A Wicked Letter Opener That’s (Possibly) Made Of Old Letters

This letter opener looks like a wicked paring knife. Would you ever guess it’s made from recycled paper?

Knives. As much as size or shape, they’re defined by their steel. We agonize over going German or Japanese, to embrace softer or harder edges for peak sharpness or maximum durability. So what is a knife that’s made out of paper? Is it still a knife at all?


Brooklyn studio Plant designed a knife–okay, a letter opener, but a gruesome looking one at that–that’s constructed from recycled paper. The handle is made of wood. And the blade is made of recycled paper pulp (meaning some old letters “are likely in there”) along with a resin made from cashew nut shells. This material is pressed and cut.

Like many great ideas, the product was inspired by spare parts and a bit of boredom. Designer Bjarke Ballisager was cutting a paper/resin material called Richlite, which was being used to construct some countertops. He was left with some long strips, and he decided to file one down to have a sharp edge. The rest is letter opener history.

“The material is pressed and baked into really hard, dense sheets that can be carved and filed down to very precise shapes,” explains Plant’s Holly McWhorter. “The technique we use to make the blade of each opener is a cool combination of digital carving technology and traditional handicraft. The outline of each blade is carved out of a big sheet of the material using a digitally driven CNC milling machine, at a tiny workshop in upstate New York, and then each one gets sanded, buffed, oiled, and polished by hand–and put together with the handle pieces and swivel screw–here in Brooklyn.”

It’s a particularly striking object because, unlike, say flimsy recycled paper or thin recycled bottles, this letter opener is rigid and borderline aggressive. It’s black like a batarang, serrated like it will cut, and it challenges not just the medium of paper, but what the personality of a recycled product can be.

Buy one here ($45).

[Hat tip: bltd]


About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started, a simple way to give back every day.