound tensile strength, scar width, and histology were assessed in 40 adult male Sprague-Dawley rats. Each rat received two parallel 8-cm dorsal skin incisions, one with an obsidian scalpel and the other with a surgical steel scalpel (no. 15 blade). Data were analyzed by ANOVA. Tensile strength of the two wound types was not different at 7, 14, 21, and 42 days. Scar width, however, was significantly less in the obsidian wounds at 7, 10, and 14 days (p < 0.005). At 21 days, scar width was not different in the two groups. At 42 days, all wounds were barely detectable, thus precluding scar width analysis. A blinded histologic review suggested that obsidian wounds contained fewer inflammatory cells and less granulation tissue at 7 days.

Obsidian or Stainless Steel?

Traditionally, physicians have used inexpensive stainless-steel scalpel blades for surgical
procedures. Steel scalpels cost about $2 each, and surgeons use them just once and throw
them away. Obsidian scalpels are more expensive—about $100 each—but they can be used
many times before they lose their keen edge. And obsidian scalpel blades can be 100 times
sharper than traditional scalpel blades!
During surgery, steel scalpels actually tear the skin apart. Obsidian scalpels divide the skin
and cause much less damage. Some plastic surgeons use obsidian blades to make
extremely fine incisions that leave almost no scarring. An obsidian-scalpel incision heals
more quickly because the blade causes less damage to the skin and other tissues.
Many patients have allergic reactions to mineral components in steel blades. These patients
often do not have an allergic reaction when obsidian scalpels are used. Given all of these
advantages, it is not surprising that some physicians have made the change to obsidian

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Obsidian Scalpes how we make them and QA

Manufacturing Obsidian Scalpels

In our facilities we count with the best machinery in order to cut, polish and manufacture Obsidian scalpels.

All scalpels are had made and go to a heavy Quality Assurance process where with the use of Fractography and gamma ray in order to sterilize Obsidian scalpels and packaging.