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

 

Discussing the Review:

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Knife Review: Spartan Blades’ Harsey Model II (6.125″ blade – S35VN)

The SPARTAN HARSEY MODEL II is Spartan Blades’ third collaboration with world renowned knife maker, William “Bill” Harsey Jr. The Harsey Model II was designed to be sturdy knife that would serve equally well as both a field and combat knife. The ergonomic and textured canvas micarta handle is specifically intended to provide comfort and confidence of grip.

The Blade and Handle Geometry:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The blade is made from S35VN.

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.

Many thanks go to Bill Harsey (knife designer) and Mark Carey (co-owner of Spartan Blades) for taking the time to explain the details of the knife and sheath design to me.

Though not quoting Bill and Mark directly, the following is an explanation of how the final design was arrived at.

Bill spoke with Spartan about the intended use before he started the prototype process. Having already done the Model 1 limited edition, Spartan Blades told Bill they would like to use handle shape but make it a bit smaller (so it would be more usable for more people). It was decided to shrink handle by 5% and change blade length.

In this case the blade length (A) was chosen to fill a specific gap in the Spartan product line.

A harpoon point (B) was used to reinforce the point, with the additional blade width used to make point stronger without making it thicker. The unsharpened edge of the harpoon point could be sharpened if required.

Looking at the area just in front of the guard (C) it might appear to be a finger choil, however, Bill emphasised that this is not a finger choil. Instead it is a relief between the end of edge and front of handle. “Don’t put your finger in it.”

The cutting edge has been pushed away from the plunge line (D), extending the choil. Though this slightly reduces the length of the cutting edge, the knife has the edge where Bill intended it to be on this model. This also takes the end of cutting edge away from the radiused plunge line.

Bill made the guard (E) protrude enough to be useful without getting in the way. (Based on over 30 years of experience rather than any specific guidelines)

As with many of the knife’s ergonomic features, the slight negative rake (F) was chosen by Bill “because it felt right”.

Discussing the single lanyard hole in the butt of the knife (G) and the subject of lanyard use and safety, Bill indicated that this feature is especially useful when working over water, and that ultimately it is the individual owner’s decision of exactly how to use the lanyard when there is a safety aspect to consider (Author’s note – when chopping, use of a lanyard can be dangerous). What was expressly ruled out was the possibility of adding a lanyard hole in the guard.

As well as providing grip, the jimping (H) is for tactile reference. Jimping on the rear of the handle is for same reason but when using a reverse grip.

Front jimping.

View of both areas of jimping.

Rear jimping.

The balance point (I) has been adjusted by selecting appropriate material thicknesses and removing material where it doesn’t need to be (such as drilling the tang).

Featuring a fully sculpted handle, the Harsey Model II’s grip is highly functional with finger grips and pommel hook/swell (J). Placement is of these elements is chosen to ensure function even when user is wearing gloves in adverse conditions.

*Now a temporary move to consider the Sheath design details….

During testing, it was noticed that the position of the strap makes it vulnerable to being cut when inserting or withdrawing the knife.

However Mark explained that the retention strap was positioned at handle choil level to insure a good fit and allow the user to get full grip on the exposed handle. The user can then flip the snap closure with their thumb (and sweep the strap out of way with their finger). While a user could cut the retaining strap, it is unlikely if deliberately drawing. The sheath is adjustable to allow it fit a range of Spartan’s other knives.

Showing the detail of the retention strap’s adjustment. You can alter the fit, or use it for another knife.

Though limited in space, the PALS webbing on the front (L), can, and has been, used for a small pouch or to place pistol holster over it for chest draw.

There is a Felt liner (M) inside the sheath. It is made from a recycled kydex like plastic which is laminated between layers of felt. This has the advantage that it provides some retention and is extremely quiet when drawing making it ideal for use in the field as well as when moving as there is no rattle.

A closer look at the liner.

Looking at the back of the sheath:

Use of Velcro throughout the entire belt loop (N) allows it to be fitted on a 1”-4” belt width and the Velcro keeps the sheath tight onto the belt whatever its size.

There is Velcro on the outer flap.

As well as inside the actual belt ‘loop’ as well.

Rather than just using the webbing loop (into which the D-ring is fitted), a D-ring (O) was introduced to provide better directional stability on the leg and allows for other items to be attached.

There are copious tie loops (P) on the back of the sheath which allow the leg tie down to act as a way to lace the sheath to a vest or pack in any direction (vertical, horizontal or diagonal) as well as allowing it to be mounted to packs or vehicle roll cages.

For the final part of ‘Explained by the maker’ we return to the knife…

Point position (Q) relative to the centre line gives a best ‘user friendly’ position for most tasks.

Though supplied unsharpened, the Swedge (R) can be sharpened like an Axe to allow for use in tinder preparation and splitting wood, which saves the main blade from being used for those tasks.

As explained earlier, the harpoon point strengthens the tip. The position of the end of this feature (S) is dictated by overall form and function.

The final height of the grind line (T) is the result of the desired bevel angle intersecting with the 3/16” blade stock. The bevel angle used in the Harsey Model II allows for good sharpness while maintaining toughness.

A flat grind (U) is used purely as it is stronger than a hollow grind, and in this design, strength and durability are key requirements.

Use of a rounded plunge line (V) is related to providing stress relief during the heat treat / cryo process, and ergonomics when using.

One of the special features of this knife are the sculpted handle scales (W). Spartan Blades scanned a handle Bill had hand ground in the 1970’s that was too hard to make at that time. Both Col Applegate and Al Mar wanted to use it, but at the time technology could not reproduce it – Spartan Blades now have.

The detailed profiling in the butt swell/hook area (X) where the handle scales have a double-swell with swell in the side profile and top profile, came about over many years with Bill’s own experience combined with feedback from users. It greatly aids grip and general ergonomics for all tasks.

The selected blade steel (S35VN), which is used almost exclusively across the Spartan range, has been a logical choice for Spartan. S30V was the first CPM steel specifically created for cutlery and S35VN, a product improvement, just fits with what most soldiers and outdoorsman want. Good corrosion resistance, excellent edge retention and good toughness. Spartan really like it and it is also a great choice for many users who cannot re-sharpen when deployed for 6 months or a year.

A few more details:

Picking up on a few details not covered during the ‘Explained By’ section.

The Harsey Model II is a knife to be used, so the box reflects this simple intent. No fancy presentation packaging, it is a plain box that just gets the knife to you.

Here is another view of the knife out of its sheath with the felt liner visible.

And the side view of the same.

Spartan Blades logo etched onto the blade with U.S.A and the blade steel. This knife is the Flat Dark Earth colour and has a ZrN PVD ‘SpartaCoat’ coating.

So right now, just bear with me as I’m really just enjoying looking at the blade profile…

…along with that sculpted grip and harpoon point

Yes, still enjoying that profile…..

The Flat Dark Earth colouring is a very subdued looking finish that fits right in.

To get an idea of the size of the Harsey Model II, it is shown here with the Fallkniven F1, and Spyderco UKPK FRN.

And straight on.

What it is like to use?

This is a knife I’ve loved the look of from first sight of it. However in a tool designed to cut, looks are not everything, and as it happens the Harsey Model II does cuts just as well as you would hope.

Taking the Harsey Modell II into my daily use gear it has been with me for several months now. (In this photo it is still looking spotless as it had not had any real use at that time).

It has been with me out hunting and on the range.

Out and about in the field.

For a sturdy knife, the Harsey Model II worked perfectly well carving and shaping wood. Pictured in the process of making a ‘mini-me’ letter opener…

For some cutting tasks I have found the Harsey Model II a little too ‘pointy’. The tip is very eager to cut and resulted in more aggressive cuts than I intended in certain situations. Admittedly, these are situations I would normally have used a smaller knife with a less prominent point, but I had the Harsey Model II with me, so had to use it.

It is one of the most natural feeling knives I’ve used. The handle’s curves and sculpted profile just fit my hand and allow it act as an extension of my arm rather than a foreign object. The milling lines from the CNC machining of the G10 provide an ideal surface roughness giving excellent grip yet no rubbing. Without gloves, my hand became tired long before I felt any pressure points or anywhere in danger of blistering. With gloves, the limiting factor are the gloves own seam lines which tend to add a source of pressure and rubbing, but what was clearly evident was that the handle works just as well with gloves or without.

Still on my to-do list is to sharpen the harpoon swedge. Though I like the idea, in my normal use, I already find the point very aggressive, so sharpening the top edge as well is only going to make it even more so.

The sheath has proved very versatile in its mounting options, however there are a couple of points I’ve found that don’t seem to work so well. Though any sheath retaining strap can be in danger of being cut, the retaining strap seems to need to be positively pushed out of the way to avoid being cut. Depending on how you mount it this can be easier or quite difficult.

Though it provides a very secure fit, the use of Velcro on the internal part of the belt loop, means that this is quite abrasive on the belt itself and causes fraying on fabric belts and scratching on leather belts. In military applications you probably won’t care, but ‘sporting’ users might.

Its blade length, at just over 6”, combined with a great balance makes this a very nimble blade despite its sturdy 3/16” blade stock. I’ve not handled the larger Harsey Model I Limited edition, but think that most users would find the Model II more manageable and useful for general tasks even if they could still get a Model I.

The S35VN is standing up to its promises of edge retention. I’ve not been using it for extended periods of chopping (I use an axe for that), but instead just using it as and when I need to, and so far there has been no need to bother with a strop or otherwise maintain the edge. Only further use and time will tell just how long the edge will last before I need to touch it up. The only maintenance I have done so far is washing various ‘residues’ off the blade.

This knife has made itself a firm favourite of mine due to its excellent handling and balance, and a fantastic grip, not forgetting the excellent steel too.

Review Summary

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

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

_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Things I like What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Sculpted handle The point can cut very aggressively
S35VN blade steel Possible to cut the retaining strap by mistake
Versatile sheath Belt loop will mark/fray most belts
Superb balance
Jimping for forward and reverse grips