In Europe, during the time of Rembrandt and Velázquez, a new company began to master the fine art of making tools and cutlery. That company was Fiskars, founded in 1649 when a Dutch merchant was given a charter to establish a blast furnace and forging operation in the small village of Fiskars, Finland.
Along the way, Fiskars introduced the now-famous orange-handled scissors – recognized around the world as the most comfortable, reliable scissors available. One of the oldest companies in the western world, Fiskars is the leading manufacturer of cutting tools used in homes, schools, offices, gardens, campsites and numerous other environments.
The company’s largest business unit, Fiskars Consumer Products, Inc., is headquartered in Madison, Wis. This unit is responsible for all of the company’s consumer products, including the FISKARS®, Gerber Legendary Blades®, BucketBoss® and Royal Floor Mats brands.
Fiskars Garden Tools Division designs and manufactures a wide variety of innovative, high-quality cutting tools and watering systems for the garden. “We really lead the marketplace in innovation,” says Jeff Powell, president of Fiskars Garden Tools. “We look at problems that consumers have, and try to solve them – to create solutions for gardeners of all levels and ages.”
Fiskars engineering effort is much like an Olympic training program devoted to extending the user’s power. In the manufacturer’s program, design engineers study the action and development of strain in human muscles in relation to the mechanisms of power transmission.
Powell explains, “When we design and develop a tool, we really look at it as an extension of the body and consider how it impacts the total body when in use. A lot of people give lip service to ergonomics, but we have an engineering staff whose specialty is ergonomics. We’ve got equipment to test muscle use, strain and fatigue – all the forces that interact with the body when people use our tools.”
It is by taking that approach that Fiskars got the idea of the progressive gear mechanism that gives many of its cutting tools – everything from hand pruners and hedge shears to several sizes of loppers – up to 3.5 times more power throughout the cutting process than conventional tools.
FISKARS® PowerGear® Hand Pruners were inspired by the terrific labor required in the annual pruning of vineyards. The work can be quite stressful on the hand and arm, as a worker performs about 1 million cuts during a growing season. A traditional pruner opens around a single pivot point, and the motion of the index and middle fingers is short, which causes strain on the arm muscles. In contrast, FISKARS® PowerGear® Pruner, with its innovative gear mechanism, increases power and makes cutting easier and better balanced. The unique design of the handle uses a longer working motion of the index and middle fingers, minimizing the strain on the muscles of the fingers and hand. The grip even adjusts to fit the user.
But it doesn’t take a vintner to feel the difference Fiskars makes. “People who are true gardeners are enthusiasts,” says Powell. “This is a hobby, similar to somebody who does hunting or fishing or sewing, and they take it very seriously. That helps in selling our products because of the quality that we offer to the consumer.”
Further commenting on Fiskars’ product-development program, Powell states, “We spend a lot of time in our research and development on creating the best products in the industry and using new materials,” says Powell. “We’re constantly updating our technologies.” The growing line of PowerGear® tools is indicative of this commitment.
FISKARS® PowerGear® Lopper series features a full line, including a compact and lightweight anvil lopper and a heavy-duty bypass lopper with high-carbon steel blades that cut branches up to 2 inches in diameter effortlessly. The PowerGear® design increases the cutting power of the loppers by 230 percent, allowing the handles to be shorter than usual, making them lighter and easier to use.
The patented gear design used in FISKARS® Hedge Shears provides more leverage for cutting along the entire length of the blade – even at the very tips. The blades are made of hardened stainless steel and the top blade is non-stick coated for smooth cutting. The handles are made of Nyglass®, Fiskars’ proprietary, fiberglass-like material that is extremely durable yet lightweight.
In addition to the PowerGear® family of tools, Fiskars has introduced one of the most revolutionary tools ever designed – the Pruning Stik™. Available in its original size or in a telescoping version, the Pruning Stik™ does not fit into any of the traditional garden tool categories – it performs the functions of both loppers and tree pruners and has advantages over both. Measuring 62 inches long, the Pruning Stik™ allows gardeners to perform pruning activities while standing, reducing the stress on the back and knees. It’s lightweight and versatile, and its 240-degree rotating head and dual-activated cutting system make it easy to cut overhead without using a ladder. The Telescoping Pruning Stik™ has an inner aluminum pole that extends to 13 feet to reach even the highest branches and limbs.
In order to accommodate the increasing popularity of FISKARS® Garden Tools, operations that were once based only in Finland now include manufacturing and distribution sites in Sauk City, Wis., and Phoenix. The company’s heritage and commitment to innovation and high quality continue to be a driving force for continued success.
“There is a lot of emphasis put on quality in our tools. You can see that in the design, the process and the products that we produce,” says Bill Hess, vice president of operations at the Sauk City location. “All of our products and all materials we use go through rigorous testing to make sure we use and produce the best.” Hess also emphasizes the company’s heritage and expertise in grinding, one of the most critical operations in tool making. “We have extensively studied the impact and importance of each grind and the material we use. It is through this knowledge, experience and uncompromised desire for excellence that we continue to produce the best cutting tools on the market today.”
Fiskars’ products are already in the hands of millions of gardeners. As satisfied customers seek to add to their collection and word of mouth creates demand among first-timers, Fiskars is eager to add quantity to the quality that made the company famous. There is little doubt that consumers can expect an increased presence in retail hardware outlets and home improvement stores nationwide soon.