Return of the Utility Knife… The Final Showdown

 

Well several months back we took a modest selection of 5 utility knives and compared a few common features in the original Utility Knife Showdown. However just after that launch Irwin launched several new knives that brought some interesting new features to the table as well as some very trade specific knives so we did the follow up Showdown 2 – Irwin Strikes Back. Not wanting to be left out of the party the Stanley Group sent over 3 additional knives from Stanley, DeWalt & Bostitch. At this point we feel it is safe to say we can do a pretty robust comparison with a good majority of the utility knives you will find in the market, in all we narrowed it down to 8 finalists with a good mix of unique features.

Irwin Protouch Utility Knife ($14, Amazon) has recently been updated and is a big improvement over the previous model. Blade change no longer requires the knife to be opened, on board blade storage in easier to access and the contoured shape provides a much better feel overall. Great all around knife.

Milwaukee FastBack 48-22-1901 ($15, Ohio Power Tool) very well constructed with a great contoured grip. The flip-out style utility knife has been increasing in popularity over the past few years as it is much easier to carry all the time using the belt clip. This knife also features two wire stripers.

CH Hanson Flip Knife ($13, Amazon) is designed more as a specialty tool but we could see it being very handy in a wide range of situations. The two sided knife features a strait and hooked blade, one on each end and a safety feature which prevents them from being extended simultaneously. Quick release blade buttons means you never need to open the knife at all, but if you did want too it’s very easy. This does make it a fairly large knife especially considering the lack of on board blade storage.

Bostitch Twin Blade Utility Knife ($9, Amazon) the obvious advantage with this knife is the twin blade setup which can easily be switched with just a move of the thumb. This knife also features quick blade change and on-board blade storage however we were not impressed with blade storage as there were no magnets or clamps to hold the blades in place so they can fall out when you open it.

 

Milwaukee Slide Utility Knife 48-22-1910 ($7, Ohio Power Tool) is another knife which rearranges the classic knife design very cleverly. The slide is on the side preventing the release from getting caught on a pocket or tool belt and cutting yourself. The blade storage is also very nicely situated in the handle with a magnet holding the blades in place. The blade is removed with a quick release button so the actual case on the knife is never opened. The thumb pad also improves the comfort for long periods of use.

Stanley FatMax 10-778L Utility Knife ($9, Amazon) a more traditional utility knife but with some added features including padding near the blade for and a locking feature when the blades is extended both handy for chocking up on the knife in various drywall and other applications.

DeWalt Folding DWHT10035L Utility Knife ($11, Amazon) the most recent addition to our ever growing collection of utility knives this folding utility knife has several unique features including on-board blade storage and retract ability. Both these features allow the knife to function just as any regular utility knife but in about half the size when closed. Also features a wire stripper.

  

Irwin Drywall Fixed Blade Utility Knife ($10, Amazon) specifically designed for drywall use this knife would not be recommended as a general purpose knife. However for drywalling all day long this specialty knife would be very handy as it is intended to be used all the way chocked up with fingers by the blade and very firm blade position.     

Blade Storage – of the eight, six had onboard blade storage ranging from 2-5 blade of storage space. The Bostitch was our least favorite as the blade knock around loosely in the handle and when you open it can fall our fairly easily. Also the opening mechism is clucky which only adds to the likelyhood of loosing the blades on opening. The Irwin ProTouch and Stanley FatMax were both pretty easy with nice soft springs holding the blades in but the winner remains the Milwaukee Slide with its magnet holding compartment, very smart. – Milwaukee Slide Winner

Blade Changing – this time seven of the eight featured quick release blade mechanisms, the Irwin fixed blade deliberately did not obviously. Of the other seven it is very difficult to pick a winner but probably the one that would be the quickest would be the Bostitch as the release is on the top next to the retract lever. We could also however see how it might be the easiest to accidentally press while in use. In comparision to just a few years back we have to say all were really quick, probably none took over 6 seconds which is amazing to think such a short time ago and fumbling around with this. – Bostitch      

Blade Play – All the utility knives in our sample had some blade movement; the only way to prevent it would be to more securely fasten the blade in place which would make the quick change blade releases and sliding features nearly impossible. From most play to least here is the order: Irwin ProTouch, CH Hanson, Bostitch, DeWalt, Milwaukee Slide, Stanley FatMax, Milwaukee FastBack, Irwin Drywall Fixed Blade. Even the fixed blade still had some play but it was very minimal. The Stanley FatMax impressed us in this category as it was very tight even with the retract
feature. – Irwin Drywall Fixed Blade

Comfort – When you could potentially be using your utility knife several hours in a single day comfort can become a very important issue. One feature we found useful was the thumb pads which was on 3 models including the Milwaukee slide, DeWalt & Bosctitch. Digging your thumb into the metal level is less than ideal. All 3 Stanley Family knifes also had some form of grip near the blade allowing to easily chock up during use. The Irwin fixed blade and Milwaukee Fastback were also thin enough, it was very comfortable to do this as well. In terms of hand grip Irwin ProTouch, Milwaukee Slide, Stanley FatMax & Bostitch all scored well but our favorite was FastBack for its extremely contoured finger position and ease of opening. – Milwaukee FastBack

Safety – Accidents with utility knifes are very common, maybe not as catastrophic as accidents with a table saw but nobody enjoys getting their finder sliced with a razor sharp blade. Right off the bat we will take the Irwin fix blade out of the running, that blade can be dangerous in the hands of an unskilled laborer. In the way of blade releases the Irwin ProTouch is by far the best, as it features a separate unlock position which needs to be engaged to use the blade release button. In terms of keeping fingers away from the blade in use we thought the Milwaukee Fastback, Stanley FatMax and Irwin ProTouch all did a good job providing a more aggressive lip on the handles. – Irwin ProTouch

Weight – Bostitch 7.8oz, CH Hanson 5.9oz, Stanley FatMax 4.9oz, DeWalt Folding 4.9oz, Milwaukee Slide 4.8oz, Milwaukee Fastback 4.7oz, Irwin ProTouch 3.8oz, Irwin Fix Blade 3.5oz. While it should be no surprise the double bladed knives were the heaviest we were surprised to see the Irwin ProTouch so much less than the others but still had all the same features (even had 3 blades in storage).  Irwin ProTouch

Conclusion – Honestly it’s pretty hard to come up with any definitive conclusions here, we deliberately picked the widest range of options available so depending on your application hopefully you will be able to draw your own conclusions. Hopefully we will be done for a little while playing with utility knives unless we see a rush of new features this Trilogy is complete. Some of our top picks include the Bostitch for the 2 blades of versatility and high marks in comfort, Irwin ProTouch for safety and light weight and DeWalt for packing the most features into the smallest possible package. The Coptool.com Top Pick however and the blade we will continue to use most often is the Milwaukee Fastback. The clip allows it to easily slide into the pocket; its slim profile is barely noticeable when wearing and we really like the flip action for quickly opening and closing of the blade. It’s all around just fun to use, still. – Coptool.com Top Pick Milwaukee Fastback   
   

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