Knives are one of humankind’s most primitive tools. Made from bone, rock, or metal, their impossibly thin edges—sometimes just a few atoms wide—condense pressure into an extremely narrow space. That’s why a sharp knife can slice through a single line of tomato cells without squishing it. It’s also why about 500,000 Americans end up in the E.R. each year after cutting themselves.

[Photos: Akihiro Yoshida/courtesy Nendo]

However, a new letter opener by the Japanese design firm Nendo is designed so that it’s impossible to cut yourself on it.

[Photo: Akihiro Yoshida/courtesy Nendo]

Nendo has a particular knack for reimagining humble objects, ranging from rubber bands to sticky notes, into surprising forms that you’d never imagine. Its Nautilus Paper-Knife ($110) is no exception—even if letter openers are not the most popular object in a post-email world. Masahiro Ohgami led the design on this new letter opener, which features a 3D-printed shell inspired by mollusks (though I also see a spring washer in the form?). Grasping this curved shape should be more ergonomically comfortable than holding a straight handle. Then to actually slice open a letter, you slip the paper into a small slot in the shell. Inside, hidden far from your fingers, is a blade that slices the paper.It’s a clever design for a knife, with a shielded shell that literally makes it impossible to cut your fingers on the edge. Of course, the catch is that it can only cut paper-thin materials! So while your safely-cut raw chicken breast will have to wait, OXO does have another option for avocados, the single fruit which sent hundreds of people to the E.R. in 2019.


Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company who has written about design, technology, and culture for almost 15 years. His work has appeared at Gizmodo, Kotaku, PopMech, PopSci, Esquire, American Photo and Lucky Peach. More

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