Utility Knife Showdown – Irwin, CH Hanson & Milwaukee


Recently we have seen some new features in the different Utility Knives out there so we thought we would take a look at what style of knives are available with different features. We had these 5 models on hand which we felt did a good job of representing a good number of the options out there. The several year old bulky orange box cutter will act as the base line for our tests but has already proven itself.

The Irwin Protouch
Utility Knife ($11, Ohio Power Tool) has up until recently been our go to knife, this particular one is fairly new, but we have been using this model for several years. It is a very nice durable utility knife with a quick change case which opens without a screw driver. Inside the case is a clamp which holds several additional blades and a fairly easy blade changing setup with a magnet to help keep the blade from falling out every time you open the case.

Milwaukee FastBack
48-22-1901 ($15, Ohio Power Tool) this is a newer knife, very well constructed with a great grip. The flip-out style utility knife has been increasing in popularity over the past few years and Irwin & Lenox both have similar models with belt clips. The Milwaukee is the only to feature the wire stripping tool while closed however we will give props to Lenox for the built in bottle opener.  

CH Hanson Flip Knife
($13, Amazon) is designed more as a specialty tool but we could see it being very handy in a wide range of situations. The two sided knife features a strait and hooked blade, one on each end and a safety feature which prevents them from being extended simultaneously. Quick release blade buttons means you never need to open the knife at all, but if you did want too it’s very easy.

Milwaukee Slide Utility Knife 48-22-1910
($7, Ohio Power Tool) is another new knife which rearranges the classic knife design very cleverly. The slide is on the side preventing the release from getting caught on a pocket or tool belt and cutting yourself. The blade storage is also very nicely situated in the handle with a magnet holding the blades in place. The blade is removed with a quick release button so the actual case on the knife is never opened. The thumb pad also improves the comfort for long periods of use.

On Board Blade Storage
The Milwaukee Slide and Irwin Protouch are the only 2 in our sample which feature on board storage, an incredibly handy feature to have when on a jobsite. Of these two knives we have to claim the Milwaukee Slide as winner because it is so easy. The Irwin clip is simply not very friendly to use, as you really need to jam the blades in and removing just one also can be difficult without 2 or 3 coming out. – Milwaukee Slide Winner  

Ease of Blade Changing
Here we have pretty much a 3 way tie between the two Milwaukee knives and the CH Hanson. All three feature quick release buttons on the sides which make blade exchange a snap. We tried to find a scenario this feature could prove a safety hazard but with the button placements it would be pretty unlikely to accidentally hit any of these buttons while the blade was out. – Milwaukee & CH Hanson Winners

Blade Play
All the utility knives in our sample had some blade movement; the only way to prevent it would be to more securely fasten the blade in place which would make the quick change blade releases and sliding features nearly impossible. From most play to least here is the order: Orange box cutter, Irwin, CH Hanson, Milwaukee Slide, Milwaukee FastBack. It made sense the FastBack would win here because the design was the only one without a sliding system which definitely adds wiggle. The winner still had nearly 1 cm of travel where the pretty loose box cutter was only at 2 cm so they were all pretty close. – Milwaukee FastBack Winner    

Comfort & Grip Safety
Normally we don’t give too much credit to features like a “contoured grip” but with a utility knife it really can be a safety feature, a good grip might save you from a trip to the ER and several stitches so we are giving it some credit here. Ranked from worst to best: Box Cutter, CH Hanson, Milwaukee Slide, Irwin, Milwaukee FastBack. While the Milwaukee Slide does have a nice thumb pad which is way more comfortable than the slide triggers on other models this unit really is pretty strait. There is little keeping your fingers from sliding forward to the blade, at least the Irwin has some angle on the grip. On the other hand Milwaukee does a great job with the FastBack which really hold in place well. – Milwaukee FastBack Winner

Final Results
We have several different styles of Utility Knives here so it is pretty hard to name one overall winner. Our real goal was to highlight some of the different styles and features out there but if we had to name one it would be the Milwaukee FastBack. We have been using this one pretty much exclusively the past month or two letting our Irwin hangout with the mop from the Swiffer commercials. But that is for our low-medium use, if you go through lots of blades and need on-board storage the Milwaukee Slide might be your choice, also the least expensive of the group. On the other hand if you use lots of hooked blades you probably won’t have even read this far down the page and are halfway through ordering the CH Hanson knife. We are just happy to see so much innovation in a tool category we would have guessed didn’t have much innovation left. Check out this Facebook photo album for more pictures of all the knives.

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