Founded by owner Edward Kim—a former MMA competitor and former private security contractor—Red Horse Knife Works started out as a part-time labor of love. After years of using his experience in design to produce knives for both the military and law enforcement, Kim decided to produce his creations on a larger scale so that they could be enjoyed by the general public.
Last year, the Chicago-based company released a new kind of product: the Condor Cigar Cutter, a single-blade guillotine cutter that took more than four years to design and produce.
“We tried to create a piece that provides the function and performance we demand in everything we make,” reads a post on the Red Horse website. “We also didn’t want any springs or unnecessary mechanisms that could corrode in the final product. We were able to achieve this with the ceramic bearings and through the detailed design process of the CNC (computer numerical control) machining. Finally, we had a little fun with the tactical aspect of the grip, we are knife makers after all.”
WHAT IS IT?
Although it may look like nothing more than a somewhat unusual pair of brass knuckles—sans the brass—the Condor is actually a 3.25 inches long modified single-blade guillotine cutter weighing 2.1 ounces. It uses a 6al4v titanium frame that the company states will never rust or corrode and is “nearly indestructible in the day-to-day use of a cigar cutter.” The blade is made with German Bohler M390 steel—a “super steel” according to some—that has been heat-treated to 60 Rockwell hardness. The company claims that the cutter can be used for over 15,000 cuts without needing to be sharpened.
In addition, the actual blade is ground in a “chisel style,” which means that it is only ground and angled on one side, resulting in a flatter cut when used on a cigar. The Condor is also made with corrosive-resistant ceramic ball bearings that have a lifetime limited warranty.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
There are currently three different versions of the Condor Cigar Cutter, all of which feature the same design and materials for the blades and exterior body. The only difference is the inlay material covering the top of the cutter.
- Red Horse Condor Cigar Cutter Black — $285
- Red Horse Condor Cigar Cutter OD Green — $285
- Red Horse Condor Cigar Cutter Carbon Fiber — $295
HOW DOES IT WORK?
As mentioned above, the Condor is a modified single-blade guillotine cutter that is fairly easy to figure out once you actually play around with it. The cutter essentially works in the same way as a pair of scissors: put two fingers in the appropriate openings—in my case, my middle finger goes in the left opening and my thumb in the right opening—and open the cutter by pulling open the handles. This action to open the cutter takes a surprising amount of effort, almost like there is a magnet keeping the blade closed.
You then position the cap of the cigar into the opening that has been revealed and push the blade closed, which causes the blade to cut through the cap. The blade then closes off the opening completely and comes to the end of its journey with a satisfying and aggressive clunk; in fact, the blade is almost pulled away from you at the very end. In addition, the cap remains inside of the opening until you physically remove it.
- It’s Extremely Well-Made — This is a cutter that is obviously designed and built to an extremely high standard, a fact that is evident from the first moment I picked it up. The cutter is nicely balanced while the blade’s opening and closing action is one of the smoothest I have felt in a long time.
- The Blades Are Sharp — As has been the case with all of the cigar cutters made by knife companies that I have used, the blades on the Condor are exceedingly sharp and had no problems staying that way the entire time I was using it.
- There’s Extra Stability — By positioning one of your fingers on the pointed tip that protrudes from the bottom of the left side of the cutter, you can significantly increase the stability you have when cutting.
- It’s Small and Light — Light enough that it can be slipped into a pocket and forgotten about until you need it, but with enough weight to keep the balance at an optimum level.
- Can Be Used As a Bottle Opener In a Pinch — Ironically, the bottle opener function worked quite a bit better than the cigar cutting function, a nice option to have when needed.
- It Damages Cigars — While it is not a cap crusher like the Screwpop Chopo—which basically squeezes the cigars and crushes the caps before tearing through the cigar—the Condor has a major issue with damaging wrappers. Sometimes it’s a little, sometimes it’s quite a bit. The sharp blade seems to have no problem cutting cleanly, but the issue seems to be coming from a combination of a blade that is too thick and the fact that said blade does not travel far enough past the end of the cap, something that other cutters like the Fox Knives 749 excel at. And it’s not just me, if you look at the company’s own demonstration video you can see the wrapper is actually damaged while the demonstrator cuts it using the cutter.
- Wait, It Costs How Much? — A cutter that retails for more than $250 should be able to cut cigars cleanly every single time. This one does not even come close.
- Your Thumb Will Snag Almost Every Time It Is Used — When pushing the blade closed, my thumb catches on a protrusion that is part of the overall design of the exterior housing where the blade rests, causing balance issues that affected the quality of the cuts. While this problem is no doubt made worse by the fact that I have extremely large fingers, each and every person I had try the cutter out mentioned the same issue almost immediately while using it, leading me to believe it is a widespread problem. In fact, it is such annoyance that if I were to continue using this cutter, I would seriously consider grinding down that piece to get rid of the problem.
- Extremely Difficult to See How Much of the Cap You Are Cutting — Due to the design, the cap of the cigar is significantly obscured as the blade cuts through it, meaning you are basically guessing how far down you are cutting.
- Cigar Caps Don’t Fall Until You Fish Them Out — The cutter is designed to hold the cap of any cigar after it is cut, meaning that you don’t have to worry about it falling anywhere randomly until you want it to. Unfortunately, that also means that you have to physically pull open the blade again each and every time you are done cutting in order to make sure there are no pieces of tobacco stuck in places that would cause problems the next time you use it. Some people may like this feature since you can easily control where the cap falls, but I find it fairly annoying since that is just more time taken away from actually smoking a cigar.
- It Can Only Cut Cigars 58 Ring Gauge and Below — Sure, you can cut less of the cap in larger cigars, but since the opening is blocked on the back side, there is only so far you can push it. Need to cut a bit more for whatever reason? Sorry, you are out of luck.
- Red Horse’s Communication Wasn’t Great —After a reader requested we review this, we preordered this cutter in December 2018 for $175 along with a bottle opener. It was clear the cutter wasn’t going to ship immediately, I forget what the estimated ship date was. But Red Horse oddly never shipped the bottle opener that was a separate purchase until I asked about it in November 2019, at which point the cutter still hadn’t shipped but was being sold at other retailers. The company routinely pushed the shipping date back though the only way you would know this was by checking its Instagram page as there was no communication via email. Eventually, about a year later we got the cutter. The delays were one thing—that’s the risk you take with preordering something—but the lack of communication was rather annoying. — Charlie Minato.
There are actually a number of cigar cutters from different manufacturers that feature a somewhat similar design of combining scissor handles with a cigar cutter. Perhaps the most obvious is the Due Cigni Pocket Cigar Cutter. which opens, closes and cuts cigars in the same manner. However, at about $45, the latter cutter costs quite a bit less than the Red Horse, is made of stainless steel and includes a leather carrying case.
- Fox Knives Figaro Cigar Cutter ($55) — A similar design to both the Condor and the aforementioned Due Cigni Pocket Cigar Cutter, but it costs about a fifth of the price as the Red Horse option, is made of 420J2B stainless steel and comes with a leather pouch. I have not used this, so I have no point of comparison.
- Credo Synchro ($71.50) — Combining a guillotine and scissor cutter into one product, this cutter features double-axis, gear synchronized, self-sharpening blades and retails for quite a bit less than the Condor, but only cuts cigars up to 56 ring gauge. I have not used this, so I have no point of comparison.
- Screwpop Chopo ($29.95) — The design is similar, the wrapper cracking abilities are familiar, but the price on the Chopo is significantly less.
- XIKAR MTX Multi-Tool ($54.95) — The industry standard for cigar scissors works well, has a fragile bottle opener amongst some other useful tools and folds up nicely.
SHOULD YOU BUY IT?
Time and again I have reviewed cigar cutters designed by knife manufacturers only to be disappointed in the results, and unfortunately, the Red Horse Condor Cigar Cutter is just another example of this trend. At its best—which I saw only about 25 percent of the time I was using it—the Condor Cutter can provide decent cuts, albeit only to cigars of certain sizes and vitolas. However, the rest of the time the Condor caused some sort of issue to the cigars it was used on, ranging from minor problems to major damage like significantly cracked wrappers. As if that was not bad enough, the price tag is extremely high, it can only be used effectively on cigars 58 ring gauge and under and due to a design quirk, the process of cutting continues to be somewhat awkward long after it should have become second nature. There is no doubt that Red Horse knows how to make a sharp blade, but as has been the case in previous instances, a sharp blade is only one part of what is needed to produce a reliable cut of a cigar.