This year at IWA, Tactical Reviews is throwing down the gauntlet and asking the knife trade “How sharp can you go?”. OK, it’s actually a lot less formal than that, a ‘just for fun’ competition to see who can create the finest edge on a knife blade, by any means they choose.
Entry is free and open to all exhibitors and visitors to IWA 2019 (see rules below). There is no prize beyond the warm feeling the winner will have, knowing they had the ‘Sharpest Knife at IWA’.
Come and find me with the awesome people at Chris Reeve Knives in hall 5, stand 5-135, on Sunday 10th March between 16:00 and 17:00. Get in early or you might miss out.
How is the sharpness measured? Using a PT50A BESS Certified sharpness tester:
The BESS ‘C’ scale of sharpness, developed by Mike Brubacher (Brubacher Edge Sharpness Scale) will be used to determine how sharp each knife edge is. The ‘Edge on Up’ PT50A tester uses a certified test media fibre and records the force required to cut it. The lower the score the better. As an example, a typical Morakniv factory edge scores around 250. See this guide:
Every knife tested will be given an official sharpness score and certificate. A measurement will be taken initially in the centre of the blade, then the heel, then the tip, and an average value taken. This will test the sharpness over the entire blade, not just the easiest part to sharpen.
‘The Sharpest Knife’ Competition – IWA 2019
Open to all knives, custom-made or production. – No Razors allowed.
Kitchen knives, though allowed, are NOT eligible to be overall winner; they have been found to have too much of an advantage, so may be entered for an honourable mention only.
Any knife deemed not to be in the spirit of the ‘sharpest knife’ contest will be disallowed (surgical/laboratory etc.).
Open to anyone – Professional / Maker / Amateur / User.
Knives must be submitted either folded or sheathed, with the cutting edge covered.
Each knife will initially have a single measurement taken. If the result is within 50 BESS of the leading entry, further measurements may be taken (at the discretion of the tester).
Subject to the previous rule, each qualifying knife will then have a set of three measurements taken along the blade (centre, heel and tip) with the average BESS score counting as the result.
In the case of a draw, the lowest individual score will be used for secondary ranking. If there is still a draw, the first one tested will win.
The tester’s results are final – No knife may be entered twice.
The winner will be announced at close of the competition.
IMPORTANT: You undertake the competition at your own risk and your health and safety is your own responsibility. By taking part in this competition, you agree to indemnify the organisers and their agents against all costs, losses, damages, injuries, expenses and liabilities suffered as a result of your participation. No liability can be accepted for damage to any knife entered.
Chris Reeve Knives’ Nyala fixed blade knife (first released in 2010) is a classic skinner / utility knife. Available in a drop-point, or, as featured here, the Insingo style blade (a modified Wharncliffe), and coming in a traditional leather pouch-sheath. Despite being a modern contemporary design, it achieves a timeless feel and benefits from the best manufacturing and materials you could ask for.
A few more details:
Starting with the sheath:
A good sheath is as important as the knife it carries, and CRK have gone to leatherwork specialists Gfeller for the Nyala’s pouch sheath.
A good look round the Nyala – Things to look out for here are:
Simple, elegant and purposeful, the Nyala in detail. Look for the attention to detail in the design and refinement of every part of the knife.
The Blade and Handle – Detailed Measurements:
Now even more detailed!
Taking things far beyond most knife specifications, in this section I will be carrying out a detailed examination of geometry, balance, edge bevels, factory sharpness and structural edge testing using the industry leading measuring tools.
These measuring tools include a Vernier protractor, callipers, fixed radius gauges, the unique Arc Master adjustable radius gauge, Edge On Up’s BESS Certified PT50A and SET tester along with CATRA’s Hobbigoni LASER Edge Protractor. The BESS ‘C’ scale of sharpness (Brubacher Edge Sharpness Scale) will be used to verify the sharpness of the factory edge and allow the knife to be brought to a minimum standard sharpness before testing a blade’s cutting performance.
The measurements have been tabulated and are presented along with a few reference blades. The ‘Balance relative to the front of the handle’ tells you if the knife will feel front heavy, or if the weight is in your hand (a positive value means the weight is forward of the front of the handle). The ‘Balance relative to the centre of the handle’ indicates how close to a ‘neutral balance’ the knife has in the hand.
The blade is made from CPM S35VN steel.
What it is like to use?
Being a fan of Chris Reeve Knives’ folding knives, I also ‘needed’ a Pacific fixed blade, but in all honesty had never really hankered after the Nyala. Something I’ll come back to is the handle sizing, which has always appeared a bit on the small side to my eyes and was another reason I had not pursued it. It is also a slightly understated knife design, but that happens to be part of its charm. As you would expect from CRK, there is an elegance and minimalism in the design which keeps things simple and effective, and does so without shouting about it – quiet and efficient.
Given the opportunity to try this knife out, I had the choice of the drop-point, or CRK’s Insingo blade style. The modified Wharncliffe works for me, as I do a lot of point work and like the way the entire edge presents itself forward for the type of cuts I make, so the insingo it was.
Following on from the earlier look at the sheath, I wanted to start this gallery with one of those details that just make all the difference. See how the jimping in the centre of the grip is positioned such that a couple of grooves are visible when sheathed. This gives your first finger a better grip to withdraw the knife from the sheath; a small detail but one that counts.
You can get a good idea of the sizing looking at the Nyala ‘in-hand’, a comfortable general purpose blade with the balance point in your hand. Without thinking, you find your thumb on the jimping provided for it; the width of the spine, and gentle rounding of it, provides a comfortable surface to press on.
So my concern over the size of the grip? Firstly, I’ll say that very much like a kitchen knife, the integral guard formed by the narrowing of the grip next to the blade makes it safe and secure. This narrowed grip also makes the Nyala nimble in the hand and great for fine, controlled, cuts. When assessing a knife handle I tend to think of the heavy cutting and how comfortable it will be when really pressing into the cuts. Actually the Nyala has surprised me, being comfortable enough with high effort cutting, even if not one I’d choose for extended periods of hard work. There is never any lack of grip from the milled micarta handles, the depth of the milled grooves can start to burn a bit after heavy use with bare hands. The balance of quality of grip vs comfort does seem just right for the shape / size of the handle.
The blade stock is a little thicker than I’d really want in this size of knife, but this allows for a comfortable thumb rest directly on the spine, and that extra strength is just lying in wait for a time you might really need it, which is never a bad thing.
Overall I’ve also been appreciating the simplicity and traditional vibes of the Nyala with its leather sheath. Now I’m wondering why I overlooked it for so long. It has been working as a really good all-rounder and has fallen into my regular rotation.
The views expressed in this summary table are from the point of view of the reviewer’s personal use. I am not a member of the armed forces and cannot comment on its use beyond a cutting tool or field/hunting knife.
Something that might be a ‘pro’ for one user can be a ‘con’ for another, so the comments are categorised based on my requirements. You should consider all points and if they could be beneficial to you.
Things I like
Back to basics, simple, elegant, design.
Quality traditional leather pouch sheath.
Nimble in the hand.
The handle works better than expected for heavy cutting.
Plenty of grip.
Insingo or drop-point blade options.
Refined finish and attention to detail.
What doesn’t work so well for me
Slim grip can become fatiguing during extended heavy cutting.
Milled handle grooves can be a bit unkind to bare hands during heavy cutting.
Discussing the Review:
The ideal place to discuss this reviews is on a forum. If you started reading the shorter forum version of the review, but followed the link this full exclusive review, please return to that forum to discuss the review there.
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Chris Reeve Knives have been creating superbly built classic knives for decades. Once you have made the commitment to this level of quality, the next logical step is to really put your stamp on it by adding embellishments and customisations. This showcase details the upgrades and customisations I have added to the standard Inkosi I reviewed early last year, and have been made possible only thanks to Tim Reeve’s (and the team at CRK’s) amazing attention to detail.
The Four Upgrades/Customisations/Options:
This knife is no drawer queen, and although I use without abusing I realise this is the best it is going to look, so for this showcase I have pulled out all the stops to capture it at its finest. Once old and showing its age I can look back at how it looked in its youth.
This Inkosi has been given four embellishments, any of which could be done on its own or combined with any of the others, and these are by no means the only options as the joy of customisation is that you can find what works for you.
The first of the four updates has got to be the easiest and possibly most functional. CRK’s Hawk clip is a pocket clip that allows me like pocket clips. It has a ‘pinch-to-open’ design making fitting it to your pocket as easy as it gets and, as you can release it with a pinch, you get no pocket wear at all. Why can’t all pocket clips be like this? In this case it is a limited edition Hawk clip in a tumbled finish; typically they are bead blasted.
Adding a Wicked Edge:
Edges can be functional and sharp without being beautiful. Wicked Edge knife edges are beautiful and functional, and of course stunningly sharp. There is an investment in time to put a precise, even, polished edge on a blade, and an edge which in itself won’t last any longer, so the decision to have a Wicked Edge is more about the looks than ultimate performance. They just look so good.
Custom Engraved Handle:
And now the jewel in the crown. Tim Reeve has been designing and making limited run custom engraved handle designs, adding another level of interest to the CRK lineup. That said, in this case it is a special one-off engraved handle designed and executed by an artist. You’ll also notice this is not an engraving made on the original handle scale, but instead is a replacement which is able to simply swap out the original handle thanks to the super precision of all CRK knife parts.
Video Edited with – Cyberlink Director Suite 5 (PowerDirector 16 and AudioDirector 7)
Once you have taken the care to make your CRK knife your own, do you want to let it roll around with your pocket change, or hang onto the edge of your pocket, or would you rather provide it with a secure carry option? In fitting with the quality of CRK, the belt pouch offered to house and carry it is of equivalent quality but in leather. If you are a specialist in crafting metal, then instead of changing focus for the leatherwork, CRK have their pouches made by Gfeller, a well respected maker, and one that can live up to the CRK logo it bears.
A minor note is that the Hawk clip does make the fit into this pouch a bit tighter, but it does fit OK and the leather will accommodate it more over time. The knife with original clip slips into the pouch more easily.
The complete Upgrade:
The best it will ever look, and captured for posterity, this is the Inkosi wearing all it finery. It’s going to be carried, it’s going to be used, and it will bear the signs of wear, so perhaps it will look even better in time.
Looking forward to seeing the Impinda with custom scales. What will you choose for your CRK?
This year was the 45th edition of IWA OutdoorClassics at the Exhibition Centre Nuremberg with 1,558 exhibitors and almost 47,000 trade visitors from around the world.
Exhibitors from almost 60 countries and trade visitors from about 130 countries gave the 45th edition of IWA OutdoorClassics even more of an international flavour than last year.
Tactical Reviews was there, and included here is a gallery of products that caught my eye as I went round the vast exhibition. Of course this is only a small taste of what was on show, with excellent products from Pohl Force, MecArmy, Mantis, Luminox, Armourlite/Isobrite, Morakniv, Nordic Pocket Saw, Hultafors, ZT, Victorinox, Leatherman, Fox, Oberland Arms, Buck, SOG, Nitecore, DYX, Wiley X, Spyderco, Chris Reeve Knives and Nordic Heat.
(When viewing the gallery, click on the image to remove the description, click again to bring it back)