Saturday, January 9, 2010

Knives - Part 2

I was not exactly intending to make this a multi-part entry, but since writing the first part I have bought more knives. Quite a few more, as I now have 15 of them in total. I think I'm near the end of the knife buying spree, but I'll get back to you on that one.

Partly I have added more because I found a seller on eBay who gets them in cheap and sells a lot of knives second hand for $10 or so - which is a price that's hard to go wrong with. I mean, it's less than a CD. These are sourced from the US, confiscated at airports (let this be a reminder to you!). I have had one fairly major disappointment, but also two or three great surprises, so overall I've been happy doing this.

The other reason I have added more knives to my collection is that I have wanted to continue to own an example from various brands and locking mechanisms. I now have knives with axis locks, lockback, mid-mounted lockback, liner lock and a "levitation" locks. Perhaps amazingly, there are a few lock types I still don't have. As for brands, I have added two Benchmade knives, a Spyderco, a Gerber, a Kershaw and a few other lesser brands. All very nice knives I have to add, and each has it's own personality.

An example of a knife I am interested in, because it has a different lock and it's a brand I don't yet have one of is a CRKT Rollock (The II looks better). The problem with this knife is that I can't imagine every using it, and that's one criteria I have for ownership.

Anyway, on with a mini-review of some of the knives I do have...

Spyderco Tenacious (new)
Spyderco make fairly odd looking knives. At least, that was my first reaction but you do get used to them. They have a blade that sticks out a lot, so that the large circular hole is accommodated. This hole is used instead of a thumbstud to push out the blade, and it means that the blade is very wide (deep?) and has a large thumb-ramp (which is practical). It's also a full ground blade, making it a great cutter. Actually, it's quite a big knife, one of the largest I own, and this somewhat makes it borderline for an Every-Day-Carry (EDC) proposal. It is a very refined knife, with a lot of attention to detail - and the mechanism is very smooth and a pleasure to open and close. The clip can be put in all 4 positions (tip up/down, left/right) and there is a lined lanyard hole. The black G10 handles (or are they Fiberglass Reinforced Nylon? FRN) are flat and lightly textured. The knife can be taken apart for cleaning, has a flow-though design with skeletonlized liners to keep the weight down. The blade is a 8Cr13Mov steel, which is fine by me. I'm not a steel connoisseur - as long as it doesn't rust and can hold an edge I'm ok with it. It's made in China, which again, is fine by me as long as it's well made - and it is. Overall, this is one of my favourite knifes - feels great in the hand, it's sharp and practical design.

Kershaw 2040 "Stag"
I think a picture is in order here..

I wanted to get a Kershaw knife, and this one came up on eBay so I went for it. This is an "old" knife - from the 70's and 80's according to this site, which incidentally has it listed for US $70, whereas I paid AUS $15 for it. The wooden inserts in my knife are fine, but the blade was very dull. I have been learning the ancient art of knife sharpening, and tried my hand at getting this blade in better condition. I was amazed at how quickly and easily I was able to get this up to shaving sharp (ie it can cut the hairs off my arm). It's a thin knife frame, quite heavy and large and solid though. It locks up very tightly, and has a great spring to it when opening/closing. It had some rust-looking buildup inside the knife, and as it is not a take apart model, I had to use some WD40 and tissues wedged in there to remove it - which it did quite easily so it was fairly superficial. This was one of my "great surprises" off eBay - I really like this knife as it oozes quality and is a joy to hold and use. It's not a high tech knife - it has no real tricks - it's just a solid, stylish pocket knife. I love it.

Benchmade Benchmite II (new)
This is a little knife, and I mean little with less than a 2" blade. I bought it because I wanted a Benchamde knife, and this has a new lock type - a "levitator" lock. In practice this means that on one side of the knife you have to press the frame at a certain point to open and close the blade. Yes, this locks closed - which is a safety feature I have been looking for. Why? Well, having a super-sharp knife in your pocket catch on a thread when you pull it out, could have nasty consequences on your future reproductive capability. Some knife designs are more at risk of this than others, but unless you can lock it closed, they all carry some danger. This knife, then, is safe to have in your pocket, or on your keyring, or to even toss to someone (closed). It's an all-metal knife which would make it heavy except that it's tiny so it's not. In the hand you are only going to get two fingers around it, and the thumb on top, so it's not going to be used to cut anything major. It's a "red box" knife (ie not made in the USA, in this case, Taiwan), but the quality is excellent. It has no belt clip (which makes it flat), but does have a lanyard (keyring?) hole. This is in summary then a cheap, small, safe utilitarian knife. I would use a bigger knife in preference if one was handy, but would use it in a pinch to do light tasks.

Benchmade Mini Griptillian 556 (new)
Slightly unsatisfied that I had a "real" Benchmade knife with the Benchmite, I ordered this blue-boxed model. Despite the "mini" in it's name, it's a mid-sized knife (*just* fills the hand) and is significantly bigger than the Benchmite II. It has an axis lock from the people that invented it (I believe), and it's a very nice design. To be honest, I've only had this knife the shortest time, and I don't really have a feel for it yet. My initial reaction though is that I am not disappointed. This is very sharp right out of the box too. One thing I have noticed is that the actual edge of the knife is a tiny ground, which may make sharpening the knife an interesting challenge. Not that it needs it now.

Gerber Torch I
This knife cost me $15 on eBay secondhand. It's in near-new condition really, there is no noticeable wear. It's a medium knife (just get my fourth finger onto the frame when open) with a frame lock. It also has a flip tab on the side to fast-open the knife and despite me being quite timid with the other knives I own, with this I can open it with the flick of my wrist. Once open, the tab also forms a natural barrier for your fingers to slide up to the blade, which I also think is good. Of course, if that same tab is bumped accidentally when closed it will partly open. See above on the Benchmite II for reasons why I am cautious about this. I have sharpened this blade and it's now ok, not great, but ok. It's a great knife to fiddle with though - the opening is fun and the close is smooth and sweet too. It doesn't say where it is made on the blade, or the model or steel. Still, it's a nice knife, and I like it.

Smith & Wesson Baby SWAT SW3300
Well, so far I've liked all the knives, right? Well, not this one. The most immediate problem is that it's almost impossible to open. I've tried loosening the pivot screw, and it just introduced blade wobble. The second problem is that it's almost impossible to close, once you do pry it open. The frame lock locks up so tight, and the gimping in it bites the thumb quite hard. I might be able to solve both problems by bending the framelock back a fraction, but I'm thinking I should not have to do that.
OK, well, I've swallowed my pride and just bent the frame a little with some needle nosed pliers and it's now a lot better. I also re-tightened the pivot screw so the blade wobble has gone. And I oiled it. Even now though, partly due to the location of the thumb studs, it's still hard to open, or at least, harder than it should be. Now it's easy to close, which is a relief. This is about the same size and weight as the Gerber Torch I, and I know that I would grab that instead over this knife any day, despite these fixes. My thumb hurts from playing with this knife for only a few minutes and I'm relieved to put it down and pick up a different one. It gives me little joy.

Winchester 2008
I am not sure of the model number, sorry. This is a liner lock with wooden inserts in the otherwise solid metal handle. This is an odd knife in many ways. I got it mainly because I liked the look of the wood inserts (still do), and it was cheap, of course. It has several good points - it is easy to open, nice blade shape, easy to close, no knife play, good clip, nice gimping. There are a few things I don't like about it though - the primary thing is that the liner in the lock is very thin (compared to the others, like the Tenacious) and it bends out a lot. So, despite being a "super solid" looking knife, the lock is somewhat flimsy (to my eyes anyway). As for the handle, it seems to go somewhat overboard, the knife back is a solid lump of metal which makes it quite a hefty knife. Too hefty really, it's overkill. The buck 110 is heftier, but that is right on that knife, which is hard to explain. Overall it's got a lot of things right but I'm not convinced it's the real-deal.

And the others...
Yes, well, there are three more which I will do quickly. I got a "California Waterfowl Association" branded knife, which may well be a generic Chinese knife re branded. It is a midsized lockback with what looks to be FRN handles. The steel is unknown, but the blade has a nice shape and a hole instead of the more common thumb stud. I have sharpened it and may have introduced the small nick on the blade in just the wrong place. I don't play with this much, although there is nothing particularly wrong with it.

The other two knives looks similar, but I feel strongly that one is better than the other. They are both large wood handle over steel frame lock folders. One is "Sheffield" branded, the other "Ozark Trail". They have a remarkably similar design, but the Sheffield gets it right at almost every turn that they are different. The Sheffield is smoother to open and much nicer to close, and has a bevelled "roundness" to all the edges which makes it a pleasure to handle. I will open and close this blade for a few minutes, but the Ozark gets picked up and put down almost straight away. It's not bad, really, it's just that the Sheffield is better.

I do have a few others, but really, you've had enough, haven't you?

Ok, so my fav is....?
Oh, this is such a hard thing to answer. I like a lot of my knifes for different reasons. However, I do think about which knife I might choose if I could only have one. It's a really hard choice, and it partly comes down to what I think I might use it for. To stop dodging the question for a minute though, I suspect I would go for the Buck 110 (solid, sharp), or possibly the Kershaw 2040 (more style?). They are both very dependable knifes. Of the modern made knifes, the Spyderco Tenacious would be the pick. I know any of these knifes would serve me well, and have good steel. I guess though that if I was 100% satisfied with one knife then I would not have a collection of 15 of them, would I? In practice each knife has it's own personality, strengths, weaknesses and ideal uses. Even one knife can feel different depending on it's maintenance (loose screws, dull blade, grit in the hinge etc). Anyway, for one reason or another, I more or less like them all.

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