August 25, 2010

Milwaukee Fastback Flip Open Utility Knife - Review

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As part of their steadily growing line of hand tools, Milwaukee recently released two new utility knives, the light and lean Fastback and a larger, submarine-style slider. Since, for years, we've been in a pathetic and forever-failing pursuit of the perfect utility knife, we were thrilled when Milwaukee sent us a Fastback to try out. Would it meet our apparently 'too-high-for-the-industry' standards and be the knife of our dreams? Or would it prove once again that the perfect knife is one made of unicorn horns and dragon scales?

milwaukee_fastback_closed.jpgThe Milwaukee knife is certainly a nice looking item. It's on the large side for the flip-out style, but it's a good large and allows for a very comfortable handle, complete with a massive first finger notch. The contoured design goes a long way to prevent the knife from slipping out of the hand during a cut. Once it's gripped, it's gripped (unless, of course, you're a weakling).

milwaukee_fastback_in_hand.jpgThe stand-out feature of the knife is the one-handed blade flip-out. Milwaukee went with a 'wrist flip' as opposed to the 'thumb nub' (like the Striker knife we reviewed a year and a half ago), and the decision is a good one. With this knife, when you press the release with your thumb, the blade arm goes loose and a quick flip has it open and in the locked position. It's tough to quantify what exactly this does to your workday, but it sure makes you look cool. The fast one-handed operation is also good in those situations where you're holding something in your arms, propping something with your knee, and the box on the floor needs opening.

milwaukee_fastback_patrial_one.jpg milwaukee_fastback_half_open.jpg

Rounding out the tool is a nice belt clip and two body notches which expose the blade; one on the main part of the tool and one on the blade arm. These allow for easy cutting of things like felt paper and Tyvek.

milwaukee_fastback_under.jpgBut, to us, the tool does have an Achilles heel and that's blade storage. Milwaukee's other knife, with the more traditional body has blade storage (really nice blade storage, actually), but this one doesn't. And while we like the idea of companion knives, the other knife isn't going to do us much good when we have this one in our pocket. Like we said, the body of this knife is fairly large and we (and everyone we talked to) think that they could have slipped in some kind of storage slot for an extra blade (like the Striker)...just one extra is all we need.. something that means we don't have to climb down from the scaffolding once we've junked a blade up with Ice and Water shield.

But beyond that quibble (which may be isolated to us and the group of carpenters that we work with), this is a very worthy knife. We've only spent about a month with it, but in that span it's seen some hard times and it seems to shrug off any brutality that heads its way. So if blade storage isn't an issue, then this is a nice knife that we wholeheartedly recommend.

The Fastback goes for about $14, which is getting towards the high side of things, but doesn't seem in any way unreasonable for the quality of the tool.

At Amazon.com. If you're interested, Milwaukee's other knife is there as well.

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Posted by Doug Mahoney at August 25, 2010 5:29 AM

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Recent Comments

Note: While I am not a lawyer; If you use this tool as Every Day Carry it may well be classed as a "gravity knife" which as a class are illegal in many states. Otherwise, it is a great tool.


Posted by: Alan at May 12, 2012 1:31 PM

Will do, I bet the Tool Companies are following the blogs more then ever, and I hope they are listening more then ever to the guys like u and I.

Looking into the USG Drywall tools (as I said before I do not work for them, have family who does), not sure where you are located but look for a L & W yard in the white/yellow pages and you can get the drywall tools their - they are really nice!!!


Posted by: OhioHead at September 15, 2010 9:35 PM

ToolSnobTools. I like it.

You should write Milwaukee a letter about the belt clip. I've been out to their HQ a few times and they're EXTREMELY interested in what the users have to say. When talking to those guys, it becomes very clear how protective they are of their customers and how dedicated they are to their tools. One of the press events ended with the president of the company getting up in front of a room full of us cynical tool-writers and essentially opening the floor for critique. 'what don't you like about our tools?' There was another guy scribbling down all of the suggestions. It wasn't a smoke screen either, they were serious about it.

And I'll look into USG. I really don't have any experience at all with their tools. Thanks for the head's up.


Posted by: Tool Snob at September 3, 2010 8:08 PM

Toolsnob,

I agree they companies have not put out a "perfect" razor blade based pocket knife yet! Maybe we can design one and call/sell it as "toolsnob brand"!

I know these companies "claim" to do market research, I would love to give my $.02 on something I carry/use everyday!

The USG knives are promo's they give out to select customers, etc, the nice thing about them is they are compact (thin) and ergonomics are excellent and being a lefty it does not feel bad in your hand or pocket.

Speaking of USG (I do not work for them, but have family who does), you must try their drywall tools, they are really nicely designed again actually listened to users when they designed them and put some thought into them (with patents to protect).

Keep up the good work,

Todd


Posted by: OhioHead at September 3, 2010 10:02 AM

Good point about the belt clip. I haven't used the USG blades that you're talking about, but I've used a variety of Irwins over the years. Seems to me that all of the reliable tool companies have really good knives out there, but no one has put together all of (what I think are) the best features into one knife. Maybe I'm wrong, maybe it's out there and I just don't know about it.


Posted by: Tool Snob at August 27, 2010 6:32 PM

Great review - I too have been looking for the "perfect" razor blade based utility knife!

It would appear that Milwaukee "like most/all" manufactures forgot that their are "lefty's" on the job site and once again did not make the "pocket clip" changeable from right to left (a la Sypderco)!

It does not take much to include this functionality for "just a bit more."

USG has give out some very nice "razor blade" based knives for promo's and the Irwin one that came 2 or 3 years ago is pretty good as well (minus the clip change).

Do you agree toolsnob?

Just my $.02 worth - keep up the great work!


Posted by: OhioHead at August 27, 2010 7:59 AM
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