Knife Review: Lionsteel M4

If the Lionsteel M4 is not on your list of candidates for a utility / bushcraft / general purpose fixed blade knife, it should be. It is not a new model at the time of this review, now entering its third year of production, and the Mik Molletta designed M4 from Lionsteel seemingly finds that perfect – just right – size, weight and balance. Once you pick a M4 up, it feels like it was made for you, and simply belongs in your hand.

A few more details:

The M4 featured in this review is the Olive wood handled version. Given a choice, I thought what better handle material for a knife that is Italian designed and made (and grown).

What’s in the box?:


A good look round the M4 – Things to look out for here are:

Starting with the sheath, it is clear as you look through the photos how well made this sheath is.


Then the M4 itself. Lionsteel’s premium quality of manufacture shines through in every detail. The faithful reproduction of Mik Molletta’s design, including the sculpted handle, makes this a pleasure to handle and use.


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 has generously given his time to explain design choices, and give some background to the M4. The descriptions in this section come from our discussion.


The M4 was actually designed some time ago and because the project was so satisfying, Mik decided to propose it to Lionsteel.

Intended as a little multipurpose knife, the size and shape of the blade (A) allows excellent versatility in all aspects of outdoor life. The finger guard (B) has been sized in order to stop it being cumbersome but still protect the hand, and it also provides an easy reference for the index finger.

A spear point (C) was chosen as it is versatile and robust, and allows you to do hard work. For its size the M4 has quite a thick blade, this thickness (D) was chosen because the knife is still a tool that can be called upon to perform even heavy work like batoning.

M390 (D) is one of few stainless steels that with specific heat treating can have secondary hardening. It is Mik’s opinion that tempering this steel in the ordinary way, as most of the cutlery does, does not fully exploit the potential of this steel.

The flat grind (E) is ‘high’ but not ‘full’. Having a full thickness part of the blade reinforces it and makes it suitable for heavier work.

Mik’s designs tend to include a sharpening choil (F). This is because during the subsequent sharpening, if there were not the choil, that part of the edge would be rounded up because it would not be able to contact the stones properly. This would result in having a long piece of edge that cannot be sharpened which ends up growing over time.

The handle is bolted (G) on instead of riveted. In Mik’s opinion, bolts are a better fastener for more durable tools. Rivets can yield or loosen and cannot be tightened.

Handle shaping (H) is a careful process of sculpting the form while looking at the fit into Mik’s own hand.

When it came to the sheath design (I), this was collaboration between Mik and Gianni. The double stitching (J) guarantees greater durability at the cost of a small increase in size.

For left-handed users (K), Mik and Lionsteel are thinking of making some specific sheath or modular sheath like the one on M7, that can also be used by left-handed users.

The butt of the knife has an exposed tang (M), and can be used to strike or press.

When asked about the palm swell (N) Mik commented – during use of the knife, the hand tends to move on the handle to look for the most comfortable grip. It happens naturally. A pronounced palm swell limits this possibility. On the big knives, like the M7, the bigger palm swell helps to hold the knife firmly.

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?

Big knives; who doesn’t love them?! But the reality is that most of your normal ‘utility’ tasks are far better served with a smaller, lighter and more agile knife.

I have a confession – I very nearly passed over this knife. It doesn’t shout for attention amongst many other fine blades, and your every-day working knife is easily overshadowed by the glamorous show knives. Please don’t make the same mistake – it has been one of those small revelations as to how good this knife is.

Reflecting a little more on why I nearly overlooked this, I think it may stem from the general attitude the UK has towards knives and knife carry. If you have ‘good reason’ to carry something more than a SAK, the appeal is to take that big camp knife out rather than the more useful and sensible sized utility knife.

Before you even get onto using the M4, it really shows its quality of manufacture which marks it out as something special.

For reference I wear XL sized gloves, so even with reasonably large hands this knife doesn’t feel too small. It is very comfortable and nimble in the hand. The blade length lends itself to those controlled power cuts without any excess blade waving around. You only make a power cut with the first inch or two of blade next to the handle anyway. With only a sharpening choil (instead of a finger choil) you have that optimum power with all fingers on the wooden handle.


If the blade had a slightly thinner blade, it would make slicing cuts through thicker materials easier and the knife a bit lighter. However Mik Molletta’s designs tend to err on the side of strength, and so the blade stock used is just that bit thicker than many knives this size. This adds a reassuring solidity to the design without really impacting on its cutting ability. I can only really see an issue if cutting a lot of thick cardboard or similar stiff sheet material – not really a concern here as the M4 is described as a ‘bushcraft’ knife.

In its role as a bushcraft knife, the thickness of the blade means that you won’t have any worries batoning with it, and also being a full tang knife, it is just not going to let you down by breaking. Also importantly here, the comfort of the handle means you can carry out a lot of wood preparation without it causing fatiguing or creating hot-spots. Just going back to the blade thickness again, combined with the rounded spine, it is very comfortable to place your thumb on the spine for extra pressure or control.

As you will see in the summary section, I’ve been struggling to find things I don’t like about the M4. There are a couple of minor negatives. The first does not affect me, but is just to say that the sheath is right-handed only. The second has not yet fully become a problem, and might not, but I have found that when inserting the M4 into the sheath the blade tip has caught on the internal stitching of the belt loop. My worry is that if the threads get cut through they might unravel, and the belt loop then fail. I’ve started to be very careful and deliberate when sheathing the M4 to avoid this – not something I really want to think about.

The M4 is a superbly practical knife and in so many ways it is ‘just right’. Small and light enough for all-day carry without being weighed down. Large enough to be put to serious work. High performance steel without being impossible to sharpen. Strong enough to take everything in its stride. Manufacturing quality to make you smile without being ‘too good to 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
_______________________________________________

Super practical size.
Extremely well made.
Strong blade / full tang.
High performance steel.
Quality leather sheath.
Comfortable grip even for extended periods.
Beautiful Olive wood handle.

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

Sheath is only right handed.
Blade tip catches internal belt loop stitching when sheathed.

 

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 or start a new one.

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.

Sharpest Knife Competition at IWA 2019

This year at IWA, Tactical Reviews is throwing down the gauntlet and asking the knife trade “How sharp can you go?”. OK, it’s actually a lot less formal than that, a ‘just for fun’ competition to see who can create the finest edge on a knife blade, by any means they choose.

Entry is free and open to all exhibitors and visitors to IWA 2019 (see rules below). There is no prize beyond the warm feeling the winner will have, knowing they had the ‘Sharpest Knife at IWA’.

Come and find me with the awesome people at Chris Reeve Knives in hall 5, stand 5-135, on Sunday 10th March between 16:00 and 17:00. Get in early or you might miss out.

How is the sharpness measured? Using a PT50A BESS Certified sharpness tester:

The BESS ‘C’ scale of sharpness, developed by Mike Brubacher (Brubacher Edge Sharpness Scale) will be used to determine how sharp each knife edge is. The ‘Edge on Up’ PT50A tester uses a certified test media fibre and records the force required to cut it. The lower the score the better. As an example, a typical Morakniv factory edge scores around 250. See this guide:


Every knife tested will be given an official sharpness score and certificate. A measurement will be taken initially in the centre of the blade, then the heel, then the tip, and an average value taken. This will test the sharpness over the entire blade, not just the easiest part to sharpen.

‘The Sharpest Knife’ Competition – IWA 2019

Rules:

  1. Open to all knives, custom-made or production. – No Razors allowed.
  2. Kitchen knives, though allowed, are NOT eligible to be overall winner; they have been found to have too much of an advantage, so may be entered for an honourable mention only.
  3. Any knife deemed not to be in the spirit of the ‘sharpest knife’ contest will be disallowed (surgical/laboratory etc.).
  4. Open to anyone – Professional / Maker / Amateur / User.
  5. Knives must be submitted either folded or sheathed, with the cutting edge covered.
  6. Each knife will initially have a single measurement taken. If the result is within 50 BESS of the leading entry, further measurements may be taken (at the discretion of the tester).
  7. Subject to the previous rule, each qualifying knife will then have a set of three measurements taken along the blade (centre, heel and tip) with the average BESS score counting as the result.
  8. In the case of a draw, the lowest individual score will be used for secondary ranking. If there is still a draw, the first one tested will win.
  9. The tester’s results are final – No knife may be entered twice.

The winner will be announced at close of the competition.

IMPORTANT: You undertake the competition at your own risk and your health and safety is your own responsibility. By taking part in this competition, you agree to indemnify the organisers and their agents against all costs, losses, damages, injuries, expenses and liabilities suffered as a result of your participation. No liability can be accepted for damage to any knife entered.
 

Knife Review: Spyderco Hundred Pacer

What are your first impressions of the Spyderco Hundred Pacer? Well, it certainly is an unusual looking knife with an unusual name and design inspiration, and I’ll admit to being sceptical about the look of this knife.
But, whatever your first impressions are, I can say that this knife has proven itself again and again throughout the testing process to be as potent as its namesake. The Hundred Pacer is the result of a collaboration with a Taiwanese knife designer and enthusiast Jonny Liao, who manages to bring together potentially ungainly serpentine shapes into a stunningly effective cutting tool.

A few more details:

What’s in the box?:


A good look round the Spyderco Hundred Pacer – Things to look out for here are:

You can’t really miss the design references to the snake the knife is named after. Even under the closest scrutiny the quality of manufacture stands out.


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 Joyce Laituri from Spyderco about this knife.

Firstly here is the standard description from Spyderco:
The Hundred Pacer is a truly unique folding knife design inspired by a deadly Taiwanese viper with a distinctive “horned” nose. Its venom is reputedly so toxic that a person bitten by it could only walk a hundred paces before expiring. Designed by knife enthusiast Jonny Liao, the Spyderco Hundred Pacer translates the sweeping lines of the snake’s head into a broad, dramatically curved, full-flat-ground blade. The satin-finished PlainEdge™ blade is crafted from premium CTS® XHP powder metallurgy stainless steel and features a fully accessible Trademark Round Hole™ for swift, positive, one-handed opening with either hand.

To replicate the look and feel of the snake’s skin, the knife’s stunning handle scales are meticulously machined from layered G-10 to create a non-slip texture and contrasting color pattern. Skeletonized stainless steel liners nested within the scales complement the handle’s open-backed construction to minimize the knife’s weight, while providing a solid foundation for its sturdy LinerLock mechanism. A reversible deep-pocket wire clip supports discreet, ambidextrous, tip-up carry and keeps the Hundred Pacer poised and instantly accessible.

An image from mitbbs.com of the Hundred Pacer snake.

The following are a few insights into the design courtesy of Joyce:
Jonny designed the knife to have a very wide flat ground blade, shaped to be reminiscent of the head of the Hundred Pacer snake. If you are not familiar with this snake, a quick Google of it reveals he did a very good job pulling off the form of the snake. The handle is textured G-10 with a bidirectional pattern to offer tactile resistance. The original prototype had a two tone handle that was vividly reminiscent of the snake’s colouring, but Spyderco opted for the coyote brown handle with the milled texturing.
With the Hundred Pacer, the surprising thing is once you get it in your hand; as large as it is, and as wide as the blade is, it is incredibly lightweight and incredibly comfortable to hold; add to this the upswept blade being such a powerful cutter and you have an extremely effective knife.
The CTS XHD steel used for the blade is a US made steel, and is shipped over to Taichung where Hundred Pacer is manufactured.

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 CTS-XHP steel.

Take note of that average BESS Score of just 156. This is truly exceptional, and is the sharpest factory edge I have come across.

What it is like to use?

Once you handle this knife, it all makes sense. There are knives I do not find visually appealing, yet once in your hands they just work. The Hundred Pacer from Spyderco is one of these. In fact its abilities are making its looks more appealing, as you start to understand why it looks like it does.

When folded, the large hump of metal around the opening hole is there because this knife has such a wonderfully wide blade. This same large lump of metal makes the opening hole even more accessible, and the opening action super fast. It then provides an effective thumb ramp once the blade is open. Completely function, although making the folded knife appear a little ungainly.

The snake-head shaped butt of the handle forms a grip-hook that provides extreme stability during use, so the odd appearance really does make sense.


For me there is only one minor change that improves the Hundred Pacer, and that is the addition of a sharpening choil. There are some cuts when this can create a ‘hang-up’, but the benefits outweigh the possible pitfalls for me. In adding a sharpening choil, it also allows the entire cutting edge bear down onto a cutting surface. Amongst other things, this knife’s slicing ability works fantastically well in the kitchen, and I use this roughly 50% of the time for food related tasks; this modification makes it significantly better for use on a cutting board.

Shown here with a small batch of knives that I added a sharpening choil to.


Don’t be too quick to judge this knife by its appearance. Certainly some will like the different looks, but I suspect most initially will not. The Hundred Pacer proves itself utterly worthy of your consideration thanks to its fantastic performance and handling.

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
_______________________________________________

Superb handling.
A real ‘Super-Slicer’.
High quality fit and finish.
Ambidextrous.
Great grip.
High performance CTS XHP Steel.

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

Unusual appearance.

 

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: Chris Reeve Knives Nyala (Insingo blade)

Chris Reeve Knives’ Nyala fixed blade knife (first released in 2010) is a classic skinner / utility knife. Available in a drop-point, or, as featured here, the Insingo style blade (a modified Wharncliffe), and coming in a traditional leather pouch-sheath. Despite being a modern contemporary design, it achieves a timeless feel and benefits from the best manufacturing and materials you could ask for.

A few more details:

Starting with the sheath:

A good sheath is as important as the knife it carries, and CRK have gone to leatherwork specialists Gfeller for the Nyala’s pouch sheath.


A good look round the Nyala – Things to look out for here are:

Simple, elegant and purposeful, the Nyala in detail. Look for the attention to detail in the design and refinement of every part of the knife.


The Blade and Handle – Detailed Measurements:

Now even more detailed!

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

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


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


The blade is made from CPM S35VN steel.

What it is like to use?

Being a fan of Chris Reeve Knives’ folding knives, I also ‘needed’ a Pacific fixed blade, but in all honesty had never really hankered after the Nyala. Something I’ll come back to is the handle sizing, which has always appeared a bit on the small side to my eyes and was another reason I had not pursued it. It is also a slightly understated knife design, but that happens to be part of its charm. As you would expect from CRK, there is an elegance and minimalism in the design which keeps things simple and effective, and does so without shouting about it – quiet and efficient.

Given the opportunity to try this knife out, I had the choice of the drop-point, or CRK’s Insingo blade style. The modified Wharncliffe works for me, as I do a lot of point work and like the way the entire edge presents itself forward for the type of cuts I make, so the insingo it was.

Following on from the earlier look at the sheath, I wanted to start this gallery with one of those details that just make all the difference. See how the jimping in the centre of the grip is positioned such that a couple of grooves are visible when sheathed. This gives your first finger a better grip to withdraw the knife from the sheath; a small detail but one that counts.

You can get a good idea of the sizing looking at the Nyala ‘in-hand’, a comfortable general purpose blade with the balance point in your hand. Without thinking, you find your thumb on the jimping provided for it; the width of the spine, and gentle rounding of it, provides a comfortable surface to press on.


So my concern over the size of the grip? Firstly, I’ll say that very much like a kitchen knife, the integral guard formed by the narrowing of the grip next to the blade makes it safe and secure. This narrowed grip also makes the Nyala nimble in the hand and great for fine, controlled, cuts. When assessing a knife handle I tend to think of the heavy cutting and how comfortable it will be when really pressing into the cuts. Actually the Nyala has surprised me, being comfortable enough with high effort cutting, even if not one I’d choose for extended periods of hard work. There is never any lack of grip from the milled micarta handles, the depth of the milled grooves can start to burn a bit after heavy use with bare hands. The balance of quality of grip vs comfort does seem just right for the shape / size of the handle.

The blade stock is a little thicker than I’d really want in this size of knife, but this allows for a comfortable thumb rest directly on the spine, and that extra strength is just lying in wait for a time you might really need it, which is never a bad thing.

Overall I’ve also been appreciating the simplicity and traditional vibes of the Nyala with its leather sheath. Now I’m wondering why I overlooked it for so long. It has been working as a really good all-rounder and has fallen into my regular rotation.

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
_______________________________________________

Back to basics, simple, elegant, design.
Quality traditional leather pouch sheath.
Nimble in the hand.
The handle works better than expected for heavy cutting.
Plenty of grip.
Insingo or drop-point blade options.
Refined finish and attention to detail.

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

Slim grip can become fatiguing during extended heavy cutting.
Milled handle grooves can be a bit unkind to bare hands during heavy cutting.

 

Discussing the Review:

The ideal place to discuss this reviews is on a forum. If you started reading the shorter forum version of the review, but followed the link this full exclusive review, please return to that forum to discuss the review there.
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: 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.

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What doesn’t work so well for me
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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.
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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)