I stopped by my local Home Depot store last week and came across this promotional display of Dewalt hand tools.
I had my kids in tow and they cooperated – barely – because our next stop would have been to pick up some hot mac and cheese and chocolate-covered pretzels from Whole Foods. What this means is that my decision-making was compromised. There’s no checking for online ratings, no price-comparing, no deep thinking.
My decision making is simple – do I buy or not buy?
I picked up the newest version of Dewalt’s folding retractable utility knife, plus some other tools, and headed to checkout.
The Dewalt DWHT10035 folding retractable utility knife first launched 10 years ago, and I was fairly pleased with the design and quality. That knife was relatively easy to open and easy to use.
It was an interesting concept – a utility knife that folds for compact storage and still provides a retractable blade with multiple extension positions for better cutting depth control.
I kept mine in a tool box and used it for years. It wasn’t my first choice when it came to utility knives, but I had it conveniently placed and it was a good knife.
Now, Dewalt has the DWHT10035L, which is an update to the original design. From appearances, it looks like there are only very minor changes to the knife, but the user experience is very different.
Not to mince words, I greatly dislike this knife, and I can’t understand what has happened to the design. How can a utility knife look so similar but deliver such a terrible user experience.
Here are my two major complaints. First, the knife pivot is tight and doesn’t seem to be breaking in. Maybe that will change in time. Tools like this aren’t designed to be adjustable, and so loosening the pivot screw will likely just make the knife feel sloppy. It doesn’t open smoothly, and this increases the time and effort it takes for the knife to go from fully closed to ready-for-use.
Second, the blade change mechanism is terrible. I don’t remember having a tough time with the preceding model, and so why is this one so hard to use?
Pressing the blade down doesn’t work, or at least it hurts my thumbs and I can’t exert enough pressure to unlock the blade. I keep asking myself if I’m doing something wrong.
Pushing down and up on the blade change button works and makes it easier to unlock a blade, but it’s still not an easy process. I put together a video review last night, and my thumbs are still sore from fiddling with the blade change button so much.
Okay, so I learned to press down and up to make it slightly less impossible to release a blade. Inserting a new blade is then a huge chore.
Sometimes I can get a new blade to slide in straight, but other times it jams in.
Fighting with a utility knife blade is a sure way to land in the ER for some stitches.
Ah, so there’s a trick – inserting the blade at a slight angle makes it easier to get into position. You then have to press the blade change button again to seat the blade.
Finally, you need to pull or push the blade until it clicks into position. I had to do this with the original knife, but the whole process used to be easier.
This is not the ideal style of utility knife for me. I tend to keep retractable knives in the workshop and kitchen tool cabinet, and I sometimes carry them in my pocket. But when I need a more pocketable knife, I grab a simpler folder, such as the Milwaukee FastBack compact.
Whether I’m using a retractable or folding utility knife, I tend to open and close them as needed. Sure, you can fold the Dewalt knife open and keep it open until you’re ready to pocket it again, but then there’s not much benefic compared to a compact retractable blade knife.
But, that it’s not well suited for my needs and usage habits isn’t a big deal. What bothers me is that its usability is compromised.
The knife isn’t as easy to open as I expected or would like. This isn’t a deal-breaker by itself, but the difficult blade change mechanism certainly is.
There should be minimal frustration when handling a bare utility knife blade. If a knife’s blade change mechanism is awkward, clumsy, or difficult to work with, it becomes a potential safety risk. If it requires any amount of force, there’s risk of slipping, and that’s something you don’t ever want to happen when handling a bare blade.
I find myself unforgiving about this knife.
Ben experienced an issue with Dewalt’s retractable knife, and it turned out that his knife was missing a small part. I recently had a bad experience with a new Milwaukee Fastback Compact knife, and realized that the blade guard wasn’t fully tightened. A quick turn with precision screwdriver fixed it.
But here? There’s nothing that could fix this.
Maybe it’s a fluke and just my knife is bad?
Looking online, it seems I’m not the only one experiencing these issues. User complaints on Dewalt’s website also reference the “ridiculously tight folding mechanism” and frustratingly difficult blade change mechanism.
If you’re intent on buying this folding and retractable utility knife to suit your needs, I put together some blade change tips in a quick video review. After too many attempts and practice, my thumbs are sore, but I found ways to make the blade change process a little easier and a lot more consistent.
The Dewalt DWHT10035L is made in the USA with global materials.
Price: $10 (promo price)