A utility knife (also known by various other names) is a cutting tool used in various trades and crafts for a variety of purposes. Designed to be lightweight and easy to carry and use, utility knives are commonly used in factories, warehouses, and other situations where a tool is routinely needed to open boxes, packages, or cut through tape or cord.
In British, Australian and New Zealand English, along with Dutch and Austrian German, the tool is known as a Stanley knife. This name is a genericised trademark named after Stanley Works, a manufacturer of such knives. In Israel and Switzerland, these knives are known as Japanese knives. In Brazil they are known as estiletes or cortadores Olfa (the latter, being another genericised trademark). In Portugal and Canada they are also known as X-Acto (yet another genericised trademark). In the Philippines, Italy and Egypt, they are simply called cutter. In general Spanish, they are known as cortaplumas (penknife); in Spain, Mexico and Costa Rica, they are colloquially known as cutters. Other names for the tool are box cutter or boxcutter, razor blade knife, carpet knife, pen knife or stationery knife.
Such a knife generally consists of a simple and cheap holder, typically flat, approximately one inch (25 mm) wide and three to four inches (75 to 100 mm) long, and made of either metal or plastic. Some use standard razor blades, others specialized double-ended blades as in the illustration. The user can adjust how far the blade extends from the handle, so that, for example, the knife can be used to cut the tape sealing a package without damaging the contents of the package. When the blade becomes dull, it can be quickly reversed or switched for a new one. Spare or used blades are stored in the hollow handle of some models, and can be accessed by removing a screw and opening the handle. Other models feature a quick-change mechanism that allows replacing the blade without tools, as well as a flip-out blade storage tray.
The blades for a utility knife come in both double and single ended versions, and are interchangeable with many, but not all of the later copies. Specialized blades also exist for cutting string, linoleum and other purposes.
Another style is a snap-off utility knife that contains a long, segmented blade that slides out from it. As the endmost edge becomes dull, it can be broken off the remaining blade, exposing the next section, which is sharp and ready for use. When all the individual segments are used, it is thrown away or a replacement blade is inserted. This design was introduced by Japanese manufacturer Olfa Corporation in 1956 as the world's first snap-off blade and was inspired from analyzing the sharp cutting edge produced when glass is broken and how pieces of a chocolate bar break into segments.
Fixed blade versions, about the size of a pencil, are used for handicrafts and model making and are best suited for cutting thin, lightweight materials; the specialized handle and blade allowing for cuts requiring a high degree of precision and control.
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