How Olfa’s innovation and quality create great craft knives

Posted by Chris Sugden on

Olfa blades and Olfa rotary cutters are not only one of the most distinctively designed you can buy they also come from a company with a record of innovation. Olfa’s name is even derived from the Japanese words for bend and break, a reflection of the snap-off blade they invented.

The company founder, working in a printing company, found the blades they used for cutting paper became blunt quickly, but realised that other parts of the blade remained sharp as they were unused in the cut. Working from this observation he developed a blade with scored lines along the length of the blade made it easy to safely snap off the dulled portion of the blade leaving a slightly shorter blade with a keen cutting edge.

Olfa Cutters innovation

The company’s innovation did not stop there and they later developed the Olfa rotary cutter, allowing a long, straight or patterned cut to be made with a simple movement that did not drag the blade and eliminated the risk of pulls or tears from the motion.

And that distinctive bright yellow colour? Yoshio Okada, Olfa’s founder, realised that making high-quality sharp blades also posed a risk to users who might be rummaging around a bag or a box looking for the right tool. Inspired by an egg yolk he chose yellow as a natural colour to make Olfa products stand out against the backdrop of dull blacks and greys that most other implements were.

The bright yellow and black livery of Olfa products to this day helps their high-quality blades not just stand out on store shelves but also stand out among everything else in the bags, satchels and cases warning people that a sharp Olfa blade is there.

The influence of traditional Japanese sword making

Olfa’s quality isn’t just a function of innovation, though. Like anything you buy the quality of an Olfa blade or cutter is a result of its manufacture. Olfa themselves highlight the influence of traditional Japanese sword making on their process, from choosing high-quality steel for the manufacture, forging and sharpening the blade to give it life and then finishing the blade or cutter with craftsmanship. The whole process, from design to manufacture, is completed in Japan so Olfa can have stringent quality control from start to finish. This commitment to quality throughout the process shows, so you can be confident you can trust Olfa with anything you need to cut.

Olfa’s innovation has, predictably, been widely copied so there are plenty of cheap snap-off blades and rotary cutters you can buy. But, as is often the case, buying cheap copies is a false economy. Olfa is a well-known and highly regarded brand in arts and crafts and their blades are recommended by hobbyists and professionals for a range of uses. Whether you are simply making a straight cut in paper, or doing more detailed and accurate work in book-repair, picture-framing, appliqué or quilting you can buy Olfa blade or cutters that will be good for the job.

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