Looking at a knife, one often thinks- which is which? While the components remain the same, knives are categorized based on size and design. A utility knife, according to our research, is a cutting equipment boasting a sharp blade which can be retracted into a typically metal handle. If you have a large piece of meat to slice, you will reach for a larger knife. For opening a letter or cutting up cardboard, you will reach for a small knife. This small, trustable knife is like a jack of all trades and comes in handy all the time. Therefore, it is referred to as the utility knife.
Kitchen Knife vs. Utility Knife
Utility knives come in different varieties and shapes, and you buy one that suits your requirements in the best way. Measuring between 4 to 9 inches in length, these knives fall somewhere between a fruit knife and a chef’s knife. A kitchen knife comes with a long and smooth blade while the utility knife is serrated. You can cut a loaf of bread or a roll easily with a utility knife.
The small size of these knives makes them the perfect candidate for short precision cuts. If the handle is designed ergonomically, you can make a desired cut with the small blade of this knife. Kitchen knives have the flexibility of going back and forth but lack in the size department. Thus, the utility knife must be present in your home’s junk drawer or kitchen drawer at all times. Where an average knife cannot reach, this trustable knife jumps in to save the day!
Utility Knife Blades
Just like a car’s power comes from its engine, a knife’s strength comes from its blade. The blade is the single most crucial aspect of a utility knife, and you can find it in three varieties in the market:
- Fixed blade
- Retractable blade
- Breakaway blade
In fixed blade utility knives, the blade is ‘fixed,’ so it won’t move out of the handle or adjust to different lengths. Fixed blades are always exposed, which poses a danger of accidental cuts when rummaging through the drawer.
On the other hand, fixed blades are attached firmly to the handle, and this makes the knife sturdier. These blades will not spring away or get loosened during operation. Folding utility knives are also included in this category because they have a fixed blade. You can neatly fold the knife into its handle when the job is done, and it does not pose a threat to your safety. Folded knives are a standard portable option for outdoor trips or carry-ons.
A retractable blade is the most common option available and used today. It is a popular choice of DIY-ers and service personnel. This knife has a safety cap and a retracting mechanism to fix length. There is a button or slider that you can use with the thumb while holding the knife.
You must have seen the most basic version where the blade rolls back and forth, and the casing is around the blade. The only issue with this design is that the blade wiggles during making cuts and may snap if not fixed properly.
Breakaway blade utility knives are different from other counterparts because of different segments. If the outer blade breaks or wears down, you can snap it off with pliers, and a brand-new sharp blade comes on. A typical breakaway blade has 10 to 15 segments in it for replacement.
However, because the segment can suddenly break away, these knives post a constant safety threat. That’s why; it is advised to use breakaway blade knives for making lightweight cuts on soft materials and not stress the blade more. Some knives have specialty blades used to cut materials like carpets and linoleum. Hooked or rounded blades are also available in utility knives that mostly serve a specific function.
Utility Knife Handles
The knife handles to determine the efficiency of a blade and ensure safety during operation. To use a utility knife, you should choose a handle that suits you well.
Some standard utility knife handles are made of the following materials:
- Metal or Fiberglass handles which are the sturdiest and most trustable
- Plastic handle knives found at a low price are the least sturdy
The shape of your utility knife’s handle is the second most crucial factor. Common handle shapes include:
- Straight handles for fixed blade knives
- Ergonomically shaped handles for retractable knives for more comfort and control
- Slightly curved handles for a tighter grip and protect the hand from slipping onto the blade
- Always wear a pair of gloves before using any utility knife
- Older utility knives require you to take out half of the handle and screw it back on after replacing the blade. New versions have a quick swap button that makes a ‘click’ sound when the new blade is attached, and the handle is locked.
The retracting mechanism is a key aspect of modern utility knives. Although the primary design varies from model to model, a few distinct features should be common. For instance, the sliding mechanism should be smooth, allowing the blade to retract and extend comfortably. It should also be present in an area where the users’ fingers stay away from the blade, ensuring protection. Lastly, you should be able to house the blade in position whether it’s in a retracted or extended position (this feature also enables users to avoid physical injury).
Did you know that blade storage is another crucial feature in utility knives? You’ll discover that a few units can accommodate a couple of blades, whereas others have storage space for more than 5. This integrated space allows users to reduce the time needed for finishing tasks because they can just pop up the blade rather than spending time looking for one in external storage.
Knife-related injures aren’t that uncommon. A slip of a finger can result in a deep cut which could further translate into medical bills. As a result, it is crucial to choose a model that takes common safety issues into account. For example, auto-retractable blades ensure the retraction will occur at a slow pace as the blade is pressed against something or upon the click of a button. When you receive blades in such designs, you don’t have to worry about accidental cuts or injuries because that allows you to enjoy high safety levels.
What Else to Look for In a Utility Knife?
There are a few other things that you should be mindful of when making a utility knife purchase decision. The grip should be comfortable – that’s because you need to hold the knife properly while performing a specific task. We recommend ergonomic, non-slip handles because they allow you to hold the knife comfortably while reducing the chance of accidents.
The knife should contain extra perks – if you’re looking for a versatile utility knife, search for one that contains additional features. Some nice-to-haves include gut hook and wire stripper.
Hand hole – Let’s not forget that a lot of us have the need to use a utility knife on a consistent basis. This is where hang hole sort of feature can make a difference. You can rely on this feature to hang the essential from a belt loop or another similar accessory.
Size and Weight
A lot of utility knife guides out there miss out on this important aspect. Because utility knifes are known to be portable and compact (so you can carry them anywhere without too much hassle), smaller-sized knives are usually preferred over bigger sizes. However, be careful when analyzing the weight of the knife. That’s because lighter knives can easily break. You don’t want to go with something too heavy, either, because the knife will then become uncomfortable to use. It’s crucial to achieve a balance between the two ends.
Best Utility Knives You Can Buy
There is a wide selection of utility knives in most stores. We have listed some of the best products for you to consider when searching.
OLFA’S heavy-duty utility knife has a fiberglass cover with an anti-slip cushion. There is a small metal pick on the other side of the knife to open cans or remove switch plates. The blade locks into position with an automatic blade lock.
FC’s pocket utility knife has an anodized aluminum jacket to bear substantial impacts. Moreover, the carbon steel blade is strong enough to make deep cuts and offer flexibility is usage. With the press of a button, you can fold the knife and secure the blade. This product comes with five extra blades for replacement.
This retractable knife comes with a rounded handle, which is ergonomically designed. The blade retracts automatically for safety reasons, and you can swish it back on. There is a safety lock in the knife as well as a blade adjustment option. Cosco’s knife has a squeeze to open mechanism.
HDX’s utility knife offers three positions to set the blade’s length. So, you can use this knife for opening envelopes as well as cutting carpets. Its comfortable grip handle has a rubber coating to enable stronger hold. Three extra blades can be stored in this knife’s compartment, so you will never run out of options during work. This utility knife comes in orange and green color.
The Fiskar’s pro utility knife is an all-purpose knife with breakaway blades. You can change the blade with no loose parts, with the help of an integrated segment snapper. Their CarbonMax blade lasts 24X more than other competitors and accommodates all utility blades.
At the end of the day, utility knives serve a range of purposes, and the list above contains various ones that’ll protect you from looming injuries. Ideally, go for a knife that is durable, cuts well, and is simple to use. These are the key things you need to be aware of when buying a utility knife.