Whether you are opening Amazon boxes all day, cutting insulation, or even cutting the tough tendons in a piece of meat, having the right tool for the job can make or break your outlook on life. You might be saying to yourself, “why should I care about utility knives?”. Well, the truth is that they are much more useful than most people think.
Webster’s dictionary defines a utility knife as a knife designed for general use, or specifically, a cutting tool having a sharp replaceable blade that can be concealed inside the handle.
Regardless of what definition you read, utility knives can mean different things depending on who you ask. Technically, utility means something useful or designed for use. So saying you have a utility knife could mean a chef’s knife, a switch blade, a straight razor, a box cutter, or whatever cuts.
So, whatever you use a knife for, you can call it a utility knife because it is useful for that particular job. Now that we have decided that anything can be a utility knife let’s talk about what is commonly considered a utility knife.
In the United States, when someone says they are using a utility knife the first thing most people think of is a carpenters knife or a box cutter. This has become the common understanding of what a utility knife is, so for the purpose of this article this will be what we are talking about.
One of the most useful features of a utility knife is having the ability to replace the blades. If you carry a regular knife every day and actually use it, you quickly realize how dull it can become. And when your knife gets dull it usually ends up only being useful to poke holes or whittle little sticks.
If you carry a utility knife every day, you don’t have to worry about sharpening the blade. You can beat the blade to death and just replace it at the end of the day. No sharpening or fretting over getting a nick in the blade involved. Nice, clean, and simple.
On top of how easy a utility knife is to keep sharp, most foldable knives also come with bottle openers, screwdrivers, and other features as part of their handles. So you have a very lightweight knife with a literal razor-sharp blade as well as a way to turn screws and open bottles. As far as versatility goes, you can’t get much better than that.
Unfortunately, durability is a factor that must be considered. A regular drop-point foldable pocket knife will definitely outlast a utility knife. When faced with the choice to take a pocket knife or a utility knife into the wild for a month long hunting excursion you might not want to depend on a utility knife and it’s flimsy blade.
Know what your use will be and base your decision on that use. For some it makes more sense to carry a utility knife when faced with constantly opening packages or having to cut various things here and there.
- Here Are the Best Utility Knives
- 1. Milwaukee Fastback 3 (Editor’s Choice)
- 2. Fiskars Pro Utility Knife
- 3. FC Folding Utility Knife
- 4. Gerber EAB Lite Pocket Knife (Best Value)
- 5. Husky Folding Sure-Grip
- 6. Holtzman Utility Knife
- 7. DEWALT Utility Knife
- 8. WORKPRO Folding Utility Knife with Wooden Handle
- 9. WORKPRO Metal Handle
- 10. Sheffield Light-Weight Utility Knife
- 11. Craftsman Lockback
- What to Look for in a Utility Knife (Buying Guide)
Here Are the Best Utility Knives
1. Milwaukee Fastback 3 (Editor’s Choice)
Estimated Price: $26
My Review: I’ve tested dozens of utility knives over the years and this is still my favorite.
Opening the knife requires you to hit a release button on the side. It isn’t spring loaded so you have to give it a little wrist flick in order to open it with one hand. But it swings open smoothly and locks into place with an audible click.
The blade holder has a quick release button and makes it super easy and fast to change blades. At the bottom of the blade holder, there is a notch that reveals a small section of the blade. This is great for stripping wire up to 10 gauge thickness.
The knife feels really good in the hand when cutting. The finger notch and overall handle design lock your hand in and prevent slipping or turning.
I really like that you can use this knife without even opening it. It has a gut hook built into the handle so when the knife is folded, you can use the slot to cut. The handle itself is very stout and you get no blade wiggle when it folds out. Since we’re talking about Milwaukee, it is painted in what should be everyone’s favorite color (red).
At about 5 inches in length, it is identical in length to my EDC folding knife so I can carry this thing without even noticing any difference.
- One hand opening with release/lock button
- Wire stripper on the blade holder
- Tool free blade changes (hit the button and slide one in)
- Wire frame belt clip
- All metal construction
2. Fiskars Pro Utility Knife
Estimated Price: $13
My Review: Fiskars is best known for their scissors so they know a thing or two about cutting. This thing is kind of a beast. It is built like a tank and like most tanks means it is big an heavy. Not to say that is a bad thing but most people don’t want to feel a heavy object banging around in their pocket all day. But you do get used to it after a while and in the scope of things, it isn’t that much bigger than most large EDC folding knives.
I did have trouble getting the clip to open up when I was sliding it into my pocket. The belt/pocket clip is recessed a little bit and the tip isn’t angled enough to get purchase on your belt or pocket. It doesn’t take much to fix though, just grab some plyers and bend it up just a little. Other than that, the clip is super stout. It applies a good amount of tension and really grabs onto your pocket.
The shape of the knife is pretty cool. It really does look like a skinny pistol grip and fits into your hand like one. You really can comfortably grip this knife in a couple of different positions and still get a firm hold. It also helps that most of the handle is coated in some kind of silicon which really helps get a good grip.
I absolutely love how easily the blade opens. Just depress the release peg and flick the wrist and it will swing out and lock into place. When it is locked out, there is no blade or handle movement at all. And changing the blade is as simple as pressing the dual lock button and sliding out the blade.
Although this is a utility knife, it seems Fiskars didn’t compromise on the design just because they could. You can see right away that it is a quality design. When the knife is folded, it looks like it was made to stay that way. When you fold the knife out it looks like it is a fixed blade knife. My point in saying that is no matter what the knife is doing, it looks like it is supposed to be that way. And when it is folded you can’t even tell what it is, which adds to the coolness factor.
If you can get past the orange color and odd design then this knife is one of the best out there. And really, is the design all that strange? It looks like a spaceship or bullet train and that is pretty awesome.
- The color orange
- Dual locking blade release
- One-handed opening
- Handle meant for multiple grips
- Reinforced metal handle
3. FC Folding Utility Knife
Estimated Price: $14
My Review: This knife features an aluminum body and comes with a holster. It is very easy to open with one hand when using the wrist flick. All you need to do is hit the thumb release button and pop it out there.
Blade changes are a dream with this knife. Just press the button on the spine of the blade holder and slide your old blade out. When the blade is locked out there is a tiny bit of movement but it isn’t something to worry about. Just one of those things you look at when you drop a lot of dough on a regular folding knife.
It is very ergonomic when folded out but when it is closed it has the “shark fin” thing going on. Although it is not as bad as some. In the case of this knife, the side that is hinged is well hidden in the handle so only the blade end protrudes more than the rest.
- Anodized aluminum frame
- Quick change blade removal
- Knife holster and replacement blades included
- Belt clip
- Lanyard loop
4. Gerber EAB Lite Pocket Knife (Best Value)
Estimated Price: $13
My Review: This thing is awesome! It is as long as my thumb and as wide as 2 fingers and the thickness of $.75 in quarters. When the blade is closed it seems to cam shut. Not just closed but feels magnetic. The body is made out of stainless steel and will probably be washed a couple of times because it is so light weight and forgettable. When it locks out it feels very sturdy and is easy to get a good strong grip on the handle. I don’t feel like it will fold in on me when I start cutting.
It takes a small flathead screwdriver to swap blades. The rear portion of the blade is held in place by a piece of metal that also serves as an index point to let you know when your fingers are approaching the business end. I can get a tight three-finger grip on the handle but could wrap 4 fingers around the handle with no problem and still know where my fingers are in relation to the blade. The pocket clip/money clip is hefty and gives you the comfort of knowing your knife won’t fly out of your pocket no matter how many handstands you do when you take your Instagram pictures on the edge of a cliff. Man, how bad would it suck to drop your knife off a cliff when doing a selfie handstand?
The clip end of the knife can be used as a flat head screwdriver unless the screw is countersunk a whole lot. It doesn’t seem to be made to do this but there are enough places on this thing to unscrew something without having to use the blade.
Overall, this is a solid little knife. It doesn’t make noise or feel flimsy and loose when I shake it. It fits in the pocket very nicely, almost too nicely. You will have to use two hands to open this knife and this is really the only annoyance.
- Pocket clip doubles as a money clip
- 5.1 inches when fully opened
- 2.5 ounces
- Handle made of stainless steel
5. Husky Folding Sure-Grip
Estimated Price: $25 for 3
My Review: If you are a Husky tool fan this is the knife for you. Husky is known for making some good tools and this knife is no exception. There is absolutely no “slop” in the blade when it is locked out. The handle is made of stainless steel and comes in various colors. The checkered pattern also give you a confident grip even in wet conditions.
As far as opening goes, one-handed operation isn’t impossible but there is a good bit of resistance. As the knife is used, it gets easier to open with one hand so don’t lose hope.
Blade changes are easy with this knife, even with the scissor style method used. And if you are totally lost and can’t figure out how to do it, the instructions are stamped right on the blade holder. All you have to do is press the slider on the spine and swing down half of the blade holder. It takes a little longer than some of the other knives on the list but it is by no means a reason not to get this knife.
When the knife is folded, it does stick up quite a bit. I guess having the lock back style blade release gets in the way of the knife when folding it up. This is common with a lot of these knives and one of the reasons I am not a big fan of them. It is just personal preference but I like my knives to have smooth lines and uniformity when they are closed up. When half of the knife blades sticks up like a shark’s fin it is kind of annoying. At least to me anyway. Again, this isn’t a complaint against this specific knife, just this design in general.
- Textured Handle
- Loop for a lanyard (if that’s your thing)
- Belt clip
- 10 extra blades
6. Holtzman Utility Knife
Estimated Price: $21
My Review: This is the only combo knife on the list. For around $20 you can’t beat what you get. At pretty much the same thickness as most of the other standard folding utility knives on this list it’s hard to imagine they fit another blade in there.
The features are pretty standard when it comes to the utility knife. It doesn’t open itself but it does open easily with one thumb. And the profile of this knife is very low and almost flush with the handle.
It isn’t as heavy as you might think being that it has multiple blades. The pocket clip is strong and it even comes with a screwdriver so you don’t have to put it on if you don’t want to. Included in the case is a small multitool as well.
Replacing blades isn’t as easy as pushing a button. This knife requires you to turn a thumb screw which doubles as the thumb post you use to unfold the knife.
As far as the pocket knife blade goes, I’m going to go out on a limb and say it isn’t made out of the best steel out there. That’s not to say it isn’t any good but just know you are going to get just a basic stainless blade. At least it is a combo blade with a serrated edge on the back half.
If you are having trouble deciding if you want to carry a utility knife or a regular pocket knife then this knife might help you make the decision to just carry both. Overall, this is another solid built knife. It doesn’t jiggle or have any slop when locked out (for either blade) and it comes in a good size with a good profile.
- 2 in 1 knife with a combo edge pocket knife blade
- Pocket clip
- Stainless steel
- Small utility knife included
- Comes in a gift box
7. DEWALT Utility Knife
Estimated Price: $10
My Review: Let’s get something out of the way first, I am a big DEWALT tool fan. This knife is just as good as all the other tools in their shed so don’t think for a second this is one of those cheap products big companies sometimes make to appeal to customers in different pay bands.
The yellow and black knife is unique in that it folds and also retracts it’s blade. When I first got this knife I was perplexed because the blade wasn’t in it. Or so it seemed. Finally I realized you had to press down the button and slide the knife forward. Just like every standard retractable utility blade I had ever used. Duh! It just didn’t click in my brain that a folding blade could also retract.
This feature allows the knife to be more compact. It is almost as short as the Gerber, although not nearly as thin. You can open it with one hand if you had to but it isn’t going to be as easy as the Fiskars or Milwaukee.
When the knife is open and blade retracted, there is a small gut hook that can make quick work of thin material and small wires. The retractable blade makes this knife one of the safer utility knives on the list.
Overall, the DEWALT is a very stout knife. And with the retractable blade, extra blade storage in the handle, and gut hook make it a great knife since so many folding utility knives don’t have the same features.
- Folding and retractable blade
- Quick blade change
- Blade storage in handle
- Belt clip
8. WORKPRO Folding Utility Knife with Wooden Handle
Estimated Price: $16
My Review: This knife has a rosewood and polished steel handle. It is a very pretty knife and hey, it is just a utility knife. The blade holder has a brass piece that adds to the traditional look.
It is only a $16 knife so I’m trying not to be too picky. But it looks like they took some really pretty pieces and just threw a knife together. The workmanship is kind of sloppy. The knife I got had a lot of dents and scratches in the handle and the edge bevels were unevenly sanded. Don’t get me wrong, it still is a very solid and pretty knife just not something you would put on display.
Opening the knife is a two hand job but once it is folded out, it locks solidly in place. Blade changes are very quick too. There is a sliding knob integrated into the “spine”. All you have to do is press it down and slide the blade out and in.
I can wrap all of my fingers around the handle but the bottom of the blade holder does have a row of small notches so you can get some grip if you decide to “choke up” on the handle to get more control over a cut. The notches make it very easy to know where your fingers are in relation to the razor blade.
It is a bulky knife and I wouldn’t dare say it is designed to slide in and out of your pocket without catching on the fabric. In practice, I didn’t have any issue with it getting stuck or anything but it is something I noticed. If you carry car keys in the same pocket as the knife then your knife is probably going for a ride when you decide to grab your keys.
The pocket clip is a little weak for my taste, especially considering the weight of the knife. The clip is also pretty shallow so you can only get about 1 ½ inches of pocket material under the clip from the pinch point to the base of the clip. If you are doing handstands, the knife will fall out.
For a wood-handle knife this is one of the best options you have. It is definitely overbuilt but it is also a handsome looking knife. What else could you ask for?
- Heavy duty rosewood handle
- Quick blade change
- Stainless steel construction
- Belt clip
- Folding lock-back design
- Includes 10 extra blades
9. WORKPRO Metal Handle
Estimated Price: $15
My Review: For a full size razor blade utility knife, this thing is tiny. It features a stainless steel body and locks out into a very study knife despite the size. It isn’t a knife you want to do a lot of heavy work with but it isn’t because it lacks durability. This knife is a solid knife. It doesn’t jiggle or rattle and gives you confidence when you cut with it.
The reason I say you might not want to use this for a work knife is because the whole handle is polished to a glass-like finish. If your hand starts getting sweaty or if it is wet when you are using it, you are going to have a tough time holding on to it unless you are just opening cardboard boxes.
The profile of the knife is very nice. It doesn’t have a weird shape or a bunch of places for it to catch on pocket fabric. It looks like a shiny, dangerous pack of gum. Heck, you could remove the pocket clip and put it in an empty pack of gum for a little concealment.
Let’s talk about the pocket clip. So many knives have pocket clips that should be stronger. This little guy has one of the stronger clips out of all the knives I reviewed. You might be asking yourself why I focus on the clip so much. Well, you want your knife to stay in your pocket don’t you? I run, crawl, and wrestle my kids on a daily basis and need my knife clip to put a ninja grip on my pants. This one will actually hold this slick knife in your pocket.
Now that we are done with that I want to say that blade changes are made very quickly. When I first got this knife I threw away the instructions in true tough guy fashion. So I ended up staring at this blade for 5 minutes before I figured out how to change the blade. Don’t you hate when something is way easier than it appears? That is how this blade change mechanism is. Just press downward on the raised portion in the center of the blade and boom, you can slide the razor right out of there.
Now, WORKPRO doesn’t really state this is a one-hand opening type of knife and that is probably for good reason. I can open the knife with one hand but it does take some mental focus. It has a small bent piece of metal that the tip of your thumb can push the blade open. With practice, it can be opened fairly quickly with one hand.
Overall this is one of the best knives for the size. And if all you need a knife for is opening stuff up then look no further. You can stick this in your small front jean pocket or put it on a key chain. It is a simple design but sometimes the simplicity is just what we need.
- Stainless steel construction
- Side lock mechanism
- Sturdy belt clip
- Quick change blade
10. Sheffield Light-Weight Utility Knife
Estimated Price: $12
My Review: The Sheffield is another solid knife. It is on the smaller side as far as handle size goes but is still very easy to hold on to. The handle scales are checkered aluminum so you certainly feel like you have some traction as well as durability.
The belt clip is about the right size and strength to keep it in your pocket and since the knife is pretty light weight you don’t have to worry about it falling out while you are crawling around on the ground.
Opening the knife can be a one-handed job, but it’s going to take some work and focus. Once the knife gets broken in it does get easier though. When the knife is new and tight it feels pretty sketchy trying to get this thing open with one hand.
Changing blades require no tools but I feel like the way it is designed makes it really easy to cut yourself. You have to lift a clip on the spine and swing one half of the blade holder down in order to change blades. After a new blade is in, closing it all together requires you to be pretty forceful. You also have to change your hand position several times which makes it really easy to slice yourself. I don’t like the blade change process one bit. Especially when so many other manufacturers have easier and more secure methods.
It is also pretty easy to unlatch the spine clip that holds the blade in place when you are opening the knife. It just feels like an unsafe knife to own but if you get used to changing the blades you will eventually find the safest way to do it.
As far as utility knives go, this one is very sturdy as well as small. And you don’t have to have a tool to swap blades. It is definitely on the more durable end of the scale.
- Aluminum handle
- Tool free blade change
- Belt clip
- Checkered handle
- Comes in many colors
11. Craftsman Lockback
Estimated Price: $21
My Review: The Craftsman also falls into the great toolmaker category so this is a decent knife. It has a stainless steel handle with integrated scales that appear to be micarta. There just isn’t a whole lot to say about this knife.
It is simple and has a very reasonable size. It even comes with a tiny clone that has the same features but uses a mini blade. As far as the other knives of this type are concerned, the blade is one of the easiest to get open with one hand. I sat and worked the knife open and shut for a while. This made it much smoother to open and sometimes it will just snap out there with a little extra thumb force.
This is one of the few knives that have some movement when the blade locks out. It is minor but most of the other blades could essentially be called fixed blade with how tight they are.
Changing blades isn’t super easy. This knife has the same “scissor style” blade change mechanism that really makes me scared. The levers are tight and you are really close to the business end when exerting a lot of force in different directions. So this is a knife where you need to pay attention when changing blades.
Wearing the Craftsman around isn’t so bad. The pocket clip is solid and the knife is pretty light. It still has the “shark fin” type of folded design which just isn’t that pretty. It works because it folds but man, it just feels like the blade holder is just too exposed.
- Lockback design
- Easy to open with one hand
- Mini-me knife included
- Strong pocket/belt clip
What to Look for in a Utility Knife (Buying Guide)
If you are like me, having a utility knife as an EDC doesn’t really inspire confidence. So I took the following considerations to determine what I would need in a knife to make me as confident as my folding pocket knife does.
Well, this isn’t the wild west where we duel to settle things anymore so having a quick draw out of your holster isn’t the focus here. Now that I think about it, we aren’t even talking about guns.
But being able to grab your knife and open it quickly is one of the most important qualities in a knife to me. Even when your life doesn’t depend on it, having to use both hands to clumsily open your blade is extremely frustrating. I mean, I have been carrying around a spring loaded knife for more than 10 years so when I need to cut something I can have my knife edge to whatever the target object in less than 2 seconds. Yes, I am spoiled.
A lot of these knives claim to be one handed opening knives and they are. Some are just much more difficult than the others. I’ll be sure to tell you which knives require only a wrist flick and which ones require some serious dexterity.
Size Always Matters
Don’t let anyone tell you that size doesn’t matter. Of course it does! But just because something is larger or smaller than average doesn’t mean it is defective or unusable. It just means it has to be used differently.
Some of these utility knives are large for what they offer. Some are very small. As always, the size matters for the job you will use it for. For me, I want something comparable to my folding pocket knife, which is already on the larger side. So anything too big is really annoying. Especially when my wife starts asking me to put all of her stuff in my pockets when we are out in town.
Utility Knife Bells and Whistles
Most of us don’t carry a Swiss Army knife with 101 different tools. I don’t know about you but I don’t need my knife to have a parachute and a flamethrower. Ok, maybe I’ll take a flamethrower.
So many manufacturers of so many types of products get caught up in cramming every feature they can into what they are selling. This is something I like to call feature creep. Ideally, you want to have 3 of the most used features on your product. Anything more will start getting cumbersome and then your product gets complicated.
With utility knives, I just want a sharp blade and maybe a gut hook. That is about it. Anything else and your knife gets bigger and heavier.
Blade Shapes Matter
This is the coolest part of having a utility knife. No longer do you need to buy multiple knives for the different blade shapes you want to use. There are many different types of blade materials as well as blade designs you can just stock pile in a drawer and swap when you plan on needing a blade with different characteristics.
If you have a knife that allows you to store multiple blades in the handle, you can have multiple cutting options in your pocket.
First, Let’s talk about the most common type of blade edge. The plain edge is common for a reason, it is versatile. A plain edge can tackle a wider range of cutting jobs than any other type of blade. If you only had one type of edge to choose for any type of knife, it would probably be best to choose a plain edge.
The plain edge offers one contiguous cutting surface and allows you to cut cleanly through most materials. The long, smooth blade gives you minimal cutting resistance and the most control over your cut. Not to mention a plain edge is usually less expensive and easier to maintain.
Serrated Edge Blades
Let’s just face it, serrated blades look cool. Cool and dangerous. On top of the mean look, they offer a ton of utility. We’ve all been there, trying to cut something with a plain edged knife for way too long when a serrated blade would saw right through in no time.
Why do serrated edge blades cut through material more quickly? It’s physics baby! Everyone knows that knives work because on a microscopic level the blade edge looks like a saw blade. Even though a blade might have a smooth edge it still functions like a saw.
The design of a serrated edge takes the microscopic saw-blade-like design to the next level by making the teeth big enough to actually see. It intuitively makes since that a saw blade will saw better than a smooth blade but why? Why does a saw blade remove material faster?
It all has to do with pressure. If you have two 3-inch blades, one a serrated blade and one a plain blade, the serrated blade will work through the material much more quickly.
Think about it this way: If a serrated blade has 10 teeth on it, when you press down on it all the force you exert are on the 10 teeth. With a plain edge the force is spread across the entire blade. So if you use the same cutting force with each blade, you have more cutting potential in the serrated blade.
Another way to visualize this is by thinking in terms of pounds per square inch (or psi). You can take a 20 lb dumbbell and hold it in your open palm without it hurting your hand. But if you take the same dumbbell and balance it on a sharpened pencil and then place he pencil lead end down into your palm. The result would be extremely painful.
This is because you changed how the load was spread out. Instead of the 20 pounds being spread out evenly across your palm, you put all the weight into the pencil point, which is very small. The same concepts is why serrated blades work so well. They focus all the cutting force into the points of the teeth.
The only drawback to using a serrated edge is how quickly the edge can dull. But hey, if you can just replace the whole blade when it dulls it doesn’t seem like much of a problem.
Why would anyone use a hook blade? Well, hook blades are great for cutting thin but tough material. Start thinking carpet, linoleum, animal hide, etc. A serrated edge would make sloppy work and a plain edge knife would take a good hard effort.
If you are cutting big sheets of cardboard a hook blade is perfect. You don’t have to cut the material on a hard surface and dull your blade. Just hook and pull.
Scalloped blades are a variation of serrated blades or, maybe it is the other way around. Either way, they are slightly different than serrated edges. The biggest difference with scalloped blades when compared to serrated is the spacing between the teeth.
If you examine a scalloped blade next to a serrated blade you will notice the scalloped blade teeth are much further apart. In most cases, the “valley” between the teeth is more shallow than that of a serrated blade.
In many ways, scalloped blades can be used like a serrated blade but since they are less aggressive you are limited on how crazy you can get when sawing something. When most people think of a scalloped knife blade they think of a bread knife.
One of the best uses for a scalloped knife is with food. The blade design easily slices through bread without smashing it or creating billions of little pieces from sawing. They also work great when cutting through soft objects that you don’t want to exert a lot of pressure on like a tomato.
Since the teeth are less pointy and the transition from tooth to tooth is more smooth than a serrated blade, you end up with a less “grabby” cutting action. This results in a clean and effortless cut.
Would you like fries with that burger? Doesn’t the combo meal make your lunch or dinner much better? Is the same true for knife blades? Well, it depends on how you plan on using them. Yes, you can buy a smooth and serrated combo blade for your utility knife but how useful are they?
I am a big fan of combo blades. They are extremely versatile and useful for an all-purpose blade. You can cut on the smooth end or if you need to cut something heavy duty you can cut on the serrated end. There is a tradeoff, and that is you are reducing the features that both these blade types offer on their own.
But you will rarely wish you had a dedicated smooth blade or dedicated serrated blade unless the cutting you do is specifically suited for a particular type. If that is the case, then go with the blade that works best. For an all-around blade you just can’t beat a combo blade.
Pointed Tip or Rounded Tip
Pointed Tip blades account for pretty much all utility blades out there. You can buy rounded tip blades and there are many uses for them. Sometimes you need a really sharp knife but you don’t want to pierce anything. A pointed tip is going to very easily pierce, even when you are doing your best not to.
A rounded tip will give you more freedom and room for error when you don’t want your tip to slice everything it touches. Once of the best uses for a rounded tip blade is dressing an animal. In this case, you don’t want to cut organs or any other part of the animal other than the skin. So a rounded tip or hook blade works great in this scenario.
Choose your blade material wisely
Have you ever walked into a knife shop and wondered why there is so much of a price difference between so many different knives that seemed to be the exact same size and shape? Some of that has to do with branding but most has to do with blade material.
As you know, knives can come in a variety of metal types. The most common metal is steel. Steel is almost a miracle material because it can be alloyed with other elements to make blades that are suited for different uses. Some steels can withstand high temperatures, some can endure a tremendous beating, some can bend without breaking, and some have high resilience to harsh chemicals.
So which blade material do you need?
Carbon steel is by far the most common blade steel for utility knives. They are cheap to manufacture and very resilient. High carbon steels are known for how well they hold an edge and produce blades of almost legendary toughness.
Carbon steel isn’t considered an alloy because carbon is a common element in all steels and essential to giving it the properties we want in a steel blade. Carbon is responsible for the hardness of a blade and the more carbon content in a blade the harder it will be.
Unfortunately, as you increase the hardness you also increase the brittleness. Depending on what type of carbon steel is made into a knife blade, you could have a super sharp blade that is easy to break. But for most blades out there, the manufactures have done decades of research into the proper amount of carbon in a steel and have created very durable and sharp blades.
Another drawback of a carbon steel blade is corrosion. Because you are basically dealing with iron with some carbon thrown in you get rusty very quickly in humid or wet conditions. Because of this, some manufacturers coat their blades with a water repellant. If you don’t want your blade to rust just make sure to keep it clean and dry.
Stainless steel is a result of mixing different elements in the pot when making steel. With stainless, you basically throw chromium into your melting pot. Once you have more than about 11% chromium in the mix you end up with a steel that is resistant to oxidation (rusting).
The chromium reacts with oxygen and creates a barrier that helps keep the steel from rusting. The more chromium in the steel, the more protection the alloy will have from rust.
Since stainless steels are alloyed with other metals, they tend to be less brittle than carbon steels. This is good but the downside is that the addition of chromium also makes the blade less hard. And a blade that isn’t as hard won’t hold an edge as well as one that is hard.
Remember how high carbon steel got more and more brittle as you added carbon? Well, what if you decided to go as far as you could on the brittle scale to get the sharpest blade imaginable? That is exactly what was done with ceramic blades.
Ceramic gives you a very hard and durable blade that is extremely sharp. The only problem? You probably guessed it. With great hardness comes great fragility. Ceramic blades are really fragile and should be treated just like glass because that is essentially what they are.
If having a knife that shatters when you drop it is your thing then go for it. There are many benefits to having a knife that is as sharp as a ceramic blade that will keep an edge much longer than any other steel knife. You just need to baby these things.
Since we are talking about using ceramic in a utility knife, think about having some ceramic blades stored in the kitchen. When dinner comes around you can pull your EDC knife out of your pocket and pop in a ceramic blade to slice up the chicken before it goes in the pot.
Now that we talked about ceramic we can understand what a titanium coating is. Don’t get confused when you see something marketed as a titanium blade. Titanium isn’t steel, it is titanium. And titanium is garbage as far as knives are concerned. It has a very high tensile strength and melting point but will not hold an edge or cut hard material.
So why titanium coating then? Well, when titanium is combined with nitrogen, you end up with titanium nitride (TiN). Which is an extremely hard ceramic material. This TiN is perfect for coating steel blades since the TiN can increase the strength of the already strong steel.
You will always be able to tell if a blade has a titanium nitride coating because of the color. These blades will either have a golden edge or the entire blade will be golden. Enjoy the benefits of ceramic without the fragility and at the same time look cool with gold blades.
Have you ever seen someone drill through metal like it was butter? If you did, they were probably using carbide bits. Carbide can come in different forms such as tungsten carbide and titanium carbide. A carbide is just a metal with an extremely high carbon content.
Carbides represent the hardest and sharpest types of metal blades but like we know so well at this point are quite brittle. So, for knife blades, the carbide only coats the edge of the blade in order to keep the blade strong as well as reduce costs.
The widest use for carbide is in carbide metalworking tools. So if you need to saw or drill through metal, your best bet is to get a carbide tool steel drill or saw blade. You aren’t going to be doing any of that with a utility knife but you can expect to get the same level of awesomeness in a carbide knife blade.
Did you find it in the checkout isle?
How many times have you bought a tool or gizmo that was placed in the grocery store checkout isle? I think you know where I am going with this. I didn’t review anything that came out of the assorted tools $5 bin at the front of the discount store. Those kind of tools have never proved useful to me.
All of the knives on this list above are quality knives. Most of them are made of stainless steel and those that are not are made of high quality aluminum, but within this pot of quality knives there are some knives that are on a different level.
Protecting Your Fingers
If you chop off your finger with your pocket knife, you were either having a really bad day, don’t need to handle anything sharp or pointy, or were handling a knife that was not engineered with humans in mind. I’ve cut myself plenty of times on pocket knives but razor blades just seem to be hungry for fingers and I want to keep all of mine.
There are tons of knives on the market that boast high-tech safety features but are really just gimmicks or clever marketing. Whatever the case, the safety of a knife’s design is high on the list of things I pay attention to and the first thing I think of when ranking knives.
Utility Knife vs. Folding Pocket Knife
I once scoffed at the idea of carrying a utility knife as an EDC but after owning a few I can tell you it is truly the best thing to have on you for a 9-5 job. I’m not taking a utility knife with me on a backpacking trip and it isn’t my primary cutting device when packing for a zombie apocalypse. When I think about how many times a day I use a knife and why, it usually has to do with opening a taped package or cutting cardboard.
On the flip side, when I plan on going into the woods for hiking, camping, or hunting, I want a knife I can rely on. I want something I can bludgeon with a stick in order to cut a small tree down. I want something I can use to pry with or throw. Who cares how sharp something is when you just want to survive.
So, as always, there is a tool for every use. Why should knives be any different? Seriously, how awesome is it that at the end of every day you have the option to change your blades and go to work the next day with what essentially amounts to a brand new knife? You can’t beat that!
For a true EDC, I don’t think you can afford to overlook a utility knife. But what happens when you are attacked by a bad guy and have to defend yourself or your family? Let me tell you from experience there is rarely a win win situation when fighting in the street. In a real life or death situation you are almost always going to get hurt even if you win. So don’t stress on having the perfect weapon to defend yourself with because it probably won’t help you like you think it will.
That being said, you can’t really stab with a utility knife and though the blade is sharp, you won’t get much penetration when slashing compared to a long blade.
But most of us don’t carry a knife for the purpose of defending our lives but if something happened, we want that option don’t we? Of course we do. So how effective would a utility knife be when compared to a regular knife? Well, what are your goals when defending yourself? They should be to handle the threat, disengage and get your family to safety. You aren’t in combat so you aren’t trying to destroy the enemy. The law is something you have to contend with. And if your family is around you want to get them to safety ASAP.
Any knife can give you the opportunity to quickly escape a dangerous situation. You will just have to fight with the knife’s strengths in mind. A knife with a fresh razor blade obviously makes a great slashing weapon so don’t spend your time trying to stab your opponent.
Why You Need a Utility Knife
If you are like most people, you aren’t running through the wilderness hunting buffalo with your bare hands. Most of the time your need for a sharp blade is to open one of the many consumer packages that we open on a daily basis. This is what the utility knife is made for.
Yes, a regular folding knife can easily do this job as well as many others. It really just depends on how you use a knife. Honestly, for day to day activities that require you to sit at a desk for eight hours then go home and open packages the UPS lady dropped off, a utility knife is perfect. You never have to sharpen a blade and because they are so much cheaper than a folding knife, you can have a ton of them.
So just have both. Use a utility knife during work days and take a folding knife with you into the woods on your bare-hand buffalo hunting trips.
Where did utility knives come from?
Utility knives didn’t just suddenly appear out of the blue. Or maybe they did, I guess it depends on how you look at it. If you really want to get technical then the utility knife was the first knife ever made. Which was made out of stone so our ancestors could make weapons and prepare their food.
As knives evolved from stone, to bronze, to steel, manufacturers began producing folding knives. What we know as a utility knife was just a normal outcome of the knife design progression. As knives became more specialized for different types of jobs the retractable razor blade was born.
Hopefully by now you understand that utility knives aren’t just for construction workers. They are another extremely versatile tool that we can use as part of our everyday lives. There is always a tool that is best suited for a specific job. Now you are better equipped to choose the right tool.
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Sergeant Mitchell is a former Combat Engineer with the 4th Marine Divison. After serving his time in the Marines, he attended the University of Alabama and obtained a degree in Mechanical Engineering. He has worked for multiple companies, including NASA, and currently works as a Flight Test Engineer for the Department of the Army. Some of his passions include hiking, cycling, running, competing in long distance triathlon races, shooting, camping, and helping others!