Winners

For me, choosing a winner comes down to feel. The top spot is a toss-up between the very similar Irwin and Lenox models. They're medium-sized, easy to grip, and very comfortable all-around cutters. I'd also keep the Tajima in my pouch. I like having the versatility of a long (4 inches fully extended) blade for cutting rigid foam and thick batt insulation, and the snap blades are quick to change when doing anything where I chew up edges fast. The Stanley is solid and comfortable. I like the Olfa's featherweight feel, five-position detents, and smooth blade action.

The automatic blade-loading features on some of the knives are attractive–and may be a better choice for guys who really go through blades–but they didn't sway my choice. The Olympia is great for heavy cutting, but felt too large for all-around use. The Great Neck and Husky are on the larger side and are not as comfortable to me for prolonged cutting. The Klein and similarly shaped Hyde just don't feel right in my hand and the reload features aren't as elegant as some of the other tools. The Sheffield is a different kind of knife, handier for pocketknife duty rather than all-day cutting. But, because it uses a utility knife blade, you always have a razor sharp edge at hand.

–Mike Guertin is a builder and remodeler in East Greenwich, RI., and is a member of Hanley Wood's JLCLive! construction demonstration team.

Blades

Standard utility knife blades are getting more than a face-lift with the introduction of the Irwin Blue bi-metal blades and Lenox Gold titanium nitride–edge bi-metal blades. These blades take a tremendous amount of side pressure–and in most cases will bend rather than snap like blades that are probably in your knife right now. And the manufacturers say you'll get three or more times the life from the blade edges. It was obvious during the test period these blades stayed sharper longer, but it was hard to quantify just how much longer.

Tajima snap-off blades are another choice. They're thick, sharp, long, and take a lot of punishment. And then, all you have to do is snap the dull part off to reveal a fresh edge. At 4 inches long, they're great for cutting batt or thick rigid foam insulation. You'll only find Tajima blades in professional tool shops; don't reload them with department store substitutes or you'll be disappointed.

–Mike Guertin

Sources Of Supply

Traditional Knives

Great Neck Saw Mfrs.
80024 Speed Feed: $9
800-457-0600
www.greatnecksaw.com

Husky
82068 Autoblade: $10
www.homedepot.com

Hyde Tools
MaxxGrip 42081: $7
800-872-4933
www.hydetools.com

Irwin
2082200 ProTouch: $11
800-464-7946
www.irwin.com

Klein
44107 Kurve: $8
800-553-4676
www.kleintools.com

Lenox
Lenox Gold SSRK1: $16
800-628-8810
www.lenoxsaw.com

Olympia Group
Turboknife II 33-131: $7
800-888-8782
www.olympiaweb.com

Stanley
10-788 QuickChange: $10
800-782-6539
www.stanleytools.com

Alternative-Design Knives

Olfa
9115: $9
800-962-6532
www.olfa.com

Sheffield Mfg.
12113: $10
800-457-0600
www.sheffield-tools.com

Tajima
GRI LC0660: $8
888-482-5462
www.tajimatool.com