Friday, May 27, 2011

Its the Little Things

When I first started REALLY paying attention to designing things, I noticed details that I missed before. There is nothing like building a coffee table, not once, not twice, but three times to teach you the importance of little details (like staggering the joined planks on the table top in u n u formation so that the natural cupping of the boards counteracts each other). This focus on details in design has led my search for good gear. In my opinion there are no two better examples of superior design through attention to details than my two favorite pocket knives: the Small Sebenza and the new Dragonfly 2 (I have one with ZDP-189 steel, but the design details are shared by the entire DF2 family). Both have small flourishes and insightful ideas that make them not only better to use, but more interesting. Even cooler--the Dragonfly 2 does this all for well under $100, even with the high end steels (ZDP-189 or H1).

Let's take a look at the top of each blade. Here is the Sebenza:


and the DF2 ZDP-189:


The round over on the Sebenza is a bit of luxury. It makes the blade easier to handle and easier on your hands when the Sebenza is in your pocket. It is also a little easier on your hands when using the blade, though it does make traction a thing of the past. Finally, it adds a nice aesthetic touch to an already quietly beautiful knife. The DF2's chamfer was carried over from the original and it is not as pleasant on your hands as the full round over on the Sebenza, but it does make the blade nice. Both profile changes also take a bit of weight away, reducing unnecessary material on the blade.

Then there are the clips. Again, the Sebenza and then the DF2:




The Sebenza clip is actual laid into a mortised out recess. This does two things: 1) it allows the clip to be held in place with a single screw, braced by the edges of the recess; and 2) it allows the clip's mounting to be flush with the handle. Both are really nice, clever touches. But those are just window dressing for the real story. The Sebenza's clip has TWO pinch points--one at the end where all pocket clips pinch and another about two thirds of the way up from the bottom of the clip. I didn't understand why it was like this a first, and then I started using the Sebenza and carrying it. The clip is PERFECT. It locks in without being a pocket shredder. The second pinch point makes all of the difference, gripping just a LITTLE bit more to give you that extra bit of confidence (and with a price of $330 you certainly can't have too much confidence in your knife staying put).

The wire clip on the DF2 is, similarly, a masterstroke of design. It seems a bit less springy than the clip on the Caly3. It too is attached via a single screw and held in place by two grooves in the FRN handle. Unlike the Sebenza's clip, the DF2's clip is left or right hand carry positionable.

Both knives offer an impressive, responsive feel when cutting, in part, because of the well placed finger choils. The Sebenza's serves double or even triple duty. First, it puts space between the handle slab and the thumb stud to give you some leverage. Second, it allows you to access the lock bar when the blade is engaged. And third, it acts as a choil for your index finger in a standard grip. The DF2's choil is in front of the handle, actually part of the blade itself, and allow for virtually unparalleled control of the thin, slicing cutting edge.

The Sebenza has one thing that no other production knife I have ever seen has: a BEEFY blade that takes up ALL of the space between the handle slabs. Take a peek:


There is hardly ANY room between the handle and the blade, but because of the supernal fit and finish of a Chris Reeve knife there is no rubbing or touching. This goes back to the point of posting blade:handle numbers. The more FREE blade you get, generally speaking (with exceptions like the Spyderco Yojimbo), the better. The DF2 crams a lot of blade into the handle, but not as much as the Sebenza.

When you add up all of these little touches, touches that you come to appreciate over time you realize just how good the Sebenza truly is. It is a benchmark, a reference standard for folding knives and it has been for 20 years. $330 is a lot to spend on a knife, but if you are going to pay that much, the Sebenza gives you as much or more than any other knife for even close to that much money. And then there is the Dragonfly. In my opinion the DF2 with ZDP-189 steel is as close to the perfect small EDC as I have ever seen.


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