Sunday, December 26, 2010

Review - Cold Steel Mini Pal

The next knife that I wanted to write about is one that I would actually call "cute". By the same token, it is also very useful, both in utility tasks and in defensive ones. It is the Mini Pal by Cold Steel.

A very small, inexpensive, but high quality knife, the Mini Pal is small enough to be carried on a keychain or can even be used as a zipper pull. It weighs a mere 0.7 oz with it's Secure-Ex polymer sheath. By the way, the sheath holds the knife securely, but is still easily removed when needed.

The Cold Steel Mini Pal is small enough to go on a keychain.
The quality of the Mini Pal is high, which is consistent with Cold Steel's knives. It has a very comfortable Kraton grip, meant to be held in between the fingers. For those who do not know, Kraton is a soft, rubbery material that Cold Steel often uses on their knife handles. The spear point blade is made out of Japanese 400 series stainless steel and has a fully serrated edge. This serrated design maximizes the 1.1" blade, allowing it to cut better than an equivalent straight edged blade. Serrations are also great for cutting through fibrous material, which adds to the knife's ability to be used more effectively for self defense.

Like I mentioned before, this knife would be a great addition to a keychain. It is so small that it can be put practically anywhere. It is also a fixed blade, making it very strong. Not that you'd realistically be able to put too push this knife to its breaking point, but it's always good to have the added strength that a fixed blade offers if you can afford its slightly larger size.

Self-Defense

The Secure-Ex sheath that holds the Mini Pal, well, securely.
Having a small knife like the Mini Pal as a back-up can be life-saving is a defensive situation. That's a big reason why I recommend having a knife like this on your keys.

If you're ever walking to the car at night, chances are you'll have your keys in your hand. If an attacker were to surprise you at night, you might only have a fraction of a second to react. Having the Mini Pal on your keys will give you the ability to have a defensive tool, ready to go, at all times. The super-sharp serrated edge will be devastating against an attacker in a slash cut, even despite the blade's small length.

Conclusion

So, yeah, I recommend having a Mini Pal. It makes an ideal back-up blade/last-ditch defensive tool. It's very inexpensive and small enough to put anywhere. Another point that I forgot to mention is that it doesn't scream "knife" when you see it, which makes it great to have around people who are afraid of sharp objects (aichmophobia). The Mini Pal is useful enough for every knife enthusiast to own at least one.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Using Knives in Cold Weather

I was recently watching a video by one of my favorite YouTubers. He goes by the name Cutlerylover. He had a video on carrying knives in different weather conditions and he mentioned something really useful.

Good luck opening your Kershaw Skyline with gloves on.
He said that whenever it's cold outside, he carries with him a fixed blade knife. The reason that he carries a fixed blade is because, in the cold, it is difficult or impossible to open a folding knife with gloves on. With a fixed blade, it is still fairly easy to take it out of its sheath and then put it back. This seems like a very simple observation, but can often be overlooked. See, a fixed blade knife does have some every day uses after all.

A simple fixed blade, such as this Mora Classic 612,
would make a great cold-weather knife choice.
I would have to advise you, however, when using a knife in the cold: since your manual dexterity gets hindered in cold weather, be doubly careful about what you do with a blade. Your dexterity is further decreased from the fact that you might be wearing gloves, as well. Always use common-sense safety practices such as cutting away from you, keeping your fingers away from the blade, etc.


I know this was a short post, but it's definitely something to think about. Having at least one good fixed blade that you can use for every day carry (EDC) is a good idea, in my opinion. It increases your options and allows you to always have a functional blade on your person.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Review - Boker Plus Subcom Series

Boker is a German knife company which has been around since 1869. However, German-made Boker knives, while being very high quality, are also expensive. To remedy this, Boker put out a line of knives, which they call their Boker Plus line. Boker Plus knives are made in the Far East (China, Taiwan, etc.). They are still quality knives, but they come at a more affordable price point.

One of the most popular knives that Boker Plus offers is the SubCom series of blades. These blades were designed by Hawaiian knife designer Chad Los Banos. With their sweeping blade design and their unique appearance, these knives definitely have a bit of foreign flair to them.

The SubCom series consists of four main styles of knife, varying by blade design: the SubCom F, the SubClaw, the WharCom and the ResCom. Within the styles, there are different colors, edge styles (plain vs. partially serrated) and even scale materials (titanium).

Folded, the SubCom can be used as a pocket clip.
All of the SubCom knives share the same handle design. The handles are constructed with one half of the frame being made out of polymer and the other half is made out of stainless steel. The handles have deep, useful jimping on the top of the handle, trasitioning to the blade. This jimping is continued near the back of the handle. The jimping is there to compensate for the shortness of the handle, which is only 2.7" long. When properly gripped, the knife offers very good traction in the hand, which is surprising for a knife of this size.

The knives also open relatively easily with polymer abidextrous thumbstuds. The thumbstuds do not allow for super-fast opening, but opening is quick enough for everyday use. The locking mechanism for all SubComs is a frame lock, with the stainless steel portion of the handle having the lock for the knife. The lockup is solid on all SubComs with no blade play on any of the knives I have seen.

The SubComs also have similar weight and dimensions. The weight of these knives is about 2.4 oz, which is fairly light weight. The open lenght is about 4.6" and the closed length is around 2.7". The blade length is around 2.0" (short enough to be legal practically anywhere) and is made of AUS-8 stainless steel. They all come razor sharp out of the box.

Many people like to use the knives in the SubCom series as a money clip. When folded, the wide, short shape of the knife makes this knife very comfortable to carry in the pocket. Why not have a money clip that can function as a blade. While I personally do not do this (I use a wallet), the utility behind this idea can clearly be seen.

Now, let's move onto the specifics behind each knife.

SubCom F
The SubCom F comes in three variations.

The SubCom F is the original knife in the series. The SubCom F is the design that all of the later knives mimicked. It comes in many versions. All SubCom F's have a sweeping drop-point blade, great for slicing. There is the plain-edged SubCom F, with a silver blade and a black polymer handle. The steel half of the handle is also silver to match the blade color. The polymer thumbstuds are black.

The SubCom F comes in a partially serrated black version with a black blade, a black polymer and steel handle and black thumbstuds.

There is also the SubCom F Camo, which has a black partially serrated blade, a gray polymer/black steel handle and a gray polymer thumbstud.

SubCom Titan

The SubCom Titan has a light-weight titanium frame.
The SubCom Titan is the elite version of the SubCom F. The handle being made out of titanium, this knife weighs only 1.9 oz and looks very elegant. It's ambidextrous metal thumbstuds enable very quick opening of the blade, as opposed to the slower opening of the other SubCom knives. The blade is made out of a higher quality 440C stainless steel and has the same drop point shape as the original SubCom F. The design and dimensions are the same as the SubCom F.

Personally, this is my favorite of the SubCom series. Not only is it really cool looking, but it's a great value on a titanium-handled knife.

SubClaw
The SubClaw has a Hawkbill blade design.

The SubClaw is very similar to the SubCom F. The only main difference between the knives is the blade shape. The SubClaw features a Hawkbill blade that is great for slicing, but good for little else. I see this as mainly a defensive blade or a collector's blade. While there are better defensive options out there, few fit into the small size and shape of the SubClaw.

WharCom

The Wharcom has a Wharncliffe type blade.
Next in the list is the WharCom. This knife is also very similar to the SubCom F, only with a different blade shape. The WharCom has a Wharncliffe type blade that is perfectly straght from the handle to the tip. Being similar to a razor blade in blade shape, this is a very useful edge with a nice, pointy tip. The blade shape would be great for slicing, but even better for scraping. If often perform tasks that require scraping and you want to look cool doing it, perhaps the WharCom is what you're looking for.

ResCom

The ResCom is designed to cut only within its hooked blade.
The ResCom has safety and rescue in mind in it's design. Also being very similar to the SubCom F, the ResCom has a hook-type blade shape, with the outside of the hook free from any sharp edges. The sharp edges are all on the inside of the hooked blade shape. There is also a saw portion of the blade, which can be used to cut materials too large to get through the hook on the end. The ResCom is a great blade for those who want an emergency safety/rescue knife. I would not recommend this knife for every day use, since the blade should be kept sharp and only used for emergencies, unless you are willing to sharpen it often to keep it ready to go at all times.

The ResCom comes in two color variations. There is a black version with a black blade, black handle and black thumbstuds. There is also a red version with a silver blade, red polymer frame/silver metal frame and red thumbstuds.

Conclusion

So that's my take on the Boker SubCom series. They are great knives. Their unique shape makes them very attractive, both for for use and for collecting. They're functional, even as money clips. If you are curious, try one out for yourself. They're inexpensive enough that you might even own a few.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Knife Skills - Batoning / Defender Fixed Blade

A knife is one of the most valuable tools to have in almost any situation. It is the fundamental tool for so many different tasks, that I recommend having a knife with you at all times. The knife doesn't have to be huge, or expensive, but it does have to work for the required tasks. For the skill that I will be explaining next, choosing the right knife for the job has to be taken into account.

The Gerber Big Rock is a great, medium sized, full tang knife.
Batoning, is a technique that allows you to use a knife to cut or split wood into smaller pieces. When I first learned that you could use a knife to split wood, I was really wondering how that was possible. Well, with batoning, it is possible. This technique is very hard on a knife, so if you are going to use a knife to baton, it should be a full tang design. This means that the same piece of metal that is used to make the knife blade also extends to the end of the knife handle. A full tang knife is very strong and will withstand a lot of abuse before breaking. You generally do not want to baton with a knife that isn't a full tang design, especially if you are in a survival or long-term camping situation where you really depend on your knife and cannot afford to have it break. You probably wouldn't want to use a folding knife to baton with either, although some folding knives can perform adequately (Cold Steel Rajah II).

Batoning works on the principal of using the blade of the knife to cut or split wood by taking another piece of wood (baton) and hitting it on the top of the blade. The energy transferred to the blade from the baton splits wood in the same way that an axe would. You can baton to split wood lengthwise or use it to cut wood across its diameter (cutting a branch off of a tree); basically using the technique for any job that you would use an axe for.

When you baton, you are limited to the diameter of the wood that you are cutting/splitting. The maximum diameter of the wood that you are processing has to be less than the length of the blade that you are using. Since you will be splitting wood all the way through, if you do not at least have a portion of the tip of the blade sticking out of the wood one the blade has started to go through, you will not be able to drive the blade all the way through the wood.

When you baton you want to have a fair amount of pressure on the knife handle, pushing down. This will compensate for the impacts on the tip of the blade from the baton, allowing the knife to travel through the wood horizontally. You also want to use a baton with a fair amount of weight, so that you are able to transfer enough energy to the blade to quickly cut/split the wood.

Now I've mentioned that you should use a full tang, fixed blade knife. Many of you reading may not know what kind of knife to get. Full tang, fixed blade knives tend to be expensive. I'm not here to make you go out and buy an expensive knife, just so that you can baton with it. Although I don't consider batoning to be real abuse of a blade, it can be difficult to gather up the nerve to just go whack on the new expensive knife that you just purchased.

The Defender Fixed Blade comes in three blade shapes:
Kukri, Spear Point and Bowie.
My recommendation to those who do not have a heavy-duty full tang knife already, and would like to get one for camping, would be to check out the Defender Fixed Blade. I personally own one and have split with it on many many occasions. I have yet to break it. There are three models, with three different blade shapes, however, they are all just as strong. This blade shapes that this knife comes in are: Kukri, Spear Point and Bowie. I own the Bowie and have to say that it is a very functional blade shape.

What's best about this knife is the price. At around $10, it's hard to beat this knife in terms of quality for the money ($10 you kidding me?). I was thoroughly impressed by this knife's ability to handle abuse. I pounded on the blade, I pounded on the handle, all with no breakage. The knife comes with a polymer contoured handle, which is very comfortable and a functional nylon sheath.

After whacking on the knife for a while, the one thing that I did notice, which doesn't detract from the performance at all, is that the polymer handle started to wiggle a little bit of movement after heavy batoning. The handle sits on the tang of the knife, and due to vibrations and wear on the handle, the  polymer sleeve of the handle now wiggles a bit. The metal tang underneath, which is where the strength of the design lies, is solid as can be, and I have yet to even bend it.

So, I hope that helped you guys a bit. Try to baton during your next wilderness or camping adventure. If you like this technique, you might not even need to bring an axe next time you go. I hope that you also learned that having a full tang heavy duty knife doesn't need to be expensive. There are some great deals out there that are just waiting to be found.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Review - Mora Clipper 860 MG

Today, I wanted to review the Mora Clipper 860 MG. It's a knife that I've been using for a couple of years now, and am quite pleased at its performance.

I know that I've briefly mentioned this knife when talking about the Mora company in the post, "Mora - The Best Knives You've Never Heard Of". I'll sum up that post by saying that Mora is an excellent company and the knives that they produce are an amazing value, probably the best "bang for the buck" knives that I have ever seen, and I'm not exaggerating when I say that.

The Mora 860 MG is one of the best knife values out there.
The 860 MG is no exception to Mora's credibility. It has a 4.2", razor-sharp blade made of stainless steel that is Scandinavian ground. What this means is that there is only one angle ground down on the blade to form the edge. If you were to look at the knife from the tip towards the handle, you would see a straight V forming the edge. Most knives don't have this and actually have a secondary grind. Since the 860 MG is Scandinavian ground, the edge is stronger and will last longer due to its triangular geometry.

The 860 MG's handle is 4.5". It is made of olive green polymer, but has a black textured rubber coating. This provides great traction in the hand. While I haven't used this knife in extreme conditions, I have never been let down by the grip that it offers.

One of the disadvantages that I can see for the 860 MG is that it is not a full tang design. This theoretically makes the knife weaker when used very roughly. By using roughly, I mean batoning (splitting wood by hitting the back of the blade) or other rough chopping tasks. This knife is not meant for that, however. It is great for whittling, cutting material, preparing food, etc. I have never batoned with the 860 MG, but I have seen videos of people doing it, so the knife can withstand some rough use. I don't know where the knife's breaking point is, but I would still be careful when thinking about performing heavy duty tasks with it.

That being said, the knife is still excellent for what it is designed for. I think that Mora didn't make this knife a full-tang design to save on money, which is fine because the knife is an absolute bargain.

The olive green polymer sheath easily clips onto a belt.
The 860 MG comes with a nice-looking, olive green, polymer sheath. Another hit against the knife is that the sheath doesn't hold the blade as securely as I would like. It has fallen out of the sheath a couple of times when running or hiking over difficult terrain. I would recommend using a strong rubber band wrapped around the pocket clip to keep the blade in place. That's what I do and it holds the blade securely enough.

My personal views on the knife are, like I said earlier, that it's one of the best deals on a knife that you can get. The few disadvantages can be easily overlooked, especially if you don't use the knife past its intended design.

If you're looking for a light to medium-duty camp/outdoor/utility fixed blade, look no further than the Mora Clipper 860 MG. It's a heck of a deal, by a company known for its high quality and low prices.

Look to more Mora reviews in the future, as it's a company that I am especially fond of.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Review - Cold Steel Bushman

One of the more interesting and affordable fixed blade knives on the market today, the Bushman, by Cold Steel, is a good woods knife. It does have some drawbacks, but it also has some advantages that other knives do not have. In this review, I'll be going into those, giving you my take on the Cold Steel Bushman.

The Bushman comes in two blade shapes, a Bowie and a Clip Point. They are both similar in their function, so I don't know if I have a favorite. I own the Bowie, but I think that both blade shapes are useful and functional.

The knife weight on both models is 10 oz, which is fairly light for the size knife that you're getting. The overall length of the knife is 12.3" and the blade length is 7.0". Both models have nearly identical specifications.

The Bushman by Cold Steel has an interesting design.
The Bushman blade comes razor sharp from the factory. According to Cold Steel, the blade is made of SK-5 High Carbon Steel, which from my experience holds an edge well, but is prone to rust. I suggest keeping the blade oiled when not in use to prevent rusting.

The Bushman has a very thin blade, which is why the knife is so light. The blade thickness is 0.1", very thin for a knife of its size. It mimics a machete in terms of its blade thickness. In my opinion, this is a disadvantage to the Bushman since it makes the blade weaker. I should say, though, that I have not had problems with the strength of the blade, but I have not really whacked on it either.

The Bushman is constructed out of a single piece of metal. It consists of a blade and a hollow handle. The construction of the knife is actually really amazing; I don't know how they rolled the handle out of the same piece of metal as the blade but they did a good job with it. This design makes the blade/handle transition very strong.

The integrated hollow handle also gives the blade uses that normal fixed blade knives don't have. According to Cold Steel, this handle can be used to store small items. I can't quite see how this would work, since the knife doesn't come with a plug to keep the items stored.

The Bowie Bushman by Cold Steel
The handle can also be used to turn the knife into a spear. Since the handle is hollow, a stick can easily be inserted into it. On the side of the handle is a small hole, which can be used to secure the knife to your spear shaft with a screw. This was very easy to do in the field when I tried it. In 5 minutes I had a very functional spear. As a survival tool/weapon, this is a useful trait.

The sheath on the Bushman is made of heavy-duty cordura nylon. It also has a large pouch on the front, which is useful for storing items such as a knife sharpener or a fire steel. The sheath allows the knife to be carried on a belt loop.

The sheath holds the Bushman by friction and I wish the sheath had a stronger blade retention system. One time when carrying the Bushman, I jumped across a small ravine. After walking a short distance further, I realized that my knife was gone. I figured it fell out when I jumped. I backtracked for a couple of minutes, worrying that I had lost my knife. Luckily, I found it one the ground at the place where I had landed after the jump. If the blade were held in the sheath more securely, this would not have happened.

So, that's my short review of the Cold Steel Bushman. It's a good knife, with some great features and a couple of drawbacks. Despite the drawbacks, the knife is unique enough for me to recommend it, especially if you are interested in having the ability to turn it into a spear.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Review - Cold Steel Special Forces Shovel

Today, we'll be looking at something a little different than what you would normally consider an edged tool. Last week, I reviewed machetes but this week I will be reviewing a shovel.

A shovel? That's boring. Why do you want to review a shovel?

Shovels are awesome, dont you know? I know of at least one awesome shovel. It's called the Special Forces Shovel and it's by Cold Steel.

The Cold Steel Special Forces Shovel is not your average shovel.
Based on the Spetznaz Shovel that the Russian Special Forces use, this shovel can do so much more than your average garden shovel. What makes it so great are two things, its relatively small size and the fact that the edges are actually sharp, as in razor sharp.

The Special Forces Shovel is a blend between a shovel and an axe, making it very useful. It can be used to dig, of course. The sharp edges cut through underground roots as if they weren't even there. This alone makes it a great garden tool.

Sharp edges also make it a decent chopper. While it's not as good as a dedicated machete, axe, or large knife, you wouldn't normally expect a shovel to be able to chop. In a pinch, it can get most jobs done. I have even split logs with it. The portable size makes it great for camping, or even putting in a dedicated emergency kit/bug out bag.

The shovel can also be used for self-defense and can be either swung or thrown. That's right, this shovel can be thrown like a tomahawk and works quite well. Personally, that's one of the most fun aspects of this shovel. Nobody expects it, and it's really impressive when it sticks to a tree with a satisfying *ping* after being thrown.

Let's get into the product specs of Special Forces Shovel.

Cold Steel makes a dedicated sheath for their Special Forces Shovel.
The head of the shovel is made out of a medium carbon steel, according to Cold Steel, and painted black. It holds an edge fairly well and is simple to retouch if dulled. No complaints about the choice of materials there. The edges are adequately sharp from the factory but should be touched up with a file or sharpener for best results. The handle is made out of wood, although the type of wood isn't specified. The fit and finish on the shovel is quite good, the head of the shovel being held securely to the handle by two thick screws. The shovel has a cordura sheath, but this sheath is not included. The sheath is high quality and lets you safely store and carry the shovel. It comes with a simple belt loop for attaching to a belt or strap.

So that's a quick review of the Cold Steel Special Forces Shovel. It's a great tool and is a lot more useful and fun than your average garden shovel. You'd be hard-pressed to find a shovel that is more fun to use than this one.

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Look at Some Larger Blades - Machetes

One of the most under-rated edged tools out there, the machete is a tool that can perform more cutting and chopping tasks than one would think.

When people get ready to go camping or hiking in the woods, you often see them packing axes and saws and other such tools, but rarely see them bring a machete. I'm not quite sure why. Maybe these outdoorsmen know something that I don't. What I do know, however, is just how functional a machete can be in the woods. In a pinch a machete can do almost all of your outdoor cutting/chopping tasks. For those into bushcraft, a machete should be a standard tool for a longer outdoor adventure.

This Tramontina 18" Machete is a great economical choice.
A machete, such as the 18" Tramontina machete (a personal favorite of mine), excels in many ways. Let's start by looking at the construction of this tool. A machete is usually 14-21" long. It usually consists of a thin slab of metal, sharpened on one edge, with a handle. That's it. There are usually no fancy grinds or blade shapes. That's what makes them so affordable. In my opinion, it's also what makes them so attractive. A machete is a no-fills, common-man's tool, within anyone's price range.

Due to a machete's thin profile, it penetrates a lot further with every strike when chopping. Machete's are often wider in profile by the tip, shifting the weight of the blade further away from the handle and adding even more penetrating power. It is hard to find a tool that can out-chop a good machete. For the weight, a machete greatly outperforms even an axe in the chopping role.

I would also like to add that a machete's thin profile makes field sharpening very easy, since not that much metal has to be removed to keep the edge sharp.

The shape of this Cold Steel Kukri Machete makes it a great chopper.
I have used a machete for only about a year now while in the woods and I can attest to its performance. I cut through a downed pine tree that was about a foot in diameter in about 15 minutes. I have also sliced through branches and saplings over an inch thick with one swing. The satisfying *ping* that you hear after chopping through a sapling adds to the enjoyment. I actually had a lot of fun using it. It's probably because I'm still relatively new to using a machete, but being surprised again and again by the performance of my machete made working easier.

Machete for Self-Defense

I should also comment about the defensive tasks that a machete can be used for. Due to its length and chopping performance, a machete makes a formidable defensive option, within anyone's price range. Machetes are garden tools and are legal in most places, so for those who want a useful defensive tool, but are burdened with draconian weapon's laws, perhaps a machete would be a good option. Not to get too gruesome, but a machete could chop through a limb with a single swing, offering penetration deep enough to stop an attacker right away.

While it's not always fun to think about, if you value your life, self-defense is an important thing to prepare for, especially if you are responsible for the lives of other; that means you, parents.

What to look out for.

The Ontario Military Machete is a good heavy-duty choice.
While most machetes look similar from a distance, not all machetes are made the same. Be on the lookout for cheap, Chinese knockoffs, like those found in Wal-Mart. The blade thickness is critical to a sturdy, durable machete. Machetes with thin blades can fold and even break under normal use. A machete blade should be about 3/32" thick, if not slightly greater. It shouldn't be much thicker, however, since you will diminish it's slicing capability and increase it's weight greatly. The sweet spot that I have found is about 3/32" thick.

Some good, economical brands that I have seen are Tramontina, Ontario, Cold Steel and Condor. There are other brands that are good as well. The ones that I listed are just a few quality manufacturers out there. There are also other quality machetes that cost a lot more, but I guess that's more for the specialized user, not at all necessary.

While I'm sure that I'll write future posts about machetes, I hope that this post got you thinking about the usefulness of a machete. Maybe you've never used one before. If you haven't, I assure you that you will be surprised by its performance.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Review - Gerber Big Rock Camp Knife

Today, I'll be reviewing a functional, yet affordable fixed blade option for camping. The knife is the Big Rock Camp Knife made by Gerber, a well-known and respected knife company.

The Gerber Big Rock, a great choice for a camp knife.
To start off, when I first saw the knife, it instantly left me impressed. I don't know if it was the soft, rubber grip panels, the sweeping drop point blade or just the overall appearance. It must have been a combination of all of these, because my initial impressions of this knife were very good. I just liked it.

Let's start by looking at the functional part of the knife, the blade. The Gerber Big Rock has a 4.4" Drop Point blade. It has a large belly combined with a full flat ground blade, making it great for slicing. The blade is 0.16" thick, which is good for the size of knife that it is. The knife is made out of a solid piece of 440A stainless steel, from the tip of the blade, to the bottom of the handle, making it a full tang knife. In other words, it is very strong. This strength, combined with the relative thickness of the blade, makes the Big Rock a good choice for batoning through wood and for other heavier-duty tasks, along with more intricate tasks.

A note on 440A steel: 
440A stainless steel is very resistant to rust or corrosion. However, it is a softer steel. It is good for daily use, but the blade edge will need to be touched up every so often. This will be easier sharpening than for harder steels. Some people actually prefer a steel that would easily resharpen after a day of hard use than a steel that would be difficult to sharpen every few weeks. For sharpening, I recommend using a ceramic rod or V-sharpener to touch up the blade edge.

The full tang blade adds strength, the rubber panels offer excellent grip.
The handle on the Big Rock is excellent. It is very comfortable, greatly aided by the soft, rubber panels on both sides of the grip. There are raised ridges on the panels, which provide traction for the hand. There is some jimping on the top of the handle, near the blade, but it is too shallow to provide any real traction. The finger grooves, at the bottom of the handle, keep the blade secure with a proper grip, and more than make up for the lack of adequate jimping. All in all, the Big Rock provides excellent grip for the hand, which is critical for a knife that may be called for heavy-duty use.

At the bottom of the handle, there is a lanyard hole, which is large enough to fit 550 paracord. If you choose to attach a loop of cord to the knife, this can further aid in securing the knife to your hand. It also makes sure that you hand doesn't slip past the handle, onto the sharp blade. What you would do is put your thumb through the loop. Let the cord go across the top of you hand, while you hold it firmly in your hand. The technique, along with images, can be found here. I should also say that the length of cord had to be measured in order to get the maximum benefit from using this technique.

The sheath that the Big Rock comes with is simple and functional. It does not have any fancy MOLLE attachment points or eyelets. It attaches to a belt loop and secures the blade with a button snap. The sheath is made out of quality nylon and has a protective plastic insert to keep the blade from cutting through the sheath when taken in and out. The sheath is adequate for the tasks design of the knife, which is as an outdoor/camping fixed blade.

Coming at an inexpensive price point, the Gerber Big Rock Camp Knife is a great blade. The design of the blade and the handle are excellent and very functional. It is definitely a knife to check out if you are in the market for a quality, inexpensive fixed blade capable of heavy-duty tasks.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Review - CRKT Zilla-Tool

We've all know what a multi-tool looks like. It's kinda big and rectangular-shaped. It opens in a way reminiscent of a balisong (butterfly knife) and you carry it in a sheath. It's a functional and proven design, don't get me wrong, but today, I want to show you something different. 

The CRKT Zilla-Tool is a non-conventional but very functional multi-tool.
Columbia River Knife and Tool (CRKT) has a line of tools called I.D. Works. Their goal is to create tools that are "inspired and functional, as created by painter, sculptor, architect and inventor Leonardo da Vinci." These tools are unique in shape and design, often being very innovative and functional.

One such creation from the I.D. Works line is the Zilla-Tool. Imagine combining a pliers, folding knife and screwdriver, and you'd get the Zilla-Tool. It is a multi-tool very different in shape than most other multi-tools on the market, but it still retains a very high level of functionality. The frame being made out of steel, the tool is strong, but it is lightened with Zytel scales. It weighs in at 7.9 oz and is 6.5 in long.

The Zilla-Tool is designed so that the pliers handles are rigid, making the pliers stronger than a folding multi-tool. The pliers have both fine flat and circular toothed gripping surfaces. Near the base of the pliers, is a very useful wire cutter, and also a notch near the handle for wire stripping.

The Zilla-Tool has stainless pocket clip and a liner-locking blade.
On the other end of the tool, you have a screwdriver, which is also strengthened by the non-folding design of the Zilla-Tool. The screwdriver has two interchangeable bits which are secured within the handle of the tool.

One of the neatest features of the Zilla-Tool is the folding blade. Many CRKT knives have a very functional "flipper", which is a finger tab on the back of the blade used to quickly flip the blade open. Well, the Zilla-Tool has a "flipper" on the blade, enabling the blade to be opened very rapidly, something usually not seen on multi-tools. When opened, the blade has a strong liner-lock, which locks the blade securely.

The CRKT Zilla-Tool Jr. is a smaller version of the Zilla-Tool
The way that the Zilla-Tool is carried is also reminiscent of its folding knife roots. The tool comes with a removable stainless steel pocket clip, allowing for tip down, right handed carry. For those who do not wish to carry this tool in a pocket, a nylon carry pouch is also provided.

Now if the Zilla-Tool is too large for you, do not worry, CRKT also came out with a Zilla-Tool Jr., which is literally a scaled-down version of the larger Zilla-Tool. it weighs in at 3.7 oz and is only 5.2 in in length. The Zilla-Tool Jr. has all of the functionality of its larger brother and is a great size for every day carry (EDC).

Would I recommend the Zilla-Tool?

I definitely would. It's a very unique design which may be off-putting to some, but if you can get past it's non-conventional appearance, you will find it to be very functional, and even better than a standard multi-tool in many ways.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Mora - The Best Knives You've Never Heard Of

Have you guys heard of Mora? No, it's not a girl's name, it's a knife company from Sweden. Actually, the proper name of the company is Mora of Sweden. If you haven't heard of them, then you're not alone. Many people haven't. It's unfortunate, really, because Mora knives are some of the best value for the money to be found.

A Little Personal History

Before I go any further, I want to share some personal history. My first encounter with a Mora knife was actually many years ago. I was in Fourth grade on a trip with my family to Colorado. It was my first time in Colorado and I remember admiring how beautiful that place was.

We were walking through town, Estes Park, I believe, and we walked into a knife shop. They had a bunch of really nice knives that I was admiring. My dad walks up to me and asks if I wanted one. Well, after trying to figure out which one I wanted, I finally made my decision. It was a smaller fixed blade knife, with a blade that was about 4 inches long. It had a nice, wooden handle and a leather sheath. I loved it. That was the first knife that I had ever gotten and I still have it.
The actual Mora Classic Scout 40 that I received.

During the next week or so that I was still in Colorado, I used it to sharpen sticks and various other things. I would wear it on my belt. I couldn't be happier.

Well fast forward to about 2 years ago, I was looking at that knife. The blade has tarnished a bit since I got it, due to the fact that it is made of carbon steel. I noticed the roll-mark on the blade and saw a familiar name. The roll-mark reads "Mora - Sweden". Wow, I've had a Mora every since I was young boy. I recently looked up the knife and it's still being made. It's called the Mora Classic Scout 40. So my experience with Mora knives goes all the way back to my childhood. They were great knives then and they still are great knives today.

What makes Mora knives so great?

Like I mentioned, Mora knives are an amazing value for the money. Most Mora knives cost less than $20, but quality of the knife that you get is comparable to $40-60 blades, if not more.

Mora knives, at least all that I have come across, all feature razor-sharp blades. Their factory edges are excellent. All of their knives that I have seen also come in what is known as a Scandinavian grind. A Scandinavian grind is a way in which the knife is ground down, where there is only one angle from the flat of the blade all the way to the edge. Most knives actually have two beveled parts, where there is one angle that goes towards the edge, and then, right next to the knife edge, there is a secondary, steeper angle that makes up the knife edge. Blades with a Scandinavian grind have a stronger edge due to the strong edge geometry that the grind offers. They are good for heavy chopping tasks, thus are a choice among bushcrafters and outdoor enthusiasts.

The blades on Mora knives are really incredible. To keep their prices low, however, Mora saves money on the sheaths and knife handles, which are commonly made out of polymer on the less expensive knife models. This does not make a Mora knife weak for normal use, but it does mean that you can't go pounding on a Mora knife as you would on a knife with a full tang. For all practical reasons, if you understand what a Mora knife can and cannot do, I would rather have an amazing blade and factory edge at the expense of strength, since you most likely will not be using a Mora for heavy chopping, but rather for more intricate work.

What are some Mora knives that I recommend.

Well, I haven't really seen a Mora knife that I haven't liked. I'm being honest here, they are just really functional, sharp knives.

The Mora 2000 is one of the nicest budget knives that Mora offers.
Out of the knives that I have had experience with, the Mora 2000 series is excellent. It's got an interesting blade design, a great polymer handle with a textured rubber grip area and a functional polymer sheath. The blade is made out of a heat-treated stainless steel that is very strong and resistant to tarnishing.

One of the most comfortable Moras, the Clipper 860 MG.
My next recommendation is the Mora 860 MG. This knife is from the Clipper series. It also has a polymer handle with a textured rubber grip area, but the shape of the grip differs from the Mora 2000. It has a nice, drop point blade and comes razor sharp. The blade is made out of the same type of stainless steel as the Mora 2000. The sheath is made out of polymer.

The Mora Classic 612 is a very functional, fixed blade.
If you are looking for a more traditional type of design, the Mora 612 Classic is a great choice. It has a red birchwood handle. It's blade is made out of a carbon steel, so it is stronger than the stainless steel that Mora offers, although it is prone to tarnishing. The sheath is also made out of polymer.

So those are just some of the knives that I have had more experience with. I'm sure that there are other great Mora knives out there. If you haven't yet, take a look at a Mora. You'll be surprised with what you get.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Review - Kershaw Nerve AKA The Blitz

Today, I'm going to be reviewing a newly acquired folding knife. Granted I haven't had much time to use this knife, my first impressions of it have been very good. It makes a great every day carry (EDC) knife, especially for those who want a larger/stronger knife design.

The Kershaw Nerve features a 3.4" blade and weighs only 3.9 oz.
Ok, enough with the suspense. Today, I will be reviewing the Kershaw Nerve, also known as the Blitz. From my research, this knife was originally called the Kershaw Blitz until Kershaw realized that there already was a knife on the market called the Blitz. The name was then changed to the Nerve. When searching for this knife, it can be found under both names. The version that I actually have was marked as the Blitz on the box.

So why don't you get to the review already?

Alright, I apologize. Let's start this review with the dimensions. The Nerve is a medium/large folding knife. It has a 3.4" blade made out of 8Cr13MoV Stainless Steel, which is similar to AUS-8A steel.  8Cr13MoV is a quality Chinese-made steel common in knives made overseas. It holds an edge well and comes hair-shaving sharp out of the box. The wide, drop point shape of the blade makes the Nerve excellent for slicing, while the sharp tip is great for intricate, detailed tasks. The Nerve could even function as a defensive/tactical blade if need be. The open length of the knife is 7.6" and the closed length is 4.4", not too big to carry every day, but not super-small either.

The Nerve's handle has jimping in three key locations.
A good rule of thumb for an every day carry (EDC) blade is that lighter is better, unless you are getting something substantial for the weight. The Nerve offers great cutting power, but it makes the knife weight more. Not very much more, but slightly more than a smaller, less robust knife would weigh. The Nerve weighs in at 3.9 oz, which is a good weight for the size blade that you are getting. The handles are made out of CNC-machined G-10. For strength, the handles are reinforced with stainless steel scales that are skeletonized to decrease weight. The handle has ample jimping (textured grooves) at three important contact points: by the top of the handle, next to the blade; by the "finger guard" area, next to the bottom of the blade; and by the end of the handle. Jimping at these contact points greatly adds to the grip of the knife in the hand. The Nerve's handle is very functional and elegant.

The Nerve is a manual opening knife with an ambidextrous thumb plate. The thumb plate is attached to the blade by a screw and provides a good enough purchase to easily open the blade with either hand. On top of that, the blade also deploys very quickly. The knife blade stays open with a liner lock that locks the blade very tightly, with no forward/back or side to side blade play.

The Nerve's pocket clips allows for tip up/down, right handed carry.
An every day carry (EDC) blade needs a good pocket clip so that it can be accessed quickly and easily. If in an emergency, you may only have a split second to access your knife. The Nerve delivers just that. It has a good quality stainless steel pocket clip that allows for tip up/down, right handed carry. The knife stays secure in the pocket, but not so secure that it would damage the fabric of the pocket when removed. On some knives, the handle texturing is so sharp that it wears through clothing. This is not the case with the Nerve. The pocket clip also sits high on the handle, not leaving much of the handle exposed when carried in the pocket. In my opinion, this is a good thing, since it is less likely to bump against other object and less likely to be seen. While this often doesn't happen, there are always a few people that are intimidated by a person carrying a knife. If you can conceal it better, while still retaining functionality, why not?

Kershaw scored a home-run with the Nerve. The design is excellent. The fit, finish, and quality is excellent. What's best, the price is right, often found at under $25. The Nerve, as mentioned before, would make a great every day carry (EDC) folding knife for those wanting a little more cutting performance. In a pinch, it could even double as a defensive/tactical blade. If you're looking to be impressed like I was, be sure to check out the Nerve!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Welcome To Knives Blog - Kershaw Scallion Review

Welcome to Knives Blog! This is a blog dedicated to cutlery, whether they be Everyday Carry (EDC) blades, Kitchen Knives, Camping Knives, or any other type of cutlery, you will find it reviewed and updated here. I hope that you learn something and that you enjoy your stay.

Well, I wanted to start this blog off with an informative review. I was really wondering as to which knife I could review. Should I review the excellent folding knife, the Byrd Cara Cara? Maybe I should review a fixed blade like the Gerber Big Rock? Maybe I should review a tactical blade like the CRKT Ultima? Then the answer became obvious and really should have been all along.

This is the actual Kershaw Scallion that I have carried for 3 years.
Today, I will be reviewing the knife that really got me interested in knives. I've always used knives as tools, but I've never really been interested in them until I got this knife. It is a small, functional, light-weight, assisted-opening folding knife. It is the Kershaw Scallion.

The Kershaw Scallion is a knife that I've carried for about 3 years now, and it's still just as functional and useful as the day that I had bought it. It's been my companion through my everyday tasks, mostly opening boxes and envelopes, although I've used it as a hammer at one time (it held up well due to its aluminum scales). It has an elegant black clip, so I've even carried it when wearing a suit or other formal wear.

The back of my well-used Kershaw Scallion.
Designed by Ken Onion, the scallion that I have weighs in at 2.6 oz., light enough to forget about but still has a solid feel in the hand. The blade steel is 420HC, which is a good steel. It is soft enough to sharpen easily but also hard enough to hold a hair-popping edge. The edge on my Scallion, when I had purchased it, was hair-shaving sharp, although the blade has dulled since then, as all blades do, and I have had to resharpen it on multiple occasions.

Damascus Steel Blade on a Kershaw Scallion
The scales on my Scallion are made of aluminum, with steel liners, making the blade a liner-locking design. The lockup is superb with no wobble of any kind. I really can't complain about it, besides, I think that the Kershaw logo on the side looks pretty neat. Kershaw makes a whole series of Scallions, some with a stainless steel framelock design, different colored aluminum scales, polymer scales and even Damascus Steel blades.

One of the coolest parts, at least for me, is the assisted-opening feature of the Scallion. Kershaw calls it "Speed-Safe" assisted opening. The way that it works is when the blade is partially opening, an internals spring pushes the blade open the rest of the way. When closed. the tab that forms a sort of finger guard at the base of the blade is used to push the blade open with your index finger. The knife can also be opening by using the metal thumbstud. Using the thumbstud to open the knife is just as easy as using the finger tab. The thought that went into designing this blade is clearly evident. Ken Onion did a great job with the Scallion.

When I had first seen this knife, I had not even known that assisted-opening existed. I was amazing at how quickly the blade could be deployed so I had to have it. After taking the knife home, I would flip the blade open, and close the blade hundreds, if not thousands, of times over the next year.

The Warranty Repair:
What happened after opening and closing the blade thousands of times is that eventually the internal spring got weaker and eventually cracked. The knife was still functional, but the assisted opening feature was broken. I guess I got too carried away, but opening and closing the knife was just so much fun!

I gave Kershaw a call and they told me to send the knife in for repair. Within about a month or so, I had received the knife back with a new internal spring and a professionally re-profiled blade (I had dropped the blade once before, leaving a nick in the edge. The edge was perfect when receiving the blade back from Kershaw). Kershaw customer support, like their knives, is awesome.

Overall, I am very pleased with the the Kershaw Scallion. It has been a great EDC companion with me throughout the years and, for what I needed, still cannot think of a better knife design. It is small and compact, but sturdy and quick to deploy. The blade holds an edge and cuts very well. What's not to like? If you're in need of a small, functional folding knife, take a look at the Scallion. You won't be disappointed.