There are certain items in a garage, toolbox, shop, home, and work truck that should always be handy. At the top of that selective list is a utility knife. Years ago, the standard retractable knife was supplemented with the more compact folding utility knife. Manufacturers are counting on you seeing the smaller, yet still functional knife as a must-have item, but with so many to choose from, how do you pick one? This month, we tackle that very question and provide you with the results of an exhaustive test process that included examining cutting ability, ergonomics, features, value, ease of changing the blades, and overall build quality. During our testing, each utility knife was subjected to the same bevy of tests, and once we had completed tallying the points, only one knife claimed victory.
1. Sheffield Quickchange Lockback Knife
We picked up the Sheffield Quickchange after stopping in at Autozone and seeing what types of utility knives they carried. Its $14.99 price was the highest of the group, and quite honestly we didn't know much about the Sheffield tool line, not giving it much consideration. Once we opened the package however, we instantly became fans of the rubber handle, ingenious blade storage, belt clip, solid blade grip, and easy blade changes. Featuring a lockback safety device, the Sheffield felt great when cutting into 5/16-inch-thick particleboard. Our favorite feature of this knife was its thumb rest on top of the blade, which made the knife both comfortable and safe. This was definitely a dark horse, but the numbers don't lie.
2. Milwaukee Fastback Utility Knife
Going into the test, the Milwaukee Fastback was our initial favorite, as it looked good, felt solid, and was feature-packed. After the tests were concluded, the knife fell short of first-place, but still performed admirably. At $14.97, it was one of the most expensive knives in our group, yet during the particleboard cut test, the blade was wobbly and felt as if it was separating from the aluminum handle. What it lacked in rugged cutting performance it made up for with features, such as simple blade change, one-hand opening, wire stripper, integrated gut hook, and pocket clip. The knife package also included five additional blades, and was the only knife that locked both closed and open, for the ultimate in safety.
3. Pittsburgh Folding Locking Back Utility Knife
After going online and reading some reviews for this knife, we were concerned about the blade grip, however, during our testing the Pittsburgh knife handled every challenge we threw at it without fail. The absolute value leader, Pittsburgh even includes five replacement blades for a knife totaling less than $6.00. Features include a simple blade change system, aluminum handle, and belt clip, though the top of the clip does protrude out further than we'd like. Overall, the least expensive knife in our test proved to pack quite a big punch.
4. Kobalt Quick-Change Folding Lock-Back Utility Knife
The Kobalt knife featured an intuitive blade change system, impressive bang for the buck, and was stainless steel. Despite its thin design, we felt confident putting extreme pressure on the blade when cutting through thick material, and the lock-back safety feature gave us added peace of mind. Included in the knife package, Kobalt supplies 10 additional replacement blades making the under $9.00 knife a great overall value. The thin design makes it easy to keep in a pocket, while still being large enough to grip comfortably.
5. Snap-On Folding Utility Knife
Available at Pep Boys part stores, we picked up this Snap-on packaged folding utility knife hoping for traditional Snap-on quality. What we got was the typical private-labeled item made in China we didn't want. Finishing in Fifth place, the thinly designed knife wasn't easy to open, wasn't particularly comfortable in our hands, and it didn't feature any blade storage. The best part of the knife was the easy-to-use “wheel” blade change system and the lock back safety feature.
6. DeWalt Folding Retractable Utility Knife
Providing the sole conundrum in the group, the DeWalt knife is both folding and retractable, meaning once the knife is unfolded from the closed position, you still have to engage the blade to cut anything. This unique design left most of the test staff scratching their heads. Features of the DeWalt included in-handle blade storage, three extra blades included, and a nice rubber grip on the handle. During the blade change test, we didn't face any difficulties swapping them out quickly, and we appreciated the aluminum handle. Looking at the competition, it was outclassed by others in this competitive segment.
7. Craftsman Folding Utility Knife
We assure you, Truckin magazine is not picking on Craftsman, but once again, one of their tools placed at or near the bottom of our tool test. This aluminum handle knife features a lock back design, belt clip, and came with five additional blades. With that said, we could barely get the darn thing open. It says “Easy one-hand opening,” but that wasn't the case with this example. Compared to other testers, the handle was too thin and didn't provide a comfortable grip for extreme cutting. The blade changing system claims to be patented, however, it was eerily similar to the same patented design found on the Sheffield utility knife. We looked at the test results, and the Craftsman was dead last.