Knives on the cutting edge
Utility knives

Knives new and old, from left, ToughBuilt magazine knife, ToughBuilt scraper knife, Knipex Cutix, Irwin folder, old Stanley Bostitch two-blade model, Leatherman ChargeAL, and the author’s old Cub Scout knife. Note ruler for scale.

Some new high-tech utility knives showed up in my shop recently, and it got me thinking about my relationship to knives in the shop.

I’ve carried some kind of knife just about every day of my life since my Dad gave me my first one when I was about 8 years old. It was a little pen knife that was OK for whittling in small hands and sharp enough to cut myself with. I soon graduated to a Cub Scout pocket knife that had a blade, a bottle opener/screwdriver, and an awl. The blade is high-carbon steel and keeps a nice edge; it still lives on my workbench.

In high school and college, there was usually a Swiss Army knife in my pocket. The different tools were great, but I never liked that the blade didn’t lock in place. I eventually gravitated to the Leatherman multi-tool and never looked back. I regularly carry a ChargeAL model and use it all the time. My son and I have also forged a few knives ourselves over the years.

Utility knives
In the shop and homebuilding, I’ve gone through a run of utility knives. Most owe a debt to the legendary Stanley #199, using a disposable trapezoidal blade designed to be reversed to give you two edges before you replace it with a new one. 

That design is still common, but tool makers have been spicing it up a bit. I have a modern Stanley Bostitch version that holds both standard and hooked blades. It lives in my carpenters’s tool belt and has scored a lot of sheetrock. A few years ago, I wrote about some Irwin knives that copied modern locking folder designs to make a more compact utility knife.

New entries
The latest entries include Knipex Cutix that uses segmented breakaway blades to make it easy to get a fresh, sharp edge without changing blades. It has a clever sliding blade back reinforcement that makes the thin blade more rigid for tough cutting jobs.

From ToughBuilt, there are two new knives. One is both a scraper and knife, allowing you to instantly pivot the blade to use its full length for scraping. Another is hefty with a spring-loaded magazine to supply fresh blades. It feels like I’m doing a reload on my 1911 pistol when I pop the magazine in and out.

So which knife do you choose? It’s very personal. Some of these new knives are too big and bulky for my tastes, but they are sturdy and serviceable. Learn more at and


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About the author
William Sampson

William Sampson is a lifelong woodworker, and he has been an advocate for small-scale entrepreneurs and lean manufacturing since the 1980s. He was the editor of Fine Woodworking magazine in the early 1990s and founded WoodshopBusiness magazine, which he eventually sold and merged with CabinetMaker magazine. He helped found the Cabinet Makers Association in 1998 and was its first executive director. Today, as editorial director of Woodworking Network and FDMC magazine he has more than 20 years experience covering the professional woodworking industry. His popular "In the Shop" tool reviews and videos appear monthly in FDMC.