Knife Review: Extrema Ratio T4000 C

Included in this review of the Extrema Ratio T4000 C, a compact classic Tanto with Extrema Ratio’s tactical sheath and handle, are a video with an overview and detailed measurements, galleries of the packaging, sheath, and knife, plus insights into how it is to use.

Let’s take a closer look.

The video tour of the T4000 C:
In case you haven’t seen the video overview and vital statistics of the T4000 C on Tactical Review’s youtube channel, here it is. This video covers a quick tour of the knife and sheath and a detailed technical measurements section.

A few more details:

What’s in the box?:
For the T4000 C, it ‘just fits’ into the box. The usual Extrema Ratio high quality two-part box is used.


A good look round the T4000 C’s Sheath – Things to look out for here are:
Even though ‘Compact’ the sheath manages to fit in a lot of features and details. Solidly constructed and made to fit the compact knife perfectly. On the back is a set of PALS/MOLLE webbing and strap, with the front also having webbing for mounting a small pouch or other item. A gap in the welt at the base of the sheath allows for free flowing drainage. To comfortably accommodate the thick blade stock the welt is similarly sized.
A strong double press-stud retaining strap wraps the handle and keeps the knife securely in place. you can adjust the position of the retaining strap as it is held in place with a Velcro adjusting system. There is an anti-catch smooth plastic insert backing the sheath to prevent wear and damage to the back of the sheath when sheathing the knife.
With there not being a specific belt loop, using the MOLLE strap, you can make your own belt loop to fit the size of the belt.


The T4000 C knife itself:
From the first view of the satin blade emerging you get drawn into admiring the knife. The beautifully executed fuller on each side of the blade enhances the lines. Extrema Ratio’s distinctive grip design provides an index finger groove to give a strong grip. A single bolt holds the rubber grip in place on the full tang, that extends through to a striker and lanyard hole. Sharpening choils – what is your take? – well the T4000 C does not have one, so the sharp edge stops just short of the plunge line. Also note a front lanyard hole, allowing you to fit a cord to both the front or rear of the handle.
Being the compact model, the handle length sits just within the hand (I take XL size gloves).


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.

There is a lot to take in here. These measurements are shown in the video.


What is it like to use?

It’s a tanto – nice – I always like a tanto. There is a practicality of having an almost chisel-like tip and what I refer to as the secondary point (where the tip and main edge meet) for various cuts instead of using the actual tip of the knife.
The elegant lines are simply a pleasure to look at as well as to use, and being the compact knife class from Extrema Ratio this is a really useful day to day blade. Something you are more likely to pick up and use, as it is very practical.

I knew after measuring the factor edge I would want to re-profile the edge bevel, 25DPS is too wide/heavy for a small knife, even 20DPS would be more than I want. But before doing this, with the sharpness measuring a respectable 281 BESS average I wanted to see how it fared. It would not shave arm hair with this edge, however…

Factory edge put to some minor fire prep tasks. The wood here is fully seasoned so much harder than any green wood. Kindling and feather sticks, perfectly good with these little pieces of wood, using the edge out of the box.

After a bit of use, it was time to change the edge bevel to 17DPS and bring that cutting edge a bit closer to the plunge line. As always, putting your own edge on a knife makes all the difference, and now it sings along shaving and slicing ferociously.

Extrema Ratio are good at Tantos, and this is one of their best. The thinned down blade thickness with full flat grind give it great slicing power, yet the blade still starts at 4.1mm at the spine, so is plenty strong for heavy use. Go back and look at the blade in the video as the light plays off it and you really appreciate the qualities of the T4000 C.


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.

I’m trying something slightly different and starting with what doesn’t work so well, so I can finish on a more positive note

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

No sharpening choil – personal preference.
Retaining strap is a bit bulky for a compact knife.
Factory edge usable but a bit ‘heavy’.

_______________________________________________
Things I like
_______________________________________________

Build quality and finish.
Practical well designed sheath.
‘Handy’ size being a ‘C’ Compact model.
Very comfortable grip.
Front and rear lanyard points.
Elegant blade profile with fullers.
Reliable steel choice.

 
Discussing the Review:
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Knife Review: Extrema Ratio Sethlans

Back when it was launched, I took a ‘first look’ at the Extrema Ratio Sethlans knife. Now, after being able to use the Sethlans for several months I can bring you this much more detailed look at the knife and its comprehensive equipped sheath.
The Sethlans is designed to be used for bushcraft, survival, and as a backup blade, so is also ideally suited for prepping, but I can tell you know, you are definitely going to want to use this knife.

The ‘First Look’ Video:
Taking you back to the initial impressions and overview of the Sethlans.


What’s in the box?:
Extrema Ratio knives always come in a nice robust presentation box.


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

A good sheath can make or break a knife, as access to, and ease of carry, affect your experience of using the knife. The Sethlans has one of the most comprehensively equipped and well thought out sheaths of any knife I have used, and there are so many details to show, it is a major part of this review. The following gallery takes you through the construction, assembly methods and components of the sheath, including the sharpening stone pouch and fire-steel that come with the Sethlans.
This sheath can be fully disassembled and reassembled either as a left-handed setup (It comes as a right-handed setup), or stripped down to the very basics. You can run this sheath as just the Kydex sheath with no hanger, or the Kydex sheath with belt hanger/Molle mount. Super flexible design.


The Knife:
This gallery seems rather small after the sheath rundown. The Sethlans is a simple and elegant design that manages to incorporate the distinctive Extrema Ratio finger grip styling and take this feature yet further into the shaping of the actual tang within the grips where the metal is thinned down in the finger grip section of tang to mirror the grip shaping. Very nice touch.


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.


What is it like to use?
Being an Extrema Ratio knife, the Sethlans seems to be both typically characteristic of the brand, yet at the same time completely different and surprising. It also has me in a dilemma about how to set it up thanks to the super flexible sheath design.
If I were packing in a ‘prepping’ style, I would leave the full Sethlans sheath setup with the sharpening stone and fire-steel, as like this you have all the bases covered. However as I am enjoying using this knife, and with the sheath pared down to the minimum, for me it is a much nicer every day carry. In this setup, I remove the pouch with sharpening stone, the fire-steel, and the handle retaining strap. This leaves the knife securely in the Kydex holder on a belt loop hanger.
The knife immediately feels at ease in the hand, comfortable, well balanced and agile. The grip is relatively slim for an Extrema Ratio knife, and this adds to the mobility and control for fine work.
Thanks to the thick full tang, the weight feels like it is in your hand, and the knife will just sit balanced on your first two fingers without trying to fall forwards.


The way the edge sweeps up towards the tip, gives you something similar to a chisel that you can use for nice controlled cuts by pushing down into whatever you are cutting. This same shape also works well as a skinner.
Areas of deep, wide and grippy jimping make for a very stable hold, and there is also the Extrema Ratio distinctive finger groove I have always loved.

Between the thumb jimping and swedge is a section of the blade spine that has been given a nice crisp edge, just right for scraping sparks off the big fire-steel. It does this very nicely indeed…


Fire-steels always make a mess that looks much worse than it is. The Sethlans cleans up perfectly after a fire lighting session, and the photo below, after a clean, left a knife looking as good a new. Use it!

Despite the significantly thick blade tang, the blade itself has a thickness of 3.9mm combined with a depth of 37.5mm, and this makes for a 5 degree primary bevel angle. The figures might be a bit of a yawn, but what it means is a blade that slices really well thanks to the small bevel angle – yet at a maximum thickness at the spine of nearly 4mm, is still a good strong blade without feeling heavy.

Extrema Ratio have put a lot of effort into the complex shaping of the blade, tang and handle fittings, and it shows. These design details make the Sethlans one of those knives you pick up and virtually forget about while using it, as the tool becomes an extension of your hand. You focus on the job, not the tool.

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.

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

The Kydex sheath has a bit of side to side play due to the strap layout.
Reconfiguring for left-handed use requires full disassembly of straps and sheath bolts.

_______________________________________________
Things I like
_______________________________________________

Excellent balance of the knife.
Comprehensively equipped sheath.
Sheath can be reconfigured for left-handed use.
Modular sheath allows user to choose favourite setup.
Very good handling and grip.
Strong but slicey blade profile.
Easily strikes showers of sparks from a fire-steel.
Compact package.
Secure blade retention, yet easy to remove using thumb pressure.

 
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.

As well as the Tactical Reviews Facebook Page, please consider visiting one of the following to start/join in any discussion.

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First Look: Extrema Ratio Sethlans Knife

This is a first look at the just launched Extrema Ratio Sethlans knife. This knife is designed to be used for bushcraft, survival, and as a backup blade, so is also ideally suited for prepping. But you are going to want to use this, not just leave it sitting by ‘just in case’.

The ‘First Look’ Video:


What’s in the box?:


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.
Quoted directly from Extrema Ratio –
““EXTREMA RATIO SETHLANS” a fixed blade work knife born to face a wide range of situations, suitable for survival, bushcraft, prepping, but also as a backup blade.

SETHLANS was designed in collaboration with Daniele Dal Canto, Master Advanced F.I.S.S.S. instructor (Italian Federation of Sports and Experimental Survival).

SETHLANS is available in two different versions with two different kinds of steel.

The stone washed version is produced with böhler N690 heat treated at 58 HRC, chosen for the reliability it has demonstrated over the last 20 years due to its resistance to oxidation and durability of the edge.

The black version is produced in D2 steel, heat and cryogenically treated at 60 HRC, which presents an high resharpening capacity even with makeshift tools. In order to give greater qualities of hardness and resistance, the blade is coated with the new Teflon-based product “EXP DARK”, proposed by Extrema Ratio.

The knife comes with G10 grips that feature the ergonomic design characteristic of Extrema Ratio handles. They can be removed by releasing the skeletonized structure of the knife, that allows maximum lightness with minimum thickness. For lovers of extreme customization, the full-tang structure allows the handle to be covered with a paracord cord.

The sheath is composed of a part in very light and minimalist Kydex. It can be disassembled and can be adapted for both left and right handed users. The addition of an optional belt clip allows the knife to be positioned both vertically and horizontally and makes the sheath much more versatile than the textile version. It is also equipped with a mini pouch with M.O.L.L.E. system. containing a two-sided stone for sharpening and a Firesteel for lighting fires”.

Type: Fixed blade
Use: Survival
Blade Length: 107 mm (4.21”)
Overall Length: 224 mm (8.82”)
Blade Thickness: 6.3 mm (0,25”)
Main Grid: Flat
Weight: 207 g (7,30 oz)
Blade Material Sethlans Stone Washed: Böhler N690 (58HRC) steel
Blade Finishing Sethlans Stone Washed: Stone Washed
Blade Material Sethlans Black D2: D2 (60HRC) steel
Blade Finishing Sethlans Black D2: EXP DARK
Handle Material: G10

 
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Gear Review: NexTool Frigate 14-in-1 Folding Shovel

When I first picked up the NexTool (14-in-1) ‘Frigate’ shovel I was struck by how solid it felt, this was no ordinary folding shovel. Large and substantial, with plenty of heft and leverage to make this a properly effective tool. With a head that can be set to multiple angles to enhance its digging ability, changing from a shovel to a grubbing hoe, and a few extra functions thrown in to make it even more useful. Keep reading this review of the NexTool Frigate 14-in-1 Folding Shovel for all the details.

A few more details:

What’s in the box?:

Revealing the contents layer by layer.


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

As well as the well provisioned case and carry strap, it is supplied with an Allen key and small spanner (to maintain the shovel’s folding mechanism) and some paracord. Inside are compartments for each section of the shovel.


A good look over the handle and included tools – Things to look out for here are:

One handle section incorporates a standard magnetic hex screwdriver bit holder and comes with a double ended bit. The end-cap of the handle incorporates a fluid compass, and removing that end-cap reveals a glass-breaker spike. Unscrewing the glass breaker part reveals a dual purpose whistle and firesteel. The two other handle sections are simple empty tubes.


A good look round the head of the shovel – Things to look out for here are:

The main event, the head of the shovel. There is a protective slip covering the shovel head when packed away. A ball-detent system locates the head at one of three angles/positions, 45 degrees, 90 degrees open (from closed) and fully open. Once the head is located by the detent, a locking collar then secures the head in the chosen position. The shovel head has an incorporated saw, two spanners, a bottle opener and a line cutter. The side opposite the saw could be sharpened for chopping, but is not sharp as supplied.


What it is like to use?

I’ve split this section’s photos into two galleries as the first relates to some general observations and the second to the results of the actual testing.
This first gallery is intended to give an impression of its portability and size. The fully packed tool weighs in at 1.68kg which is more than many folding shovels, so the important factor here is to decide how much work you are really going to do with it. Light weight shovels are great in most ways up until you have to use them, and may as well have a garden trowel. With that weight comes ability to do serious work. Look at the shovel leaning against a high-back garden chair, it is a size you can use standing up, you won’t need to be on your knees to dig.
The compartmentalised carry case ensures it easily all fits together and is surprisingly compact.


With the shovel begging to be used and do some serious work, I quickly came across a consideration and suggestion for anyone using this shovel – Take out all the ‘extras’ from inside the handle tubes and keep them separate.
The hex bit immediately comes out of the magnetic holder and then just bounces about. More annoyingly, the whistle and firesteel quickly shakes loose, falls into the tube and the firesteel will break. This is not a fault as such, but a practicality for when you start digging properly, so avoid the broken firesteel and annoying rattles, and just take these parts out before you start.
This is the most comfortable and effective folding shovel I have used. Its weight allows you to easily stab into the ground (as there is not a suitable surface to apply foot pressure) and then a long lever to make quick progress.


Personally I would not count on the additional functions but focus on the effectiveness of the shovel and its digging ability. The saw is useful for small notches, but not much more, and things like the spanners and bottle opener in the shovel blade might have use for prying and twisting jobs, but anything really needing these tools will want proper versions. Of course having is these functions is better than not having them.
Unlike some folding/telescopic shovels (that are less capable), the NexTool shovel becomes a little fussy when packing away. There is a separate shovel blade cover needed due to the saw, and the handle breaks down into a set of completely separate tubes. Depending on how far (or not) you travel each day, you might be leaving the full handle assembled and just fold the blade over for carry to your next camp site.
Having said this, the NexTool Frigate Shovel is actually a serious working tool, that can be packed down very neatly when you need to.

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 that covered in the review.

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.

I’m trying something slightly different and starting with what doesn’t work so well, so I can finish on a more positive note

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

Overall weight makes this a more considered carry.
Some extras (whistle/firesteel/screwdriver) need to be removed for digging.
Slightly fussy to pack.

_______________________________________________
Things I like
_______________________________________________

Seriously good at digging – far more so than most folding shovels.
Long handle makes digging while standing easy.
Very strong all metal build.
Takes-down into a very neat package.
Additional functions useful.

 

Discussing the Review:

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Knife Review: Oberland Arms Wuiderer Sepp

This review of the Oberland Arms Wuiderer Sepp knife is a natural follow-on from the previously published review of the Oberland Arms Jager Sepp knife, with both being designed by Tommaso Rumici to specifically meet requirements Matthias Hainich (Executive Director of OA) had for the knives. Though initially the Wuiderer Sepp was not the one I would have picked up first, its capabilities and versatility has made it my favourite little-big-knife.

A few more details:

What’s in the box?:

Actually this section is incorrectly named for the Oberland Arms knives, as they don’t have a box, but come in a zip-lock plastic bag; more like bulk supply standard issue kit than a retail product.


A good look round the Wuiderer Sepp’s Sheath – Things to look out for here are:

An interesting Kydex liner/fabric outer combination allowing for secure knife retention without additional straps, and the user can choose right or left handed configuration. The MOLLE strap fixture is unlike any other I have seen, only using a fabric tab to secure the strap.


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

This knife has inspired me to class it as a little-big-knife – the power and presence of a Big knife, but actually it is not that big. Come back to this gallery after reading the design insights in the ‘Explained by the Maker’ section.


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.

Tommaso Rumici has been kind enough to talk to me about this knife and the design process. This is part two of an interview first published in the review of the Oberland Arms Jager Sepp knife:

Still on the steel, are there any other factors or special processing/heat treatments to support the choice of D2 over other steels?

“In the past years, Viper has acquired a big know how about D2 heat treating. They usually do vacuum treatment, double tempering, and a final cryogenic phase. I can’t go more in details, but the final result is really interesting, on the field.
After 14 years in the knife industry, I’m convinced that a correct heat treatment is far more important than the alloy itself (obviously if we choose among good ones).
During my continuous studies and tests, several times I compared the same steel, treated by different manufacturers, with opposite results: one worked well, another seemed not even the same steel.”

Were the 3D milled handle scales something you had included in a design before? How was it working with this type of production? Did you do the 3D modelling?

“I wanted these knives to have a family feeling with the Oberland rifles, so I inspired to the texture applied to their AR15 handguards and magazines. In the past, David and Golia had milled scales, but this texture was developed for this project only.
The 3D was made directly by Viper. I usually prefer to do so, because every manufacturer uses different software and knows his machines, so the final result is far better.”

Can you talk me through the factors affecting the length and thickness of the blade, the choice of grind, the positioning of jimping, the sharpening choil and any other details you are particularly pleased with or think are absolutely essential?

“When I started working with Matthias, he was really clear about one point: his knives, like his rifles, are made for real operators, non for the tacticool audience, so he asked for performances above all. So we choose grind and thickness to achieve toughness and cutting ability.
The length of the blade, on the short one, follows German regulations. If I remember correctly blades under 12 cm are easier to carry, and they are enough for the fighter-utility role. The other one in an heavy camp knife, so the blade had to be bigger and longer.
The blade design was quite easy compared to the handle. Mr. Hainich asked for something extremely comfortable, with enough grip to work in every environment, and big enough to be used with every kind of military glove. that’s why this handle is so big, compared to civilian knives.”

How did the prototyping go (how many versions)?

“I always try to reach final design before the prototyping phase, and so we did during this project. After Viper made the first prototypes, Oberland checked and tested them, and needed only minimal modifications before the production.”

Thanks go to Tommaso for taking the time to share this.

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 blade is made from D2 steel.


What is it like to use?

Again and again, due to its capabilities, the Wuiderer Sepp gives me the sense it is a much larger knife than it actually is. It is not a small knife, but neither is it a big camp blade, yet it has plenty of chopping/cutting power.
Viewed next to the Jager Sepp, which is a typical size for general purpose utility fixed blade, the Wuiderer Sepp is not that much larger, but has a wider blade and a more weight-forward configuration. By having the full-flat-grind blade, you gain significant slicing ability, helping it to slice as well as a much smaller blade would.

While writing this review my wife passed me a box of frutta di marzapane that needed opening. With the laptop on my lap, the knife I had to hand was the Wuiderer Sepp, so I popped it out of the sheath and my wife exclaimed, “What is that?! Where did that axe come from?!” as she hadn’t noticed the sheathed blade sitting next to me.

The reason for sharing this is that the Wuiderer Sepp is relatively unobtrusive, especially in the sheath. The wide blade definitely gives it more presence, as proven by my wife’s reaction to its appearance, but overall it is nothing like the size of many ‘camp’ style blades.

On the subject of the sheath, this is the only area I’m not so sure about, and only really due to the MOLLE straps. With only the fabric tabs posted through a slot in the strap to retain/hold the end, this does not provide much strength. Fully woven into the full set of PALS webbing, the loading is spread over several strips of webbing, so it should not pull on the strap fixing too much. But used as I showed in the sheath section, where the straps are used as a belt loop, this strap fixing is not very stable – ideally it should be properly fitted to webbing, or a separate belt MOLLE adapter.

Tommaso Rumici, the designer, has been impressed with the performance of Viper’s D2, achieved through their own heat treat recipe. I can only agree. The Structural Edge Testing results in the technical testing section are very impressive and equal performances from other manufacturers using M390 and PSF27, and the result is quite a bit better than Viper’s own N690 (confirming the choice of this D2/heat treat). The recovery result is also important as it shows that the edge stability has not been achieved at the cost of creating brittleness – the edge is rolling rather than chipping and can be stropped back. I have used the Wuiderer Sepp for very heavy chopping, carving and other tasks and the edge just keeps holding. When resharpening, I took the original 46 degree factory edge down to 40 degrees, and further heavy use has not caused any damage.

Using a full flat grind turns what could have been a less useful brute of a blade, into an excellent all-rounder. I’ve used this to chop through good sized branches, all the way to the other extreme of cutting soft sponge foam rubber to size, and it worked well for all jobs.

With its purposeful geometry the Wuiderer Sepp cuts above its weight with a big-knife feel for those heavier jobs. I’ve used the term earlier in the review, which comes from the fact it can cut like a BIG knife, without being big, so somehow ‘little-big-knife’ just seems appropriate; it makes me question the need for anything larger (or smaller).


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.

I’m trying something slightly different and starting with what doesn’t work so well, so I can finish on a more positive note

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

Concerned that the sheath MOLLE strap fixing (fabric tab) is not stable enough.
No specific belt carry option provided.
D2 is only a semi-stainless steel.

_______________________________________________
Things I like
_______________________________________________

Cuts well above its weight – a real ‘little-big-knife’.
Very comfortable hand-filling handle.
Very good blade indexing due to handle design.
Excellent edge retention and edge stability.
Sheath can easily be switched between right and left-handed.
Good at finer cutting tasks as well as chopping.
Stable sheath retention that will hold in tip-up carry.
Fantastic all-rounder.

 

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.

As well as the Tactical Reviews Facebook Page, please consider visiting one of the following to start/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 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.

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

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

Knife Review: Oberland Arms Jager Sepp

Finding Oberland Arms’ knives was an outstanding highlight of IWA 2018, and it became a mission of mine to review them. A happy coincidence that one other IWA 2018 highlight happened to be another knife designed by Tommaso Rumici who is the designer of the Jager Sepp on review here.
Everything came together nicely at IWA 2019, meetings with Tommaso, Viper Tecnocut and Matthias Hainich of Oberland Arms, and here is the first of two reviews for Oberland Arms knives (the Wuiderer Sepp is currently in testing).

A few more details:

No unnecessary frills with packaging that will just be discarded, the Jager Sepp and Wuiderer Sepp arrive in a plastic bag.

Starting with the sheath:

This is the one part not designed by Tommaso Rumici, but instead by the team at Oberland Arms. It has a lot of interesting features shown in the gallery.


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

Overall there is a real sense of purpose and lack of unnecessary frills on the Jager Sepp.


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.

Tommaso Rumici has been kind enough to talk to me about this knife and the design process. I am also reviewing the larger Oberland Arms ‘Wuiderer Sepp’. The interview with Tommaso is in two parts, with this review containing Part 1:

This image of the first sketch of the final design of the Jager Sepp has been kindly provided to me by Tommaso Rumici.

How did you get involved with Oberland Arms to design these knives?

“Me and Matthias Hainich, CEO of Oberland Arms, met during an IWA Show. I was helping at Viper’s booth, and he was looking for someone to produce knives for his brand. At the beginning, we started with a lightly modified version of the Viper David, then we continued with exclusive designs, made for Oberland following his specifications and requests.”

Can you talk me through the design brief, and how far developed it was when given to you?
“During September 2016, Mr. Hainich sent me a list of specifications for the new knife, with some indications about the tasks it would have been able to accomplish, and a few examples of existing knives with the same characteristics.
The new knife was going to be a fixed blade, with green or coyote G10 handle, 11,9cm blade with 5mm thickness, flat grind, with stonewashed finish, and a Kydex/Nylon sheath.
I started working, exchanging emails with Matthias, and before October we arrived to the final design of the smaller one.
Since Mr. Hainich is a fan of my Carnera, we also tried a bigger blade with a similar Bowie design (but smaller than Carnera’s one, which is too big for a military knife). This blade became the bigger one.
(The Wuiderer Sepp.)

At the end, we had a meeting with Mr. Miniutti (Viper), and checked everything before production. During that meeting, we decided for the Black Stonewashed PVD, and to work on three different handles: OD green, coyote and wolf grey G10.”

There was a repeated question I got when talking to others about these knives – why D2?
AISI D2 is a good steel for hard working tools. It holds a good edge, it’s tougher than a lot of “inox”, and more stainless than high carbon steels, like 1095. It isn’t the latest alloy invented but, in my opinion, it’s a great choice for a military knife, that can be abused or lost in the field, because it gives you great performances, it’s difficult to break, while keeping a great price/performances balance.
Speaking of the real life, I tested several D2 knives made by Viper, and I’m really satisfied about how they work. Especially the Viper Tank, designed to be an heavy outdoor tool.

Part 2 of this interview will be in the Oberland Arms Wuiderer Sepp Review.

In the Lab – Technical Testing!:

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 first image in this gallery shows the standard review measurements, however, this is the first review on Tactical Reviews to feature a new measurement. Using the Edge On Up Structural Edge Tester (SET) to measure the resistance of a knife’s edge to rolling.

This is to be expanded upon in future articles, but for now, in the SET results the key factors are:
Series 1 Degradation – how much damage the edge suffers from one edge rolling cycle. The damage is represented by an increase in the BESS ‘C’ score. (Averages also shown for A and B)
Series 2 Degradation – how much damage the edge suffers from one further edge rolling cycle. (Averages also shown for A and B)
Degradation after strop – has the edge been permanently damaged/chipped or can it be recovered with stropping? A negative number means it actually improved from the starting figure, suggesting there may have already been some rolling of the edge before testing. (Averages also shown for A and B)


What it is like to use?

Of Oberland Arms’ three fixed blade knives (at the time of review), the Jager Sepp would be the all-rounder in terms of size (the main reason I’m testing it first). With a 12cm blade (just under 5″) it is in that ideal general-purpose-blade length. The high, almost full, flat grind gives the blade strength combined with powerful cutting ability.

Good handle design provides immediate indexing of the blade, comfort and grip options. On picking up the Jager Sepp, this is what strikes you straight away. It just sits in your hand, balanced nicely on your first finger, nimble and ready to work; a natural extension of your hand. The grip is a generous size without being overly large, and its size and shape have not presented me with any hotspots when working it hard. Grip indexing works almost as well in a reverse grip, considering the forward grip has that first finger groove, this is impressive.

For a working knife, three elements are as important as each other. The blade, the handle and the sheath. In some cases the sheath can become the most important element, as a knife is no good to you if it is lost, or you can’t get to it when you need to. The Oberland Arms sheath is a great mix of clever design ideas and hits a lot of sweet spots.

The nylon outer shell holds a kydex liner, meaning no additional knife retention is needed, the kydex lips hold the Jager Sepp firmly in place even when mounted handle-down. A thumb ramp is incorporated into the kydex so you can easily unsheathe the knife quietly and in full control.

Ambidextrous use is catered for in the simplest way; the kydex liner is held in the outer sheath with a single bolt. This allows you to remove the kydex liner and flip it round for left-handed use – an excellent solution. I’ll cover more on the sheath in a dedicated gallery following this one.

On its first venture into the outdoors, I went with the factory edge, but found this a little too steep an angle (52 degrees), so took this to a total inclusive of 35 degrees. I find this a good compromise when I don’t want to go all the way to 30 degrees, but want a finer edge than a typical 40 degree.

OK, perhaps the elephant in the room – D2 steel. Once the wonder steel of legend, then becoming more mainstream, before being mostly discarded in favour of steels designed specifically for the knife industry. Is it too hard to sharpen, does it chip, does it rust, does that edge last well?

The SET testing results, included for the first time ever in a knife review, have been shown in isolation, as at the time of writing this test is still not fully proven. What I can say is that the results were in line with what I expected of D2. Those figures are a strong performance and the ability to recover means that there was no chipping. I’d say the heat treat on this by Viper Tecnocut has got it just right.

D2 by its very nature is going to be a bit harder to sharpen. Although I use a belt grinder, it is easy to feel how hard the steel is to sharpen, and the Jager’s blade was firm but not excessive. The only chipping I have experienced was when I dropped the knife onto a stone!

I’ve given the blade no special treatment, but also no abuse, and I was keen to get a patina to add to the stonewashed PVD (being stonewashed a lot of the PVD has been polished off), but so far neither the bare edge bevel not any other part of the knife have shown any corrosion.


The Oberland Arms nylon sheath has MOLLE compatible straps that are unlike any others I’ve seen so warrant a more detailed look. In this gallery I’m fitting it to a drop leg platform.

Before getting onto this is does lead me to mention why I chose to fit it to a drop-leg. With MOLLE straps, I typically arrange them so as to form a belt loop for the majority of my testing. The strap fixing design on the Oberland Arms sheath is not strong enough to do this with confidence. Unlike a press-stud fixing the fabric tabs were becoming deformed when making a simple belt loop and I had to use some auxiliary MOLLE strap I have (for pouches without any straps).

Going onto PALS webbing, the strap design is perfectly strong enough, and the effect is for the cross webbing to take the load. For a full weave, you will need to remove the kydex liner. In this gallery I did not do that, so the last weave is left undone.


Review Summary

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

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

_______________________________________________
Things I like
_______________________________________________

Superb ergonomics / indexing / comfort.
High flat grind.
D2 with very good heat treat.
Great all-rounder size.
Versatile, ambidextrous sheath.

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

Sheath MOLLE straps – question over durability.
Sheath MOLLE straps – not strong enough for a simple belt loop configuration.
D2 – some would question using this steel in a premium knife.

 

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: Nordic Pocket Saw (Pocket Chainsaw)

Over the years I’ve used all sorts of two-handed flexible pocket saws, but none as effective as the Nordic Pocket saw pocket chainsaw. Many ‘survival’ pocket saws are wire, and tend to tear or abrade rather than cut. What caught my eye with the Nordic Pocket saw was the sawdust flying from the cut just like a petrol chainsaw – this flexible saw actually cuts.

So why not stick with a rigid bladed folding saw? Flexible saws give you amazing versatility, much larger capacity of cut, and the ability to cut high, out of reach, tree limbs using cord to extend the handles and a throw-line to pull the saw into place.

A few more details:

What’s in the box?:


A good look round the Nordic Pocket Saw – Things to look out for here are:

You can see the quality of manufacture throughout this set of images. The hand strap uses a strong webbing with plenty of stitching to reinforce it. The chain links both move freely and also with minimal play meaning it stays nicely aligned in the cut, but can be coiled neatly for storage.


What it is like to use?

Being such a dynamic saw to use, it is really best to show it in action, so here is a short video that should give you a very good idea of what it is like to use, and how to get the best from it.


What may or may not be apparent in the video is that it can be quite hard work. As the saw really bites in, and properly cuts chips of wood out (and the cut is quite wide), the effort level is relatively high. Unlike other pocket saws, you can do a two person cut where you each hold one of the handles and get into a sawing rhythm (so as to not jam the chain). Like this you can motor through even large logs, at least sharing the work load.

Hand-in-hand with this is that the workpiece does need to be well secured. The sawing action pulls on it pretty hard. In the video, the ground based cut I showed, had me standing on the branch (all 92Kg of me) and it still wanted to move about. The smaller the diameter of the branch being cut, the more awkward this can become, and is where a folding rigid saw becomes a better option.

At some point (I’ve not got there yet) the saw will need a sharpen. I’m assuming a normal chainsaw file will do the job.

The Nordic Pocket Saw is so easy to carry it can easily become part of your basic kit even when you are not planning any larger cuts.

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
_______________________________________________

It really cuts – the chips fly!
Can cut much larger logs than with other pocket saws.
Very compact and easy to carry.
Belt pouch provided.

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

Logs being cut need to be well secured.
Requires high levels of effort.
Not so well suited for smaller branches.

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: Spyderco Hundred Pacer

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

A few more details:

What’s in the box?:


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

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


Explained by the Maker:

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

While at IWA 2018 I had the good fortune to be able to talk to Joyce Laituri from Spyderco about this knife.

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

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

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

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

The Blade and Handle – Detailed Measurements:

Now even more detailed!

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

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


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


The blade is made from CTS-XHP steel.

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

What it is like to use?

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

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

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


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

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


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

Review Summary

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

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

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

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What doesn’t work so well for me
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Unusual appearance.

 

Discussing the Review:

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