Thursday, July 7, 2011

Review - CRKT ExiTool

Why do we carry knives? We carry them as tools for a variety of tasks, whether it be utilty work, hunting, bushcraft, self defense, etc. Some knives are more specialized for certain tasks while others cover a wide base and can be used for many different jobs.

The ExiTool by CRKT can help you
get out of a tough situation.
Today, I wanted to look at something that has a blade (this is Knives Blog after all) but is a very specialized tool that can be critical to your personal safety.

We all spend a lot of time in the car. How many of us have given much thought to having a tool that would help get you out of an accident?

One such tool is the ExiTool by Columbia River Knife and Tool (CRKT). The ExiTool combines a seat belt cutter, a carbide window breaker and an LED flashlight all into one tool that conveniently clips onto your seatbelt.

I've seen other vehicle emergency tools that look like little hammers that fit somewhere onto the dashboard or in the glovebox. What the designer doesn't realize is that in an emergency, you may not have the mobility to reach that far for the tool. The ExiTool is with you at all times, since it fastens onto your seatbelt. It is in a convenient location and will be within reach during an accident.

Why would you want the ExiTool?

Like I said, the ExiTool has a number of useful tools incorporated into its small design. The seat belt cutter is great for removing a seatbelt when the buckle is jammed. It can also cut other materials if need be.

Here, you can see the carbide glass breaker and LED flashlight.
The carbide glass breaker can break a window if for some reason the door is stuck and you need to get out of the car fast.

Finally, the LED flashlight can be used to see at night and is useful for situations other than extreme emergencies. Maybe you just dropped your keys under on the floor and are having a hard time finding them. While not as bright as a dedicated flashlight, with the ExiTool, you have a way to see at night.

I hope that you see the benefits of having an ExiTool in your car. It really can save your life if you're ever caught in a situation where you need to exit your car ASAP. Heck, they call it the ExiTool for a reason!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Review - CRKT Edgie 2

Knives are extremely useful tools. They can do a lot. However, that great edge that you had when you first got your knife can quickly become dull with use. The solution to that is, obviously, to sharpen the knife. But sharpening can be a daunting task to those unfamiliar with it. Not to mention, sharpening freehand with a ceramic rod or sharpening stone can be downright difficult to do well. Sadly, those that are afraid or don't know how to sharpen a knife are stuck with dull knives.

The CRKT Edgie 2 has two colors, blue and yellow.
Wouldn't it be nice if there was a knife that would sharpen itself? You'd be guaranteed a sharp knife every time you used it. Well, there is such a knife and it's called the Edgie by CRKT. The most current version of the Edgie, the Edgie 2, has all the features that you'd expect out of a quality folding knife and then some.

The CRKT Edgie 2 comes in two versions, one with a blue rubber handle scale insert and one with a yellow one. The rubber insert adds some nice flair to Zytel handle scales, along with adding some extra grip to the handle. The Edgie 2 weighs in at 3.9 oz. It has a 3.2" blade. It is 4.4" when closed and 7.5" when fully opened.

The secret to the Edgie's self-sharpening ability
are diamond sharpeners within the handle.
Unlike the original Edgie which has a slip-joint folding mechanism, the Edgie 2 has a locking back, which keeps the blade securely opened when in use. Due to the slot cut into the top of the blade, the knife can be opened with one hand, something I feel is essential for a utility knife. The Wharncliffe blade is made out of 5Cr15MoV, with a Rockwell Hardness of 55-57. This is a slightly softer steel, but it enables the blade to be easily sharpened.

The key to the knife's self-sharpening ability are the dual diamond sharpeners within the handle. These sharpeners hone the edge every time it is opened or closed, allowing the blade to always stay sharp. This is a genius idea and I'm surprised that a knife like this hasn't come along sooner. For someone who uses cutting tools often, this ability alone is worth picking up an Edgie 2.

The method of carry is also excellent. It has a standard pocket clip, like any other folding knife. This pocket clip is high up on the handle and loops over, allowing the blade to site really low in the pocket. Personally, I really like these kinds of pocket clips, so the clip gets a big thumbs up from me.

All in all, the Edgie 2 is a very unique, high quality and functional knife. For someone that uses a knife daily for various cutting tasks, especially tasks such as cutting boxes that would quickly dull a standard knife, I feel like there is nothing better on the market than the Edgie 2.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Review - Cold Steel Kobun

Let's face it, self defense is important. There may be locations where, due to unavailablity or legality, having the best defensive tool on your person, a firearm, just isn't possible. The next best thing would be to have a quality blade, something that you can bet your life on.

The Kobun, by Cold Steel, is a great defensive option.
Now, there are great folding knives out there, but no folding knife is as good as a solid fixed blade. It just isn't. One of the downsides to a fixed blade, though, is that they are usually bulky and/or expensive.

This isn't always true, however. There is a very good option for a defensive fixed blade that is slim, inexpensive and high quality. The knife I'm talked about is the Kobun by Cold Steel.

Looking at the knife, its Japanese roots are clearly seen. Kobun means "soldier" in Japanese. Designed to be a "good soldier", the Kobun's Tanto blade that is thin and lightweight. It has a very solid Kraton (rubber) handle. The blade is 5.4" long, and 0.13" thick. It has a sweeping belly, great for slicing, while also have a sharp tip.

Giving the Kobun its Tanto shape, the blade has a secondary point, which is used for snap cutting. A snap cut consists of flicking your wrist while holding the blade, hitting the intended target with the secondary point. This allows for a very quick attack that can still be very effective.

The blade has a hollow ground edge, again for improved slicing, and is made out of high quality AUS-8A steel. The Kobun is a full tang design, meaning that the metal from the blade extends out to the end of the handle. This makes the blade very strong.

The swell in the handle of the Kobun can be seen.
Despite its thinness, the handle is comfortable. Its highly textured Kraton and holds well in the hand despite the lack of finger grooves. It does have a swell in the middle of the handle, however, to aid in gripping the knife. The length of the handle is 4.3" and the thickness of the swell is 0.56". I should also mention that the handle has a lanyard hole for those who wish to use a lanyard.

The Sheath

So, the knife may be decent, but how do you carry it? Having a useful sheath is nearly as important as having a useful blade, since if the carry method isn't up to par, you probably won't even have the knife with you. Do not worry, since the Kobun's sheath is also excellent.

Made out of Secure-Ex polymer material, the sheath holds the blade safely and securely. There are no straps or clasps, the blade is held in the sheath by friction. You can feel the blade click into place when you put it in its sheath, letting you know that the blade isn't going anywhere unless you want it to.

The Kobun sheath allows for a variety of carry options.
The sheath has 10 eyelet holes all around the outer edge for a variety of carry options. It also has a removable clip, which is my favorite method of carry. The clip enables the knife to be carried inside of the waistband, in the same way that you would carry a handgun. This allows the knife to remain concealed, yet is easy to remove when needed.

When the carry of a firearm just isn't an option, or if you need a backup defensive blade, the Kobun is a great and inexpensive choice. Its intimidating appearance tells a buy guy not to mess with you, which may end up saving your life. For those where the carry of firearms is illegal, don't be caught without a defensive option. The Cold Steel Kobun would definitely get the job done.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Review - Byrd Cara Cara 2

Every once in a while, you find a deal that seems too good to be true. "There must be a catch," you say to yourself. "That knife can't be that cheap." For a quality comparable to most Spyderco knives that I've seen, the Cara Cara 2, vastly outperforms its price.

The Cara Cara 2 is the newest generation of Cara Cara.
Manufactured in China by Byrd, a subsidiary company of Spyderco, the Cara Cara 2 just gets things right. The quality is amazing, especially considering that it is foreign-made. Being the second generation of Cara Cara, many of the features that weren't as attractive on the original are fixed. It has a 3.8", full flat ground blade made out of an excellent 8Cr13MoV stainless steel. The blade shape is excellent for slicing, while the thumbhole allows for ambidextrous easy opening of the blade.

The handle on the model that I tested is 4.8" long and made out of FRN (Fiber Reinforced Nylon), which is a very strong but light polymer material. The knife only weighs 3.8 oz! The handle has bi-directional checkering and provides a very good grip in the hand. There is also a lot of very functional jimping on the top of handle, continuing onto the spine of the blade.

The pocket clip has been improved in quality and even has a smooth area where the clip meets the handle, which prevents undue wear on the pocket material as you take out the knife and put it back. The clip, as it was on the previous Cara Cara, offers tip up/down, right/left handed carry.

The pocket clip allows for tip up/down, right/left handed carry.
This knife is a lockback design and locks open solidly. There is a cutout in the lock, which keeps your hand from acuating the lock when gripping the knife firmly.

The Cara Cara 2 really is an amazing blade. It is definitely one of the best values on the market out there. For all those who want a Spyderco knife, but can't afford one, the Byrd series of knives, namely the Cara Cara 2 is worth taking a look at. Just don't be fooled by the price.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Review - Victorinox One Handed Trekker/Trailmaster

We all know about Swiss Army Knives. For me, as they are for many people, Swiss Army Knives are the quintessential pocket knife. Before I knew about single-handed opening folding knives, I knew about Swiss Army Knives. One of the first, perhaps the first, knife that I had, was a small Victorinox Classic. I must have been in first grade when I got it. I loved that knife, and it served me well for many years.
The Victorinox Trekker/Trailmaster is shown open,
revealed all of its tools.

For the longest time, Victorinox knives were designed to be opened with the finger nail slot in the blade. This made the blade small and unobtrusive, but also impossible to open single-handedly. For this reasons, I began to shy away from Swiss Army Knives, choosing folding knives that were easier to open.

This all changed when Victorinox designed some of their knives to have one handed opening. Specifically, I'm going to be writing about the Victorinox Trekker/Trailmaster (Victorinox recently changed the name of this knife to the Trailmaster).

The Trekker/Trailmaster is a Swiss Army Knife aimed at the handyman, as most of their larger tools are. It comes with a 3.4" Liner Locking Main Blade, a Wood Saw, a Bottle Opener with Large Locking Flathead Screwdriver, a Wire Stripper, a Can Opener with Small Flathead Screwdriver, a Phillips Screwdriver, a Reamer and of course the signature Toothpick and Tweezers.

Personally, I find this set of tools to balance function and size/weight very well. There are enough tools to get most everyday tasks done. Two of the tools that I have grown to love are the saw and the can opener. The saw is very very sharp and cuts incredibly well. If you haven't yet tried a Victorinox saw, then you're missing out. For small sawing tasks, there's nothing better. The can opener also performs exceptionally well. It's so good that it's the main can opener that I use around the home.

Closed, the Trekker/Trailmaster is quite compact and light
for the functionality that you get.
It is also very surprising to find Victorinox making liner locking blades. Victorinox is known for its slip-joint folding knives, but executes liner locks quite well in the Trekker/Trailmaster. The lock is very small, but locks the blade open solidly. Unlike most liner-locks, the lock needs to be pushed to the right to disengage, which may take a little time to get used to, but that's a small price to pay for a liner locking Swiss Army Knife.

So, like I said, these tools balance size/weight the best in my opinion. The Victorinox Trekker/Trailmaster weighs only 4.5 oz, which is pretty good for the amount of versatility that you get with this tool. It is 4.4" long when closed and 0.69" thick.

The Trekker/Trailmaster only comes with black polymer scales, however, under a different name, the Swiss Soldier's knife (same tools as Trekker/Trailmaster) comes with olive green polymer scales. There are also variations, with different tools, that still have the same one handed opening main blade under various names and with various color scales.

For a Swiss Army Knife enthusiast that desires the solid lockup of a standard folding knife, the Victorinox Trekker/Trailmaster may be a good choice. Personally, it is my favorite knife that Victorinox produces.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Do I Really Need an Assisted Opening/Automatic Knife?

If you guys are anything like me, you like to play with gadgets, especially if the gadgets that I am referring to are folding knives. You would probably agree with me that assisted opening and automatic knives are just plain cool. *Snap* Your blade opened just that easily. It's enticing and fun to show off, but is it necessary? Is an assisted opening/automatic knife really better than a quality manual opening knife?

Is an assisted opening knife, such as this Kershaw Leek,
really necessary?
Let's look at the qualities, both good and bad, of an assisted/auto knife. First off, they are really fast to open. That's their main selling point. It also adds to their "cool factor". Other than that, they're pretty much a basic knife, in terms of their function.

Moving on to the not so good qualities of assisted/auto knives. I'll start by mentioning the price. The price of an assisted opening/automatic knife is going to be higher, and in my cases significantly higher, than their manual-opening counterparts. Now this isn't true in all cases, as there are manual-opening knives that are more expensive than autos, but all things being the same, the added complexity of an assisted/auto knife makes it inherently more expensive.

Going hand in hand with the added complexity of the assisted/auto knife is their proclivity to getting their mechanism gummed up and even breaking altogether. Let's face it, the more parts you have in a mechanism, the more parts there are to break, and Murphy tends to make things break at the worst possible times. I own many knives and, really, the only ones that have given me any problems were the assisted/auto knives.

The Kershaw Blitz/Nerve opens as fast as any auto knife.
One particular example is a Kershaw Scallion that I own and have used for many years. After using it to cut open something very sticky, it no longer snapped open. Basically, the assisted opening feature no longer worked. When I took it apart to clean it, the spring mechanism inside ended up snapping, forcing me to send it back to Kershaw. Of course, they fixed it right away, but that's beside the point. If the internal mechanism had not been as complex, I may not have needed to take it apart and I surely would have been able to do so without damaging anything.

The Drifter by CRKT, is a fast-opening, lightweight folding knife.
So, what does an assisted/auto knife have that a quality manual opening knife doesn't? Well, not much in my opinion. The only benefit of an assisted/auto knife, other than the "cool factor", is it's ease of opening. However nowadays, there are manual-opening knives that open just as quickly as an assisted/auto knife. A knife such as the Kershaw Blitz/Nerve or the CRKT Drifter, open just as fast as any other folding knife that I have ever used. I won't even mention the Emerson Wave feature available on many knives. (Look for a later blog post on these)

In my opinion, assisted/auto knives can be very cool, but you can get the same performance out of a manual opening knife at a fraction of the cost. I would say that you are in no way at a disadvantage if you have a quality manual opening knife. Actually, when it comes to maintenance, I would say that you have the advantage.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Review - Mora 511

Every once in a while, you see a knife that you have to do a double-take on, for good reasons, of course. Either the knife outperforms what you expected or is of higher quality than you expected. The 511 by Mora, is such a knife. It is the best performing fixed blade knife for the price that I have ever seen.

The Mora 511 is an unbelievable "bang for your buck."
Mora, a Swedish knife company known for its quality and affordability has really hit a home run with the 511. It is designed as a utility knife, and performs exceptionally well in that task. The knife has a simple, but functional, design. The 3.7" drop point blade is made out of carbon steel, which has a Rockwell hardness rating of 59-60. It has a razor-sharp Scandinavian grind on it, which makes the edge very strong. 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.

The handle is made of bright red polymer. It is fairly smooth, with light texturing and contours that allow the blade to be held firmly in the hand. It has a substantial finger guard to prevent your hand from coming up onto the blade. The handle is 4.4" long, which is long enough for any size hand.

The sheath on the 511 is as simple as they get, but it works.
The sheath that comes with the 511 is as no-frills as the knife. It is made out of black polymer. The knife is held in the sheath by pushing it into the sheath until you hear a click, telling you the knife is secure. This isn't the most secure method to hold a knife by any means, but it should be adequate for utility work, which is what the knife is designed for. At the bottom of the sheath is a drainage hole, in case the knife were to get wet.

The Mora 511 weight in a 2.6 oz without and 3.6 oz with the sheath. This is NOT a full-tang knife, which is probably why the knife is so lightweight and inexpensive. The tang ends somewhere in the middle of the handle. For this reason, this knife is not to be thrashed on, or it will break. However, for normal cutting chores, it is very usable.

For a utility blade, or even a bushcraft blade, the Mora 511 would definitely perform. It is inexpensive enough to be disposable, yet cuts with the best of them. Definitely try one out, since you will probably be buying many more soon after.