Lock Back Utility Knives are Stupid

Over the past few years lock back utility knives have been gaining in popularity.They look cool because they look like pocket knives but I just don't find them as easy to use or as safe as traditional retracting utility knives.

Most guys had pocket knives since they were kids. At least I know I did. Locking pocket knives are great because they keep the blade locked open so it doesn't accidentally close on your fingers. But you don't use utility knives like you do pocket knives.

When I first saw them I thought they looked cool too and bought one but it's not the first utility knife I grab when I have a choice.

Just think of how you normally use a utility knife. You're working on a project, maybe hanging or repairing drywall, trimming edge banding, cutting boxes for recycling, etc. In the middle of doing that, you need to cut something so you reach in your pocket or tool belt, pull out your utility knife, slide the blade up, make your cut, slide the blade back then put the knife away where you got it from. The whole thing happens very quickly using only one hand. Leaving your other hand free to hold the drywall square or measuring tape in place for example.

With a lock back utility knife you need to stop what you're doing, use two hands to open up the knife (some knives and some users can manage to open the knife with one hand) make the cut and then stop again to use two hands to close the knife before you put it away. What happens when your other hand isn't free to close the knife. Well, you probably just put the knife down somewhere safer than your pocket while it's still open or risk cutting yourself when you move around or use the knife again.

A utility knife is a tool that's supposed to make your job easier, not harder. Lock back utility knives do the opposite but look cool. You know what's really cool? Not having to stop working so you can open and close your shiny knife!

The lock back knife isn't even the coolest type of knife out there. Why not a butterfly utility knife? At least with some practice you can open and close it with one hand. Although if you hang Sheetrock for a living you'll probably give yourself carpel tunnel opening and closing it like that all the time. Or how about making a switchblade style utility knife with a retracting blade? Oh wait! That's what we had and it works great!

If you want to make a utility knife better and safer it should:
  • Open and close easy with one hand
  • Fast and easy blade changes
  • Store extra blades so you don't have to worry about poor cuts
  • Have space to safely store used blades for proper disposal
That's it.
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American Standard Dual Injection Flush Valves Review

Tomorrow a new High Efficiency 1.28 gallon per flush toilet is going to be available for sale on HomeDepot.com from American Standard that features a Dual Injection Flush Valves which give it great flushing power. The Optum VorMax is the first toilet to feature this new flushing system. I installed one about 2 weeks ago and I wanted to let you guys know about it.

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Is the Gerber Groundbreaker Multitool Worth the Price?

The Gerber Groundbreaker is more than just a pair of wire strippers. It's a multi-tool that in addition to being a multifunction wire stripper has plier tips, a hammering surface, a utility knife, a drywall saw and a multi-tip screwdriver. It comes with a sheath that hooks onto your belt that can also carry some other tools. It's not cheap. MSRP is $144 and as of right now it's selling for about $125 at Home Depot. At first I thought it was a little unnecessary but the more I've used it the more I appreciate having all the tools right where I need them.

This past weekend I was installing a couple of wireless switches that work in conjunction with my garage door opener. A fairly simple project and not the first time I used the Groundbreaker but it's the first project that unexpectedly required me to use much of the extra features of the Groundbreaker.

First, the switches came in that annoying plastic packaging that needs to be cut open and I used the Groundbreaker's utility knife to do that. I needed to strip a ground pigtail to connect it to the switches and the grounded outlet box. Always need pliers when doing electrical work and the Groundbreaker's plier jaws and wire bending loops worked perfectly. The switches have a wire antenna that needs to be fed down the wall and I was able to use the drywall saw on the Groundbreaker to slightly enlarge the wall opening around the bottom of the outlet box to feed the antennas through. The only thing I didn't use was the hammering surface. I really tried to think of a way to use them on the project too.

The saw, driver and utility knife are located on the handles and can be used with the handles still on the Groundbreaker. If you find that a little too cumbersome for some work, the handles are removable.

More importantly. Everything was right on my belt within easy reach when I needed it. I didn't have to waste time running around looking for a half dozen different tools that are in various locations as I realized I'd need them. Seems like have the time I work on any DIY projects I'm running up and down stairs or out to the garage looking for a tool.

Not only the tools that are part of the Groundbreaker but other tools that are important when doing electrical work. A loop on the bottom of the sheath can hold a couple of rolls of electrical tape. A tool holder on the right can hold a screwdriver or a pencil and the pocket on the left is the perfect size for my Milwaukee Non-Contact Voltage Detector. In addition to being a voltage tester it has a little flashlight on it so I could have a good look inside the box when I needed to. I also keep a philips head screwdriver in the pouch but I use the Groundbreaker's screwdriver for slotted screws.

Everything I need to do some electrical work around the house is right there in one place ready to go when I need it. The belt loop unsnaps so you don't even have to take off your belt and a flap on the back of the sheath slips in your back pocket so it doesn't flap around as you move.

This is how I normally keep the Groundbreaker sheath set up. Non-contact voltage detector in one pocket, philips screwdriver in the other, a pencil in the main pouch and a roll of electrical tape on the loop. It's always ready to go.

But still.... It's expensive. At first look I thought it was neat but I don't think I would spend that much for it. As luck would have it, I needed a new set of wire strippers at the same time the Groundbreaker was made available to me for free so I could review it. The more I used it the more I appreciated the multitool aspects of it over individual tools. It has saved me quite a bit of time. So let's look at what it would take to create a Groundbreaker experience with individual tools and how much it will cost.

Multifunction Strippers $22.76 -- The Klein 1001 Multipurpose Electrician's Tool has similar features to the Groundbreaker as far as wire stripping, cutting, terminal screw cutting and crimping goes.

Pliers $29 -- Klein Tools 9" High Leverage Side Cutting Pliers.

Screwdriver $16.99 --Milwaukee 10-in-1 ECX Multibit screwdriver.

Utility Knife $5.97 -- Stanley Quick-Change Retracting Utility Knife.

Drywall Saw $7.97 -- Milwaukee 6" Fixed Jab Saw

Pouch $29.98 -- Dead On Tools HDP222496 Electricians Professional Pouch

Total: $112.95

The price of the Gerber Groundbreaker doesn't seem too high anymore when you compare it to individual tools of similar quality. Plus you get everything in a smaller package that doesn't take up a lot of space or weight on your belt, toolbox or drawer.

For me, I just like having a small compact set of tools I can grab and go when I occasionally need to do electrical work. I don't know about you but I've tried to set up individual tool kits in the past and it never pans out. If I did build the electrical tool kit above it wouldn't be long before everything went missing. If I needed a utility knife, screwdriver, pliers, or drywall saw and my electrical pouch was closer than other tool kits, I'd grab it from there. Slowly the tools would make their way to other areas and tool storage cases, defeating the whole purpose of being able to grab one set of tools quickly to get the job done fast.

Is the Groundbreaker worth the high price? Yes in my opinion.

At first I thought the Groundbreaker was overpriced and a bit gimmicky. The more I've used it the more practical I realize it is. It's also a very well made tool with a Lifetime Limited Warranty. Gerber is one of Fiskar's brands. You probably know them from the high quality scissors and outdoor cutting equipment they make.

See more info and current pricing at HomeDepot.com.
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