The utility knife is quite possibly one of the most widely-used tools you’ll ever add to your arsenal, so why not make sure you get the one that’s right for you? From cutting boxes to scoring drywall to installing carpet, finding and using the best utility knife or razor knife can save you time and effort.
No matter what the task, you’ll have a knife with the quickness and features you need. Along with a hammer, pencil, and tape measure, a utility knife is next in line for the coveted “don’t go anywhere without it” spot in my tool pouch. But there are a lot of choices and preferences when shopping for a razor knife. Folding? Rugged? Retractable? Read on for our top picks.
Best Folding Utility Knife
Milwaukee Fastback Flip 48-22-1901
I’m not sure if it’s your first love, or something else. Our favorite folding utility knife remains the Milwaukee Fastback Flip. This best folding utility knife lacks extra blade storage (other versions have that) but it opens easily and has a super-quick blade change. Above that, the belt clip just works and it slides easily in and out of your pocket or tool pouch. This wasn’t the first folding utility knife, but it may still be the best. Pick it up for around $10 online or at your favorite Milwaukee dealer.
Best Retractable Utility Knife
The LENOX 20353SSRK1 Retractable Utility Knife features a simple design that we love. You get a quick blade change that doesn’t force you to open up the handle. You can also open the utility knife to store or retrieve up to five blades within. At the front edge, a titanium-coated steel nose stays together and gives you a durable slot that braces the blade while you cut.
Sometimes a simple design just works. Why complicate things? This retractable utility knife even includes three LENOX Gold Titanium Edge utility blades—all for around $16.50.
Best Small Utility Knife
Apart 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 lot of functionality into a tiny space. More—it does that without sacrificing durability. You get a true utility blade for slicing and a notch for cord-cutting. The back end of the tool lets you pry, drive screws, strip wire, and open bottles. It’s kinda like carrying around a toolbox that fits in your pocket and only costs $20-25. This also makes for one of the best DIY gifts.
Best Snap-off Utility Knife
These OLFA aluminum utility knives come in two styles. The OLFA MPX-AL uses an auto-locking slide while the made-in-Japan OLFA MXP-L locks and unlocks with a metal ratchet wheel.
These also use snap-off blades—something OLFA invented. Each blade snaps into 8 segments, so it’s like having 4 trapezoidal blades without the hassle of flipping them around. At less than $30, these knives give you quality and always-sharp convenience like few others.
Honorable Mention: Lenox Fast Snap Utility Knife with Magnetic Blade Snap
We have to mention the Lenox Fast Snap utility knife simply because it’s one of the more innovative tools we’ve seen. From the shape and feel of the handle to the snapping mechanism and magnetic capture, this is basically tied as our best snap-style utility knife. Unless your jobsite has specific safety requirements about the kind of utility knife you can use, we highly recommend picking up this $10 product.
Best Fixed-Blade Utility Knife
We picked the Stanley 10-399 swivel-lock as our best fixed-blade utility knife for several reasons. First, and foremost, the swivel-lock functionality lets you quickly pivot the handle open at the center. This lets you access the spare blade storage compartment within and swap blades when they get dull. The tool-free operation beats a threaded screw-based handle system by a mile. Almost unbelievably, this knife costs less than $4 at many retailers. Buy one for your whole crew.
Best Drywall Utility Knife
Irwin Drywall Utility Knife – 1774103
A good drywall knife emphasizes stability and ergonomics. With the Irwin 1774103, the fixed blade holds the knife steady without fear of it retracting on you during a cut. You also get quick and easy blade changes as well as onboard blade storage. We also like how you can choke up on the front of this knife for better control when dragging a cut toward you. Lastly, $13 is a great price for a no-nonsense tool-free drywall utility knife that should last many years.
Best Pocket Utility Knife
Milwaukee 48-22-1500 Fastback Compact Utility Knife
The Milwaukee 48-22-1500 Fastback makes a great pocket utility knife. More compact than the original Fastback, it works even better for easy carry in your pants pocket or clipped to a loop in your favorite tool belt. It keeps the press-and-flip function and tool-free blade change. It even has a small lanyard hole for tethering. For under $9 you can’t find a better EDC (every-day carry) pocket utility knife than this.
Best Utility Knife for Cutting Carpet
Crain Pivoting Carpet Knife 726H1
A carpet knife has to have the right angle to let you cut quickly and accurately. You want a no-nonsense knife with a fixed blade and tool-free blade change. The $16 Crain 726 carpet knife delivers. Not fancy, it’s quick, and the pivoting body opens quickly to let you replace the blade as needed to keep your edge sharp. It also supports various blade extension positions but clamps down tightly so you don’t get any slide.
- The Stanley 10-525 Adjustable Carpet Knife ($10.99) offers easy blade retraction. The Crain just offers a much simpler knife with fewer parts.
Best Utility Knife for Electricians
Clearly, you can grab any standard utility knife if that’s what you want. However, a nice hawkbill blade remains hard to beat. For that, we like the Klein Cable Skinning Utility Knife. You can swap the hawkbill for a coping blade—but both are replaceable. That makes this a true utility knife and you never need to sharpen the blades. Just charge it to the jobsite.
When we tested the Klein Cable Skinning Utility Knife, we skinned more than 50 cables with one blade. The 44218 runs less than $20 and blades run about $10 for a 3-pack. That should keep you skinning cables for quite some time.
Best Utility Knife for Roofing
Stanley Fatmax Xtreme 10-789 Twin Blade
Why carry two knives when one suffices? The Stanley Fatmax Xtreme 10-789 Twin Blade utility knife can carry both a standard utility blade and a hook blade. That covers most of what you may run into on the roof. They also made blade changes easy with a single release button on top. For less than $16, it’s like having two knives in one.
Most Unusual (and Handy) Utility Knife and Scraper
The Toughbuilt Retractable Scraper Utility Knife is the first tool we’ve seen with this sort of design, and it’s incredibly helpful. We’re often in need of a scraper, but that generally involves looking for a separate tool.
You can buy the Toughbuilt Retractable Scraper Utility Knife at Lowe’s for under $15. It includes 5 (proprietary) blades. When you need to pick up more, you can get a 30-pack for less than $10.
Best Utility Knife Blades
Irwin Bi-Metal Utility Knife Blades
We don’t like to skimp on utility blades. The best utility blades should last long enough to get the job done without requiring you to change them prematurely. We like the Irwin Bi-Metal utility blades best. They come in a 100-pack and serve as a great general-use blade for working on wood, plastic, or drywall.
Irwin makes these blades using welded spring steel and high-speed steel construction, which helps prevent shattering under stress. We’ve used these blades, and they tend to stay sharper for longer than the cheaper bulk carbon steel blades. You can get the pack for $27—around $0.37 per blade.
Best Utility Knife Brands
In our experience, the best utility knife brands include OLFA, Milwaukee Tool, Stanley, DeWalt, and Lenox. We could also expand on that with specialized brands like Klein and Crain—or budget brands such as Husky, and WorkPro. Lots of manufacturers make utility knives. Sticking with the top brands gets you a tool that’s likely been jobsite tested by hundreds or even thousands of Pros.
While more expensive power tools demand consideration of warranty, we don’t typically expect a decade of use out of our utility knives. Even the best utility knives function as consumables in our work experience. You certainly want the best tool for the job—and you don’t want to overpay. In the end, however, the best tool helps you get the job done quickly and accurately.
Which Utility Knife Do I Need?
Ask yourself some of the following questions when searching for the perfect utility or razor knife:
- How do I intend to use it?
- What are the basic kinds of utility knives?
- What’s the best blade type for me?
- Do I need to use a safety mechanism?
- What type of blade-changing mechanism do I want?
How Do I Intend to Use the Knife?
Depending on your application, you may prefer a folding utility knife. If you go through blades like there’s no tomorrow, you’ll want something with ample blade storage. This sounds like an easy question, but realize that utility knives are made in specific ways for specific tasks.
For those laying carpet, you’ll want a knife that is always ready and can handle quick, painless blade changes (which you’ll be doing at a rate of about—oh, I don’t know—once per minute, lol.) If you just want something for general use (opening packages, sharpening pencils, etc) then consider going with a standard knife. Models with a retractable blade can easily take a new blade when needed.
Alternatively, a folding razor knife might be the ticket for those wanting something different. Or, consider a smaller-profile knife with segmented, breakaway blades. Those qualify in this category as well. In either case, it’s important to match the knife to your intended use—or plan on picking up a couple of different tools.
Basic Types of Utility Knives
There are three essential types of utility knives. If you want the best utility knife for your application, understand each one. I’m sure you can come up with a few more that might deserve their own category, but for sake of simplicity, we’ll contain the descriptions to these four:
These knives are the most common utility variety and feature a sliding blade mechanism with variable depth. Actuation is typically through a button that is depressed 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 from manufacturer to manufacturer. Simple versions feature a straight handle and some kind of screw to separate the device and load spare blades, while advanced models may be more ergonomic in shape and offer quick-release blade changes.
Some safety knives auto-retract or force you to squeeze a trigger to extend the blade. OSHA requires these tools on certain jobsites in order to meet various safety standards. Most users dislike using them as they violate every rule of ergonomics. However, when you have to use them, make sure you grab one that helps you work as efficiently as possible.
These knives are perfect for heavy-duty use and precision cuts. Since the blade gets locked into a single position, the knife experiences no “blade slop” or side-to-side wiggle which is common in standard retractable knives. Since the blade doesn’t retract, it’s important to carefully store these knives or even remove the blades when not in use.
These knives are most commonly found in the carpeting industry and they can typically accept many different types of blades. Apart from the common full-sized knife, certain hobby knives are also fixed-blade in design and can support ultra-sharp blades of various sizes and shapes that are used for precision cuts.
Folding Utility Knives
A variation of the fixed-blade knife includes folding knives. These feature the stability of a fixed blade with the fold-away protection of a retractable blade. They also give you a much more compact footprint.
Snap-Off Blade Knives
Snap-off blade knives feature segmented blades that are broken off in sections to deliver a brand new edge once the old one is too dull to be useful. They let you continue cutting without the need for a blade change. These knives started out catering to hobbyists where heavy-duty use wasn’t required. Now, OLFA makes segmented utility knives with heavy-duty snap-off blades that can hold up to jobsite use. Most blades come with anywhere from 8 to 13 segments.
Types of Utility Knife Blades
There are several blade types that will make each type of job much easier. Here are some of the more common styles you can buy:
Standard Utility Blades
These are the typical trapezoidal razor blades you see on full-size utility knives. Their trapezoidal shape gives you pointed edges for cutting materials of varying degrees of thickness and composition.
Round-point Utility Blades
These are identical to standard utility blades except for blunted points. This avoids accidental stabbing while still allowing for maximum cutting ability on a variety of materials. Some jobsites might require these for safety reasons.
These blades are excellent on linoleum or carpet and allow for rapid cutting of those and similar materials. These blades come in a variety of sizes, and can also include blunt ends or single/dual-sided forms. A variant on this blade is the Linoleum blade which is typically single-sided and features a single arched blade hook.
These blades are typically rectangular and double-sided. Pros use them with specialty fixed utility knives that can accept them.
Snap-off blades include standard wedge-type blades for smaller hobby knives and heavier-duty segmented blades. Some manufacturers offer these in varying thicknesses and materials, so pay attention to the application and materials you need to cut.
These are almost always sold as a separate system but they are worth mentioning since they are used extensively in construction to cut various materials like cement board. These blades come in a variety of shapes and sizes. They let you score material designed to be snapped rather than cut through with a blade.
Best Utility Knife Features
Look for the following features in a utility or razor knife to enhance and expand upon the standard features you’d expect to find in a knife. Sure, you can get a straight-up blade with no frills, but some of these nifty features make using a utility knife something much more useful.
A new trend is to treat the standard utility knife like a Kershaw folding pocket knife. As far as we can tell, this was pioneered by a company called Superknife and then quickly knocked off by many other manufacturers. Instead of the sharpened steel blade, you have a removable razor blade that is locked into a folding arm.
‘It typically locks away when not in use and makes for a great addition to throw into a tool bag—or your pocket for that matter. There are also utility knives with handles that bend but do not completely fold. This is mainly an issue of ergonomics, and these knives otherwise resemble standard, non-folding knives.
Quick Blade-Change Mechanisms
While some people prefer “old school” utility knives that require a flat head screwdriver to separate the body into halves to change the blade, our personal favorite are the models that use a simple button to swap blades.
With the simple push of a button, you can flip the razor blade around to the fresh side and continue use. Other knives feature a spring-loaded mechanism that can pivot or split the knife open and allow fast blade changes.
Onboard Blade Storage
Most utility knives offer internal blade storage, but increasingly, knives are coming up with more convenient ways to access those blades. While older knives had to be disassembled, new knives feature quick-release compartments and deliver much easier access to five or more spare blades.
Some knives include a small slit in the body that accesses a small area of the blade just behind the head of the knife. This is perfect for slicing strings and twine without having to adjust the knife. It’s safe and easy to use.
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