Utility knives used in woodworking and construction have come a long way from the venerable Stanley No. 199 and 99E models that most of us recognize as setting the standard. But modern technology and new jobsite requirements offer even more opportunities to make this ubiquitous tool better. Irwin has taken that to heart with the release of three new utility knives that do more than make the cut.

From basic to more

All three of the new knives are folding units that use a liner lock to secure the blade in the open position. This is a lot surer than all of those push-button retracting blade units we have cussed at over the years every time the blade disappears in the middle of a cut. These not only lock solidly into place much like a fine locking folding pocket knife, but they can easily be opened and closed one-handed.

The first in the line, the FK100, features a lightweight skeletonized handle and matching spring belt clip. Next in line is the FK150, which has a solid handle, belt clip, and a flip-up cover to store extra blades. Top of the line is the FK250, which not only has a cutting blade, but it also has a flip-out hex bit holder. Its onboard tool storage has room for both extra blades and one extra hex bit.

Solid in use

All three knives performed solidly in use as cutting tools. The blades are securely held with little or no flex and are easy to change simply by moving them to a 45-degree position that allows them to be unlocked. The liner locks are safe and secure as well as easy to use and even open and close pretty well either left- or right-handed.

About the only complaint I can muster is that the belt clips are all backwards for my tastes. Using the clips, the knives all ride in your pocket or on your belt with the blade pivot up, so once you pull out the knife, you have to turn it around in your hand to open it. But that’s a small inconvenience for a very solid series of knives, and at a street price range from under $10 to under $13, how can you lose? For more information, visit www.irwin.com.

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