Safe Uses for Retractable Knives

Written By Alla Levin
April 01, 2021
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Safe Uses for Retractable Knives

A retractable knife is one of the most useful tools you can have on hand. With its portable size, sharp edge, and concealable blade, a retractable utility knife can serve a wide variety of purposes both at home and in the workplace. However, using a retractable knife is not without safety hazards. All knife users should be cognizant of potential risks in order to avoid accidental injury. By using the right knife for the job and following the correct safety precautions, knife owners can rely on safe retractable knives to get the job done.  

Retractable Knife Utility and Functionality

Since the mid-twentieth century, retractable knives have been a popular choice for both household users and professionals. With a compact design that protects the knife’s blade from its surroundings and vice versa, the retractable knife makes for a handy all-purpose tool that easily fits into your tool belt or pocket. 

Versatile and practical, retractable knives are considered general-purpose tools and can be used for a host of different jobs and tasks. With its sharp and strong blade, a retractable knife can be used to strip wire, cut carpeting, puncture holes in plastic, or simply cut open cardboard packaging.

Retractable knives offer several different kinds of blade retraction mechanisms. While traditional designs rely on a spring-loaded mechanism that extends the blade upon the push of a button or slider, today’s retractable knives also offer more sophisticated options. Some knives are made with a manual slide that allows the user to extend the blade along set stopping positions to choose their desired length. The blade then locks into place for cutting. 

Many contemporary designs feature an auto-retractable slider, which is an inherently safer design and provides the user with better control over their cut. When the user releases the slider on an auto-retractable knife, the blade retracts into the housing so it’s never left exposed when not in use. 

Finally, innovative self-retracting handles allow the blade to be extended through a slider and then retract as soon as the blade loses contact with the material it’s cutting, even if the user is still holding the slider. While slightly more expensive, a self-retracting knife is by far the safest design.

The Many Styles of Retractable KnivesThe Many Styles of Retractable Knives

When choosing a retractable knife, keep in mind the types of tasks you will most often use your knife for.

If you intend to use your utility knife on a daily basis, you may want to choose a style with a textured and ergonomic handle to maintain your grip and decrease muscle strain. You might also want to look for a knife that stores additional blades in its handle for easy replacement on the go. If you intend to use a retractable knife for more precise work, you may prefer a fine-tip blade for making exact cuts to more delicate materials. Making your choice with this mindset will help you determine which kind of retractable knife will be best suited to your work. 

Additionally, consider the benefits and drawbacks of the knife blade itself. The majority of retractable knives are fitted with steel blades, which are very sharp, strong, and ideal for making precise cuts. Steel blades are durable but will naturally dull over time and use, and need to be occasionally sharpened (especially if used frequently). Additionally, steel blades are also prone to corrosion and should be regularly cleaned to avoid rust and build-up that can interfere with cutting or puncturing precision. 

As an alternative to steel, some retractable knives feature ceramic blades. These blades are often more durable than steel and do not require any additional care, since ceramic does not rust and cannot be sharpened, thereby removing the risks associated with blade grinding.

Best Practices for Safe Retractable Knife UseRetractable Knives

Accidental knife injuries like lacerations and punctures are unfortunately very common, with knife accidents causing more injuries year over year than any other type of handheld tool. Improper handling is the main contributor to these accidental injuries, as well as inadequate blade care. Understanding how to use and care for your retractable knife is critical to prolonging the life of your blade and avoiding an injury that could do long-term damage. 

First, make sure your blade is extended to the right depth for the task. Extending the blade too much or keeping it mostly withdrawn can increase the likelihood of injury. Also be sure to wear safety equipment, like thick gloves and protective eyewear. You might also consider using a cutting mat if you’re cutting straight or precise lines. 

In addition, ensure that the blade of your knife is covered at all times when not in use. Taking care to retract the blade of your knife before setting it down or storing it away greatly reduces the risk of accidental injury to yourself and your surroundings when it’s picked up again. This risk can be removed entirely through use of a self-retracting blade.

Finally, consider choosing a safety blade, or a retractable knife that is specifically designed for safety without losing any efficiency. Some ceramic knife blades offer specially ground edges that decrease the likelihood of injury. Choosing a knife with an ergonomic and anti-slip handle for a safer and more comfortable grip can help to prevent or alleviate injury as well.

When following the correct safety precautions and using the tool as intended, you can depend on a retractable knife for years to come.

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