No matter if you’re an experienced professional or a passionate DIYer (Do It Yourself), chances are you have worked with a utility knife. From opening boxes, to cutting plastic straps, tape, laminates and more, utility knives can have a variety of functions. But how you use a utility knife depends on the features of the knife itself: some utility knives allow you to choose different fixed-length blade positions to match the depth of the material you're cutting, while others have auto-retracting blades to prevent accidents when the tool is in use.
In this article, we are going to explore behind the scenes of a utility knife – specifically the OLFA 18mm LA-X Fiberglass Utility Knife – and what makes this tough, multi-purpose tool the must-have in your toolbox.
- The Handle
When you think of all the time you spend holding a knife, the handle becomes an important aspect of the tool. It is what dictates different grips, durability and overall comfort of the knife. Many of the OLFA utility knives, like the LA-X, feature a wraparound, anti-slip grip. Having an anti-slip handle contributes to improving the general hold on these tools and helps minimize the chances of injury — if you don’t drop it, you have a lower risk of getting hurt. The handle of this utility knife is also chemically resistant, which means you can use this knife in the toughest applications, even where solvents or other chemicals are involved.
- The Locking Mechanism
Choosing the right locking mechanism for your utility knife is extremely important. Different locking mechanisms can achieve different goals, but no matter the application, locking mechanisms need to ensure safety for the user, creating a knife that is strong and ready for use. The OLFA LA-X Utility Knife features an auto-lock slider that extends and retracts into strong pre-set detents to accommodate varying depths with speed and accuracy. This allows you to easily position the blade to compete with the material you’re cutting.
Since all of us have different preferences, OLFA also offers a knife with the same design elements of the LA-X, but with a different locking mechanism. The OLFA L-5 Utility Knife features a ratchet-lock wheel instead. Although it may seem more complicated, this mechanism is quite simple and very effective: it has a ratchet dial with shaped teeth. Once you turn the wheel, the ratchet mechanism can only move in one direction, since the engaged teeth will prevent the wheel from moving in the opposite direction. This adds an extra layer of safety and control to your tool.
- The Material
Whether working on tough materials or your back-yard project, utility knives have to be strong to resist the hardest applications, lightweight so they’re easy to carry and sturdy to ensure safety. Many of the OLFA utility knives, such as the OLFA LA-X, XH-1, XH-AL, XA-1 and L-5 utility knives, are made with a fiberglass-reinforced body. Fiberglass is extremely versatile and one of the toughest glass laminate materials available. In addition, the knives features a stainless-steel channel that run the length of the handle to secure the blade in place. Choosing stainless steel as one of the main materials for a utility knife speaks volumes. Stainless steel is chip resistant and corrosion resistant to allow for easy clean-up on the job.
- The Metal Pick (Bonus)
Something that can often be overlooked is the back end of your utility knife. When you think about having a well-rounded tool in your hands, you aim to find something that can be used not only to cut, but also for other purposes. By analyzing how tradesmen carry their knives and what their top needs are on a daily basis, OLFA devised a multi-purpose metal pick in the back end of the LA-X (and L-5) utility knife. The metal pick can be used for opening paint cans, prying pieces of laminate flooring or staples, or even to scrape difficult material.
Utility knives are one of the most versatile tools any professional can use, and each part works together to provide the perfect cut. While there is a lot to be said about each knife, it’s important to also consider the right blade for the knife. Stay tuned for an “Anatomy of an OLFA Blade 2.1”, focusing on the different types of blades you can choose from, and what goes into creating the sharpest blades for your tasks!