A little over two decades ago, Kurt Van Keppel went out shopping for a cigar cutter for his father. After visiting practically every tobacco shop in Kansas City, he finally returned home empty handed—dissatisfied with every product currently on the market. Eventually, he called an old friend and explained his shopping experience. Scott Almsberger had a degree in product design and the duo soon began to meet once at week before work. Over the course of six months, they reviewed concepts, ideas, and options for a new type of cutter over breakfast.
One morning in 1996, Almsberger was driving though the mountains of New Mexico when an idea popped into his head. He returned home and sketched out his vision of a teardrop-shaped cigar cutter. With five-thousand dollars in initial investment capital, Van Keppel and Almsberger sauntered into a local machine shop and produced enough parts for two-hundred cutters, which they then assembled in Kurt’s garage. Searching for a name for their new enterprise, Van Keppel remembered a passage he had read in Paul Garmirian’s The Gourmet Guide to Cigars—the first Spanish spelling of the Taino word for cigar was sikar. Kurt loved the word but decided to make a modification, changing the “s” to an “x” to represent the two blades in his new cutter design. Initially, the new XIKAR cutter was sold out of the partners’ houses to local tobacco establishments. The first mass produced units were completed in May, 1998 and introduced at the Retail Tobacconist Dealers Association Trade Show in August, 1998. By the holiday selling season, 350 retailers were carrying the company’s Xi cutter. Cigar enthusiasts quickly embraced its ergonomic design and effortless operation.
Over the years, Kurt Van Keppel and Scott Almsberger have continued to tirelessly make improvements to the original design of the teardrop-shaped Xi cutter, while introducing cigars, knives, lighters, travel humidors, and other smoking-related accessories. At the recent IPCPR show in Las Vegas, the company introduced a rather radical-looking cutter, which was on the drawing boards in design and engineering for three years—the XIKAR XO.
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XIKAR XO Breakdown
- Style: Double Guillotine
- Housing: Aluminum
- Blades: Stainless Steel
- Cutting Aperture: 64 ring gauge
- Color: Blue with black blades
- Dimensions: 2.38 inches in diameter
- Warranty: Lifetime
- Price: $119.99
The XIKAR XO is the most recent addition to the company’s line of cigar-cutting implements—which includes the original, teardrop-shaped, double guillotine Xi series; the large ring-gauge X8 and X875 conventional double guillotines; the 744 cigar knife; the VX Metal V-cutter; the VX Key Chain V-cutter; the 007, 008, and 011 punches; and the MTX multi-tool cigar scissors. The XO cutter is offered in four finishes—Black with Stainless Blades ($99.99), Bronze with Stainless Blades ($99.99), Gunmetal with Stainless Blades ($99.99), and Blue with Black Stainless Blades ($119.99). Each cutter is shipped in a gray, cardboard, jewelry box with a black foam insert.
XIKAR XO’s blades close and open simultaneously—as opposed to the traditional double guillotine—this makes for a more even cut on the XO
Three years in research and development with multiple patents, the XIKAR XO cutter employs a planetary-geared cutting system with five internal gears—planetary gearing consists of a system of epicyclic (a circle that rolls around the inside or outside of another circle) gears, in which at least one wheel axis revolves about another fixed axis—which evenly distributes power to the cutting mechanism. In other words, XIKAR XO’s blades close and open simultaneously—as opposed to the traditional double guillotine, where only one blade is in contact with the cigar until pressure eventually presses it against the opposing side—this makes for a more even cut on the XO (in theory). This design delivers the precision of a traditional scissors cut, in a compact and automatic package. Additionally, the XO cutter uses thicker 4034 stainless steel blades instead of the 440c blades found on the company’s other offerings. The cutter’s one-inch aperture is large enough to cut a 64 ring gauge vitola in half and properly snip the caps of whopping 70 ring gauge, parejo-shaped cigars.
The XIKAR XO is a formidable cigar cutter, its blue, anodized, aluminum frame secured to the cutting blades with a total of twenty silver screws, like a 19th-century British Victorian device in the steampunk novel, The Difference Engine. Rather heavy in the hand, two cut-outs on both sides of the device allow observation of the gearing mechanics and the snake-like movement of the release spring. A small, “XO” logo is printed in the center of one of the black blades, while “XIKAR Patents Pending” becomes visible once the cutter is opened. The overall impression is a combination of meticulous engineering and precision manufacturing.
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Immediately after pressing the rectangular release button on the top of the XO, the blades shoot out of the body with an audible and satisfying snap. Once opened, the cutter bears a passing resemblance to the TIE Advanced x1 fighter plane piloted by Darth Vader. Cutting a cigar with the XO is quick and simple—align the cigar perpendicularly in the device’s aperture and then apply pressure to the blade handles with the thumb and a forefinger or two. The planetary cutting system effortlessly and smoothly removes the cigar’s cap with the soothing sound of meshing gears before finally closing with a click. The resulting cut is clean and precise, virtually identical to that obtained with a pair of very expensive Davidoff cigar scissors.
For over a month, I have exclusively used the XIKAR XO to prepare the cigars I’ve smoked for both personal enjoyment and review—cutting the caps of over one-hundred cigars with the device. The instrument has performed in an exemplary fashion, properly slicing every size and shape, including sharply box-pressed cigars, which I normally prepare with a V-cutter to reduce the risk of squeezing and damage to the cap. Additionally, the XO is a visually stunning cigar accessory—a natural conversation starter when used in a crowded tobacco shop. While the cutter does not come with a case, it snugly fits in the watch pocket of a pair of dress slacks or a pair of five-pocket jeans. I have not owned the XO for the length of time necessary to evaluate its long-term reliability, but XIKAR’s well-known lifetime warranty on the device should eliminate any fears surrounding a purchase. In summary, I enjoy using the XIKAR XO cutter so much that I am thinking about getting another one just to cut celery and carrots… It is a cutter that I can highly recommend, despite its somewhat elevated price point.
- Eye candy appearance
- Bulletproof construction
- High precision cutting
- Price point
- Much bulkier than traditional cutters