Knife Review: Lionsteel T5 MI

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

The Blade and Handle Geometry:

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

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

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

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

The ‘Balance relative to the front of the handle’ tells you if the knife will feel front heavy, or if the weight is in your hand (a positive value means the weight is forward of the front of the handle). The ‘Balance relative to the centre of the handle’ indicates how close to a ‘neutral balance’ the knife has in the hand.

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

The blade is made from Niolox steel.

New for 2018! BESS Certified sharpness testing:

The BESS ‘C’ scale of sharpness, developed by Mike Brubacher (Brubacher Edge Sharpness Scale) will now become part of Tactical Reviews’ knife testing process. Initially this will be used to verify the sharpness of the factory edge and allow the knife to be brought to a minimum standard sharpness before testing a blade’s cutting performance.

The Lionsteel T5’s factory edge has an average BESS ‘C’ sharpness of 233. This original edge cleanly slices 80gsm copier paper with an edge cut, but won’t quite push cut it. It slices into the rounded edge of a doubled over sheet of the same 80gsm paper. It also will catch the edge of green Rizla paper and slice halfway through (cross ways), but not all the way.

Explained by the Maker:

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

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

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

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

Moving onto the other labelled photo of the sheath:

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

A few more details:

The T5 arrives in a cardboard box.

Inside, the sheathed T5 is otherwise unwrapped.

Along with the T5 is a small leaflet.

However, the blade is wrapped inside the sheath.

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

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

The leather is double stitched for maximum durability and lifespan.

The maker is cleanly embossed into the leather.

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

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

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

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

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

A close-up of the blade tip.

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

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

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

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

Grip texturing is machined into the handle surface.

Two stainless Torx bolts secure the handle to the tang.

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

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

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

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

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

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

An extremely refined package.

This really is something special.

What it is like to use?

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

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

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

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

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

Review Summary

The views expressed in this summary table are from the point of view of the reviewer’s personal use. I am not a member of the armed forces and cannot comment on its use beyond a cutting tool or field/hunting knife.

Something that might be a ‘pro’ for one user can be a ‘con’ for another, so the comments are categorised based on my requirements. You should consider all points and if they could be beneficial to you.

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

 

Discussing the Review:

The ideal place to discuss this reviews is on a forum. If you started reading the shorter forum version of the review, but followed the link this full exclusive review, please return to that forum to discuss the review there.
If you read the review entirely on Tactical Reviews, please consider one of the following to join in any discussion.

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

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

Knife Review: Spyderco Bradley Bowie

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

The Blade and Handle Geometry:

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

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

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

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

The ‘Balance relative to the front of the handle’ tells you if the knife will feel front heavy, or if the weight is in your hand (a positive value means the weight is forward of the front of the handle). The ‘Balance relative to the centre of the handle’ indicates how close to a ‘neutral balance’ the knife has in the hand.

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

The blade is made from PSF27 steel.

New for 2018! BESS Certified sharpness testing:

The BESS ‘C’ scale of sharpness, developed by Mike Brubacher (Brubacher Edge Sharpness Scale) will now become part of Tactical Reviews’ knife testing process. Initially this will be used to verify the sharpness of the factory edge and allow the knife to be brought to a minimum standard sharpness before testing a blade’s cutting performance.

The Bradley Bowie’s factory edge has an average BESS ‘C’ sharpness of 374. This original edge will slice thicker paper/card, but although it bites into the edge, it starts to tear thinner paper rather than cut.

Explained by the Maker:

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

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

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

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

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

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

A few more details:

Standard Spyderco packaging is used for the Bradley Bowie.

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

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

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

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

And there it is, kept pristine by the wrappings.

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

The back of the sheath…next onto some details.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Both hollow pins are the same size.

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

The full thickness tang is prominent in the slim handle.

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

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

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

The swedge extends over two thirds of the blade length.

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

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

What it is like to use?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review Summary

The views expressed in this summary table are from the point of view of the reviewer’s personal use. I am not a member of the armed forces and cannot comment on its use beyond a cutting tool or field/hunting knife.

Something that might be a ‘pro’ for one user can be a ‘con’ for another, so the comments are categorised based on my requirements. You should consider all points and if they could be beneficial to you.

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

 

Discussing the Review:

The ideal place to discuss this reviews is on a forum. If you started reading the shorter forum version of the review, but followed the link this full exclusive review, please return to that forum to discuss the review there.
If you read the review entirely on Tactical Reviews, please consider one of the following to join in any discussion.

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

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

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

Knife Review: Cold Steel Espada XL G-10

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

The Blade and Handle Geometry:

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

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

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

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

The ‘Balance relative to the front of the handle’ tells you if the knife will feel front heavy, or if the weight is in your hand (a positive value means the weight is forward of the front of the handle). The ‘Balance relative to the centre of the handle’ indicates how close to a ‘neutral balance’ the knife has in the hand.

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

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

A few more details:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The G-10 version is made in Taiwan.

The sweeping clip echoes the lines of the curved handle.

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

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

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

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

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

An overall view of those steel liners.

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

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

Getting ready to bite!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What it is like to use?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zooming in on the two-part washer.

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

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

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

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

Review Summary

The views expressed in this summary table are from the point of view of the reviewer’s personal use. I am not a member of the armed forces and cannot comment on its use beyond a cutting tool or field/hunting knife.

Something that might be a ‘pro’ for one user can be a ‘con’ for another, so the comments are categorised based on my requirements. You should consider all points and if they could be beneficial to you.

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

 

Discussing the Review:

The ideal place to discuss this reviews is on a forum. If you started reading the shorter forum version of the review, but followed the link this full exclusive review, please return to that forum to discuss the review there.
If you read the review entirely on Tactical Reviews, please consider one of the following to join in any discussion.

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

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

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

Gear Review: Wicked Edge Advanced Alignment Guide and Low Angle Adapter

This is a supplementary review to the Wicked Edge ‘Field and Sport’ Sharpener Review as it covers two optional extras that extend the functionality of a Wicked Edge Sharpener. The Low angle adapter has been around for some time, but the Advanced alignment guide is a recent addition which further enhances the precision of the sharpener.

The Low Angle Adapter is a clamp extension for a Wicked Edge sharpener which allows for angles as low as 10°. The Advanced Alignment Guide provides measurable reference points for repeatable knife mounting. It allows a Wicked Edge user to be able to tilt a knife in the clamp to find the optimum knife positioning and record the setting so the mounting position can be repeated during the next sharpening session.

Low Angle Adapter – A few more details & What it is like to use?:

For this supplementary review it makes more sense to combine the different sections I normally use, so we will look at each of these optional extras and how to use them at the same time.

Unpacking the low angle adapter.

The main body of this clamp extension is black anodised aluminium.

An area is milled out of the adapter for the sharpener’s standard clamp jaws to slide into and grip.

The other side has a different profile as there is the adapters blade clamp plate.

Taking this blade clamp completely off shows the milled pocket into which it sits. The milled out areas on each side (for the sharpener’s clamp and the adapter’s blade clamp) ensure precise alignment of all parts of the adapter during use.

To clearly illustrate what this low angle adapter does, here is the standard clamp of the Wicked Edge, and at the low angle set for the stone, the stone is hitting the clamp jaw, so won’t reach the knife edge (unless the knife is very deep).

With the guide rod at the same angle, fitting the low angle adapter allows the stone to completely clear the main clamp and work on a knife blade fitted into the adapter.

All standard angles are still available even with the low angle adapter, but remember the scale on the main clamp will now not be exactly correct as the height of the blade has changed. Make sure you note down the fact the that adapter was used along with the angle shown on the scale for the guide rod.

Advanced Alignment Guide – A few more details & What it is like to use?:

With the Wicked Edge system you note down the various settings used for each blade so that in subsequent sharpening sessions you can repeat the angles precisely, reducing the amount of metal removed. The Advanced Alignment Guide gives you a further level of precision for the positioning of the blade in the clamp, and allows you to angle the blade and record the exact position you used.

When it arrives, the guide has a protective film to ensure you get it completely free of marks.

With the protective film removed you can see the grid printed onto the guide and two holes which are used to fit the guide to your sharpener.

Before this alignment guide was made, you had to use the simple ruler scale built into the clamp to position the blade, relying on the blade spine to sit squarely onto the depth key.

To use the new guide, when you fit the two pronged depth key into the clamp, first pass the prongs through the holes in the alignment guide and then into the clamp. Now you have a 2D labelled grid which allows you to precisely position and record where the blade tip is set. This also means you no longer have to put the blade spine down onto both depth key prongs and can rock it one way or the other to better present the knife edge for sharpening. Another level of precision.

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
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Finer Edge Angles available. Relatively expensive.
Smaller blades can be sharpened.
Blade positioning even more repeatable. Doesn’t sit against a flat surface so can move backwards and forwards.
Much easier than the standard ruler.

 

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.

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Knife Review: Extrema Ratio MAMBA

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

The Blade and Handle Geometry:

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

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

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

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

The ‘Balance relative to the front of the handle’ tells you if the knife will feel front heavy, or if the weight is in your hand (a positive value means the weight is forward of the front of the handle). The ‘Balance relative to the centre of the handle’ indicates how close to a ‘neutral balance’ the knife has in the hand.

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

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

A few more details:

The slimmest Extrema Ratio box I’ve come across.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another view of that locking notch.

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

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

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

What it is like to use?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And unsheathed as well.

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

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

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

Review Summary

The views expressed in this summary table are from the point of view of the reviewer’s personal use. I am not a member of the armed forces and cannot comment on its use beyond a cutting tool or field/hunting knife.

Something that might be a ‘pro’ for one user can be a ‘con’ for another, so the comments are categorised based on my requirements. You should consider all points and if they could be beneficial to you.

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

 

Discussing the Review:

The ideal place to discuss this reviews is on a forum. If you started reading the shorter forum version of the review, but followed the link this full exclusive review, please return to that forum to discuss the review there.
If you read the review entirely on Tactical Reviews, please consider one of the following to join in any discussion.

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

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

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

Knife Review: CRKT Homefront and Homefront Tactical with ‘Field Strip’ Technology

CRKT are full of interesting and innovative ideas, and with the Homefront and Homefront Tactical bring us ‘Field Strip’ Technology, or in other words tool-less disassembly. The design comes from world renowned Ken Onion and has been a work in progress for many years. Now thanks to this technology you can clean out a build up of grit and dirt wherever you are without any tools. Take your Homefront folder anywhere knowing you don’t need anything else with you to carry out a full strip and clean.

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 Homefront blade is made from AUS 8 steel and the Homefront Tactical from 1.4116 steel (also known as 420MoV or X50CrMoV15).

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.

A little description from CRKT’s of the Homefront:

“It might look like your grandpa’s classic WWII knife, but it’s got an impressive secret. The new Homefront™ knife is the first in our fleet to feature “Field Strip” technology. This in-field, no-tool take apart capability lets you purge your most reliable companion of a hard day’s grime right where you are, without ever returning to your workbench.

The breakthrough “Field Strip” innovation comes from the shop of world-renowned knife craftsman Ken Onion and has been over ten years in the making. To disassemble the Homefront™ when the knife is in the closed position, push the front release lever away from the blade, then spin the turn release wheel on the rear of the handle away from the pivot shaft. Once you feel the handle release, pull it up and away from the blade. Reassembly is as easy as reversing the procedure, al-lowing for practical, quick maintenance where you stand.

From his shop in Kaneohe, HI, Ken Onion designed the tactically inspired, everyday carry Homefront™ knife to stay true to its vintage roots. The bayonet lug-style flipper sets off the smooth open action of the 3.5” modified drop point blade, while tank jimping on the backstrap sits snugly against your palm.

It stands up to the looks of a WWI heirloom, and it sure as hell stands up to any job it encounters. The handles are made from 6061 aircraft-grade aluminium and house an impressively beefy AUS 8 stainless steel blade.”

A few more details of the Homefront:

This review covers the Homefront (green handle) and Homefront Tactical (black handle), but we are going to look at the original Homefront first. There are no boxes as these knives came straight from the CRKT IWA 2017 display stand at the end of the show. They have been handled and used.

The pivot has what appears to be the standard US aircraft star insignia (as used from 1942). The lever next to this is where the magic is hidden.

Apparently styled after a bayonet lug, the flipper tab has a hole in it. (Do not try to attach a lanyard here!)

Both handles have a subtle grip pattern. This appears to have been laser etched into the surface before anodising.

The other bit of magic, comes from the thumb-wheel screw that holds the butt of the knife together.

A steel pocket clip also gives you a hole for attaching a lanyard should you wish to.

Though not strictly a ‘liner-lock’, tucked neatly into the inner side of the Homefront’s aluminium handle is a sprung steel locking lever.

Blade centring is good, with the tip appearing slightly off due to the edge grind.

A Torx screw holds the jimped handle spacer in place on one side.

On the opposite side to the star insignia, the pivot has an adjustment screw that sets the height of the pivot bolt.

Right! Let’s take this knife apart. First loosen the thumb-wheel screw by pushing it away from the pivot. Keep going until the thread ‘clicks’ to indicate it is fully undone.

Flip the knife round and push the locking lever towards the flipper tab (with the knife folded).

Now, as you lift your thumb, the handles spring apart at the pivot.

As we had already loosened the thumb-wheel, the handle can now be lifted away, fully exposing the folded blade.

A closer look at the thumb-wheel while we can. Note the circlip; the wheel fits over the threaded bolt, and there is a little bit of play, with the wheel having some movement even when the connector is fully tightened.

And this is the magic pivot that lets it all happen. Note the hex-shaped head. The homefront also uses a concealed stop pin which limits the open and closed positions of the blade.

Look into the hole of the handle we removed first, and you can see the hex shaped hole that locks onto the top of the special pivot bolt.

If you forget how you took it apart, or somehow it just ‘came apart in your hands’, inside the handle is a set of instructions for putting it back together again.

When stripped you have the three main components, the master handle (with pivot, stop pin, lock bar and thumb wheel screw), the blade, and the second handle.

While it is fully stripped this is a closer look at the special pivot, stop pin and the detent ball on the end of the lock bar.

So, not a ‘liner’ , this lock bar is inset into the aluminium handle, but functions exactly as a liner lock.

The blade tang has the pivot hole and a semi-circular stop pin slot. The markings in the hole suggest this is a stamping and is not water jet cut.

A really good looking blade with swell near the tip and a fuller, giving it a classic look.

Ken Onion is credited on the blade. On this side of the blade you can see the detent hole.

A close-up of the blade tip, showing the contrast in surface finish and the edge bevel grind.

With one handle removed you get a cut-away view of the workings of this knife.

Lock engagement is good with the entire lock bar touching the blade tang with a firm snap-open.

And in no time at all it is all back together.

The Homefront achieves a real vintage look, despite not looking like any historical knife I’ve found.

A few more details of the Homefront Tactical:

Next we have one of the second wave of Homefront models where instead of the aluminium handles, these have Glass Reinforced Nylon handles and a different blade steel. This is the Homefront Tactical, with a part-serrated Tanto blade

The design and shape of the handle is the same as the original Homefront, including the pivot star insignia.

In terms of the function and design the GRP handled version is basically the same. Here we have the thumb wheel.

And the same steel clip.

That bayonet lug flipper. However note that this time the blade is black. It has an EDP finish (electronically deposited paint, which is baked on).

A hint of bare steel with the lock bar. We will see that this time it is actually a liner.

Although the same grip pattern is used, in this version the width of each line is wider than on the original Homefront. Of course, in this case it is moulded into the surface instead of being laser etched.

Going straight for a field strip, exactly as with the Homefront; here the handle is off.

The internal curve of the handle spacer is a match to the Homefront’s blade, but here we have a tanto. Clearance is still good. The spacer is also now GRP instead of metal.

As before, the pivot has a hex shaped head.

Now we see one of the major differences. With the handle being plastic, it cannot have the lock bar screwed to it. Instead there is a full metal liner moulded into the inside of the handle.

This full metal liner also has the stop pin fixed to it and supports the pivot. The dirt around the detent ball on the lock bar is worn off paint from the blade.

A Teflon bushing acts as the pivot washer. You can see the outline of a metal liner inside the moulded handle. Two screws hold the pivot locking mechanism together.

Apart from the cutting edge, the entire blade is EDP coated.

EDP is just paint, so where the detent ball rubs on the blade tang, the paint has been scratched off.

Looking at the finish on the edge bevel grind.

There are part serrations near the handle which are a chisel grind (single bevel) and have two sizes of scallop.

The all black Homefront Tactical.

And there is more when you put these two together…

What are they like to use?

Headlined as a ‘field strip’ technology, it could also be an ‘easy disassembly’ feature. You can take the Homefront apart anywhere, but you can also pop it apart any time for a quick service, not only when it needs a major overhaul. By making the deep-clean a super easy process, you are much more likely to keep these knives in top condition all the time.

The styling of these knives is mentioned prominently by CRKT. The Homefront is described as a remake of grandpa’s WWII, and the Tactical as a classic WWI knife and though there is a vintage look; firstly I suspect the WWI reference is a mistake as the US Airforce aircraft marking Star Insignia was a WWII design, and secondly I would disagree that it is like any WWII folder, certainly none I’ve ever seen.

Let me make it very clear that I really like the design and styling, which definitely has a vintage look, and incorporates design features that do give a modern interpretation of a WWII knife. My disagreement is with the statement that it looks like grandpa’s knife, show me a knife from WWII that looks like this and I’ll happily eat my words.

This is really not a negative as, in particular, I like the choice of colour for the handle of the Homefront along with the finish of the blade steel and the inclusion of a fuller. Overall a really stylish design that stands out from the crowd.

Moving on to how it is in the hand, that most crucial aspect, and this is a good sized folder with plenty of handle to give a stable grip. The handle has an area of grip positioned perfectly for the thumb to sit on when using a saber style grip. It is a relatively slim aluminium slab handle, yet its shaping allows it to fit into the hand very comfortably. Not so well that I’d want to do a lot of heavy cutting with it, but well enough to find it regularly in my pocket.

The Homefront Tactical has the same ergonomics, as the handle shape is exactly the same, but the nylon GRP material gives it a different feel, warmer, slightly lighter and a slightly different balance. It does not feel diminished compared to the original Homefront, just a different option. It may only be around 13g lighter, but does feel easier to carry.

Talking of options, should you have more than one of the Homefront models you can mix things up a bit and try a different blade or handle. Have a look at this short video to see this and the ‘field strip’ in action.

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

Here the Homefront and Homefront Tactical have their original blades.

After a quick strip down and shuffle around, the blades are swapped over.

It is true that the fit and lock-up of the swapped blades are not perfect, with the GRP handle taking either blade with no issues, but the aluminium handle lacks the totally secure lock-up. Actually even with its original blade, the Homefront would benefit from a little adjustment of the end of the lock bar to increase lock engagement. This in turn would make the Tactical blade work better in this handle.

One potential weakness in the design is that the lever that is used to release the pivot could itself be fouled and prevented from operating. If this happens you might find you can’t field strip the knife after all; a consequence of having a ‘mechanism’ for releasing the pivot, as any mechanism can be fouled and jam.

With the popularity of the super slick flipper, the Homefront knives have a much more laid back action. With the (presumably) Teflon washers, the action is smooth but not super slick. The Homefront Tactical won’t lock without a flick of the wrist, and the Homefront needs a quick finger to get lock-up without a flick. Some might think this is a negative, but I like the relaxed feel, and a blade that doesn’t flop around easily when closing the blade.

Stylish, functional and so easy to maintain – I find myself taking it apart just because I can.

Review Summary

The views expressed in this summary table are from the point of view of the reviewer’s personal use. I am not a member of the armed forces and cannot comment on its use beyond a cutting tool or field/hunting knife.

Something that might be a ‘pro’ for one user can be a ‘con’ for another, so the comments are categorised based on my requirements. You should consider all points and if they could be beneficial to you.

_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Things I like What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Take apart with no tools (Field Strip). Potential for pivot release lever to be jammed with dirt.
Stylish, vintage design. Fixed pocket clip cannot be relocated.
Comfortable in the hand.
Smooth action.
Zero blade play (despite the Field Strip mechanism)

 

Discussing the Review:

The ideal place to discuss this reviews is on a forum. If you started reading the shorter forum version of the review, but followed the link this full exclusive review, please return to that forum to discuss the review there.
If you read the review entirely on Tactical Reviews, please consider one of the following to join in any discussion.

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

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

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

Knife Review: Zero Tolerance 0630 (Emerson Design)

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

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

The Blade and Handle Geometry:

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

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

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

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

The ‘Balance relative to the front of the handle’ tells you if the knife will feel front heavy, or if the weight is in your hand (a positive value means the weight is forward of the front of the handle). The ‘Balance relative to the centre of the handle’ indicates how close to a ‘neutral balance’ the knife has in the hand.

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

The blade is made from S35VN steel.

Explained by the Maker:

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

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

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

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

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

A few more details:

The 0630 comes in a cardboard box.

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

How to use the Wave Feature.

Tucked under the pocket clip is a silica gel packet.

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

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

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

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

The titanium framelock has a pleasing stonewashed finish.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 0630 has an open frame with black spacers.

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

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

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

A well rounded plunge line keeps maximum blade strength.

Love those grind lines.

Let’s put it to work…

What it is like to use?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review Summary

The views expressed in this summary table are from the point of view of the reviewer’s personal use. I am not a member of the armed forces and cannot comment on its use beyond a cutting tool or field/hunting knife.

Something that might be a ‘pro’ for one user can be a ‘con’ for another, so the comments are categorised based on my requirements. You should consider all points and if they could be beneficial to you.

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

 

Discussing the Review:

The ideal place to discuss this reviews is on a forum. If you started reading the shorter forum version of the review, but followed the link this full exclusive review, please return to that forum to discuss the review there.
If you read the review entirely on Tactical Reviews, please consider one of the following to join in any discussion.

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Showcase: BKS Gembloux 2017 Knife Show

The Belgian Knife Society Show in Gembloux is one of those exceptional events. Taking over the entire Gembloux Town Hall, this annual show attracts hundreds of knife makers from all over the world, and a flock of knife enthusiasts eager to see the amazing work on display (and buy a lot of it).

‘Showcase’ on Tactical Reviews:

The ‘Showcase’ is an opportunity for me to share some photographs, videos and thoughts about interesting or exceptional shows/exhibitions, knives, lights or other gear.

As well as all the exhibitors and demonstrations, the Belgian Knife Society (BKS) arranged for a couple of seminars. Tactical Reviews was there to record these excellent speakers and their words of wisdom.

The following videos are much longer than I would normally publish, but the information in them is very interesting and worth listening to. They are informal, so imagine you are really there in the room.

“The Complex Structure Of Viking Blades”

Owen Bush, (Bladesmith, Swordsmith and artist Blacksmith based in the London/Kent region of England – UK) explains the Viking forging techniques and using modelling clay Owen shows how the intricate pattern welded designs are formed in Damascus blades.

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

The Viking Sword: What It Was And What It Was Not

Peter Johnsson (SWE) is a specialist in white weapons and takes you on a journey through time: the swords of the Roman era, continental blades, the Anglo-Saxon sword and the weapons of Eastern Europe and how sword design evoloved with changing requirements.

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

Gallery:

This is a series of images from the show; enjoy!

 

Discussing a Showcase:

Please feel free to start a thread on any of the following forums as these are the ideal place to freely discuss it. If you started reading a forum thread that has brought you to this page, please return to that forum to discuss the Showcase there.

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

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

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

The Showcase featured image is of a sword by Owen Bush.

Knife Review: Spyderco SpydieChef

Sometimes it’s all in a name… and ‘SpydieChef’ immediately lets you know this is a small (folding and EDC-able) Spyderco Chef’s knife. Of course it is a blend of exotic ingredients, made to that special Spyderco recipe, and is capable of so much more than just chopping a few vegetables. The SpydieChef is designed to deal with all-round EDC tasks as well as kitchen duties, is built using ultra-corrosion-resistant materials (it is a member of Spyderco’s Salt Series), and is finished to the high level of quality that we have come to expect in Spyderco products.

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 LC200N steel, a state-of-the-art nitrogen-based alloy, which is extremely corrosion resistant and is actually used by NASA for the ball bearings used in aerospace applications.

A few more details:

Spyderco’s standard sleeve box is used for the SpydieChef.

Inside the box the knife comes in a bubble wrap bag along with a product information leaflet.

Let’s just take a moment to appreciate those lines…

Using flat Titanium handles and a Reeve Integral Lock keeps the design streamlined and simple.

The gently curving and elegant design is by the Polish custom knifemaker Marcin Slysz.

Being a Spyderco, we have a Spyderco wire pocket clip. This can be fitted to either side of the knife for a tip-up carry.

The alternate clip position with blanking screw. If you swap the clip side, you need to swap the screws round as they are different lengths. The Lanyard hole is lined to make it easy to fit cord through both sides of the handle.

A 12mm opening hole is comfortable to use for right-handers and has a nice cut-out in the handle to give easy access, but as you can see, the reverse of the hole is partially blocked by the lock bar, so this is not ideal for left-handers.

Details ‘make’ designs, and in this example, the finger guard formed by the handle titanium, and the spine of the blade have been positioned such that they line up when the blade is closed, keeping the outline of the closed knife smooth and tidy.

To make the SpydieChef easy to clean, small spacers have been used to give as much access as possible into the handle.

Here I’m showing two specific details of the lock-bar spring, the first is the thinning of the handle scale to reduce the spring tension, and the second is the stress-reducer hole drilled at the end of the lock-bar slot.

Similarly there is a stress-reducer hole drilled at the corner of the lock-bar cut out in the titanium scale.

Here the blade is in the closed position sitting against the stop pin. There is also a hint of that phosphor-bronze washer.

Lock engagement is excellent, with room to move as the lock wears, but with a positive overlap which won’t slip out under pressure or if knocked.

The open blade sitting onto the stop pin.

Though compact enough to fit into a folding pocket knife the Marcin Slysz blade design is immediately reminiscent of a kitchen knife. Marcin Slysz’s logo is included on this side of the blade.

The other side of the blade has the Spyderco branding as well as the steel specification.

Flowing lines sweep the blade tip nicely into the handles in the folded position.

A closer look at the blade tip. Note that the entire blade spine has had the edges eased so they are very slightly radiused and smooth.

What it is like to use?

We’ve had a good look round this knife, but what really counts is how it is to use and cut with. Take a special purpose knife and make it into a folder and you immediately introduce compromises, so this was always going to be a challenging design to get right. Also considering that the chef’s knife, by the very nature of being taken out of the kitchen and put into your pocket as an EDC blade, will now be used for so much more than just kitchen duties, so some compromises have to be made.

I’ve used other folding kitchen knives, and after considerable use and comparison, I’ve found the only advantage they had over the SpydieChef was a thinner blade. A thinner blade which only gave a slight advantage on a chopping board in a kitchen, and in no other situation when carrying the knife as an EDC blade. The thinner blade always flexed far too much for EDC tasks and become more of a liability than an benefit.

Before we look further at the SpydieChef in use, to give an idea of scale, here it is next to the Fällkniven F1 and a Spyderco UK Pen Knife. It is a very pocketable size knife which is helped by the slim profile, but has enough blade to be useful. Clearly you will struggle to chop large vegetables with this knife, but it is an EDC folder and not a substitute for a full sized Chef’s knife.

Something I do want to mention is that Spyderco definitely get the blade retention detent resistance right. The reason for mentioning this is that I’ve come across certain knives with integral locks where the detent is far too stiff and should you touch the lock bar when trying to open the blade you have had it, the blade is virtually locked in place – not so with the SpydieChef. The blade is perfectly secure in the closed position, so let’s get that clear, but then regardless of how you hold it, fingers on the lock bar or not, the blade opens with a slight resistance that is easily overcome with the 12mm opening hole. I don’t want to be thinking about how I have to hold a folded knife to open it (beyond the basics of which way the blade swings open), so this is a major factor and over stiff detents on integral locks have ruined otherwise good knives. Spyderco have consistently got this right and in this case I nearly forgot to mention it as I hadn’t noticed any issues or hang-ups opening this knife, so it went out of my mind.

Slim, flat slab handles can often become uncomfortable in use quite quickly, but their low profile makes them easy to carry. However, the curving handle of the SpydieChef does a very good job of resting over your fingers and sitting into your hand in a perfectly comfortable way despite its slim flat profile.

The SpydieChef sitting comfortably in my hand (XL glove size) with my forefinger nestled up to the integral finger guard.

Absolutely crucial for a kitchen knife is it ability to be used cutting down onto a chopping board. This requires clearance for the fingers when the edge is in contact with the board. As well as the clearance, it helps cutting control enormously to have a curved edge that allows you to rock the blade for fine chopping or to apply controlled cutting force to harder foods like nuts while keeping the edge in contact with the board. The geometry of the SpydieChef has this absolutely nailed, and I’ve been chopping away without rapping my knuckles and no food pinging off the board.

I mentioned it earlier, compared to an actual kitchen knife, the blade is thicker (an EDC compromise) and this does mean that the knife does not fall through firmer and larger vegetables like a thinner blade does. Instead you can get that slight snapping action at the end of the cut, but the full flat grind does a good job of parting the cut, and these crisp chestnut mushrooms which can be quite fragile and break up with wider blades have stayed in nice slices without cracking or other signs of stress.

It might not really be much of a challenge for a knife, but the combination of a tough skin and the soft flesh means a less than capable knife can make a real mess of an avocado, but not in this case where the only limit was user skill.

Breakfast is served…

In terms of kitchen capabilities, the fact I can pull this from my pocket and work with it happily, and at the same time not worry about any residues making their way into the handle or pivot, makes this a huge winner for those days when food prep is a big priority; holidays, camping, picnics, workplaces and more.

With the ultra-corrosion-resistant nitrogen-based LC200N blade, phosphor bronze washers and titanium handle, the SpydieChef doesn’t mind getting dirty, being exposed to corrosive juices and otherwise being left to marinade with the rest of the cooking. You can even pop it in the dishwasher for cleanup afterwards.

Where the SpydieChef gives you extra, is that it is capable of so much more than the light cutting duties of just food prep. The blade is thick enough for you to really grab a handful of that handle and put it to some hard work on tougher materials (and the LC200N will keep its edge longer than an H1 blade will). Mixing it up between food and non-food use might mean a few washes or wipes in between, but this single knife can do it all.

I’ve always been a fan of the kitchen knife as a general purpose blade and have carried both modified and unmodified chef’s knives into the field, so personally I find the SpydieChef’s style and shape ideal as an EDC blade.

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
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Chef’s knife style blade. Blade is a little too thick for easy slicing of hard vegetables.
Ultra-corrosion-resistant materials. Cleanup can be a bit fiddly.
Good cutting clearance for chopping onto a board. Not so good for left-handers.
Slimline, lightweight and easy to carry.
Ergonomic curved handle.
Ideal detent resistance.

 

Discussing the Review:

The ideal place to discuss this reviews is on a forum. If you started reading the shorter forum version of the review, but followed the link this full exclusive review, please return to that forum to discuss the review there.
If you read the review entirely on Tactical Reviews, please consider one of the following to join in any discussion.

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

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

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

Gear Review: Wicked Edge ‘Field and Sport’ Sharpener

Wicked Edge’s sharpening systems have proven themselves over and over to be the ultimate precision guided knife sharpeners on the market, so much so, many high-end knife makers use them for their knives’ first edge, rather than hand sharpening their blades. Wicked Edge sharpeners are solid, reliable and fast. If you want the most precise and repeatable edge possible, combined with the least blade wear, choosing one of these sharpeners is really the best possible choice you could make.

A little more Background:

In the world of knives, Wicked Edge is one of those aspirational products. Almost everyone wants one, but few people feel they can justify paying the relatively high cost of one. Much like any quality ‘professional tool’ that performs to a higher standard, most people simply do not NEED them. Simpler, cheaper options exist, and do a reasonable job.

Perhaps one of the other challenging aspects of making that leap into the realm of the Wicked Edge is that most often we see the famous mirror polished hair splitting Wicked Edge (which I too started this article with), and to achieve this you need the full set of stone grits and strops. But you don’t need to go that far, or spend that much, certainly not straight away.

The Field and Sport is one of those simpler systems on offer which includes four grits, 100, 200, 400 and 600, and is also designed to be portable and easy to set up. In real terms, the 600 grit will give you a better working edge than a finely polished mirror finish anyway.

For this review, Wicked Edge did send a few extras as well to allow me to show the finer finishes, but they are not needed for Wickedly sharp knives.

A few more details:

As the Field and Sport is a portable model, it comes in a carry case. This is useful for storage as well as taking it with you. Also shown here is a box of the optional glass platens for using the diamond polishing films.

Opening up the case everything is nicely laid out in a closed-cell foam liner.

Looking a little closer you can also see that in this case the optional extra fine 800/1000 stones have been included which are not part of the standard Field and Sport kit.

To be clear, this is the full set of part of the 2016 version of the Field and Sport kit. Included are the blade clamp, g-clamp, guide rods, 100/200 and 400/600 stones, Allen keys, blade stop and marker pen.

Adding in the optional 800/1000 stones that also fit into the case makes the kit look like this.

Although not clamped onto a working surface, this is the Wicked Edge fully assembled with the blade clamp, guides and stones ready to work.

With a knife fitted securely into the blade clamp this shows the arrangement of the stones as you work on the knife.

Most guided systems use just that, guides. I make that distinction as less robust guides can be bent and distorted. Not so with Wicked Edge. Take a look here at the guide rod ball-joints which have smooth but play-free movement.

The rods fit through the entire length of the stones providing a stable alignment.

You can go precision crazy with the adjustments on the guide rod mounts. There are two hand-wheels, the lower one does the main angle adjustment.

The upper hand-wheel locks the fine angle adjustment, and once released you can turn the ball joint bolt and move this out by any amount and lock it in place.

That lower hand-wheel locks into a series of precisely positioned angle holes cut into the guide rod arms.

As you can see, the hole’s spacing changes as you get further from the middle to keep the change in angle consistent for each graduation. If this was not done, when you get to wider angles each adjustment would become a smaller and smaller fraction of a degree.

This version is the 2016 version of the blade clamp, but the principles should be similar for the latest version. One part of the clamp is fixed to the base.

To allow you to fit each blade into the clamp in the same position each time (to reduce the amount of metal removed when you re-sharpen it) there is a folding ruler inside the clamp.

The ruler in the extended position.

You might have notice the set of four holes near the top of the blade clamp. These provide two blade heights that are set by a removable dual pin that you rest the spine of the blade on as you tighten the clamp.

Tightening the clamp is a two stage process where initially you tighten the top bolt.

Then move the Allen key down to the lower bolt and tighten this to bring the clamp plate back out to a parallel position (to stop the blade popping out). This is important or you will have blade instability when sharpening.

Once the clamp is properly tightened you need to remove the blade height stop pin.

With the stop pin removed you will have room to work on the blade.

Altogether the Field and Sport has four grits, 100, 200, 400 and 600, and here I also have the 800/1000 stones. The following series of photos is intended to show how those grits compare from most coarse to least.

100

200

400

600

800

1000

What it is like to use?

This review has taken a while as even a ‘normal’ reviewer doesn’t sharpen knives at the same rate as a professional knife maker, or knife sharpener. What you will also find is that the Wicked Edge takes time to wear in and actually improves over time. Wicked Edge even recommend you start using it on a few ‘inexpensive knives’ first.

During the coarse of this review testing I’ve used the Wicked Edge on all sorts of blades, and in this next sequence is actually a titanium diving knife. Titanium is notoriously difficult to get a good edge on, but you would never know it, I didn’t do anything different and it was a super slicer at the end of this re-profile.

This blunt tip diving knife has had the left edge re-profiled and the right has not yet been done. We will step though the process…

I’ve taken to putting masking tape onto the blade before fitting to the clamp to ensure there are no marks left. This can lead to some movement depending on how thick and soft the tape is, so be careful with the tape you choose and see if this works for you or not. For some blades I don’t do this.

There are plenty of videos showing the Wicked Edge sharpening action. It is a two handed process where you push the stones away from the edge and away from you stroking the entire edge, first one side, then the other. The speed you work will depend on how practiced you are, and how precisely you want to work (and how much material needs to be removed). I also worked the stones up and down when I had a lot of material to remove.

An interesting point to note is that unlike just about every other sharpening system, due to the ability to immediately alternate sides, when doing this, you won’t raise a wire edge. The only way to do this is to stop the alternating action and just work on one side at a time until you have achieved the burr/wire-edge, then swap to do the same for the other side before getting going with the alternating action and working through the grits.

The 100 grit leaves a very clear scratch pattern, and you can see I’ve worked it up and down here as the scratches are at two angles. This was a reprofile so needed a lot of work.

Starting to work out the 100grit scratches with the 200 grit, but some scratches are pretty deep. This is one of the ‘features’ of the new stones, they can have some hot spots which create deeper scratches. Only when really worn-in are these avoided.

Just keep refining through the grits. The precision of the guide system just makes a beautiful edge appear before your eyes. For this blade I did not want to polish the edge as I wanted some bite and micro-serrations, so stopped here at the 600 grit.

Now changing blades and onto a large CRKT folder which needed a re-profile. Here you can see how I’ve used the marker pen to blacken the original edge so I can see when I’ve completely removed it and achieved the angle I want.

In this case the intention was to get to a polished edge…. just because, OK. So here we have the glass platens onto which you stick the diamond films.

The platens have Fine and Coarse marked on them, but this is for your reference and to tell you which side to fit the different diamond grits, not because like this there is any difference.

The Diamond films are simply peeled off the sheets and stuck onto the platens ready to be used as the final stage. These films cut fast and will get dirty pretty quickly. Kyle of Wicked Edge showed me a nice trick for cleaning these up with a bit of alcohol hand rub on some tissue which brought them back to life and gave them a new lease of life, so don’t give up on them too quickly.
NOTE, unlike the diamond stones which can be used onto or off the edge, you MUST use the diamond films OFF the edge otherwise the edge can bite into the film and ruin it – just like any other strop.

What becomes really obvious at this point are two aspects. The first is that the brand new stones make it much more difficult to properly work through the grits and remove the scratches from the coarser grits, and the second is that this will really show you up if you haven’t worked through the grits well enough!! Lessons get learnt.

Ultimately we get there though, and the Wicked Edge precision mirror edge is mine – ALL MINE!

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
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Ultimate precision knife edge. Can get expensive depending on options.
Fully adjustable for any angle. Needs wearing-in for best results.
Completely repeatable (as long as you note down the settings). It can get time consuming chasing perfection.
Minimal metal removal on repeated sharpening. Addictive mirror edges.
Many options and kits available.

 

Discussing the Review:

The ideal place to discuss this reviews is on a forum. If you started reading the shorter forum version of the review, but followed the link this full exclusive review, please return to that forum to discuss the review there.
If you read the review entirely on Tactical Reviews, please consider one of the following to join in any discussion.

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

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

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