No toolbox is complete without a utility knife. Whether it features a retractable, fixed or breakaway blade, a utility knife will undoubtedly prove to be one of your most indispensable tools. This guide teaches you about the different types of blades available and their ideal use.
When using utility knives, always wear eye protection and make sure the blade is properly seated and locked into place before cutting. Keep retractable blades sheathed when not in use. Look for blades with rubber nonslip handles to provide a better grip.
Finally, when cutting through thick materials, make more than one pass if needed. Use sharp blades only because dull blades can easily slip. This guide explains more about the different types of utility knives.
Retractable vs. Fixed-Blade vs. Breakaway Knives
Choose between several different types of blades based on your needs.
A retractable knife is a good choice for general or everyday use. This type of knife:
- Allows you to quickly and easily adjust the sharpness and cutting depth of the blades.
- Can be fully retracted into the handle when not in use.
- Features a thumb-operated slider that lets the blade slide all the way out and then lock into place. More advanced knives allow you to lock the blade into multiple positions.
- Has a straight or ergonomically curved knife body to fit your hand.
A fixed-blade knife is ideal for heavy-duty cutting jobs. It also features:
- Blades that lock securely into place.
- Greater stability for tough jobs.
- A wider variety of blades for more versatile use.
- Different handle sizes and widths.
A breakaway-blade knife is housed in a brightly colored plastic casing and features segmented blades that can be broken off in sections to provide a fresh, sharp edge whenever you need it. This type of knife is good for:
- Tasks that constantly dull or otherwise affect blades. There are usually eight-to-thirteen segments to break off.
- Light- and medium-duty cutting tasks.
- General use tasks. This knife does not accept different blades for specialized tasks.
In addition to standard utility blades, there are a number of other specialized blades designed for different tasks including carpet, hobby and craft, hook and linoleum knives.
Personalize your utility knife to your needs by choosing from features such as self-retraction, hang holes and safety shields.
- Folding fixed-blade: Knives fold up so they are not exposed and are easier to fit in your pocket or tool pouch.
- Self-retraction: Requires you to keep a button depressed while you are cutting. Once you release the button, the blade automatically retracts helping to prevent accidents.
- Blade changes: Blades stored internally are easy to change quickly and efficiently. Use guides or magnets to keep blades in place since loose blades can dull over time.
- Hang hole: A hole at the end of a utility knife makes it easy to hang on a nail or to run a lanyard through for easy access.
- String-cutting feature: A small slit in the body of the knife located just behind the head of the blade, ideal for sliding strings and twine through for quick, easy cuts.
- Safety shield: Keeps your hand safe from abrasive surfaces and hazardous materials.