General Purpose Tools

Milwaukee Fastback Flip Utility Knife with Blade Storage

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Best folding utility knife

I propose the Fastback Flip Utility Knife with Blade Storage ($24), from Milwaukee, is the best folding utility knife.

The good:

  • It literally falls open. When the blade release button is pressed, the blade assembly swings out like a pendulum. It is not “smooth” or “silky,” it is easier than that. It is friction-free. You can flick it open with less effort than any alternative, including flippers, thumb holes, etc.
  • The blade assembly (the blade and the piece that holds the blade) locks in BOTH open and closed positions. So even though it opens so easily, it will not open accidentally and cut you. The lock is positive, with no play or rattle.
  • The blade also locks at a 45 degree position, for greater ease in certain cutting jobs, like slitting carpet, perhaps.
  • The blade lock mechanism is operated with just a simple push-button. No levers or screws. It is also strong and secure (though more on that below.)
  • The aluminum handle is comfortable and hand-filling, and it has a deep cut-out for the index finger that makes it very unlikely it will slip out of your grasp. It also means holding it casually requires almost no effort.
  • It also has a “gut hook” slot in the handle for cutting string or packing tape without opening the knife.
  • It also has a wire-stripping notch in the blade assembly.
  • It has a sturdy wire clip that will not damage your pants.
  • It has on-board blade storage for perhaps four blades. (If you prefer, Milwaukee makes a slimmer model without spare blade storage, and a “Compact” model with a shorter handle.)
  • It has a lanyard hole.
  • It comes with a lifetime warranty from Milwaukee.
  • It costs $15.

The bad:

  • A few people have complained that the blade mount can fail, releasing the blade. I haven’t encountered that, and none of the several professional, hands-on reviewers have reported that issue, but there are a few user reviews complaining about the issue. It seems that the problem may be restricted to particular blades, which vary in thickness and apparently notch location (the semicircular cutouts in the top of the blade that knives use to hold the blades.) If you do encounter that issue, try a different blade. That said, this knife is so ergonomically refined and thoughtfully designed that it is worth experimenting.
  • The knife doesn’t have the ability to extend the blade just a little bit or just halfway like some utility knives do, but neither does any other folding utility knife.
  • The clip cannot be repositioned. It is set in a “tip-down” position, meaning that when the knife is clipped in a pocket, the tip is pointed downward. This is supposedly the safer position, but the knife already locks both open and closed, so I would feel comfortable with a “tip-up” carry, so I could pull out the knife and press the button to let the blade fall open all in one motion. Some of the nicer pocket knives offer repositionable clips, but no utility knives do that I know of. So a repositionable clip would just be gravy.

Overall, the knife is the most thoughtfully designed folding utility knife I have found. It would make an excellent present for the handyman or woman in your life.

-- Karl Chwe 12/12/19