Utility Knives: Why Are They Still Handy and How Do You Use Them?

Utility knives are a toolbox staple, regardless of your skill level with them. Whether you’re a do-it-yourself (DIY) novice or a professional in the industrial field, utility knives will always come in handy.

Their versatility makes them suitable for countless projects, and their ability to cut a wide array of materials puts them in the hall of fame for tools. 

These tools are especially useful around the house, and every home renovator or certified tinkerer should have one. Let’s dive into the utility knife’s notable features and the types of tasks for which you can use it.  

What Is a Utility Knife?

Utility knives are general purpose hand tools that you can use in household and industrial settings. While their most common applications include cutting cardboard and other packaging material, they have a broad range of other uses as well.

Utility knife blades are usually made of stainless steel, zirconium oxide, carbon steel, and titanium. Handle materials are mostly composed of glass-filled nylon, stainless steel, aluminum, titanium, and carbon fiber. 

There are three standard retraction options for utility knives. Manual retraction is the most common setting. Utility knives like these give you the ability to lock the blade in two positions: exposed and retracted. Auto-retractable knives boast a slider, and when the user releases it, the spring-loaded blade retracts. 

Lastly, smart-retracting utility knives self-retract when the blade loses contact with its cutting surface. If you’re keen on safety, then this option is the way to go.

How Can You Use Utility Knives?

How Can You Use Utility Knives
Source: bobvila.com

Cut Old Carpet

If you need to replace a hunk of stained or worn-out carpet, then a utility knife will come in handy.

Simply cut a rectangle out of the undesired section with a straightedge while exerting some pressure. Then, use the removed piece as a template for inserting the new carpet. 

Pro tip: Because this task requires a steady hand and exerted pressure, think about investing in a utility knife with a handle that’s made of glass-filled nylon. It’s a sturdy, durable material that’s also comfortable to hold, which is vital when you’re doing home renovations. 

Repair Window Screens

Utility knives are an excellent asset for the window screen installation process. After you’ve stretched the new screen and fit it into the channel on the metal frame, you’re going to have excess mesh. It’s inevitable.

This is where your knife comes into play. Place a straightedge over the spline, so only the mesh sticks out. Cut the screen along the straightedge to remove the mesh. 

Slice Drywall

These tools are ideally suited for cutting through drywall’s paper face and its gypsum center. As you’re slicing through the drywall, be sure to guide your blade along a straightedge or T-square.

Cut into the sheet’s front, then bend it to snap it along the cut line. You can separate the two pieces by slicing through the paper on the back of the sheet. Lastly, use your blade to smooth the rough edges. 

Remove Dried Caulk

It’s essential to remove old caulk before you apply a new bead to a seam or joint. When getting rid of said caulk, take your utility knife blade and slice along both sides of the bead, not down the middle.

You want to disengage the bead from its surrounding surface. Then, you can use a putty knife to scrape off the caulk. 

Slice Cable Insulation

Sure, you can use a wire stripper to remove the outer sheathing of an electrical cable, but a utility knife works just as well. Lay the end of the cable on a hard surface.

Utilize your knife to cut through the outer sheathing. Be sure to refrain from cutting the wires inside the cable. 

Next, grab a pair of lineman’s pliers and strip the sheathing away from the wires. Finally, use the cutting jaws on the pliers to cut the sheathing from the cable.

Consider purchasing a utility knife with a zirconium oxide blade. It possesses a hardness that surpasses steel, and it’s safe to the touch—an important aspect when you’re carrying out potentially dangerous tasks. 

Remove Paint-Covered Screws

It’s difficult to remove screws when the screw slots are chock full of dried paint. You can use your utility knife for gently scratching away the paint from the slots.

You want your screwdriver to fit into the screw head, and it may take a few minutes to clear the paint entirely. Make sure you wear goggles, just in case the paint chips start to fly. 

Ready to Get Your Utility Knife?

These household uses are just the tip of the iceberg but should give you ideas to use your new utility knife or find new ways to use one you may have already.

As long as you have a quality utility knife that’s both safe and effective, you’ll be confident at completing these tasks with ease.

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