Why use a snap-off blade? There are plenty of reasons to choose a snap-off blade utility knife over a standard trapezoid blade – you get a blade that lasts six times longer; offers faster change-out; is safer; and is always sharp, fresh and ready to go, enhancing productivity.
Of course, as with any tool, proper usage is key to maximizing the benefits. For both new and veteran users of snap-off blades, a few best practices ensure optimal blade strength and sharpness.
How to Snap
Users have all kinds of creative ways to break off a blade edge (or snap a blade, as most users refer to it) – wedging the edge under a boot, into the ground or against a work table to force a snap, or even just using their hand – but the safest and most technically correct way to snap a blade is to either use a pair of pliers or a blade disposal system.
When using a pair of pliers, advance the blade out so the perforation is past the back support wall located on the back of the knife. The support wall exists so the blade doesn’t break mid-cut, but to snap, the blade must go past it. Use the pliers to grasp the blade firmly and snap along the perforation. Dispose of the blade afterward.
When using a disposal system, simply insert the blade (extended past the perforation point), and bend it until it snaps off, trapping it in the disposal system.
Using either pliers or a disposal system are the two optimally safe ways to snap a blade, because a user does not need to touch the blade to snap it, and there’s no risk of a blade segment flying through the air.
How Often to Snap
This depends on what you’re cutting. A user cutting something very abrasive, like drywall, might be snapping off a new edge weekly or even daily, but with thin detail work, they might not need a fresh edge for quite some time.
The surface on which a user is cutting affects snap frequency just as much as – or even more than –the material being cut. A user could be cutting something thin like paper which won’t dull the edge very quickly, but if they’re cutting it on concrete, they will wear the blade from dragging it over the abrasive surface with every cut and require more blade changes.
How often to change the blade also depends on the type of blade being used. A hook blade is designed to protect the blade tip from damaging the surface under the cut. This will protect the tip from surface wear and may lead to longer blade life than a blade being used on a rough surface daily.
The basic rule of thumb is to snap whenever the blade gets dull. A sharp blade is a safe blade, because it prevents the drags and skips that occur with a dull blade. You also get an easier cut that requires less pressure.
When in Doubt, Snap
Because a sharp blade is safer and more efficient, it’s actually better to snap more often, before the blade gets dull.
Sometimes people think they should use the blade longer, to “get more out of it,” but think of it like you would a razor used for shaving: If you shave with the same razor too long, after the blade has started to dull, it irritates your skin and may cut you.
A utility knife is the same way. It might seem like you’re saving money by snapping less, but the cost evens out in the form of lost productivity. It takes more time and effort to make a cut with a dull blade, versus making a fast, clean cut with a sharp blade – and a snap-off makes it easy to keep a fresh blade in a knife.