Friday, May 18, 2012

Benchmade Aphid Review

It is hard to overstate the importance of the SOG Flash I to the EDC community.  In the recent boom in EDC gear, Youtube has become a central clearinghouse for information. On YouTube, no one carries a bigger megaphone than Nutnfancy.  Everyone knows that the SOG Flash I, a video originally recorded for a user review on Amazon, is one of the staples of Nutnfancy's recommendations.  Its combination of small size, quick deployment, elegant blade shape, grind and the deep carry pocket clip, made it, according to Nutnfancy's logic, one of the best EDC knives available. 

I have owned the Flash I and carried it for over a year.  It is not the best EDC blade out there (that would be the Spyderco Dragonfly II in ZDP-189).  It is also not even the best slim knife out there.  I like the Kershaw OD-2 better, but the steel was not quite up to par with the Flash I.  Until I got my hands on the Benchmade Aphid there was no knife I would say was a direct competitor and clear superior to the Flash I.  For people that don't like the broad width of Spyderco knives, the Flash I was probably the best carry option.  No more.  The Benchmade Aphid is the knife Nutnfancy thinks the Flash I is.  It is perhaps as good as the Dragonfly II (and with better steel as good as the DF II ZDP-189).  It is a different design philosophy than the DF II, but one that I find to be equally compelling.  The Aphid is a home run and a fantastic EDC choice.

But here is the bad news--Benchmade discontinued it.  It is still very readily available, but I would get them now before they are gone.  This is one hell of a little blade.  Why they would discontinue this model is beyond me.  It is essentially unique within Benchmade's line--a sub 2.5 inch folder.  Oh well, that is for another post.

Here is the product page.  There is a plain blade and a black blade version.  Note that in the "Made in the USA" sham/shake up at Benchmade the Aphid was moved from the abandoned "Red Line" of products to the main Benchmade line, the Blue Line.  All Red Line products were discontinued (though not really, they all moved to one of Benchmade's subsidiary brands, allowing Benchmade to claim very disingenuously that all of their products are Made in the USA).  Here is the Red Line product page (there are no differences between the two other than the location where they were made).  Here is the Amazon page for the Aphid:



It received 4 stars out of 5 with one review (ugh...that is terribly unhelpful information).  Here is a very good video review.  Here is a forum post review.  Here is my Benchmade Aphid with its Light&Saber buddy, a Preon 1 with a Zodiac Tailcap (see here for more about Zodiac Tailcap):

IMG_0041


Design:  2

A super slim, elegant design with a big enough blade is one thing, but a knife with all of the right touches like the Aphid has is really something else.  The Flash I, perhaps the standard bearer in this product class, is embarrassingly lacking by comparison.  The spear point blade, the slight but grippy handle and the no bullshit pocket clip all make this a knife that is great in both big and small ways.  No design detail was overlooked and I love it.  Even the thumbstuds being tiny and close to the handle works here because of the handle shape and the Optimiser assist torsion bar.  A slight nudge from a thumb nail is more than enough to open this blade and the tight layout makes it a pocket Houdini.  The blade:handle is a nice .73.

Fit and Finish: 2

Benchmade's fit and finish is always great.  This little blade, even with its comparatively low price tag (among other Benchmade offerings) still hits it out of the park.  The grind is even, the secondary bevel is well cut, the blade detent is strong but not silly strong, and the liner lock produces a wiggle free connection with the blade itself.  Even the edges of the clip are nice and tumble finished.  GREAT.

Grip: 2

Like an even tinier Mini Grip, this blade is literally covered in grip enhancements--jimping on the top and bottom, texture on the Valox handle slabs, and a nice overall shape make this a very grippy knife despite its measurements.  

Carry: 2

No other knife I have owned is as easy in the pocket as this one.  It is small enough that it vanishes but not so small that it hides on you when you are looking for it.  All of the edges are rounded and the tang is concealed meaning little chance of snagging or lint collecting.  The knife is also thin and not too broad.  That would be the only knock, and it is a very small one, on the DF II.  Best carry knife I have ever owned.  AWESOME.  

Steel: 1

Okay, the Exskelibur II had 440C steel and it was merely okay.  It is pretty much the same here, but the grind is a little different.  That makes a huge difference and I will address that a bit later, but the steel itself is probably more than enough for light EDC tasks.  One thing about 440C--it takes a WICKED edge.  I got this thing unbelievably sharp on my Sharpmaker (don't tell the little Aphid that I was using a Spyderco sharpener).  I tested it on rope and clam shells, two of my most common EDC cutting tasks and it worked incredibly well.  Quite frankly I got this thing sharper than any other knife I have owned or used.  It separated the clam shell with so much ease and precision it looked like a factory edge when I was done cutting the package.  There was so little pushing or pulling, just pure cutting.  440C is pretty close to the exact average steel (somewhere slightly below VG-10) but its ability to get REALLY sharp is very nice.   

Blade Shape: 2

Very nice thin blade with plenty of belly.  I like the fact that the blade it is not so wide that it eats up pocket real estate.  Sometimes though, like with the OD-2, the blade is TOO skinny and the blade has no belly.  That is a very slight but important difference between this and the OD-2.  Great blade shape, among my favorite of the knives I have used or owned.

IMG_0030


Grind: 2

If you read the steel guide in the link above Joe gives you a master class on steel.  His basic premise is that a knife's performance comes down to three things: 1) the steel; 2) the heat treat; and 3) the grind.  Harder steels can take steeper grinds making the knife a sharper blade.  Here, Benchmade really takes advantage of the 440C's qualities by giving it a very wide secondary edge (the cutting edge) and that makes the knife very sharp.  It is a simple way to get better performance out of a slightly older steel and you can see and feel the difference in the blade.  It is handy that the previous review I did was also a blade with 440C so I could compare a good grind and a bad grind.  The grind here makes the steel quite easy to use.  The blade's main grind is a 2/3rds full grind.  I like it too, but the secondary grind is the big deal. 

Deployment Method:  2

SNAP.  For a little knife this guy really fires out of there.  I think that this knife, with this size and shape, make the assist almost necessary and fortunately the Optimiser is a great version of an assisted opening.  Here is a shot of the spine of the knife with the blade closed and the Optimiser bar tensioned:

IMG_0031


My only concern, amplified by the knife's symmetrical shape, is that it might be misconstrued by those that don't know better, that it is a switchblade.  Actuation is easy and fast.  This makes the tight quarters around the thumbstud, something that could be a drawback, into an advantage as the stud and the handle scale basically force your thumb into popping the blade open and yet all but preclude accidental activation.  Really great assist and well designed studs. 

Retention Method: 2

Clips on small knives are tough.  Too much and they overwhelm the blade.  Too little and they do not work.  Here, the clip is great and actually helps in opening the knife, giving your fingers a place to hold on to.  The clip is also really high on the blade making it my favorite design--a not quite deep carry clip.  Sometimes those really deep carry clips, like on the Flash I, make it hard to pull the knife out of the pocket. 

Lock: 2

The overall thickness of the liners and the blade make this tiny knife feel stout.  I really like the liner lock and for whatever reason, despite the lack of an access point, the liner is easy to disengage.  I think the liner lock is underrated and this is a great version.  The jimping on the liner helps too.  

Overall Score: 19 out of 20

Good lord, this much utility in a small graceful package is hard to come by in a knife market increasingly crowded with thick, fat, mall ninja blades.  And Benchmade's decision to first move it around their complicated and arbitrary product lines and then drop it outright is a sign that Benchmade, while possessing great designers and supremely skillful machinists, have a few morons over in the marketing department.  This is a great blade and they missed it.  An Aphid with awesome steel would be a very good rival to the Dragonfly II in ZDP-189.  If the steels were equal, I'd have a hard time choosing between these two gems:

IMG_0033


This is an amazing knife.  Go find it.  And hey, Benchmade, bring it back.  Maybe with some CTS-XHP steel and lightning strike carbon fiber handle scales.  Oh wait, then you'd make a Gold Class knife and charge us $500 for it.  Never mind, just make it as it was again.

4 comments:

  1. Great review Tony. I assume you have seen the 707? Looks like a BM that would be right up your alley (and is still in production). I have wanted to check it out myself for some time... maybe one day.

    At any rate, not to detract from the Aphid, which certainly looks like a very nice knife... if I can snag one on the forums I'd love to check it out.

    Dan

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  2. Hello- 1st of all, I always enjoy your reviews. I own both BM and Syderco knives, so like both makers. I however (IMO) would not put the Aphid in the same league as the DF2 ZDP-189. The killer for the Aphid is that it does not have a finger choil (to choke up) and the steel. The fact is, is that it does not use a superior steal, so you can only wish it did. I have large hands and having the ability to choke up on a 3-finger knife like the DFll is awesome and the thumb choil and jimping are dare I say perfect. It is so light in the pocket, probably the closest to perfect pocket knife that you can buy (that is coming from someone who is lucky to own a mini-grip custom w/ s30v steel, a 707 Sequel, Delica4 and a Para2). I own several customs and a perfect pocket one in a David Mosier Spektor and I still reach for my DF...perfect blade design, steel, carry, weight, finger choil, grippy scale, nice clip, ability to attach paracord, etc...). I also wanted to add that Spyderco's thumb opening cannot be matched, that is why I went with a mini-grip w/ a sheepsfoot blade...keep the reviews coming, it's fun to read other's opinions!

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  3. Dan, I did review the 707 found here:

    http://www.everydaycommentary.com/2011/05/benchmade-sequel-707-review.html

    and I didn't like it all that much. It is a REALLY ugly knife, with that fish scale chip in the middle of the aluminum handle.

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  4. Tony,
    You might like the now discontinued BM 705, which is the little brother to the 710. It has 154CM and an AXIS lock, in a very compact package. I would probably rate it the same as you did the aphid, but give it 2 for the steel and subtract one from the deployment, because it has no assist. Still, it is a sweet little knife if you can find one.
    The Idaho Gunslinger

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