Knife Review: Spartan Blades PALLAS Button Lock

Spartan Blades LLC proudly make “Knives with Intent”, and their Pallas Button Lock folder is no exception, fulfilling its design brief exceptionally well.

 photo 31 Pallas side open P1190318.jpg

The Blade and Handle Geometry:

Most knife specifications have a basic description of the blade geometry, but in this section I will be taking a more detailed look at geometry and balance.
 photo 43 Pallas grind P1200581.jpg

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

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

Key aspects such as the primary bevel angle, grind type, blade depth, blade thickness, length, weight are detailed, along with balance information.
 photo 44 Pallas angle P1200606.jpg

The ‘Balance relative to the front of the handle’ tells you if the knife will feel front heavy, or if the weight is in your hand (a positive value means the weight is forward of the front of the handle). The ‘Balance relative to the centre of the handle’ indicates how close to a ‘neutral balance’ the knife has in the hand.
 photo 42 Pallas balance P1200573.jpg

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

 photo Spartan Pallas Parameters.jpg

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.

Mark Carey (co-founder of Spartan Blades LLC) and I discussed the Pallas at IWA 2016, so I was able to find out a little of the thought processes that brought the Pallas folder into Spartan Blades’ line up.

The knife was actually designed by Spartan Blades’ other founder Curtis Iovito and named after PALLAS (PALE ES), the Titan god of warcraft from Greek mythology.

Mark, as an ex-serviceman himself, is passionate about helping to properly equip those in the armed forces with reliable tools. The Pallas was born out of a relatively simple need for a folding knife that could be easily closed with gloves on, and while being made of premium materials, would stay at an affordable price point.

With most liner or frame lock knives being awkward to close with gloves on, the button lock was an ideal format to make it easy to release the lock with even thick gloves on. For a blade you can rely on, CPMS35VN steel was chosen with a thickness sufficient to make it strong, without being excessively thick or heavy which would impede cutting. The S35VN blade rides on a set of Alpha bearings keeping it slick. To keep weight low and yet not add a high cost, 6061 aluminium was used for the frame along with stainless steel hardware.

In its standard format the Pallas has a flipper tab and thumb stud, either of which can be flicked to easily open the blade. In this review is a special modified version for the UK market. The modification was included following a discussion between Bruce of Heinnie Haynes and Mark, and required the flipper tab to be removed.

This ‘UK’ modified Pallas was created due to the UKBA tightening control over imported knives with quickly deployable blades. Flipper style knives are the primary target.

A few more details:

The Pallas box along with a Heinnie Haynes sticker to signify the creation of this ‘UK’ Version of the knife.
 photo 01 Pallas boxed H P1190180.jpg

Flipping open the box, and the Pallas is sandwiched between foam liners with a Spartan Blades sticker included.
 photo 02 Pallas box open P1190188.jpg

Fresh out of the box, the Pallas.
 photo 03 Pallas closed P1190190.jpg

Straight in for a look at three key aspects of this knife, it is made by Spartan Blades (with the logo engraved in the handle), there is a button lock, and the blade is S35VN steel.
 photo 04 Pallas button stud logo P1190191.jpg

Closer still to the stainless steel button.
 photo 05 Pallas button logo P1190192.jpg

Despite an overall flat cross-section, the Pallas is full of curves that make the design flow and provide its ergonomics.
 photo 06 Pallas standing closed P1190200.jpg

Note the deviation from a standard Pallas in the there is no longer a flipper tab on this special UK version.
 photo 07 Pallas lying closed P1190204.jpg

SpartanBlades’ signature titanium arrow pocket clip.
 photo 08 Pallas clip P1190206.jpg

The pocket clip is one sided and cannot be fitted to the side with the lock button.
 photo 09 Pallas lying closed P1190210.jpg

This is where the flipper tab would be on the standard Pallas.
 photo 10 Pallas UK version P1190214.jpg

Button locks are far less common in non-autos, than other locking mechanism, so warrants a closer look. Here the blade has been opened slightly to allow the button and its shaft to be seen.
 photo 11 Pallas button inside P1190222.jpg

Viewed from a slightly higher angle you can see how the button has been pulled into the handle as the blade starts to open.
 photo 12 Pallas button inside P1190233.jpg

With the blade a little further open you can see the locking notch in the blade into which the button engages. You can see it is just to the right of the blade stop pin.
 photo 13 Pallas lock notch P1190238.jpg

The blade is now nearly fully open and the locking notch has nearly reached the button.
 photo 14 Pallas lock notch nearly open P1190243.jpg

And fully open the button has locked itself into the notch in the blade. The blade has also hit the stop pin and is firmly wedged between the two.
 photo 15 Pallas lock button engaged P1190245.jpg

Now the blade is fully open, the UK version trimmed off flipper tab can be seen more clearly.
 photo 16 Pallas no flipper P1190259.jpg

The overall view.
 photo 18 Pallas angle open reverse P1190264.jpg

when looking closely at the blade tip you can see the contrast of the crispness of the final edge bevel and the rounded blade spine.
 photo 19 Pallas tip P1190272.jpg

The entire blade surface has a stonewashed finish.
 photo 20 Pallas stonewash P1190275.jpg

Not quite a full flat grind, the Pallas blade is a high flat grind.
 photo 21 Pallas blade grind P1190276.jpg

Each side of the pivot bolt is different, with a nut on this side.
 photo 22 Pallas pivot nut P1190285.jpg

And a torx bolt head on the other side.
 photo 23 Pallas pivot bolt P1190280.jpg

Though they look good, the handle spacers are also a very practical design with wide flats where they contact the handles and a slight waist which will reduce weight without any significant loss of strength.
 photo 24 Pallas spacers P1190289.jpg

You can see straight through the handle with the three spacers one end,and the blade pivot at the other.
 photo 25 Pallas spacers P1190293.jpg

All the edges of the spine are nicely rounded. So you won’t be striking sparks off fire-rods, but you also won’t be fraying your pockets.
 photo 26 Pallas spine P1190294.jpg

There is a little jimping for your thumb where the blade meets the handle.
 photo 27 Pallas jimping P1190298.jpg

Each side of the spacers are held with torx bolts, as is the pocket clip.
 photo 28 Pallas spacer bolts P1190302.jpg

Blade centring is spot on.
 photo 29 Pallas centring P1190307.jpg

When the blade is between one third and two thirds open you can see the blade-stop hook in the tang of the blade.
 photo 30 Pallas blade stop hook P1190315.jpg

The cutting edge is terminated in a choil, and the plunge line is nicely radiused to reduce stress concentrators.
 photo 32 Pallas plunge choil P1190322.jpg

At the butt of the knife handle, there is jimping top and bottom giving a surprisingly useful amount of grip. I’d also take this opportunity to point out the surface texture of the anodised handles. There is a matt finish to the anodising due to what appears to be an underlying bead blasted surface.
 photo 33 Pallas handle jimping P1190325.jpg

Grooves cut into this side of the handle provide grip where your finger tips press onto the handle. Subtle and effective.
 photo 39 Pallas handle grip P1190366.jpg

The lanyard hole goes through both handle slabs.
 photo 40 Pallas lanyard hole P1190368.jpg

Lastly for this section, a close-up of the thumb stud which looks crisp and precise, yet without any sharp edges on the thumb contact surface.
 photo 41 Pallas thumb stud P1190377.jpg

What it is like to use?

I like a big folder, and though the Pallas is not really big, it certainly is a good size with its 3 3/4″ blade and 8 3/4″ opened length. For a knife of its size with all metal construction, the weight is impressively low making it easy to carry.

Admittedly I was slightly sceptical about the button lock from the point of view of a good tight lockup. Straight out of the box, my fears seemed to be proving true, HOWEVER (and yes a big however) this was only due to two reasons. Firstly without the flipper, I was only opening the blade slowly and the lock was then not engaging tightly, and secondly the button just needed a little use to settle in.

After more use, the lock was engaging tightly even when only opened gently on the thumb stud. So I would recommend all users to start with at least 30-40 good firm flicks open to bed the button lock in. After this the lock has been spot on and rock solid. Even with the UK version you can start to open the blade with the thumb stud, then flick it fully open with your wrist. For those with the knack, so can also flip the blade open using the thumb stud instead of the flipper tab (but be careful as you can easily catch the edge with your thumb doing this).

Another observation that was immediately obvious, is that the blade movement is super slick. Importantly the blade has no side-to-side play, but the movement is so smooth and easy I would go so far as to say it is the smoothest I’ve used to date (and I’ve handles hundreds of folders with and without ball-bearings). This may in part be due to the button lock mechanism allowing the blade tang to move freely, or possibly due to the high level of finish of all the moving parts.

The generous size of the knife means it is a comfortable handful with or without gloves. I would obviously prefer the added protection the flipper tab (finger guard) gives you, but for this UK version it is no less safe than other non-flipper folders.
(I take XL size gloves)
 photo 34 Pallas in hand P1190332.jpg

Taking up a thrust hold, the jimping on the blade gives you more grip.
 photo 35 Pallas in hand P1190334.jpg

Though this was not the intention of the harpoon style blade, it just happens that for a fine working grip your first finger sits nicely against the harpoon spine. Like this of course you need to watch your thumb doesn’t hit the lock button. (So far I’ve not had any instances of an accidental press of the lock button)
 photo 36 Pallas in hand P1190337.jpg

When swapping between grips, your hand seems to fall into place with no adjustment required to eliminate any hotspots. Handle shaping is subtle but certainly works well for me.

With the button lock design being focused on ease of closing with gloves on, it is primarily a right-handed layout with the button being easy to reach with the thumb of your right hand. The clip is also fixed to one side (opposite to the button). The blade has a double-ended thumb stud and there is a depression on both handle sides giving easier access to the thumb stud, so at least for opening the Pallas is suitable for left-handed users as well. Are there any issues for left-handers? No, even using the Pallas left-handed I found the button easy to press with my first finger to close the blade. It is not as comfortable with the clip falling under your finger tips in a left-handed grip, but that is only a minor annoyance.

Another concern I had was of the button being accidentally pressed during use. So far I’ve not come close to doing this as the button appears to be far enough forward you positively have to try and press it. It is perhaps a small risk, but the completely safe and easy one-handed-closing the Pallas allows, has started to make this a firm favourite. While holding the button in, the blade is able to swing freely, so one-handed-closing is as easy as pressing the button and either flicking the blade closed or holding the blade upright and allowing it to swing closed. Many knives open easily, but few close this easily (when you want it to close).

I’m not a fan of pocket clips, and the Pallas clip looks quite thick, but thanks to being titanium, it has an ideal holding tension that is not too strong or weak.

Blade thickness is an excellent compromise between ultimate strength and cutting ability. It is thick enough that in some harder materials you start to feel it binding as the blade grind wedges into the cut, but the high flat grind helps this stay manageable. There is enough steel in the blade that you are not going to be worried about breaking it (unless you try to use it as a pry bar).

To give another idea of scale, here it is next to the Fällkniven F1 and a Spyderco UK Pen Knife.
 photo 37 Pallas size P1190353.jpg

And also shown next to the Spartan Blades Harsey Model II.
 photo 38 Pallas size P1190360.jpg

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
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Button lock makes blade closing easy, with or without gloves. Lock initially needs some bedding in.
Safe and Easy One-Handed Closing. Small possibility of accidentally pressing the lock button during use (this did NOT happen during testing).
Strong S35VN Blade. Slightly biased for right-handed users.
Lightweight for its size.
Super smooth blade action.
Zero blade play.
Excellent fit and finish.
Titanium pocket clip.

 photo 17 Pallas angle open P1190262.jpg


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