Photo credit: Ontario Knife Company
It never ceases to amaze me how the simplest of tools can be of greatest value. Consider the value of the first knife; the first blade man found or created that allowed him to cut and penetrate meat, plants, etc. The convenience and power that one tool granted can’t be over-valued. So, when I received the Model 4 Strap Cutter from Ontario Knife Company for test and evaluation, I had to set aside my first thought of, “Test a strap cutter?” and consider all of its features, uses (there is more than one) and overall value. Given the OKC reputation, I was not surprised.
Let’s get the basics out of the way first:
The OKC Model 4 Strap Cutter is just one in their line of strap cutters. It is delivered with/in a nylon sheath and comes supplied with several extra blades. The tool measures just over 6.5” in length and weighs about 1.5 ounces. Made from Aluminum (6061-T6 aluminum if that means anything to you), the tool is just the right size to fit your hand and very light; so light it’s easy to forget you’re carrying it.
The sheath can be MOLLE mounted or put onto your belt. It’s one MOLLE unit wide and easy enough to mount on a vest or pack. I put it on both at different times in the testing process. In addition to the tool, the sheath also carries the spare cutting blades in a small compartment sewn into the flap. All you need is a small philip's head screwdriver to change out the blade. I recommend doing this on a clean flat surface because the screws are REALLY small and if you lose one you are, well, screwed as there are only two and one won’t hold the tool together sufficiently (in my opinion) to perform as designed.
The bulk of the tool’s length is the handle. Let’s face it: the cutting edge doesn't have to be long or big; it just has to be big enough to cut a strap. Most straps, in my experience, are about 1/8 of an inch thick at most. Think about your average seatbelt or MOLLE webbing; it’s not thick stuff. Its strength is in the width, weave and material. So as long as you can hook the cutting edge of the tool under the webbing, your biggest challenge is having enough tool handle to hang onto to apply enough cutting force.
The handle itself has notches milled in for all four fingers and a notch on what would be the backstrap – if this where a knife – to put your thumb for pushing down on the tool while also pulling on it. The end (pommel?) has a curved extension to help “hook” the tool into your hand. That curved extension provides additional grip security as you’re pulling the cutting tool through whatever width of webbing you’re working on. Also included in the handle is a milled out space that serves as an oxygen bottle wrench.
Testing the Model 4 Strap Cutter wasn't hard; gathering samples of various straps to cut took more time. I managed to collect lengths of standard 1” nylon webbing, several old seatbelts, one brand new seatbelt (out of a totaled car), an equipment vest covered with MOLLE webbing and a few other assorted items I was curious whether the strap cutter would actually cut or not.
The tool handled everything cleanly. Anyone who has ever cut webbing knows it’s not like slicing a hot knife through butter but there’s a huge difference between a good cutter that pulls through smoothly and those cutters that constantly snag, get caught up, turn, etc. The OKC Model 4 cut smoothly and has enough handle to be stable in the hand as the combination of pressing and pulling pressure is applied. The one item I had that I expected it to get caught up on/in was an older tarp made of treated canvas. The “treated” part made it feel tacky on hot days and I felt that, whatever that treatment was (to make it water proof) might foul up the cutting edge of the tool. Once hung up, things would only get worse on such material. The Model 4 didn't let me down though, pulling through about four feet of that treated canvas without issue. I’m sure it would have gone farther but I had to stop to reposition my hands and the remaining length to be cut was only two feet.
Made in the USA, the Model 4 Strap Cutter can be found online for as little as about $35 plus shipping. It’s just one of OKC's edged tools. Their full catalog can be downloaded here: http://ontarioknife.com/images/site/OKC_catalog%202014_read.pdf
Be aware that’s a 37.46Mb download so it will take a bit depending on your connection speeds.
If you do rescue or emergency medical work, or simply want to have a quality strap cutter available, you should check out the Model 4 from Ontario Knife Company. I wasn't disappointed at all!