Mike Sloggatt started his own contracting business in Long Island in 1979, focusing mainly on residential construction. He now concentrates mainly on education and training, doing demonstrations for contractors at industry events. He is a member of the JLC LIVE construction demonstration team. He often uses an OLFA knife in his work and during demonstrations. OLFA caught up with him to talk safety knives and pro tips.
How did you get into presenting and educating? In 1999, I was invited for the first time to present for contractors at a trade show, and started sharing my craft one or two times a year at shows. As these invitations multiplied, I began to focus more on education, and have concentrated mostly on education and training in the past three or four years. I’m a working contractor, not a salesman, so other professionals know I’m not trying to sell them anything – I’m just trying to show them how to do things easier and better.
What do you like about OLFA knives, and what are some ways you use them?
I like using OLFA blades for cutting any materials thicker than the tip of the knife itself, like foams and insulation.
They’re especially useful when shearing aluminum. Contractors used to take the back end of a hammer and chip the blades to get a sharp edge again while shearing aluminum, because a blade goes dull so quickly with this type of material. But with the snap-off, you just snap the tip off as it gets dull, and you immediately have a sharp blade again to cut through those thicker materials.
It’s also good for cutting drywall. I’ve used other knives for this purpose where the release button gets jammed up and the knife blade pops out, but that’s not the case with OLFA. With OLFA, all the mechanisms are completely exposed, so the knives don’t jam up, even with all the dust and debris.
OLFA knives in general are good for cutting thicker materials that need a razor-sharp edge. If you try to cut something like fiberglass with a dull knife, all you’re going to do is shred it.
What are some cutting pro tips you’d give to other remodelers for specific applications?
- To cut 3.5-inch batting insulation, cut from the back side (the fiberglass side, not the paper side). Take a 1×4, compact the material and run the knife along the 1×4. You get a nice, clean cut that way.
- When I’m cutting flashings for windows, rather than going up to each window and cutting each piece individually, I measure the length I need and make the markings on my workbench. I then precut all of them at once. This may not save hours, but it does save time as well as reduce material waste.
- Use an extendable blade for material that is very thick – packing foam to install an air conditioner, for instance. This is usually three-inch foam, and you can extend a blade out three inches and easily cut the foam that way.
What about general tips every contractor should know?
- Speaking from experience, always use a knife in the direction away from your hands. I’ve been the victim of at least three serious knife cuts in my career, so I’d remind others to always be wary of a knife and keep your hands out of harm’s way.
- Keep your tools sharp. Having a sharp tool is an important part of good craftsmanship – otherwise, you’re likely to injure yourself, and the job will take longer. If you struggle with a dull blade, it slows down your production, and you just don’t get the same results. With an OLFA knife, you don’t have to take the time to replace the blade; you just snap off that edge and it immediately restores the sharpness of the blade. It’s a smarter move than having to keep spare blades handy all the time.
- Every carpenter in the world carries a utility knife, but not every carpenter carries a sharpening stone because we’re so reliant on replaceable blades. A snap-off knife can fill that gap. You always want to have the best equipment you can possibly have, and a good utility knife is part of that.