ToughBuilt has launched a new utility knife, the Reload, and it’s different from any other utility knife I’ve ever used before.
I’ve been using a test sample for a short time now (thank you, ToughBuilt!), and already have a lot of thoughts and feedback to share.
To start off, I love the idea behind this knife. It’s a utility knife that is reloaded via blade magazines. This allows for fast blade changes, and also quick swapping between blade styles.
I use 3 types of utility knife blades – general purpose, heavy duty, and safety-tip. There are more, such as hook blades and drywall blades.
The ToughBuilt Reload utility knife comes with the handle, 2 refillable blade magazines, 5 standard utility blades, and 5 hook-style blades.
(Hook blades are used for cutting roofing materials, linoleum, carpet, and other such materials.)
Each magazine can hold up to 5 blades for immediate access, and up to 10 blades in its separate storage compartment. This gives you built-in storage for up to 15 blades per removable magazine.
The magazine has a sliding indicator with 3 settings so that you can quickly identify different loadouts.
ToughBuilt Reload Knife Pros
Blade changes are extremely convenient.
You can swap blades the normal way. Or, remove a dull blade, retract the blade holder, and a fresh blade will automatically be grabbed and brought to the front.
When you retract the blade again, it returns to the magazine, allowing for quick magazine changes. This means changing from one type of blade is much quicker than swapping blades from the front of the knife, and your fingers also get to avoid sharp edges.
The Reload knife is easy and comfortable to use. If you forget about the ejectable blade magazine, it’s a good auto-reloading knife.
It’s also fun to use, which shouldn’t be important, but does add to the user experience.
Also, the knife comes with ToughBuilt’s special utility knife blades that work with their scraper utility knife, but I have confirmed that it does work with standard off-the-shelf utility knife blades. I tested it with ToughBuilt and Milwaukee utility knife blades.
ToughBuilt Reload Knife Cons
The knife has a very well-polished design, but it’s not without its faults and potential issues.
Removing blades out of the front of the knife, for reversal or discarding, was a hassle until I figured out a trick. Fully extend the blade, and then gently pull back on the thumb-lever. Now you can depress the blade lock lever to release the blade.
If you skip that step, and the blade is in its forwardmost position, the blade release button won’t work. That maybe 1mm shift makes all the difference.
Remember that minor step, and blade removal and reversals are a cinch.
There’s no lanyard hole, not that I ever use such a feature.
Where do you put a spare magazine where it won’t get dirty?
The auto-reloading aspect is fantastic! But swapping blade styles? I generally have different knives for different tasks, and don’t see this knife changing that tendency anytime soon.
The knife might be a little large, but it doesn’t feel bulky to me, which I suppose is a pro, but it is larger than other non-folding knives.
It can hold up to 15 blades. Moving blades from the storage compartment to the auto-loading compartment is easy. I have kept at most 5 blades in the holder so far, and haven’t utilized the rear storage compartment. I suppose this is a “better to have and not need” feature.
I don’t know how many utility knife blades other people go through in a day, but 5 tends to be plenty of on-board storage for me.
The knife has performed quite well for me so far, but I do have concerns.
Every time you fully retract the blade, it re-enters the auto-loading blade cartridge. This is great for quickly changing loadouts, such as when you want to switch blade styles. But what happens when you have a dirty, dusty, oily blade?
The blade magazines are intricately but not delicately built, and seem to be easy to clean.
Still, what happens when you cut through a lot of tape, glue, or other such materials and retract the blade, returning it to a stack of up to 5 blades?
Most knives self-clean quite well, and this one’s no different, but the auto-load functionality creates potential hard-use or use-on-anything limitations.
It’s not that the stored blades might get gunked up, but how this might affect auto-reload functionality.
But, there are a lot of thoughtful design aspects here, such as a window for checking how many blades are stored in the covered rear storage compartment.
There’s often a fine line between innovation and gimmick. Frankly, the ToughBuilt Reload utility knife is both.
On the innovative side, its auto-reloading aspect is practical and effective. I typically don’t care about built-in blade storage, but this changes my mind.
I don’t see myself using both blade magazines, but I figure the spare is good to have. There are times when it might come in handy, but if we’re talking about carrying two styles of blades, I’d rather carry two differently-equipped knives in my pocket, pouch, or tool box.
Removing blades from the front of the knife requires just a little more attention, the same as some other knives, but is an effortless process. If this is your daily-use knife, there’s nothing to worry about. If you’re like me, and use different utility knife styles on a regular basis, it might take slightly longer to develop the muscle memory.
I tend to mock products where “fidget factor!” is a selling point. Tools aren’t toys, and shouldn’t be fun to use, right?
This is an innovative knife with a fun design, and it backs that up with purpose and useful functionality.
Ignore the quick-change firearm-type magazine loading mechanism. The Reload is an automatic-loading utility knife that’s well-made, comfortable to use, and it has plenty of built-in blade storage.
And, based on my testing so far, it’s compatible with standard utility knife blades.
It seems to endure rough handling and drops, and has been great for day to day cutting tasks. I have some concerns about whether certain work environments might gunk up the blade magazine or internal components, such as when I drop a knife in gritty mud when cutting twine in the garden.
But, for me, the pros outweigh the cons and concerns.
It is fun, but once you get past that novelty, it’s still functional.
I like the Toughbuilt Reload. It won’t be my only utility knife, but its auto-loading functionality adds value and convenience to my kit.
Thank you to ToughBuilt for providing the review sample!