Stanley FatMax Retractable Knife: Crazy Set-Up But Decent Operation

Stanley Quick Change Utility Knife
Stanley Quick Change Utility Knife. © Stanley

While it is difficult to "set up" this utility knife (and the instructions are no help), once you have figured out the Stanley® FatMax® Retractable Utility Knife, it's a good, ergonomically-correct tool.  And blades really do change out quickly.

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If you are already a Stanley Utility Knife owner and want to learn how to change blades, you will find directions at the bottom.

Pros

  • Good grip, good balance.
  • No screwdriver required to open it.
  • Large blade storage area.
  • When retracted, blades remain firmly in place--no wiggling.

Cons

  • Initial blade insertion is difficult to figure out.
  • Handling the blade from the sharp side (the only way to handle the blade) can be hazardous.
  • Stanley engineers need to rethink the blade storage area:  difficult to remove blades, difficult to close door.

Description

  • Stanley® FatMax® Retractable Utility Knife is another product in the popular FatMax line of tools.
  • Angled handle for easier cutting.
  • Storage in handle for blades.
  • Blade loads from front, not inside.
  • Uses standard utility knife blades.

Review:  Superb Knife With a Few Glaring Flaws

Once you've got the blade in, it's not a bad knife. I like the angled handle. And it's a heavy knife, which feels reassuring in my hand and produces steadier cuts for big pieces of material, such as drywall.

But this knife is about one thing:  its quick change properties.

Once you've got the hang of this (see below), you'll get a blade into the knife in less than 5 seconds. Old-school utility knives require you to unscrew the housing to replace the blade.  I've always found this a hindrance, because I hate the way those knives fall apart and because it's a delicate operation to precisely seat the blade.

Inevitably, you get it wrong and have to unscrew and re-screw the housing.

The difficulty of blade-changing is something that can be overcome:  once you learn it, you're golden.  But a secondary problem cannot be overcome, and that concerns the blade storage area in the handle.  Because of the way the storage area is shaped, plastic ridges prevent you from being able to adequately grasp the blades.  As a result, I often just upend the opened knife, toss the stored blades into my hand, select one, and then replace the others.

Also, the handle cannot be closed unless the stored blades are perfectly upright.  Otherwise, the upper section of the knife hits the blades.

How To Change the Blade Out

"Set-up?" you say. "Set-up for a utility knife? What kind of 'set-up' can there be?" I say: "Putting the blade in the knife.That kind of set-up."

It took me 20 minutes of fiddling and swearing to figure out how to get the blade to stay in place.

My first issue with this knife is that you must push the blade into the knife from the front. So, your fingers are dangerously close to the edge of the blade and are exerting force on the blade.

But once you get the blade into the front of this Stanley utility knife, nothing happens.

The blade falls out. Or it falls into the handle of the blade. It does everything but lock into place.

(This, of course, is after you have determined that the door on the handle that swings open is simply storage for extra blades. It has no bearing on mechanical aspects of the blade.)

Blade In Knife

  1. Move the brass slider button forward as far as possible.
  2. Verify that the button is at the very end. Think you have it as far forward as possible? No, you don't. Push even a bit farther. A little nib of metal will appear through the blade slot at the end when it's all the way.
  3. Gently slide blade into end of knife.
  4. Miraculously, the blade is now locked in place.

Blade Out of Knife

  1. Same as Step #1, above.
  2. Firmly press the yellow oval button at the end of the knife.
  3. While pressing the yellow button, gently pull the blade out. It should come out easily.