Knife Review: Extrema Ratio RAO II

Extrema Ratio’s RAO II is an update of the original RAO which was developed back in 2006. Designed as a super tough, compact, survival and field knife, the brutish RAO was an immediate modern classic. In 2014, with improved ergonomics and a new drop-point blade, the RAO II widens the appeal of the RAO to those that found the original tanto blade a bit too specialised. On a personal note, this is one of those knives I knew had to be in my life, and it has not disappointed.

The Blade and Handle Geometry:

Most knife specifications have a basic description of the blade geometry, but in this section I will be taking a more detailed look at geometry and balance.

Using a set of gauges and precision measuring equipment including a Vernier protractor, callipers, fixed radius gauges and the unique Arc Master adjustable radius gauge (the one that looks like a crossbow).

These measurements have been tabulated and are presented along with a few reference blades (8″ Chef’s Knife, 5.5″ Santoku and the popular Fällkniven F1).

Key aspects such as the primary bevel angle, grind type, blade depth, blade thickness, length, weight are detailed, along with balance information.

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.

In the case of full convex grinds the approximate centre of the grind is used for the primary bevel angle estimate.

The blade is made from Böhler N690Co steel.

New for 2018! BESS Certified sharpness testing:

The BESS ‘C’ scale of sharpness, developed by Mike Brubacher (Brubacher Edge Sharpness Scale) will now become part of Tactical Reviews’ knife testing process. Initially this 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 RAO II’s factory edge has an average BESS ‘C’ sharpness of 279. A score below 300 for a factory edge is good and it will slice 80gsm paper nicely and slices into the rounded edge of a doubled over sheet of the same 80gsm paper. Unfortunately a small nick in the original edge catches in some cuts causing some tearing. It is quite common for factory edges to have some flaws, and these can easily be sharpened out, so this is just an observation.

Explained by the Maker:

The reasons for certain design choices may not be clear when simply looking at an object, so this section is intended to give an insight into the thinking behind a design by speaking to the designer themselves.

Unfortunately I can’t always get time with the designer so will use this section to include relevant information about the knife and its designer.

From Extrema Ratio’s product information:
“In June 2006, the “185° Rgt. Ricognizione e Acquisizione Obiettivi” (Target Acquisition Regiment) airborne “FOLGORE” (185° RAO) entrusted to Extrema Ratio the development of a unique knife fitting the unit’s specific operational duties. This resulted in the RAO: not an oversized folder as much as a compact survival & field knife, with a heavy and dependable blade. Its very reliable locking system, assisted by an extra safety device, effectively turns this folder into a fixed blade knife. The opening and closing is to be performed with both hands in order to minimize the risk of self-inflicted injuries, as the blade, because of its weight, is a veritable guillotine. The extra safe device is a steel pin to be hand-screwed through two holes by the guard section of the massive Anticorodal aluminum handle – its presence between blade and hand also acting as a great psychological boon. The sheath is an essential part of this weapon system: it holds a diamond-plate sharpener and enables user to carry the knife either in open position, held in place by a cord and two clips, or closed, inside the front pocket. The sheath can be attached to tactical vests or common belts, being MOLLE system-compliant.

RAO II is the new version of the celebrated Extrema Ratio RAO knife; it comes with a new drop-point blade and an improved handle, rounded at the upper corners for a more ergonomic grip. The extra safety lock effectively turns it into a fixed blade knife enabling great chopping performance with no risk of injury. The sheath can hold the knife in open position for frequent use, or in closed position inside the front pocket. It comes with a diamond-plate sharpener to always keep a perfect edge. ”

A few more details:

Extrema Ratio’s knives are always well presented; the RAO II comes in a quality cardboard box.

Sliding the lid off, shows the RAO II (in a plastic bag) fills the box.

The RAO II arrives in its dual purpose sheath. We need to have a closer look at this sheath before we move onto that amazing knife.

On the back are the MOLLE fitting straps. As supplied they are not woven into the webbing but just held with the press studs.

As with most MOLLE mounts, the fit is pretty tight.

If just using the webbing next to the press studs, the MOLLE straps form a belt loop, which is how I’ll be using this for the most part during testing.

This dual purpose sheath has a large front pocket with plastic buckle fastener holding down the flap.

The flap has another strap attached to it with two press studs. This is the retaining strap for when the sheath is used to carry to opened RAO II.

Releasing the strap from the two press studs and now you can see where the blade of the opened knife is inserted.

Flipping open the flap covering the front pocket and you find the diamond sharpener slipped into a small pocket in front of the main compartment.

This sharpener is a steel plate with a diamond pad on it.

The diamond pad appears to be a special fabric adhesive tape with a diamond abrasive.

There are the three major components, the sheath, the knife, and the sharpener.

‘RAO II’ is engraved on the back-spacer.

There is no mistaking the presence of this knife. Even when folded it is a beast.

Out of the box, the RAO II is actually locked shut. We’ll look at the special locking/safety pin next.

So, one of the RAO II’s special features is its safety locking pin which effectively makes it into a fixed blade knife. This fits through the finger guard and can be fitted with the blade open or folded.

One end of the pin is threaded, so it screws into place.

The pin is on a loop of elastic, so once removed it cannot be dropped or lost (unless the elastic cord is cut).

With the safety pin out of the way, the blade can pass between the two parts of the finger guard.

A sliding bolt-lock is used, and this also acts as the back-spring that keeps the blade in the folded position.

Now the blade is opened, we can put the safety pin back in place to secure the blade in the open position. There is no getting past that pin.

Pivot tension is set using a single sided pivot bolt (the other side is a blank plate). The pivot bolt head has a notched edge which allows it to be securely locked in place using the small screw that fits into one of the twelve notches. With the pivot locking screw in place, the pivot bolt cannot turn at all. You can beat on this knife as hard as you like and that pivot bolt won’t come loose.

The improved ergonomics are obvious with well rounded edges all round the handle. Extrema Ratio’s handle style is recognisable with the first two fingers grip. The RAO II also includes a third and fourth finger grip.

There is jimping at the base of the handle for the thumb, when using a reverse grip.

The H is tight and precise, fit and finish is excellent all over.

And now onto that purposeful blade. A drop-point with bayonet grind, the RAO II’s blade is very deep. The area where the logo is printed is thinned slightly from the full thickness to provide a grip for opening the blade with.

A close look at the blade tip and edge bevel.

The plunge line is well rounded to maximise strength. The slight double-plunge effect here is caused by the primary bevel meeting the blade opening grip and its different radiusing.

With the blade halfway open, you can get a clear view of the locking notch in the tang. The bolt lock drops into this notch when the blade is fully open.

So we’ve taken the folded knife out of the sheath front pocket, opened it and fitted the safety lock pin. Instead of taking the pin out again to fold it, we can simply fit it into the sheath to carry it like a fixed blade. Note one of the press studs is uncovered as the retaining strap now only reaches the top press stud.

A view from the back with the opened knife sheathed.

The retaining strap sits over the deep finger guard, giving it a very secure hold.

What it is like to use?

If you ignore the pivot bolt and bolt lock button, the impression of this knife is not of a folder, but of a chunky fixed utility knife. In a bare hand (I take XL gloves) the finger grips are not quite in the right place. With gloves on they are a better match, but are definitely a better fit for large gloved hands.

It’s big, but somehow seems perfectly reasonable once you pick it up. However, that handle is a significant size and the blade very deep, just look at the next photo.

Putting the RAO II next to a full size fixed blade (using the Extrema Ratio TASK J in this case), its blade is not as long, but it is larger in every other way – and this is a folder!

Extrema Ratio have proven time and again that they put real effort into all the details, including the sheaths. Their sheaths are strong, great quality, and highly functional. For the RAO II, this is taken even further, as the dual function sheath is a carry pouch for the folded knife (plus sharpener) as well as a sheath for the RAO II as a fixed blade.
Due to the dual design, the RAO II does carry high on the belt if used as a fixed blade sheath. This is because there is no hanger for the belt loop which would normally drop the carry height (like it does on most fixed blade sheaths).

The included sharpener, I’d class as one of those emergency options which is great because you have it with you, but not for regular use. I’m glad it is included, but won’t be rushing to use it.

This is a short video taking a look over the RAO II and a technique to make the refitting of the safety lock pin easier.

Video Edited with – Cyberlink Director Suite 5 (PowerDirector 16 and AudioDirector 7)
Camera – Panasonic HC-V770    Microphone – Tonor TN120308BL

Now you’ve seen the video, and the safety lock pin coming in and out, you might come to the same conclusion I have. This is a great feature, and one I use, but there are many times I want to use the RAO II as a large folder and be able to open and close it quickly. In this case the pin is not being used, and if left attached, as it comes with the knife, it then flaps around and hits your hand, the knife and anything else in range. I got sick of this, so decided to alter things slightly and make it easy to remove the pin entirely.

This is my set-up. I’ve taken the original black elastic out of the lanyard hole and added my own loop using 2mm sailing cord.

The original elastic cord with the pin on it is then looped through the sailing cord in a larks head knot.

This larks head knot can easily be loosened and slipped off the sailing cord.

Two overhand knots keep the sailing cord set in the position I wanted.

With this easy modification, that excellent safety lock pin can be set aside for when you want to use the RAO II in more extreme ways, but for general use and really making the most of this knife as a folder, it becomes more of a hindrance. Without that hindrance the RAO II becomes fun to use and revels in its stature and super heavy build.

The bolt lock works so intuitively; as you grasp the knife to fold it, your fingers naturally pull on the bolt as you press the blade into the handle. Unlocking and folding in one motion, as shown in the video.

Talking of super heavy build, this folder is exceptional in the trust you can put in it. That simple idea of the safety lock pin, makes it a folder you can treat just like a fixed blade and not have any concern it might fold on you. Described by Extrema Ratio as a ‘compact’ survival knife, the knife in its sheath is not particularly compact; the dual functions of the carry pouch and fixed blade sheath bulk it up somewhat. The knife on its own however, for the size and strength of knife you get to use, is nicely compact thanks to being a folder.

I’m not going to suggest that this is the most practical knife for general use, but it will make you grin when you bring it out – every time.

Review Summary

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 What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Safety lock pin fixes the blade open with complete reliability. If not fitted the safety lock pin flaps around on the elastic cord.
Superb dual function sheath (pouch/fixed blade). Supplied sharpener gets in the way.
MOLLE compatible sheath. Combined pouch / sheath is a little bulky.
Super strong build. Sheath is right-handed only when the blade is open.
Distinctive Extrema Ratio style.
RAO II blade shape more useful to most users.
Basically just awesome.

 

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.
If you read the review entirely on Tactical Reviews, please consider one of the following to join in any discussion.

BladeForums – Knife Reviews (US based Forum for Knife Discussion)

CandlePowerForums – Knife Reviews Section (Largest and Friendliest Flashlight Community Forum)

The BESS Exchange – A forum discussing technical aspects of sharpness and truly understanding your sharpening process.

Knife Review: Pohl Force Prepper One (Tactical)

Born from key influences in Dietmar Pohl’s lifelong passion for knives, the Prepper One combines the hollow handle survival knife concept with a traditional style ‘straight’ utility knife. By using modern materials and manufacturing techniques, Dietmar Pohl has avoided all the typical weaknesses of hollow handle knives and produced a super strong design that won’t let you down. This review features the Prepper One Tactical (G10 and wood handle), but the range also includes the Prepper One Survival, and Prepper One Outdoor (plus wood handle options for these).

The Blade and Handle Geometry:

Most knife specifications have a basic description of the blade geometry, but in this section I will be taking a more detailed look at geometry and balance.

Using a set of gauges and precision measuring equipment including a Vernier protractor, callipers, fixed radius gauges and the unique Arc Master adjustable radius gauge (the one that looks like a crossbow).

These measurements have been tabulated and are presented along with a few reference blades (8″ Chef’s Knife, 5.5″ Santoku and the popular Fällkniven F1).

Key aspects such as the primary bevel angle, grind type, blade depth, blade thickness, length, weight are detailed, along with balance information.

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.

In the case of full convex grinds the approximate centre of the grind is used for the primary bevel angle estimate.

The blade is made from Niolox steel.

New for 2018! BESS Certified sharpness testing:

The BESS ‘C’ scale of sharpness, developed by Mike Brubacher (Brubacher Edge Sharpness Scale) will now become part of Tactical Reviews’ knife testing process. Initially this 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 Prepper One’s factory edge has an average BESS ‘C’ sharpness of 345. At this sharpness it easily and cleanly slices 80gsm copier paper. It doesn’t quite want to catch a rolled edge of the same paper, but will 50% of the time.

Explained by the Maker:

The reasons for certain design choices may not be clear when simply looking at an object, so this section is intended to give an insight into the thinking behind a design by speaking to the designer themselves.

Dietmar was kind enough to give me some time during IWA 2018 to discuss the Prepper One and where it came from.

Video Edited with – Cyberlink Director Suite 5 (PowerDirector 16 and AudioDirector 7)
Camera – Panasonic HC-V770    Microphone – Tonor TN120308BL

A few more details:

The Prepper One Tactical arrived in a cardboard box.

Inside, the Prepper One was wrapped in paper (so much better than plastic).

In this case the wooden handles have also been included, but these are an optional extra. There was also a Pohl Force Patch and a certificate card.

Whipping off the paper wrap, the Prepper One arrives in its Kydex Sheath.

Let’s start off with a look round the sheath. The belt loop looks like normal nylon webbing, however, the loop is actually very stiff and holds its shape.

The Kydex lips have been shaped and finished well, so unlike many Kydex sheaths there is no additional finishing required to ensure a smooth operation.

That stiff webbing belt loop is not fitted directly to the sheath, but instead to a hanger which is then bolted onto the sheath.

Looking from the side you can see the hanger. This allows the user to adjust or remove the belt loop and use another mount system.

A drainage hole on the back of the sheath just shows the blade tip.

Kydex wraps the first quarter of the handle and keeps the Prepper One securely in place without making it too hard to remove.

Ah, now, here is something we didn’t see earlier. There is a flat ‘key’ fitted to the lanyard

This is going to give us access to the hollow handle.

Before moving on, taking a torch and peering into the sheath we can see why the Prepper One has no hint of sheath rattle, there is a flocked velvet liner which keeps the sheath nice and quiet.

And onto the knife itself…

Pohl Force’s logo is cleanly engraved on the blade and the serial number on the ricasso.

A small sharpening choil sits at the end of the radiused plunge line.

One of the large handle bolts. On this side, there is a large slot.

Pohl Force’s partner in the production of the Prepper One (amongst others) is Lionsteel, well known for their quality of manufacture.

Fitted with the original G10 handle scales, the Prepper One Tactical uses a OD Green colour.

A series of offset longitudinal grooves machined into the surface makes for a very secure grip, even in slippery conditions.

Another look at the grip texturing at the guard.

Both the tang, and handles make up the Prepper One’s guard.

Made possible by the G10 handle material, and the fact both the inner and outer surfaces need to be machined anyway, the lanyard (which passes through the full tang) is directed backwards by a groove cut into the inner surface of each handle slab. This keeps the lanyard completely away from your hand preventing any lanyard hotspots while working with the knife. A small but very useful feature.

On the back of the tang there is one more engraving.

This is a hollow handle knife, but it is also a true full-tang blade as well.

A deep section of jimping gives your thumb a comfortable and secure surface to press onto.

Niolox was chosen for its fine grain structure and super stain-resistant properties.

Taking a close look at the factory edge next to the blade tip.

With such a substantial blade stock (6mm) there is a taper to the front section of the blade to prevent the tip from ending up with a massive edge bevel.

The Key, The Secret:

No, not a nineties hit by the Urban Cookie Collective, but the Prepper One’s key to its concealed hollow handle.

Using the key to unscrew the handle bolts, and lifting off one handle reveals the hidden compartment.

This skeletonised tang, much like many full tang knives have to change the balance, provides part of the hollow compartment. The handles themselves are also milled out to make the space inside the handle larger.

Fully disassembled, we have the two G10 handles, the two parts of both handle bolts, and the full tang knife blade.

Should you wish to, perhaps if the handle scales were lost, you could use the bare knife as it is, or adding a cord wrap.

The handles with a steel ruler to show the size of the hollow compartment.

There is more.

For an even more traditional look, Pohl Force now offer a Santos wood option for the handles.

As removal and fitting of the handle scales is so easy (exactly as this is something you should be doing to access the hollow handle), swapping between the G10 and wood scales is just as easy.

The only slight complication is that the wood is not quite stable enough to use the same lanyard layout as the G10, so the cord needs to be removed and threaded through the more traditional lanyard holes used for the wood scales.

A different grip texture is also used, as the fine pattern milled into the G10 would not work in wood.

It does look good with those wooden handles.

What it is like to use?

I was fortunate enough to have the choice of testing either the Prepper One or Prepper Two. I chose the Prepper One purely for its much more general purpose size, with the Two being a much bigger camp knife. Clearly as the first of the Prepper designs to be released it needed to be versatile and easy to carry (with the added bonus relating to German knife carry law described by Dietmar in the video interview).

However much I was drawn to the Prepper Two, the Prepper One was so ‘just right’ I knew it was the right choice. Even better would be the pair.

My hands take XL Gloves, and though my fingers wrap the grip fully, it still feels a generous size for excellent stability without ending up too big for smaller hands.

You can see here I have the G10 handles fitted. For hard work they are my favourite over the wood grips, however, I love the way the wooden grips look, and really fit that traditional feel of the knife. The G10s will be the workhorse grips for me, but the wooden ones will come out when I want a different feel.

The jimping is perfectly positioned for your thumb when using a sabre grip. With its 6mm blade stock, this thumb position is very comfortable and allows you to exert high pressures without the spine cutting into your thumb.

Of course the flip-side to this is that you can never really forget about that 6mm blade stock, as the Prepper One does feel a relatively heavy knife due to this, despite the hollow handle taking a big chuck out of the weight of the tang.

We must dwell on that 6mm blade stock a little longer. What is the purpose of the Prepper One? Its name ‘Prepper’ pretty much sums it up, a knife to ensure you are prepared for whatever you might have to face. These are the situations where a knife blade might have to be used for much more than simple cutting. Breaching, demolition, splitting and use as a spear are only a few of the many extreme tasks it may be needed for. You might balk at the mention of some of those, and many less substantial knives would just fail leaving you worse off than before, but that slight weight penalty gives you a blade that has a strength that you are not ever likely to exceed – Prepper is the word indeed.

And preparing yourself further, the hollow handle…

As it comes, the key has been put onto the lanyard, which can become a little awkward. I’ve moved this around (check out @TacticalReviews on Instagram for a photo) so the key is attached to the sheath instead, with the lanyard cord on the knife left plain.

When reassembling the handles or swapping to the wooden grips, make sure to line up the flats on the handle bolts with the corresponding shaping in the holes. Failure to do this will result in the bolts sitting too high and possibly damaging the handles.

So what would you put in that hollow handle? For me it is Fire and Fish. Remember that this hollow handle is not water-tight, so whatever you put in there might get wet.

Picking a fire steel instead of matches eliminates the worry of it getting wet, and a multi-part fishing kit is going to get wet anyway.

Without even packing all the available space, I’ve got four different fishing rigs plus the firesteel.

The fishing kits are designed to cover as many options as possible and are crucially pre-tied, including loops to tether the line. Cold, wet tired hands are not the best tiers of fiddly knots. Two of the fours rigs use flies, and two have plain hooks and artificial maggots included in the kit; this way no additional bait is needed. All can be used by hand, or attached to a rudimentary rod. Note as well that each pre-tied barbed hooks has a cork protector – the last thing you need to do is hook yourself.
Braided Dyneema is used in preference to monofilament as it doesn’t take a ‘set’ in the same way, and is very abrasion resistant and strong for its diameter. Some rigs also have mini floats to either keep the line afloat or act as bite indicators.

But I digress…

The Prepper One; in reality the hollow handle is more of a fit and forget feature. The things you put in it are things you want to have and will be glad you do, but really don’t want to need. With the need to disassemble the handle it isn’t a practical every day storage solution, but is an excellent backup option.

As a knife rather than a survival tool, the Prepper One feels well balanced (if slightly heavy) and its full flat grind really helps the slicing ability of the blade, but the 6mm blade stock does make its presence known with deeper cuts in stiff materials. Though I can appreciate the benefits of Scandi-grinds, the choice of a full flat grind really suits the Prepper One, and makes it very easy to work with.

Kydex sheaths are not my favourite, mainly due to what I call ‘sheath-recoil’ where overly stiff Kydex sheaths lead to knives flying out in an uncontrolled way when unsheathing them. Not so with the Prepper One. The sheath retention is spot on, and the knife is both held securely and also perfectly easy to remove without any hint of sheath-recoil.

With its utility blade dimensions, you would not think of the Prepper One as a chopper, especially next to its bigger brother the Prepper Two, however, thanks to the 6mm blade stock it has more weight to it than most other knives this size. So you can employ this for light chopping, or just to get through smaller branches a bit quicker. Not a major feature, but helpful considering this size of knife is easy to carry.

The finger guard is not very pronounced, but it is very effective at stabilising your grip on the knife. Overall the shaping of the handle and guard make it very comfortable to use for extended periods. I have also really appreciated the way the lanyard is pushed backwards in the G10 handles, so however you hold it, you don’t end up pressing onto the lanyard cord (which can make a hotspot). Once I decided to move the hollow handle key off the lanyard (and fitted it to the sheath) the experience of using the knife became a real pleasure, and without having to carry a much bigger ‘survival’ knife, you also know you have a potential beast of a blade should you really need it. It might be named ‘Prepper’, but it is a knife you can use every day.

Review Summary

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 What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Hidden Hollow Handle Compartment. Handle Key can get in the way when on the lanyard (easily moved).
Super Strong (6mm stock) Niolox Full Tang Blade Heavy feel due to 6mm blade stock.
Easily removable/swappable handles. Flocked sheath lining will collect dirt.
Superb Lionsteel build quality. Makes you want to buy the Prepper Two as well.
Excellent grip and handling.
Ideal general purpose size.

 

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.
If you read the review entirely on Tactical Reviews, please consider one of the following to join in any discussion.

BladeForums – Knife Reviews (US based Forum for Knife Discussion)

CandlePowerForums – Knife Reviews Section (Largest and Friendliest Flashlight Community Forum)

The BESS Exchange – A forum discussing technical aspects of sharpness and truly understanding your sharpening process.

Gear Review: FLIR Scout TK Thermal Camera

FLIR are a leading manufacturer of thermal imaging sensors and thermal cameras, and though this technology still remains relatively expensive, FLIR have been producing consumer devices that bring thermal imaging within reach for everyone. In this review we are looking at the Scout TK, FLIR’s palm-sized self-contained thermal vision monocular, which reveals details of your soundings and helps you see people, objects and animals up to 100 yards away.

A few details:

When working out the best order for the content in this review, I’ve settled on a good look around the Scout TK before diving into the how and what of thermal cameras. So here we go with the details of this handy scope style camera.

You are greeted by a well presented box with over-sleeve.

With the sleeve off the main box, we can lift off the lid. The Scout TK is well protected by a closed cell foam liner.

In the box is the Scout TK, a neck lanyard, a USB cable and the instructions.

A very neat and purposeful design.

Protecting the Scout TK’s ‘eye’ is a rubber lens cover.

On the left side of the eyepiece is a diopter adjustment, to allow the user to focus the view of the internal display.

The top of the Scout TK has a set of four control buttons, plus the USB port cover. The buttons are basically Power, Brightness, Shutter and Palette.

There is a wide, soft, eyecup shield to keep light in/out.

With the lens cover off we can start to see the odd looking thermal camera lens.

Materials and construction of the thermal camera lens are specialised as it is focusing infrared, not visible light.

Pulling back the rubber USB port cover gives access to the micro USB port which is used for charging the internal battery and downloading the photos and video.

Though is it low-profile, the lanyard hole is easy to use.

Being a reasonable investment, it is a good idea to use the lanyard.

Plug in the supplied USB cable for charging and/or data transfer. This has a relatively slim plug, and some other cables don’t fit properly into the port.

Before using for the first time I gave it a full charge.

During charging the indicator light flashes red. This turns green once the battery is full, but keeps flashing.

A little Theory (read at your own risk):

If you just want to get on and see more of the photos and video the Scout TK can give you, then feel free to skip over this section, but if you would like to know a little more about how and what it is really doing, then hopefully this section will help illuminate you, and with this knowledge, you can better understand how best to use it.

What is this camera actually seeing? Just as our eyes respond to visible light (which is a small range of wavelengths of Electromagnetic Radiation on the Electromagnetic Spectrum), the sensor in the Scout TK responds to a different range of wavelengths that our eyes cannot see.

Electromagnetic Radiation is typically referred to by its frequency or wavelength, and we are going to use the wavelength to quantify where we are on the Electromagnetic Spectrum. For those not familiar with the concept, just think of waves in the sea, and how far apart the crest of each wave is from the previous wave (wavelength). Waves that are closer together have more energy, and waves that are further apart have less, of course the wavelengths we are looking at here are tiny compared to waves in the sea.

A typical human eye will respond to wavelengths from about 390-700 nm (that is 0.00039-0.0007 mm). The Scout TK uses a ‘FLIR Lepton sensor’ which responds to wavelengths between 7500-13500 nm – referred to as long-wavelength infrared.

Hopefully you are still with me as this is where is gets interesting.

The reason the sensor in the Scout TK has been made to respond to this range of wavelengths is because this is the ‘thermal imaging’ region of the Electromagnetic Spectrum. Objects at temperatures between -80 °C and 89 °C, purely due to their thermal energy (temperature), emit electromagnetic radiation in this band of wavelengths. As the objects themselves are emitting the radiation, there is no need for any ‘illuminator’ or external source of light. The objects simply ‘glow’, in infrared, all by themselves, and the camera sees their emissions directly.

This is a completely passive observation of the objects, needing no visible light or any other source of illumination, but it does bring us to one more important aspect of this to understand.

Because we are passively observing the radiation emitted by the objects themselves, and the wavelength of the infrared radiation ‘seen’ by the camera sensor depends on the temperature of the objects, we are really only ‘seeing’ temperature differences. If everything observed by the camera is actually the same temperature, it isn’t possible to distinguish any of the objects – they all just appear the same shade of grey. So what we want (and need) is temperature difference to be able to ‘see’ with a thermal camera. This concept will become clearer during the review when we look at what you need to bear in mind to get the best out of it.

Now that I’ve brought up the requirement for there to be a temperature difference to be able to ‘see’ anything with the thermal camera, to understand some of the images shown in the review, it is also necessary to understand how FLIR presents the observed picture. The sensor itself is capable of a ‘seeing’ very wide range of temperatures (-80 °C to 89 °C), but if this entire range was used all the time, you would not see the difference of only a few degrees clearly at all. To get round this, constantly during use, the processor in the Scout TK takes the highest and lowest observed temperature values and sets these as the maximum and minimum temperature colours for the palette being used. (The palette is a range of 256 colours used to represent the different temperatures ‘seen’ by the camera sensor.) So, as soon as a much colder, or hotter, object comes into view, those maximum and minimum values shift, and smaller temperature differences lose definition.

Staying in the technical frame of mind, here are a few key features of the Scout TK:

Detector Type – 160 x 120 VOx Lepton ® Microbolometer
Thermal Sensitivity – Waveband 7.5-13.5µm
Field of View (H x V) – 20° x 16°
Media Storage – 1000 images and 4 hours of video
Eyepiece display – 640 x 480 pixel LCD
Refresh Rate – <9Hz Battery Type - Internal Li-Ion Cell Ingress Protection Rating - IP-67, Submersible

What it is like to use?

Hopefully you survived the thermal camera theory, as it helps explain some of what we see in this section.

Although the Scout TK might be the lowest specification of FLIR’s thermal camera scopes, it is also the most convenient to carry. The sort of thing you will take on the off-chance instead of specifically planning to need it.

Small enough to pop in a jacket pocket, or use the neck lanyard to carry around.

Getting started with the Scout TK and power it up with a brief press of the power button. About 10 seconds later the thermal imaging is shown on the internal 640 x 480 pixel eyepiece LCD.

During the startup, you might notice it clicking, and this also happens from time to time as you use it. While it is clicking the image being displayed freezes. This is a calibration process known as flat-field correction or FFC, and an integrated shutter performs the FFC automatically. Due to the nature of the sensor, and the fact it is ‘seeing’ infrared, which it itself is emitting, this calibration ensures that each pixel in the sensor is set to the same level when shown a uniform target (the shutter) ensuring there is no distortion of the thermal image.

So far, apart from when turning it on, I’ve not found a clear pattern of when the calibration triggers, but you will see it from time to time during use.

OK, so most importantly, what do we see? Well there is a lot more, but turn it on out of the box, and this is the sort of thing you immediately have revealed. Here, down a dark unlit path is a dog-walker and two small dogs.

With the Scout TK using an eyepiece display, the brightness of this could be too dim for daylight use, or too bright for dark adapted eyes, but of course, FLIR have included brightness adjustment. You’ll find out how important this is the first time you let your eyes adjust to the dark. Fortunately it is quick and easy to dim the display to a comfortable level. Thanks to the eye shield, I’ve actually found the dimmed display fine for daytime use as well.

The previous image was pretty clear anyway, but change to a different palette (more on those in a minute) and they definitely stand out now.

The same scene again, but using the palette which has become the most useful to me, called ‘Rain’, and there is no mistaking our dog-walker.

We’ll cover the most important feature of palettes in more detail, but before moving on, there is a simple menu system for the few settings you might want to tweak from their defaults. Through this menu you set the date/time and tweak what is displayed. You can also enter the basic Gallery to view photos you have taken (videos don’t play back).

Opening the Gallery means you can browse through the images. They are shown quite small with there being no full screen view, only what you see here. Videos are shown as a still image, but won’t play.

It might not be your first question, but it was one of the things I tried straight away, ‘can it be used through glass?’; this is your answer. Of course modern glasses are specifically designed to keep heat in, including infrared, so it is basically an infrared mirror.

Designed with the outdoor enthusiast in mind, in the urban environment there are still many things you might use this Scout TK for, including finding overheating appliances, missing home insulation, and this list just goes on and on. In this case I wanted to know which car was the one that had just parked. No question there.

Part of the reason for all the theory included earlier is to understand one possible issue you may encounter in certain situations.
This scene is of a path through open countryside. At the very top, you see just a hint of sky (black). The Scout TK is set to use the Instalert palette to hopefully make it easy to spot any animals.

Lifting the view just a little brings more of the sky into view, and suddenly all of the bushes and grass are on fire! Not terribly useful.

OK, so what happened? It comes down to the way the camera calculates the colours to match the current observed temperature profiles. Moving the camera so you now include the sky in the image means this becomes the coldest thing; there are now fewer colour variations available to show differences in temperature between a bush and an animal. Once you understand this you can avoid washouts like this; to get the best colour contrast, avoid getting extreme temperatures into the image (sky/ice etc).

The term palette has come up several times and these are one of the most useful settings in a thermal camera as each has a particular benefit. One of my most used palettes is ‘Rain’ which works for low contrast scenes. Here a fox is clearly visible in the distance when the other palettes barely showed anything.

Taking these images directly from the Scout TK documentation, this is the full set of palettes you can choose from.

Palettes:

What we have seen so far are still images such as this one of a ……… Oh, yes this not much help, is it, as a still image? Unfortunately this particular sighting did not get captured as a video, and what was clear from the moving image in the eyepiece was that this is a badger.

So, lets have a look at some video from the Scout TK and you’ll get a much better idea of what it is like to use.

Video Edited with – Cyberlink Director Suite 5 (PowerDirector 16 and AudioDirector 7)

In real terms, you will be making your observations live with the Scout TK, but if you want to capture those observations to share, taking still images is good, but taking video even better.

What about the daytime? A thermal camera is going to work best when there are the greatest differences in temperatures, and it is at night when the animals you are looking for will stand out against a cool background. However, it can be quite interesting to use a thermal camera in daylight and you see things quite differently.

At first this image looks almost as you might expect for a black and white visible-light image. The shadows from the cars that are cast onto the pavement, are not exactly that. They are the shadows of the cars, but here we see them as colder areas as the sunlight is not warming the ground. We see the lack of warmth, not the lack of light.

This patchy looking car doesn’t have a funky paint job and white wall tyres, it is actually silver with plain black tyres. What we see is how the sunlight is heating up different parts of the car. The black rubber tyres are soaking up the heat of the sun and get nice and warm. The doors are insulated and so heat up more than the rest of the body, and the plastic bumper is also heating up differently.
Direct sunlight, and the heat it imparts to what you are observing, either conceals or reveals details, so is interesting but a bit hit or miss.

As portable as the Scout TK is, I wouldn’t normally carry it as an EDC, so it was just luck that meant I had it with me when a burning smell was reported coming from the server room at the office. With no obvious smoking or dead equipment, a quick scan with the Scout TK identified the culprit in less than 30s.
The lower battery bank of a UPS was significantly hot on one side and heating the battery bank above it. All healthy UPS units were cold, but not this one.

After electrically isolating the lower battery bank so it was no longer powered, a couple of hours later the two healthy UPS components were cold again with only the problem battery bank showing residual heat. After removing the four battery trays in this bank, the two on the right where the heat was seen had swollen and melted batteries with acid leaking. Thanks to the Scout TK the problem was found and dealt with very quickly.

With the design of the Scout TK, FLIR have kept is simple and fully self contained. This makes it easy to carry and easy to use. Compared to some of the more advanced cameras (and significantly more expensive), the Scout TK has a few limitations, but these are intentional and allow the Scout TK to be easy for anyone to pick up and use. Once you have your preferred palette and display brightness selected, the Scout TK can actually be a single button device – the power button – turn on, observe, turn off.

Review Summary

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 What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Self-contained thermal camera. Thermal technology is still expensive (£500-£577).
Scope style body for intuitive use. Gallery display is small and does not play back video.
Wide range of useful palettes. USB data transfer seems to be USB 1.0 speed.
Excellent battery life.
Records images and video.
Robust, easy to use design.

 

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.
If you read the review entirely on Tactical Reviews, please consider one of the following to join in any discussion.

CandlePowerForums – Knife Reviews Section (Largest and Friendliest Flashlight Community Forum)

Knife Review: Lionsteel T5 MI

Each year at IWA, there are a few blades that stand out and draw you back to them time and again. Lionsteel’s T5 was one of those, and may well have been my most visited blade at IWA 2017. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to spend a lot more time with it subsequently, as well as being able to discuss its design with Mik Molletta, the man behind this outstanding knife.

The Blade and Handle Geometry:

Most knife specifications have a basic description of the blade geometry, but in this section I will be taking a more detailed look at geometry and balance.

Using a set of gauges and precision measuring equipment including a Vernier protractor, callipers, fixed radius gauges and the unique Arc Master adjustable radius gauge (the one that looks like a crossbow).

These measurements have been tabulated and are presented along with a few reference blades (8″ Chef’s Knife, 5.5″ Santoku and the popular Fällkniven F1).

Key aspects such as the primary bevel angle, grind type, blade depth, blade thickness, length, weight are detailed, along with balance information.

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.

In the case of full convex grinds the approximate centre of the grind is used for the primary bevel angle estimate.

The blade is made from Niolox steel.

New for 2018! BESS Certified sharpness testing:

The BESS ‘C’ scale of sharpness, developed by Mike Brubacher (Brubacher Edge Sharpness Scale) will now become part of Tactical Reviews’ knife testing process. Initially this 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 Lionsteel T5’s factory edge has an average BESS ‘C’ sharpness of 233. This original edge cleanly slices 80gsm copier paper with an edge cut, but won’t quite push cut it. It slices into the rounded edge of a doubled over sheet of the same 80gsm paper. It also will catch the edge of green Rizla paper and slice halfway through (cross ways), but not all the way.

Explained by the Maker:

The reasons for certain design choices may not be clear when simply looking at an object, so this section is intended to give an insight into the thinking behind a design by speaking to the designer themselves.

Mik Molletta, kindly agreed to go through many of the design aspects of the T5 and despite a language barrier, Mik has helped with the questions I put to him. These are the marked up images that allowed us to pick out details to discuss.

The following is derived from the points we covered. Not every label has a comment:

As with many other projects, it was Lionsteel who approached Mik regarding designing a multi-role compact knife. In this case the inspiration was from talking with soldiers who need a compact multi-role knife, and this was what determined the blade length (A), as it is a good length for bushcraft and survival work.
The blade tip (B) is positioned above centre line so that as well as survival duties, it will also be suitable as a hunting knife.
To best fit with the aims of this project and its multi-use capabilities, Mik chose a ‘straight’ knife without any rake (F).
Being a multi-purpose knife, a flat grind has been chosen as this is the best solution for a blade that has to do various jobs. The blade steel, Niolox, was selected for its fine structure, good wear and toughness.
It is specifically balanced (I) for agility ease of handling and control. Texturing on the handle (K) is not merely a remnant of machining the shape of the handle, but was intentionally applied with a CNC template to give this pattern.
The T5 uses a distinctive and unusual one piece handle (L) which increases stability, precision and overall durability. In terms of the handle contours and the amount of palm swell (M), as if often the case, it’s what the designer themself finds comfortable that gets chosen.
Blade thickness (N) at 5mm is intended to still provide excellent strength for the length of blade. The extended swedge (O) reduces the blade section without weakening the tip.

Moving onto the other labelled photo of the sheath:

Though the use of a double row of stitching (P) adds to the size of the sheath, although the welt does protect the stitching from the blade, the double row increases the durability and life of the sheath so is an acceptable trade off for a little increase in size.
It is very unusual to have a MOLLE compatible (R) leather knife sheath and the use of leather was dictated by the absence of noise compared to other options. How you carry your knife is very personal so the MOLLE compatibility was added so it can be attached to a backpack or to a belt.
There is a hole behind the MOLLE strap (S) which doesn’t look right for a drainage hole as it is too high, but this is actually a construction hole simply used during assembly of the sheath.

A few more details:

The T5 arrives in a cardboard box.

Inside, the sheathed T5 is otherwise unwrapped.

Along with the T5 is a small leaflet.

However, the blade is wrapped inside the sheath.

You can see that the plastic wrapping was not terribly successful, as the blade has just sliced through it when it was inserted into the sheath.

A very nice quality leather sheath is used for the T5.

The leather is double stitched for maximum durability and lifespan.

The maker is cleanly embossed into the leather.

Here the information leaflet is slipped into the belt loop to better show its position.

Very unusually, this leather sheath has a MOLLE compatible mount.

The MOLLE strap is very snug in the loops, so not the easiest to weave onto webbing. You won’t want to move this more than necessary.

A great looking knife and sheath. This is why I kept revisiting Lionsteel’s stand at IWA 2017.

The steel specification is engraved into the blade – NIOLOX. An increasingly popular steel.

A close-up of the blade tip.

Almost the entire blade length has a swedge to help reduce weight.

The flat grind is very high, but not quite a full flat grind.

Only visible along the back of the handle, there is a full length, full thickness tang.

Sculpted from a single piece of micarta, the handle has a wide and comfortable finger guard. The cutting edge is nicely terminated with a sharpening choil.

Grip texturing is machined into the handle surface.

Two stainless Torx bolts secure the handle to the tang.

Looking through the lanyard hole, you can see the hole doesn’t go through the tang itself.

The tang protrudes from the end of the handle providing a hammering surface.

A minimal amount of jimping is included next to a thumb rest.

With a well rounded plunge line, maximum strength is retained.

Excellent attention to detail in the sheath with a protective cover over the internal part of the rivets. Doing this prevents the handle being scratched by the metal fixings.

The sheath wraps around the base of the handle providing a very secure hold on the knife. Unfortunately this makes the sheath only suitable for right handed users.

An extremely refined package.

This really is something special.

What it is like to use?

I’m going to start with that beautiful and well thought out leather sheath. Fortunately I am right handed, so this presents me with no issues, and I hope Lionsteel will offer a left handed version of the sheath.
It is the first MOLLE compatible production knife leather sheath I’ve come across, and makes an excellent change from the typical MOLLE compatible sheaths. Some MOLLE mounts are more of a struggle to use than others, and this sheath is a bit of a battle to fit. It is definitely worth planning out the position carefully as I did not enjoy fitting or removing it. The webbing on the sheath that fits over the leather MOLLE strap is quite tight, and catches firmly on the edge of the press stud when you try to slide the strap out. Easy enough when the sheath is not mounted, but definitely a struggle when trying to unmount it.
The sheath wraps over the first part of the handle with the retaining strap fitting above the finger guard. This over-wrap serves two purposes, the first is a very secure hold on the knife, and the second is that the over-wrap helps keep the retaining strap out of the way of the blade edge as it is sheathed and unsheathed.

With its 5mm blade stock, the T5 has a bit of weight to it, but that fantastic sculpted handle allows it to sit in your hand so comfortably. For a multi-purpose blade, the extra weight from the thick blade is the small trade off for the gain in strength and robustness you want in a blade that might be used for just about anything.

Handling really is excellent, and there is a thumb rest on the blade spine just in front of the handle where the spine is full width making it comfortable for the thumb to press onto for penetrative cuts, or for fine control when carving. The finger guard in that well sculpted handle is also very comfortable to bear onto for additional control on certain cuts. With the light and decorative grip texturing on the handle, I found this very effective but not aggressive. No hotspots have been apparent during use, and it is comfortable for extended use.

Factory edges are a subject unto themselves, as for some it is the best edge they ever have on that knife, and for others the worst. On the T5, the factory edge was impressive, and definitely usable out of the box. Due to the blade thickness, the edge bevels are quite wide and this will only get more pronounced with further use, but is the norm for blades of this thickness.

Mik Molletta has done Lionsteel proud with this design, and Lionsteel have done Mik Molletta proud with the quality of manufacture of his design, and this knife, that stood out from the crowd at IWA 2017, continues to impress the more I use it. The full package is a pleasure to use, and has put itself firmly into my top 5 favourite fixed blades.

Review Summary

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 What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Sculpted one piece micarta handle. Sheath is right handed only.
Strong 5mm blade stock. MOLLE Strap more fiddly than most.
NIOLOX steel. Thick blade results in a wide edge bevel.
Super quality, double-stitched leather sheath.
High Flat Grind, multi-purpose blade.
MOLLE compatible sheath.

 

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.
If you read the review entirely on Tactical Reviews, please consider one of the following to join in any discussion.

BladeForums – Knife Reviews (US based Forum for Knife Discussion)

CandlePowerForums – Knife Reviews Section (Largest and Friendliest Flashlight Community Forum)

Knife Review: Spyderco Bradley Bowie

It’s not something I’ve been able to properly define, but there are some knives that just look ‘right’ from the moment you first see them, and the Spyderco Bradley Bowie (designed by Gayle Bradley of course) is one of those. Many knives have specific purposes and their design reflects the requirements of those; the Bradley Bowie manages to make itself a truly general purpose knife, just as happy preparing camp food, dressing game, battoning wood, or on manoeuvres carried by service personnel.

The Blade and Handle Geometry:

Most knife specifications have a basic description of the blade geometry, but in this section I will be taking a more detailed look at geometry and balance.

Using a set of gauges and precision measuring equipment including a Vernier protractor, callipers, fixed radius gauges and the unique Arc Master adjustable radius gauge (the one that looks like a crossbow).

These measurements have been tabulated and are presented along with a few reference blades (8″ Chef’s Knife, 5.5″ Santoku and the popular Fällkniven F1).

Key aspects such as the primary bevel angle, grind type, blade depth, blade thickness, length, weight are detailed, along with balance information.

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.

In the case of full convex grinds the approximate centre of the grind is used for the primary bevel angle estimate.

The blade is made from PSF27 steel.

New for 2018! BESS Certified sharpness testing:

The BESS ‘C’ scale of sharpness, developed by Mike Brubacher (Brubacher Edge Sharpness Scale) will now become part of Tactical Reviews’ knife testing process. Initially this 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 Bradley Bowie’s factory edge has an average BESS ‘C’ sharpness of 374. This original edge will slice thicker paper/card, but although it bites into the edge, it starts to tear thinner paper rather than cut.

Explained by the Maker:

The reasons for certain design choices may not be clear when simply looking at an object, so this section is intended to give an insight into the thinking behind a design by speaking to the designer themselves.

Unfortunately I can’t always get time with the designer so will use this section to include relevant information about the knife and its designer.

Quote From Spyderco’s literature:
“Gayle Bradley’s experiences a custom knifemaker and competitive cutting champion give him an exceptional insight into high-performance knife design—an insight that is directly reflected in his first fixed-blade collaboration with Spyderco, the Bradley Bowie.

The Bradley Bowie’s blade is precision ground from PSF27—an incredibly tough spray-formed tool steel. Like the particle metallurgy process, spray forming rapidly solidifies molten steel into small particles so its component alloys cannot “segregate” or settle. This creates an ultra-fine, extremely homogenous grain structure that is ideal for knife blades. PSF27’s alloy composition includes molybdenum, vanadium and a generous 1.55% carbon, but because its chromium content is 12%—just below the official threshold for stainless steel—care should be taken to maintain it properly.

The full-flat-ground blade has a pronounced “belly” for precise cutting control and a long straight swedge (unsharpened bevel) that helps defines its “Bowie” character. It is complemented by full-tang handle construction and a prominent integral lower guard to protect the user’s hand. The handle’s gracefully contoured G-10 scales are 3-D machined and polished to an attractive finish that still ensures a secure grip during use. They are secured to the tang with stout tubular rivets that help reduce weight, allow easy attachment of a lanyard, and in a survival situation, allow the knife to be lashed to a pole to create an improvised spear.

A unique blend of expert design and state-of-the-art metallurgy, the Bradley Bowie comes complete with a custom-molded Boltaron® sheath with a versatile G-Clip™ attachment.”

A few more details:

Standard Spyderco packaging is used for the Bradley Bowie.

Both Knife and sheath arrive in plastic bags. The sheath has come out of the bag slightly, but the knife is still fully covered.

In the box are the knife, sheath and information leaflet.

Mainly due to the choice of steel, there are a few layers of protection for the blade. With the plastic bag removed, the first layer is a cardboard sleeve.

With the cardboard sleeve removed we find a wrapping of Vapour Corrosion Inhibitor paper, plus a plastic tip guard.

And there it is, kept pristine by the wrappings.

We are going to have a look round the sheath first. Not just any old Kydex sheath, in fact not Kydex at all, but its higher performance alternative – Boltaron.

The back of the sheath…next onto some details.

In contrast to the black Boltaron and rivets, the belt clip fixings are silver coloured.

As expected with this type of sheath, the Boltaron is moulded around the end of the handle and has been cut and sanded to its final size and shape.

Eight holes in the outside of the belt clip correspond to all the possible fixing holes that can be used to fit this belt clip to a sheath.

You can unscrew the Torx screws to remove and reposition the belt clip.

The belt clip itself is open at the bottom, but tightly sprung with a hook shaped end. Once positioned on a belt it will not easily come off again.

Near the tip of the knife is a drainage hole. Ideally this could have been further down at the actual blade tip, as a small amount of water can still stay in the sheath if it becomes soaked.

Now onto the knife. Just take in that full flat grind and long sloping swedge.

The PSF27 steel specification is engraved under Spyderco’s name.

A finger guard is formed out of the full thickness tang and handle slabs.

Large diameter hollow pins are used to secure the handle and provide easy fixings for a lanyard, or to lash the knife to a pole.

Both hollow pins are the same size.

Layers in the semi-polished G-10 handle reveal the contours of the handle shape.

The full thickness tang is prominent in the slim handle.

There are relatively sharp corners to the plunge line – potential stress concentrators.

Gayle Bradley’s logo appears on one side of the blade.

All the corners of the G-10 Handle are well rounded preventing any hot-spots. Only a small section of the handle edge next to the ricasso is not fully rounded.

The swedge extends over two thirds of the blade length.

Tapering towards the tip is only slight, retaining a good amount of strength.

Of course the trade off is a widening and steepening edge bevel.

What it is like to use?

I’ve already mentioned that the design of this knife really speaks to me, and just looks right. This is absolutely confirmed by the feel in the hand; it really does work as well as it looks like it will.
Excuse the potential connotations here, but that semi-polished G-10 handle is asking to be touched, stroked and held, much like a worry stone. Every part of it is smooth, the type of smooth that doesn’t drag, catch or stick like a full gloss polish can. It has got to be one of the best feeling handles I’ve come across, and you don’t want to put it down.

Even wet or sweaty, there is plenty of grip despite its smoothness, in fact the least amount of grip I found is with a completely clean and dry hand. The rounded edges remove any hotspots; you are much more likely to get a blister due to wearing gloves (and their seams creating a hotspot) than anything to do with the handle.

Personally I prefer a thicker handle for a bit more of a handful, but in this case I like the lower profile handle with less ‘presence’ on the belt (or as I often do, slipped in a large pocket). There is enough handle to allow you to really work the blade hard without adding bulk.

As is often the case with the type of sheath used here, the retention is pretty stiff, and the knife doesn’t easily come out. You need to lever the sheath away with your thumb, or end up with severe ‘sheath recoil’ and an uncontrolled slash of the blade as it flies out. In the sample received here, the edges of the Boltaron had sharp corners from the final shaping and these were catching on the knife, especially on re-sheathing the knife.

A careful trim of those edges smoothed out the sheathing and unsheathing, so though not strictly necessary, it did improve the feel. I’ve noticed that consistently the sheath is depositing black plastic on the knife every time it is sheathed and unsheathed. What I can’t confirm if is this is due to a quantity of dust left inside the sheath, or if the blade is rubbing off the inside of the sheath. This is only of any real consequence if you are preparing food and don’t want to eat Boltaron dust.

Unfortunately, I’ve not had as much time using this knife as I would normally fit in before completing a review, so haven’t gone through enough sharpening cycles, or seen how sensitive to corrosion the PSF27 really is. It has definitely been wet, cut damp materials and covered in corrosive finger prints and so far hasn’t become marked. I’m hoping this steel proves more stain resistant that its composition might suggest.

With the choice of ever better stainless steels, I don’t want to worry about corrosion, and personally might have preferred a steel that is not on the wrong side of stainless levels of corrosion resistance. I’m also not subjecting a blade like this to demolition work, so the ultimate performance of PSF27 is not entirely relevant to me in this knife. That said, it is nice to know there is a great deal of strength in reserve, especially if you choose this as a survival knife or for military applications.

Review Summary

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 What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Excellent general purpose blade. Slightly over-stiff sheath retention.
Superb handle with semi-polished G-10. PSF27 steel is not quite ‘stainless’.
High performance PSF27 steel.
Conveniently slim overall package.
Sheath can be configured for right or left handed use.

 

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.
If you read the review entirely on Tactical Reviews, please consider one of the following to join in any discussion.

BladeForums – Knife Reviews (US based Forum for Knife Discussion)

CandlePowerForums – Knife Reviews Section (Largest and Friendliest Flashlight Community Forum)

The BESS Exchange – A forum discussing technical aspects of sharpness and truly understanding your sharpening process.

Knife Review: Cold Steel Espada XL G-10

Inspired by the classical Navaja knives of Spain, Cold Steel’s Espada series are the result of a design collaboration between custom knife maker Andrew Demko and Cold Steel President Lynn C. Thompson, using modern design and materials to bring extreme performance to a range of huge folding knives. In this review we are looking at the largest of all, the Espada XL in the newest G-10 edition.

The Blade and Handle Geometry:

Most knife specifications have a basic description of the blade geometry, but in this section I will be taking a more detailed look at geometry and balance.

Using a set of gauges and precision measuring equipment including a Vernier protractor, callipers, fixed radius gauges and the unique Arc Master adjustable radius gauge (the one that looks like a crossbow).

These measurements have been tabulated and are presented along with a few reference blades (8″ Chef’s Knife, 5.5″ Santoku and the popular Fällkniven F1).

Key aspects such as the primary bevel angle, grind type, blade depth, blade thickness, length, weight are detailed, along with balance information.

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.

In the case of full convex grinds the approximate centre of the grind is used for the primary bevel angle estimate.

The blade is made from Carpenter CTS XHP Alloy with DLC Coating.

A few more details:

For such a large knife, the Espada XL G-10 arrives in a relatively compact box.

However, this is because the knife completely fills that box.

In most cases I think it is over the top to put a warning on a knife that is it sharp, but the Espada XL is worthy of extra caution with that huge sweeping belly of the blade eagerly waiting to bite like a ravening dog.

And there we have it, the Espada XL fresh out of the box.

That massive blade has a thin film of oil on it.

It is the oil giving the blade a slightly mottled appearance. As supplied, the clip is fitted for a right-handed person.

The G-10 version is made in Taiwan.

The sweeping clip echoes the lines of the curved handle.

On one side, the pivot bolt is completely plain. You get a hint of the texture on that peeled G-10

Looking in closely at one of the handle bolts the super grippy texture of the peeled G-10 is clear. This surface is created by peeling off one of the layers of G-10 material leaving the pattern of the weave in the surface of the resin. It makes for a super grippy surface.

Blade centring is excellent, especially considering the huge length of this knife.

For the highly stressed areas of the lock and pivot, there are steel liner inserts. At the pivot end these are textured on the edges for grip.

Those steel liners extend beyond the end of the lock bar to spread the forces further into the handle.

An overall view of those steel liners.

Three torx screws hold the clip in place, and the clip fits into a recessed pocket cut into the handle surface.

Ready for left-handed configuration the other side of the handle has the pocket for the clip to fit into. The clip is not moved from one side to the other, only the screws are reused to fit the left-handed pocket clip included in the box.

Getting ready to bite!

Especially considering the length of the blade, the Espada XL’s factory edge is extremely keen. You can see this is a toothy edge, but it has been finished well.

The ‘eager’ edge is topped off with a very acute angled point.

I’m pleased to see a sharpening choil at the base of the plunge line, and that the corners of the plunge line are radiused to reduce stresses.

Complex curves create several grip options along the very long handle.

Of course the Espada XL needs to have a Demko Thumb Plate to make it even more awesome with out-of-pocket-opening.

All the edges of the grip are well rounded so as not to cut into your hand. The first finger grip groove is generously sized with deep finger guard.

Moving to the middle of the handle and a spur provides masses of grip for the front or mid-grip hand positions.

Grip options extend right through to the hooked end of the handle.

On the Espada XL the trailing point blade has a huge elegant sweeping curve to the tip.

What it is like to use?

Cold Steel describe the Espada series as ‘pocket swords’ and with the Espada XL this is an apt description, but I’d like to move away from the connotations that has and onto the enthusiasts point of view.

Honestly I can’t say the Espada XL is a practical tool, but who cares; it is an awesome giant folding knife!

Actually it is very capable as a slasher for jobs where you would use a machete, so if you want a very expensive folding brush clearing tool that will keep you grinning, look no further. If you happen to have large blocks of material that need deep cuts, it also excels at this (like thick foam rubber for cushions), so you can argue a level of practicality, even if a bit of a reach. But practicality is not what this knife is about; it is an enthusiasts knife.

When you are using it, there are many different grip options. Starting with the primary forward grip for working with the blade for cuts requiring the most strength to be applied.

Moving to the mid-grip and with the spur between your middle fingers you have more reach and like this can use the blade to cut precisely or to chop.

Taking up the most extreme hand position on the final hook of the handle and you have very long reach and like this would primarily slash and chop instead of making more controlled cuts.

Let’s jump into a short video with some slow motion opening and cutting.

Video Edited with – Cyberlink Director Suite 5 (PowerDirector 16 and AudioDirector 7)
Camera – Panasonic HC-V770    Microphone – Tonor TN120308BL

This wood chop was not shown in the video, but I wanted to include it to show a cut made into a well seasoned fencing board, that was placed, unsupported, on the ground. The cut was made at a 45 degree angle towards the ground, so the bottom of the board could not move downwards, but nothing held it sideways except the inertia of the board itself. A very deep cut was the result; not all the way through, but impressively deep.

Using the factory edge (with no touch up at all), this lightweight cardboard tube has a very clean-edged slice through it.

The video also showed some size comparisons, but here they are as photos.
In this image we have the Espada XL along with another well known large folder, the Cold Steel Rajah I (the same size as a Rajah II) and a standard size Victorinox pocket knife.

So, the Espada XL is not the largest folding knife I have, the Opinel No. 13 ‘Le Géant’ is, which in terms of pure size does beat the Espada XL, but it is nowhere near as robust.

And just because I wanted to, this is a Master Cutlery First Blood replica, showing what a beast the Espada XL really is.

Along the way with this review, I had reason to open the Espada XL up. This proved to be a very easy job, and allows me to show a few internal details. Once you have the pivot bolt and three handle bolts undone, the handle lifts off easily and initially leaves its steel liner in place. This then lifts off easily too.
With the blade then opened up, you press the lock bar to relieve the pressure on the blade tang and lift the blade off the pivot. The lock bar, once you release the pressure, then lifts off its pivot.
Note that the washers look different here, but that is because each washer is made of two thinner washers, a nylon or teflon (white) washer positioned next to the blade, and a phosphor-bronze washer between the nylon washer and the G-10 handle.

A closer look at the pivot bolt and the nylon washer.

Zooming in on the two-part washer.

Keeping the super strong Tri-Ad lock locked, is a heavy spring, one of the strongest I’ve come across in a back lock.

The Espada XL is a GIANT folding knife, and definitely needs consideration if you want to carry it. You’ll need a deep pocket (like leg pockets on cargo trousers) and the will to have a mostly impractical blade on you. However the genius of the Espada XL’s design is that you CAN carry such a big knife and not be too weighed down by it.

Another point to note is that though the G-10 edition may well be the cheaper version of the Espada XL, actually I’ve found it to be more usable (if not as beautiful). Mainly this is due to the super grippy handle and the fact there is no polished aluminium to get scuffed up through use. According to Cold Steel, the G-10 edition retains 90% of the strength of the original, and it is slightly lighter (50g or 1.8oz). I really must come back to that grippy handle; no matter how sweaty or wet my hands are there is no lack of grip, unlike the polished handle of the original. This is to such a degree I have considered sanding the handles a bit to take off some of the ‘sharpness’ in the surface texture, as it can be pretty abrasive. This is definitely something you might want to do under the clip as you will wear away your pocket very fast if you don’t.

This knife is just so much KNIFE, you want to find a reason to carry and use it.

Review Summary

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 What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
This is a really BIG knife! This is a really BIG knife! (It is not a mistake putting this in both columns.)
Super strong Tri-Ad lock. Demko opener ‘eats’ your pocket.
Very grippy handle. Handle can be overly abrasive.
Pocket carry is possible despite the size.
Demko Opener allows rapid blade opening..
Extremely ‘eager’ blade wants to cut everything.
This is a really BIG knife! Enthusiasts will LOVE it.

 

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.
If you read the review entirely on Tactical Reviews, please consider one of the following to join in any discussion.

BladeForums – Knife Reviews (US based Forum for Knife Discussion)

CandlePowerForums – Knife Reviews Section (Largest and Friendliest Flashlight Community Forum)

The BESS Exchange – A forum discussing technical aspects of sharpness and truly understanding your sharpening process.

Gear Review: Walkstool Steady

Following the review of the Walkstool ‘Comfort 65’ Portable Stool, the most asked question was if there was anything to allow it to be used on very soft ground. Well Walkstool had already thought of this and the solution is the Walkstool Steady, an optional extra to give the Walkstool maximum stability on any surface.

A few more details:

Like the Walkstools themselves, the Steady comes in a mesh carry bag, and is a very neat pocket sized package.

Taken out of the mesh bag, the Steady is wrapped up tidily.

Unravelling it and you now get to see what this is all about. It is both a leg brace, and a load spreader.

Printed on one of the arms is the Walkstool, and Steady logo.

To fit the Steady to the Walkstool, there is a pocket at the end of each ‘arm’, with cords to allow it to be tightened around the foot.

Clearly, as there are several sizes of Walkstool, you might wonder if you then need different Steadys to match, cleverly, there is an adjustment designed into each arm where you simply set it to the matching Walkstool size.

Here it is on the 55cm setting for the Comfort 55 I’m using to test it.

Joining the three arms of the Steady is a triangular plastic ring.

With a second triangular ring positioned in this way, as the arms are pulled tighter, the two triangular rings press together more firmly and grip the webbing securely.

What it is like to use?

Fitting the Steady is simple. Pull the pocket over each foot in turn ensuring you work the cords tight and adjust the toggle to hold the cords in place.

With all three feet fitted into the Steady it is ready to go.

One concern might be that with the Steady fitted, the Walkstool looses some of its ease and convenience, but this is not the case. Opening and folding the stool is almost as easy with the only change being that the Steady can get in the way a bit when working your way round the legs.

And what about putting the Walkstool back in its bag? As you can see here you almost don’t notice the Steady is fitted, with only a little bit of it protruding from the bag.

Of course all these nice clean studio photos don’t show one aspect of the Steady, and what it is designed for. It provides additional stability which is most needed on soft ground, the consequence of which is it will get very dirty, especially if used on a wet soft surface.

Picking the stool up after using it like this will bring plenty of that mud/muck with it, and folding it again will be a messy job. What I tend to do is avoid those really wet and muddy spots, or if next to water, be it river or lake, I dip the end of the legs with the steady into the water and give it a good stir to clean it off.

If you want that extra stability or use a walkstool on soft ground or sandy beaches, then the Steady is a worthy addition to your Walkstool, and can easily be added or removed to suit.

Review Summary

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 What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Adds extra strength and stability to a Walkstool Can pick up a lot of dirt if used on very muddy ground.
Stops legs sinking into soft ground.
Adjustable to suit all Walkstool models.
Adds very little bulk to the folded Walkstool.

 

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.
If you read the review entirely on Tactical Reviews, please consider one of the following to join in any discussion.

CandlePowerForums – Knife Reviews Section (Largest and Friendliest Flashlight Community Forum)

Knife Review: Extrema Ratio MAMBA

Extrema Ratio are well known for making knives that are built like a tank; heavy duty fixed blades and folders that will take everything you can throw at them in their stride.
When the new Mamba arrived for testing it was clear this was something quite different; I was struck by how slim this knife is, and by the special sheath with quick release lever locking system – a sheath so slim it is MOLLE compatible because slides directly into the loops of PALS webbing.

The Blade and Handle Geometry:

Most knife specifications have a basic description of the blade geometry, but in this section I will be taking a more detailed look at geometry and balance.

Using a set of gauges and precision measuring equipment including a Vernier protractor, callipers, fixed radius gauges and the unique Arc Master adjustable radius gauge (the one that looks like a crossbow).

These measurements have been tabulated and are presented along with a few reference blades (8″ Chef’s Knife, 5.5″ Santoku and the popular Fällkniven F1).

Key aspects such as the primary bevel angle, grind type, blade depth, blade thickness, length, weight are detailed, along with balance information.

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.

In the case of full convex grinds the approximate centre of the grind is used for the primary bevel angle estimate.

The blade is made from ACCIAIO BöHLER N690 (58HRC) steel.

A few more details:

The slimmest Extrema Ratio box I’ve come across.

Taking the lid off; this is how the Mamba arrives.

Included is the Mamba and sheath, with a quality control card and a couple of leaflets.

This really is something different from Extrema Ratio. Recognisable in styling, but definitely distinct.

One of the outstanding features of the Mamba is the quick release lever locking system. This is not a new system as it is used in many diving knife sheaths and a few specialist designs, but it is one I’m a real fan of. Easy and quick to use and very secure.

Simply press the lever inwards to release the knife. With the lever pressed in, its wire spring is pushed away from the sheath slightly.

The very unusual sheath has two adjustable plastic clips. They can also be reversed to make the sheath left or right handed. Of course these are used to secure the sheath in place when inserted into PALS webbing.

With the clip removed from the sheath you can see the internal locking lugs. One side is open and has finger tabs to allow you to open it further for adjustment or removal.

All along the sheath are holes for the adjustable clips to lock into. Should you just want a super low profile knife, you can take the clips off and use the sheath like this.

A distinctive design feature of Extrema Ratio knives is the finger grip recess in the Forprene handle.

There is a single bolt holding the Forprene handle in place. The screw is a tight fit, and even when fully loosened does not fall out; you will have to undo it and pry it out to take the handle off the full tang.

The full tang protrudes slightly from the end of the handle giving you a small striking surface.

On the spine, near the handle, the model is printed onto the black MIL-C-13924 burnished blade finish, and next to this is the notch that the locking lever fits into to hold the knife in the sheath.

The spine is flat for its entire length. This is an important detail in the operation of the lever lock.

On the right side of the blade it has ‘Extrema Ratio’ printed onto the black finish.

And on the left “58 HRC” is prominently printed with ” Stainless Cobalt Steel” printed underneath.

As a key design characteristic of the Mamba is that it fits into PALS webbing loops, the sheath is the starting point for this design. With the sheath fitted in PALS webbing, you want quick access to the blade and one-handed operation, both of which make the lever lock an ideal choice.

Taking a close look at the side of the lever that touches the knife, you can see several details. The lever has a pivot pin as well as a second pin to restrict the rotation of the lever. At the left end of the lever is the locking lug that fits into the notch in the blade spine. This lug is showing wear of the black coating where it rubs against the spine. Also showing wear is an area to the right of the lever where it gets pressed into the jimping when releasing the knife. Also note the shaping of the plastic sheath which supports and holds the blade end of the handle closely when the knife is locked in place.

When seen with the deep jimping on the spine, the locking notch doesn’t stand out at all as it is the same size and shape as the rest of the notches in the thumb grip.

Another view of that locking notch.

Though a relatively slim blade, there is a full length fuller cut into the full flat grind.

Having a strong Tanto tip, the edge bevel does widen towards the very tip.

Even in this slim blade there are refinements including a nicely angled plunge line and sharpening choil.

What it is like to use?

For a couple of main reasons, the Mamba has been a bit of a revelation. When I first saw it, I didn’t think all that much of it, but I was wrong, it really works.

The first of those reasons – the quick release lever lock. I’m so pleased to see this in a non-diving knife as it is one of those features I’ve been crying out for in ‘normal’ sheath knives.

A thumb release lever lock is so intuitive and easy to use as you basically free the blade just taking a normal hold on the handle. Your thumb sits onto the lever instead of the jimping and you squeeze to withdraw the blade.

The lever lock does require a slightly different technique when withdrawing or inserting the blade into the sheath. I mentioned this earlier in relation to the full flat spine. You need to keep the spine pressed into the locking lever as you withdraw or insert the blade. If you don’t, the sprung lever pushes the cutting edge into the opposite side of the sheath, both dragging on the blade, and cutting into the plastic. A slight pressure of the blade spine onto the lever and the blade glides in and out easily.

While mentioning ‘gliding’; actually the finish on the blade when new is so matt, it is slightly rough and in certain circumstances, this does actually cause some drag during a cut or when wiping clean. The surface finishing from Extrema Ratio is excellent, and hard wearing, so this ‘feature’ may simply be more noticeable on the finer blade of the Mamba than it is on larger, heavier knives.

There is one major disadvantage with the lever lock design; should you accidentally insert the blade into the sheath the wrong way round, the cutting edge runs directly onto and along the metal locking lever which will seriously damage the cutting edge.

Once in the hand, the Mamba is similar in size to flatware (a table knife) but is clearly something much more serious.

Though it has a slim grip, the finger grip in the handle, combined with the deep jimping under the thumb, give you a really secure hold on the knife.

Of course the main reason for the slim design of the Mamba is so that it, and its sheath, can fit into PALS webbing (so is MOLLE compatible) for ease of integration into your gear. Many people carry a knife in their PALs webbing, but either have a folder clipped onto it, a large knife with MOLLE compatible sheath, or (something that makes me cringe) in some cases an unsheathed knife slipped into the loops.
Here I’ve got it fitted to a MOAB 6 bag, but it works even better on the shoulder strap of a backpack.

Before fitting, take off the clips and try the sheath in the position you are considering, and check your thumb will land on the locking lever. Then refit the clip nearest to the handle and try once more to check it all works. There is a good reason for checking how well it works at this point.

When mounted, the adjustable clips are positioned so that they hold onto one line of webbing. The clips need to be opened on both sides of the sheath to be able to slide, so fitting can be a bit awkward. This is due to the clip near the tip of the sheath having very little room to move as it is pressed against the bag/load carrier on one side. You don’t want to have to do this many times, hence the earlier trial fitting I mentioned.

Although you have to fight with one of the clips to fit the Mamba into PALS webbing, the tapered tip of the sheath slides through the loops very easily.

So, being designed to fit into PALS webbing, compared to the Extrema Ratio ‘standard build’ for a knife, it is quite a bit smaller. To give an idea of this, here it is next to the Extrema Ratio TASK J.

And unsheathed as well.

Initially the Mamba is not a knife I would have been that excited about; a slim knife designed to fit into PALS webbing. Useful maybe, but not that exciting. This is certainly not how I feel about it now after spending time with it.

In many ways, Extrema Ratio got me hooked with this one by using the lever lock. I just hope they introduce this for a few other models, including the larger knives. On top of that is the fact that the more you use knives, the more you realise you don’t need as much knife as you thought you might. So, often people carry around seriously heavy duty tools that are never really put to use. In terms of cutting power, the Mamba is more than capable of most everyday jobs and its slimmer blade (though not weak at 3.8mm thick) makes many cutting jobs easier. It really is a multi-purpose ‘utility blade’, in all the best possible meanings of that term.

If only Extrema Ratio could include a belt loop fitting, perhaps sliding over the sheath like the MOLLE clips do, as I would like to be able to carry the Mamba securely without a load carrier or backpack. Light, slim, easy to work with and an excellent quick release lever lock for sheath retention, I’ll be carrying this whenever I can.

Review Summary

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 What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Quick Release Lever Lock used to retain the knife. Can be very difficult to adjust the MOLLE clips when fitted into the PALS webbing.
Slim and Versatile Blade. Handles as easily as flatware. No Belt Loop.
The Sheath fits Directly into PALS webbing loops. Black Blade finish can ‘drag’ when cutting.
Secure Grip provided by the finger groove and heavy jimping. Inserting the blade the wrong way round can blunt the blade.
Ambidextrous.

 

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.
If you read the review entirely on Tactical Reviews, please consider one of the following to join in any discussion.

EdgeMatters – Sponsored Reviews (UK based Forum for Knife Makers and Collectors)

BladeForums – Knife Reviews (US based Forum for Knife Discussion)

CandlePowerForums – Knife Reviews Section (Largest and Friendliest Flashlight Community Forum)

Knife Review: Zero Tolerance 0630 (Emerson Design)

The ZT (Zero Tolerance) 0630 is a collaboration between ZT and Ernest Emerson, and naturally features the patented Emerson “wave shaped feature” that makes it one of the fastest deploying folding knives in the world.

With a strong upswept S35VN tactical blade the 0630 is powerfully over-built for hard-use.

The Blade and Handle Geometry:

Most knife specifications have a basic description of the blade geometry, but in this section I will be taking a more detailed look at geometry and balance.

Using a set of gauges and precision measuring equipment including a Vernier protractor, callipers, fixed radius gauges and the unique Arc Master adjustable radius gauge (the one that looks like a crossbow).

These measurements have been tabulated and are presented along with a few reference blades (8″ Chef’s Knife, 5.5″ Santoku and the popular Fällkniven F1).

Key aspects such as the primary bevel angle, grind type, blade depth, blade thickness, length, weight are detailed, along with balance information.

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.

In the case of full convex grinds the approximate centre of the grind is used for the primary bevel angle estimate.

The blade is made from S35VN steel.

Explained by the Maker:

The reasons for certain design choices may not be clear when simply looking at an object, so this section is intended to give an insight into the thinking behind a design by speaking to the designer themselves.

Unfortunately I can’t always get time with the designer so will use this section to include relevant information about the knife and its designer.

I wanted to include a short extract from Emerson Knives about the ‘Wave’ feature.

“The remote pocket opener is the most dynamic and advanced feature ever designed for folding knives. Originally designed by Ernest Emerson as a request from the Navy Seals. They needed him to design a ‘blade catcher’ that would essentially stop a blade from sliding up the back of your knife and cutting your arm when in a one-on-one knife fight. By accident, Ernest Emerson inadvertently created the Emerson Wave Feature when he discovered that the knife would self deploy when being pulled from your pocket, given the right motion.

This device allows you to open the knife literally, as it is removed from the pocket. This makes any Emerson Knife with the remote pocket opening system the fastest deploying knife in the world. Faster than an automatic, your knife is open as it comes up into your hand-ready for use.”

A few more details:

The 0630 comes in a cardboard box.

Along with the knife are two leaflets, one with general information, and one about the Wave feature.

How to use the Wave Feature.

Tucked under the pocket clip is a silica gel packet.

On the other handle is a peeled G-10 scale with milled grip grooves.

Rather than a stud, the 0630 has a thumb-disc for manual opening of the blade.

Matching the heavy no-nonsense design of this knife, there is a substantial pivot nut which can be adjusted with a standard spanner; no special tools required).

By default, the pocket clip is fitted to the framelock side of the knife which suits a right-handed owner. However the 0630 comes drilled and tapped for the pocket clip to be moved to the G-10 side for a left-handed owner.

The titanium framelock has a pleasing stonewashed finish.

At the base of the lock-bar cutout is a rounded corner to reduce stresses.

All round the Titanium slab, the corners are nicely radiused ensuring there are no sharp edges to cut into your hand.

With its wide design, the pocket clip has a strong grip. This is important when used on the Titanium side as the smooth titanium does not grab the pocket fabric as much as the G-10 side.

Key areas of the handle have jimping to help with grip.

The cutout that forms the lock-bar spring is deep and well rounded at the corners.

Though it might look like the clip is pressing on the lock-bar, it actually sits onto the fixed part of the frame.

Where needed, stress reducing features are included, in this case at the end of the lock-bar slot.

Further jimping in the thumb ramp area of the grip. This actually extends up onto the ‘wave’ as we will see.

There is jimping on the top of the ‘wave’ which is a natural extension of the jimping on the frame.

With the blade open, you can now see that flow of the jimping from handle to wave.

The 0630 has an open frame with black spacers.

On this example the lock engagement was about a third out-of-the-box. Note the hardened steel lockbar insert for reliable solid lock-up. You can also see the phosphor-bronze washers making the bearing as simple and strong as it can be.

A close-up look at the blade tip, and edge bevel.

To make unlocking more comfortable the inside of the lock-bar has a bevelled corner.

A well rounded plunge line keeps maximum blade strength.

Love those grind lines.

Let’s put it to work…

What it is like to use?

ZT’s 0630 has pushed me in a direction I normally avoid, as I’m not keen on pocket clips. They work well for a lot of people, but I’ve had knives become unclipped, which makes them very likely to be lost. However, here we have an Emerson, and the Wave, so it means you really do need to go for the pocket clip carry or you just won’t get the experience you should be.

Very often I find pocket clips (or more accurately the handle scale under them) too abrasive, and end up with shredded pockets. With the 0630 having a smooth titanium handle under the strong pocket clip, despite the ‘hold’ the clip has, it has not chewed up my pockets, but has also not come free by itself. If I were left handed, it would be a different story, so for some this won’t work out as well.

What is very apparent when handling the 0630 is its super solid build. There is not one aspect of this knife that feels like a weak point. I’m still looking for one, but haven’t found it yet.

Thanks to getting lots of pocket carry, it has been getting a wide variety of uses.

With ZT featuring a lot models with flippers and wave opening, they have developed a very strong detent, perhaps one of the strongest of any production knife I’ve used. This strong detent means the opening action becomes very positive as a lot of force is built up pressing on the detent before it ‘breaks’ and the blade deploys. The downside to this is one-handed manual opening can be much harder work than on other knives and the thumb opening of the 0630 is certainly an example of this. Out of the box I struggled to open the blade using the thumb disc, and even now don’t consider this a reliable opening method. At the end of a day’s work, that disc can start to create a sore spot on the thumb thanks to the relentless detent. This short video talks a little about this as well as showing the wave opening in slow motion.

Video Edited with – Cyberlink Director Suite 5 (PowerDirector 16 and AudioDirector 7)
Camera – Panasonic HC-V770    Microphone – Tonor TN120308BL

The Wave feature just keeps giving, as it provides an extended thumb ramp for a great grip for pushing the tip forward.

Thanks to its size the length of the handle allows a comfortable grip for general slicing. (I take XL size gloves).

For a right-hander, the peeled G-10 scale falls under the fingers and has a lot of grip even with wet hands. The peeled G-10 is not overly aggressive or abrasive to your hand.

To give an idea of scale, here it is next to the Fällkniven F1 and a Spyderco UK Pen Knife.

Looking like a bit of a brute, I would not have said the 0630 was a particularly attractive knife (to my taste), but as I have found before, there is often a very good reason why the design looks the way it does, and the 0630 has proven without a doubt that it functions incredibly well, and those design aspects that I’m not so keen on the look of make it a really excellent tool.

I like a super slick ball bearing pivot as much as the next knife enthusiast, but when it comes to a hard-use knife I always prefer phosphor-bronze. Again I love a flipper, but for the utmost reliability I don’t want to rely on flipping a blade open, I want to be able to manually open it. The wave opening of the 0630 is a bonus, with the thumb disc giving that ultimate reliability (albeit with a very tough detent).

Based on looks alone I was initially a little underwhelmed by the 0630. As I got to know it, its capabilities just shone through along with a striking strength of build which means I will happily work this knife harder than I would most folders. If I could change one thing, it would be the severity of that detent, hopefully it will wear in more over time.

Review Summary

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 What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Super strong build. Overly stiff detent.
Powerful and tough blade.
Emerson Wave Opening.
S35VN Steel.
Steel lock-bar insert in Titanium frame-lock.

 

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.
If you read the review entirely on Tactical Reviews, please consider one of the following to join in any discussion.

EdgeMatters – Sponsored Reviews (UK based Forum for Knife Makers and Collectors)

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Knife Review: Morakniv Eldris with Fire Starter

In the third of a series of reviews looking at Morakniv’s latest models, we meet the Eldris, a fixed blade knife that is so easy to carry, Morakniv call it their ‘folding knife’.

 photo 11 Eldris full unsheathed P1240579.jpg

The Blade and Handle Geometry:

Most knife specifications have a basic description of the blade geometry, but in this section I will be taking a more detailed look at geometry and balance.
 photo 23 Eldris grind P1250028.jpg

Using a set of gauges and precision measuring equipment including a Vernier protractor, callipers, fixed radius gauges and the unique Arc Master adjustable radius gauge (the one that looks like a crossbow).
 photo Knife measuring P1180483.jpg

These measurements have been tabulated and are presented along with a few reference blades (8″ Chef’s Knife, 5.5″ Santoku and the popular Fällkniven F1).

Key aspects such as the primary bevel angle, grind type, blade depth, blade thickness, length, weight are detailed, along with balance information.
 photo 22 Eldris bevel P1250024.jpg

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.
 photo 21 Eldris balance P1250021.jpg

In the case of full convex grinds the approximate centre of the grind is used for the primary bevel angle estimate.
 photo Eldris parameters.jpg

The blade is made from 12C27 Swedish Steel.

Explained by the Maker:

The reasons for certain design choices may not be clear when simply looking at an object, so this section is intended to give an insight into the thinking behind a design by speaking to the designer themselves.

Unfortunately I can’t always get time with the designer so will use this section to include relevant information about the knife and its designer.

This is an interview with ‘Head of Production’ at Morakniv, Thomas Eriksson, from IWA 2017 by Tactical Reviews.
The discussion includes how the factory edge is created, maintained and also includes micro-bevels and zero-grinds. It is 16 minutes long, so you might want to come back to this after reading the rest of the review.

Video Edited with – Cyberlink Director Suite 5 (PowerDirector 15 and AudioDirector 7)
Camera – Panasonic HC-V770    Microphone – Tonor TN120308BL and/or Takstar SGC-598

A name that tells a story – Eldris…

The traditional summer grazing land (‘fäbodar’) for the village on the opposite bank of the river from the Morakniv factory is named Eldris. During the summer time the people from the village lived on the ‘fäbod’ and used only what nature had to offer.

“To name our pocket size knife Eldris after the place and the people who lived there is our way of paying tribute to our roots. Our ancestors and the surroundings of Mora are all parts of who we at Morakniv are today. The Eldris knife – the flexible companion when doing everything from crafting to lighting the evening fire – is our interpretation of the life once lived at the ’fäbod’ of Eldris.”

“The Eldris knife has been in our minds for a long time, the small knife that fits easily in your pocket or hanging around your neck. Most times the modern outdoor life doesn’t need much more than this knife. You could say that this is our interpretation of the folding knives that are very popular today, but Eldris has the advantages of the rigid features of a fixed blade” – Arvid Larsson, Design Engineer.

 photo 18 Eldris fan P1250008.jpg

“The colours of Eldris are inspired by our surrounding region and our history. The black of coal is never far away if you go out in the forests around Mora. Suddenly you’ll happen upon an old charcoal pit or the remains of one. The well-known Dala red (or Falu red) colour gets its pigments from the Falu copper mines. Since as far back as the 1700s, the familiar red-painted houses with white frames have spread across the country and become an international symbol for Sweden and the county of Dalarna.
As well as the Dala red colour, we also have a Dala blue, which can be seen on everything from building details to clothes. It’s even in our regional coat of arms, together with the crossed arrows and the royal crown. The moss green colour is inspired by the nature and unique surroundings of the area around Lake Siljan. Deep in the forests we find the calm and inspiration for this green hue. Finally, we have the golden ocher colour, taken from the Dalarna paintings of the 1600’s, and also the folk costumes that people in Mora have worn since time immemorial.”

 photo 20 Eldris fan P1250014.jpg

A few more details:

The five different colours of the Eldris. The fire-starter optional kit is attached to the bottom of Eldris knife box.
 photo 01 Eldris boxed set P1240528.jpg

For the fire-starter kit version of the Eldris, this is the full set of components. The Eldris knife and sheath, security strap, length of cord and ferrocerium rod with leather tab and cord loop.
 photo 02 Eldris box contents P1240549.jpg

As the bare knife and sheath, the Eldris becomes a pocket knife, small and streamlined and easy to pop in a pocket.
 photo 03 Eldris basic P1240551.jpg

Moulded into the sheath are the Morakniv logo and crossed arrows of the Swedish province Dalarna.
 photo 04 Eldris logo P1240552.jpg

On the back of the sheath are the hollows for the security strap ring to clip into.
 photo 05 Eldris made in P1240556.jpg

The security strap consists of a plastic ring which clicks into place on the sheath with a leather strap that uses a press stud to secure the strap in place.
 photo 06 Eldris lock strap P1240557.jpg

Looking inside the security strap ring, you can se the lugs that click into place in the corresponding hollows on the sheath.
 photo 07 Eldris lock strap inside P1240560.jpg

Adding the security strap adds very little bulk to the Eldris.
 photo 08 Eldris lock strap fitted P1240568.jpg

At the tip of the sheath are two holes which can be used for fitting the neck lanyard and also act as drainage holes.
 photo 09 Eldris sheath holes P1240571.jpg

For use as a pendant knife you can also fit the fire-rod onto the neck cord.
 photo 10 Eldris full sheathed P1240577.jpg

The Eldris is a small knife and being a fixed blade is more reminiscent of a wood carver’s tool.
 photo 13 Eldris in hand P1240589.jpg

However, you can get a strong grip on it thanks to the handle still having enough bulk (unlike most pendant/neck knives).
 photo 14 Eldris in fist P1240594.jpg

Full Scandi-grind blades are often not so good for slicing due to the full blade thickness being maintained for the majority of the blade depth. In the Eldris, similar to Morakniv’s Kansbol, there is additional profiling for the front half of the blade which thins down the blade making it a better slicer. As a super compact all-rounder, it really helps that Morakniv have included this extra profiling.
 photo 16 Eldris blade P1240604.jpg

Also note, the factory edge micro-bevel which is described in the video.
 photo 15 Eldris blade P1240598.jpg

There is no choil or ricasso, with the blade edge going all the way into the handle.
 photo 17 Eldris handle blade P1240605.jpg

What it is like to use?

The principle that Morakniv have aimed for with the Eldris is to bring together the features and advantages of a pocket size knife but with a fixed blade instead of a folding one. A smaller knife is not only easier to carry, but gives you increased control when using it, and is safer to handle than a larger one.

By choosing a fixed blade, the design is more durable and better suited to rough use than a folding knife. Yet when the knife is sheathed, it is still small enough to be easily carried in a pocket.

It is no surprise that the Eldris features a Scandi-grind, and this makes it well suited to working with wood as well as making it easy to keep sharp. Having given the Eldris a good workout, here I’ve given it a quick touch up on a stone and then a strop.

 photo 25 Eldris sharpened.jpg

After the quick maintenance, it was falling through paper.
 photo 26 Eldris sharpness.jpg

In the case of the Eldris Fire Starter Kit, a fire-rod is included. Of course you can provide your own fire-rod and just make use of the ground spine which has sharp corners and is ideal for striking sparks from the ferro-rod. No need to carry a separate striker or (horror) use the edge to strike sparks.

There is one design aspect we must dwell on; the handle. The symmetrical handle makes this an ambidextrous knife as it allows a two-way fit into the sheath. The drop-shaped design is big enough to keep the knife securely in your hand yet allows you to move your hand around on the handle for many different kinds of grip. The outer part of the grip is TPE, a rubbery polymer that provides a secure grip, and the core of the handle is made of much tougher polypropylene. Morakniv are very proud of their heritage and express this in aspects of the design. In this case, the rhombus pattern is a traditional pattern used in Mora and the region of Dalarna, and as well as helping with grip, it also pays a tribute to Morakniv’s region and history.

Having seen very early versions of the Eldris where the click-lock had not been finalised, the final level of sheath retention Morakniv have built into the Eldris is excellent, and is very unlikely to come loose by accident. However, especially for when wearing inverted around your neck, the secondary locking strap absolutely prevents the knife from falling out of the sheath. When carrying in your pocket or a bag, you might not want the secondary lock and the plastic collar can be removed, making the Eldris even more compact.

Knives this compact and light are generally only suited to very light tasks with handles that can’t be used for long before they become fatiguing or painful. The Eldris has a big enough handle that you can get a strong grip, a grip which you can work with for longer periods. Combining this usable handle with a blade length that is sufficient for most typical cutting tasks, and it gives you a really easy to carry fixed-blade pocket knife.

 photo 24 Eldris bark P1250229.jpg

I would not go so far as to call it a folding knife, but it really is a pocket knife – with a fixed blade.

We can love blades of all sizes, and I can’t resist the biggest of blades, but taking into account your actual needs and the ‘cost’ of the weight you have to carry with larger blades, the Eldris makes a huge amount of sense.

Unless you are doing some heavy chopping or batoning, the part of the cutting edge you are likely to use the most, is that part you can apply maximum pressure to – the section of blade closest to the handle. This is exactly what the Eldris has.

Never a fan of the ‘neck knife’ (nor of the term), the Eldris has won me over and become a regular companion, frequently round my neck!

Review Summary

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 What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Pocket-sized fixed-blade knife. Relatively expensive compared to other Morakniv models.
Secondary locking strap. You will want more than one.
Can be worn round the neck or carried in a pocket.
Comfortable handle.
Ambidextrous.

 

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.
If you read the review entirely on Tactical Reviews, please consider one of the following to join in any discussion.

EdgeMatters – Sponsored Reviews (UK based Forum for Knife Makers and Collectors)

BladeForums – Knife Reviews (US based Forum for Knife Discussion)

CandlePowerForums – Knife Reviews Section (Largest and Friendliest Flashlight Community Forum)