Milwaukee Utility Knives - Canadian Woodworking Magazine

A bevy of utility knives suitable for shop, job site, or home use.

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Milwaukee Utility Knives



Utility knives are ubiquitous general purpose cutting tools that come in a surprisingly wide range of styles. They tend to be relatively inexpensive, yet imminently practical. Which means you can have several conveniently on hand. I keep a couple in the shop, a few different styles in my tool box, and I always keep one in the glove compartment, another in the garage, and often carry one around on my waist belt.

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L to R: Snap-Off, Self-Retracting Safety, FASTBACK II Flip Utility, FASTBACK Folding

Milwaukee recently introduced four new knives – one that uses a snap-off segmented blade strip, two that use the single, reversible style blades, and a folding pocket style knife (which. I suppose, technically isn't a utility knife). 

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Top: Segmented snap-off blade strip; Bottom: Single reversible utility blades (standard, round, hook, and rhino)

Utility knives typically use a segmented, snap-off blade strip, or a single, reversible blade. The snap-off blade strip is essentially a long narrow blade that is deeply scored to create multiple blade sections. When the exposed portion of the strip becomes worn out, you simply snap it off, and then advance the strip, exposing a fresh, sharp segment of blade. These blades come in various widths. The most popular blades are made of carbon steel, but you can also get carbide blades, which provide a much longer service life.

What most people refer to as a 'utility blade' is probably the single, reversible style blade. Once one end of the blade becomes dull you turn it end for end to expose the fresh cutting edge. The most common style has a 45-degree angle on the end of the blade. Other styles include a round tip (safer to use in craft work and for children), hook tip (better suited for cutting linoleum, carpeting, and asphalt shingles), and rhino tip (used by taxidermists and leather workers).


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Snap-off blade inserted through the handle end

Milwaukee's Snap-Off knives come in 9mm, 18mm, and 25mm blade versions. They're a standard length (6"), and have a steel blade carriage with a ribbed overmold handle with a lanyard hole in the end. The front end of the handle is slightly contoured, which providing a good grip zone for the forefinger. It only takes a half turn of the metal locking knob to release the blade so you can advance or retract it. To insert a new blade strip you have to turn the knob about 1-1/2 turns so that it's higher than the protruding nib on the back of the handle. You can then slide out the licking knob mechanism and then slide in a new blade strip. I found the process to be be very quick.

I have a slight preference for this style of utility knife, as the blade strip is equivalent to carrying around 8 individual standard blades. It's also slim, and super light – about 2-1/2 ounces – and fits comfortably in a tool belt, shop apron, or pants pocket. What I like with this Milwaukee Snap-Off knife is how fast the blade lock mechanism works, and the fact that I can easily manipulate in one-handed, using my thumb. I also like that the blade wobbles barely at all side-to-side and up-and-down. 

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Thumb activated blade; stores up to 5 blades in the handle

At 5-3/4" the Milwaukee Self-Retracting Safety Knife is somewhat shorter than the Snap-Off knife. It's a tad bulkier, but not much heavier (about 3 ounces). The body appears to be made of a cast alloy, perhaps aluminum, which makes it quite durable. It doesn't take much thumb pressure to extend the blade, and as soon as you release the button the blade snaps back into the handle. You can adjust the projection of the blade to either 1/2" or 3/4", and you can store up to 5 blades in the handle, which is convenient. The handle lock knob releases in only two full turns, and I like that the knob doesn't fall off the handle when the two halves of the knife are disassembled. There is a handy 10-gauge wire stripper at the front end of the knife, and a lanyard hole at the back. It does lack a belt clip, which I would have preferred. The knife comes with two 'safety' blades – standard utility blades with rounded tips. You can, of course, use pointed blades with this knife. 

This is a very useful knife for those who don't want an exposed blade when the knife isn't in use. With the Snap-Off knife you have to loosen the lock wheel, retract the blade, and then re-tighten the lock wheel. Even though it only takes four or five seconds to do this, those seconds can mount up quickly over the course of a year – especially when you're constantly using a knife thoughout your work day. With the Self-Retracting knife it's a simple thumb push and release.

This is a comfortable knife, with an easy to manipulate blade. In use I did find somewhat more side-to-side blade wobble than with the Snap-Off knife.

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Quick blade removal and easy one handed opening/closing

The Fastback II Flip Utility Knife is an updated version of the original Milwaukee Fastback Flip Knife (Read my review of the Fastback I). The two models are identical except that the Fastback II has onboard storage for one blade. The original Fastback has been my 'go to' shop knife for the past three years. It's proven to be an excellent utility knife that is comfortable to hold, and opens and closes one-handed.

At 5" closed (7-1/4" open) and 4-1/2 ounces it's the heftier of the knives we've looked at so far. As with the Self-Retracting Safety Knife it has a 10-gauge wire stripper. In place of the lanyard hole it has a wire belt clip. Plus it has a 'gut hook' integrated into the handle, which you use to cut rope or wire without having to open the knife.

The blade opens very quickly, with a snap of the wrist, and remains automatically locked in either the open or closed position – a nice safety feature.

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Single blade storage

The big drawback of this knife over the original Fastback is on-board blade storage – albeit only one blade. Still, it saves having to peck around your tool box when you need a new blade. 

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(L) Blade release button; (R) 

The 4-7/8" (7-3/4" open) 4 ounce Fastback Folding Knife isn't really a utility knife, but rather a pocket or belt knife. It has a 3" stainless steel drop-point blade with a bead blast finish. Like the Fastback Flip knife, there is a button on the outside of the handle that, when pressed with your thumb, unlocks the blade. A flick of the wrist should then provide the momentum for the blade to flip open. However I found that this didn't work – I had to manually grasp the blade and pull it open.

The blade liner serves as the blade lock in the open position. You press against the liner with your thumb, and then close the blade with your forefinger. This worked reasonably well.

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Drop-point blade and thick back

The blade comes reasonably well sharpened, and I found that it maintained a sharp edge fairly well. The wire form belt clip, which can be positioned on either end of the knife, is much narrower than on the Fastback Folding Knife, but still manages to hold tightly onto a waist belt. While this knife doesn't have the fine look and feel of a Kershaw or Benchmade knife, you can't beat it's $15 price tag.

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Convenient and economical 100-piece blade pack

For $20, Milwaukee's 100-piece micro carbide utility blade pack is super value. That works out to .20¢ a blade. This makes them much more economical than purchasing blades in the more common 5-blade pack. Blades slide out of the bottom of the plastic container, and you can store used blades in the top of the container. I find these blades to be very sharp, and they hold an edge well, whether cutting drywall, vinyl siding, foam board, or asphalt shingles.

These Milwaukee knives, which come with a limited lifetime warranty, won't disappoint, whether you're looking for a well-priced knife for shop, job site, or home use.

KEY FEATURES:

48-22-1961 - Snap Off Knife
  • 6" Length
  • Metal Lock
  • Speed Thread
  • Overmolded Handle
  • Acetone Resistant
  • 8 Point Blade
  • Takes 18mm Snap Off Blades
48-22-1915 - Self-Retracting Safety Knife
  • 5-3/4" Length
  • Self-retract Blade
  • Two Blade Positions
  • Blade storage in Handle (5 blades)
  • Tool-free blade change
  • All-metal Body
  • 10-gauge Wire Stripper
  • Lanyard Hole
48-22-1902 - Fastback II Flip Utility Knife
  • One-Handed Opening
  • 7-1/4" Length
  • Magnetic Blade Storage (1 blade)
  • Tool-free Blade Change
  • All-metal Body
  • Gut Hook
  • 10-gauge Wire Stripper
  • Wire-form Belt Clip
48-22-1902 - Fastback Pocket Knife
  • 7-3/4" Length
  • One-Handed Opening
  • Stainless Steel Drop-point Blade
  • Blade Lock
  • Lanyard Hole
  • Reversible Wire-form Belt Clip
48-22-1900 - 100pc Blade Pack
  • 100 Blade Pack
  • Used Blade Storage
  • Micro Carbide Blade
  • Precision Ground
  • Optimized Grind Angle

COMPANY:Milwaukee
MODELS:48-22-1961 - Snap Off
48-22-1915 - Self-Retracting Safety
48-22-1902 - Fastback II Flip Utility
48-22-1902 - Fastback Pocket
48-22-1900 - 100pc Blade Pack
PRICES:48-22-1961 - $9.97
48-22-1915 $9.97
48-22-1902 $14.97
48-22-1902 $14.97
48-22-1900 $19.97
MADE IN:USA; Overseas
SOURCE:Dealer Locator

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Author: 
Carl Duguay
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