Utility knives are most commonly used for cutting cardboard and tape, but these versatile tools can do so much more. A retractable utility knife should not only be in every warehouse and shipping and receiving facility, but also in every construction worker’s toolbox.
Stripping wires is a common job for electricians and maintenance workers. While many have dedicated wire-strippers in their kit, sometimes they don’t have access to them, so they might choose to remove the plastic wire insulation with a utility knife.
One must be careful while removing the protective layer from the wire with a utility knife. An adequately maintained utility knife cuts through the jacket and the underlying wire with relative ease.
To remove the jacket, start by scoring it by applying gentle pressure with the knife. Go all the way around the wire without going through it. Once the knife scores the plastic, gently pull it away from the cables. Be gentle while removing the protective layer, as some wires may be fragile and break.
Roofers and construction workers use utility knives all the time in their daily jobs. Utility knives are a great way to cut shingles to the appropriate sizes. For roofing that needs to go around vents and chimneys, these tools come in handy.
To cut through a thick shingle, workers should use a heavy-duty utility knife. Utility knives with single replaceable blades instead of snap-off blades are safer for this type of job. Workers may even consider using a blade that automatically retracts when it loses contact with the cutting surface. Cutting a roof shingle involves turning the shingle over, scoring the smooth side, and then folding it, so it will snap open. While knives need to be durable to withstand repeated scoring, they don’t have to cut all the way through the shingle to the grainy side.
Utility knives can also help to remove the felt underlayment of old shingles.
As with shingles, heavy-duty utility knives are often found with carpet layers. The solid blade works to cut through the carpet underlay. Workers often use them in both removing the older carpet and laying the new.
For those wishing to use a utility knife to remove or lay a new carpet, remember to get one with a long-lasting blade. Cutting through carpet backing takes patience, as knives rarely make it through on one pass only. Be sure to cut from the flat, not the fiber, side, and use a pointed-tip blade, which will initiate the cut more easily.
Removing Caulk and Grout
Contractors often use utility knives to remove things before they replace them. Prime examples of this are caulk and grout. Caulking around tubs, sinks, and windows often need to be replaced as it ages. Over time, the caulk can get brittle and pull away. Grout can look dingy no matter how many times it’s cleaned.
Before putting new caulk or grout down, workers must replace the old. For caulk, use a utility knife to carefully pull the corner of the caulk free. Once it’s free, usually, the remaining strip can simply be pulled off. If any stays behind or the strip breaks, use the knife to loosen it up again. Be careful about subjecting the blade to a side load in this way. If the angle is truly awkward, consider whether a scraper is better for the job. Either way, a utility knife will be handy in the process.
Grout is a little different. A rotary tool is necessary for bulk removal. However, once most of the grout is gone, a utility knife can remove the remaining pieces.
Being Safe While Using Utility Knives
It is essential to keep safety in mind when using any utility knife. Users should choose the blade for their specific task. While most utility blades will work for all projects, some are better suited depending on what needs to be cut.
Along with choosing between fixed, retractable, self-retracting, and snap-off, users must follow the basic rules to remain safe when on the job. Workers should never cut towards their body and ensure the cutting path is free of obstacles. Hold the object on a stable surface to keep it from moving during the cut. In addition, make sure, as much as possible, that the work area is clutter free and free of excess noise and distractions.
Workers should always store their knives properly when not in use. Utility knife blades should be retracted or covered with the provided sheath. Workers should always have access to and wear personal protective equipment, such as cut-resistant gloves, during use.
Utility knives belong in every worker’s toolbox. They can help with projects as simple as installing a new screen or something more complicated, like laying new shingles.