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Which Rotary Cutter?

From time to time I collect a thread of messages about a topic of interest to quilters from our own Quilting Forum at Delphi (QFaD). Our Forum is a wonderful group of all levels of quilters who help and advice each other.  This discussion of rotary cutter choices is an interesting one and so we are sharing it.

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One of the tools credited with helping to create the revival in quilting in the late 1970s-early 80s was the simple rotary cutter. The Olfa Company introduced the first rotary cutter in 1979. It swept through the sewing community and quickly moved into the world of quilting. Other companies developed their own, but the Olfa has still been the major brand and introduced other variations.

And now to our Quilting Forum Discussion which started with a question from a new quilter about which type the other quilters preferred.
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Hi everyone! This is my first post here. I really find this forum helpful!

I'm brand new to quilting and still working on my first quilt. For my birthday my grandma said she would get me a rotary cutter, but there's so many out there she doesn't know what kind to get. What kind do all of you think is best? Is there a certain brand I should get?

 

Thanks so much for your help ;-)

-Keri

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Welcome! My favorite is the 45 mm Olfa.  -- K

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Definitely the 45 mm Olfa.  I had a Dritz first, but even the newer style if dropped will cut whatever it falls on.  You need a good safety guard on your rotary.

Also - I don't think the Fiskars and other replacement blades last as long as Olfa.  Olfas cost more, but I think the way the blade is milled or pressed or something is actually better than the others I've tried and seems to last longer.

Absolutely...45mm Olfa.  Any smaller and you have trouble cutting through the layers.  -- Adelaide in PA

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I liked the 45mm Olfa best until I bought a 60mm Olfa to cut borders and trim quilts - now I use the 60mm for everything and don't even pull out the 45mm.  -- Mary

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I have 3 sizes of the Olfa rotary cutter and use the 45 mm the most. But I like the big one 60mm for thick layers and fat batting. The small one is good if your doing curves.

I bought all of mine at JoAnn's with a 50% off coupon. If you don't live near one they have it on line with a 40% off coupon. They go on sale for 50% off at JoAnn's a lot.  Your Local quilt store should have them also.  

I think you can buy cheaper brands of handle and use the Olfa blade in them you would have to check the package and make sure they are compatible.

Hope this helps,  Rebecca

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My favorite is the Olfa 28mm as I have a small hand and it fits nicely.  I use it almost exclusively.  It's a rare occasion when I use my 45mm or 60mm.  I buy when I get the 50% off coupons from JoAnn's.

DixieQ

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I'm the weird one in the bunch I guess. lol I like the Dritz 45mm. I love the fact that it has an auto-retract blade. I have an Olfa but never use it now that I bought the Dritz.

By the way, no matter what brand rotary cutter you buy, you can use any brand replacement blades as long as they're the same size.

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Looks like I'm going to be out numbered, but I like my Fiskars.  {45 mm}   -- Cissy

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I love my 45 mm Dritz, it has a comfortable grip and a safety guard always over the blade. I'm pretty clumsy and even if you grab the end of the rotary cutter with the blade, you can't cut yourself because of the blade guard. But I do use the Olfa 45mm blades on it, they stay sharp longer than the Dritz. Good luck!

Jennifer
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I've always been an "Olfa girl" when it comes to rotary cutters and I also have them in all sizes. I use my 60mm almost exclusively these day -- and I like the newer ones that are designed to cut down on carpal tunnel where the blade retracts when you aren't using it. Having cut both myself and my cat, I need all the help I can get. Recently I saw that Omnigrid (maker of my favorite mats) now has rotary cutters, but I haven't actually seen them anywhere -- can't remember if I saw them in a magazine or catalog. I want to check those out sometime too.

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I'm with Cissy and Sophie... 45mm Fiskars for me, because of the handle. It's weighted differently because it's ergonomic, so it suits me better. My 45mm Olfa is going to find a home with someone else -- every time I try to use it I cut something I shouldn't, including my fingers! But that's just me...   Amy

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I like the Dritz 45 mm and I use Olfa 45 mm replacement blades in it.  The handle is a little more comfortable for me to use, and I like the safety feature of the blade.  (It retracts when not in use.) I have both Olfa and Dritz but usually use the Dritz.  You will probably get as many opinions as there are quilters but I would say you will have to see what feels best in your hand.  I feel very fortunate in that my DH has made a jig for his sharpening water stone and sharpens my blades for me.

Another tip is to use the green or blue mats, because the white mats and the gray ones tend to dull the blades. --  Kittiquilts

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Olfa has two styles of rotary cutter now - don't know if you've tried both of them, maybe you have -- the old one has a very straight handle, the new one that I prefer is ergonomic and the blade retracts when you aren't using it, instead of having to remember to close that stupid cover.

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My Olfa is the straight handled one. I looked at the new one, but it appeared (through the package, I'll admit) that you have to actually "squeeze" the handle to keep the blade open. With my tendonitis, that motion is difficult, so it didn't look like a good choice for me.

I'll also admit that I may be holding a bit of a grudge against the thing -- it made a pretty good slice into my finger the one and only time I used it! Of course, it couldn't have been "operator error!" <G>  -- Amy

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You do have to squeeze the handle to keep the blade open, although not very hard -- I had to think about it for a minute to remember for sure -- but it might be too much for you on a continuous basis.   Too funny about the grudge thing -- I shaved my left index finger with the Olfa I use -- couldn't get it to stop bleeding so I had to go to the emergency room early one Sunday morning -- and my cat that always wants to lay on the cutting board to keep me company put her paw in the wrong place at the wrong time and I had to take her to the vet -- if we were going to hold grudges, they would last for a looonnnnngg time, cause those turned out to be pretty expensive mistakes.

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My mother has the newer Olfa and there is a button you can push to keep the blade out on it. Of course, that defeats the idea of having the blade self retract because you then have to release the button. I found it more of a pain to use. Retracting the blade is second nature to me - I always do it without thinking.  -- Mary

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I use a 45 mm Fiskars-but I buy Olfa blades.  I find Fiskars blade to not last as long.  Bought one blade-didn't even make it through a top-so I emailed the company to complain-and never heard a word back from them.  And-there's nothing worse than your blade dying at 2 am!

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I like the feel of the Fiskars 45mm, but with the heavy use it gets (cutting strips for 105 student quilts each year) the inner ring of the blade would wear a groove on the metal post that it was mounted on. It just didn't hold up to the heavy use that I put on it. I think I had the same problem with the Olfa as well. The 60mm Fiskars felt really uncomfortable to me and I kept nicking the blade. I finaly started using the 45mm Dritz that self retracts and that has held up really well.
Just my thoughts,  Kathleen

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I have been using the Ergo Fiskars 45mm cutter, but I ONLY use the Ofla blades in them. Those blades are so much better. Always keep an extra blade on hand. You never know when you will need one. -- Daisy in  CO

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"an" extra blade?  Man, I buy them in the 10 packs from Hancock's of Paducah!

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You shaved your index finger, I got my left thumb. Four hours of bleeding and then finally to the emergency room and after sitting still there for an hour it stopped bleeding of course. But they put a great bandage on it and later I had to put a metal guard to protect the nerves I'd cut. Oops. Was my fault, not the cutter or ruler. CC

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I'll join the minority and vote for Fiskars, the new ergonomic one. I had a Fiskars for about 8 years, and it finally gave up the ghost from the large amount of pressure I put on it when cutting. It kept closing as I was cutting. I live in Canada, so had to get my relatives in the US to get me the new Fiskars, as we don't have it yet, but it was worth it. You do have to squeeze the handle, but there is no resistance, so it should be ok for people with tendonitis. It took a bit of getting used to the squeeze part, but now I wouldn't give it up for the world.
About the blade though, mine did not work straight out of the package. Didn't cut at all. Luckily, my husband had given me a replacement Olfa for Christmas, and when I loaded it, I was zooming away!
I guess I won't bother emailing them after hearing everyone's comments. When I tried to find out about the cutter's availability here, Fiskars Canada's reaction was "It's not here yet, and we have no idea when it will be". Unspoken - and we don't care either! Too bad for a company that has such terrific products.

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I use the 60mm Olfa rotary cutter most of the time. I have a 45mm which my 13 year old daughter uses most of the time. I tried the Fiskars's 45mm cutter but didn't like it, the blade didn't last long either. --  Sherry

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My Guild has forbidden me to use anything except a handle that closes automatically! I have a problem with forgetting to close them. I buy blades in bulk from www.denverfabrics.com (their house brand) and have one of the little re-sharpeners for the 45mm size. I do seem to get comparable wear from these blades as from the Olfa. I'm looking at my DH's fine grade oilstone for doing some serious re-sharpening. Maybe the hubby who made the jig for use on the stone would consider making jigs for sale to the rest of us?????

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Has anyone used (successfully) the sharpening tool that you can purchase (I believe Olfa and some others have it).  I've seen them in the stores like Jo Ann's and have been tempted, but hear conflicting stories about them.  Of course, I'd get it with a 50% off coupon, but if they do not work well, I'll just spend the money on new blades.  Thanks for any info.

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I have one and use it when I get a spot or two that doesn't cut well. The trick is to know when the blade is really worn out.

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I use to only use the ergonomic Fiskars handles since they started making them (with Olfa blades- get the 5 pack at Joann's when they are 50% off) but now I have a new love in my quilting room. I've been using the ergo cutter from Martelli- the one with the handle sticking out to the side since last summer. I have a knee problem (have to use a forearm crutch to walk) so I was very happy to finally find a rotary cutter that is meant to be used sitting down- it can also be used standing. It is also a lot easier on the hand/wrist if one is prone to carpal tunnel/tendonitis type problems as the pressure is spread across the entire hand and your hand/wrist is in a neutral position while using it.

It did take a little getting use to- there is definitely a different angle to hold the blade at then typical rotary cutters. They don't have a left hand version yet but are working on it we should see it within a year.

I can't find the companies web site but here is a quilt shop that has the Ergo Cutter- it just happened to be the first one that popped up in my search engine: http://www.notions.fabricstodyefor.com/cutting_tools/rotary/ergo_2000_rotary_cutter.htm  -- Christine in Michigan

[note from Susan: read a review of the Martelli cutter here and a warning about the blade being extra dangerous if not closed: Martelli Ergo Cutter review]

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The word on the STREET... is that olfa blades are more expensive because they are made with a better grade of steel and stay sharp longer. I have never realllly tested this out... I just buy OLFA. I am going to send 10 dull ones off to House of Hanson for sharpening... soon as I dull down the one I am using... and see how they cut when returned.... Several people on the forum say that they are as good as new... so, WHAT THE HECK.  However... If you run over pins... they are still dull...  --- Jane in Austin

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I use a 28mm Olfa that is so old it says "Patent Pending" !  I buy blades when the LQS has a notions sale.

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With the new ergonomic Olfa's you have the option of squeezing to keep the blade in the working position, or you can press a little button that will hold it in position while you work.  If I'm doing a lot of cutting, I press the button (which also works to keep it locked, if you desire).  If I'm just making a quick cut or two, I don't bother.  Like others, I'm grateful for the new design.  I have more than  couple scars on my hands from rotary cutters and Xacto knives ;) -- Patti

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I have Olfas and I have Fiskars. I love the BIG Fiskars (65mm) which is even larger than the largest Olfa. But, it's a bit hard to find blades for it.

I have one of the newer "squeeze" Olfas and I like it, with no need to push a button to retract the blade. -- Susan

And, by the time you read this, there will be more discussion collected in this Rotary Topic - so follow the link in the box at the top right at the beginning of this article to find the most recent comments.

Susan

Susan Druding

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