The knife is the oldest manufactured tool known to humans. Before that, all we had to work with were rocks and sticks. But after learning how to chip a knife blade from rock, we were well on the way towards the industrial age. Humanity’s creativity and curiosity would take that skill of making a knife and turn it into a myriad of tools.
The knife is still one of the most common and useful tools. Many other tools we use, such as saws, are based in some way upon the knife. In a sense, they are nothing more than an improvement on that original stone knife which was able to cut different materials in different ways, but always depending on the sharp edge it gave us.
Today, many types of knives are available to us. Many specialized knives are created for a specific purpose. However, there are general purpose knives carried by people of all walks of life, typically just to have a knife handy in case of need.
The utility knife falls into this category, being a general purpose knife, designed for use by tradesmen of all types. Pretty much all construction trades offer opportunities where a good knife comes in handy even if it's for nothing more than opening packages of material. In fact, carrying a utility knife has become de rigor for workers in the construction trades. Many homeowners have them as well for those times when they are pretending to be carpenters or electricians.
What makes a utility knife stand out from other types of knives is the replaceable blade. The thin blade is pointed on both ends, so that it can be reversed when one side becomes dull. This is a great time saver over having to stop and sharpen a blade. While the replaceable blades may not be as high quality as a high carbon steel blade, their thin profile and sharp point make them excellent for their purpose.
Traditionally, utility knives have been designed so that the blade is retractable so they are safe to carry yet easy to use. However, the retracting mechanism does have an inherent weakness of not being strong enough so it’s often easy for the blade to be pushed back into the handle, especially with the lower cost knives.
Many companies have now switched over to a folding utility knife design, some with locking blades. This may not be as convenient to work with but it ensures the blade will stay extended during use. As the knife blade is not designed for stabbing, there’s little chance of the knife folding, even without a blade lock mechanism.
On-board storage for extra blades is also common, as it allows the tradesman to continue working, without having to go back to their toolbox or truck in search of blades. When a blade becomes dull, it is merely flipped end for end or replaced. Some of the better utility knives now offer tool-free blade changing, replacing the screw lock for a different sort of locking mechanism.
This knife has more features than any other utility knife I've seen. The gut hook and wire stripper add an immense amount of utility to the knife. Read Full Review
When I first picked this Milwaukee, I was chiding myself for going with the name. Taking a better look at the knife, I realized it's a very well designed tool, taking the normal utility knife design and going a couple of steps further. In addition to having tool-free blade changes, this knife can be opened one-handed. The durable all-metal body means you're not going to have to be replacing it anytime soon. It also has a formed wire belt hook, so that you can keep it on your belt or hooked to a pocket.
What really makes this knife stand out is that it has a built-in gut hook and wire stripper. While I would never expect to use the gut hook for skinning a deer, it's great for cutting straps and tape off of bundles of material. The wire stripper will handle all wire up to 10 gauge, making it useful for a host of tasks. The other thing I really like about this knife is the finger indent on the handle is extra-large, giving you a sure hold on the knife, whenever you use it. A magnetic flip-open holder stores one extra blade.
This utility knife has been designed with the electrician in mind. On-board sensing circuitry warns you whenever you are working on a live electrical line, saving you from the risk of shock. Read Full Review
Gardner Bender's knife was designed with the electrician in mind. Built along the lines of the old extending blade style, this one throws in a few extra twists. In addition to using the knife in the normal manner, it's also designed to be easy for ripping cables and stripping wire. That makes it much more versatile than most utility knives. What really makes it stand out is it has built-in voltage sensing circuitry, which will let you know when you’re working on a hot wire. That makes using this knife much safer than any other, especially for electrical work.
Craftsman offers a quality utility knife, with their famous lifetime warranty. A sliding quick release mechanism makes blade changes quick and secure. Read Full Review
Craftsman's utility knife is a nice combination of convenience. The flip-blade comes with a lock to hold it securely open when in use. Blade changing is tool-free, using a slide lock on the blade holder. A rubber pad on top of the blade gives you a nice place to rest your thumb for tough cutting. There is also a slide-out holder to store five extra blades. When closed, the whole unit is only about 3 inches long. On top of this, you get Craftsman's lifetime warranty, a good extra to have for any tool. This utility knife also comes with a leather belt pouch.
Greenlee's slightly larger handle and thumb pad make this the most ergonomic utility knife around. A locking blade protects your fingers from accidental cuts and a tool-free blade changing mechanism keeps it easy to work with. Read Full Review
Greenlee produces an excellent knife with a large, aluminum handle making for better ergonomics, especially when doing a lot of cutting. A thumb pad on the top of the blade holder allows you to apply more pressure to the blade for hard cuts without the back of the blade digging into your thumb. The blade clamp system allows you to change blades without any tools and the blade locks in an open position. On-board storage holds five extra blades and it even comes with a belt pouch. Of all the utility knives I've looked at, this one wins the prize for best ergonomic design.
Gerber's utility knife would top the list if it used only Gerber blades. But, let's face it, you're going to use whatever blades you can find. Still, there's a lot to be said for Gerber's quality, which this knife displays in abundance. Read Full Review
Normally, the Gerber name would be enough to boost the position of their knives on any list I am writing. But, let's face it, the blade you use in it probably won't be a Gerber blade. The blade holder is spring locking, allowing you to change blades quickly and without tools. The knurled and anodized aluminum handle is easy to hold onto, even when wet. A pocket clip keeps the knife readily available in your pocket. The best thing this knife has going for it is the high quality construction Gerber applies to all their products.