The utility blade is the fast friend of every handyman and DIY enthusiast. They’re pretty much indispensable for a lot of tasks and they take a lot less work to keep ready for hard tasks than a pocket knife.
Unfortunately, many seem to just go with a dollar store blade and don’t bother to invest to make a real choice when it comes time to choosing one of these knives. Make the investment in a quality razor knife, however, and you’ll never look back.
|3-pack Utility Knife Set||Sliding|
|Alltrade 150003 Auto-Loading||Button Press with Unique Mechanism|
|Vermont||Folding with Standard Knife Blade|
|Kobalt Utility Knife||Folding|
What is a Utility Knife?
- 3-pack Utility Knife Set Knife with Rubber Handle
- Alltrade 150003 Auto-Loading Squeeze Utility Knife
- Magnelex Folding Utility Knife
- Vermont Folding Utility Knife 2 in 1
- Kobalt Utility Knife
- What is a Utility Knife?
While there’s a few different types of utility knife around, we focused on razor knives as they tend to be much longer lasting and higher-quality than the razor ribbon strip “box cutters” which can be found cheaply pretty much anywhere.
A utility knife is made to be sharp and provide a clean cutting edge which will cut through nearly anything.
They do this by using a removable razor instead of the standard knife blade you see in most pocket knives.
They’re used very widely for different tasks. Around the home the primary uses will be on drywall, carpeting, and linoleum but they’re also useful for crafts involving thick, hard to cut materials like leather.
What are the Advantages of a Utility Knife?
The primary advantage offered by a utility knife over a standard blade is the fact that they use a razor instead of a permanent blade.
While a pocket knife can be used for many of the same tasks, the variation in blade shapes and sizes tend to make it a little bit more difficult and sharpening one takes a good amount of time.
Even the slowest utility knife will be quicker to switch a blade than it is to use a pass-through sharpener on a pocket knife blade.
The straight cutting edge provides some mechanical advantage when it comes to exerting downward pressure, but the real advantage lies for those who haven’t spent a lot of time with knives in that fashion. Simply put: it’s harder to draw a curved blade in a straight line.
Razor blades also tend to be quite a bit stiffer and thinner than a pocket knife, allowing you to cut through materials like drywall with a surprising amount of ease while remaining accurate.
Overall, they’re really just an essential part of the tool kit.
What Type of Utility Knives are There?
Most will fall into two categories: sliding or folding.
Sliding Utility Knives
Sliding knives are closer to a fixed blade.
They allow you to exert a greater amount of pressure on the knife without the fear of it breaking and some of them will allow you to lock the blade in multiple positions in order to get just the amount of blade you need at the moment out.
They’re preferred for uses where you have to exert a lot of pressure on the blade. Thick drywall, for instance, can be tough enough for a careless person to break a cheap folding utility knife.
They’re generally more suited for the tool bag than the pocket, however, which makes them unpopular with a lot of people. Those which have a quick release mechanism should just be dropped in a pocket.
Folding Utility Knives
Folding knives usually follow the familiar pattern of a pocket knife, and most of them function in roughly the same way. Essentially, you unfold them and you’ll have your razor in your hand.
As a whole they tend to be lighter, allowing for more agility for precise tasks but the main reason people use them is portability. Almost invariably they will have a pocket clip and there’s no risk of one opening in your pocket.
What to Look for in a Utility Knife?
There’s only a couple of things that you’ll need to keep an eye on in order to make sure you end up with a good utility knife, but they’re very important at the end of the day.
The main thing that you need to be on the lookout for when you’re choosing a utility knife is the construction of the body. Everything else about them is really convenience.
A well-built utility knife body will hold together longer. Most people will end up spending more on blades over time than they do on knives, so don’t cheap out here.
The ergonomics of the handle are very important as well. Utility knives should be able to be used with a lot of finesse so that you can use them for a lot of different tasks.
For a sliding knife, this is really the only concern unless the knife has a truly unique mechanism.
Depending on how often you use pocket knives, this can be an important factor. A lot of us like to be able to open and close a knife one handed and a liner lock is the best way to do that.
Locks on the back of the body of the knife are also acceptable for most people.
Sliding locks are fine for most people as well, but make sure that the knife is locked in place before you begin to use it.
Textured grips are a nice thing to have, especially if you’re working in hot conditions. This is different from ergonomics, but having a knife slip out of your hands isn’t good for anyone.
Rubberized grips are ideal for most people but they aren’t something to trade in for at the expense of quality in other areas.
While a standard razor works quite well for most tasks, some people will undoubtedly want to make their knives even more suited for the job at hand.
Most utility knives will take both double sided razors and hook blades without any modification.
Straight edged razors are shaped like a trapezoid with a sharpened bottom and they’re truly the ideal for most tasks that you might find yourself working at. They come in a variety of hardness ratings for different tasks, but there’s really no reason to get into all of that. Investing in a pack of 50 blades will last you for a long time regardless of what you’re doing.
Hook blades, on the other hand, are ideal for cutting material that comes in flexible sheets. Leather and flooring are two of the main uses, since they allow you to hook the blade over and pull towards you to provide an even, controlled cut without risking the material underneath.
A utility knife is something that everyone should have in their tool box or junk drawer. They really are that useful. If you’re planning on any kind of DIY work, ditch the plastic junk and invest in a real utility knife. You’ll quickly find out it’s a small price to pay for the convenience you’ll be afforded.