Already by the twenties of the preceding century, the Wolfertz family company in Solingen, Germany, was specializing in cigar cutters. Today the cutters with the inscription “WOLF” are well known by almost everyone who has already cut a cigar. Over the course of 91 years, the company has worked its way up to becoming a specialist known worldwide. The cooperation with the US manufacturer of Xikar Inc. has certainly even further sped up the success in recent years. And for the last two years, Wolfertz has also been an importer of premium cigars for the German market.
Due to this commitment, the Nub and Caine lines from Oliva, as well as the 601 line of RL Brands, are currently established cigar brands in Germany. Above all, the great passion of the young manager Thorsten Wolfertz is behind this, together with his ambition to awaken the enthusiasm of his own generation for the cigar. And this is indeed no simple task during these difficult times.
For Thorsten Wolfertz, the blend of traditional and modern elements provides the guidelines for a long-term entrepreneurial future. After the Second World War, the now 75- year-old Hans-Werner Wolfertz completely redesigned the company. He never pressured his son Thorsten to join the business. Therefore, after completing his studies, Thorsten originally only wanted to get a taste of the world of steel manufacturing for a half year. Seeing the implementation of one’s own ideas and changing structures simply called for an extension of this period, so after two years the decision was made. Continuation was the order of the day. Probably only a few people know that 30 years ago, the first double blade cutter for Zino was developed by Hans-Werner Wolfertz of the Wolfertz company. It was a genuine innovation which was often copied.
The cutter is still being produced today for Davidoff, however in construction it doesn’t in any way resemble the original model of former times. In quality and function it was at that time just as reliable as today. Thorsten recently met a customer who still possesses such an ancient model … and it still cuts! That was a beautiful experience which filled him with pride and joy for his father. It is perhaps precisely this heartfelt attitude which makes the difference. It helps a small company in producing products of continuous quality with knowledge, skill and longstanding experience, in addition to prevailing on the hotly contested market. The seven employees who join forces with commitment and team spirit hold the relaxed working climate in high regard.
Four of them work in production and three in administration, one of them being Markus Waldhelm who, as sales manager, is in charge of the wholesale and export business. The senior boss insists on attending to business every day, and is also working passionately in the production from time to time. Thorsten Wolfertz himself is responsible for marketing, purchasing and the retail business.
STEEL AND HANDWORK
And what is the difference compared to other manufacturers? On one hand, it is the honing which, together with all the polishing work, is done manually. This is an absolute necessity, since cutters and scissors can retain their long cutting durability only if the blade edge is precision-ground and highly polished. And on the other hand, it is of course the basic material, in this case the steel, which is crucial in guaranteeing a long-lasting usability, since only those types of steel which are hardened up to 57 RWC (Rockwell hardness scale) are processed. Even some combat knives cannot match those standards. For all the enthusiasts of knives and other cutting tools, the type of steel most often used might be of interest – X46CR13, (American denotation AISI 420C), which is used for all sorts of tools like knives, scissors and surgical instruments.
It is, above all, characterized by an especially high resistance to wear and corrosion. Therefore, the decisive difference lies in the combination of manufacturing and raw material. Synergy and cooperation are important strategies in this small enterprise which is also organizing the distribution of Donatus cutters. The synthetic version of Xikar has been produced by the Wolfertz company since 2000. And with the above-mentioned wholesale of cigars, a new chapter in the history of this company from Solingen started. Wolfertz is currently achieving a monthly increase of ten percent in the segment of cigars. That comes across as particularly pleasing, considering the restrictions in Germany. Driven by his passion for brown gold, it was apparently a logical consequence for Thorsten Wolfertz to find a partner in the world of cigars. “To create a blend or recognize the degree of fermentation simply by smelling the tobacco leaf cannot be acquired by merely reading a few pages”, according to Thorsten, “and one must collect a couple of years of experience – in the tobacco trade, as well as in other areas. Until starting to work in the family company, I knew nothing about steel or its processing. I have learned all of this from my father.”
This article was published in the Cigar Journal Autumn Edition 2010. Read more