Friday, October 9, 2009


Recently, I have turned my eye (of Sauron?) to the aged art of knives.

I don't know why exactly I have suddenly formed this interest, but I have. Perhaps it's due to the fact that a knife is quite a critical tool in a survival situation, or that it represents yet another area of basic life that I have a knowledge deficiency, I'm not sure. Anyway, I have focused on folding knives, with a blade 10cm or so. Think "grown up pocket knife" and you would be pretty close to the mark.

So. What is there to say? Well, there are a any number of companies that make knives. Some of the better ones are Buck, Benchmade, CRKT, Smith and Wesson, Kershaw, the quirky Spyderco, etc etc. There are lots. So where did I start? Well, my baby steps were with the "Classic" knife, the Buck Folding Hunter 110. And, I've got to say, if I had stopped there it would not have been a disaster, it's an excellent knife. The thing about this knife though, is that it's not really a modern knife, and it's heavy. They are the negatives, but there are plenty of positives.

In researching folding knives I discovered that there where a large number of blade locking mechanisms. I figured that the only way I'd know which one was the best was to get one of each. Actually, it was that and the sequence of events. I bought the Buck 110 retail, and after that everything on ebay seemed like a bargain, so it reduced my tendency to be cautious.

I think a brief description of each knife, pros and cons, is in order at this point.

Buck 110 Folding Hunter.
Buck was recommended to me by Ralph, and they are a solid old brand from the USA. This is a heavy, soldid knife, with brass liners and a wooden handle. The lock is at the back base of the knife, which has the disadvantage of being a two handed close. As it has only a nail groove, it's a two handed opening also. Still, whenever I open it the phrase "locks like a vault" comes to mind. It's a great knife to hold, despite no thumb ramps or gimping to stop slipping. It is rivited in place, so this is not a knife you can take apart. Oh, and it's crazy sharp right out of the box. In a cutting test it beat all the other knives I have bought easily. It comes with a leather carry pouch, and this is a big plus too. Overall, a fantastic knife. I did find a plastic (rather than wood) version which has no visible rivets, and I was tempted to get one, but really, one is enough. The blade is long and fairly thin with a wicked point, and as I mentioned, very very sharp. No belt clip on the knife iteself. I have a great deal of respect and admiration for this knife, more so than any other.

Buck Mayo WM
This is a modern knife which is probably considered "tactical" (read : fighting knife) but really it would not be great at that. It has a grey coating all over, including the blade, and is quite stylish. The blade has thumb studs on both sides, and is locked using a frame lock. This enables one handed openign and closing, although it's a bit stiff. On close inspection and use, I have come to the conclusion that I don't trust a frame lock. It is possible, like the S&W knife, to *almost* open it and it appears to be locked when in fact it is not. Instead, the frame is hitting the space where the teflon washers are near the blade. A fraction more and it locks properly, but if you don't notice this the knife may be used unlocked, and come back on your hand. It's an effective way to lose a finger with a sharp knife like this. The other issue I have is that the blade tip is only just - and I mean just - inside the frame when closed. It only takes the slightest movement on the blade out and the tip is exposed. If the blade is in your pocket, for example, and catches a thread on the thumb stud, well, I don't like to think of the damage that is possible. There is a belt clip which is screwed on, removable but not relocatable to other points on the knife (blade tip down). The knife has small but standard hex screws so the knife can be taken apart, which I do like. No gimping or thump ramp. Overall, a smooth stylish knife which is solid but has a few fairly serious flaws. Probably comes into the class of "looks better than it is".

Smith and Wesson 24-7
This is an all-black knife, with griptape insert on the handle and a semi-serrated blade. The thumb stud has a good clearance around it, so it's fairly easy one handed opening. It suffers exactly the same issue as the Buck Mayo above, in that it can partly lock on the teflon washers before the blade. However, it does snap open and close nicely when done right. When open this looks more like a serious tactical knife. It has again a hex screw take-apart frame, and a removable but non-relocatable silver belt clip. It has a great thumb ramp with gimping and a large grove below to make slipping when open a remote possibility. The biggest issue I have with this knife, and it's one that probably can be fixed, is that it comes as new with a not really sharp blade. It is the worst of them all in fact. In a test of tip first into a manilla folder, it took a great deal of force just to penetrate. I thought the serrations might help start a cut here (on the edge), but really, it doesn't seem to help. This is the only semi-serrated knife I have, and probably the only one I'll get. It is quite a trick to sharpen serrations.

Navy K710
This is a no-name brand on eBay from China, which I will be the first to admit isn't exactly promsing. The draw for me was the design, which pleased me at each turn (at this stage of the game I had refined what I was looking for), and for yet another blade locking technology - the "axis lock". This lock type has a great advantage - when locking the blade away the fingers at no stage need to be in the path of the blade. There is a button on the side which slides and does all the work. It also has a window breaker on the end, so this is a natural for my "car knife". Finished in all black, and I must say it's a really nice knife to play with in your hands - you can just fidgit and open and close it all day. For $18 or whatever I paid for it, and absolute bargain. The grade of steel is a bit of an unknown, it's probably ok, but not super strong.

Buck Folding Bantam BLW Cameo
This knife has a specific purpose in mind, and for that, it's great. The need is for a work knife - to simply open boxes and cut tape to get into things. The blade on this knife is really nice - smooth polished steel. Note that the Bantam comes in three sizes, and the BLW is the mid-sized version. The smaller one has no belt clip, and the bigger one I figure (I think correctly) would have been too big for the task I had in mind. It has a mid back lock, similar to the 110 but in a different place. Unlike most of the other knives here it is all rivited together, so no take apart or adjustment is possible. This would be bad if it didn't come shipped as a smooth knife, but it did, so I don't care! It's the second sharpest knife I have behind the 110, and I really like it. There is no play factor with this knife though - it's a one handed opening, just, but a definite two handed close. The case is in need of a steel liner, as it flexes a little under strain, but it's very light. This is my only real complaint about the knife - it's weight balance is way off in favour of the blade. Put it on the table and it'll tip over onto the blade. Despite this though, I'm very happy with it and find it's a pleasure to use it whenever I have the need.

Leatherman Squirt P4
This is a cheat really. I picked this up for $20 on a whim, but I've really been enjoying it. The "play factor" on this is very high indeed - the plyer opening/close action has a great snap back which is fun to do. The reason I include it here is that is does have a knife a part of its tool set. It is a very sharp but otherwise hopeless afair, with no locking mechanism at all, which makes it dangerous to use in my opinion. However, it has other tools and is so tiny, I like to shove it in my pocket just to have it with me. If nothing else, to play with!

That's all the knives I have, and it's probably more than I need, but once I got going I found I didn't want to stop. I don't think I will buy more knives from here. If I do, they will be something special I think. I have also started looking into knife care - mainly sharpening. I have yet to buy anything but have been looking at diamond dust blocks with a range of grits. The S&W really needs a sharpen to bring it to life, and I think that may motivate me to do this.

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