Benchmade Knife Co. has long been known for its extremely high-quality knives that carry equally high prices, but earlier this year the Oregon-based company began shipping a creation targeted towards a different market.
That creation is the Benchmade 1500-181 Cigar Cutter, a single blade guillotine cutter that incorporates CPM-S90V stainless steel housed inside a carbon fiber handle. Measuring 4.15 inches and weighing 4.2-ounces, the cutter includes a number of interesting features, including a blade that is released using Benchmade’s AXIS locking mechanism, which basically means it is opened using a release bar that can be triggered on either side of the cutter.
However, that is just the beginning, as the 1500-181 also features blue sapphire titanium oxide coated screws, dual titanium alloy foraged backspacers, carbon-coated black blades and even actual sapphires that are embedded into white gold bezels on the release bar.
Of course, all of these features come at a cost. In this case, that MSRP is $1,000, although street prices seem to come in around the $850 mark. There were only 250 of the cutters released, all of which were made in America.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Put simply, the Benchmade 1500-181 is a modified version of a single-blade guillotine cutter, albeit with a fairly unique design. When it is closed, the blade is almost completely hidden within the housing—the only part you can see is when you look through the space where the cap goes, where you will see the Benchmade logo—but simply pulling back firmly on the trigger on either side of the cutter causes the blade to pop up with a dull thunk, opening up the hole where you put the cigar. Then it is a simple matter of inserting the cap of the cigar you are about to enjoy and pushing down on the blade, which causes the blade to pass through the cigar until it hits the end of its journey with a satisfying click. The blade then stays hidden in that position until you activate the trigger again.
WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL?
After almost a month of constant use, I can tell you that this is an amazing cutter to physically use: the balance when holding it is excellent, the blade is sharp and it is so well-made that it never came close to being anything less than an absolute joy to pick up and use. Unfortunately, there is more to a cigar cutter than how it feels and how it looks, and in that regard, the Benchmade had some significant failures.
The first few times I cut cigars, I was left with a small “shelf” sticking up at the back end that was quite obvious. Assuming that I just needed to adjust my technique a bit, I tried a number of different options: I pushed the blade harder and softer, faster and slower, I even twisted the cigar slightly while cutting caps, all to no avail. No matter what I tried, the vast majority of times I cut a cap with this cutter, I was left with that same obvious “shelf” sticking up from the back of the cut. In fact, a couple of times, the blade did a better job of completely destroying the cap as opposed to cutting it, although that was a fairly rare occurrence.
The major issue seems to be one of design: if you look through the bottom of the housing—you can see what I am talking about in the photograph above—there is an obvious gap between the blade and the edge of the inside housing. Basically, this means that when you cut a cigar, there is almost always going to be a small portion of the cap that is going to be left uncut, regardless of what you do to try and mitigate that fact.
Having said that, there were times that I was able to get a clean cut, as you can see from another of the photographs above. However, those clean cuts were few and far between, and never amounted to more than about 10 percent of the total number of cigars that I used the cutter on.
- Visual Impact — This is one of the best-looking cigar cutters I have seen, bar none. The combination of the overall slightly curved design, muted carbon fiber handle and blue highlights for the details are striking and immediately signify this is an expensive item, even if you know nothing about it.
- Quality of Materials — The first time you pick this up, you know it is a well-made, quality piece of craftsmanship. At 4.2 ounces, it is not exactly light, but it features amazing balance, to the point where you can spin it on your finger like a fidget spinner if you so choose (and yes, I did.)
- Build Quality — In the more than three weeks I used this cutter, it was thrown into my bag where it banged around with other cutters, carried in my pocket with my keys and was even dropped a couple of times on accident. None of these actions resulted in anything even coming close to scratches, dents or any other visual damage that I can discern.
- Lifetime Warranty — As with the rest of products that Benchmade produces, the 1500-181 Cigar Cutter comes with a lifetime warranty, which includes sharpening services.
- Design — While the quality of the build might be great, the design is flawed. The combination of the gap in-between the blade and the interior edge of the housing means that almost every time you cut a cap, you are going to be left with a “shelf” of tobacco, regardless of how you try and compensate. There were also a few times that the cutter destroyed the cap, though that was not a common occurrence by any means.
- Price — There is no getting around the fact that this cutter is easily one of the most expensive cutters on the market today.
- Limited Availability — Some will probably look at this is as a good thing, but there are only 250 of these available at the moment.
While there are no direct competitors that feature a similar single action blade and quality of materials, there are some single blade cutters on the market. One interesting option is the Les Fines Lames Cigar Knife—I cutter I will be reviewing in the future—which is a French-made folding knife with a place to insert cigars to be cut that is built with MOX27Co cutlery stainless steel and is priced around $500.
- Paul Garmarian Cigar Cutter — Priced at $20 and features a plastic housing along with a Sheffield blade that also happens to be one of the sharpest cigar cutters I have ever reviewed.
- XIKAR X875 Cutter — Retailing for $34.99, the X875 is made specifically to cut 80 ring gauge cigars, and XIKAR advertises the fact that you can fit a 75 ring gauge cigar through the opening in the cutter.
- Colibri S-Cut — Featuring a rubber base and stainless steel blades, this cutter can accommodate cigar up to 66 ring gauge and is available in a number of different colors all of which are priced at the same $39.
- Tonino Lamborghini Le Mans Cigar Cutter — Sold in a variety of finishes with pricing range from $80-125 depending on the design, this cutter can accommodate cigars up to 54 ring gauge.
SHOULD YOU BUY IT?
If you are looking to increase the amount of Instagram likes on pictures of cigars you are never smoking, this is a great tool with which to do so. If you want to cut a cigar, it’s not. This is a cutter you want to have until you actually use it. The Benchmade 1500-181 is a combination of quality materials, amazing visuals and wonderful balance, plus it is made in America. But, the cutter fails at cutting cigars effectively and so it doesn’t really matter if it’s $1,000 or $1, made in America or made in China—it just doesn’t work.