Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Surefire Jekyll Review

If you write about things, whether it is cars, bands, movies, or gear, you are always on the look out for that one item that you can introduce to a wider group of people, that thing that folks missed the first time.  For me, I have always hoped that I'd find a light or bag or a knife that is readily available, relatively inexpensive, and is truly exceptional.  The Surefire Jekyll is just that product.  Think of it like this:

How many framelocks are on the market?

One bazillion.

How many Ti framelocks?

Half a bazillion.

How many flippers?

A quarter bazillion.

How many Ti framelock flippers?

Five or six.

How many for under $200?

One or two (the CRKT Eros being the other).

There are the ZT 56X series, the Spyderco Southard, the CRKT Eros and the two Surefire knives that make up the class of production Ti framelock flippers.  It is a very, very small slice of the production market, even while it is perhaps the majority of the custom one.  These are knives that are hard to make, expensive to execute, but incredibly nice to use.  Aaron, over at Practically Everyday, has been something of a flipper proselytizer.  In his preaching zeal, he has convinced me.  Flippers are the only true rival to the thumb hole in terms of deployment methods.  The Jekyll fits right in.  It is a smooth, consistent, and fast flipper--a tribute to the form.

But what sets the Jekyll apart and makes it easily worth its pricepoint, around $160, is the fact that it is just the right size.  The Surefire specs are wrong.  Completely and totally wrong.  This is not a 3 inch blade.  Not even close.  Here is a good comparison shot (Mini Grip, Jekyll, and DF2 ZDP-189):

IMG_3390
    
I get something like 2 3/4 inches of blade with 2 1/2 inches of cutting edge.  This is a small blade, perfect for me, and excellent to EDC.

Here is the Surefire product page (with a caveat that there is always a rumor floating around that Surefire is going to get out of blades altogether, which would be a shame).  There are no written reviews or video reviews, but here is a thread on the blade.   This is remarkable as this knife has been on the market for at least a year.  This is truly an under the radar gem.  I am delighted I can share it with you.  Here is a link to Blade HQ, where you can find the Jekyll, and all proceeds benefit the site when you purchase things through this link:

Blade HQ

Here is my Surefire Jekyll with its light&saber buddy the Peak Eiger Overready Edition:

IMG_3384

Design: 2

This knife looks and carries like no other blade.  It has a wide blade, but a tiny profile in the pocket, something of a miracle.  It is close enough to a classic blade shape that it seems familiar, but ruggedly overbuilt enough to look and feel tough.  This is a bawdy design with beefy thumb studs and huge screws.  It looks different.  It looks tactical.  It looks VERY aggressive  And for me that is a bad thing.  But once you get beyond the "suped up Dodge Ram" looks, you find an imminently useful blade.  Its like the knife designer knew that in order to sneak his brilliant comparatively tiny design past the marketing guys he had to throw a few tacti-cool touches on it.  But the silly overbuilt look gives way not to just outright amazing utility, but also real over built features.  There is a ton of space on the blade tang for the lockbar to cross over.  It will not bottom out in my lifetime.  The pocket clip is quite substantial.  And the silly overbuilt thumb studs are actually the best thumb studs I have ever used.  Oh and then there is the flipper.  There is no bullshit here.  No stupid jimping.  It is smooth and effective.  It isn't super fast, but it can be deployed without a wrist flick.  This is a pull back not push down flipper though and the proper technique takes some practice, but you won't mind--this thing is off the charts in terms of fidget factor.

In terms of ratios, the knife does well.  Because the specs on Surefire's site are so far off, I am going to do my own measurements and list them here.  As I mentioned above, the blade is 2 3/4 inches long with a 2 1/2 cutting edge.  Closed the knife is 3 5/8 inches long.  This gives you a blade:handle ratio of .76 (.758, rounding up).  The knife weighs exactly 3 ounces, giving you a blade:weight of .91.  Both of those ratios are above average, but not the best I have seen (which, by this point, I think will forever reside with the Al Mar Hawk Ultralight).  Here is a comparison shot between the Jekyll and my Zippo.

IMG_0026
 
Fit and Finish: 1

Every edge on the handle is chamfered.  Every surface is cleanly cut (though there are some machining marks on the aluminum presentation side scale, which I have to believe were left there for traction as they do provide some traction).  Here is a picture in raking light to better highlight the texturing from machining:

IMG_3400

The blade's finish is a superb satin finish, very close to high polish.  Undoubtedly this would be a major rust inhibitor, the exact opposite of the open grain of a bead blasted steel.  A few oddities.  First, when I opened the box, the clip and rear screw were loose.  A few twists of a torx bit settled the issue, but it was so loose its like someone at the factory forgot to tighten stuff down.  The jimping on the blade is aggressive, but the jimping on the bottom of the handle isn't bad at all--grippy but not painful.  The clip is very wide, but low to the knife.  It works well. 

The one issue I have with this knife is partly a fit and finish thing.  The detent on the knife in the closed position is not terribly well done.  It is strong enough to keep the knife in the handle, but not quite strong enough to offer perfect resistance for the flipper.  It is something like nearly enough.  You can flip the knife open.  You can even do it without wrist movement (the test for all good flippers), but here it requires perfect technique, in part because of the slightly too weak detent.  Its not a safety issue really, the knife passes the shake and fall out test, but it means you have to be spot on to deploy the knife without a wrist flick.     

Grip: 2

For a small knife this thing really lock into the hand.  There are three reasons--first is positively covered in good, effective jimping; second, it has an excellent finger choil; and third, the flipper acts as a guard when the blade is deployed.  There is nothing here that makes this knife hard to hold on to.  Even the dip in the pocket clip fits your hand.  The gearing on the bottom, something I was wary about, turns out to be a non-issue.  Its not exceptionally aggressive and when you are actually holding the blade it doesn't really impact your grip at all.  Its there, it looks cool and tactical, I'd prefer it wasn't there, but overall it is neither a plus nor a minus.  Chalk it up to the knife designer having to impressive the tacti-cool centric marketing folks.

Carry: 2

When I took the Jekyll out of the box I was surprised, first by its diminutive size (given the specs) and then by just how small this thing is when folded up.   This is a wide stubby blade, see here:

IMG_0023

But in the handle it looks and more importantly feels small.  Instead of the butter knife width of the knife deployed you get this svelte package (oh man...too many puns...):

IMG_0022

The aluminum/titanium combination is a light one and the overall profile is excellent.  Very impressive feat of spatial engineering for lack of a better term.

Steel: 2

I am over my fear of 154CM.  Between this knife and the Mini Grip 555hg, this steel has proven itself to me.  The Sequel was a lemon.  Here the steel is finished to an exceptionally high stain polish, very close to a mirror polish.  That means the grains of the steel are less open and therefore less likely to rust.

Blade Shape: 2

This must have been the point where the knife designer told the marketing folk: "Don't fuck with my shit."  Here you get an amazing no nonsense, no bullshit great blade shape with a nice thick point and excellent amount of belly and plenty of cutting and slicing power.  An amazing, versatile, and all around excellent blade shape.  I'd give this three points if I could.    

Grind: 2

The grinds are all excellent, clean, and meticulous.  The knife itself is a flat grind.  There is a flat that is good for consistent angle sharpeners like the Wicked Edge and the Edge Pro Apex.  There is a weight saving swedge, and yet the point is still incredibly beefy.  This is right at the edge of too many grinds, but in the end, they all work, they all serve a purpose, and I guess for the tactical buyer they look cool. 

Deployment Method: 1

Again the pivot is a bit weird.  Just slightly off.  It might be the detent or it might be the pivot, but I wanted this thing to offer a little more resistance when flipping it open.  The flipper itself is excellent both in shape and size:

IMG_0024

In the end, it works and it is fine, but it is a bit fussier than I wanted.  Additionally the HUGE thumb stud/blade stops can, on occasion snag on the lip of your pocket opening the knife as you pull it out.  It is very rare and very hard to do on purpose, but it happened to me twice.  I was wearing jeans and sitting down, but I could see it being a concern.  

Retention Method: 2

At first I didn't like it.  The clip was not tight to the body of the knife so I removed it, bent it carefully, and then reinstalled it.  Since then it has been a rock star.  Here it is up close:

IMG_0025

The finish on this blade is amazing and the clip is no different.  The overall wore and broken in feel carries over to the clip and makes it quite easy on the pockets without being loose at all.  I never once had the knife slip out of my pants.  The clip is a very decent clip, though not a deep carry model.  I know that the ZT56X series clips fit this knife so if you want a deep carry clip that is an option.  See the mix and match clip here.   

Lock: 2

I loved this lock.  It locked up solid.  There was no blade play.  There was no lock wiggle when engaged.  It disengaged easily.  There was plenty of space left on the tang for the lock to wear in.  Nothing at all to complain about this framelock.  Great.  

Overall Score: 18 out of 20

Two small hitches with the deployment and thumb studs do not detract from the fact that this is a great little blade.  I loved the size, the design, the deployment, and the lock.  There aren't a bevy of Ti framelock flippers on the market that are this size or price.  People knock the blade for its price given the steel, but the overall design is so solid and quite rare in the production world that I am willing to overlook the slightly (if at all) below par steel for a $160 knife.  Its made in the US as well and made by one of the great gear companies (or for one of the great gear companies, I am not sure if Surefire is the OEM).  If you want something a little different, but still pocketable and equipped with a flipper, give the Jekyll a look.  When you compare it to the rest of the market, I think you'll like it.  It is an underrated blade, a hidden gem, and one of the products I am happy to trumpet.  If you missed it, go take a peek. 

5 comments:

  1. I confess I didn't even know Surefire made knives. This one looks cool. Wish the flipper felt perfect; that's a big detail in enjoying a knife like this -- fiddle factor.

    There's also a big brother version, the Charlie, with a 4.1" blade (claims Surefire) and 5.4 oz wt.

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  2. I would buy one of these right away if not for the world's ugliest handle scale. :(

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    1. Yep, butt ugly, but they do work well in the hand.

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  3. These have always intrigued me, Tony. I know Geoff (TuffThumbz) was really into Surefire knives a while back so it's good to see them get a little love here too. I haven't handled one myself, but they certainly look very nice.

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  4. I have been EDC'ing the Jekyll for a few weeks, and I am stoked. It is a champ - the size is very comfortable, the blade has superb grind, and the overall fit and finish is top notch. I actually got two more, just in case I lost this one. :-)

    Definitely, this is an unsung hero of the blade world - google turns up very few links. I feel there should be more discussion about the Jekyll.

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