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.


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.


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.

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.


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.


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.


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.