Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Brous Blades Bionic Review

I am going to say this up front--this review comes from a place of bias.  I like Jason Brous and his knives, in no small part because when I was dissatisified with how my Bionic felt in hand, Jason fixed it quick as can be.   I have no illusions about this site.  I like writing it and I assume you like reading it, but Nutnfancy, I am not.  So when I sent him an email with complaints and he fixed the problem right away I assume this is just the way he does business.  So with that out of the way, I am going to try to be as fair as I can in evaluating the Bionic.

For a long time Jason Brous's aesthetic ranged from zombie slayer to zombie killer, which is to say, big, tactical, and bold.  There are sharp lines and curves on his knives, a style he calls biomechanical.  The Silent Soldier Flipper wasn't huge and was somewhat of a departure from his serrated cleavers and the like, but it was distinctly weapon-ish.  Until the Bionic there were very, very few knives in the Brous line up that really worked as EDC blades.  General utility took a back seat to stabbiness and cool factor (and there was a lot of cool factor to go around).  With the Bionic all that is over.  This is the Brous EDC and it is a very good knife.  There are issues, but they are overwhelmed by all of the good stuff--the flipping action, the superior fit and finish, and the excellent size.  

Here is the product page.  There are a lot of different options, including a variety of handle colors and a blackout version that is a bit more money.  The base model costs $159.  The upgraded blackout model costs $179.  This is the first written review.  Here is a video review.  Here is a link where you can find the Bionic (all sales benefit the website and make the giveaways like the one with the Bionic possible):

Blade HQ

Finally here is the review sample (bought with site money from Blade HQ, to be given away, see the contest rules below):

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Here is my video overview of the Brous Bionic:



Twitter Review Summary: Pokey in all the wrong places, but once fixed, quite excellent.

Design: 1

The overall size and shape of the knife was good, but the details were severly lacking, especially out of the box.  There were four problems, all of which Jason acknowledged were part of the design, but were things he was more than willing to fix.  First the jimping around the flipper was very rough, so rough that it opened up my finger in exactly seven flips.  How do I know seven?  Because I was given a heads up on the sharp parts by other reviews and so I decided to see how long it would take.  Seven opening and closing cycles and my finger was bleeding.  Problem 1.  Additionally the flipper itself was very sharp, causing unnecessary wear.  Problem 2.  Then there was the rear of the knife, which was exceptionally pointy, painfully so.  For a tip up knife, jamming you finger into your pocket and running headlong into a point is no fun.  Problem 3.  But the worst issue was the fact that the tip of the knife was so close to the end of the handle that it would snag material on a pretty regular basis.  Problem 4.  I had Jason grind down all of the offending spots, the rear seen here,

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and the resulting knife is just better.  I confirmed with Jason that all of these issues are part of the design and so given the number of flaws and how serious they are, I had to give the overall design a zero.  Remember, this is how the knife is in theory, and with that in mind, four places that could draw blood BESIDES the blade is a problem and a big one.  Only a few tweaks though separate this 1 design from a 2 and a production version that incorporated all of the fixes Jason did for me would score much better.  The bones of this knife are superb.  The finishing design touches are not.  That equals a score of 1.
 
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Fit and Finish: 2

Jason has the tolerances REALLY dialed in on his machines.  The lock engagement is so slight, but so stable that it looks like an optical illusion.  The blade was well centered and everything just felt rock solid.  But one touch that I really noticed was just how brilliant the coloring is on the anodized handle.  Here is the knife out in nature where the blue really, really pops.

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Its a little thing, but it does matter.  Not only does the knife seem to glow in the sunlight, it is such an eye-catching color I find it hard to imagine losing this out on a hike.  It also represents a great break from the horde of boring slab-handled, black G10 knives or the cadre of titanium handled blades.  

Grip: 1 before, 2 after

All of that precision makes the jimping very sharp.  In fact, this is by far the most aggressive jimping I have seen and makes me wonder about the border between jimping and serrrations.  Around the flipper it was just too much, shredding my finger tip.  After the mods though it was fine and let the outstanding handle shape shine through.

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For all of the talk of knives "locking" in your hand, I have found that ones that really work are ones that lend you a sense of control, not confinement and here the Bionic's handle shape does just that.  It really feels like an extension of your hand and something that you have fantastic control over.  Jimping fixed, this is one of my favorite folders in hand.  Don't worry about the aluminum  scales--there is plenty of traction and the overall shape makes slippage unlikely.

Carry: 2

The aluminum scales make the knife quite light and the overall shape is significantly thinner than the Silent Soldier.  This is a knife designed around pocket carry.  The placement of the clip is also nice, avoiding the pendulum effect and keeping the knife right in place.  Thin and shapely equals a very good pocket knife.  

Steel: 2 

D2 is not just a good steel, it is a great steel.  I liked it on the HEST 2.  I liked it on the Queen Copperhead.  I liked it on the Silent Soldier Flipper.  Its hard, stays sharp, and can take a beating.  Its lack of stainless qualities are more a theoretical concern than anything else.  I cut and cut and cut with this knife and still drew forearm hair light a magnet draws metal shavings.  A side note--Jason's finish here is one of the best I have seen on a D2 blade which is notorious among makers for being hard to polish.  This isn't a mirror polish, but it is a very high shine satin finish and I like it a great deal.  

Blade Shape: 2

You know me by now.  I am a huge sucker for simple blade shapes and the Bionic's blade--a distinctive drop point or a modified wharncliffe (at some point they are the same thing)--is excellent.  There is enough belly to do some good roll cutting with and a very sharp point.  I will note that the grinding of the blade tip did nothing to impact the knife's cutting or piercing abilities.

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I also like the angle the blade sits at compared to the handle.  By moving the blade down so that it is below your hand when holding the knife, you get very clear and easy access to cutting substrate.  This is a very good utility shape.

Grind: 2 

Jason's grinds, like the rest of the fit and finish on the knife, are really spectacular.  This knife is clean and the grind lines are very sharp, even when they are curved. The cutting bevel is very wide allowing for good slicing and the hollow grind is both aesthetically pleasing and very functional.  I also like that the cutting edge can be sharpened entirely thanks to a true choil at the ricasso.

Deployment Method: 1 before, 2 after 

The knife always fires like a rocket, it just so happens that before the mod, it also burned you like one.  Both the flipper itself and the jimping on the area where your finger landed, were super rough.  Not like Cold Steel G10 rough, but like serrations on a Kershaw rough (har, har).  I am not sure what the purpose is in having the jimping be that rough because after the mod it still works very well.  Here is the grind Jason did on the knife:

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Post mod, you get the amazing action of a Brous flipper with the comfort of a normal pocket knife.  Post mod, this is one of the best production flippers out there, hanging quite comfortably with the ZT0560 both in terms of speed and ease of deployment.  

Retention Method: 2 

Simplest is often best, both with blade shapes and pocket clips.  Here Jason nails it.  No horseshit, just a simple and wonderful pocket clip.  Its blasted so it is very discrete and it is well placed.  This is a tip up only affair, but if that is not a problem this is a great clip. 

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Lock: 2

Oh my god!  Its ONLY a liner lock!  Like many of the points of debate around the knife world, I think the difference between the liner lock and the frame lock in terms of performance is negligible, especially in an EDC role.  Here the liner lock engages early and easy.  It is very stable with zero blade play.  Finally, its easy to disengage.  I would note that the aluminum scale behind the liner lock is a bit thin and sharp, but its not a big deal.  

Overall Score: 17 out of 20 before, 19 out of 20 after

Once the flaws of my model were fixed, the superiority of Jason's machining and construction became apparent.  This is a very good pocket knife.  With some evolution, it could join knives like the Delica, the Mini Grip, and the Skyline in the patheon of great EDC blades.  It is a bit nicer than those knives, with better machining and finish and one of the best flippers available for under $200.  As it ships now, there are some issues, but how bad depends on your preferences.  I did not like knife when it arrived, in part because I could see just how great it was, but for the four issues I outlined above.  This is definitely a knife to handle before you buy it.  If you can tolerate the insanely aggressive jimping around the flipper and the pointy flipper, your good to go.  If not, buy the knife with the idea that it needs to be modded.  The knife is a very good value and a sign of Brous moving into a more mainstream market.  The big dogs need to be worried.  His designs are unique, his prices are competitive, and his machining is better than pretty much everyone elses (ZT and better Benchmades are in the same league).  This isn't a perfect knife, but as it is now, it is a very good one.

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Compared to the SOG Mini Aegis, this is a truly superior knife with a better design, better fit and finish and an overall more robust feel for only an ounce more.  But, as shipped, the Bionic is no where near as user friendly.  So for that reason, I'd take the less fancy but more comfortable Mini Aegis, out of the box (or tube in this case).  Compared to the Boinic I now have, I'd DEFINITELY take the Bionic.  Without the harsh edges, this is a damn fine knife and significantly better than the Aegis as its superior design, materials, and construction are now in service to something that is actually comfortable to use. 

Contest Rules

If you want this wonderful, pocket and hand friendly tweaked version of the Brous Bionic all you have to do is leave a review of the podcast, Gear Geeks Live on iTunes. Once we reach 50 reviews, I will choose one at random and that person will win the Brous Bionic review sample.  

10 comments:

  1. Good review, lots of detail. Jason's stuff is really starting to spread. I'm sure it won't be long before he has something to offer in most of the mid range category. I would enter the contest but I do not have access to iTunes right now.

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  2. Good Review. I like the look of the scales. It reminds me of a ZT0777 in its shape.

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  3. Thanks for the review. For a while, I've been admiring Brous knives from a distance. I'm glad to get your take on this beauty. (I enjoy the podcasts, too.)

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  4. these remind me so much of the Needs Work by kershaw

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  5. if we've previously rated and reviewed does that count as a contest entry?

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  6. Most tempting knife you've shown me lately, and might push me to raise my price ceiling if you think he'd mod one for me to be like yours before shipping it out.

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  7. I think I accidentally double posted my review of ggl on itunes. It hasn't shown up yet, but please disregard the redundancy if it exists.

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  8. Nice review and knife. And it looks like there is now 50 reviews. Thanks for the giveaway and review.

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  9. Received my Bionic 2.0 in black acid wash today. Great compact knife with no issues. Flips great, not share edges, 30% lock-up, blade is centered, so I have no issues with this knife. I have Hinderer, CRK, Strider, Ken Onion to name a few, so I know how a good knife should look and perform.

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