Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Bradley Alias II Review

In 2004, for whatever reason, Sebenzas were in short supply. Perhaps it was a skip in Chris Reeves's production as he transitioned from custom maker to a full-fledged production cutler. Perhaps it was caused by a boom in interest in knives. Perhaps it was a shortage of materials. Whatever the reason, by 2004 Sebenezas were hard to find and waiting lists were long. That problem has been alleviated for the most part now, as they are readily available everywhere, but when market demand is high and supply is short, alternatives are bound to come into existence. The Bradley Alias was designed to fill that market gap and capture some of the unmet demand.

In trying to fill that niche, the Bradley Alias was designed with emulation (some might say replication) in mind. They used the exact same materials: S30V steel, 6Al4V Titanium. They copied the most famous part of the Sebenza: the frame lock. And then Bradley asked Benchmade to build the knife on spec for them (much like how AG Russel had Kershaw build the Acies for him). The knife was not cheap--$269.95 MSRP at the time, but it was less expensive than the Sebenza. With the formula of quality materials and borrowed design highlights, the Bradley Alias was something of a success.

Here is a picture of my Bradley Alias (an Alias II) with its light&saber buddy, the disastrous Arc 6:


Here is an open and closed size comparison with the Delica 4:




I bought the Alias in 2009 and carried until I sold it in early 2011, having received a Sebenza as a Christmas present.

There are two Aliases, like the Large and Small Sebenzas. The Alias I is the larger of the two and here is its product page. Here is the product page for the smaller Alias II. Here is a good street price for the smaller of the two. There are auto versions and Damascus versions available. Sometimes there are small runs of TiNi blackened versions and blue anodized versions as well.

The Alias has been reviewed in a few places, often as in a comparison review with the Sebenza or the Sage II. Here are my impressions of the knife right after I got it on EDCF. Here is Nutnfancy's review of the Alias I. Here is a good comparison video. Here is a review on a GREAT blog run by a fellow EDCFer. Note his vastly superior photography skills when compared to my poor pictures.

Design: 1

The knife is a great size, I really, really like the length of the blade a lot. The blade:handle is .76 and it feels like every bit of the handle is full of blade. The pillar construction is nice. I also like the thumb stud itself, perhaps better than the Sebenza's pointy nubs. The knife is WICKED fast. Very, very fast.

I do not like the handle shape all that much. It seems like it would be comfy, but it bulges in the wrong places for me. It also lacks anything like a good choil. Unlike with the Sebenza, the clip hinders, as opposed to helps, grip. Also, even though the handle is tapped and threaded for two way positioning, tip up tends to bind the blade too much, so really this is tip down only. When compared to the Sebenza, this knife is a little thicker with more space between the blade and the handle slabs. Thicker knife with thinner blade...that is why the Sebenza is so expensive.

I'll admit that I docked the knife a little for being such a blatant emulation...er...ripoff.

Fit and Finish: 1

Everything was fine, until about two months into owning the Alias II I noticed that the blade was off centered. Nothing crazy, but just a bit off. It was not like this when I got it. That is, as I am sure it is with most knife people, one of the first things I check when I open the box. I could tighten the pivot screw to get rid of the off centering, but it would make the knife more difficult to open AND it would eventually creep back. That should not happen and it seems to be a regular thing on Aliases, as the forums seemed to indicate. Even though this knife is cheaper than the Sebenza, at $180-200 street price, there is a lot of competition and stuff like this should not happen.

Grip: 2

The titanium handle is not as matte finished as the Sebenza, but it does provide more than ample grip. It wore down after a while to a smoother finish was still plenty grippy. I also like the thumb cutout to access the thumb stud. It served as a nice guide to open the knife AND as a good rest for your index finger when cutting.

Carry: 2

The slim rounded shape carried very well in the pocket, vanishing quite nicely. The lack of a thumb hole and a minimal ramp for the thumb stud kept the knife trim and neat in your pocket.

Steel: 2

S30V is not the high end anymore, but it is still VERY, VERY good. Like VG-10 with better edge retention. Speaking of edge retention, I am using a ZDP-189 blade right now and BOY....That, in my mind, is the new high end, but S30V still awesome.

Blade Shape: 2

I loved the drop point shape, it was so nice and easy to use. Plenty of belly. I prefer the Sebenza blade shape, but this works well too.

Grind: 1

Wha? Why the funky grind? I think it was to keep the tip as robust as possible until the very end, but still all of the extra grind facets make the blade seem messy and did bunch up in material, but usually only in cardboard or tape, which, come to think of it, is the majority of everyday cutting tasks. A nice full flat grind would be much better. That said, the tip was sturdy and it worked, just not perfectly. The grind reminds me a lot of the grind on the Spyderco Native, so if you liked that, you'll like this.

Deployment Method: 2

The thumb stud worked well, especially with the thumb guide cut out. The knife, when tightened properly, snapped open with speed approaching an automatic. It wasn't as fast as my Leafstorm, but significantly faster than the Sebenza. It also very really failed to deploy.

Retention Method: 2

The classic Benchmade split arrow clip works very well. I slightly prefer the Spyderco spoon clip which is a bit less pointy on the end, but this is quibbling. It is not, however, even in the same LEAGUE as the double dip Sebenza clip, which is, in my mind the best on the market and one of the most underrated features of the Sebenza.

Lock: 2

The lock worked flawlessly. It snapped into place and there was no wiggle in the lockbar at all, which can happen even on the most expensive frame locks (see DarkChild's review of the Acies). Great job.

Overall Score: 17 out of 20

This is a very, very good knife. It is something worth tracking down, though I am fairly sure they are back in production. At MSRP this is not a special blade, but at street price, closer to $170 it is a very, very good option. I typically use the Spyderco Sage II as the benchmark for value in folders and this is not too far behind it. It is a bit more, maybe $30-40 in street pricing, but it is a much slimmer, easier carrying knife.

It is not, of course, a Sebenza. Nothing is, in my opinion, in the same league for close to the same price. Having the Sebenza as the standard though, is silly. It is like having Willie Mays as the standard for the Hall of Fame. If he were the standard there would be 8 or 10 guys in the Hall. If the Sebenza is the Willie Mays of folding knives, then the Alias II is the Harmon Killebrew (RIP Killer...).

There are quite a few Ti Frame Locks now and this is one of the better ones out there. If you can get it for $170, it is worth the price.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the link and kind words about my blog! Nice job on the article!