Learn about the six different types of utility knives, their history, uses, limitations and FAQ that can help you decide which one to buy for your projects.
This tool comes with many names. Canadians and Portuguese people refer to them as X-Acto knives. The English, Australian’s, and Kiwi refer to them as the Stanley knife. And pretty much everywhere else we know them as a utility knife or a set of box cutters.
Their original purpose was genuinely for utility, but nowadays they are more commonly found in my pencil case as an eleven-year-old and accidentally brought onto a plane resulting in subsequent questioning and my first ever panic attack!
Table of Contents
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Why Were They Invented?
The original utility knife was established in the 19th century. As a fixed steel blade some 3-5 inches long, it was the perfect tool for fieldwork and outdoor tasks. Effective in cutting wood, chipping campfire shavings, prepping meals, and butchering game, these were heavily popularized in the industrial era. But don’t forget about Comanche trader, Badger Henry. He will always prefer this type of blade, as it is very well suited for scraping hides and butchering animals.
Eventually, a stronger locking blade mechanism was invented, allowing for retractable or foldable blades. It’s very narrow, carrying the same width the entire length of the blade. The tops edge meets the bottom edge at a very dramatic point. The geometric design is resistant to breaking and chipping.
Who Uses Them?
These types of utility knives are going to be found on construction sites, warehouses, and factories. They’re very affordable and they require absolutely no maintenance. since they’re so cheap to manufacture, once the blade dulls completely it can just be replaced with a new one.
And don’t forget about the young ones! This is the perfect tool for crafting, bookbinding, and achieving a cut line that a pair of scissors only dream of accomplishing. Although they’re very sharp, crafting utility knives are very short. The risk of puncture is rather low, and with such a thin blade they can’t do all that much damage.
6 Types of Utility Knife Blades
Where the divots in a serrated knife would be, instead you would find hooks. The purpose of these is for very heavy-duty materials like carpet or linoleum. You’ll often find this type of blade of a roofer, hacking away at some shingles.
Scalloped Edge Blades
These can often be found in the kitchen, as they are the absolute perfect tool to cut tomatoes. Nobody wants a squashed tomato. Not only for soft rinded fruits and vegetables, but scalloped edge blades are also used in factories to cut styrofoam. All the little balls remain intact and reduce enormous mess potential.
Serrated Edge Blades
Often used in sawing motions, they are excellent for dense materials like wood or drywall. Their rough edge makes it a safer blade, and so people who multitask oftentimes will pick this option.
This is a cool one. A Japanese Manufacturer called Olfa Corporation invented the snap-off blade in 1956. They were inspired by how one snaps a piece of chocolate off of a chocolate bar and applied the same design to their utility blade. Instead of having to replace an entire blade once it dulls, it is segmented with score lines so that it can simply be snapped off, and the next one will be perfectly sharp.
Pointed Tip Blades
Pretty self-explanatory, this one has a pointed tip for the purpose of being able to puncture before continuing a cut. Excellent for flexible plastic, fabrics, and drywall.
Rounded Tip Blades
These are used when you really don’t want to puncture, but really want to slice. They’re the safest option of a utility knife and great for cardboard and styrofoam.
Can you sharpen a utility knife?
Absolutely. If you want to save material and not have it simply replaced, there’s always the option to remove the blade from its handle and use it on a wet stone. Since the blade is usually short without a convenient way to be held, and kitchen sharpener wouldn’t be too convenient. Or there’s always this method.
Can I carry a utility knife?
Yes! Along with Swiss army knives, utility knives are considered legal as every day carry.
Are utility blades universal?
Mostly. A standard utility blade will be 61 millimeters wide, but the snap-off utility blades are usually a different size.
Can a utility knife cut glass?
A straight edge utility knife can create a score in glass so that it can be snapped off. That being said, it’s not the most chill of tasks so please be careful!
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