This last holiday season I purchased a 2-pack of Dewalt utility knives for $15. The bundle came with their premium retractable utility knife (DWHT10295) and metal retractable utility knife (DWHT10319).
I really like the premium retractable utility knife, as it has a nice weight, the over-molding feels good in my hand, and the curved non-folding design gives it more leverage for making deeper cuts. For instance, it was easier for me to trim door shims in one pass than with the previous folding knife I was using.
Stuart’s Note: This knife was one of my “top 5 hottest new tools” from Dewalt’s 2016 media event, and has been favorite everyday utility knife (tied with this Milwaukee) for a while now.
After changing the blade a few times, I noticed pushing the blade release lever didn’t always release the blade. I didn’t think much about it, I’d just retract and extend the blade and it would work. Then a few days ago it stopped working altogether.
These aren’t expensive knives, but they sure cost a lot more than simpler utility knives that you can buy for a couple of bucks. The extra cost is because of the more ergonomic design and the tool-less blade change mechanism. If the tool-less blade change doesn’t work though, this knife is almost useless in the field, because it requires pliers to remove the carabiner clip and a Torx screwdriver to open.
While I was taking the knife apart to change the blade, I figured I’d get to the bottom of the faulty blade changing mechanism. But first let’s take a moment to understand how it works.
Step 1: First you fully extend the blade, then you press down on lever 1, shown above.
Step 2: This is a first class lever, so when you press on the outside part, the opposite end inside the knife pushes up (the photo is upside down).
Step 3: If and only if the blade is fully extended, the end of lever 1 pushes up against the end of the second class lever 2 shown above.
Step 4: Pushing up on lever 2 releases the blade lock, allowing you to pull the blade out and replace it with a fresh one.
At this point I’d like to note that I think it’s a pretty cool design to use the same spring for both the blade release lever and the blade retraction lever.
What I found is that the lever 1 can slip off the fulcrum, which causes it to miss the contact point on lever 2. The fulcrum isn’t mushroomed to keep the lever on, and it’s too short to butt up against the plastic, so there’s a gap where the lever can fall off the fulcrum.
The blade can’t be released except by taking the knife apart. Sometimes if I wiggle lever 1 around just right, I can get it back on the fulcrum and get it to hit lever 2 correctly, but at this point it’s easier to take the knife apart.
If you look at the second knife — the metal retractable utility knife — the blade change mechanism works the same way as the first knife, but you’ll notice above that there’s a retaining mechanism to stop lever 1 from coming off the fulcrum.
Here’s a video I put together to illustrate the problem:
I reached out to our Dewalt contact about the issue. The plant manager was alerted and they looked into the problem.
Dewalt said they would get back to us when they had more information about the problem, but wanted us to reassure ToolGuyd readers that if they have any issues with this knife or other Dewalt hand tools:
DEWALT hand tools have a limited lifetime warranty and more information about warranty can be found here.
You can contact their customer service at 800-433-9258.
Stuart Gets Involved
After contacting Dewalt, I started talking to Stuart. He had the same knife, but had never had any issue with the blade change mechanism.
I tried several times to explain what the problem was with my knife — only he couldn’t replicate it with his knife. After quite a bit of back and forth, he reluctantly decided to break open his knife. When he did he found this:
That plastic retainer prevents the blade change lever from falling off. It also keeps the small spring in place. You can see below how the plastic retainer fits into place:
There’s no way I simply lost the piece, for some reason my knife was assembled without that piece.
Dewalt Responds Again
When we told Dewalt about the issue, they said:
The issue Ben experienced was contained and the issue has been addressed with our teams/manufacturing facilities.
They didn’t go any further detail.
Also they’re going to ship Stuart and I some new knives.
3D Printed Part
Even though Dewalt is sending me a new knife, I got to thinking — this is a perfectly good knife, I bet I can whip up a similar plastic part in a few minutes with my 3D printer.
So I measured the critical dimensions, verified the width of the part with Stuart, and created a model in Tinkercad. I used Tinkercad because it’s fast and easy to use for simple shapes.
It may not look identical to the original part, but it performs the same functions: retain the blade change lever and keep the small spring in place.
Above you can see the second attempt at a printed part in the knife. I re-assembled the knife and it works exactly like it should. The blade changing lever works every time.
All in all I spent about 20 minutes making the part: 15 minutes designing it and the rest was printing time for the first and second revision parts.
I wasn’t originally going to put a purchase link in this post, but since Dewalt says the issue was contained, I don’t see any reason why I can’t recommend this knife. Both Stuart and I like it.
You can find the knife at Home Depot for $15.
Buy Now (via Home Depot)
I was really concerned by the problems Ben was having with his knife. From the way he was describing the issue, it sounded like it could have either been a design flaw, or a defect that appears with use, time, or environmental factors, such as dropping it a certain way.
Would my much-loved knife fail in the same way?!
Ben described several movements that the mechanism on his knife would do, and I couldn’t get my knife to do any of the same things. My knife, purchased or received as a test sample when it first came out, was marked 2015 on the inside. But so was his, and he recently bought it. (Hmm, was that a production date or injection mold tooling ID?)
With the knife disassembled, I still couldn’t quite replicate the issue or even the lever-action slop that Ben had been experiencing. I could see there wasn’t any space between my lever and the inside of the knife’s plastic exterior. I thought it was part of the lever, but couldn’t be sure. So I sacrificed my knife and broke the housing off.
Comparing images, the truth came out. No product line is flawless. I don’t know what happened, but for whatever reason, one little piece was left out of Ben’s knife. It does happen. Maybe it was a fluke occurrence, a small batch was affected before the issue was caught and corrected, or a simple human error during assembly.
I’m out my everyday utility knife until Dewalt’s replacement comes in, but I am glad we got to the bottom of things.
It’s great that you can just print a part for this. Glad Dewalt came to the party.
Great use of a 3D printer!
I understand the issue of why this knife failed, or more correctly, wasn’t working properly, but that’s exactly why I won’t use any quick change style of knives. There are simply too many parts, springs, latches etc., and inevitably they break, clog up, or bend and quit working. I have tried many over the years and finally I gave up. All I use is the Stanley 99E retractable blade knife. It’s stupid simple, with only one moving part which is the blade carriage. The 99E is the only knife that I have found to actually last, work properly every time I use it, and not cause me major frustration. Plus it’s made in USA and crazy cheap. The quick change style of knives are a waste of money to me.
And a 199 for the workshop. Job done.
That’s a valid point and being simple is a criterion that I use for many things.
That said I can certainly see the utility in a quick change knife, and when it works it is really nice.
Having to stop what you are doing, find a place to take apart the knife so you don’t lose the screw — and that’s if you have a screwdriver on you and not two rooms over in your bag — can really interrupt your workflow. I have a 99E and I’ve dropped the screw on the ground when it’s on my workbench.
I’ve had two of the exact same knives fail in the exact same way. I never pulled them apart to inspect the issue. Like you stated in the post, I find the ergonomics unparalleled and just kept buying the same knife. I wonder if HD will get too worked up if I start taking knives apart BEFORE I buy them just to make sure all the part are there?
Keep up the good work!
I’d contact Dewalt. That’s coming from somebody who in the past never contacted the company when there was a problem. I’ll usually just buy another one if it was cheap or fix it and keep on chugging.
I know Stuart has said it before — tell a tool company if you have a problem with their tool — but I’ve always thought it was a bother
Having dealt with more companies both as a reviewer and as a consumer, I’m starting to get better about talking to them. Good companies will usually stand behind their tools and make it right.
Dewalt has always been great with customer service for me
I had the exact same problem with both Dewalt knives I purchased in a double pack. Thanks for providing the details on the fix. I ended up throwing them both out. Went with the Milwaukee folding version and haven’t looked back.
Try a lutz. Great blade change set up. Very sturdy with nice weight. Several colors and it inclueds a scabard the works great.
The quick change one is what I use
#357? As I said below, I have a bunch of the #88 which are great but I may have to try a 357.
Yes the #357. Also look in better hardware stores for the knife, Im pretty sure I paid less that what they have it for on Amazon.
I read that someone reviewed the knife and said the scabard was cheap. It is plastic after all. What I do is stuff the scabard into the door pockets of each front door and in the bucket I keep by the back door and always have a knife handy which ever side of the van I’m on. I do this because I have the van organized by function. ie the chop saw is at the back, Track saw is on passenger side and driver side is there for assorted tasks and to grab for quick housecalls and whatever. I leave the scabard in place to remind me if I forget to put a knife back. I know it’s a little over thought but it works for me.
I am seeing this as proof that RPOD (replacement parts on demand) printing is a viable industry. Print a few (a spare extra, incase this breaks…saves time, setup).
I’ve the DeWalt folding Utility knife and love it! No issue changing blades. One issue: wearing it on belt, folded, caused much damage to a floor I had to lay on to reach under a cabinet assembly. My fault, not the knife, but glad it was my floor, not someone else. I think I saw that knife here and bought it. I did! https://toolguyd.com/dewalt-auto-load-utility-knife/
I’ve got the Husky version of this knife and love it. The combined convenience, safety and job specific blade length of the folding and retracting blade has made it the primary knife I use. Still have other folding and retracting knives but this style is my favorite.
I have been using the stanley 10-499 for years. They are $10 for a 2-pack and the blade quick change has alot less parts and if that feature is broken then it can be loaded exactly like a normal knife. I do like the shape of these dewalts, but it seems like they have over complicated something that should be simpler.
I really like the use of the 3d printer to fix the part, and would like to see more posts on 3d printing as I feel that these are an under represented item in the tool world, when you can use them for so many tool related things and they cost less than most c&c routers.
The dewalt DWHT 10046 USA better design and better ergonomics. It has been dead reliable, my whole crew uses them as well. Quick change blades with on board storage is the best option for what I do.
I’m guessing rock hangers?
Mostly Windows , cutting old caulk loose, scoring aluminum and some vinyl flooring. I do not go through a of blades hanging rock.
Tool Of The Trade
I’ve had my dewalt utility knives for like 10 years or so. I don’t know what model they are but they’re the folding retractable with blade storage in the retractable part of the knife like a magazine. Holds 3 blades. Retract back and it loads itself a fresh blade after removing the trashed blade. Never had blade release issues either. Makes sense for when you’re cutting drywall, shingles, linoleum, etc and you need a sharp blade instantaneously. That’s pretty rad that you were able to print the part that they left out.
Those dewalt knives are garbage. The blades wiggle way too much inside the handles and the door in the handle for the extra blade storage wiggles far too much.
I picked up some Lutz #88 knives which are FAR better.
Best Builder’s Level: DEWALT DW090PK 20X If the product name seems familiar to you it’s because it is almost identical to one of the Transit Levels described earlier in this article. Yes, it’s the cousin of the DEWALT Transit Level. Best Builder’s Level: DEWALT DW090PKAnd, not surprisingly, it includes many of the same quality features.
What does a level have to do with a knife?
I’ve 6 of them. None work. Pure junk.
The problem I’ve had with these dewalt knives is they don’t work with the husky blades I get supplied for work. The blades struggle to get in if at all and then won’t come out. Took me a while to realize if you hold the husky blade on top of a stanley or lenox blade that the husky is a different size. They work fine in other utility knives just not the dewalts. Not sure if this is a problem with the knives or the husky blades.
What do you know! I bought this thing yesterday, and had such a hell of a time getting the first blade installed, I got on the web and found that mine is probably missing that part. It is hopelessly jammed, and I don’t care to deal with it—it goes back to Home Depot with a nasty blade sticking out a long way . . .
Just bought this same knife yesterday. Blade went in just fine, did the job I needed it to until the time came to switch it around. I could not get the blade to come out. I took the whole thing apart and determined individually all the pieces seemed to work. After reading this I have ALL the peices. But when I put it together it will NOT release. I’m returning it and getting a standard blade with no gimmicks or mechanics
Wish I would have seen this earlier. Two hours in the ER and four stitches later, I will be returning mine. It is junk! Quick change button jammed immediately. Glad it was me and not my son!
Ouch. I hope you feel better and heal up quick!
The issue does not seem to be resolved. The lever does not push the release on the blade high enough to let the blade out. I pulled the covers and the only way to release it was to manually push the latch that goes into the blade notch manually. I used pliers to push the posts in the cover back into the frame.