NEW! July 2010: Toolbox

As its name suggests, the utility knife is very, well, useful. Sometimes called a “box cutter” because of its superiority to a pair of scissors for splitting thick packaging tape and cutting open boxes, the utility knife has multiple purposes. The razor blade—most often retractable—can be used for cutting drywall, laminate flooring or carpeting; scraping away old caulk from around the toilet; or cleaning gunk from your putty knife (very carefully). 

Personally, I have two utility knives—one in the kitchen for opening packages and cutting heavier paper and materials for crafts, and another in my garage toolbox for more dangerous house projects that may require safety goggles. Having two in different locations mostly is for convenience, but this also increases the longevity of the blades. 

For serious cutting projects, you’re likely going to need several blades to finish anyway, in which case you should find a knife with a storage compartment on the side or at the bottom for extra blades. Or you could find one of those fancy, newfangled utility knifes that comes with segmented, snap-off blades. In these models, when the edge gets dull, you can snap it off with a pair of pliers and then extend a fresh blade edge. More expensive versions even come with their own attachments for doing the snapping off. 

Whichever kind you use or however many you hoard, treat your utility knife with respect. The sucker is sharp for a reason, so always retract the blade as soon as you’re done cutting, even if you’re going to cut again soon, and use short, slow strokes, pulling the blade toward you, when you cut.—Katherine Ludwig

Terracotta pots can be a medium for creative house numbers; or paint unfinished numbers and attach to dowel rods, then stick directly into the ground. 

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