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What Are Manual-, Auto-, and Smart-Retracting Tools?

The Slice original utility knives, with all three retraction options.
The Slice original utility knives, with all three retraction options.

Choosing the right tool for your job is critical to getting the job done efficiently, effectively, and safely. When you need a utility knife or a box cutter, many will have the option for the blade to retract into the handle when not in use. Slice® offers manual-, auto-, and smart-retracting tools. By understanding the differences, you can select the best tool for your job.

Manual Retraction Tools

With manual retraction, the blade is exposed and hidden, manually, by the user. There are typically a few blade positions available to provide different cutting depths. The Slice 10400 Manual Box Cutter is an example of a tool with manual retraction. Manual-retracting tools are appropriate for jobs where you need to lock the blade into position. Safety is the responsibility of the user, as the blade will remain exposed until the blade is manually retracted. The Slice finger-friendly® safety blade offers protection from accidental lacerations, so if you must use manual retraction, Slice tools are your best option to protect against lacerations. After all, we’re the only ones who redesigned the blade edge itself for a safer knife.

Note: All Slice manual retraction tools are indicated by an orange slider button.

Auto-Retractable Tools

These tools have an automatic spring mechanism built into the handle. To expose the blade, the user pushes a slider. As long as the slider is engaged, the blade will remain exposed. When the user releases the slider, the blade retracts. Slice’s 10514 Auto-Retractable Mini Cutter has this type of mechanism. In addition to Slice safety blades, auto-retracting tools keep you safer by only exposing the blade during active use, reducing the potential for accidental lacerations.

Note: All Slice automatic retractable tools are indicated by a green slider button.

Smart-Retracting Tools

A smart-retracting tool provides yet an additional measure of safety above and beyond that offered by auto-retracting tools. Smart-retracting tools are also known as self-retracting, and smart-cut tools. Slice calls its self-retracting tools “Smart-Retracting” because it is almost like the tool has a brain of its own. 

To use a Slice smart-retracting tool, the user engages the blade by pushing a slider. The additional safety feature is that once the blade is engaged, it stays engaged only as long as the blade remains in contact with the material being cut. Once the cutting pressure is released, the blade retracts instantly, even if the user is still holding the slider in the blade-engaging position. The Slice 10558 Smart-Retracting Utility Knife uses this self-retracting mechanism. Here’s a demo:

Note: All Slice smart retracting tools are indicated by a blue slider button.

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