Olfa Rotary Cutter

I purchased my first rotary cutter (a 28mm) in the fall of 1979. These are basically round razors on handles; they allow for precise cutting of fabric, paper, cardboard, etc.

In the years since then I have purchased larger and smaller diameter cutters (they come in four sizes; which one you choose depends on how many layers you want to cut), ergonomic cutters and brands other than Olfa.

I keep coming back to the Olfa cutters because of the high quality and user-friendliness. I am especially happy with the ergonomic design – for its lock open/lock closed feature for the blade and for the fact that I can cut accurately while seated (my spinal stenosis makes standing to cut painful).

These are quality tools and well worth the expense. Be sure to purchase a self-healing cutting mat (there are many brands and sizes on the market) — this will protect and prolong the blade sharpness on your cutter as well as protect the surface on which you are cutting.

-- Linda Schiffer  

OLFA 9654 RTY-2/DX 45mm Ergonomic Rotary Cutter

Available from Amazon

Adhesive Rulers

I make lots of stuff, and measuring is integral to making stuff right, so I like having rulers everywhere. Several years ago, someone gave me an adhesive back measuring tape that I stuck to the edge of a table, and from then on, I wanted more.

I loved always having that ruler there, never having to go look for a ruler or a measuring tape, or go get a longer-than-needed yardstick because I had misplace my 12-inch ruler in some other measuring episode. I thought it would be great to put rulers like that on the edge of the kitchen counter, inside my desk drawer at work, on the edge of any table I’m doing work at, and on the outside of my knitting bags.

(I once thought pretty hard about getting dots tattooed on my index fingers, half an inch apart, so I’d always be able to measure things.)

About 3 years ago I did some research online, and found a company that manufactures all kinds of measuring equipment just across the river from me, in Oregon City, Oregon. I had to go visit after I read that “Oregon Rule specializes in adhesive backed rulers” in the Google blurb.

The company owner was there the day I visited, and he showed me all kinds of rulers, for things I had not even imagined. When I told him what I was looking for, there were an overwhelming number of options available: I came away with several rolls of ruled tape, enough adhesive 18″ metal rules to give one to each my co-workers for the pencil drawers on their desks, and an 8 foot adhesive back polyester ruler to put down the middle of the table in my craft room.

I can’t say that the rulers Oregon Rule makes are in any way better than other rulers, but the ability to put rulers everywhere I want them has made it easier for me to measure things accurately and quickly.

-- Kathy Warner  

Adhesive Rulers
$6 and up

Available from Amazon

Olfa L5-AL Heavy Duty Cutter

These have quickly become by all-time favorite utility knife and try-to-have-it-with-me super-tool. What’s really interesting about this knife is on the back-end. You see that little metal tang? This little extension has become so handy on job-sites or around the house that I feel a little helpless without it (just a bit).

This metal extension is often the perfect pry-tool for awkward situations. It’s not just a piece of stamped metal, it has a slight tapered edge which makes it far more useful that you’d expect. Need to open an electrical cover-plate? It’ll do it. Don’t have a screwdriver (or coin) handy for those slot-fitting applications? Now you do! Opening paint-cans, prying open seals, breaking the glue-seam on a cardboard box, etc. It keeps finding new ways to be handy and it often does it well.

I was just on a job-site yesterday where an awkward panel in some office furniture just would not go back into place and I was truly stuck. Digging through the toolbox and trying different ideas wasn’t getting anywhere. I didn’t have my knife with me (lent it out) but I eventually had to go find it to give it a try and it was the perfect tool one more time. It really did save the day and I’m not sure if any other tool that could do the job, or do it as well.

Aside from this, the slim lock-slide button on the side is a wonderful performer. It’s quick, reliable and fits better in the pocket than the screw-type lock. Everytime I grab a blade with a screw-lock I’m reminded why I like this one so much.

And the grip! The molded rubber and tapered edges of the handle is really well designed. It’s just one more thing that makes this knife stand out and I’m constantly trying to keep this blade handy so I don’t have to suffer the alternatives that are littered about.

It also comes preloaded with an ultra-sharp LBB-10 blade. Icing on the cake! These blades are a legend in themselves.

It’s a great knife and utility tool and a must-have in my go-bag.

-- Martin  

[We reviewed a slightly less heavy duty cutter in 2006 -- Mark Frauenfelder]

OLFA L5-AL 18mm Heavy Duty Cutter with an Automatic Blade Lock and 10 Free Spare Blades

Available from Amazon

Kadomaru Pro Corner Cutter

I use the Kadomaru Pro Corner Cutter to round the corners on gimmicked playing cards I make to perform magic tricks. The cutter can also be used to round the corners of postcards, business cards, photos, and any other paper or card stock (as long as it isn’t too thick – it resists when I try to cut two playing cards at the same time).

It has three slots, labeled S (3 mm), M (5 mm), and L (8 mm). The 3mm is perfect for Bicycle playing cards. To use it, insert the corner of the card into the slot until it stops, then press down on the handle until it clicks. The cuts are very clean.

-- Mark Frauenfelder  

Sun-Star Kadomaru Pro Corner Cutter

Available from Amazon

Leatherman Multitool OHT

I’ve had many multitools: Leatherman, SOG, Kershaw, etc. but this is by far the best.

It’s a bit weighty (as most multitools are) but this one has stood true through every scenario I have been able to expose it to: two tours overseas, buried in the sand; rescue swimming and diving in extreme search and rescue missions; and bushcraft survival.

It has every feature I could need in an every day life. I carry this tool more than my wallet, cell phone, even keys. I’ve modified a few little aspects on it just to suit personal desires, such as: replacing one tool for a phosphorus rod, using the lanyard hole for a self-made paracord lanyard including fishing line, weights, and hooks embedded, etc. But none of these mods interfere with the original tool itself.

I now work as a paramedic full time, as well as with at-risk youth for Outward Bound and I use this tool daily, usually multiple times.

-- Andrew Thomas  

Leatherman OHT

Available from Amazon

Klein Rapi-Driv Rotary Screwdriver

I was on a job recently and saw a guy using one of these to remove some long threaded screws on a switch plate, and after watching him I had to get one.

The key is, with a standard screwdriver there is a limit to how fast you can operate it. With this one, you can turn on the speed when you want. Your movement comes from your elbow instead of having to repeatedly turn your wrist to its limit.

It saves so much time. It works really well on low-torque, machine screws (the kind with a lot of threads per inch, like in switch plates). Sometimes a plate will have short screws, but sometimes you encounter a plate that has 1″ or 2″ 6/32 screws that to take forever to get out or in with a standard hand operated screwdriver. With this screwdriver, you can be done before you could walk across the room for the drill.

It’s perfect if you are painting, and don’t need/want to carry a drill around. You can keep one of these in your back pocket.

Tangentially, this Christmas I received the Kobalt Speed Drive ($18) which is a fascinating (if complicated) solution to the same problem. While it is cool (the 6x gear ratio turns the screw whichever way your wrist moves), it is heavier and larger than the Klein. Also the bit attachments can be easily dropped, lost, etc.

-- Allen Watts  

Klein Tools Cabinet Tip Screwdriver, Yellow and Black

Available from Amazon

Masterson Rinse Well

I am a painter and I have used the Masterson Rinse Well daily, for years. (The same unit!)

It consists of a 28 oz (840 ml) plastic water bottle which, when filled and inverted onto the base, feeds water into a well in the center for brush wetting or cleaning. Pressing the button at the front drains the used water into the reservoir underneath and automatically refills the well with clean water. The area surrounding the well can be used as a kind of palette and there are two holes to hold brushes.

This multi-function unit takes up very little drawing table space, is durable and easy to clean, is inexpensive, and is an all-around excellent tool. (Having an extra water bottle is a good investment for limiting trips to the water faucet.)

-- Pamela Ehrlich  

Masterson Fresh Water Rinse Well

Available from Amazon

Omni Grid Rulers

From the world of sewing comes this fabulous array of clever transparent rulers in a variety of shapes and sizes, including rectangles, squares and triangles. I use my 6″ x 24″ omni grid ruler for cutting out fabric with my rotary cutter. Quilters use them for cutting out quilt pieces in various geometric shapes. People cutting templates or marking tricky cuts will find these transparent rulers very handy as you can see the surface through the ruler. There are angles for cutting 45 and 60 degree angle on many of the rulers.

A wide variety of accessories make these rulers more useful: glowing tapes for marking the ruler when making many cuts of the same same size, clear “sticky” stuff to put on the bottom of the ruler so it will not slide, suction cup handles for grips to make them easier to move, as well as cases and storage options.

On the down side, they are fragile, and can break if dropped on a hard surface.

-- Amy Thompson  

Omnigrid rulers
Prices vary

Available from Amazon

Datavac Electric Duster

This is a “can” of compressed air that contains a very small compressor of sorts so you have a never ending supply of high pressure compressed air. As a hobbyist letterpress printer and a confirmed tinkerer, I use this all the time for everything from drying of type that is being cleaned to blowing dust out of old machinery to just helping clean up. The specs are a 500 watt motor, .75 HP, 4.5 amps, and 70 CFM air flow.

Lots of reviews mention how loud it is when operating (it is) as well as how powerful the stream of air is (as I think it should be), and it runs about the cost of 10-12 cans of air so you make back your initial investment quite quickly, cut down on waste (empty cans), and have access to a variety of nozzles to us (including an itty bitty computer keyboard nozzle). And, you avoid some of the chemicals that are in individual cans of compressed air.

-- Neil J. Salkind  

ED500 DataVac 500-Watt 0.75-HP Electric Duster

Available from Amazon

Cuturi Air Hammers

I am a figurative marble sculptor. I have been using the Cuturi air hammer line for 20 years. I learned about it from the 70-year-old artisani in Italy who have been sculpting for major studios all their lives.* They use Cuturi because they stand up to 40 hour weeks, for decades. So, that’s what I got. I have tried some others, and they worked OK, but nothing was better and it has withstood the test of time since I have been using mine for a long time.

Cuturi air hammers come in different sizes (different size pistons) and two types. The roughing hammers take larger chisels shaft diameters. The finish hammers take smaller chisel shaft diameters. Depending on your needs, you will probably want a large, medium, and small hammer for roughing, and then a medium and small for finish work. If you don’t use a diamond bladed saw for the initial stage of the rough (getting rid of big chunks of stone), you may want the largest air hammer for your initial rough but it’s very heavy and exhausting to use.

Generally, I use carbide tipped chisels which can be purchased commercially. However, for finish work, the last two finishing stages are done with chisels made by a blacksmith out of steel. (The retired Italian blacksmith who made my set of steels complained that he has a hard time finding quality steel for chisels anymore.) The carbides are sharpened on a grinder. The steels are sharpened on a stone. (Nothing fancy, a nearby flat rock will do.) The roughing Cuturi hammers are best with carbide chisels. The larger finishing hammer can use both. The smaller finishing hammer is only used with steel.

You can see examples of my work.


*Sadly, when you buy a marble sculpture by a famous artist, it is not unlikely that they have never touched the stone. They send a model to one of the major studios in Pietrasanta, Italy and the artisani there copy the model into stone, often enlarging it and adding important details. Sometimes they just get a hand sketch or a short description to work from. They get paid a fairly low hourly wage, then the sculpture gets crated by a guy who has been doing it all his life, shipped to a New York gallery, and someone pays six figures for it.

-- Chuck Clanton  

Cuturi Air Hammers
Prices vary