A good utility knife is to a carpenter what a ratchet is to an automotive mechanic, or what pliers are to an electrician: an indispensable tool of the trade. But not all knives are created equal, and when a Kentucky carpenter tried a type of utility knife he didn’t normally use, he realized how beneficial a snap-off blade can be for certain applications.
Woodworking runs in Austin Werrmann’s blood. His father and grandfather both were carpenters, and Werrmann grew up helping his father on the job – so it wasn’t much of a surprise to his family when he chose carpentry as his trade at age 18.
In fact, Werrmann, now 29, works for the same general contractor his father worked for – a company based out of Cincinnati, across the Ohio River from where Werrmann lives in Kentucky. The company mainly restores and remodels high-end residential homes, with the occasional “from-the-ground-up” project, and with specialties in trim and millwork installation, Werrmann is usually on a single project for more than a year.
“We do everything from frame to finish,” he said. “Some of the places we do go through quite the transformation, and it’s neat to see it every step of the way.”
A utility knife is a standard part of carpenter’s jobsite accessories, and Werrmann stuck to a traditional version for his cutting applications – until recently, when he acquired a type of knife he was unfamiliar with: an 18-mm OLFA LA-X utility knife with a snap-off blade.
Initially, Werrmann had his doubts about the knife because of its light weight.
“I thought I would put the blade out and try to cut something and the blade wouldn’t stay open, but it does,” he said. “It’s easy to extend and retract, but when you get in there with the cut, it’s solid. You can get the blade to the desired length and it stays there.”
Werrmann uses the LA-X mainly for opening boxes of job materials and sharpening his pencil – “that’s an every-day thing” – as well as for marking a cut.
“I can get a more exact cut by marking the material with a blade instead of a pencil – it really makes it more accurate,” he said. “That’s one of the things I like about the OLFA knife versus the other knives I’ve used.”
The snap-off blade also creates efficiencies on the jobsite, he added, by ensuring he’s never caught without a sharp cutting tool; because an 18-mm utility knife has eight edges per blade, it lasts six times longer than a standard blade. During extensive cutting jobs on rough surfaces, constantly swapping out blades from a traditional knife can add up to a lot of lost productivity – whereas a snap-off is back in the game after just a second or two with the pliers.
In addition to always being able to snap off a fresh blade, the knife makes it easy to see how much blade is left.
“The other knife I have is double-sided, but it isn’t snap-off, and even though the body of the knife holds extra blades, you have to physically open it up to see how many blades you have left,” Werrmann said. “With the OLFA, you can easily see how much blade is left [by extending it], so you’re never second-guessing whether you need to replace your blade before you start a project.”
The quality of the OLFA blade and the ability to extend also helps during cuts. Werrmann cites a time when he was cutting two-inch-thick foam insulation.
“I was able to cut all the way through that insulation from one side, because I could do a couple of passes, extend a little more, then cut all the way through without having to line anything up from the other side and cut from two sides, like I would have with a more traditional utility knife,” he said.
Werrmann’s snap-off OLFA blade has become a helpful part of his everyday tasks.
“They’re good knives,” he added. “They’re different from other, traditional utility knives I’ve used, and it’s always nice to have options.”
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