Retractable Knife: A Must-have Hand Tool

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The retractable knife, also called a utility knife, really should be a staple in every homeowner’s toolbox. Much like a hammer, a screwdriver, or a pair of pliers, the retractable knife will inevitably be needed for all kinds of projects, both big and small. Whether you are an avid DIYer, a hobby or craft aficionado, or just a regular person looking for an all-around good hand tool for household chores, be sure to consider the retractable knife!

What Is a Retractable Knife?

As the name implies, this hand tool is essentially a knife with a mechanism that allows the blade to be retracted into the handle casing when not in use. The design of it encourages safety because the cutting edge of the blade can be tucked away until it is needed for a job. Some styles, known as automatic retractable knives, use a spring to automatically retract the blade when there is no longer tension on it. Others are more manual, and rely on the user to retract the blade with some sort of a finger slider or button. Retractable knives like this even offer finger-friendly blade technologies that utilize a ceramic safety blade that is less likely to cut skin, resulting in an even safer hand tool.

Uses of a Retractable Knife

One of the reasons that the retractable knife is considered a must-have hand tool is due to its versatility. There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of practical uses! Here are just a few of the ways that you might put a retractable knife to work:


  • General Household: Open boxes and clamshell style packaging; remove loose strings or price tags from clothing; create mounting templates from cardboard; and trim photographs for framing.


  • Home DIY Projects: Remove old caulking or worn-out silicone seals; trim replacement window or door screens; cut drywall or foam board insulation to appropriate size; and score luxury vinyl tile. 


  • Arts & Crafts: Cut strips or shapes out of leather material; trim cardstock, stickers, and other paper for scrapbooking; and create designs when soap making or candle making.


  • Outdoor Hobbies: Cut a tangled line or clean a catch when fishing; trim rope or paracord to size when hiking or backpacking; and make tent repairs or patches when camping.


  • Lawn and Garden: Easily open bagged products like mulch, soil, or fertilizer; trim landscape fabric or weed block material to fit flower beds or around plants; and prune back garden plants or harvesting herbs.


  • Automotive Repair: Trim weather stripping to needed size; cut through various automotive hoses; strip electrical or speaker wiring; clean off gasket cement; and open auto parts boxes.


  • Emergencies and Everyday Carry (EDC): Cut off a seatbelt to escape from an auto accident; split small pieces of wood to use when starting a fire;  quick removal of clothing to access an injury for treatment; and cutting strips out of cloth to use for a wound tourniquet.

Benefits of a Retractable Knife

In addition to the wide array of practical uses for a retractable knife, there are also several key benefits of this hand tool that add to its must-have status. Here are a few of the most notable ones:


  • Safe: First and foremost, there is the safety benefit. When the blade has been properly retracted, it can be placed in a pocket, carry bag, or tool kit without concern that it will accidentally cut or damage something during storage or transit. 


  • Durable: Secondly, retractable knives are generally quite durable and will usually last a long time with proper care. For maximum lifespan of the handle and casing, choose a retractable knife made from quality material like metal or glass-filled nylon.


  • Convenient: Thirdly, retractable knives require no sharpening, making them convenient. Because the blades are disposable and replaceable, it takes only a moment to go from a dulled cutting edge to a sharper cutting edge.


  • Affordable: Finally, retractable knives are not extremely expensive, making them affordable for just about everyone. While there will be a range of price points depending on which brand, size, style, and features you choose, most retractable knives can be purchased for much less than other styles of knives.

Buying a Retractable Knife

If you are ready to purchase a retractable knife and are wondering what to look for, two primary considerations should be blade material and handle design. While the most common blade material used in retractable knives is metal, ceramic blades are also a great option. Ceramic blades do not rust, are not magnetic or conductive, and they tend to last longer than their metal counterparts. 


When comparing handles, look for designs that are comfortable and easy to grip. Some retractable knife handles are designed for specific uses, so if you know what you will be using it for most often, choose a style that provides ergonomics for the job. Handle design will also include retractable options, so deciding if you want an auto retracting or manual retracting blade helps narrow down the options.


After making a purchase, take some time to educate yourself about how to use this cutting tool safely. Learning the proper procedures for use, retraction, storage, and blade changes will help keep you safe from accidental cuts and prolong the life of this must-have tool. Hopefully, the suggestions above will spark some ideas for how to make your everyday tasks even easier with your new retractable knife.