A utility knife is quite possibly one of the most widely used tools you can add to your arsenal, so why not make sure you get the right tool for you? From cutting boxes to scoring drywall to installing carpet, finding and using the best utility knife or razor can save you time and effort.
Whatever the task, you'll have a knife with the speed and power you need. Along with the hammer, pencil, and measuring tape, next comes a utility knife for the coveted "don't go anywhere without it" spot in my tool bag. But there are many options and preferences when it comes to shopping for a razor. Foldable? rugged? adjustable? Read on for our top picks.
Best Folding Utility Knife
Milwaukee Fastback Flip 48-22-1901
I'm not sure if this was your first love, or something else. Our favorite folding utility knife remains the Milwaukee Fastback Flip. This best folding utility knife doesn’t have extra blade storage (other versions do), but it opens easily and blade changes are super quick. Best of all, the belt clip is functional and it slides in and out of your pocket or tool bag with ease. It wasn't the first pocket utility knife, but it might still be the best. Get it online or at your favorite Milwaukee dealer for about $10.
The best retractable utility knife
The LENOX 20353SSRK1 Retractable Utility Knife features a simple design we love. You can quickly change blades without forcing you to open the handle. You can also open the utility knife to store or retrieve up to five blades in it. On the front end, the titanium-plated steel bits stay together and give you a durable groove to support the blade as you cut.
Sometimes a simple design can do the trick. Why complicate things? This retractable utility knife even includes three LENOX Gold Titanium Edge utility blades—all for about $16.50.
Aside from the minor annoyance of not including a pocket clip, the Gerber Prybrid knife impressed us with its style and simplicity. It actually packs quite a bit of functionality into a small space. More – and it does it without sacrificing durability. You get a real utility blade for slicing and a notch for thread trimming. The rear end of the tool allows you to pry, drive screws, strip wire and open bottles. It's kind of like carrying around a toolbox that fits in your pocket, and it's only $30. It's also one of the best DIY gifts.
Best Break-Off Utility Knife
OLFA Aluminum Utility Knife
These OLFA aluminum utility knives come in two styles. The OLFA MPX-AL uses a self-locking slider, while the Japanese-made OLFA MXP-L uses a metal ratchet to lock and unlock.
They also use snap-off blades – an invention by OLFA. Each blade is divided into 8 sections, so it's like having 4 trapezoidal blades, no need to flip them over. For less than $30, these knives give you the convenience of quality and always-sharp.
Best Fixed Blade Utility Knife
Stanley Rotary Lock
We chose the Stanley 10-399 Rotary Lock as our best fixed blade utility knife for several reasons. First and foremost, the twist lock feature allows you to quickly turn the handle open from the center. This allows you to access the spare blade storage compartment inside and replace the blades when they become dull. Tool-free operation is an advantage over thread-based handle systems. It's almost unbelievable that this knife is available for less than $4 at many retailers. Get one for your whole crew.
The Best Drywall Utility Knife
Irwin Drywall Utility Knife – 1774103
A good drywall knife emphasizes stability and ergonomics. With the Irwin 1774103, the fixed blade keeps the knife stable without worrying about it retracting during the cut. You also get quick and easy blade changes along with onboard blade storage. We also like how you can choke the front of this knife for better control when dragging the cut towards you. In the end, $13 is a great price for a practical tool-free drywall utility knife that should last for many years.
Best Pocket Utility Knife
Milwaukee 48-22-1500 Fastback Compact Utility Knife
The Milwaukee 48-22-1500 Fastback is a great pocket utility knife. More compact than the original Fastback, it fits better in a trouser pocket or clipped to the loop of your favorite tool belt. It retains the push-to-flip feature and tool-less blade change. It even has a small lanyard hole for tethering. For less than $9, you won't find a better EDC (everyday carry) pocket utility knife.
Best utility knife for cutting carpet
Crain Rotating Carpet Knife 726H1
A carpet knife must be at the correct angle to allow you to cut quickly and accurately. You want a utility knife with a fixed blade and tool-free blade changes. The $16 Crain 726 Carpet Knife arrives. It's not fancy, it's fast, and the swivel body opens quickly, allowing you to change the blade as needed to keep the edge sharp. It also supports a variety of blade extension positions, but clamps tightly so you won't slip.
- The Stanley 10-525 Adjustable Carpet Knife ($10.99) retracts the blade easily. Crain simply offers a simpler knife with fewer parts.
Best utility knife for electricians
Klein Cable Skinning Utility Knife (44218)
Obviously, you can pick up any standard utility knife if you want. However, a nice olecranon blade is still hard to beat. For that, we love the Klein Cable Skinning Utility Knife. You can swap out the falconer for a counter blade – but both are replaceable. This makes it a true utility knife that you never need to sharpen. Just charge it to the job site.
When we tested the Klein Cable Stripping Utility Knife, we stripped over 50 cables with a single blade. The 44218 sells for less than $22, and a 3-pack of blades is about $10. This should let you strip the cable for quite some time.
best roof utility knife
Stanley Fatmax Xtreme 10-789 Dual Blades
Why carry two knives when one is enough? The Stanley Fatmax Xtreme 10-789 Dual Blade Utility Knife can carry both a standard utility blade and a hook blade. This covers most anything you're likely to encounter on a roof. They also make changing the blades easy with a single release button on top. For less than $16, it's like two knives in one.
The most unusual (and handy) utility knives and scrapers
Toughbuilt Scraper Utility Knife
The Toughbuilt Retractable Scraper Utility Knife is the first tool we've seen with this design, and it's very useful. We often need a scraper, but that usually requires finding a separate tool.
You can get the Toughbuilt Retractable Scraper Utility Knife for under $20 at Lowe's. It includes 5 (proprietary) blades. And when you need to buy more, you can pick up a pack of 30 for less than $10.
Best Utility Knife Blades
Irwin Bi-Metal Utility Knife Blade
We don't like to skimp on utility blades. The best utility blades should last long enough to get the job done without you needing to replace them prematurely. Our favorite is the Irwin Bi-Metal Utility Blade. Available in packs of 100, they can be used as general purpose blades for working on wood, plastic or drywall.
Irwin manufactures these blades using welded spring steel and high speed steel construction, which helps prevent shattering under pressure. We've used these blades and they tend to be sharper than the cheaper bulk carbon steel blades. You can buy the set for $27 — about $0.37 per blade.
best utility knife brand
In our experience, the best utility knife brands include OLFA, Milwaukee Tool, Stanley, DeWalt, and Lenox. We can also extend this with professional brands like Klein and Crain or inexpensive brands like Husky and WorkPro. Many manufacturers make utility knives. Sticking with the top brands gives you a tool that has probably been field-tested by hundreds, if not thousands, of professionals.
While warranties are considerations for more expensive power tools, we generally don't want our utility knife to last a decade. In our work experience, even the best utility knife is a consumable. You certainly want the best tool for the job, and you don't want to overpay. Ultimately, however, the best tools are those that help you get the job done quickly and accurately.
Which utility knife do I need?
When looking for the perfect utility or razor, ask yourself some of these questions:
- How am I going to use it?
- What are the basic types of utility knives?
- Which blade type is best for me?
- Do I need to use security mechanisms?
- What type of blade changing mechanism do I want?
How am I going to use this knife?
Depending on your application, you may prefer a pocket utility knife. If you experience blades like there's no tomorrow, you'll want something with plenty of blade storage. This may sound like a simple question, but realize that utility knives are made in a specific way for specific tasks.
For those of you who are laying carpet, you want a knife that is always on hand and allows for quick, painless blade changes (you'll be doing that at about – oh, I don't know – a minute lol. ) If you just want something for general use (opening packages, sharpening pencils, etc.), consider a standard knife. Models with retractable blades make it easy to remove a new blade when needed.
Alternatively, a folding razor might be the ticket for those who want something different. Alternatively, consider a pocket knife with a segmented, split blade. Those also fit this category. In either case, it's important to match the knife to your intended use—or plan to pick up several different tools.
Basic Types of Utility Knives
There are three basic types of utility knives. If you want the best utility knife for your application, learn about each. I'm sure you can think of many more categories that might deserve their own, but for simplicity we'll include descriptions for these four:
These knives are the most common utility variety and feature a variable depth sliding blade mechanism. Actuation is usually via a button pressed with the thumb to expose the knife and control the depth of the blade (some knives are all or nothing).
Most retractable knives can accept multiple blade types, but this varies by manufacturer. The simple version has a straight handle and some kind of screw for detaching the device and loading a spare blade, while the advanced model may have a more ergonomic shape and offer quick-change blades.
Some safety knives automatically retract or force you to pull the trigger to extend the blade. OSHA requires these tools to be used on certain job sites to meet various safety standards. Most users don't like to use them because they violate every rule of ergonomics. But when you must use them, make sure you use the tools that help you work as efficiently as possible.
straight edge knife
These knives are perfect for heavy duty use and precision cutting. Since the blade is locked in one position, the knife does not exhibit the "blade tilt" or side-to-side wobble that is common with standard telescoping knives. Be sure to store these knives carefully and even remove the blades when not in use since the blades do not retract.
These knives are most commonly found in the carpet industry, and they can often accept many different types of blades. In addition to the usual full-size knives, some hobby knives are also designed with fixed blades, which can support ultra-sharp blades of various sizes and shapes for precise cutting.
folding utility knife
Variations of fixed blade knives include folding knives. They have the stability of a fixed blade and the folding protection of a retractable blade. They also give you a more compact footprint.
broken blade knife
Snap-off blade knives have segmented blades that are snapped off in segments once the old blades are too blunt to provide a brand new edge. They allow you to keep cutting without changing blades. These knives are starting to cater to enthusiasts who don't need heavy duty use. OLFA now makes a segmented utility knife with a heavy-duty snap-off blade to withstand jobsite use. Most blades have 8 to 13 segments.
Types of Utility Knife Blades
There are several blade types to make each type of job easier. Here are some of the more common styles you can buy:
Standard Utility Blade
These are the typical trapezoidal razor blades you see on full size utility knives. Their trapezoidal shape gives you a sharp edge for cutting materials of varying thickness and composition.
Dot Utility Blade
Other than the blunt point, these blades are identical to standard utility blades. This avoids accidental stab wounds while still allowing for maximum cutting capacity on a wide variety of materials. Some workplaces may require these for safety reasons.
These blades work great on linoleum or carpet and can cut through these and similar materials quickly. These blades come in a variety of sizes and can also include blunt ends or single/double sided. A variation of this blade is the linoleum blade, which is usually single-sided, with a single arched blade hook.
These blades are usually rectangular and double-sided. Professionals use them with specialized stationary utility knives that accept them.
Break-off blades include standard wedge blades for small hobby knives and heavy-duty segmented blades. Some manufacturers offer these in different thicknesses and materials, so be aware of the application and material you need to cut.
These are almost always sold as a separate system, but they are worth mentioning because they are widely used in construction for cutting various materials such as cement board. These blades come in many shapes and sizes. They allow you to score materials designed to snap off rather than cut with a blade.
Best Utility Knife Features
Look for the following features in a utility knife or razor to enhance and expand on the standard features you'd expect to find in a knife. Sure, you can get upright blades with no frills, but there are some nifty features that make using a utility knife more useful.
A new trend is to think of the standard utility knife as a Kershaw pocket knife. As far as we can tell, this was pioneered by a company called Superknife and then quickly phased out by many other manufacturers. Instead of a sharp steel blade, you use a removable razor blade that locks into the folding arm.
'It usually locks away when not in use and fits nicely in a tool bag or pocket. There are also utility knives with handles that bend but don't fold all the way. This is mostly a matter of ergonomics, these knives are otherwise similar to standard non-folding knives.
Quick Blade Change Mechanism
While some people prefer "old school" utility knives that require a flathead screwdriver to split the body in half to change the blade, our personal favorites are models that use a simple button to change the blade.
With the push of a button, you can flip the razor blade over to the new side and continue using it. Other knives have a spring-loaded mechanism that rotates or separates the knives and allows quick blade changes.
Onboard blade storage
Most utility knives offer internal blade storage, but more and more knives have come up with more convenient ways to access those blades. Old knives had to be disassembled, while new knives feature a quick-release compartment for easier access to five or more spare blades.
Some knives have a small cutout in the body that allows access to a small area of the blade behind the head. This is great for cutting rope and twine without having to adjust the knife. It is safe and easy to use.
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