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.