Buy the Feel

Fast blade reversing and change-outs are terrific, but even the "slowest" ones here are fast and pretty easy. After handling and using each knife, one thing kept coming back to me–I spend more time cutting than changing blades. So for me, it comes down to feel and body geometry. I have large palms and short fingers, so the larger-bodied knives don't feel as comfortable to me as some of the small and midsize knives.

Wide Body. The Olympia is the largest tool in the group, with plastic grips on top and bottom. Its aggressive blade-to-hand angle combined with a hook shape at the tail-end of the tool make it a great cutter for laminated shingles and other tough stuff, but I found it a bit uncomfortable at the end of the day. The Great Neck has plastic grips on the sides and belly and a fairly straight hand-to-blade geometry. The body is about the same width and thickness as the Olympia and is a little less comfortable than the Olympia.

The Husky has eased edges with a one-piece plastic side and belly. A ridge on the bottom edge near the front gives you two distinct positions: one with your index finger wrapping over the ridge and the other with your entire hand behind it. This is nice, but the nose is wide, making it hard to sneak into tight cutting locations. The Great Neck has aggressive-looking plastic side grips and a plastic belly insert, but it's a little bulky and has a wide snout.

Angled Body. Klein has the most aggressive hand-to-blade angle. The plastic side grips don't offer much additional gripping power, but the flair at the tool's tail does; however, the natural position my hand finds on the knife body is far back, leaving a lot of the body out front. I found this put extra stress on my wrist when dragging a blade through shingles.

Hyde has a tail flair like the Klein, which provides good gripping. It also has soft plastic belly edges that help, but the angular corners on the tool body aren't as comfortable as the rounder designs on the other knives.

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Tajima's long, sharp segmented blade is good for cutting everything from thin shingles to thick insulation.

Credit: Photo: David Sharpe

Slim Lines. The Stanley is slim and has a molded plastic belly that fits well in smaller hands. Its rubber top improves grip and the rubber thumb tab on top of the nose makes even heavy cutting comfortable. It also has a cord-cutting slot for quick snips without extending the blade.

Irwin has soft plastic wrapping the sides and belly. This makes the tool easy to grip and its curved edges are very comfortable. The Lenox has a slightly more forward belly with a slight flair at the end. This increases the gripping power despite not having the plastic grip. Both have a moderately aggressive blade-to-hand angle, which is good for a variety of cutting operations. The Lenox has a gold-colored stainless steel nose collar, a one-piece design intended to eliminate wear.

Fold Away. I wouldn't use the foldable Sheffield for daylong cutting because its thin, foldable body is designed more for one-off cuts than production, but it's a handy size to clip on your belt or drop in your pocket instead of a pocketknife.

In-Line. Tajima and Olfa both have a steel blade guide that forms the backbone of these knives and makes them easy and comfortable to hold. Hard plastic housings with soft plastic wraps make both knives very comfortable. Olfa flares the front just a bit, creating a comfortable thumb position. Both are in-line cutters with no blade/hand offset angle for aggressive cutting.