Saturday, October 23, 2010

Knife review : BEE L05-1

I now have a collection, which I started only about a year ago, of about 30 or so folding knives. This collection is partly discussed in my posts

Knives - Part 1
Knives - Part 2
Leatherman Squirt P4 vs S4 vs PS4

My collection has brands such as Buck, Kershaw, Benchmade, Spyderco, CRKT and others. Today I want to brain-dump a bit on a different knife however. This one.

As this post title suggests, it's the BEE L05-1 model, which is etched on the base of the blade. It's a fairly large knife, filling my hand with the handle when open. The blade is full flat ground, almost 9cm long, with a liner lock and wood scales. A nice touch is that the top back of the blade has been rounded off, so that it does not jut out when the knife is closed.

I really love this knife, it's by far my current favourite. The main reason that I want to pick up this knife all the time is it's opening action. The ergonomics for my hand are just perfect - my thumb falls into the right place below the stud, and a gentle flick of it and the blade comes out. Now that I have used this blade for a while I realise that the others I have used are cramped in this area.

I should mention that this smooth action is not quite the way it came to me. It was a little stiff in it's action, and felt like there might have been some sand or grit in the mechanism. What was worse was that the liner did not engage the way I wanted it to - it only just caught the back of the blade, and sometimes not much at all. This represented a safety issue, and I wanted a reliable lockup each and every time.

So I took the knife apart (which is fairly easy, having torx screws holding it together). Once I had the blade out I used my bench grinder to take off a fraction at the back of the blade, being careful to keep the slight angle it already had. I was somewhat cautious about doing this, as too much off would make the lock travel all the way across the blade and introduce blade play. So keep in mind when doing this -- too much is a disaster. I briefly sanded the blade on 240 grit paper. Then I re-assembled the knife, adding in some globs of grease to the bushings. There is one bronze, one plastic (teflon?) - worth noting which way these go before you take it all apart.

I was very happy with the result of my tinkering. I managed to take of exactly the right amount off the back of the blade so that the liner is fully, but just, engaged every time. This was probably good luck more than skill, but I'll take it! There is plenty of wear left on this knife. Also, the lubrication had the benefit of making the opening action super smooth. I was able to adjust the tightness of the pivot screw so that it was easy to open, and the blade was still almost centred. This is why it's such a joy to open - it's easy to flick open, and locks up tight when it does.

An important part of a liner lock knife is not just the lock up, but also what it's like to unlock the knife and put the blade away. This is also really nice on this knife. The liner is fairly easily pushed away, and the blade can be pushed back one handed. Now here is an important thing : the choil (the semi-circular cut out at the base of the cutting edge, near the pivot) is generous and means that you are not in any risk of cutting your finger as you close the blade. The choil hits your thumbnail if you don't get it out of the way fast enough. Also, when opening, if you fumble and it weakly opens and doesn't lock, you can push on this choil area to engage the lock.

The other positive about this knife are that it feels nice all over (good shape, good materials), and it looks good. The knife steel is the standard Chinese of 8Cr13Mov, which is good enough. It's not great, but it's ok. One thing that I find amazing is that this knife cost me around $20! This is an absolute bargain.

Are there any complaints about this knife? Sure, well, firstly I should not have had to take it apart to get the lockup to be perfect. Mind you, this may just be my sample. It has no gimping on the spine of the knife, and the lanyard hole is not lined. It's quite heavy. The BEE logo looks like something right out of the 70's, which I find cute but you might not like. The screws which hold the belt clip on seem to have come loose a bit, I have re-tightened them, so I'm watching that issue.

Overall though, this is a knife I really, really like. So much so that I bought another one - so that I have one for work and one at home. I have also bought (but not yet received) the BEE L05 (not L05-1) which has the black G10 scales rather than the wood. It promises to be a great knife also. Do a search for this model on eBay and pick one up on the cheap, they are well worth it in my opinion. I have knives that cost me 10x as much as the BEE L05-1, but I use them 1/10th as often!

Update 2010-12-29 : I have now used several L05-1 and L05's, and they are great, great knives for the price or even triple the price. The lockup issue above was not repeated on any other I've handled (~8 now), although most came stiff and benefited from a take apart and light application of grease around the bushings. It's good to have two torx screwdrivers for this -- one for each side of the knife, or else sometimes one side just spins. I have given this knife away for Christmas presents, and they have gone down well. I have one of these by my computer at work and home, and by my bed. They also fit nicely in jeans pockets and carry well. I say : Get one!!!

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