Knife Review: Lionsteel B40 and M1

It was at IWA 2019 I first got to handle the new Lionsteel B40, but the show knives were pre-production samples as there were still a few manufacturing tweaks left to finalise; it took a little longer to get hold of this final production model. Another strong design by Mik Molletta, the B40 is intended as a bushcraft knife. For this review of the Lionsteel B40, I have also partnered it with the smaller M1 which makes for an ideal secondary/backup blade, and is small enough to be a (non-folding) pocket knife.

Onto the details:

What’s in the box?:

A quick look at the presentation. In this case, the B40 was a new production model, but the M1 was a ‘show knife’ straight from IWA, so might not have the full packaging.


Starting with the sheaths:

Both knives have leather sheaths, a material I prefer over any other for the sheath.

A good look round the B40 – Things to look out for here are:

The B40’s proportions and geometry make it look like many other bushcraft knives. This is as the design has to primarily fulfil the requirements of wood processing and portability.


A good look round the M1 – Things to look out for here are:

At the size it is, I can’t help but think of the M1 as a pocket knife that doesn’t fold. A pocket knife without the compromises a folding knife’s handle has, and without the concerns of a lock, slip-joint, or friction mechanism. A properly formed handle and no compromise in the strength of the blade.


The Blade and Handle – Detailed Measurements:

For full details of the tests and measurements carried out and an explanation of the results, see the page – Knife Technical Testing – How It’s Done.

The B40’s blade is made from Sleipner steel and the M1 from M390.


What it is like to use?

You might have noticed the orange; neither of these knives need to be orange, but for me the priority is not losing a tool in the outdoors. This makes the high visibility handles a great choice.

Before moving onto using these knives, I also had the opportunity to convert the B40 from orange G10 to more traditional wooden handles. Removing and swapping the handles is easy, but the tubular bolt is a tight fit in either handle material so you need to ‘unscrew’ it while applying some pressure to get them out. There is a major difference in the appearance, and feel, with the wooden handles. It is transformed into a traditional looking knife, and the wood feels lighter and possibly as if it has a little more grip. It also becomes a lot more camouflaged in the woods, so the choice is yours. I’ve popped the orange G10 back on.


I’m not a fan of pull-lanyards (the smaller piece of cord giving some extra grip with smaller knives), as I find them mostly getting in the way or flapping about annoyingly, so the M1 with its Titanium beaded pull-lanyard immediately had me considering removing it. STOP! I was wrong. For the M1, this pull-lanyard with bead works perfectly.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, the M1 is a non-folding pocket knife. The sheath might have a belt loop on it, but the overall size when sheathed is still easy enough to pop into a pocket. Now instead of having to choose a folder you can have a fixed blade.
To start with, the pull-lanyard gives you something to easily grab to take the M1 out of your pocket. Then when unsheathing it, although you can get enough grip by just holding the handle, by using the lanyard and its bead, you bring it into your hand so much more easily.
My hands take XL gloves and I find the M1’s handle to be a three-finger grip. The lanyard and bead, gives the fourth finger something to hold and add a little more stability.
I’m perfectly happy to admit when I’m wrong, and the M1 with its Titanium beaded lanyard has shown me I was wrong to consider removing it.

While on the subject of lanyards, without going into the safety arguments for and against, there is a design issue I’ve come upon with the B40 and its lanyard hole. This issue is thanks to the interestingly placed firesteel scraper. As shown in the next gallery, this scraper works very well without a lanyard cord, but should you wish to use a lanyard on the B40, you’ll be covering it in sparks every time you use the scraper. You might then find your lanyard unintentionally becomes tinder and gets burned away. I will be grinding a flat on the blade spine to use instead of the scraper provided.


The B40 hits that sweet spot in size where the handle is full size, allowing a strong grip, and the blade is small enough for power and control, and large enough to use for batoning without being cumbersome. This is why many bushcraft knives look quite similar, and are similar in size.

Use of Sleipner steel falls outside my preferences for a bushcraft knife. Being only a semi-stainless steel, it theoretically needs more care than a steel with higher stain resistance. On its own, this is only part of choosing the right steel, as frequently the reduction in stain resistance is combined with a steel that is easier to sharpen in the field. Sleipner is both hard (so harder to resharpen) and less stain resistance, so would normally have me looking elsewhere. But this is not my first Sleipner blade, and so far I’ve found the stain resistance to be much higher than indicated by its composition. None of the Sleipner blades have given me any issue with corrosion, and none have yet stained despite intentionally not caring for them. When sharpening, it is obvious the Sleipner steel has a high wear resistance, so does require some effort. Diamond stones definitely make this easier. After stropping off a burr formed during sharpening, the Sleipner steel has been giving a very good sharpness, so considering its wear resistance, it actually seems relatively easy to sharpen.

There is an interesting look to the B40’s handle with the flat grip faces having ‘corners’. At first glance these seem like they might become problematic hotspots in hard use. However the rest of the handle, where most of the grip pressure is applied, is rounded and comfortable. These ‘corners’ can be felt, but also provide positive resistance to the knife twisting in your hand.

A knife with a ‘scandi’ blade has become a very popular type of knife for bushcraft, and for good reason; the scandi blade is very good for working wood. But personally I find that to be its limiting factor as the blade’s specialist ability impacts on everything else you might ask of it.

With the B40’s blade, the design has been kept with a leaning a little more towards a utility blade, but with plenty of ability for hard work with wood. As you have seen in the previous gallery, the B40 handles wood very well.

For this review I included the M1 as a companion blade to the B40. Something to use for finer tasks, and as a backup blade. It is too small to choose to use for heavy tasks, but the blade stock used means that if you were caught out with only the M1 it would still be a very capable blade.

Using a full flat grind on the M1 makes its blade a much better slicer than its 3.2mm stock might otherwise dictate.

Lionsteel’s M1 is a knife you should not overlook. It is an excellent general purpose knife that is small enough to carry to pocket-carry. If only the UK knife carry laws permitted this as an EDC, but they do not, so it will unfortunately be limited to duties at home and will certainly be a backup blade for those times I can carry a fixed blade.

The partnership of the B40 and M1 has indeed worked very well.

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
_______________________________________________

B40 – Ideal size for its intended use – bushcraft.
B40 – Sleipner steel has taken and held a great edge.
B40 – Sleipner steel – so far no signs of corrosion.
B40 – Blade geometry allows greater flexibility than many bushcraft knives.
B40 – Quality leather sheath.
M1 – M390 steel takes and holds a great edge.
M1 – Full flat grind, makes it a great slicer.
M1 – Quality ‘pocket-sized’ leather sheath.
M1 – Highly functional pull-lanyard with Titanium bead.
M1 – Super useful fixed blade pocket-knife.

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

B40 – Firesteel scraper sparks onto lanyard (if fitted).
B40 – Sleipner steel – not so easy for in-the-field maintenance.
M1 – Belt loop is so tight as to be almost unusable.
M1 – Blade stock almost too thick at 3.2mm.

 

Discussing the Review:

The ideal place to discuss this review is on the Tactical Reviews Facebook Page
Please visit there and start/join the conversation.

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

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

Knife Review: Lionsteel M4

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

A few more details:

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

What’s in the box?:


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

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


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


Explained by the Maker:

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Blade and Handle – Detailed Measurements:

Now even more detailed!

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

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


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


The blade is made from M390 steel.

What it is like to use?

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Review Summary

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

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

_______________________________________________
Things I like
_______________________________________________

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

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

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

 

Discussing the Review:

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

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

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

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

Knife Review: Lionsteel TM1 CF

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

What’s in the box?:

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


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

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


Explained by the Maker:

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Blade and Handle – Detailed Measurements:

Now even more detailed!

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

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


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


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

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

What it is like to use?

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Review Summary

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

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

Review Summary

_______________________________________________
Things I like
_______________________________________________

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

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

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

 

Discussing the Review:

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

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

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

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

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.

 

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