How to Choose a Great Utility Knife

utility knife - how to choose a great utility knife

When you think of the most useful tool in your toolbox, which tool do you think of? A hammer? Screwdriver? Wrench? How about a utility knife? These versatile knives are easily some of the most useful tools that you should have in your collection. 

A utility knife—a small, multi-purpose tool that can be manual or retractable—has a wide variety of features to choose from. Without quality cutting performance though, the rest doesn’t matter. So the first thing to think about is the blade.

Some utility knives have steel blades; others are made of ceramic. Both types tend to start off very sharp and dull quickly. However, there’s another type of ceramic called zirconium oxide that is safer to touch than traditional steel and other ceramic versions. Zirconium oxide blades are less likely to cause injuries while cutting, and last longer than traditional steel. Don’t be fooled though. They can still make cuts as well as the other types.

Now that you know how sharp you want your utility knife to be, what else do you need to know about picking the right knife for your needs?

What Makes a Good Utility Knife?

Because utility knives have so many uses, there isn’t one knife that is perfect for every person. Handles, blade-changing options, blade exposure and storage options matter almost as much as sharpness.

After the blade, what matters most is the handle, and whether it’s right for you. First, you’ll need to decide whether you want a left or right-handed knife, or one that can be used in either hand. Utility knives like these have an ambidextrous design. When choosing a handle, don’t forget about comfort. Ergonomic handles will be more comfortable to hold for lengthier durations of time.

Utility knife handles of all types are usually plastic or metal. Metal handles are sturdier and more comfortable to hold. Plastic handles can be less sturdy but are lightweight, making them more portable.

When choosing a knife, consider what extra features you might like to have. Some utility knives require tools for blade changes, while others have a no-tool blade change feature. Some even come with a lanyard hole to keep them handy on your keychain. 

Manual blades allow you to make the knife as short or long as you’d like it to be (in multiple positions), giving you variety in the depths of cuts. Auto-retractable blades retract when you remove your finger off the grip. This feature helps prevent you from walking around with the blade exposed and reduces injuries. Smart-retracting blades slide back into their housing as soon as they lose contact with the cutting material, adding another layer of safety.

Folding utility knives can only be used at one length, but they often lock at multiple different angles. This feature makes it easier to make cuts at tough angles. 

What Are Some Uses of a Utility Knife?

retractable knife - how to choose a great utility knife

Now that you have an understanding of how to shop for a utility knife, let’s get into its uses. Utility knives are useful for all types of jobs around the home and even arts and crafts. Let’s cover a few of the most popular uses of utility knives.

Cutting Out Drywall

One of the best uses of a utility knife is to cut out drywall. The sharp, rigid blade helps make a perfect cut, giving you access to the area that lays behind the drywall. 

Removing Paint-Covered Screws

Did you accidentally forget to remove a screw before painting? Not to worry! The point of the utility blade is perfect for scraping dried paint out of the screws slots so that you can easily unscrew it.

Cutting Up Carpeting

Big rolls of carpeting can be tough to carry and too large to fit into cars. If it’s an older piece of carpeting that you no longer intend to use, a utility knife is the perfect tool to cut carpet into squares for easier transport.

Stripping Wires

While wire strippers are the preferred tool for stripping wire, utility knives work in a pinch. If you’re doing a small electrical job, you can easily remove the jacket of the wire by scoring it. 

Removing Grout

You’ll want to use a rotary tool to remove the majority of grout, but a utility knife is perfect for getting out any particularly tough fragments. If you’re working on a smaller piece of grout, you can skip the rotary tool and just use a utility knife. 

Cutting Foam

From craft projects to providing an extra layer of cushioning in flooring, foam has many uses around the house, but can be messy and hard to cut into smaller pieces. Utility knives precisely cut foam without the mess of a power tool. 

Sharpening a Pencil

While pencil sharpeners are usually the go-to supply, utility knives can give your pencils a fine tip, too.

Cutting Through Caulk

Caulking around windows and bathtubs can be tough to remove. Utility knives are often thin and sharp enough to slice through caulk to loosen the section that you are trying to remove. 

Carving Wood

Utility knives are not only useful for whittling creative designs but also carving custom wood pieces to fit in tight spaces. 

Opening Packages and Cutting Through Tape

Utility knives can cut through cardboard boxes and packing tape just as well, if not better, than any other knife.


Whether you’re using utility knives for do-it-yourself projects, as a craft enthusiast or a contractor in the industrial world, this tool is a smart investment. With a whole host of features, including everything from blade type and handle to cutting material and tool changes, it’s up to you to decide which utility knife will work best for your everyday needs.

Feature image: IGOR FIGUEREDO; Image 1: PublicDomainImages

Written By
More from contributor
9 Ways to Encourage Your Friends and Family to Live More Sustainably
Let’s face it—sustainability doesn’t come easily to everyone. It can be a...
Read More
Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *