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!