I am staying with my parents this weekend, and after breakfast my father looks over to me and says:
Retractable utility knives are safer than folding ones.
(He was referring to my brief review of Stanley’s new FatMax utility knife.)
My father’s belief is that retractable utility knives require fewer actions to open and close than folding utility knives. To be fair, my father is somewhat old school. Give him a lockback knife, and he can close it no problem. Give him a slip joint knife, and again, no problem. But a liner lock? A while back I had to show him how to close the blade on his Leatherman multi-tool.
I suppose my father just isn’t aware that folding utility knives often have very secure locking mechanisms. The next time I visit I’ll bring with me an assortment of folding utility knives, and I’m sure he’ll see the appeal after giving them a try.
While I don’t quite agree that retractable utility knives are safer, there are a couple of pros and cons for each knife style.
Retractable Utility Knives
Pros: adjustable cutting depth, longer and more comfortable handles, better ergonomics, internal blade storage.
Cons: larger and bulkier.
Folding Utility Knives
Pros: more compact and pocketable, can be quicker to deploy.
Cons: cutting depth is typically not adjustable, limited internal blade storage, handle grip area is often smaller.
I tend to use both styles of utility knives, and Stanley’s QuickSlide is still a personal favorite. It’s not quite a folding knife, but shares many of the same pros and cons.
If I had to choose one style, I would probably opt for a retractable utility knife, simply because there are times when I don’t want full blade extension. I also find the comfort of full-size retractable knives to be somewhat better more often than not.
Dewalt does make a hybrid retractable folding knife, but its deployment is a bit slow for my liking. Open, slide forward, slice, retract back, close, repeat.
Which utility knife style do you prefer more?
I have the DeWalt one you mentioned and my biggest complaint with it is how bulky it is. It is not comfortable sitting in your pocket at all. A few months ago I was helping my dad redo the roofing on his gazebo and forgot my knife at work, I stopped at the local lumber yard and picked up an Irwin folding knife. I like that it isn’t as bulky, however it feels a lot cheaper and not as safe to use when pressing down hard to cut.
I own the Dewalt as well but knives like that I rarely carry in my pocket… I carry a small folding buck knife or a small mastercraft pocket knife if I go anywhere…. The Dewalt knives I own stay in the house or shed for when something needs to be cut and a small little knife don’t cut it
I like folding knives but one of my best knives is the newer 18mm style Dewalt I picked up earlier this year at HD
I have the Milwaukee fastbacks that I everyday carry and I have one of the dewalt retractables in my tool chest and one in my tool bucket.
I would never want to pocket carry a retractable, but the fastback is perfectly suited for it.
I also like the fastback. Solid tool.
I have the Fastback II as my EDC as well. If I’m wearing my pouch though I use a retractable. Stanley 99E, one on each side of the bags.
Retractable Snap blade only………..haven’t used a conventional single bladed utility knife since my early days as an amateur.
I quickly saw that the snap blades were obviously better as they had multiple fresh sharp points on them available instantly, rather than having to unscrew the body of a knife to flip the blade over only to find out that the other tip was rounded off and you were out of replacements.
With snap off blades you can also fully extend them to cut thicker materials like foam padding or use them to shave material or bend them and us as an impromptu scraper.
I dont understand the current interest in such an outdated design as the stanley utility knife…….all the new designs are just gimmicks meant to sell old ideas.
The only place the old utility knife belongs is in cutting roof shingles.
I think there’s a definitely quality & design consideration to make when choosing one of the folding utility knives. I have a cheap Lowes Kobalt (like this: http://www.lowes.com/ProductDisplay?partNumber=240888-16878-50416) folding knife that really feels unsafe if you start pressing down hard because the blade is held in by the knob-lever near the top-rear of the blade holder. As your hand squeezes and you put downward pressure, you also tend to unlock the blade holder. I also have an older Craftsman one that had simpler mechanism that folded over the top to hold it in, which was very secure, but did get a little looser as it wore out.
Some other blade holding designs are not so easily defeated when using the knife roughly, and likely hold the blade a little more secure.
The big plus to me with the folding knives are their easy-pocketability, almost like having an always-sharp pocketknife. I still have a handful of retractable ones though that I usually reach for during projects, including the nice Dewalt one pictured in this article.
I haven’t used the Milwaukee Fastback yet, but I really like the design and will likely pick one up sometime.
My favorite is the Milwaukee fastback. I love it.
I keep the retractables in my tool box and keep a decent folder (with the 4 point snap off blades) on my belt I don’t like to carry the retracts but they do feel better when under heavy use. Haven’t tried the fastback, may be looking into one soon.
Best utility knife ever made (my opinion) was the Stanley 10-777. Retractable blade for most cuts and when you turn the knob, a fixed blade.
I don’t understand why they stopped making it. These new knives with that button rarely last me three months.
I still own one. Best Knife Ever. They need to bring it back.
Overall I prefer my Stanley 10-788. It is the most comfortable to use and I really don’t mind carrying it in my back pocket. I have the Milwaukee fastback which is the best folder I’ve used. The retractables give me more precise control than the folders. I just purchased a Personna folding carpet knife for the rare occassions I install carpet. Can’t say I’d reccommend for the professional but it’s pretty sweet for a folder.
I love the klein folding knife. It’s super compact when folded up.
For true heavy duty cutting, my favorite is still a fixed blade utility knife, like the Stanley 199. I am wary of retractable knives, and even more wary of cheap folders.
Folding utility knives are great when I can only carry tools on my person, but if I’m bringing a bag, its going to have a retractable knife it in.
I dont always use utility knives, but when I do I prefer snap off knives. I like the convenience more than anything, even though their biggest downfall is blades being pulled out or pushed in while in use. I got me a really nice kobalt, very study well built and has a screw that clamps the blade in place so as not to slip.
The advantage of folders is that they are easier to carry in the pocket. At least in theory. Oddly, there are plenty of folders on the market that are just as bulky as a retractable. There are at least a couple on the market that retract and fold. Which seems ridiculous to me. There are also tons of folders that fall apart easily.
For real use, I think I prefer a retractable, or fixed. It’s really hard to improve on the classic Stanley 99. though I think they did with the 10-016. Which is like a bit smaller and thinner version of the 99, and used to be, like $2 at walmart, but seems to be much harder to find these days.
I like and use the Stanley 10-788 model retractable. I’ve never really used a folder simply because they don’t appeal to me. I like the retractable designs since they give me more control over how much of the blade is exposed. It’s easy to change blades and easy to gain access to the extras in the rear storage area. The only problem I have with the design is that the plastic storage area is a bit more fragile for a work knife. I’ve broken a couple when they’ve dropped or been knocked off the table. Other than that, it’s a fine design. It just needs a tougher plastic or other material for the storage cover.
Nt cutter heavy-duty diecast aluminium L-2000RP and L-550GP models
I never gave it much thought before this article, but do people want to carry a utility knife in their pants pocket? It’s kind of bulky and unyielding; I would imagine it would get in the way if I’m on my knees performing an unrelated task. It makes more sense to me to carry it on my hip, in a tool belt or use it for a specific job and then put it away. I’m like Chris, above; I carry a small Buck pocket knife in my jeans for general use, and take along a utility knife for a specific job requiring it. I’m not a contractor, just a DIYer, so I’m speaking from that perspective.
As far as which is best, that’s a personal matter. If you’re used to a folder or a retractable, and are able to achieve good results with that style, that’s probably what you’ll buy next time. It’s not only HOW it operates, but how it fits in your hand, the tasks you use it for and how accurately you can cut with it. That goes for hammers, guns, writing pens and almost anything else you can name. If you want to try a different style, borrow a friend’s or co-worker’s knife first and use it for awhile; you may find it just doesn’t suit your needs.
I use the Craftsman Auto-Load Slide Utility Knife.
It’s the best knife I have ever owned. It feels good in the hand, is easy to reload, and fits comfortably in my pocket.
You guys should check out the Gerber EAB. I carry this instead of a pocket knife because it is so small. And if I forget to leave it at home when I’m flying, I can just remove and dispose the blade for TSA but keep the EAB. Handy.
That’s my favorite knife, for instances when I need to carry the lightest load I can, but may be in a situation where I have to cut something that can dull bugger up a knife blade.
For heavy use, I prefer a retractable knife, in it’s little pouch on my tool belt.
My favorite is the OLD Stanley. It didn’t retract, fold, or do 87 other different things. And it was made of steel, not aluminum. Mine had a sheath that I made. It was tougher than a box of hammers, and there when I needed it, until it was stolen. Today’s retractable knifes are loose and flimsy. I have had them retract while cutting. They don’t seem safe to me. As far as an adjustable depth stop, I use the old school method of using my thumb, and no I have not cut my thumb or anything else while doing it. Folding are great, although I have never used one while folded. I have a Husky. It does a great job. It does have a belt clip that requires two hands to put it on. Put it in the pocket and its heavy and bulky. Better off in a tool belt pocket. As far as these blunted out over priced versions, you get bragging rights over your buddies. If you use one of these tools every day and are reaching for it every ten minutes, you know what you need and what it’s worth. If not, impress your buddies, or buy what feels good in your hand, and are more comfortable with. Use it with confidence. And they all lived happily ever after.
Folding retractable for me please. I’m talking about the dewalt one. I always carry it at work on my back pocket using the clip. Does not bother me when I sit down because I click it on the outer side of the pocket. I bought one of those for my home uses too. Regarding safety issues, I agree with your dad. An exposed blade on a knife is not safer when folding it. I own one of those that is in my tool box but never gets used…when I was using it I had close calls on slicing some flesh.
I’m a big fan of the stanley classic 99.
Crafstman/sears/kmart has a small folder (31/4 x 2 5/8 and 5/16 thick, 938001 ) that I like the best because it is lighter and thinner than the Stanley slider (heavy) and those klunky folders from Husky and others. It also costs about 4.99. It is shaped like a flat egg.
I just got myself the hybrid DeWalt sliding, folding knife, and so far I really like it. Yes, it is slower to deploy, if you fold it every time, but I don’t think that is the idea behind it. The way I have been using it, is to leave it open, and use it as a standard slider. It has a couple different cutting depths, like a standard slider, fits perfectly in a utility knife pocket, and locks open very securely. However what I like about it, is that I can fold it, and clip it to a jeans pocket, for those instances where I ‘might’ need a utility knife. Takes up half the space as a full size folder, yet opens up into a full size tool. My other folding utility knife is more compact in my pocket (mostly thinner), but it doesn’t seem nearly as suitable for hard use like the DeWalt. I never used the Milwaukee, but like the looks of it.
I have four folding utility knives craftsman, millwaukee, gerber, and dewalt. I like all of them. The best is the millwaukee. Very well made. Easy to use. Why four you ask, why not I say. Just love tools.