A popular tool since the 19th century, the utility knife is one of the most useful tools you can have in your arsenal. Whether it’s used for daily work or just the occasional task, versatile utility knives are a handy tool to keep on hand and can be used to accomplish a wide array of jobs. Today, with an enormous variety of knife styles and brands to choose from, it can be overwhelming to select the right utility knife. To help, we’ve summarized three popular styles of utility knives to help you narrow down which type is best suited to your needs and lifestyle.
Retractable Utility Knife
Retractable utility knives offer an appealing combination of convenience and safety, making this style of knife a fitting choice for anyone who plans to use their utility knife on a daily basis. These essential utility knives are great general purpose tools that can be used regularly on professional construction sites, for home improvement projects, or simply for cutting open packaged deliveries.
A retractable utility knife has a manual or automatic slider on its exterior that allows the blade to be extended and retracted before locking the blade into place. More advanced retractable utility knives may feature multiple blade extension positions that allow the user to choose the blade’s depth. This is a great multipurpose feature, as it allows you to make deep or shallow cuts, depending upon the task and the material you’re working with. When not in use, a retractable utility knife’s blade can be fully withdrawn into the handle to avoid making any accidental cuts.
Make sure you understand the difference between manual retraction (the user manually retracts the blade) and automatic retraction (where the blade retracts immediately into the knife’s housing as soon as you release the slider).
Some retractable utility knives are also ergonomically designed so that the user can continually use the knife without developing hand or wrist strain—an important feature for professionals that use their utility knife daily and over long periods of time.
Retractable utility knives, also commonly referred to as box cutters, often feature blades that come in a variety of shapes for different tasks. Most retractable utility knives allow for blade replacement, permitting the user to switch out the knife’s blade for specialized tasks. Additional blades can often be stored in the knife’s handle for convenience.
Utility knives most often feature steel blades, which are great for making precise, sharp cuts. Steel blades can be sharpened as necessary, and should be regularly cleaned after use to avoid corrosion. Some retractable utility knives feature ceramic blades, which are often just as effective and more durable as steel but don’t require additional care since ceramic does not rust. Look for newer, safer designs for blade edges that keep all the effectiveness of dangerously sharp knives but lower the risk of lacerations.
Folding Utility Knife
A classic knife style, the folding utility knife is a great option for those that want an effective knife on hand for occasional use. A folding utility knife consists of a blade that manually folds into its handle, allowing for convenient, portable, and safe storage both in your pocket or in your toolbox.
However, the folding style is more cumbersome than a retractable utility knife to frequently open and close. With that in mind, a folding utility knife may be a better fit for as-needed use. While a folding utility knife doesn’t allow the user to choose the depth of the blade as a retractable utility knife does, a folding utility knife offers more security since it has a much lower chance of accidental blade exposure and laceration.
Just like with retractable utility knives, folding knife utility blades can be sharpened and replaced when they eventually wear out. Many folding utility knives offer ergonomic designs that make the user’s grip more comfortable, preventing painful muscle strain.
Fixed Blade Utility Knife
A fixed blade utility knife is the pragmatic choice for outdoor tasks and heavy-duty projects thanks to its typically sturdy build and robust durability. Fixed blade utility knives offer better stability than the previously mentioned styles, and are therefore the best choice for tough jobs.
Fixed blade utility knives are available in a variety of sizes and are often used to cut tangled fishing lines, carve wood, cut through thick packaging material, skin game, trim flash from plastic components, and cut carpeting. These kinds of knives are built to last and can be sharpened to maintain their edge. These blades are sometimes thicker than retractable or folding utility knife blades and can be less susceptible to accidental bending or snapping. A fixed blade utility knife may allow for blade replacement, though not all offer this feature.
After reading through this brief guide, you hopefully have a clearer idea about which utility knife style is best suited to your needs. Whether you’re looking for a reliable and hardy tool or a handy knife to use on occasion, a utility knife is certainly an essential item to have on hand.