Knife Review: Promate Dive Knives – Barracuda, Scuba, Seal Folder, KF505 Blunt and Line Cutter (Dive Knives 2016 – Detail Review)

This review provides further details for the five Promate dive knives (Barracuda Blunt Ti, KF593 Ti, KF090 Seal Folder Ti, KF505 Blunt and KF001 Line Cutter) which could not be included in the Dive Knives 2016 – Mega Test Review. Promate is a Full line manufacturer of scuba diving equipment and snorkeling gear including regulators, instruments, buoyancy compensators, masks, snorkels, fins, knives, boots, gloves and bags.

 photo 87 Promate intro P1210559.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.

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 other blades.

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 measurements are presented alongside some of the other knives from the Dive Knives 2016 – Mega Test Review

As there are five Promate cutting tools, these are logged across two tables.
 photo Dive Knives Parameters 1 of 3.jpg

 photo Dive Knives Parameters 2 of 3.jpg

A few more details of the KF001 Line Cutter:

There are five models from Promate and a huge amount of detail to cover, so each one will have its own “A few more details…” section.
 photo 01 Promate boxed P1210106.jpg

The first two we will look at are the ones that are not fixed blade sheath knives, the Seal Folder and Line Cutter.
 photo 02 Promate first two P1210122.jpg

Fresh out of the box.
 photo 03 Promate first two unboxed P1210127.jpg

A small container is supplied with the line cutter.
 photo 04 Promate line cutter P1210131.jpg

This contains two spare blades wrapped in oil paper.
 photo 06 Promate line cutter spare blade P1210138.jpg

A close up of the blade in the line cutter.
 photo 05 Promate line cutter blade P1210137.jpg

Taking out the three screws holding the line cutter together allows you to see how the standard utility blade fits inside.
 photo 07 Promate line cutter blade swap P1210158.jpg

It is a generous size so is easy to handle.
 photo 08 Promate line cutter in hand P1210161.jpg

A few more details of the KF090 Seal Folder Ti:

An adjustable wrist strap is supplied fitted to the Seal folder.
 photo 09 Promate Ti Folder P1210165.jpg

The pivot is riveted and cannot be adjusted.
 photo 10 Promate Ti Folder pivot P1210167.jpg

On one side there is a plastic pocket clip.
 photo 11 Promate Ti Folder clip P1210168.jpg

From this side you can see the blade pivot and lock bar pivot rivet heads.
 photo 12 Promate Ti Folder pivot rivet P1210173.jpg

As a specialist knife, the Seal folder has an unusual cutting hook which is accessible even with the blade folded.
 photo 13 Promate Ti Folder folded P1210178.jpg

A closer look at the cutting hook.
 photo 14 Promate Ti Folder hook P1210181.jpg

The blade is part serrated and there is a small thumb opening hole.
 photo 15 Promate Ti Folder open P1210184.jpg

In case you had forgotten, it is made of titanium. The serrations are well formed.
 photo 17 Promate Ti Folder serration P1210192.jpg

When you look at the reverse of the blade, you can see that this knife uses only a single bevel edge.
 photo 18 Promate Ti Folder blade back P1210200.jpg

Going in closer to the back of the serrations.
 photo 19 Promate Ti Folder serration back P1210201.jpg

And also the plain edge.
 photo 20 Promate Ti Folder plain back P1210206.jpg

Not a large knife, the Seal folder is still a comfortable size.
 photo 21 Promate Ti Folder in hand P1210212.jpg

A few more details of the Barracuda Blunt Ti:

Promate’s Barracuda comes in Steel and Titanium versions, as well as blunt and pointed tips. The fully diving orientated blade design with Titanium and a blunt tip was chosen for the review.
 photo 23 Promate Barracuda boxed P1210224.jpg

Supplied with the knife are two rubber straps and an instruction leaflet.
 photo 24 Promate Barracuda box contents P1210227.jpg

The strap has quick release buckles.
 photo 25 Promate Barracuda strap clip P1210235.jpg

Each buckle has a sprung loaded adjustment clip to grip the rubber strap.
 photo 26 Promate Barracuda strap adjust P1210239.jpg

A strap in its fully assembled state. However this now cannot be fitted to the sheath. You need to take it apart, thread it through the slots and then reassemble it.
 photo 27 Promate Barracuda strap P1210242.jpg

Before unsheathing the knife for the first time.
 photo 28 Promate Barracuda sheathed P1210247.jpg

Inside the sheath the blade is wrapped in plastic.
 photo 29 Promate Barracuda unsheathed P1210251.jpg

With the knife out, you can see the ambidextrous retention clip.
 photo 30 Promate Barracuda sheath P1210254.jpg

The retention clip is a sprung plate with a catch in the centre and a release button each side.
 photo 31 Promate Barracuda clip P1210257.jpg

A quick look at the back of the sheath.
 photo 32 Promate Barracuda sheath back P1210262.jpg

A fully featured blade made of titanium which has a cutting hook, plain edge, prying blunt tip, smaller plain edge leading into a section of large serrations.
 photo 33 Promate Barracuda angle P1210272.jpg

Clearly marked as being made of titanium.
 photo 34 Promate Barracuda titanium P1210274.jpg

A cutting hook is included near the handle.
 photo 35 Promate Barracuda hook P1210280.jpg

The blunt tip is shaped nicely for prying, tapered but not too thin at the end.
 photo 36 Promate Barracuda blunt P1210284.jpg

Contoured more heavily than any of the other handles, the Barracuda provides excellent grip in all conditions.
 photo 37 Promate Barracuda handle P1210287.jpg

Just at the guard area is the indentation that the retention clip holds on to.
 photo 38 Promate Barracuda catch P1210289.jpg

The back of the blade reveals that the serrations are cut with a single bevel, but the plain edges are double bevelled.
 photo 39 Promate Barracuda blade back P1210293.jpg

Nicely cut, the serrations are larger than any others I’ve used.
 photo 41 Promate Barracuda serration P1210306.jpg

For scale, I take XL size gloves.
 photo 42 Promate Barracuda in hand P1210311.jpg

The butt has a large hammer striking surface. This is made of Titanium, so is not up to very heavy work.
 photo 43 Promate Barracuda hammer P1210314.jpg

Though it doesn’t need any cleaning for corrosion prevention, the Barracuda does fully disassemble.
 photo 44 Promate Barracuda apart P1210335.jpg

As mentioned earlier, the straps need to be threaded through the loops before fitting the quick release buckles.
 photo 45 Promate Barracuda straps P1210340.jpg

Fully assembled and ready for work.
 photo 46 Promate Barracuda straps P1210361.jpg

A few more details of the KF593 Ti:

This is a knife which has had a little more exposure than most and you might recognise it as it was featured in a few episodes of Bear Grylls ‘Man vs Wild’. It is also known unofficially as the Promate ‘Scuba’ Knife, but officially only as the KF593. There is a blunt tip version as well.

The KF593’s box.
 photo 47 Promate scuba box P1210371.jpg

Inside the box the knife comes wrapped in plastic. Also include are two rubber straps.
 photo 48 Promate scuba contents P1210373.jpg

With the wrapping off. There is a warning card included regarding care for the knife, however, this advice proved unnecessary.
 photo 49 Promate scuba contents P1210380.jpg

The KF593 fresh out of the box.
 photo 50 Promate scuba unsheathed P1210384.jpg

One of the great features of the KF593 is the retention system of the sheath. There is a sprung plate with two release buttons and a catch.
 photo 51 Promate scuba sheath lock P1210396.jpg

Looking at the back of the sheath, you can see the lower strap loop serves as a drainage hole. there is also a plastic spring which pushes against the blade when it is in the sheath the prevent rattling.
 photo 52 Promate scuba sheath back P1210403.jpg

This knife has alternative colour options for the handle. The orange part of the handle can be grey or blue.
 photo 53 Promate scuba angle P1210404.jpg

In case you forget, this is a titanium blade. Being a dive knife there is a line cutter hook.
 photo 54 Promate scuba hook P1210409.jpg

An unusual ‘reverse’ set of serrations are on the blade spine.
 photo 55 Promate scuba serrations P1210416.jpg

The full tang protrudes through the handle and provides a narrow hammer.
 photo 56 Promate scuba hammer P1210422.jpg

As supplied, the factor edge looks quite coarse, but cuts well enough.
 photo 57 Promate scuba edge P1210426.jpg

A nice mid-sized knife. (I take XL size gloves.)
 photo 58 Promate scuba in hand P1210431.jpg

The coloured rubber insert gives a good amount of grip.
 photo 59 Promate scuba handle P1210434.jpg

Rather than quick release buckles, this knife uses belt buckle type fastenings. Note that the holes in the strap are actually filled in. The first time you use any of them you need to push the buckle prong through the rubber in the hole.
 photo 60 Promate scuba strap P1210442.jpg

These straps are very quick and easy to set up and use.
 photo 61 Promate scuba with straps P1210444.jpg

A few more details of the KF505 Blunt:

And onto the last one of the Promate knives, the steel bladed KF505.
 photo 62 Promate steel box P1210448.jpg

In the box is the sheathed knife, rubber straps, care instructions and disassembly instructions.
 photo 63 Promate steel box contents P1210458.jpg

The clear sheath is an option for this knife.
 photo 64 Promate steel sheath back P1210461.jpg

A box-fresh KF505.
 photo 65 Promate steel unsheathed P1210464.jpg

Compared to the titanium knives a different sheath retention system used. A single release button on the front of the sheath is connected to a catch at the rear.
 photo 66 Promate steel sheath lock P1210467.jpg

Before moving onto some details let’s look at both sides of the blade.
 photo 67 Promate steel angle P1210478.jpg

The other side of the blade.
 photo 68 Promate steel angle P1210485.jpg

An unspecified stainless steel is used for the guard. Check the corrosion results later.
 photo 69 Promate steel guard P1210487.jpg

The serrations are cut with a single bevel.
 photo 72 Promate steel serrations P1210492.jpg

The use of a single bevel is clear when looking at the other side.
 photo 73 Promate steel serration back P1210496.jpg

A line cutting hook is ground into the blade near the handle. Note the steel designation on the blade – Stainless Steel 420 J2.
 photo 74 Promate steel hook P1210498.jpg

This knife uses a one-piece rubber handle.
 photo 75 Promate steel handle P1210509.jpg

The tang nut acts as a hammer.
 photo 76 Promate steel hammer P1210513.jpg

Starting to disassemble the knife by taking the tang nut off.
 photo 77 Promate steel hammer off P1210517.jpg

And fully disassembled.
 photo 78 Promate steel apart P1210528.jpg

The rubber straps have standard belt buckle type fixings.
 photo 79 Promate steel strap P1210531.jpg

This design of strap make it very quick and easy to get everything put together ready for use.
 photo 80 Promate steel with straps P1210534.jpg

Like the previous model this is a medium sized knife.
 photo 82 Promate steel in hand P1210541.jpg

What are they like to use?

With several very different offerings from Promate, the cutting results were varied and also not as I expected. The best performer in the cutting tests was actually the Seal folder with Ti blade. This maintenance-free small titanium bladed folder makes a fantastic backup knife. The other knives were mainly let down in the cutting tests by the factory edges, and are more capable given a bit of work getting a good edge.
The biggest surprise was the performance of the dedicated line cutter; using only a standard steel utility blade as the cutting edge, the corrosion testing really took its toll on this (details to follow). With a new blade, initial tests were that this was a very good cutter, so if you can find stainless utility blades they would be a better option.
See the Dive Knives 2016 – Mega Test Review for more information on the cutting test results.

Though a really excellent cutter, the Seal knife had a small issue that was easily fixed, but one worth being aware of.
The sharp eyed might have spotted that when looking at the ‘H’ (where the blade spine and lock bar touch), the lock bar is slightly raised. This gave me concern over how well the lock would function. Proven correct, I found the lock failed under mild pressure to close the blade.
 photo 22 Promate Ti Folder H P1210213.jpg

Taking a closer look at the locking surfaces, these appeared to be raw pressings so the fit was not good, and the blade tang hook was not catching the lock bar well. There is a simple fix for that….
 photo 22 Promate Ti Folder lock P1210364.jpg

Without having to take the knife apart, the blade tang hook can be cleaned up with a file (and the Ti files easily) to give a much better flat locking surface. Be careful not to go at this too much as taking more material than necessary will result in a blade that has play in the locked position. File a bit then test, and repeat. Once corrected, the locked blade was solid and the result was worth having to do this.
 photo 22 Promate Ti Folder lock P1210377.jpg

Earlier I mentioned the line cutter having disappointing cutting results, well this is why – Oh dear! The corrosion testing certainly hit the weak spot of this design – standard carbon steel blades. Cheap and easy to replace, but the rust starts as soon as it gets wet.
 photo 84 Promate line cutter corrosion P1230148.jpg

The corrosion tests threw up a surprise with the stainless steel knife. Typically, non-cutting stainless parts have a higher grade of stain resistance (with lower cutting ability), but in this case the worse corrosion was to the guard (though the hammer pommel was completely free of corrosion). The blade had a light frosting, but the guard was heavily corroded. After a cleanup, the guard was found to have deep pitting, and the clean-up (using a soak in cider vinegar) actually etched the guard heavily while making the blade nice and shiny.
 photo 85 Promate steel corrosion P1230009.jpg

The blade itself was relatively untouched and the frosting cleaned off with vinegar.
 photo 86 Promate steel corrosion P1230013.jpg

Ergonomics of the Promate knives is excellent, with easy to use, and secure, sheath retention along with great straps.

Folders are a contentious subject for diving, as the action of opening can be a make or break moment for the diver. The opening hole in the Seal folder is a little small, and being experienced in one-handed-opening (OHO) I did find this to be perfectly usable even with gloves, but with tired, cold hands and very thick gloves I suspect it will become increasingly difficult. There is also the exposed cutting hook to consider. This hook was actually a very poor cutter as it was not very sharp as supplied; with it being exposed, this lack of sharpness is actually a benefit. The Seal’s blade is worth carrying this knife for, with very good cutting ability and excellent serrations.

Overall it is clear these Promate knives are designed very well for divers, and the added bonus of zero corrosion on the titanium blades make them well worth considering.

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
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Titanium blades require no post-dive cleanup. The steel knife and cutter suffered corrosion.
Excellent blade retention. Factory edges not very good.
Comfortable leg straps. Serrations are too coarse for smaller ropes.
Handle design provides a very secure grip.
Sheaths are ambidextrous.

 photo 83 Promate line up P1210543v2.jpg


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