A utility knife is, as the name implies, a super useful tool. But you really want to buy the right one, because these tools are sharp and must be used with caution.
So what’s the best utility knife for your home?
What Is A Utility Knife?
Sometimes (not quite accurately) called a “box cutter,” a utility knife is a basically a razor blade inside of a holder. The blade can be retractable, fixed, or it can fold out, but the point is that there is a replaceable, heavy duty blade inside of a tough housing.
We are not talking about kitchen utility knifes, which are all-around useful knives which are basically long paring knives.
The standard, plain-jane utility knife that we all know and have used many, many times is the Stanley Classic 99 Retractable Utility Knife. It sells for between $5 and $8 and it’s — you know — fine. Alternatively your standard might be the Craftsman Retractable utility knife (depending on who your local hardware store is), which is also fine.
This guide will attempt to provide you with something better and safer for not much more money.
Top Features To Look For
What features should you be on the lookout for in a great utility knife? Here are some that come to mind…
- Safe blade extension and retraction with locks
- Ergonomic design
- Internal blade storage
- Application specific features if you mainly cut dry, carpets etc.
- Rubberized, contoured grip
- Belt hook
- Compatibility with standard blades
A Word Of Caution…
Utility knives are the cause of many, many injuries. This Yale guide on utility knife safety is a good read and is worth keeping in mind. This utility knife safety video is also worth watching. The major takeaways are that…
- A utility knife isn’t always the right tool for the job
- You must always cut away from yourself, your other hand in particular
- Wear protective gloves and a eyeglasses when using one
- Discard used and broken blades in a sharps container, not in the normal trash
- Always retract the blade when not in use
Best Utility Knives for Home Use
If you want a great, all-around utility knife, consider one of these…
Fiskars Pro Retractable Utility Knife
Fiskers makes a number of utility knives — seven in all — and they are all quite good. My favorite of them is the Fiskars Pro Retractable version, which has a thumb slide that extends the blade and locks it into an open or closed position. This is very much like a standard utility knife (mentioned above) but the slide button is moved to the side, where it’s better accessed and less prone to accidentally being pushed.
The Fiskars Pro knives have all-metal construction surrounded by a rubber grip that is molded into an ergonomic shape. There is a pronounced area for your thumb the blade slide is recessed so it doesn’t catch when putting the knife in a pocket or tool box. There is also a bar for attaching a lanyard or wrist strap.
Another thoughtful feature in this utility knife is that it has internal blade storage. This is relatively common with nicer utility knives, but it’s definitely a feature to look for in any upgrade purchase.
Alltrade Auto-Loading Squeeze Utility Knife
The Alltrade Squeeze Utility Knife (model 150003) has a clever function where you squeeze the handle in order to extend the blade. This means the likelihood of accidentally extending the blade is very low and the blade doesn’t stay out unless someone is using it.
The Alltrade is essentially a cheaper version of the Cat Safety Utility Knife that is pictured at the top of this article. The Cat version is a bit more expensive and has an additional safety switch, but it also has a bulky design.
Milwaukee Fastback “Press and Flip” Utility Knife
One of the most highly recommended utility knives is the Milwaukee Fastback Press. It has a design where the blade flips out like a pocket knife. This means you can get to the blade with one hand very quickly, which many people like.
Honestly, I do not like or recommend flip-out style utility knives. Yes, they are convenient, but my goal is to minimize my interaction with the blade, plus I want any movement with the blade to be slow and purposeful. I understand that this knife (same with the Fiskars fold-out design) has a safety button, and locks in both the open and closes positions, but it’s still not something I’m a fan of. That said, I don’t deny that it’s a top utility knife and one of the most the recommended choices of 2020.
Best Utility Knife For Carpets
One of the most popular uses of a utility knife is for cutting carpets when laying them down or pulling them up. While this is a perfectly reasonable use of a utility knife, it’s also an activity that opens the door up to harm. A good way to reduce the chance of an emergency room visit is to use a carpet utility knife instead.
Utility knives designed for carpets, like the Stanley Carpet Knife have a downward angle built into the design, and they use blades without pointed ends, so you can cut the carpeting without doing damage to the sub-floor or worrying about poking anything important. It has a pronounced thumb button as well as internal blade storage, but doesn’t have the high-end features of, say, the Fiskars.
A carpet knife works with specialized carpet blades, which are basically the same as utility knife blades but with flat, blunt ends. As with the standard utility knife, Stanley has a popular, as does Craftsman.
Best Utility Knife For Drywall
Cutting drywall (you know, sheetrock) is certainly an actively where a utility knife comes in handy. In fact, utility knives have probably been the reason of more ruined drywall than any other tool in history.
Fiskars Pro has a drywall utility knife with clever 2-in1 design that combines a utility knife blade with a jab saw. The normal blade is used for making long cuts in drywall or tape as well as getting through the outer paper while the jab saw is used for cutting out electric boxes for power outlets. There is even a tough, flat metal end that can be used for popping in a drywall nail that is sticking out a bit too far.
This blade extended with a conventional top-mounted button and it uses Fiskars standard CarbonMax blades.