A utility knife is an inexpensive tool made by enclosing a razor blade in a handle which provides a hand-grip. Utility knives are used in a wide variety of industries, from graphic design to construction, and they can be very useful tools to keep around the house or shop. Most hardware stores stock utility knives, and they can also be ordered from manufacturers.
The basic utility knife design consists of two parts: a replaceable blade, and a sturdy handle. The blade is designed to be replaced whenever it starts to dull, while the handle can be used for years. Many utility knives are made with double-ended blades so that the blade can be flipped around and used again. The housing for the blade may also include a storage space for several extra blades for convenience.
In one version of the design, the blade is locked in place with a ratcheting mechanism which allows the user to move the blade back and forth. The blade may be fully retracted for safety and storage, or extended for specific tasks. The ability to control the length of the blade gives the operator more precision; for example, the blade can be kept short for opening a box without damaging the contents, or lengthened to cut through something wide.
In another variation, the blade is made in segments. A snap-off or segmented blade is designed so that the user can simply break off the tip of the blade as it starts to dull. Eventually, all of the segments will be used, and it will be necessary to install a new blade. Segmented blades are also outfitted with ratcheting mechanisms so that the knife can be pushed out of the housing to expose new segments.
A fixed-blade utility knife is made with a razor blade which is anchored in place. Fixed-blade knives are often used for crafts and tasks which require a high level of control, and the blades may be quite small, with varying widths available. The blade can be changed or swapped with another by unscrewing the housing to allow the blade to slide out.
X-Acto and Stanley are two popular brands of utility knives, with some people referring to these useful tools as carpet or mat knives. “Box cutter” is another common term used in reference to utility knives. Like other sharp tools, a utility knife can be dangerous in the wrong hands, and these blades should be stored responsibly.