A safety knife, due to its versatility and overall usefulness, is a great tool for just about anyone to have on hand. Whether you work in a warehouse, are a skilled tradesman, or are simply a handy homeowner or DIYer, this little gadget is sure to be put to good use on a regular basis.
What is a Safety Knife
Safety knives are small cutting tools that are designed so that the blade can be retracted into the handle casing when not in use. The tool can be used for many things, including: landscaping applications, home remodels and repairs, opening boxes or cartons, and when doing crafts or hobbies.
While the general concept of a safety knife is that it is a safer cutting tool, not all designs are created equal. When deciding on a style or brand, here are a few key components that go into creating a quality safety knife.
Since the handle casing of a safety knife is designed to house and cover the sharp cutting blade, choosing one that is of high quality and good workmanship is key. Handles can be made from a variety of materials but they generally fall into three categories:
- Metals: This material category will include handles made from titanium, aluminum, and stainless steel. Metal handles are generally strong and have good durability, but some types can be prone to scratching or require maintenance to avoid rust or corrosion. Handles made from metal are often smooth, which can be a drawback because they might lack grip and could be slippery in the hand.
- Synthetics: Handles made out of carbon fiber, acrylic, G-10, glass-filled nylon, micarta, or kraton all are found within the synthetic material category. Some of the widely touted benefits of synthetic handles are their low maintenance and amazing grip options. Most are very lightweight and there are usually many color and style options to choose from.
- Naturals: As the name suggests, this category of handles are made from naturally derived materials like wood, bone, leather, antler, or even pearl. Due to their relatively high cost, very few safety knife handles are entirely constructed using these types of materials. More commonly, they will just be added to a metal or synthetic handle as an accent or decoration, if used at all.
Be sure that whatever handle material you choose pairs well with your intended application and that you are willing to perform any maintenance that may be required for optimal upkeep.
If you want a low or no maintenance safety knife that will be applicable for a variety of tasks, then synthetic may be the best option.
In addition to the material, take time to consider the ergonomics of the handle as well. Things like handle size and shape make a difference when it comes to upper and lower arm muscle fatigue and strain, particularly if you will be using it for long periods of time.
The location and ease of use of the slider that retracts the blade into the handle may also be a factor in comfort and safety.
The most common injury that occurs when using a safety knife is a laceration to the skin from the blade. While any cutting tool can potentially puncture or slice skin, the type of blade that is chosen really does play a major part in minimizing these kinds of injuries.
Blades typically are made from two materials:
- Steel: Blades made from steel are the most common and often very cheap to buy. While steel is a strong material, there are several drawbacks to be aware of. First, steel will dull quite quickly and blades made from this material will need to be changed fairly often. Since many lacerations occur when changing blades, this can create more opportunity for injury. Additionally, steel blades tend to rust when used in wet applications or when stored in humid places, increasing the risk of tetanus if a cut to the skin occurs. Finally, steel can be magnetic and can conduct electricity.
- Ceramic: Blades made with advanced or engineered ceramic are much harder than those constructed out of steel, extending the blade life significantly and greatly reducing the number of blade changes required. Ceramic blades are also much more resilient to outside elements, as they will never rust, have no magnetic properties, and will not conduct electricity. On the downside, they can be a little more expensive and not as readily available as a steel blade option.
No matter which blade material you decide to go with, be sure that your blade is kept clean, in good repair, and that it fits and slides easily within the handle casing. If the blade becomes worn, dull, or shows signs of chipping or breakage, replace it immediately.
Keep in mind that not all blade edges are designed the same way, either. The majority are extremely sharp. It’s commonly held that a blade must be narrow and sharp to cut, but in fact extra sharpening is a way that manufacturers of metal blades get around the material’s quick dulling time, and most ceramic blades mimic this overly-sharp edge.
The problem with this workaround is that it sacrifices safety. Look for safety blades when you research safety knives.
After choosing the safety knife that works best for you, spend a little bit of time using it and getting comfortable with the dynamics of that specific model. Learn how to hold it, cut with it, and replace the blades correctly.
Also remember to follow general safety rules applicable when using any cutting tool or sharp object. With a little patience and practice, and a quality made tool, the safety knife may just become one of your favorite toolbox additions.