While doing do-it-yourself (DIY) work, you often need to make use of only a few basic tools. These tools include the likes of duct tape, a screwdriver, a fifth of Jim Beam, and best utility knife. If you have all these tools, you are unlikely to encounter any trouble with your work. You would be pleased to know that there are some rather affordable ways of handling the tasks around the house without dulling your pocket knife. They are equipped with replaceable razor blades and thus, you would not have to worry about dulling them. They are quite easy to carry as well – quite similar to a standard folding knife in this regard.
There are three categories that utility knives can be broken into. The first option that you have is the folding variety. However, you need to keep in mind that it is not as sturdy as the other options that are available, but this variety is more likely to fit in a pocket or belt with ease. Thus, you will be able to carry it around with you throughout the day easily and use it for tasks such as cutting a box open or similar other work. Another category is that of retractable knives which are heavier and carry more blades. They are perfect for harder jobs. However, at times, you will find them to be a bit too bulky, thereby making them an awkward object to carry. The third category is that of fixed blade style knives. These are the knives, which are designed for specialists handling wood and thick drywall.
A utility knife is a rather handy tool to have in your toolbox. This knife cuts with a removable razor blade, so the edge is sharp in addition to being disposable. You will find it ideal for the purpose of grunt work. These are the kind of tasks which you cannot accomplish via scissors and which can be damaging for a pocket knife. You can use the utility knife to handle tasks such as breaking down cardboard boxes for the purpose of recycling, cutting carpets, or slicing the painting seam on a stuck window. Similarly, you can also use the knife for the purpose of sizing a small patch of a linoleum floor, trimming a rug pad, or opening a toy, which is trapped in a blister pack and is giving you a hard time.
You are likely to find great use for a utility knife if your lifestyle is more DIY. There is so much that you can do with utility knives. Building paper, sheet plastic, drywall, tarps, tape, and roofing shingles are all things that you can cut using a utility knife. Considering that utility knives are equipped with razor blades, you should contemplate getting a nice one, even if it is a bit expensive so that it comes with the safety measures that would make it easier for you to use the knife. According to Safety Daily Advisor, which is a newsletter of business and legal reports, around one-third of manual tool injuries are a result of the usage of utility knives. Over the years, I have had personal experience of sustaining injuries from utility knives, and thus, I can place my faith in the statistics that have been mentioned.
Therefore, it all comes down to finding a knife, which is not only easy to use but safe as well. You should strive to get your hands on a tool, which offers you a sturdy grip. This would ensure that the knife does not slip out of your hands as you work. It is also important that there are locks present both inside and outside the tool so as to make it certain that it does not accidentally deploy. The knife should be such that it can be opened and closed with one hand, which ensures that you are able to work with speed and convenience. Changing the blades of the knife should also not be a difficult task and should not take too long, which will make it certain that your hands are kept away from the edge of the blade. If the knife has a functional belt clip for fast and convenient storage, it is like the icing on the cake. A pro contractor would also need to find a spot for multiple blades. However, this is not an issue that would cause trouble if you intend to use the knife for chores around the house. That being said, it would certainly be an added bonus if your knife has room for a single extra blade.
First and foremost, a decision needs to be made with regards to the body type that you want to use. Would a folding knife suit you or will you be better off with a retractable one? For general tasks, the folding style knife is recommended thanks to the safety that it offers along with the added features of portability and belt hook. More of this will be discussed in the Body Type section.
For this review, once I had all the options before me, I put identical blades in all of them. Following this, I proceeded to break down and slice around 50 cardboard boxes. I also used them to cut some old caulking and dice up a sheet of drywall to see how they would fare in tasks like these. Since the blades are disposable, sharpness is not something that needs to be judged. Thus, I focused on the overall ergonomics of the knife. I shifted my attention to details such as the ease that was offered in changing the blade, the leverage on tougher cuts, and the ease of the folding mechanism. For the drywall cuts, I sunk the blade into the material and proceeded to check if the blade would disengage from the knife if I worked it around within the material.
I carried each knife with me for a couple of days and put them to use for small knifing tasks, which I encountered during the period. Generally, I use a knife about 8 to 10 times in a day for tasks such as sharpening pencils, trimming an unraveling thread, or opening an envelope or box.
Best Utility Knife Complete Guide
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If you are looking to get the full range use of the knife and want optimal safety along with the feature of portability, the folding style is recommended over the retractable one. These knives are smaller and thus, easier to store. They also tend to be equipped with belt hooks and thanks to the way that the blade nests in the body, there is minimal chances of the knife accidentally deploying in your pocket. There is no denying that retractable knives have quite a bit to offer, but they are more useful for professional tradesmen.
The design of the folding knife is found to be more compact as compared to the retractable type. A traditional retractable knife would measure around 7-inch in length, thereby making it difficult to carry it in your pant pocket. Furthermore, it is not equipped with belt clips. Since the folding knife is hinged at the center, when you store it, it is merely 3 to 5-inch long. However, it would still be of the same length as the retractable knife when it is unfolded. Folding knives are usually equipped with belt hooks, which is a useful feature and comes handy when you are cutting bags of mulches in the garden or when you have to climb a ladder to do something. It is quite a lot more convenient to grab the tool off your belt instead of having to dig into your pocket for it.
A wide range of folding and locking mechanisms are also available. The best knives are the ones, which can be folded and unfolded with one hand alone. It is more likely that you already have the thing you want to cut in one hand, so a knife that can be operated with the only other free hand is more convenient in this situation. Let us take the example of handling a menial task of sharpening a pencil. If you use a knife which needs two hands in order to use it, you will have to put the pencil down or shift it back and forth between your hands as you work with the knife. This seems to be a task filled with hassles, which is a situation you can avoid if you have a knife that can be operated with one hand.
The shape of retractable knives is comparable to that of a submarine. They are longer long and tubular. The blade of the knife moves in and out of the tool via a thumb slid slide, which is usually situated along the top edge, slightly above the nose. These knives tend to offer you a bigger handle, which proves to be a better option using a knife all day. These knives also have significant blade storage with five extra blades being the typical space. These features make these knives ideal for professionals but are quite unnecessary when you think of them as a tool to be used around the house. Since the slide needs to be pressed for the blade to move, a bit of safety is ensured. However, the locking mechanism is not really strong and quite often, people complain of the blade opening itself in their pocket due to certain movement of the body. This certainly makes it a dangerous item to carry in the pocket.
Another issue with regards to safety that you will experience is that it is quite possible that as you place the retractable knife in your pocket, a bit of blade peeks out and as a result, you can incur sharp pokes and injure yourself. This is not the kind of issue that you will have to face with folding knives. There are some retractable knives, which have a safety switch in place that needs to be flipped before you can put the knife in your pocket. However, why would you opt for something that is so much of a hassle when you have an alternative that guarantees your safety?
Irrespective of what you are doing, you would want to ensure that you have a strong grip on the tool you are handling. Some knives offer you a sturdy grip with the help of a textured area, while others have curved handles or finger ridges in place for the purpose. The best knives are the ones that offer you some kind of finger groove since they provide you with optimal safety against slippage without relying too much on your hand strength.
The blade change mechanism in different tools tends to differ. The ideal mechanism for usage is the one that is simple and does not require your hands to come in contact with the sharp side of the blade. Many knives tend to use a push button design. A small spring-loaded button on the knife needs to be pressed, which pushes the locking piece out of the way, thereby making room for the new blade to be slid in. When the blade is installed, the button needs to be released, after which the locking mechanism comes into action and the blade is held in its place.
Some other knives have a two-part system or some variation of it. A top piece is pressure fit over a side piece that holds the blade in place. Brands such as Bessey and Sheffield have this mechanism. You are required to press up on the side piece as you press down on the top piece. This action tends to put your thumb in rather close proximity to the blade edge where you are required to press in its direction. When there are so many moving parts present, there is always a possibility that a piece would get gummed up over time. I tested two knives that were equipped with this system, so I could judge if any improvement has been made to the mechanism over the years, but sadly that is not the case.
The way the blades fit in a utility knife can prove to be beneficial in more ways than one. Once the blade is worn down, you can flip and reinstall it and thus, use its other side. When it comes to daily usage of a utility knife, there are hardly any situations where you would need more than one additional blade at a time.
Large retractable knives can hold up to five extra blades at the same time, but you will be hard-pressed to find additional storage in the flip style. Even if additional storage is present, it is usually for one or two blades. Knives that offer this feature include the Milwaukee Fastback II and the Irwin. However, the downside of additional storage is the fat handle. Since multiple blade storage is not a feature that you would require for use around the house, you can opt for a thinner knife, which would fit better in the pocket. It is a better option to have a good supply of blades present in your toolbox.
There are quite a few two-blade models available on the market. These include the likes of Bostitch Twin Blade and CH Hanson FlipKnife, but they are too much for using around the house. Their distinguishing feature is that they can extend two different blades out of the same knife at different times. This can be useful if you need to make use of a hooked blade and straight blade for a certain project.
It is imperative that you are well aware of the local knife laws before you purchase one, particularly if you intend to carry the knife with you at all times. Some cities and states tend to have rather strict laws in place for openly carrying knives. This has also been mentioned on the Amazon product page of one snap-on utility knife which states the sales of knives is prohibited or restricted in the states AL, FL, ID, KS, MA, MD, ME, MS, NC, NY, OH, OK, RI, TX, VI, WA, WI, WV. New York also has some strict regulations in place. The strictness is such that home depot will not ship a fastback to the state. The law regarding folding knives is a bit unclear, but you need to keep in mind that most knife enthusiasts are of the opinion that carrying a knife in the city is probably not worth the risk of potential legal trouble.
Best Utility Knife Reviews
1. Milwaukee Fastback II Review
After the extensive research that I conducted and the testing that I did, it is the Milwaukee Fastback II, which stood tall among all the knives tested. It is certainly not the cheapest option that you will find but is easily among the best.
The knife has been designed in a manner, which ensures that opening and closing it does not take a lot of time and can be done with one hand with ease. It can also be locked in either position without any problems. The grip, especially thanks to the large forefinger notch, ensures that the knife would not slip out of your hands. This is perhaps one of the best safety features of this product. It has also been equipped with an easy blade changing mechanism along with a flexible belt hook and has been provided with an added gut hook. You can, thus, cut strong without having to unfold the knife and expose the blade for the purpose. A room is also present in the handle for additional blade storage.
Unlike the other options in the market, this knife can be opened and closed with the flick of a wrist once you press the safety release button with your thumb. It is the fastest blade that you can deploy and you will not face any difficulty in opening the knife. Furthermore, the blade end can be locked in both open and closed positions, so the chances of the blade accidentally being exposed are minimal. Another appealing feature of the tool is its handle. It is equipped with a rather deep finger groove, which ensures that you are provided with a secure grip. This feature comes in handy when you have to bear down on the knife for certain tasks. All that it would take is to pinch the tool with your thumb and forefinger with your forefinger in the groove, and you will find that it is nearly impossible to pull the knife out of your hand.
The finger notch is just one reason for the handle of the knife to be lauded. Talk about ergonomic design, the back of the grip area has been designed in a manner that it contours to the hand in the perfect manner. The top edge of the tool is flat, which gives the thumb a solid face to sit against while cutting. A simple spring-loaded, push-button release mechanism is in place for the purpose of changing the blades. When you press the button, the blade is pulled out and you can put the new blade in, following which the button is released and the blade is locked in its place. You will be able to do the whole procedure with a lot of ease and safety, which is a huge plus considering that you are dealing with razor blades and a slight brush against them can do quite a bit of damage.
The knife also has a wire belt hook, which holds tightly. The wire has a lot of spring and leaves you with quite a bit of room, thereby ensuring that you do not have to force it down over a belt. This along with the pronounced bend at the leading edge of the hook ensures that you do not have to put in a great deal of effort to clip onto the belt or rim of a pocket. It also offers a storage area for an extra blade. Along the inside edge of the blade pocket, there is a plastic chip present, which swings outwards to reveal the storage spot. The blade inside is held in place by a magnet, which is the only part of the tool that is not manufactured via metal. This is the thing, which separates this tool from the original Fastback, which is not equipped with onboard storage.
Some additional features are also present in the Fastback II. There is a small cutaway designed along the underside of the blade holder, which has been developed for the purpose of stripping wires. To use it, you need to hold a wire in the notch with your thumb and spin it. The exposed portion of the blade will cut the insulation off the wire. The gut hook is another useful feature of the knife. It lets you cut strings and other thin objects without having to open the blade. A deep cutaway at the back of the handle is present, which serves to expose a small portion of the blade when the knife is in a closed position. You would not be able to cut yourself on it though, so safety is still ensured.
This is the knife, which offers you fast operation with one hand along with the safety of the flip style. It has ample other features that make it all the more enticing and difficult to beat.
2. Irwin FK150 Review
If the Fastback II is out of your reach, the Irwin FK150 is another option you can consider. It offers similar features as the Fastback II but is equipped with a slightly trickier opening mechanism and has storage space for two additional blades.
You would need two hands to operate this knife. While it is possible to open it with one hand, it would be challenging and require quite a bit of strength on your part. The hinge is quite tight and thus, you will find it hard to gain any leverage over the folding portion. The knife can benefit from a thumb stud, which will make the process easier. It is an inch shorter as compared to the Fastback II. If you have small hands, this will be a benefit for you. It has been provided with an additional safety feature, which prevents the blade from being removed unless the folding portion has been oriented 45 degrees to the handle. The blade would otherwise not come out of the tool.
Irwin has also introduced the FK250, which is an upgrade over the FK150. This knife is provided with both blade storage as well as a small flip-out screwdriver at the butt end. The blade storage compartment has a bit of extra space, which can be used to hold an additional blade. The tool maintains a small footprint. For a few extra dollars, you can also get a small screwdriver. Overall, this is easily one of the best multipurpose utility knives.
3. Olympia Tools 33-187 Review
If you want some advanced usage out of your knife for DIY projects, you might want to get your hands on a knife, which has ample blade storage. The more aggressive the task you use the knife for, the shorter the life of the blade. There are certain materials, which destroy the edge of the blade in a short span such as roofing shingles, cement board, and fiberglass insulation. It is the Olympia Turbopro, which is recommended for such situations. The size of the knife along with its blade storage, autoload feature and construction make it an appealing choice.
While the knife has been provided with a compact size, it still has the ability to store five additional blades. The knife also makes use of an autoload mechanism, which ensures that changing the blades is both safe and easy. A small side-mounted release is present, which enables you to remove the damaged blade out the front of the tool. To load a new one, you would then have to move the thumb side all the way back into the tool. The fresh blade shifts into the cartridge from the storage compartment. It is also equipped with a comfortable handle along with a small carabiner present at the rear of the tool.
4. Irwin 2088600 Review
If you do not like the idea of using a razor knife and want the knife for light work only, you will find this one to be an appealing option. This retractable knife has been provided with a spring loaded blade tensioned, which ensures that the blade always wants to get back into the tool. For the purpose of cutting, all that you need to do is press the thumb slide to the open position and hold it there. Once you let it go, the blade vanishes. It is safe but is not much use for involved projects.
Irwin wins when it comes to comfort and price. Although it is one of the cheapest self-retracting knives that you will find, it has not made any compromises on ergonomics. It has been equipped with a deep texturing on the grip area and the front of the knife is curved downward, thereby putting the blade at a much better angle for cutting.
Changing blades is also easy. To open the tool, all that you need to do is twist the small knob on the side, which would loosen the screw holding the halves together. While holding the blade, you have the option of choosing between two slots to dictate how much of the blade is exposed as you push the thumb slide forward.
5. Stanley 10-425 DynaGrip Review
It can be quite irritating to have the knife slip from your hands while you are engrossed in your work. This is a multi-purpose knife, which tackles this issue with efficiency. The rubberized grip will ensure that you are able to hold on to it with ease even if your hands are sweaty or you are wearing slippery gloves or working at odd angles. The retraction feature is satisfactory as long as the blade is not gummed up. You will, however, have to avoid using the knife for heavy work because if too much pressure is exerted on it, it will retract on its own.
6. Bessey D-BKWH Review
If it is the best-looking knife that you are searching for, this is where your quest ends. The handle of the knife has a wood grain texture and is quite slender. Storage would not be a problem, and it offers speedy usage. You can operate the blade with a single hand, though it will take some time. The aluminum frame that the knife has been provided with makes it durable and gives a sturdy feel to the knife. It has been designed for domestic usage, so it will not be of much use to pros.
7. DeWalt DWHT10035L Review
If you are confused as to whether you should go for a retractable knife or a flip one, this is the knife for you as it offers both features in a single knife. You have the option of locking the back and slipping the blade away. You can also fold it up if you have less time on your hands. Furthermore, changing the blade would not take up much time thanks to the one-button system that the knife has been provided with. You will find it easy to operate the knife, even with gloves on. It also comes with a metal body, which is durable in addition to being weather resistant. However, it can be a bit slick, so the grip might be an issue for some. The lock back system of the knife is quite stiff but can be folded up for the purpose of easy storage. It has also been equipped with a wire stripper.
8. Irwin Tools 1774103 Review
This is the knife, which has been specifically designed for the purpose of drywall cutting and scoring. The design gives a trigger-like feel. The knife has been provided with a fixed blade, which offers improved stability that is required for tough jobs. The nose is narrower, which ensures that you are able to see what you are doing and are able to work in an accurate manner. The storage compartment of the knife can hold as many as ten blades and is secured by means of a thumbable screw, which ensures that you would not require any screwdriver to make the change.
9. CH Hanson 03015 FlipKnife Review
It is more of a specialty tool than a simple utility knife. It has dual retractable sides with one side offering the standard razor edge and the other being equipped with a hooked blade. This knife works particularly well for roofers who need to make use of both a hooked blade as well as a standard razor. Not just roofers, but it also works well for anyone who is looking to use two knives to get the job done. However, you cannot deploy the two blades at the same time due to the issue of safety. It is light in weight, and the grip handle is satisfactory as well. No other basic features form part of the knife.
10. OLFA 5003 L-1 Review
For the classical purists who are looking for a professional grade knife, which can handle tough and deep cuts, this is the one that they should take a look at. It is quite simple and makes use of carbon steel blades, which are mounted on a stainless steel body. It is economical, but if you do not have tough work at hand, you are unlikely to find a use for this knife. There are no fancy features, which form a part of it. Its ergonomic is simple as well.
What Is a Utility Knife Used For?
Learning about the uses of a workplace utility knife is essential in completing any task around the house or the office, and helping you take better care of this ingenious tool. While your workplace utility knife is sharp enough to allow you to cut paper, open cardboard boxes, and cut drywall; it is not fitted for slicing meat, fruits, and vegetables. This is because utility knife blades are easily dulled and exposure to moisture can cause them to rust quickly. They are not made of high-carbon steel as kitchen knives are, so it’s better to leave the slicing of meat and vegetables to your kitchen knives.
Another striking difference between a kitchen knife and the workplace utility knife is that kitchen knives can be sharpened.
Your workplace utility knife, sometimes commonly called a box cutter, does not get sharpened. When the blades get dulled, as they easily do, they get replaced instead of sharpened. It’s pretty easy to replace. Some box cutter blade can be removed in a click of a button, others require a screwdriver. Most utility knives require a Phillips head instead of a flat head screwdriver to loosen and remove the blade, so it’s best to have these in your toolbox as well. All of these can be found in most hardware stores or at a Harbor Freight Tools near you. Harbor Freight Tools often have a bunch of gizmos offered at “ridiculously low prices,” from kitchen knives to utility knives to screwdrivers and utility knife blades; so it’s best to check them out from time to time.
What to Consider When Buying a Utility Knife
When choosing the best utility knife to complete your toolbox, the most important thing to consider first is its use. What are you going to use your utility knife for? Maybe you are a frequent online shopper and need to open boxes regularly, so you would probably use it for this purpose more often.
If so, then you probably want something you can conveniently carry in your pocket in case the delivery guy catches you outside the house and you can’t wait to get inside to fetch a box cutter from your drawer. A folding utility knife is a better alternative to the heavier pocket knife. It folds neatly to fit into your pocket and unfolds into a full-sized box cutter that you can comfortably hold in your hand. The Stanley utility knife, for instance, boasts of its quality, ergonomic handle design, and ability to fold into a pocket-sized tool that does not weigh down your jacket pockets. There is no doubt that the Stanley folding utility knife is one of the best knives available today.
You will also want to check the product’s safety features. The razor blade used in your box cutter is one of the sharpest tools, and therefore dangerous. Getting one with a retractable blade and a protective hand guard would be a good idea.
In addition to considering your use for a utility knife, and its safety features, you need to consider your budget. You want to make sure you get your money’s worth in every purchase you make.
Final Review of Best Utility Knife
Choosing a utility knife need not be overwhelming. With the help of this extensive utility knife review, you should be well on your way to getting the best utility knife for your needs. Who needs to run to the kitchen to fetch a freshly sharpened blade to open boxes and packaging when one can keep a great utility knife in his pocket?