In 2000, when I started my career in the painting and decorating trade, I decided to retrain from being a City & Guilds qualified Manufacturing Mechanical Engineer (Toolmaker) to become a qualified City & Guilds Painter & Decorator.
Thanks to my previous career in engineering, I had a great foundation to understand the importance of working with high-quality tools and materials to give you confidence in your work and the ability to get the best results possible.
Why do great painting and decorating tools matter?
When painters and decorators get their start in the field and look at all the tools needed, they are presented with a minefield. There is a huge range of tools on the market, many of which are cheap and aren’t going to perform correctly if used heavily.
As in most areas of life, you must invest in quality tools to get the results you want, and to avoid constantly purchasing new tools because your last purchase either couldn’t perform or stopped working correctly after just a few weeks.
We use our tools repeatedly day-in, day-out, in all different environments, so they need to be able to stand the test of time. Throughout my career, I’ve attended many manufacturer wallpaper and wallcovering courses, all of which have taught me new and different techniques for hanging and cutting.
These days, there are so many different materials that you need to get that product familiarity to know how it is going to react to your techniques. These courses are essential and give you, and your clients, the confidence to know that you can do the job perfectly.
How did I come to know about OLFA knives?
The very first course I attended was the Level 1 Lincrusta Installation course, which was held at the former Leicestershire college. For this course, the college supplied our tools, and within the toolkit was the OLFA 18mm L-5 Snap Knife. The OLFA snap knife was a tool I hadn’t seen before. I was still in the infancy of my new career and from the moment I picked up the knife for the first time, I could feel it was no ordinary knife.
The ergonomics were impressive; it sat well in my hand, was well balanced, and I was blown away by the overall quality. The blades are made from high-quality steel and have a razor-sharp edge, and the blade edge is so easy to snap off with the Blade Disposal Holder DC-5. The thumbwheel was an instant hit with me as it allows you to fine-tune your cutting blade distance. After the course the OLFA knife was at the top of my tools-to-purchase list.
My Professional Toolkit
As I’ve progressed in this incredible career, I’m still as passionate about what I do as I was when I first started out, and so having a professional toolkit is essential. I’ve since added additional OLFA knives to my toolkit, specifically the OLFA 12.5mm Snap knife MT-1 and the OLFA 9mm SVR-2 Utility Knife.
It’s important to have a good selection of different sized knives, as no two wallpapers or wallcoverings are the same. When it comes to intricate cutting, the OLFA 18mm L-5 may not be suitable, depending on what you are cutting around, but the OLFA 12.5mm MT-1 or the OLFA 9mm SVR-2 will be suitable no matter what.
Thumbwheel or Straight Mechanism?
There are two different types of OLFA knives available; the thumbwheel model or the Straight Mechanism. Both knives have different applications depending on your personal preference. My own preference is the thumbwheel model for everyday use, as I just love the simplicity of the smooth action of the thumbwheel as it glides along the body of the knife. The mechanism is slick and consistent, and you can fine-tune your knife to what you are using it for.
The straight mechanism model is extremely accurate too; the mechanism itself is smooth and consistent – basically identical to the thumbwheel knife, but with one major difference being not being able to fine-tune your blade. The straight mechanism is set to have the blade sticking out by a set length, so it just really comes down to the applications of where the knives are being used.
The Importance of Blades
As every wallpaper and wallcovering installer knows the importance of having extremely sharp blades in your toolkit. The early versions of the OLFA knives come with the silver multi-purpose carbon steel blades which are fantastic blades, extremely sharp and easy to snap for fresh cuts.
Over the years OLFA has evolved the OLFA knives, with regular design updates for better product performance. The new Ultra Sharp Japanese Excel Black Blades are insane, even sharper than the silver multi-purpose carbon steel blades, and the accuracy of the new blades is phenomenal. The ability to cut through delicate wet wallpaper is incredible in itself, there’s nothing worse than having to hang a difficult length of wallpaper only to be let down by the cutting blade on your last cut.
Codes for the OLFA Excel Black Knife Blades:
- LBB for OLFA 18mm Snap Knife L-5
- FWB for OLFA 12.5mm Snap Knife MT-1
- ABB for OLFA 9mm SVR-2 Utility Knife
OLFA Passes the Test of Time
Even to this very day, I’m still using the OLFA 18mm L-5 Snap Knife I purchased 19 years ago at that two-day course. And, I can honestly say, the knife has never ever let me down. The thumbwheel is still as smooth as when I first purchased it – and through the years I have cut astronomical amounts of wallpaper and wallcoverings! These knives really are standing the test of time.
I often hear decorators saying the OLFA blades are too expensive, but they simply aren’t. Yes, there are cheaper brands on the market, but I guarantee you will not achieve the accuracy and results you would with an OLFA blade. Cheap blades blunt easily, have inconsistencies on the edge of the blade, are difficult to snap for a fresh cut, and often go rusty. Rust can discolour the wallpaper and wallcovering along the edges, depending on the delicacy, so it’s not worth the risk. With OLFA blades, you simply have the sharpest blades to hand whenever you need them.
If you’re looking for a new set of cutting tools, I feel OLFA knives are a cut above the rest. (Pardon the pun!) With an OLFA knife, there is no way you will be disappointed. Yes, there is an investment in these knives, but when you’re working with expensive wallpaper and wallcoverings you need the very best tools. These knives outperform all other snap knives for wallpaper and wallcoverings.