Smokin’ Cutters

Cigar Cutters Come In Three Distinct Styles. Picking The Best One For You Is A Matter Of Personal Taste.

Few gentlemen’s pastimes are as nuanced as the art of smoking a cigar. The choice of stogie, cutter and method of carry are, for better or worse, an indicator of just how serious an aficionado the person in question is. The little things can say a lot about the owners, and a lack of appropriate accoutrements is all some need to pass judgment on a peer.

I sat down with Alex Gregorian of Georgetown Tobacco & Pipe in Washington, D.C. He was kind enough to provide me with some choice cigars from the shop to use in this review. Gregorian first took up stogies as a hobby a decade ago and has since proceeded to transform his avocation into a job that benefits from his peerless expertise. 

Georgetown Tobacco & Pipe has catered to many in government and a slew of celebrities, including actors Pierce Brosnan and Arnold Schwarzenegger, among others. Being in the nation’s seat of government affords Gregorian the opportunity to rub shoulders with an incredible clientele of cigar smokers, and I take his word as fact when it comes to picking out the right tools for enjoying a proper smoke.

“The first thing you’re looking for is something that will last longer than five cigars. The quality of the blade, like any cutting edge, is important,” he notes. “The cap, the portion where it is folded over on the end, is the most delicate part of a cigar. If you cut too far down the cap you risk losing smoke quality, and the cigar itself may become unwrapped. You want the cut to be small, just a nip off the end. No cigar should be completely flat or square on both ends. You’re not looking to make a cylinder; the cap end should have a taper to the mouth.”

While Gregorian’s store may or may not stock the three test pieces, the general basis for cutters falls into three main styles: scissor, guillotine and knife. One of each category is demonstrated here and I will later give my thoughts on their use and features.

Picking The Right Cigar Cutter

 Each cutter is paired here with the cigar it cut. Note that the 208 (middle), a friction folder, caused some crushing. The author stated it is difficult to maintain a good cutting angle with consistent pressure when cutting a cigar with a friction folder.

“The scissor-style cutter is effective,” Alex opines. “It is basically a double guillotine and is much easier to make a flat, clean cut with. The scissor cutter is better in that it is far less likely to cause crushing or pulling apart of the tobacco at the cap. A single-blade cutter can get dull faster and can very much damage the cigar; two cutting surfaces will stay sharper longer and give a better cut.”

This is not to say that single-edge cutters are of no use, rather they require a steady hand and deliberate pressure on the cut. In my limited experience, at least compared to Gregorian, I have used single-bladed cutters and have generally failed to find one that works well enough to keep it in my rotation when I socialize in the few places that still allow smoking in my area.

“Things to watch out on single-bladed cutters are the angle of the cut and the edge type,” Alex advises. “Many cheap cutters end up just ripping or pushing the cap off, and this is no good for a nice smoke. You really want a good, thin, razor-sharp blade that goes through quickly and cleanly; you don’t want loose tobacco coming out in your mouth when you smoke.”

In closing with Gregorian, I wanted to see what a seasoned tobacco man smoked. Since you’re reading BLADE® I assume you’re cultured and have fine taste, and this advice will no doubt encourage you to pick up some cigars that befit those qualities.

“I recommend Davidoff for cigars. They are the top quality cigar made today. [Davidoff officials] are extremely selective on the tobacco they use, and each cigar is a work of art. It shows on each one you take out of the box,” Alex says. “The standard Davidoff runs about $25—not bad for a great smoke. Padron [cigars are] another I highly recommend. They are made with Nicaraguan tobacco.”

Fox Cutlery’s Acid-Etched Figaro Cigar Cutter

Fox Cutlery’s Acid-Etched Figaro Cigar Cutter

The lightest and most compact piece tested was Fox Cutlery’s Acid-Etched Figaro Cigar Cutter. It is an incredibly stylish and minimalist scissor-style tool, so light that you can easily forget it is in your jacket. It is also the lightest on the wallet of the three test models, though it cuts far above its price point and delivers great results. As a dedicated cigar cutter, it has no additional function.

What I really like about the Figaro is that it doesn’t try to be anything other than great at its job. It has no bells or whistles and slices nice and clean. It also offers a very precise slice as the cutter itself is so thin, there is no guessing where both blades are indexed. The larger test cutters are thick like a pocketknife and it is easy to overestimate angle, or how far the cap has been inserted through them when cutting.

MSRP: $75

TOPS Knives 208 Clipper Cigar Cutter

TOPS Knives 208 Clipper Cigar Cutter

While the 208 Clipper Cigar Cutter from TOPS Knives is advertised as a cigar cutter, I suspect this has more to do with skirting knife rules than it does its true role as an EDC multitool. While the 208 certainly can cut cigars, it does not do it as well as the other two test models. However, the other two cutters cannot be used for self-defense in non-permissive areas like the 208 can, either.

The TOPS entry has the most features of the group, but this comes at the cost of weight and safety. It is a friction folder and, unless carried in a sheath, is somewhat prone to unintentional opening.

The 208 is highly functional and also features a bottle opener on the tang. As a general utility tool that pops bottle tops, clips cigars, slices a seat belt and impresses your buddies, it’s great. As a dedicated cigar cutter it is somewhat wanting. The blade grind is very steep and thick, almost chisel-like in profile. This causes tobacco to tear as you cut with it, though for some, having the extra features and ability to use the 208 as a knife supersedes a rough stogie slice.

MSRP: $230

Benchmade 1500 Cigar Cutter

Benchmade 1500 Cigar Cutter

The Benchmade 1500 Cigar Cutter is a luxury item. It has no ability to function as a knife, but, unlike the Fox Figaro, easily can be mistaken for one—even up close. It features Benchmade’s AXIS lock system, a handy feature that is sure to draw interest.

As a dedicated cutter it functions extremely well. It is easily the sharpest of the review group and effortlessly passes through cigar caps. I experienced no tears or bad cuts, though it was very easy to sever the cap too far up if I didn’t take my time.

There is no doubt the 1500 is a very high-quality tool; for many it could be considered a status symbol. It is marginally more expensive than the TOPS 208, though it has none of the tactical vibe. Benchmade collectors I know drooled over it, so I figure the 1500 is something that at least stokes envy among the initiated.

Beyond the coolness factor, the Benchmade is truly a dedicated cigar tool, and its uses are limited to that arena. You would need to decide if so high end a cutter is worth it considering that a world-class tool like the Figaro can be had for a fraction of the cost and weight, and offer basically equal performance. If you enjoy several cigars a day or week, I can see how you would like the luxury of the 1500.

MSRP: $250

Gent’s Prerogative

The style and features of a man’s personal effects often tell you a great deal about what he prioritizes. Purely for cost and effectiveness, the Fox Figaro is hard to beat. I value this because I’m an amateur tobacco enthusiast. I’m not aiming to impress with my tools; rather, I just want to have something light and easy to keep on hand for that rare evening out with friends around the campfire.

Editor’s note: Don’t smoke tobacco—it can cause cancer. Secondary tobacco smoke also can cause cancer, so if you must partake, do so in a way that best protects the health of those in your immediate area.

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