A box cutter is an indispensable tool to have in any warehouse. Also called utility knives, these extremely sharp blades can cut quickly through heavy cardboard, shrink wrap, ropes, and carpeting. Each type of box cutter has a choice of different blades to choose from.
Ceramic blades are known for being long-lasting. One reason is that they are not susceptible to rust. However, they can also be more expensive than stainless steel blades. Overall, because they are so durable, it means you may need to change out the blade less often. In fact, some ceramic blades can last up to 10x longer than Stainless steel blades.
Ceramic blades have unique shapes and sizes. Some ceramic blades have rounded tips to prevent accidental injuries. Ceramic blades, because they are harder than steel blades, can have smaller cutting cross-sections. This means they are less dangerous to the user.
Ceramic Blade Benefits:
- Never rusts
- chemically inert
- No oil or lubricant coating required
- Fewer blade changes mean less chance of injuries
- Long-term lower costs than metal blades
- Prevents harmful bacteria
- 1600 degrees Celsius max safety temperature
- Non-reactive to acids and salt
Made Of Zirconium Oxide (ZrO2)
Zirconium oxide is a very hard material. In fact, it is much harder than even the hardest steel for dimensional and impact strength. It is oxidation-resistant, which means it does not rust as steel does. It also does not require any extra oils or lubricants layered on top of the blade to prevent rusting. Overall, this means it is longer-lasting, which can in fact impact your wallet.
And because they are so strong, these types of blades remain sharp longer, so you consistently and for longer periods get a blade that works.
Being a stronger material that is less susceptible to dulling means they can actually be less sharp than steel blades. This allows for a smaller cutting zone, which leads to fewer cuts to skin on the fingers.
Zirconium oxide box cutter blades have a sizeable corrugated cutting thickness maximum up to 1/4 inches, similar to other metal blades.
Stainless Steel Blades
The main benefits of stainless steel blades are that they are inexpensive and strong. However, they are not as strong as the higher-end alloy steel blades, or in some ways ceramic blades.
Stainless steel blades are strong, but are required to be extra sharp to keep them long lasting. As they get dull, they lose their ability to pierce the material. This means they are dangerous to handle and can easily cut the skin. Because they are cheap to manufacture, they are more common with less expensive box cutter, such as the slip-type.
A downside of stainless steel blades is that they are susceptible to rust and bacteria. So, if you get cut, you could be exposed to these and require medical attention.
Carbon Steel Blades
Carbon steel is a variety of steel that is used for many types of industrial products such as tool and die, railway wheels, knives, gears, and crankshafts. There are different types of carbon steel that range from low to super-high carbon steel. Carbon steel is made of a mixture of iron and carbon and has less than %10.5 alloy content of other metals, such as chromium.
Carbon Steel Vs Stainless Steel
Believe it or not, stainless steel and carbon steel are not the same. And each one has weaknesses and strengths over the other. These include:
- Stainless steel has more protection from corrosion and rust due to its higher chromium content.
- Carbon steel can corrode and rust more quickly due to its high carbon content.
- Stainless steel is more aesthetically appealing and is often used for jewelry and other decorative products.
- Carbon steel has higher strength and durability than stainless steel.
Heavy Duty Carbon Steel Blades
These types of carbon steel blades are usually made of higher-end steel alloy which makes them up to 3x longer lasting than regular carbon steel blades. Some of these blades are made of SK5 steel, which is popular steel for hunting, fishing, and other general-purpose knives due to its low cost and moderate strength. It has higher nickel content than other carbon steels which makes it very tough. However, it could rust and corrode faster than other steels.
Break Away Blades (Self-Loading Blades)
These are also called snap-off-blades and can be broken off after they have been worn down. The next blade is already attached as another metal piece and is self-loaded as the side button is slid forward. This means you do not need to change out the entire blade each time you need a new one. You only need to change out the entire break-away blade strip after all blade pieces have been used up. These are very convenient, however, they can also break off when you do not intend for them to do so. So, they are not recommended for cutting stiff materials that require lots of pressure to cut through as this could just break off the blade. For heavier materials, consider using a heavy-duty box cutting knife with a single standard razor blade.
Single-sided blades have only one cutting edge situated on one end. These blades can be either hexagonal or rectangular in shape. Or, in other words square-edged and angled edge.
These are common and inexpensive and usually made of stainless steel or carbon steel.
Some single-sided blades also have a hole on the other end to lock the blade in place. These are often used for Exacto knives that use a special pointed blade for precise cuts. The downside of these types of single-sided blades is that once the blade is worn down a new one must be installed.
A benefit of single-sided box cutter blades is that they are much stronger than and break-away blades.
Double-sided blades have cutting edges on two ends. So, once one side is worn down, simply reverse the blade and lock it in place and you are ready to keep cutting. Double-sided blades are the second strongest metal type blades behind square-edged (rectangular) single-sided blades. These blades are usually hexagonal-shaped. They are also usually made of stainless steel or carbon steel.
Rectangular General Purpose Blades
These are rectangular-shaped with a rigid edge on one side for sturdiness. They have only one side that is sharp and usually are sold in packed boxes.
Some feature a rigid metal wrap on one side and a hole in the center.
Certain box cutters hold this type of blade, and you must purchase the right one for them to fit. These are excellent for high-pressure cuts through thicker materials such as drywall and heavy-duty cardboard. Overall, they are for general-purpose cutting and work well in garages, shops, and home improvement projects.
When choosing which box cutter blades to buy, consider the low versus high-end alloy steels, as well as carbon steel and ceramic blades. Each one has strengths and weaknesses in relation to the others.
Nick Klamecki is a certified Fire and Workplace Safety expert with 15 years experience in product research and testing. He has a degree in Economics from U.C. Davis, is an active outdoorsman and spent years ensuring the safety of special needs children. Nick researches and tests workplace, industrial and safety products and provides advice on their safe use.