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PRODUCT REVIEW: Two New Rotary Cutters

By Addy Harkavy addy@TheExperimentalQuilter.com

Two companies, Olfa and Olipfa, have come out recently with new rotary cutters designed to be both safer and easier to use.

Olfa 45mm Rotary Cutter

Suggested retail price  $21.95

Olfa has made a very good attempt at creating a safer, more ergonomic rotary cutter that holds straight, pinking, and wave blades.

To extend the blade, one pushes a red button to unlock the blade and squeezes the handle. The blade moves forward and can be locked in the "out" position. Alternatively, one can leave the blade unlocked and squeeze the handle for each cut, which would return the blade into the body of the cutter after each cut. Olfa calls this system the Dual-Action Safety Lock and mentions locking the blade open "for comfort." For comfort, maybe. For safety, I don't think so. Those who lock the cutter open rather than compressing the handle with each cut will still need to remember to close the blade each time they use it.

The curved handle may be more comfortable for some quilters, but I found that if I put my index finger on the "washboard" -- that ridgy surface on the narrow edge of the cutter body which presumably puts the wrist in its best position, it was cumbersome to use the lock/unlock button. The cutter was extremely comfortable, however, when I forgot about the button, kept the blade unlocked, and compressed the handle for each cut. This was possible, even with my finger on the "washboard."

It doesn't seem fair to compare the new cutter to Olfa's 45mm straight cutter because it would be like comparing apples to oranges. On the other hand, folks who already use another brand of curved cutter might like the Olfa grip, which is quite comfortable, and they might prefer its blade locking system to that of other manufacturers.

From a safety standpoint, I'd prefer to use this cutter by compressing the handle each time I cut and releasing after the cut to put the blade back into the body of the cutter. The cutter could be locked in the closed position before leaving the sewing area.


O'Lipfa ComforTouch™ Cutter, Model 15200

Suggested retail price $18.99

The new O'Lipfa ComforTouch Cutter bills itself as the true ergonomic rotary cutter and claims to have a built-in safety cover that rotates to protect the blade when not in use, a thumb rest on both sides for right- or left-hand cutting, and a very sharp carbon-and-stainless blade, replaceable with a standard 45 mm rotary blade. The ergonomic claim is based on a statement that says that the hand aligns with arm to reduce wrist stress and fatigue and that the index finger extends naturally along contoured top edge.

When I tried this cutter, I did not find it terribly comfortable, although the label told me that the tool had been "designed by quilters and tested by medical professionals." No names or titles were given for the medical professionals. Granted, my hand is long, with long fingers, but I was unable to get comfortable, even when I grasped the tool as shown on the package. I found it inconvenient to rotate the blade guard after each cut, no matter which finger I used, or how I tried to do it. The whole tool felt a bit flimsy. Since my hand wasn't terribly comfortable on the tool, I can't really assess its ergonomic qualities, other than to say it wasn't the tool for me.

With this fairly negative first-cut (pardon the pun) evaluation, I asked three other quilters to give the tool a try. Nobody was impressed, particularly when it came to using the blade guard after each cut.

Overall, however, the cutter performed adequately in making strips through four thicknesses of fabric, but nobody who tested it (including me) ever felt quite comfortable using it. Finally, though functional, the price seems high when other tools with similarly designed handles offer more convenient blade covers and lower unit pricing.

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