Knife Review: Fox Suru – Exclusive Heinnie Haynes Edition

In this review, the Fox Suru on test is not just any old Suru, it’s the ‘Heinnie Haynes Edition’. As well as having global reach, Heinnie Haynes is the UK’s largest seller of knives and EDC gear. With its roots in the UK market there is particular interest in knives which are UK EDC Legal. There is much confusion over the knife laws in the UK, thanks to plenty of misinformation, despite the law actually being very simple. Sticking to the basics of the law, any non-locking folding knife with cutting edge less than 3″ can be EDCed legally.

The Fox Suru in its standard form is a compact, integral-lock, flipper knife – an almost perfectly unsuitable knife for the UK market, but Bruce from HH had the vision to see great potential in the small robust folder, if only it could be made a flipper-free non-locker. After working out the details with Fox, we now have exactly that, a slip-joint Suru. Though intended for the UK market, the creation of the slip-joint Suru has streamlined the original design and resulted in a knife suitable for users around the world with, or without, similar EDC knife carry restrictions.

A few more details:

We’ll start of with the presentation of the knife, both from Heinnie Haynes and from Fox. The review sample was sent to me exactly as with any other HH customer order.

What’s in the box?:


A Couple of Extras:

With Heinnie Haynes having so many extras to choose from, also included for use during testing was the MAM slip pouch, and Maxpedition’s Micro Pocket Organiser.


A good look round the Fox Suru Heinnie Haynes Edition – Things to look out for here are:

This is one of four different colour options and has a black PVD coated Titanium handle (though this is actually more of a very dark grey) with Bronze coloured hardware. The Heinnie Edition Suru started as the frame-lock flipper Suru, but as you will see, nothing looks out of place, instead appearing as if it had always been designed this 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.

Bruce from Heinnie Haynes took the time to speak with me about the knife.

This particular ‘Heinnie Haynes Edition’ actually came about the very day before the Suru won knife of the year at Blade Show 2018. It happens to be Bruce’s favourite size of knife and he particularly liked the solid feel and thick blade coupled with the strong, precise, feel and operation. After seeing and loving the original Suru, with the UK market in mind, Bruce knew that the flipper was going to make it impossible to sell, so asked Fox if they could do a run without the flipper. Fox said they could do that but would need to cut a new blade shape separately, meaning a minimum of 300 being made. At a starting point of 300, with the knife being a lock-knife it would still limit the market for the flipper-free version. So Bruce took it one step further and asked that if a new blade is being made, can’t the rear be extended and an extra detent added. This would be so that the lock-bar doesn’t close behind the blade instead converting it to be non-locking (with detent holding the blade open). Initially Fox were concerned this would make it seem like the knife was ‘broken’ and the lock not working, so were very reluctant. Bruce stuck to his convictions and persuaded Fox to go ahead with the Heinnie Edition.

After placing the order, Bruce had to wait for the final production run to actually see the knife he had redesigned; it was a bit nerve-racking opening the first box. When they arrived it turned out that not only had the blade been changed, but the lock-side handle had also been changed and it was no longer a frame-lock handle; instead the detent spring has been moved to the centre of the handle. Bruce originally thought he was asking only for the blade to be changed and felt a little guilty the handle needed to be changed as well; however, the result is even better thanks to this extra work by Fox.

Making this knife EDCable broadens its appeal in the UK market considerably with the relatively limited choice of suitable knives. Being a Heinnie customisation HH currently have exclusive rights to the slip-joint version.

If the current run sells well enough Bruce would like to go for a few more variants than the initial four. Always a bit of a guessing game, the split in sales between these four variants is so far not as originally envisioned. The black/bronze one (in this review) is the most popular, followed by the black/blue and the plain level-pegging in second, with the plain/blue being the least popular (at the time of writing). It was the plain/blue one that Bruce most likes and thought would sell out first.

Interestingly, as the number of ‘flipper’ knives is still on the increase, and with this being a genuine problem in the UK, (as it not something that can be sold), Bruce (and I also agree) is starting to see flippers as ugly; the flipper tab sticking out makes the knife ungainly especially when folded. This Heinnie edition of the Suru looks much more streamlined without the flipper tab getting in the way.

The Blade and Handle – Detailed Measurements:

Now even more detailed!

Taking things far beyond most knife specifications, in this section I will be carrying out a detailed examination of geometry, balance, edge bevels, factory sharpness and structural edge testing using the industry leading measuring tools.

These measuring tools include a Vernier protractor, callipers, fixed radius gauges, the unique Arc Master adjustable radius gauge, Edge On Up’s BESS Certified PT50A and SET tester along with CATRA’s Hobbigoni LASER Edge Protractor.
The BESS ‘C’ scale of sharpness (Brubacher Edge Sharpness Scale) will be used to verify the sharpness of the factory edge and allow the knife to be brought to a minimum standard sharpness before testing a blade’s cutting performance.


The measurements have been tabulated and are presented along with a few reference blades. The ‘Balance relative to the front of the handle’ tells you if the knife will feel front heavy, or if the weight is in your hand (a positive value means the weight is forward of the front of the handle). The ‘Balance relative to the centre of the handle’ indicates how close to a ‘neutral balance’ the knife has in the hand.


The blade is made from M390 steel.

What it is like to use?

Having not previously handled the original Fox Suru, I was not familiar with the size of this knife. Certainly on first seeing it I was surprised how compact it actually is. From photos of it on its own, there is a sense it is a larger knife. Considering that this is intended to be an EDC knife, that compact size has proven to be a real benefit and just made it an easy carry.

Frequently, frame-lockers can be reluctant to open with the thumb as it is so easy to accidentally apply pressure to the lock-bar and so engage the blade retention detent more firmly. With Fox changing the lock-side handle as they have done, it make this version of the Suru very good at OHO using the opening hole. The action is crisp, with a good snap into the open position.
As you can see in these photos, the handle is really a three-finger-grip handle due to its compact size. You have two choices for the normal forward grip, firstly and most naturally, you choke up on the blade with your index finger sitting in the finger choil in front of the pivot with you remaining fingers on the handle. This grip will give you the most control and power, but if you want a little more reach for the blade, you can come back on the handle so your index finger is now behind the pivot. Not as safe (though perfectly safe if using the proper cutting style for non-lockers), but it does give a bit more reach.


Before discussing the next gallery, there was just one minor problem I came across during testing; the blade pivot loosened to the point the blade was quite wobbly and way off centre when closed. This was after a few hundred opening and closing cycles, but I had not thought to check the pivot screw before starting testing, so I don’t know if it was already loose when it arrived. A quick and easy adjustment later using a T9 Torx screwdriver bit, and the pivot was back to how it should be, with the blade having no play and opening smoothly. Concerned it had worked loose during normal use, I went about positively trying to get it to loosen up again and have unrelentingly opened and closed it (having to change hands frequently – and yes it works perfectly left or right handed) hundreds of times. I do apply a reasonable amount of sideways pressure to the blade when OHOing the knife and the pivot has loosened again. Once it starts to get loose, it then loosens even more quickly. Actually this doesn’t really impact on its use, giving you enough warning to tighten it up again before it gets too bad. I think a spot of thread-lock is imminent.

People like to carry knives in a few different ways. I’m not a fan of carrying a knife clipped to the edge of a pocket as I don’t like collecting pocket lint, wearing away the edge of the pocket, and those instances where as you move about and sit down, that a knife can be pushed up and off the pocket edge; lots of knives are lost that way. So this leads me to the two other options here. The MAM slip-pouch is a simple leather pouch to keep the knife dust and scratch free while in your pocket. It is a snug fit for the Suru needing a ‘toothpaste tube squeeze’ technique to get it out of the pouch, and has kept the Suru in perfect condition.

I am frequently swapping coats and bags and tend to loose track of my EDC gear if I have it distributed and doubled-up (tripled etc) across all those coats and bags, so prefer a small organiser pouch that gets moved from coat to bag to bag to coat, and means I know exactly what I’ve got.
Though the Suru came in a pouch, and that pouch is very nice quality, it is too big for the size of knife. I have re-used that pouch for a much bigger folder.
The Maxpedition Micro Pocket Organiser is the best size I’ve found so far. I would prefer it even smaller, as unlike many people I don’t like to cram my EDC pouch full of gear that then rubs up against each other. For me this is the essential ‘knife and light’ combination, placed in the pouch so they can’t make contact. The Suru has mostly been living in this pouch with an Armytek light.

Back onto the subject of size. Included in the gallery are a few size comparison photos with some classic slip-joint knives. There is also a direct comparison with the ultra-light Spyderco Dragonfly II, which you can see is equivalent in size. The Suru has a much more substantial build, with Titanium handles and thick blade, so gives you the feel of a heavier folder in a package that is small enough to easily EDC, yet have enough cutting power to be seriously useful.

These comparison photos also show the non-threatening look of the Suru. SAKs are universally accepted even by extremely-non-knife-people, but many of the UK EDC Legal knives look a little bit too ‘pointy’ to be as easily accepted. The Suru with its wide blade and upwardly sweeping cutting edge has a softer look that is much easier for non-knife-people to be relaxed around.


Is a 4mm blade too thick for a folder this size? It certainly could be. The Suru’s blade is however much deeper than your typical folder of this size and with a nearly full flat grind, it means the blade’s primary bevel is a fine enough angle to cut very well. Where you do lose out a little is as you near the blade tip. The primary bevel and thick blade stock combine to give a very strong blade tip, but a relatively thick one.

This brings me onto the factory edge. With the grind geometry, the blade thickness behind the cutting edge increases as you go from the heel to tip. Fox have very neatly executed a factory cutting edge bevel that has a consistent width along the entire edge. Consequently, this factory edge bevel angle changes from 20DPS (degrees per side) at the heel to about 35DPS at the tip. So that is a 40 degree inclusive edge bevel at the heel and a 70 degree inclusive edge bevel at the tip; that is more than I’d put on an axe! Fox did make that edge a good sharpness, but the angle means it is not the most eager cutter. A lot of urban EDC cutting tasks involve the point, and with the factory edge, the Suru comes up feeling lacking. What also doesn’t help is that the point angle is quite wide, and with the upward sweep of the cutting edge to the tip, the cutting edge sits almost parallel to the material being punctured and cut – like this is needs a finer edge to really work.

So, time for a re-profile of the cutting edge, and I’ve take it to 15DPS along the entire cutting edge. The width of the edge bevel at the tip is now four times the width at the heel, but that is the cost of having the consistent edge bevel angle.

With this new edge, the Suru has woken up, and with the point work transformed it has allowed me pay more attention to how well the rest of the blade cuts. With a nicely exposed blade heel (just in front of the finger choil), you can carry out very fine and controlled cuts. Despite the 4mm blade stock, this part of the blade cuts like a thinner blade would.

Having an all metal construction (Titanium handles) the Suru is not a super-light folder. Other knives of a similar size are thinner and lighter, but feel insubstantial in comparison. As a non-locker, it is possible to EDC this knife where other knives cannot go, and even though compact, it has a satisfyingly solid build that gives you the confidence use it for jobs you might otherwise be reaching for a bigger knife to do.

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
_______________________________________________

Excellent fit and finish.
Titanium handles.
Solid construction.
M390 blade steel.
Ambidextrous OHO.
Compact.
Non-locking.
‘Friendly’ look.

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

Thick blade tip reduces piercing ability.
The blade pivot seems to work loose after a few hundred openings. (Needs some thread-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.

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: Lionsteel TM1 CF

Lionsteel are a brand that stand out year-on-year thanks to maintaining a superb level of manufacturing quality over a wide range of knife designs, both fixed and folding. This review takes a look at the Carbon Fibre version of the TM1 folding knife. Like the outstanding SR-1 (which is still going strong eight years after its launch), with its impressive construction using a one-piece handle, the TM1 also uses this single-piece handle design, but instead of an integral lock it uses a more traditional back-lock. I like an integral lock as much as anyone, but I am having just a little too much of them, and find it refreshing that the TM1 uses a back-lock. One main advantage of this is that the handle shape, grip and feel is not compromised by the lock-bar. Still a heavy folder, like the SR-1, but with a very interesting reverse-tanto blade shape, and a handle with two non-metallic material choices – Carbon-Fibre or Micarta. Finding this knife was one of my show highlights from IWA 2018.

What’s in the box?:

The TM1 comes in a familiar Lionsteel cardboard box. Inside the box, the TM1 is in a pouch / carry case which can slide onto a belt as a horizontal pouch. It will only fit over a slim 1″ belt and this might be a happy accident rather than an intended design feature.


A good look round the Lionsteel TM1 CF – Things to look out for here are:

The key images have captions; there is a lot to see on the TM1, so keep an eye out for the handle contouring, clip and glass breaker, ramped thumb opener, crisp finish and other design details.


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.

I had the good fortune to be able to consult Mik Molletta about this knife. The following images were discussion points that will be referred to.


Mik is a prolific designer and the TM1 was one of his own projects that wasn’t commissioned by Lionsteel, but was then given to them.
The following paragraphs are a combination of Mik’s own words and me incorporating the questions into the description (while attempting to leave the meaning unchanged).

Sleipner steel (A) was chosen because it is a tool steel with good performance in cutting ability and toughness. With a specific heat treating it has a very fine grain structure. The blade thickness (J) makes the TM1 very durable for a long working life.

Intended to be a real working knife, the overall shape and deep finger guard (B) reflect this purpose in the design. The knife also has a reinforced tip (C) suitable for processing hard materials.

In lockback knives it is often observed when using them that there is play in the lock and/or pivot, sometimes pressing on the blade while working, the lever of the lock moves upwards. In the TM-1 there is no play in any axis. The particular architecture (D), made to high precision tolerances, eliminates the problems of the back-lock mechanism, and the presence of bearings facilitates the one hand opening normally difficult on these knives. The lock-back system (I) when well executed is a safe and efficient and durable system.

A glass breaker (E) is incorporated because it was designed to be suitable for military, police and rescue proposes.

The pocket clip (G) is relatively short and is made to be not cumbersome and not to become annoying in use.

The handle surface texture (H) is slightly rough to provide grip with and without gloves, but without being troublesome for bare hands.

Angled shape thump opener (K) was used on the titanium version of Lionsteel’s T.R.E. Designed by me (Mik). It’s comfortable so used also on TM-1.

In case you were wondering how they fit those IKBs bearings…
(This image is from Lionsteel’s TM1 product page.)

The Blade and Handle – Detailed Measurements:

Now even more detailed!

Taking things far beyond most knife specifications, in this section I will be carrying out a detailed examination of geometry, balance, edge bevels, factory sharpness and structural edge testing using the industry leading measuring tools.

These measuring tools include a Vernier protractor, callipers, fixed radius gauges, the unique Arc Master adjustable radius gauge, Edge On Up’s BESS Certified PT50A and SET tester along with CATRA’s Hobbigoni LASER Edge Protractor.
The BESS ‘C’ scale of sharpness, 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 measurements have been tabulated and are presented along with a few reference blades. The ‘Balance relative to the front of the handle’ tells you if the knife will feel front heavy, or if the weight is in your hand (a positive value means the weight is forward of the front of the handle). The ‘Balance relative to the centre of the handle’ indicates how close to a ‘neutral balance’ the knife has in the hand.


The blade is made from Sleipner 60-61 HRC steel.

The TM1’s factory edge has an average BESS ‘C’ sharpness of 342. This was acceptable as it would slice 80gsm paper, but not to the level I like so I brought the edge to 15 degree per-side and 200 BESS for testing the knife.

What it is like to use?

Lionsteel’s TM1 is a pleasant contradiction as it is a ‘heavy folder’ yet at the same time it is a ‘lightweight folder’ (for its size) thanks to the carbon-fibre handle. Although the blade is a substantial 4.5mm, making it massively strong, and the handle is matched to the blade perfectly, the TM1 is light and easy to carry.

Thanks to its one piece sculpted handle and back-lock, the grip is excellent for a folder. A fully integral finger guard makes the grip super stable and more than a match for that powerful blade.

Opening is silky as the blade swings out smoothly and effortlessly on those ball bearings. If you hold the handle and push the lock bar in fully, the blade actually becomes completely free to swing (without the lock bar pressing on it) and does so with no resistance at all. Not being a flipper I had wondered if it was worth using the ball bearings, but it is – the opening is just so slick. The thumb opener has been shaped into a ramp and gives a larger contact area for your thumb than studs do, and this makes it quite a bit more comfortable to use.

Then there is that snap of the lock; so crisp, precise and solid, and so satisfying. It makes you want to keep on opening it up. (Warning – you might annoy your family or work colleagues with this knife.)


This is the first ‘reverse-tanto’ blade I’ve used, however the principle is not far from a clip-point, just a smaller clip, keeping the tip very strong. Slightly odd looking, it has proven to be highly usable. No issues with the tip’s puncturing ability even though the point angle is 71 degrees. The tip looks extremely strong, but as yet I’ve not had a reason to really put this to the test (no car doors have jumped out at me and needed cutting into).

So ‘Sleipner’ in a folder? I was a little unsure about this choice with the reports of corrosion, and the fact it is not a stainless steel having only 7.8% Cr. I decided that during the course of the testing I would not use any oils or other blade protection, and have been using this knife for around six months for a variety of tasks, including with foods, and with one in particular that is normally very harsh – banana! Opening and fishing about in boil-in-the-bag foods so getting a good dose of heat and steam, pocket time, handling and at best a little wipe down.

It is possible that the blade has been lacquered but I can’t see any evidence this has been done, and I reground the cutting edge bevel, so I know that is bare steel. To date there has not been any sign of corrosion. I had expected to have to intervene and remove some spotting as I haven’t been caring for the blade steel. This is not the same as specifically abusing it or really trying to get it to corrode, but the testing has been normal use with little to no attempts to protect it beyond a wipe from time to time.

I’ll have to say I’m still a little wary that this might need more care than I’d like, but so far I’ve been pleasantly surprised that it has not been noticeably susceptible to corrosion. It is possible the specific heat-treat Mik mentioned may have improved the corrosion resistance of this steel.

You might have spotted the relatively small looking clip, and like me assumed it was not going to work well. I found I was eating my words though. When I pocket-carried the TM1, that clip had enough clearance to get onto the pocket edge and enough flex to slide into place, yet enough grip to stay put. I had dismissed this clip as an afterthought, but was wrong, it works. The clip can also be removed and refitted on the other side.

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.

Review Summary

_______________________________________________
Things I like
_______________________________________________

Superb fit and finish.
Single-piece handle.
Back-lock (Thank you!)
IKBS pivot bearings for super smooth action.
Rock solid lock up.
Lightweight yet ‘heavy-build’ folder.
Effective clip.
Works for right and left-handed users.
Strong blade.
Comfortable thumb opening ramp.

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

Sleipner steel – I don’t like the threat of corrosion hanging over a fantastic knife.
Nothing else.

 

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: Gerber Center-Drive Multi-Tool

Gerber’s Center Drive multi-tool may be one of many in the highly competitive multi-tool market, but its name clearly tells you what its key design feature is. Gerber have gone all out with the capabilities of the built-in screwdriver bit holder, along with considering the ergonomics when using a screwdriver which has a multi-tool as the handle. So Gerber aligned the axis of the bit holder to be as close to the centre line of the tool as possible. The Center-Drive tool also includes a larger than normal knife blade, powerful sprung pliers with replaceable wire cutters plus even more.

A few more details:

We’ll be taking a good look round this tool, first what is in the box, then focusing on the headline feature before taking in the rest of it.

What’s in the box?:


The driver in the Center Drive:


A good look round the Gerber Center Drive – Things to look out for:

With the featured functions of the bit driver and large knife blade, the Center Drive has an asymmetrical layout with one handle carrying these features on the outside, and the other handle having further tools folded into the inside; this gallery takes you around all of these.


What it is like to use?

Having seen some less than positive comments about this tool, I felt the need to address these first before going into more on how I have been getting on with it. In particular I wanted to mention the often overlooked aspect that a multi-tool, by its very nature is a jack-of-all-trades and as such a-master-of-none. All tools have their limits and it is up to the user to apply appropriate force and use the tool in a reasonable way. Multi-tools will get you so far, and are a tool-kit in one package, they can’t do it all. In every job I’ve used the Center Drive for I’ve not been trying to push it to its limits; heavy jobs need dedicated tools. Use it appropriately and enjoy the benefits.

With that said, there is one design aspect you should be warned about. The knife blade has an opening hole for one-handed use, however there is a high likelihood you will cut yourself if you use it. In the sample on test, the knife blade has a good resistance to movement (which helps keep it closed) and this requires a certain amount of force to rotate the blade open. This amount of force pushes the thumb quite hard onto the side of the blade, so much so the cutting edge touches your skin. Initially I found small skin flaps forming on my thumb, then realised where they came from. Check the images I took from my Instagram posts on this in the gallery below an you will see what I mean.


With all that out of the way we can look at what makes this tool particularly good. Personally, my main uses of a multi-tool, in order, are as a screwdriver, then the pliers, the file, pry-bar, awl, after which it depends on the tool, and as I carry a dedicated knife, using the multi-tool knife is generally only a last resort backup.

So my most frequent need will be for the screwdriver tool, and the Center Drive has an extended, centred, standard 1/4″ Hex bit-holder. That is something to take in and consider. No special bits are required, any 1/4″ Hex bits you have can be used. The first thing I did was pop a PZ2 (not supplied) into the bit holder as this is my number one bit type used. Multi-tool screwdrivers are often awkward to use as they are generally to one side or other and not that long; not so with the Center Drive. The extended bit holder make it so much easier to see the screw head, and access internal screws, or those near a corner. Clearly with a folding tool like this you can’t 100% centre the bit holder, but it is centred in relation to the widest part of the tool, and this makes it much easier to use. This is the best built-in multi-tool screwdriver I’ve used.

Onto my second most needed tool, the pliers. Since I first used sprung pliers (probably some jewellers pliers), it makes non-sprung pliers seem a pain to use, especially when manipulating the work piece. Having OTF pliers, the Center Drive is able to have sprung pliers (the unfolding type of multi-tool pliers typically have no spring), and thanks to the spring just become an extension of your hand, allowing you to focus completely on the work.

As you might expect from a multi-tool file, it is not that sharp, but it lets you take off those rough edges from softer materials and non-ferrous metals well enough.

One disappointment is the serrated knife blade, which, in this example, is blunt. The cutting edge has the same black coating as the blade, making it appear as if it never got a final sharpen.

The awl has no sharp cutting edge, so is really just a metal spike, useful for all sorts of little jobs. Next to this is one of the best prying tools I’ve seen on a multi-tool and will get into narrow gaps as well as being able to lift small nails.

All of this is no good if you don’t have it with you. The included pouch has two compartments, one for the set of bits, and one for the tool. Should you want to go lower profile, you can leave the full set of bits out (still having two in the tool itself) and the pouch slims down – belt or MOLLE mounted you’ll have it with you.

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
_______________________________________________

Centred, extended, 1/4″ standard Hex bit holder.
Spring loaded Out-The-Front pliers.
Versatile prying tool.
Quality carry pouch.
Replaceable wire cutter.

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

One-Handed-Opening the main knife blade can cut you.
Serrated blade was blunt.

 

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, or start, a discussion.

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

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

Knife Review: Spyderco Sliverax

The Spyderco Sliverax is a design by automotive engineer and knife enthusiast Paul Alexander. It is the first production folding knife to combine a flipper opener with Spyderco’s Compression Lock mechanism, and is Paul’s second collaboration with Spyderco. Sleek lines and a pronounced positive rake to the blade give the Sliverax a distinctive and purposeful look.

New Review Format 2018!

Tactical Reviews is known for very detailed reviews using many high quality images. This has meant quite a lot of scrolling to read most reviews. In the new format, the review contains ‘responsive image galleries’ to better display these images as a slide show with captions.
NOTE: On a PC it is best to use the arrow keys to move through the images. Captions can be hidden by clicking the small ‘x’ in the caption box. To enable them again, close the gallery and reopen it.

A good look round the Sliverax:

Things to look out for here are included in the image captions.


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.

From Spyderco’s product description “Designed by automotive engineer and knife enthusiast Paul Alexander, the Sliverax is the first factory-made folding knife to combine Spyderco’s Compression Lock™ mechanism with a flipper-style opener. Its sleek drop-point blade is crafted from CPM® S30V® stainless steel and proudly includes both a fully accessible Trademark Round Hole™ and an index-finger flipper to support a full spectrum of one-handed opening options with either hand. A full-flat grind gives it outstanding edge geometry and its slightly negative blade-to-handle angle enhances its cutting leverage and shortens its opening arc for swift, positive deployment.

The Sliverax’s blade is supported by Spyderco’s patented Compression Lock mechanism—a high-strength lock located in the spine of the handle to greatly reduce the risk of unintentional release during use. Its lightweight, open-backed handle design features stunning carbon fiber/G-10 laminate scales and nested stainless steel liners. This advanced construction style provides impressive structural strength, keeps the knife slim and pocket friendly, and offers a solid foundation for the knife’s lock mechanism. To allow convenient carry and keep the Sliverax instantly accessible, its handle includes a reversible deep-pocket wire clip that can be configured for right or left-side tip-up carry.”

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 CPM S30V 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 Sliverax’s factory edge has an average BESS ‘C’ sharpness of 186. This is yet another super sharp factory edge from Spyderco. A figure less than 200 is really good and easily shaves arm hairs and falls through 80gsm paper.

What it is like to use?

What struck me on initially handling this knife is how the Sliverax differs from conventional folders with its organic lines and purposeful downward angled blade (positive rake).

When folded it is almost like a worry stone in its pleasing feel and curvy shape. Opening is lightning fast with the flipper, and this speed is in part due to the blade’s positive rake, meaning the blade only has to rotate 160 degrees to open, instead of 180 degrees. Of course the pivot’s captive ball bearings also guide the blade with virtually no resistance at all.

Having a fully exposed opening hole from both sides makes it very comfortable and easy to thumb-open with either hand. The clip can be fitted to either side, so the Sliverax is truly ambidextrous. The only aspect that is slightly handed is a one-handed close. I certainly found it easier to unlock the compression lock one handed using my right hand.

For the opening hole to be fully exposed, and to not have a Spyderco ‘hump’, a lot of the handle has been cut away making the handle at the first and second fingers very thin. As well as accentuating the rake of the blade further, it also makes a full hand grip a little awkward as the fingers don’t have much to hold. However it does provide a deep finger guard so the chance your hand might slip forward is very low.

I tend to prefer thumb-opening blades for several reasons. In fact, in the UK where I am based, flippers are too close to switchblades for comfort, so a nicely controlled thumb-open goes down much better. This leads me to make an observation about the compression lock which I also noted on the Sharman. As I open the blade, my first finger tends to lie over the lock itself, and the lock bar often gives me a little nip as it snaps into place. A minor complaint and easily avoided (if you remember) but mentioned here as an observation.

Despite being a smooth finish, the Carbon Fibre/G-10 Laminate handle has enough texture to provide positive grip even when wet.


Even without the ‘issue’ of appearances in the UK, I am personally a bit tired of the flipper. A mechanism where you have to compromise your grip on the knife to be able to press on a flipper tab to literally flick the blade open. Flippers can and do fail to fully open or lock, so much like the fixed blade is your most reliable partner, the two-handed open or the properly thumbed-open blade that is positively taken all the way to the locked position, means you know 100% it is there. If safety and security are your primary aims, then open the blade by manually rotating it all the way.

This leads me nicely into a couple of modifications I have made to the Sliverax I’ve been testing. Firstly the removal of the flipper tab. This makes the Sliverax a no-question thumb operated OHO, and has the benefit of removing the protruding flipper tab so it is even more pocket friendly.

The second modification is one of those things that for me is the sign of a finished knife blade, a sharpening choil. Others will have different opinions, and I’m not saying I’m right, but it is my preference. The end of the cutting edge at the sharpening choil also provide another ‘point’ for fine accurate cuts, so is not purely an aesthetic addition, but is functional too.

These images are of the modification I made and posted on Instagram, hence the branding on the images.

Modifications:


In the modified state (allowing me to carry it more), this knife has proven itself over and over and has become a firm favourite. The positive rake makes the blade attack each cut eagerly, with the full flat grind slicing smoothly and efficiently. Its, lightness and pocket friendly finish and shape allow you to forget it is there until you need it. This is a knife I’ve gone from being uncertain of, to positively wanting to carry and use.

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
_______________________________________________

Organic ergonomic flowing lines.
Full Flat Grind S30V blade.
Easy to access opening hole.
Super slick flipping action.
Lightweight and easy to carry.
Blade rake makes for a positive cutting action.
Ambidextrous.

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

Handle very thin where the first two fingers grip.
The Compression lock can ‘nip’ you.

 

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.

Showcase: Chris Reeve Knives (CRK) Inkosi Upgrade / Customisation

Chris Reeve Knives have been creating superbly built classic knives for decades. Once you have made the commitment to this level of quality, the next logical step is to really put your stamp on it by adding embellishments and customisations. This showcase details the upgrades and customisations I have added to the standard Inkosi I reviewed early last year, and have been made possible only thanks to Tim Reeve’s (and the team at CRK’s) amazing attention to detail.

The Four Upgrades/Customisations/Options:

This knife is no drawer queen, and although I use without abusing I realise this is the best it is going to look, so for this showcase I have pulled out all the stops to capture it at its finest. Once old and showing its age I can look back at how it looked in its youth.

This Inkosi has been given four embellishments, any of which could be done on its own or combined with any of the others, and these are by no means the only options as the joy of customisation is that you can find what works for you.

Hawk Clip:

The first of the four updates has got to be the easiest and possibly most functional. CRK’s Hawk clip is a pocket clip that allows me like pocket clips. It has a ‘pinch-to-open’ design making fitting it to your pocket as easy as it gets and, as you can release it with a pinch, you get no pocket wear at all. Why can’t all pocket clips be like this? In this case it is a limited edition Hawk clip in a tumbled finish; typically they are bead blasted.

 

Adding a Wicked Edge:

Edges can be functional and sharp without being beautiful. Wicked Edge knife edges are beautiful and functional, and of course stunningly sharp. There is an investment in time to put a precise, even, polished edge on a blade, and an edge which in itself won’t last any longer, so the decision to have a Wicked Edge is more about the looks than ultimate performance. They just look so good.

 

Custom Engraved Handle:

And now the jewel in the crown. Tim Reeve has been designing and making limited run custom engraved handle designs, adding another level of interest to the CRK lineup. That said, in this case it is a special one-off engraved handle designed and executed by an artist. You’ll also notice this is not an engraving made on the original handle scale, but instead is a replacement which is able to simply swap out the original handle thanks to the super precision of all CRK knife parts.

 

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

Belt Pouch:

Once you have taken the care to make your CRK knife your own, do you want to let it roll around with your pocket change, or hang onto the edge of your pocket, or would you rather provide it with a secure carry option? In fitting with the quality of CRK, the belt pouch offered to house and carry it is of equivalent quality but in leather. If you are a specialist in crafting metal, then instead of changing focus for the leatherwork, CRK have their pouches made by Gfeller, a well respected maker, and one that can live up to the CRK logo it bears.

A minor note is that the Hawk clip does make the fit into this pouch a bit tighter, but it does fit OK and the leather will accommodate it more over time. The knife with original clip slips into the pouch more easily.

 

The complete Upgrade:

The best it will ever look, and captured for posterity, this is the Inkosi wearing all it finery. It’s going to be carried, it’s going to be used, and it will bear the signs of wear, so perhaps it will look even better in time.

 

Looking forward to seeing the Impinda with custom scales. What will you choose for your CRK?

Showcase: Spyderco Shaman – The knife that nearly passed me by

While the latest ‘stand-out’ designs compete for our attention, often it is the quiet ones you need to look out for, and for me, this is what the Spyderco Shaman is. I very nearly passed this by while at IWA 2018 as it is a plain looking knife with stonewashed blade and matt handle – nothing exciting. Well thanks to Joyce at Spyderco, I didn’t miss out on this fantastic knife that nearly flew under the radar. This is not just a bigger ‘Native’, it is much more than that.

Gallery:

A quick note before you dive into the gallery; look out for the excellent ergonomics – with the Shaman, Spyderco have rounded all the handle edges of the matt finish G-10 handles, and this makes for a completely different feel for the knife, almost getting on for the feeling of a fixed blade. The compression lock keeps the lock out of the way of the grip nicely, and the finger choil and thumb jimping give a super secure grip. This one just feels right in the hand and pocket.

BESS Certified sharpness testing:

Before we get to the photos, also included in this showcase are the results of the factory edge sharpness testing. These are impressive results; see the gallery for the certificates.

The BESS ‘C’ scale of sharpness, was developed by Mike Brubacher (Brubacher Edge Sharpness Scale).

 
The Shaman’s factory edge has an average BESS ‘C’ sharpness of 211. At this sharpness it easily and cleanly slices 80gsm copier paper, and will shave hair from your arm. Spyderco reliably supply very sharp factory edges, and this, though not the best, is at the sharpness I would aim to re-sharpen a knife to, so more than adequate.

Don’t let the Spyderco Shaman pass you by, it is much more knife than its unassuming looks might indicate.

 

Discussing the Showcase:

The ideal place to freely discuss these 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, or start, a discussion.

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

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

News: Sharpest Knife Competition at Knives UK 2018 – The Results

It Happened! The first ‘Sharpest Knife’ competition of its kind in a public access show in the Northern Hemisphere. Eyes were opened, hopes dashed, legends toppled, shock results revealed, and a winner who could not believe it! Drama and enlightenment added to a day of excitement at Knives UK 2018, with the vast array of beautifully hand crafted knives and tools, what more could you ask for?

Let the contest begin:

The Winner.

I was so busy I didn’t have time to get round all the Knives UK exhibitors, so this is a whistle-stop tour that does not do the show justice, merely giving a brief glimpse of it.

 
See Announcement: The ‘Sharpest Knife’ Competition at KnivesUK 2018 for more details.
 

Knife Review: Hinderer Knives XM-Slippy

Hinderer Knives’ XM-Slippy was designed to answer the high demand from the European market for a Rick Hinderer knife that could be carried in areas with more restrictive knife carry laws; as its name suggests, it is a slip-joint knife. The knife was debuted at IWA 2017 and is currently entering into its second production run. The XM-Slippy shown in this review is a first run knife and externally there is no visible change when compared to the second run. Designed to be as universally EDC legal as possible, the thumb disc can easily be removed for two-handed opening if required.

New Review Format 2018!

Tactical Reviews is known for very detailed reviews using many high quality images. This has meant quite a lot of scrolling to read most reviews. In the new format, the review contains ‘responsive image galleries’ to better display these images as a slide show with captions.
NOTE: On a PC it is best to use the arrow keys to move through the images. Captions can be hidden by clicking the small ‘x’ in the caption box. To enable them again, close the gallery and reopen it.

A few more details:

What’s in the box?:


A good look round the XM-Slippy – Things to look out for here are:

This example has the VERY orange G10 handles, but the XM-Slippy is also available in much more neutral colours. The stonewashed steel pocket clip is fitted by default in the tip down position and is pretty thick and sturdy (also read ‘stiff’).
One design aspect needs a little more attention; the smoothing/easing of all edges. A very obvious example of this are the edges of the back-spring, and the bevelled edges provide shadow lines along the back of the handle. The fact all edges are eased/rounded gives it a distinct look and feel and a great comfort in the hand and pocket. Some might criticise the fact that the H doesn’t look as tight as they would expect, but this is as it should be; the combination of the easing and the fact there is an internal stop-pin results in this appearance, the blade itself is spot on and perfectly positioned.
Peering into the liners, you can see the very end of the clip screws just coming through the liner, but there is no contact with the blade; it does mean the screws are as stable as they possibly could be as they fill the threaded hole completely.


Rick Hinderer’s Thumb Disc:

The Hinderer adjustable thumb disc uses a small grub screw (0.035″ Allen key) to secure it in place. The Thumb Disc channel is the same on both sides of the CPM20CV blade, forming a T-shaped section that the thumb disc slides onto. The thumb disc can be positioned anywhere along the channel, or removed, allowing the user to find the best location for them.


The XM-Slippy with Thumb Disc removed:

If you need to disable OHO or prefer the look without the thumb disc you have the choice as the thumb disc can be completely removed.
The thumb disc slot also acts like a large nail-nick giving you something to grip to open the blade.

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.

While at IWA 2018 I had the good fortune to be able to talk to Rick Hinderer about this knife.

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

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 CPM20CV 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 XM-Slippy’s factory edge has an average BESS ‘C’ sharpness of 399. This was a show exhibit knife, so I would not comment on the absolute sharpness after all the handling and trying out it has had. As it was, the edge didn’t appear to have any rolling or damage, and with this edge would slice 80gsm well enough although not the cleanest of cut.
For testing I have taken the edge to a 30 degree inclusive angle and a BESS score of 200, at which point it is shaving arm hair with ease.

What it is like to use?

Colour is a matter of taste, and for me the Orange is perfect. I like to see where I’ve put down important tools, or worst case dropped/lost, but moving beyond the Oranginess…
There is a finesse to the overall finish which starts to sink in the more you use it. The XM-SLippy, has only one sharp edge, exactly where it should be. All the other corners are smoothed so that nothing catches on your hands, gloves or pockets. I cannot stress enough how much this adds to the quality feel as nothing ‘jars’ while you handle or use it. Some knives have an unrelenting crispness to their finish and this can mean that edges are sharp, the corners of liners, blade stop, back-spring etc, all of which can become fatiguing to your hands and pockets – not so with the XM-Slippy.
Many slip-joints use a half-stop position for the blade, and in a two handed opener I don’t object to this, but for a one-handed-opener, I find this a big no-no. The XM-Slippy has no half-stop, so the blade swings out smoothly all the way to snap into the open position without interruption. In my view this is exactly as it should be for a OHO, slip-joint or not. There are some that argue that the half-stop add to the safety in case of accidental closing, so the blade doesn’t close on your fingers. I’d counter that by saying that if your slip-joint is closing on you, you are not using it correctly, and if you have sufficient force to start closing the blade onto your fingers it is quite likely to keep going through a half-stop anyway. Rick has definitely got this right.
A design feature shown in the gallery is the relatively large choil. This is not really a finger choil, though can be used as such carefully, and it is too large for a sharpening choil. Instead its design purpose is so that if the blade is closed onto your fingers, it is the choil that actually hits your finger (see gallery) giving you some protection from injury.
Being based on the XM platform, the look is of course familiar, but it also includes some jimping which might be a little overkill for a slip-joint. The forward thumb grip is useful, but clearly when applying a lot of force with a slip-joint you need to be careful. There is jimping for a reverse grip and I’d say it is wholly unsuitable to use a slip-joint with a reverse grip, so don’t take its presence as a suggestion to use the XM-Slippy like this.
Rick has designed in easy user customisation for the XM-Slippy; starting with the pocket clip, which has two options, tip-up or tip-down. Keeping the refined finish complete, there is a blanking plate to fill in the alternate clip position, and swapping the pocket clip position is nice and easy. Using a standard Phillips screwdriver, simply undo the two screws holding the pocket clip and the two holding the blanking plate. Swap round and replace the screws…but wait, there is the next part. With the pocket clip off the knife, there is only a single screw holding the handle scale on. Take out that last screw and the G10 scale can be lifted off. Its fit is beautifully precise. A nice feature when swapping the handle scales is that with the scale removed, the knife is still fully functional, as the liners are held together with other fixings.
This example is fitted with the Hinderer ‘slicer’ blade which is an excellent general purpose blade shape for an EDC knife.
Is the adjustable thumb disc a gimmick? Maybe, maybe not. Though I can never see the extreme positions you could put the disc being used by anyone, the length of the thumb disc slot looks right for the proportions of the blade. Even small adjustments can make a big difference for your experience of using the knife, so don’t be afraid to move it about and try. I’ve settled on a position that is different to all my other knives with thumb stud /disc. Then of course you can take it off, if you are visiting an area where the law does not permit one-handed-opening. I have found the thumb disc slot does collect a bit of pocket dust, but nothing compared to a pivot or the handles, so not to worry, and anything other than a perfectly plain blade will fail the ‘peanut butter’ test anyway.
The factory/show edge needed attention before I started to really use it, and the CPM20CV proved to be very easy to sharpen and took a razor edge with very little work. My current sharpening method is to use a small belt sander (120 grit with a light touch) with bevel angle guide to reprofile to 15 degrees per side followed by a good stropping with a polishing compound, the edge on this blade simply wanted to be super sharp.

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
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
High quality fit and finish. Expensive when compared to most slip-joint knives.
Adjustable / removable thumb disc. Pocket clip a bit tight for my taste.
All edges smoothed making it especially hand and pocket friendly.
CPM20CV steel takes a super sharp edge (with ease – depending on your sharpener).
Pocket clip can be positioned for tip-up or tip-down use.
Simple to replace/change handle scales.

 

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.

Showcase: BUCK 110 Hunter and Hunter Pro

Buck’s 110 Folding Hunter has been a firm favourite since its release in 1963, and is probably the most copied folding knife design in existence. Its traditional mixture of brass and wood (Macassar Ebony Dymondwood), along with the elegant lines and simple lock-back mechanism, has made it a classic with enduring appeal. Now brought up to date in terms of materials with the 110 Folding Hunter Pro using S30V blade steel and Nickel Silver with G10 handle inserts, you can now keep the traditional style but not compromise on blade performance if you need the extra edge retention the S30V will give you.

BESS Certified sharpness testing:

Before we get to the photos, also included in this showcase are the results of the factory edge sharpness testing. These are impressive results; see the gallery for the certificates.

The BESS ‘C’ scale of sharpness, was developed by Mike Brubacher (Brubacher Edge Sharpness Scale).

The 110 Folding Hunter’s factory edge has an average BESS ‘C’ sharpness of 206. At this sharpness it easily and cleanly slices 80gsm copier paper, and will shave the hair from your arm. The 110 Folding Hunter Pro’s factory edge has an even more impressive average BESS ‘C’ sharpness of 195.

Gallery:

Now for the tour around the two versions of this classic knife design; enjoy! (Click on any image to enter the gallery viewer)

 

Discussing the Showcase:

The ideal place to freely discuss these 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: 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.

 

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