Wednesday, May 4, 2011

SOG Flash I Review

I have written about the SOG Flash I previously, see here. Everything I said there is still true and a tip off to the overall impression I have of the knife. Nonetheless, simply for comprehensiveness, I thought I'd do a review. I no longer have the SOG Flash I, as it was part of a trade a while back. I had mine for about 6 months and used to daily. Here is an image of it, with its light&saber buddy, a Preon I (resting on a massive piece of granite I use in my workshop for pressure during glue ups):


The SOG Flash I is a hard knife to review. It is probably one of the most important benchmark knives available today. It was the knife (and review) that launched Nutnfancy, who in turn spawned hundreds if not thousands of copycat reviewers on YouTube. The knife and its value, relative to the competition, have been the subject of debate ever since that first video review.

Here is the product page (with specs). Here is a good representative street price. Here is THE video review of the SOG Flash I. Here is a forum post about its virtues and vices.

Design: 1

This knife is a perfect example of the unrepresentative average phenomenon. Suppose you dunk your hand in water that is freezing and then the other hand in water that is boiling. The average of the two is right in the middle, but representative of neither. Here, we have a bunch of design traits that are inspired and others that are horrendous. Thus the score of 1 is an unrepresentative average of the two. Depending on what your looking for in a knife, this knife is either a home run or a strike out. The knife's size is, as Nutnfancy put it, perfect. It is right in the sweet spot of small, but not too small. It gives you a sense of control over the cuts you make and it is people friendly. The handle shape, though, leaves much to be desired. Everything seems a little too bunched up, sort of like they scaled down the SOG Flash II's handle maintaining the overall ratios, instead of keeping the choil the right size and shrinking down other parts of the handle. The knife is an assisted open and I don't really like them. They are generally unnecessary in an EDC/utility knife. This one works well, but that doesn't do a lot for me. The lock is horrendous for a few reasons. It is fiddly to open and close, requiring a finger nail to disengage. It does not lock up all that well either. And then there is the pocket clip. I think it is functional it, but I don't think it is the best clip ever (that would be one of the following: the double dip Sebenza clip, the Spyderco wire clip, or the clip on the Buck Vantage). It does bury the knife, but again, I am not sure that is a requirement for me, but in this case the knife is so slender that you don't have a lot to push up on to free the knife from your pocket. The blade:handle is a very impressive .78, besting by a significant amount the impressive blade:handle ratio on the Sebenza. That is a lot of free blade length. Again, the unrepresentative average is perhaps the best way to sum up this design.

Fit and Finish: 1

The grind is great, see below, but the rest of the knife seems flimsy. It is not the materials, per se, as other companies make knives with similar materials and they feel rock solid (see Spyderco Dragonfly FRN). I think it has to do with the pivot screw. I could not get my blade dead center without preventing it from actually opening. Here is as close to center as I could get it without jamming the assist mechanism:


Normally, I don't care about a blade being centered unless it touches a side (or it is a Sebenza priced knife), but here the pivot seems to effect the entire rest of the knife. Tighten to center and you get better lock up but no deployment speed. Loosen and you get lightening fast deployment but sloppy lock up and the blade is off centered. It is a weird sort of tug of war in this knife that is indicative of a less than ideal fit and finish. It never hampered the performance of the knife, it just left me less confident than I would be otherwise.

Grip: 0

All of the bumps and dips and curves seem to be just a bit too small. This is not a three fingered handle or a two fingered handle because your fingers just don't fit well in either grip. If you have meaty paws, this knife should just be avoided. It is too small for even medium sized hands. Furthermore we know, by way of the example of the Dragonfly, that you can make small knives and still have a comfortable handle. The checkering is okay and there is no jimping, but again as an EDC/utility knife, I am not too worked up about those things being absent. The problem is nothing seems to work well with the grip. Choking up doesn't work. Going two-fingered doesn't work. I just can't seem to find a comfortable, controlled way to hold this knife.

Carry: 2

The clip is good, not great, but the size and shape of this knife make it melt away in your pocket. Great carry knife, probably one of the best. Oh, and the sub-2 ounce weight makes it super nice.

Steel: 1

AUS-8 is the very definition of adequate steel. Nothing fancy, nothing bad. It just works. I'd rate it a little worse than VG-10, basically because it tarnishes and rusts easier.

Blade Shape: 2

Ever notice the similarity in blade shape between the SOG Flash I and one of the greatest knives ever made--the Busse Battle Mistress?

SOG Flash I:


Busse Battle Mistress:

The drop point with a healthy belly and an almost recurve on the bottom, make both knives great cutters. I actually like this blade shape better than the wide leaf shaped Spyderco blades as it makes the knife more pocketable.

Grind: 2

SOG's grinds are the best in the production knife world. They are beautifully done--smooth, consistent, and perfectly shaped. The full flat grind, done this well, is almost magical.

Deployment Method: 0

I do not like assisted opening knives in an small EDC/utility blade. They are unnecessary and add more parts that can break and fail. They also make the knife less people friendly, which may make you less likely to use it or conversely may make people afraid of you. I also do not like the fact that the thumb stud has almost no clearance from the handle. Wedging the fat of a thumb under that thumb stud is not easy to do. The lack of clearance compounds the fiddly handle shape to make this not an easy knife to deploy.

Retention Method: 1

Nutnfancy loved the clip and perhaps it was great three years ago when the review first came out. Now it is meh. The clip is also surprisingly flimsy. I managed to bend mine a bit in light use. It also messes with the grip, which is already poor because of the handle shape. It works and it is a deep carry clip, but there are other designs out there that are better, even on cheaper knives.

Lock: 0

Lock up was wobbly every time. It moved side to side and up and down. There was never a failure, but the amount of blade play did not give me a lot of confidence in the knife. Then there is the stupid unlock mechanism--it requires a nail to work properly and never had the feedback necessary to make me confident that the lock was disengaged. I HATED this unlock mechanism. Oh, and the safety was stupid. If you INSIST on an assist that has a safety see the original Kershaw Scallion for a good design:

I have never had a knife or light with a feature that I DISLIKED more than the unlock device on this knife. I HATED IT.

Overall Score: 10 out of 20

The SOG Flash I is undoubtedly an important knife. I just don't think it is a good knife anymore. It is as average as the score indicates (which is interesting because I don't score it before writing, I write and then score, so a 10 here is really nice as it fits EXACTLY with my impressions of the knife). The Dragonfly II, for me, is simply superior in every way. There are quite a few knives out there, for more, for the same, or for less, that are just BETTER knives, as I mentioned in the commentary I did on the Flash I (linked above). The knife is a perfect example of the unrepresentative average phenomenon. There are a few things that SOG could tweak and make this an outstanding design. I am planning on doing an commentary on renovations of current designs, and I think I'll save that until then, other than to say that a FLIPPER would be perfect here. SOG, time for an update.


  1. Love this review, couldn't agree with you more. I definitely have a love/hate relationship with this knife. I bought my Flash 1 two months ago, and at the time I absolutely loved it. Now enough time has gone by to notice the negatives.

    As you mentioned, trying to balance lock-up and deployment has been driving me nuts. Also, when the blade is closed, the lock rattles around loosely and causes me to question the finish quality of the knife. If a friend asked me if they should get one, I would probably tell them no.

    And yet for some reason I can't seem to stop carrying this knife. Despite the negatives they have not really motivated me to go out there and purchase a different EDC. Strangely enough I was considering purchasing a Dragonfly; maybe once I do I'll finally be able to put my Flash back in the drawer.

  2. I am working on a review of the Benchmade Aphid which is similar, but better in my opinion, to the Flash I. Look for it in the next week or so.

    1. Looking forward to it, thanks!

  3. I like the Flash primarily for it's assisted opening. It's smooth as silk. I do agree with Jamie, though, in that my lock also rattles a bit when the blade is closed.

  4. Just got my new Flash II. I did a quick video of the assisted opening (S.A.T.)

    SOG Assisted Technology

  5. You got my attention when you rated vg 10 similar to aus 8, they are both adequate but nothing worth raving about. I think I was on my third vg 10 blade when I realised sometimes you have to go with personal experience over other people's opinions. I dull vg 10 in one day of my normal use