A utility knife is an all-purpose blade that is sometimes called a box cutter, razor blade, or craft knife. It can be used for a variety of tasks, including cutting open boxes and packages, scraping off paint and old varnish from surfaces such as woodwork or trim work, removing labels from bottles or other containers, opening sealed plastic packaging without the use of scissors or knives, and peeling away vinyl linings to expose underlying material.
Many people have this tool at home but do not know what it is actually used for. This blog post will explain the many uses of a utility knife so you can make better-informed choices about whether you need one on hand at your home. So, if you find yourself needing one, make sure to visit Amazon!
31 Uses of a Utility Knife
1. Cut moldings for tight joints
Moldings are an integral part of carpentry and cabinet-making, providing both aesthetics as well as strength to the structure. Joints between short pieces of molding are often cut using utility knives to have tight fitting joints.
Utility knives are usually a great option for this, but you will want to be very careful. These knives have far less control than other types of saws, and the blade is pressed up against what’s being cut over a long period, so it’s easy to make mistakes accidentally.
How to Make Concrete Molds from Wood? [DIY Guide]
2. Carving wood
It is possible to carve wood with a utility knife. The biggest challenge about utilizing one for carving purposes is the limited control you have compared to an actual wood carving knife. With that being said, it’s still entirely doable and great for simple designs where intricate details aren’t required. Keep in mind that this blade may become dull fairly quickly on thick pieces of wood, so be sure to change your blade frequently enough so you don’t end up over-longing the cutting process because the edge can no longer effectively cut through whatever material you are working with at any given time.
3. Create stencils
There are plenty of ways to create stencils with a utility knife.
Utility knives are one of the most versatile tools in the toolbox for day-to-day cutting tasks. Many people use them to do softer material, provided they have a blade that isn’t too thin and can handle the task at hand. Even so, it’s always best practice to know what your knife is recommended for before you cut anything up!
4. Cut Drywall
Larger drywall nicks can be eliminated with a utility knife. However, when cutting drywall, it’s important to keep the utility knife’s blade straight and hold the handle of the knife back against your thumb. Otherwise, you might discover that using a utility knife to cut drywall is not as simple as just following along a line on your sketch.
5. Cut rigid foam board
Can you use a utility knife to cut rigid foam boards? Yes, most hard surfaces can be easily cut with a utility knife, and one of the best materials for this is wood.
Utility knives are used to cut most types of foam boards, including Styrofoam and polystyrene. The best utility knife is one that has a fixed blade attached with a straight edge – not serrated – and a perforated grip so you can maintain control of the knife without it slipping.
6. Cut Vinyl Flooring
A utility knife is an essential tool for installing vinyl flooring, as it can be used to score the back of the vinyl panels before breaking them. It is also convenient because it can help cut through vinyl around curved edges and cut off excess patching material.
7. Cutting Foam
A utility knife is a tool designed for cutting foam boards, which are often used as insulation. Usually, it comes with a set of replacement blades, or you can buy blades individually. Utility knives are powerful and quick, so caution is needed if it’s not being handled by someone who knows what they’re doing (typically not kids).
To cut the foam fully along one side, you’ll need to start in the corner and make sure your blade runs completely through the board from one side to the other. You may find that two pen marks will help mark out where you should start this first end.
8. Cutting through Carpet
Utility knives are typically used as a tool for cutting carpet. Utility knife handles allow the user to hold it while gripping the blade with long fingers; this grip will enable you to push and pull the edge without moving your hand from left or right of up or down.
Utility knives are available in different sizes and styles, which is important when choosing one for carpets. If you have small hands, consider a smaller-sized utility knife that will be easier to manage.
9. Ensuring Clean Lines on a Paint Job
I’d recommend using a utility knife to ensure clean lines on any paint job. Utility knives are more precise, and they allow for more careful cutting than tools typically used for paint, like an electric sander or sandpaper. All in all, the time it takes to do something with just a utility knife will be significantly less than if you were working with either of those other two tools. It’ll make for a less frustrating and potentially hazardous painting experience as well!
10. Expose popped nail heads
If you want to remove a popped nailhead, use a utility knife first. To do this, place the utility knife’s blade on top of the popped nailhead and press down firmly until it kerfs through the underlying plywood-veneer. Again, make sure your hand is not in front of the edge when doing so.
The problem with using a utility knife to expose popped nail heads is that, while the nail pops outwards from the wood, it then wants to snap back onto the wood surface. This causes scratching and dulling of the blade and increases in pressure on an already brittle and potentially unstable joint.
You can use a utility knife to start sanding down some of each side near the nail head to correct this issue. With luck, this will allow both sides of your nails to be exposed without popping back into place before topping off with paint or finish. In doing so, you get thicker material on each side of your new joint when applying paint or finish for quicker drying time and smoother surfaces!
How to Remove Sunken Nails from Wood? [5 Methods]
11. Removing painted baseboards
The best way to remove painted baseboards is to use a utility knife while applying a liberal dose of elbow grease. This type of blade can be used safely on any surface without leaving scratches or rattling loose splinters from the wood’s surface. And, it produces straight cuts that do not need to be sanded down for any odd corners.
12. Making Clean Cuts on Laminated Plywood
A sharp and new utility knife is your best bet. Carefully place the blade on the laminate, firmly hold the handle, and gently peel back the edge to cut through it. Simply start where you want to cut and drag the blade smoothly but firmly along. Make sure not to apply too much pressure or put too much weight on one side of the board before cutting! And don’t worry about making a clean straight line; just work your way around until you’re satisfied with how deep your cut is. You can always sand off any rough edges with an electric sander if they’re really bothering you!
13. Remove carpet tacks
You can use a utility knife for removing carpet tacks as long as the blade is sharp. Simply scrape the edge across the surface of the tack head, gently pull up on it to withdraw it from the fabric, and discard it. Repeat this process until all of the tacks are gone. Be wary that some tack heads will completely disappear! Use caution to avoid damaging anything below your carpeting with a misplaced swiping motion, or after you’ve lifted off one end of a tack head and you’re sliding down towards another without any support at the other end, just lift!
14. Remove paint
If you’re doing some home renovations, a utility knife can be your best friend. A utility knife is a great tool to use for removing paint. Simply cut around the unwanted area with the knife and scrape off all of the bits of removed paint to reveal a fresh surface.
15. Remove wallpaper
A utility knife is also a great tool for removing wallpaper. Using the blade, it’s easy to cut out pieces of wall décor that are hanging on while leaving the walls intact. While you could use other tools like an Exacto knife or razor blade, the utility knife is perfect because its serrated edge will clear away any glue residue much more quickly and efficiently than a straight edge would.
The best way to prep your surface before using a utility knife would be with some spray de-glue, which will help keep your blades sharp and non-sticky when cutting through old layers of adhesive tape and dried glue.
16. Removing Old Caulk
There are many different ways to remove the old caulk, like loosening or scraping the old caulk away. The good thing about a utility knife is that you can use it in tight places for removing broken pieces of caulk, and caulking tools won’t reach like the corners of baseboards, windowsills, or mirror frames.
A utility knife can cut through even thick layers of caulking without too much effort on your part! Keep two knives handy at all times, so one blade is always ready for use while the other blade cools down (a great tip if you’re going to be working on any project with twine). This also helps when making intricate cuts in hard-to-reach locations where precision may be difficult.
17. Repairing a Window Screen
It’s best to use a utility knife to remove and replace the glass first.
A window screen sews together with what is called “thread,” which is just a yarn or fishing line (coarse thread) that has been run back and forth across the inside edges of the metal part of a window screen frame, creating loops. So, to be repaired, you cut off one side of this nylon cord/yarn or fishing line, pull it through one or more loops, and tie it tight so that your new stitching won’t come undone. But, of course, the last thing you want to do is rip out all that old sturdy thread!
How to Remove Top Sash of Single Hung Window? [4 DIY Steps]
18. Replacing a Portion of a Shingle
A utility knife works best for this purpose because it’s designed for the task.
It’s often the case that there is an excess of shingle tar and cement when installing new shingles. However, removing this excess with your hands will just create a sloppy finish. So instead, use your utility knife to slice off enough siding or roofing membrane to expose the area you wish to remove. Then cut away those loose pieces using your utility knife and clean up any exposed areas.
Before applying additional tar or cement onto these recently bare spots, it may be advisable first to allow them to thoroughly dry so that water doesn’t impede their adhesive properties.
19. Rescue paint-coated screws
The easiest and most foolproof way to remove paint-coated screws is to use a utility knife. Simply set the blade width on your utility knife at just slightly bigger than your screw’s diameter, position the tip of the blade against one shaft of the screw, and gently apply pressure until you feel it cut through about 2mm into it. Next, rotate the screw counter-clockwise with light pressure against the blade. Finally, abrade all around its circumference until it has been depressurized from simple nesting/leaned off before completely removing it.
How to Remove a Stripped Screw?
20. Scratch out the old grout
It’s a fabulous idea! This is how to use a utility knife for removing old grout. Simply place the blade on the surface of the grout along the seam lines you want to cut out and make a light pass in one direction only. The sharp edge will take care of any remnant paper, excess grout, dust, or paint residue left behind from chiseling off plaster walls. Scrape gently and evenly across your seam line and discard debris as you work.
21. Scribe hinge mortises
Hinges are usually mortised, and with a utility knife, you can use an established technique to scribe hinge mortises without any machinery.
To scribe a hinge mortise, use this procedure. First, mark off the lines for the hinges on the two doors that will be hinged together at right angles to each other. Next, with a utility knife, cut along both lines up through the end of one line and down to meet it so that you have two U-shaped cuts with equal widths in both pieces (one cut on either side of an imaginary 90° angle). Next, stand these two pieces up, overlap them and then clamp them in place. Then using your utility knife or another sharp blade, make three to four long hash marks across both sides where shown, sawing back and forth across them until you feel the tip bump against something solid inside.
22. Sharpening the Pencils
If you have never sharpened a pencil before, prepare to be delightfully surprised. It’s actually not that hard! Below are easy steps to follow for the perfect pointy pencil every time.
First, get the right size utility knife blade that will fit on top of your pencil, making sure it has a hole in the middle of the edge for your thumb hole.
Second, make sure both sides of your utility knife blade are very sharp because they will eventually dull from use over time and need more frequent resharpening.
Third, slide the blade down one side of the edge of your desk or table, then grip it firmly near where its base rests and spin it gently away from you as if to imitate the motion of sharpening a pencil with a metal sharpener. Be careful not to over-grind away at the blade, but gently rotate and push it to sharpen the entire surface width of your utility knife blade.
Fourth, do the same thing, only this time grip it in an underhand position (holding it facing down towards the table or desk, with your thumb in the hole you previously made) and rotate it gently away from you as if to imitate the motion of sharpening a pencil with a metal sharpener. The main thing here is that you are not grinding away at the blade but rather just rotating and lightly pushing it to sharpen all its sides.
Fifth, repeat these steps until you have adequately sharpened your utility knife blade to the desired point.
You’re done! Now you can comfortably sharpen your pencils to a perfect point.
23. Slice Fiberglass Insulation
Fiberglass insulation has a siliconized aluminum coating that prevents air from circulating through it. Your utility knife should be able to slash the top of the insulation off. However, the material becomes very stiff and hard when cut, so stretching it and making as clean a cut as possible is important for an easy removal process. Apply firm pressure on one side while you slowly slash your blade across the top; this should do well to loosen up enough of the fiberglass compound to allow it to be easily peeled away from its copper coil lining. Next, remove all of the loose fibers using long-handled tweezers or your fingers–you’ll need latex gloves if they’re your personal preference for safety purposes.
24. Slice through the dried caulk
There are many available utility knives on the market. Opinions vary on which is best for slicing through caulk as the blades tend to vary in thickness, sharpness, flexibility, and durability. The most common kind of blade handymen use is a drywall or “joint” knife that’s slightly flexible and angled at 45 degrees, allowing it to get into tight corners easier. The angle also helps it slice through caulk more easily than a standard flat blade would. It also has a short handle that makes people with small hands feel more comfortable handling this product.
25. Slice veneer before cutting
You are going to need a utility knife with an appropriately sized blade. Always cut veneer on the face grain or end grain (not cross-grain). After using the rip guide to saw this first line, you’ll want to score it and then snap away one of the two sheets of wood–the goal is for there to be a continuous strip of wood between your two cuts. Be sure not to make any mistakes at this stage, as one wrong cut will ruin your work thus far.
It’s best to use a pencil at first before scoring so you can test how much pressure is required for deep enough cuts in both directions.
How to Repair Water Damaged Wood Veneer? [6 Steps]
26. Slit cable insulation
A utility knife is a tool used with electrical work to install or repair cables. Utility knives are also known as drywall knives and can be easily identified by the look of the blade that it uses and the way in which it opens. Drywall knives are really handy for slicing through the insulation around wires, making repairs on home wiring much easier. For example, if you need to remove some insulation from an electrical wire, all you need is one quick slice using the knife’s edge at a 45-degree angle across the rounded surface where there are no longer any sharp corners. With an electrician’s tape measure, you can even tailor your cuts, so they’re uniform and appropriate for your needs around each wire!
27. Slit door in plastic sheeting
Yes. Slitting plastic sheeting is a remarkably easy process.
Use the utility knife to score a line on the back of the flap that you want to tear off. To avoid marking up your plastic, an adhesive use in packaging can be placed along one side of the scored line and then adhere it on top of itself with some pressure before ripping off from that side. Try working around corners or points by cutting through at 45-degree angles for simpler tearing and less ragged edges for larger plastics.
28. Split shims
There are various methods for splitting shims with a utility knife blade. The best way is to hold the shim in one hand and puncture the side of one edge with a utility blade in the other hand. Next, push down on top of the blade with your thumb or forefinger while still holding onto the shim with your remaining fingers (you can also use both if you want). Finally, move downward, away from yourself, along the slanted edge of the shim towards where you want it to split off from. Make sure not to slide back up because this creates an unrepairable cut and will leave jagged edges that could snag clothing or scratch skin when in use.
This is the best method because it minimizes unnecessary knife cuts on the shim edge and makes it easier to follow a straight edge for those particular about maintaining an even width along with their shims. It can also be done with one hand if you’re fast enough at both holding the shim in place as well as puncturing the shim at the same time.
29. Trim Roof Shingles
Trimming roof shingles with a utility knife is a common home improvement project that you can do yourself.
The details for trimming roofing shingles with a utility knife are as follows:
1. Decide the scope of your job and where to cut on the blade of the shingle.
2. Using masking tape or painter’s tape, mark off the desired length of the cutting line on one side of each row or step upon which you will be working, about 8 inches from either end.
3. Measure enough length across this taped line (about 4 inches) to accommodate sliding in over both nails and provide at least 1-inch overlap past each nailhead on either side, then firmly but gently tap in the utility knife against the shingle to make a mark on top of the nail
4. After tapping in the utility knife, slide it over the first row, making sure that the tape marking your cutting line stays alongside each row or step as you work so as not to disturb your straight cut lines at the end.
5. Repeat in the same manner for all rows beneath, being careful not to cut too deeply into the shingle and onto the roof decking below
6. When completed, simply pull out any excess tape used and clean up your work site.
Caution: Do not use a utility knife on asphalt shingles because they will dull the edge, requiring frequent replacement of the knife.
How to Install Metal Roofing?
30. Trimming Wood Shims
A utility knife, also commonly called a Stanley knife or a box cutter is the best tool for trimming wood shims. All you have to do is gently press up and slide the blade along your cut line!
Shim Trimming Tips: Make sure to use fresh blades when it starts tearing through them more easily
You can also adhere to sticky tape from one side of the shim at an angle used as your cutting guide for trimming. This way, you will have a straight edge to push up against instead of your fingers when ripping into them; it’s important not to slip or pull by hand as this might tear through your shim if there are any rough edges on it. So instead, just push up gently against the cutting guide and slide the blade along.
Related: How to Remove Stain from Wood?
31. Whittle a plug for a stripped hinge screw
A utility knife is a good tool for whittling plugs, as it’s thin and can be made sharp. You can make the plane of the blade face 90° to the surface by holding it at 45°. This will help protect your fingers when you’re leading with them. With your support hand, go in the opposite direction that you are whittling and push into the wood beneath so there is extra feedback when cutting against the grain.
A utility knife is a great tool to have on hand for many different jobs. It can be used in the garden, trimming tree branches, or even cutting up boxes that you might need to move into your new apartment. If you are looking for an affordable and versatile utility knife that will last through any task, this article has provided some excellent information that should help make your decision easier. In addition, we hope we’ve helped provide insight into what a utility knife can do and how it may just become one of your most valued tools!