Thursday, June 26, 2014

Review - Tramontina Machetes

Tramontina machetes are gaining popularity in recent years, and for good reason. For those who have read this blog for a while now, you will know that I love value. That is why Mora knives are some of my favorites. What Mora is to fixed blade knives, Tramontina is to machetes.

A little background:
Here are just some of the machetes made by Tramontina.
Tramontina began as a small company in Brazil established in 1911. Their first major product was pen knives. Throughout the years, Tramontina expanded its production to various other products, among them being cookware, furniture, gardening tools, sinks and metalware, and various tools. It's safe to say that Tramontina is a company with a broad spectrum of products. Today, however, we'll be focusing on their machetes, which I think should be a staple tool for every outdoorsman.

Tramontina's machetes are manufactured in Brazil. While I don't know the specific background of their machete design, Brazil is a country known for its jungles and rainforests, and I think that this climate had a lot to do with the functionality of their machetes. Speaking frankly, Tramontina machetes are the best machetes that I have found for the price.

Their machetes all measure about 0.08", which is a very good compromise between strength and weight. Sure, you can have a thicker machete, but it will also be heavier. In my testing of Tramontina machetes over several years, I have not found them to be weak at all. In fact, I have been very surprised by their performance on numerous occasions.

A side view of the 18" Tramontina Machete.
Tramontina's machetes are made out of Carbon Steel, but coated with varnish to limit rusting. The machetes are all a full-tang design, meaning that the blade steel extends to the end of the handle.

The handles on Tramontina machetes are either made out of wood or polymer, depending on the model of machete. My personal favorite is the wooden handle. All of the handles consist of two slabs of material, wood or polymer, that are riveted on securely.

The machetes come sharp, but can use some sharpening. This is incredibly simple with a file. Simple file the edge down on both sides until it's sharp. This will get you a good working edge that will consistently be easy to sharpen should you ever need it again.

The machete that I have the most experience with is the 18" Wood Handled Machete. I have been using it since the summer of 2010, and it's still going strong. Since Tramontina doesn't sell sheath's, I have found the Cold Steel Machete Sheaths to be a good fit for most of the size machetes that Tramontina makes.

So, if you're in the market for a budget machete that is something that you won't be afraid to beat on, take a look at machetes by Tramontina. There's a reason why they have such a high regard in the knife community.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Review - Kershaw Leek

A knife that has been around for a while, but is still as elegant and functional as ever is the Kershaw Leek. Designed by Ken Onion, who now designs knives for CRKT, the Leek, is an assisted opening knife that I like to call a "Gentleman's Folder".

The Kershaw Leek comes in many different colors.
This elegant knife is 6.9" long when opened, and features a 2.9" Blade. The blade comes in a modified drop point design that has either a plain or partially serrated edge. The blade tip is fairly delicate, however, but is incredibly precise. This knife reminds me of a surgeons scalpel, and can no doubt be used for some fine cutting tasks.

The blade steel on the Leek is a Sandvik 14C28N Stainless Steel, which keeps a keen edge, but is still easy to touch up.

The Leek's pocket clip is reversible for both tip up and down carry.
The 4" handle on the Leek is either made of stainless steel, or has colored aluminum scales over stainless plates that hold the knife together. With all of the various colors that the Leek comes in, you're sure to find a handle that will fit your style.

Like I mentioned earlier, the Leek is an assisted opening design. It easy easily opened with either a flipper integrated into the blade, or with the thumbstud. The knife locks up with either a frame lock or a liner lock, depending on the handle design. Either way, the lockup is strong with no blade play.

The Leek also carries very easily. It's slender design and smooth scales allow the included clip to easily clip onto a pocket in either a tip up or tip down configuration. The Leek is only meant for right-handed carry, since the clip is not reversable to the other side of the knife.

The Leek has either a frame lock or liner locking mechanism.
My only gripe about the Leek is how delicate the tip is. While this has never happened to me, I have heard stories of people cracking the tips of their knives. However, it's not all bad because of the delicate precision that you do get with this knife.

If you're in the market for a light to medium-duty folding knife and want it to look extra classy, then check out the Kershaw Leek. It truly is a gentleman's folding knife.

Do any of you have any experience with the Kershaw Leek? If so, let me know in the comments below!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Review - Cold Steel Voyager XL

Cold Steel makes some of the most remarkable production folding knives available. Their designs, innovation and strength have earned them a place in many a life-lover's collection.

An explanation of Cold Steel's Tri-Ad Locking System. (Click Image to Expand)
One of their more recent innovations is called the Tri-Ad Lock. More about this lock can be read HERE. The Tri-Ad Locking System is one of the, if not the most secure knife locking mechanism ever designed. Most of Cold Steel's lock-back knives now use the Tri-Ad locking system.

A comparison of some of the different Voyager XL options
The knife that I wanted to write about today is the Cold Steel Voyager XL Series. These knives use Cold Steel's Tri-Ad Locking System to essentially give you close to the same security and dependability found in a fixed blade, but in a folding knife. The Voyager XL is the largest set of knives with the name Voyager. There is also the Voyager Medium and Voyager Large. The differences are mainly in the blade size: Medium has a 3" blade, Large has a 4" blade and the XL (Extra Large) has a 5 1/2" blade. The XL is the most impressive, and that is why I wanted to focus on them in this post, but most of what I say below is true of the Medium and Large Voyagers as well.

The Voyager XL could be described as a pocket sword. It's impressive blade length give you amazing reach. While not the most practical for daily use, it would be an incredible defensive tool, that may even scare away a potential aggressor before he has a chance to hurt you.

When closed, the Voyager XL can easily
fit in a medium-sized pocket.
The blade comes in many shapes: Clip Point, Tanto or Vaquero and comes in either a plain edge or a half-serrated blade (Vaquero is fully-serrated). The blades are made out of a Japanese AUS-8A Stainless Steel with a stone-washed finish. This type of steel holds an edge well, while still being easy to sharpen.

The 6.8" handle on the Voyager XL is made out of a polymer material that cold-steel calls Griv-Ex. To me, it seems very similar to a fiber-reinforced nylon. The grip is textured with a cross-like pattern that provides a good grip, while still looking attractive. There are deep finger grooves in the handle, which give you quite a secure grip. Since the handle is 6.8" longer, there are also a number of different ways to grip the knife. You can hold the handle near the blade for more delicate cutting and carving, hold it near the middle for all-around work, or even hold it near the end for chopping or slashing.

Underneath the polymer handle scales, are is metal, which greatly strengthen the handle. In one of their latest videos (see below), Cold Steel even hung a 440 lb weight off of the handle, and both the lock and the handle stayed in tact and didn't fold.

Like I mentioned earlier, this knife features the Tri-Ad Locking Mechanism. Unlocking the knife is a bit stiffer than other lock-backs that I've owned and used, but it's still easy to unlock, and more importantly, still allows your blade to be opened quickly. Speaking of opening the knife, the standard way to deploy the blade is with the thumbstud. However, the blade is so massive that it can be easily swung open, even against the pressure of the locking mechanism. This has to be a deliberate motion, so there's no real chance of the blade opening inadventently, but it's still a neat feature, which can help in a pinch.

The Voyager XL might have a large blade, but disappears remarkably in a medium-sized pocket. It comes with a removable pocket clip that can be carried on either the right or left side. For such a large knife, it conceals very well and can be a viable defensive option for place when carrying a gun is not allowed.

So, do I like the Voyager XL? You betcha! Especially at the price. I've seen this blade sell for as little as $43, which is an unbeatable deal for such a formidable folding knife.

Do any of you have any experience with the Voyager XL? If so, let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Review - Schrade Extreme Survival SCHF9

For our next knife, we'll take a look and excellent survival knife, the Schrade Extreme Survival.

Schrade is a knife company that was founded in 1904. They originally were well-known for their high-quality knives, all made in the USA. In later years, much of their production was moved overseas, and their knife quality generally suffered for it. In 2004, Schrade closed its doors, but the name was purchased by Taylor Brands LLC. Since that change, Schrade knives have really changed, now making affordable and quality blades for both outdoor, everyday carry and tactical use.

The Schrade Extreme Survival is a great choice for a survival knife.
One of their relatively new knives is the Schrade Extreme Survival SCHF9. Upon first picking up the knife, you really notice its weight. The knife weighs nearly 1 pound, weighing in at 15.6 oz. That is really hefty, and would allow the blade to be even used for chopping.

The main reason why the knife is so heavy is because of the 0.24" blade thickness and full tang construction. This is a heavy-duty knife that would be difficult to break, ever. The blade length is 5.9" and the overall knife length is 12.2".

The knife is made out a 8CR13MoV High Carbon Stainless Steel is known to hold an edge well while still retaining rust resistant properties.

Moving on to the handle; like I mentioned, the blade has a full tang construction, making the knife feel very solid in the hand. The grip consists of two rubber scales that are screwed onto the blade and are removable. The scales have a unique grip pattern that offers adequate traction. For added grip, there are finger grooves and even gimping on the top of the handle. The grip is also large, perfect for larger hands, but may be uncomfortable for those will smaller hands.

The sheath that comes with the Extreme Survival is very functional.
The blade comes in a plain edge that can be considered a clip point. However, there is a kukri-style sweep by the belly of the blade that should aid in chopping.

To carry the knife, the Extreme Survival comes with a very functional black nylon sheath. The sheath clips onto a belt, and has a length of cord that can be used to fasten the end of the sheath to your leg. The blade is retained with a snap, which holds the blade in place well. The front of the sheath has a pouch, that can be used to store a sharpener, firemaking tools or other survival supplies.

All in all, the Schrade Extreme Survival is an excellent survival blade. I understand why it's becoming so popular among the outdoor/survival crowd. If you haven't yet checked out this blade and are looking for an affordable, heavy-duty knife, then this knife may be for you!

What do you guys think of the Schrade Extreme Survival SCHF9? Let us know in the comments below!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Review - Condor Barong Machete

Last time, we looked at the Condor Heavy Duty Kukri Machete. If you haven't read that review yet, then click HERE to see it. Keeping to the Condor theme, we'll look at another great new blade, the Condor Barong Machete.

The Barong machete has a very unique, and attractive blade shape.
Like all Condor blades, the Barong is made in El Salvador, a country known for their machetes and knives. Their quality and affordability is very high, which is part of the reason why I like Condor blades so much.

Right away when looking at the Barong, you see a very unique blade shape. The shape takes its roots from the Southern Philippines It has almost a teardrop shape, but then curves back towards the handle. This is a great shape for piercing and slicing tasks.

The blade shape of the Barong makes it excellent
for piercing and slicing tasks.
The Barong has a 14" blade that is 0.20" thick. The blade is made out of Carbon Steel with a black coating to protect against rust and tarnish. The blade has a very sharp convex edge, which makes it strong and easy to sharpen in the field. The handle length is 5.3", with a handle thickness of 1.2". The handle is made out of polypropylene material that is textured. There is a brass eyelet in the handle for attaching a wrist lanyard, which can help with grip.

The blade has a full tang, which makes it very strong and resistant to breakage. For those who do not know, a full tang is when the metal from the blade, extends all the way to the end of the handle.

Like most Condor blades, the Barong also
comes with a high quality leather sheath.
Like most Condor blades, the Barong also comes with a high quality leather sheath. The sheath holds the blade with friction, so there's a slight chance that the blade may fall out. However, I have not found this to be an issue, since the blade is long and heavy enough that it wants to stay in the sheath. For added comfort, the belt loop on the sheath has a swivel, which will keep the blade oriented downward, no matter what position your belt is in, whether you be standing, crouching, kneeling, etc.

The main purpose of the Barong machete would be to slice through light to medium brush, as well as self-defense use. The blade looks very intimidating, which is great if you're ever in a position when you would need to defend yourself from either 4-legged or 2-legged predators. It would be highly functional in such a role.

Like I mentioned earlier, the Barong is very unique-looking. Personally, I think it has a very attractive blade shape. I would suspect that most people purchasing this machete are doing it to have a interesting-looking knife, with any sort of function being secondary. If you're anything like me, then you'll definitely enjoy owning and using the Barong machete by Condor.

Do any of you have any experience with the Condor Barong Machete? If so, let us know in the comments below!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Review - Condor Heavy Duty Kukri

To deviate from my last posts, which all seemed to be about Mora knives, this time we'll take a look at once of the thickest, strongest knives that I've come across. The knife I'm referring to is the Heavy Duty Kukri, by Condor Tools and Knives.

The Heavy Duty Kukri is an incredibly strong chopper!
For those who don't know, Condor is a knife manufacturer from El Salvador. They are known for making affordable but durable and strong knives. Their knives look good, but that's only secondary to their functionality.

The first thing that you notice when you pick up the Heavy Duty Kukri is the heft. The blade thickness is 0.30" thick! That is absolutely incredible. This knife is basically a thick slab of steel. The thickness extends throughout the handle, about halfway down the lenght of the blade. At about halfway down the blade, it tapers down towards the tip, where it forms a fine point. I should mention that the blade is also 10" long, which I think is a very good size for this knife.

The blade thickness on the Heavy Duty Kukri is 0.30"!
The blade thickness helps in chopping. The reason being, when you swing the blade, you have more momentum with your swing, which translates to more penetration with each chop. This is further helped by the amazing blade shape. The kukri blade shape is perhaps the most efficient chopping blade design. Whatever you're cutting through gets caught in the hook area of the blade until all the energy in the blade is used up, splitting whatever you're impacting. For its size, kukris generally outperform similarly-sized blades when it comes to chopping.

The Heavy Duty Kukri, like many Condor knives, has a convex blade edges. These types of blade edges are easy to sharpen and provide a nice, strong blade edge. This type of edge is also easy to sharpen in the field with a sharpening stone, should it ever need touch-up.

The handle on the Heavy Duty Kukri is made out of hardwood. Condor does not specify the type of wood used, however. The handle is held onto the full-tang blade with three brass pins.

The handle is 5.1" long and 1.3" thick. It has a palm swell near the bottom of the handle, which prevents your hand from slipping off. This handle is large enough to fit both large and small hands. One gripe about the handle that I have is that it is very smooth. I would imagine that if your hand were wet, it would be difficult to hold on to. However, there is a lanyard hole, which can aid in making sure the Kukri doesn't slip out of your hand.

Like most Condor knives, the Heavy Duty Kukri
 comes with an excellent leather sheath.
Part of what makes Condor knives so great is their sheaths. Almost all Condor knives that I have seen have beautifully crafted leather sheaths. The Heavy Duty Kukri is no exception. The sheath on this knife is made out of a darkened leather and secures the blade with a metal snap. The sheath is carried securely with a belt loop. The belt loop has a swivel on it, making it more comfortable to carry as well.

I have yet to put this blade through its paces, but from what I've seen so far, the Condor Heavy Duty Kukri seems like a real winner. As an affordable but high quality Kukri knife, this is definitely a knife to consider.

Do any of you have an experience with the Condor Heavy Duty Kukri? If so, let us know in the comments below.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Review - Mora Companion Heavy Duty

Forgive me if I write another review about a new Mora knife that I just got. I have a real love for these Swedish knives. At their low price, you an afford to have a whole collection of Moras for under $100.

The Companion Heavy Duty comes in two attractive colors.
The Mora Companion Heavy Duty particularly stands out among others, because of it's added strength. It would be particularly useful for bushcrafters or people who like to thump on their knives more than most people.

Last time, we looked at the Mora Companion Stainless series. These are great knives and will perform excellent in most light to medium-duty tasks.

The Mora Companion Heavy Duty borrows many of the same features as the Companion Stainless, such as an ergonomic, rubber-coated grip, a Scandinavian ground 4.0" blade and a polymer sheath with a belt clip. However, the knife differs in particular features that give it more strength.

The most obvious difference in the Heavy Duty is the choice of blade steel. The Heavy Duty has Carbon Steel blade. The carbon steel that Mora uses is well-known among bushcrafters and knife enthusiasts for having excellent edge retention. The downside is that carbon steel is likely to tarnish, unless scrupulously cared for and oiled after every use. However, any tarnish that many appear does not diminish the blades functionality in any way. Many people even like a nice patina on their knives.

The blade on the Heavy Duty is thicker than other Mora knives.
The blade on the Companion Heavy Duty is ground at 27° for maximum edge retention. Other Mora knives are ground at 23°, which offers a sharper, but more delicate edge. The blade on the Heavy Duty is also 0.12", as opposed to 0.10" with the Companion and similar Mora knives. This is a 20% increase in thickness, and is noticeable when handling the blade.

The last feature is the least noticeable, but still makes a difference. The handle on the Heavy Duty is a bit larger than the handle on the Companion. At first glance, the handles look the same, but upon inspection, they are indeed larger and fit the hand well.

If you're looking for a knife a bit stronger than the Mora Companion series, but still want to keep to the value and quality of a Mora, then I would recommend taking a look at the Companion Heavy Duty. These are some of the toughest knives that Mora makes, and still come at an excellent price point.

Do any of you have any experience with the Companion Heavy Duty series of knives? If so, let us know in the comments below.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Review - Mora Companion Stainless Series

The Companion Stainless Series comes in 5 great colors!
While I continue writing about my love for Swedish knives, I wanted to show you guys a new set of knives by Mora of Sweden. If you've never heard of Mora before, they are a Swedish knife manufacturer that makes the best knives for the money that you will ever find. They make knives in the $10-20 range that can rival knives for $50-150 in terms of their performance and cutting ability.

The new set of knives that I wanted to show you is called the Companion Stainless Series. These knives are based on the excellent Clipper Series of knives, but they have some slight improvements that make the Companion series really a joy to use.

Going over the basics, the Companion knives feature a 4.2" blade made of Sandvik Stainless Steel. These knives have a Scandinavian Grind, which makes their edge very sharp and durable. The blade thickness is .10", which is a good all-around thickness for light to medium-duty cutting tasks. The grip length is 4.5", giving the knife a 8.7" overall length. Basically, the knife is a good size for most jobs you'd use a knife for, whether it be for whittling, firemaking or food preparation.

The sheath on the Companion holds
the knife more securely than the older Clipper Series.
Improvements over the Clipper Series include a newly textured grip. The grip on the Companion knives has a very comfortable rubber center section, with polymer ends. The grip contours to the hand well, making it very comfortable to use. I have used one for hours when out in the field and have no complaints about it.

Another improvement is in the sheath. The Clipper Series was known for the sheath not holding the blade very securely, since it only holds the blade in with friction. The Companion still only holds the blade with friction, but it's more secure. The sheath is made out of polymer with a drainage hold in the bottom. What I like most about it is its ease of attachment and removal to a belt. The belt clip isn't a complete loop, which allows you to hook it to your belt very quickly and easily. The image to the right illustrates this.

The belt clip on the Companion sheath makes
the sheath easy to attach and remove from your belt.
Probably the most striking improvement to the Companion Series is the amount of colors available. Until now, most Mora knives came in subdued colors such as blue, green or red. With the Companion Series, you get a choice of 5 different colors, to match your style. Functionally, having a brightly colored knife is a great idea, since you'll less likely to lose it if you ever set it down on the ground.

The Companion Series of knives is a great improvement over the Clipper Series. I am confident that if you try one, it'll become one of your favorite knives.

Do any of you guys have any experience with Mora knives, specifically the Companion/Clipper Series? Let me know in the comments below!