Outside the kitchen, there was a time when cutting around the home and shop was done with a pocketknife, utility knife or a pair of scissors. On those rare occasions when there was sheetmetal to cut, you bought or borrowed a clunky pair of shears that were uncomfortable to use.
That’s just the way it was. In most cases you took your trusty pocketknife, sharp or not, and sawed your way through rope, fabric, leather or a garden hose as best you could. It was tough going. Things haven’t changed in the sense that there’s no shortage of materials to cut–from light-gauge steel and aluminum to bulletproof fabrics made out of synthetic materials. And there still is leather, canvas, hemp, building paper and other traditional materials. What has changed is that we cut these materials more deftly. Tool designers have looked at these materials and how we cut them, and they’ve come up with knives and shears to cut more quickly, neatly and with less strain.
Here’s a summary of new multi-purpose shears, snips and utility knives. They help you get the job done so you won’t have to cut any corners.
Cooper Tools (see photo above) took the traditional sheetmetal snip and improved the tool’s blades and handles. That expanded the tool’s capabilities by allowing it to easily cut materials other than sheetmetal. The tool slices neatly through leather and fibrous rope, and even small woody stems in the garden. Its blades are well-polished stainless steel, so they resist plant sap and moisture. To make the tool more comfortable, Cooper shaped the handles with a gentle curve and padded them with a rubberlike material with a slightly pebbled texture. A spring-loaded, compound-action hinge opens the tool quickly and increases its cutting leverage by a ratio of 5:1, compared to noncompound snips, Cooper Tools says. Like traditional snips, the tool cuts light-gauge sheetmetal.
AUTO-LOADING UTILITY KNIFE
Anybody who has ever used a util-ity knife with hands stiffened by cold weather will appreciate the Alltrade Squeeze Knife. Its utility blade slides in and out by an easily operated thumb-latch, as a normal utility knife blade does. However, to change its blade, you press the button on the side and simply pull the blade from the front of the tool. When you squeeze the grip, you pump a blade forward from the tool’s 6-blade side-mount magazine.
FOLDING WORK KNIFE
When Sears Craftsman set out to redesign the folding pocketknife, it started with a fresh sheet of paper. The knife’s proportions and materials were the first things considered by the knife’s designer, noted knifesmith Ken Onion. The knife measures 3-5/8 in. closed and its thick, high-carbon, stainless steel blade pivots open with a thumb stud. For a good grip, the handles are injection-molded Zytel, a rubbery plastic. A removable pocket clip (not visible in this photo) is shaped like a wrench–it’s the only whimsical feature on this all-business tool.
The Erdi Combinox MultiSnip is a marvel of compact tool design. Measuring only 7-1/2 in. long and weighing a quarter of a pound, it can cut like tools twice its size. It’s designed to slide neatly into a kitchen drawer or a toolbox. Its polished stainless steel blades are razor-sharp, and a very fine serration gives them a good grip on slippery materials ranging from a poultry wing to aluminum or copper. In the demonstration we saw, it sliced a penny cleanly in half.