Here are brief looks at knives that have crossed my desk and caught my attention. Kershaw Knives R.A.M. Model 1919 is designed by the father and son knife making team of Grant and Gavin Hawk. It has a 3 1/8 inch Sandvik 12C26 stainless steel blade, a handle made out of 6061-T6 black anodized aluminum and a textured black G-10 overlay, it’s a dandy folder. If that’s all there was to the R.A.M it would be well worth its price of $99.99.
However the R.A.M. is a pseudo assisted opening folder. What I mean by this is not an assisted opener. What the R.A.M. has is something like a pump that locks the blade opened (and closed). And with the flipper you just give it a slight push and the blade swings open. It actually feels like it’s assisted but it’s not. It’s the pressure of the pump that feels like it’s assisted. But it’s not. It’s the pressure of the pump that feels like it’s assisting the blade open. There are three tine thumb studs on both sides of the blade, but I found them all pretty much useless. I preferred the flipper for opening this knife.
I’ve always been a fan of the Paul knife, designed by Paul W. Poehlmann. However I always thought they were a bit too small to my liking. They are, without a doubt true gentleman’s knives. I like the patented Paul Axial locking device on the Paul knives, it always struck me as brutally strong.
Lone Wolf has introduced a larger sized Paul knife with a 3 ½ inch blade made out of 154 CM high carbon stainless steel. The carbon fiber handle scales and the size of the knife makes it fall into the tactical folder category, although the sleek lines of the Paul Knife could make it fall into the gent’s knife category. This is the first Paul knife with pocket clip, adding to utility of the folder. At $189.99 it’s not cheap but then again, quality never comes cheap, and it is made in the USA.
A new version of Lone Wolf’s popular Diablo Double Action (DA) retains the folder that can be opened two ways: either using the thumb stud or the automatic method a switchblade if you live in a state that allows automatic knives. This new Diablo DA has 1 3/3 inch CPM-S30V Ti-Ni black coated blade. The handle scaler are dark green and black micarta. One thing you will notice with any of the Lone Wolf automatic folders is that the blades really pop out when activated. You have to hold onto these hummers or they’ll fly out of your hand as the blade flings open.
Something I really like about the Diablo DA line of automatic folders is the fact that the opening method is hidden. There isn’t any button to push. Instead the blade is opened by sliding the left side handle scale a fraction of an inch to one side, and the blade pops open. It’s like magic. I’ve won more than a couple bucks from folks who thought they could figure out how to open. Retail price on the Diablo DA with the green and black micarta-handle scales is $289.99
SOG knives visionary I and the Visionary II are a combination from two other knives in the SOG lineup. Both VG-10 stainless steel blades that are black powder coated. The visionary I has a 3 inch blade while the visionary II has a 3 ¾ inch blade. Both knives have Zytel handles with stainless steel liners, and have reversible pocket clips for right or left hand carry. Both models also have the Arc Lock ad they have been tested to withstand more than 1.000 pounds of pressure while still holding the table open.
The visionary I retails for $140 and Visionary II retails for $160. If I spread dozens of knives out on a table and picked the ones that had the most appeal, these would be the knives. Check them out at your local knife show or retailer and see if you agree.
Bear & Son Cutlery owns most of American made traditional pocketknife patterns and this issue’s cover demonstrates that there are still new combinations of traditional features that make a new and unique package.
The cover knife is a traditional two blade trapper, so named because of the California clip opening as a long spay blade. The pattern takes its moniker from its popularity among trappers in the early 20th century. In holding with tradition, the knife closed is the standard 4 ½ inches long. An added hail back to tradition is the long nail marks on the blades.
Housed in a collector tin, the knife is one of the few made with genuine abalone handles and Damascus blades. Bear & Son Cutlery is the largest producer of Damascus steel knives in the world.
They use American produced Alabama Damascus. A part of the Bear & Son Cutlery Custom Heritage series it will be made in a limited edition of 250 knives. Each knife comes with nickel-silver bolsters and brass liners, is a serial numbered is assembled with over 90 hand operations. Delivery will be early 2009. Bear & Son Cutlery is the descendant of a knife company started by James F Parker and knife maker Fain Edwards in the 1980s. Originated at first in Jacksonville, Alabama, by Edwards as an operation to manufacture domestic Damascus steel inside an old cotton gin using a six-ton air hammer, Edwards expanded his operation and began making contract knives for Parker Knives in the early 80’s.
He would eventually join in a partnership with James from Parker’s company which became USA with the exit of Edwards. Parker brought in a couple of the top people from Gerber and added Ken Griffey his sales manager from his import company to the team.
Through a variety of deals at the time, Parker had also obtained the Cutlery World chain of retail stores and W R Case & Sons Company.
At a critical time in the business, Parker had bypass surgery and was unable to run the company on a daily basis. Because of this, it suffered repercussions that ended in the failure of the venture. In the ensuing fallout the people managing the Alabama facility- Herman McIntosh. Formed a new company and purchased the factory renaming it Bear MGC knives adding more designs, including multipliers.
Within a few years, Bear MGC had built a newer larger factory in Jacksonville, Alabama and soon sold the company to Swiss Army Knives.
McIntosh and Cook retired with the purchase and Griffey managed the factory for Swiss Army until he eventually bought the company from Swiss Army, bringing in his son Matt and changing the name of the company to Bear & Son.
Throughout its history, Bear & Son has maintained its goal of American-made knives with an extensive line of American produced Damascus steel.
For more information about Bear & Son knives, visit www.bearandsoncutlery.com
First, I checked for sharpness. It is commonly known that some ultra-0smooth edges will slice through non-fibrous materials better than fibrous ones. But if you think about it, even a piece of meat has fibrous tendons in it. Many vegetables can also be quite fibrous. I needed to find a test material that would be fibrous in nature but still require an extremely sharp edge to cut cleanly. There are many different ideas on the best was to check for sharpness. Some are better than others. At the fore font of sharpness checking demonstrate the sharpness of edges. The main problem is determining and quantifying how easily the edge shaves. Also you end up using more of a shearing cut than a slicing one. Remember, all the edges in the photos will shave hair easily. Slicing paper is also used as a test of sharpness. Most papers are very easy to slice smoothly, but a few delicate papers such as cigarette and onionskin papers are much more difficult.
Several of these papers also seem to be directional in the orientation of the fibers, making them easier to cut in one direction than the other. I tried several brands of paper and found that Zig Zag seemed to be the most consistent and the most difficult to cut across the short dimension.
As I started slicing paper, my misconceptions started surfacing. I had always thought that the smoother that edge was, the better it would cut- period. At a hardness of 58.5 HRC all the edges except D and F would slice the cigarette paper across the short dimension. Just as I had expected, it was most difficult with A, easier with B, easier yet with C and E, but been impossible to verify that all the teeth had been polished off without a microscope. The few teeth left on the edge would allow the blade to start the cut in the paper. That in turn, would mislead me into thinking that the stopped edges both sheared a sliced better than those having a tooth. The real problem with my theories started to come out when I started to look at how the edges wore. Here things can get very complicated.
Testing for Edge Wear
I sliced through corrugated cardboard for my wear tests. I used it because it was cheap, consistent, and available and dulls edges fairly quickly. I used a slicing type action to get through the cardboard instead of shearing it. Slicing is how most knives are used in the real world and dulls a knife faster than shearing. I sliced up 1x 2 squares with each edge finish and then examined them under the microscope. As I expected, edge A cut with the most difficulty while wearing to a larger sharply-toothed edge. It would still shave with difficulty but not cut the paper. B wore to something resembling A, after the same amount of cutting. The larger teeth had sharp edges and were not rounded off. Shaving was quite easy and it would still barely cut the paper. Then it happened. Edge C wore to something resembling edge D and would barely shave at all. Trying to cut the paper was like a bad joke. Remember, this was all done with the same blade.
Then, edge D wore to an edge that still looked like D but with a slightly rounded edge and no shaving at all. Something had happened between edges B and C. So now I had a problem. I thought the problem might be hardness, so I re hardened the blade and left it at 60.0 HRC. Then, the edges performed more like I would have expected. All the edges wore to a coarser tooth, except for D, which still rounded off. Edge C cut so well that I had slice up two additional pieces of cardboard before I started to notice any significant wear. When it did wear this time, it went to a coarser tooth with sharp edges. I was surprised that a hardness difference of only 1.5 HRC would make such a change.
I also did a little testing with a factory stainless. The tests were performed quickly as I was running out of time and only wanted to get a general idea of what was happening. The most important result was that all the edge finishes seemed to wear to a round smooth edge instead of a sharp, larger tooth. Another variable not even considered here is the actual angle at the edge. I am sure that varying the angle will affect the changeover point between the edges that wears to one having sharp teeth or one that becomes smooth. As you can well guess, my lecture at the seminar was a little fragmented and without a great deal of detail. The good part was that I learned a lot and have a completely new direction to explore.
Currently I am sharpening all of my blades to the finest tooth edge I can get that will not wear smooth. If the edge is continually wearing to a coarser tooth having sharp edges, the effective useful life of the edge is increased. If the edge is just rounding off, the useful life will be very short. For most of my steels and Damascus I am finishing with an Ultra Fine grit Spyderco stone. The blade hardness is usually about 60.0 HRC. You might think that 60.0 HRC is too hard and brittle for a blade. I salt bath mar temper and freeze my blades in liquid nitrogen, thus reducing the brittleness problem greatly but, that is the subject for another article. I have eliminated all leather stropping with compound.
A light strop on denim is used to clean the junk out of the teeth formed by the stones, but I want to leave the micro teeth in place. If I have the opportunity to make a knife that will only cut fleshy materials and never anything fibrous, I will consider stropping and polishing the edge. Please remember that these results are only preliminary. Different knives on a different day might show entirely different results. I have a great number of samples to make and tests to run now. This winter I will be running tests to try and figure out exactly what is going on. I will be including samples to investigate how steel choice, heat, treating, edge geometry and surface finish all affect sharpness and edge holding. If you have any comments or suggestions I would be glad to hear them. I am in many ways learning to sharpen all over again.
The Ak-47 and its variations, arguably the world’s most popular military rifle with an estimated 70-milion manufactured, has recently inspired at least three heavy-duty folding knives. In “rifles of the world” John Walter states that, the Kalashnikov is simple, solid, reliable and surprisingly effective. The knives it inspired share those same characteristics. The knives include: Cold Steel’s Ak-47, Ernest Emerson’s Comrade M.F. and Boker’s Kalashnikov, which comes in three versions, old Steel registered the trademark “Ak-47 years ago. So that there would be no confusion, Boker, in October 2003, told its dealers that the name Ak-47 is trade marked by another cutlery company and cannot be used in the promotion of the Boker Kalashnikov line of knives. They asked that they not use Ak-47 in any promotions, advertising Web site use, or in any way to promote the sale of the Boker kalashnikov line. They also package an insert stating this with their Kalashnikov products. All three of these knives are beefy, and a real handful. Your father’s folding hunter they are not. The Cold Steel Ak-47 has a broad 4 inch clip-point blade and a 6 inch handle. Cold Steel literature states the weight is 7.6 ounces, the postal scales at my office state 7.2 ounces.
The Emerson Comrade M.F has a 3.9-inch clip point blade and a 5-inch handle. The weight is 5.2 ounces, making it the lightest of the trio. The size of the knife makes it seem lighter than it is. The Boker Kalashnikov has a 3 7/8 inch blade and a 5 inch handle. Weight is 5.9 ounces. The Cold Steel Ak-47’s large handle is crafted from thick bead-blasted air craft- aluminum scales that are bolted to steel liners mentioned in this article, and the scales are grooved to provide an even better grip. There is an ambidextrous pocket clip, and a unique feature is the pommelwith two lanyard holes. Cold Steel states that it is designed to be used as a less than lethal percussion tool for self-defense.
The Ak-47 has a Cold Steel’s Ultra Lock locking mechanism. A spring loaded sliding volt makes the knife as a bout as rigid as a fixed blade when open and also holds the blade shut when the knife is closed. I found the lock to be smooth secure and easy to operate one handed. Another feature is a thumb plate, which can be used for conversional one handed opening, or to snag the edge of a pocket for even quicker deployment. The knife is manufactured to Cold Steel’s rigid specifications in Taiwan, using carefully tempered and sub-zero quenched Japanese 8A steel. It was designed for Cold Steel by Andrew Demko. The Emerson Comrade M.F. uses a unique construction one handle slab is of 0.125 inch thick G10. The other, which provides a frame lock is of 1.8 inch thick titanium. On mine, the frame lock is by far the stiffest of that type I’ve encountered, no matter what the frame lock was constructed from. I’d say there’s no chance of accidental closure here. Ernest Emerson told me that the Comrade M.F. also known as CQC-12 was inspired, not by the Ak-47 rifle directly, but by the Ak-47 bayonet.
In Emerson’s 2006 catalog he elaborates “I have always admired the Ak-47 bayonet. I have used them for years in the field, usually to smash something open or pry something apart. Well, I final got around to designing a folding version.” One reason for his admiration may be that the Ak-47 bayonet has a practical clip-point blade that can server many purposes, rather than the slim spear point of most other bayonets. The 3.9 inch blade has a Bowie style clip point. It resembles the blade on Emerson’s CQC-13 Combat Bowie folder. One of the major differences I found between the Comrade M.F and the Combat Bowie was that the Bowie is a liner lock. Then there’s the price the Bowie is $239 retail, while the Comrade M.F lists at $395. Most Emerson knives have the Emerson Wave feature, a notch at the top rear of the blade that can be snagged on the edge of a pocket to pull the blade open. Once the knife is out of the pocket, it’s open and ready for use. Emerson was the first to come up with this method of opening, although I realized the same results several times by accidentally snagging an opening tab as I was pulling a knife from my pocket.
The Emerson Wave feature is now officially required on all knives Emerson’s company supplies to military combat units, military search and rescue units and law-enforcement agencies. Emerson uses 154 CM heat-treated to 57-59 RC, in his knives. The Emerson line is made in the U.S.A. Emerson uses the slogan “America’s Knife Company.” We are truly one of the last companies where the knives are 100 percent made in America. That means everything, including materials.
The Boker comes in three versions. While all are serial numbered, the top grade, with snake-wood inserts in the aircraft aluminum handle, is limited to 2003 pieces and evidently is aimed at collectors. Boker says they have exclusive rights from famed firearms designer Mikhail Kalashnikov to use his name on a knife line. As mentioned earlier, there are three versions in this series. The KALTD contains snake-wood inlays in the gray aircraft aluminum handle. The KALB is all black, with a black 6062-T6 aircraft aluminum handle and cocobolo wood inlays. The blade is coated with black PVD, a sapphire like material. Blades are clip-point, more elongated and therefore traditional than on the Ak-47 and Comrad M.F.
Best for users might be the basic KAL. It shares the same handle contours as the other Boker Kalashnikov knives. Designer Dietmar Pohl said that the contours as the other Boker Kalashnikov knives. Designer Dietmar Pohl said that the contours follow that of the Automat Kalashnikov-47 rifle. Inserts in the aircraft- aluminum handle are of black G10. A liner lock maintains blade rigidity when open. All the series feature blades of 440C. A ”Red star” with Kalashnikov’s name in both Western and Cyrillic covers the pivot area. The knives have pocket clips. The gift box has the appearance of a Kalashnikov clip. All there Bokers are made in Solingen, Germany.
I carried the Cold Steel Ak-37 and the Emerson Comrade M.F. for several days each. Both worked well in the bottom right pocket of cargo pants. Gowever, due its massiveness, tha Ak-47 rode most comfortably in a large nylon sheath I scavenged from the Tuckerman Knife by Colonial cutlery. I hope Cold Steel decides to offer an optional belt sheath for it. When it comes to price, the Cold Steel Ak-47 is by far the most cost-effective. Retail is $100. Emerson’s Comrade M.F. is the most-expensive at $395 retail. The three versions of the Boker Kalashnikov are $365(snake-wood), $265 (cocobolo) and $215 (G-10).
These three massive folding knives, while all different in, price appearance and locking mechanisms, have a common inspiration. And all promise to be as rugged and reliable as the gun that inspired them.
It is late in the clear blue afternoon and the setting sun is turning the few clouds in the sky pink. I am making my way back home, tromping through the fresh snow. The temperature is an unseasonably warm 15 degrees. F, and everything is quiet around me. The woods are quiet and the only tracks I see are the ones I made coming in. This where you go when you want to be nowhere.
Why was I out here on this clear winter evening. It was she first day of testing two incredible knives that were just asking to be put to use. Used for what? Well, camping, hunting, fire making, food prep and, most of all, just being company on outings like this. The first is a Finnish pattern with the traditional Scandal grind and useful shape. The especially of the Enzo trapper though, actually lies in the handle. This is one of the relatively few full tang Scandi blades in production. Not only full-tang but also skeletonized to keep a proper balance in the hand. Couple the innovative design with handle options, such as snake wood, curly birch and ivory Elforin and you have the blade that makes your heart skin a beat.
The second is the RAT Cutlery RC-3 a knife designed by two men with the experience of two decades of living tools not only to survive but to make themselves comfortable. When this kind of experience is put into the design, you often have a knife that works and a design that understands the various uses a knife may be put to, and performs them with aplomb. If I am only going to carry one how does one decide on the best knife? My only choice is to pit these two knives to use, and see how they stack up. Not only does the knife I carry must help build fires. It may have to cut rope, perform kitchen duties or clean spruce grouse on a crisp fall morning. What better wat to find the strength of a knife than actually using it.
The first to be put to use was the RC-3. From the specifications and the pictures I saw I expected this to be a good knife. What I was not expecting was to like it as much as I did. As soon as you have this knife in your hand you realize all the though and experience that went into the design. The thing you will notice first is the triple retention sheath. This is designed to make sure that the knife will always be there. While this is important to those in specialized lines of work such as paratroopers or smoke jumpers, you may not realize that it can be important to many others as well. This could easily be kept as a backup survival knife under a snowsuit without any fear of it falling out. It is also nice to know that if you took a nasty fall in the great outdoors or had an unexpected dunking, you would still have your knife on you. The sheath also includes a clip to go in place of the jump proof backing for other modes of carry. I have been carrying this knife daily for nearly two weeks using the included clip. It makes for an ultra-high ride carry that disappears under a T-shirt.
For the last two weeks I have been building fires, hiking in the snow and just enjoying the great outdoors. This knife has made fuzz sticks for a fire, shaved fatwood for tinder, cut rope and para cord and bored holes in a plastic sled. And that was before I got it in the house. Inside it has worked right along with me while making dinner, cutting high-density tubing, opening packages, cutting cord and even helped with a bit of leather work.
At this point I feel like I have enough use to get a feel for the strengths and weaknesses of this knife. What you don’t see from any pictures is how well all the elements work together. The coils is well placed, it adds a couple of grips that would be very useful at times. Using the coil the belly of the blade is closer to your hand, like some skinning patterns. The handle itself is grippe even when wet, and is impervious to moisture. Surprising to me was how well the handle worked, even with the slim scales. While I did not use it for extended and felt good in the hand.
This is a slim, tough, versatile knife with a knockout sheath system. When I mentioned to Jeff Randall of Rat Cutlery that this knife could hold a wicked edge by being tempered harder he simply referred me to the video. It is something special to bend a production knife 45 degrees and have it return back straight again. That is something that I would not even try with many knives I own. There was no cracking, no taking a set, only a hard0use knife.
So I had a hard use knife designed for anything I may encounter in a size and shape that makes it easy to carry along with me. But what if you prefer something more traditional? You know, beautiful wood a nicely polished blade and leather a sheath. Ideally it would also have a full tang just for the confidence you get from seeing that solid piece of metal running from the tip to the butt. Apparently, Dennis of Brisa’s knife works was thinking something similar but he wanted to build knives similar but he wants to build knives similar traditional patterns that are noted for their balance.
Finnish knives have been the same for decades, and many feel there is nothing to change. Dennis wanted to use the full tang of many western knives, but also keep the useful Finnish blade profile. This was difficult though because many Nordic knives are noted for their liveliness in the hand due to the lightweight stick tang. Enter the skeletonized tang of the Enzo Trapper, which had a full tang for strength and is skeletonized for lighter weight and balance. These blades are made in cooperation with Lauri of Finland with additional design from British knife maker Stuart Mitchell of Sheffield, England. You can see that a lot of work was put into making this design something special.
I have a soft spot in my heart for traditional patterns, but also like the full tang knives. I kept saying “When I find a full tang Scandi that isn’t a full-on custom, I won’t be able to resist.” When I saw the picture of three of these Enzo trappers on the Brisa Web site, I knew my time was up, Handle choices were box elder burl, curly maple Elforin and many others. Blades come in your choice of carbon, stainless or a hollow ground D2 option. I ordered only the bare blade of one of the three available options. I took on the challenge of finding some really nice looking wood for the bare blade to make an appropriate sheath. While these knives come built to your specifications in a leather sheath, they are also available in kit from, or as the bare blade, like I ordered. The knife built on the carbon rapper blade is the one I did my testing with while I waited for some current production samples from Dennis.
After carrying the RC-3 for nearly two weeks I noticed all kinds of things about the Enzo Trapper. The first thing I noticed was the carry system. The Enzo’s comfortable shape does not ride up close like the RC-3. The second is the feeling you get when you pull out the shiny crisp blade. This knife is a joy to look at and tasks are looked at with anticipation to see how the knife will perform and perform it does. As you would expect it excels at cutting wood. In letting a wooden handrail for two small parts seemed intuitive. What you would not expect is the easy way it slid through leather approximately 1/8 inch thick.
This is a pretty knife and even those who aren’t “knife people” notice it. It has the looks I like and I am finding out it also has the performance to back it up. As the knife loses its razor edge, it does so evenly so what it dulls gradually not all at once. This way I know it is losing sharpness before it becomes a dull useless tool. After a small amount of cutting leather and cardboard a total of six strokes brought it up to a very nice sharpness. It really seems like this steel takes an edge well. Just for fun I measured it by laying the knife on a postal scale using it to cut string. These cuts took less than 2 ounces of pressure without having to spend any appreciable time on the edge. The only thing I had done was the mentioned six strokes on a crock stick. The 2 ounces of pressure meant that the knife should simply fall through the thread with its weight. In case you are wondering yes, it did. Who knows what kind of an edge you could get by spending a little time on it.
I did not do any heavy use testing for a reason. I believe that knives like these are designed as knives not pry bars, bolt cutters or shovels. I did however do a couple of drops onto a wooden floor from waist height so they landed point first. This can happen in real use and I was interested to see the results. The RC-3stuck in the floor and quivered for a second due to its flexibility. Light rub marks showed on the coating on the first 1/8 inch of the tip. It did not chip on this test, though I was a little disappointed that it suffered any damage at all. These were two knives of similar size made with two totally different concepts in mind. I have carried these daily and spend time using them on various tasks. Doing so allows a person to understand why they were designed the way they were and what they excel at. I’ve cut wood cardboard, leather, string, vegetables and packing tape, among other things. I’ve carried them in nice clothes as well as in clothes for work and play. So, which knife is the best.
Choose the correct knife for you
If I wanted a knife that needed to be small, tough and used for some difficult jobs, I would choose the RC-3. This is a knife that I know could ride under a shirt snowsuit or along with other gear and would always be there. It makes a nice tool to back up a precision cutting tool, due to its toughness. Tromp through the snow or slide down a hill, and this knife will stay along for the ride. It has a sheath that can be configured in several ways for various users. If I wanted a tough knife in a small package this is the one I would take. If I wanted a beautiful knife in a more traditional pattern that takes a very good edge, the Enzo Trapper stand head and shoulders above the rest. This knife has most everything in one very nice package. Nice looks, beautiful handles a leather sheath useful patterns a full tang and great edge holding just to mention a few things I like about this knife. If I wanted a knife to camp or hunt with this is the one I would take. Whatever your endeavor here are two well designed knives that could be exactly what you are looking for. Whether you want a tough as nails knife made for all the dirty work on you want a traditional pattern with great looks and performance to match, test these out.