Saturday, November 29, 2014

Bark River Adventurer Neck Knife Review

First, as a caveat, let me say that I have never used this thing as a neck knife.  I am just not a neck knife kind of guy.  The functionality doesn't work for me at work or at home.  The feeling that I might be choked out (if it not possible) still makes me wary.  And I am not huge into the football coach look.  So I  am not going to be able to address how good of a neck knife the Adventurer is.

Murray Carter's name is something of a legend in the knife world.  If you ask who has the sharpest knives, out of the box, a ridiculous question for a whole host of reasons (how do you measure sharp? does out of the box sharpness even matter?), the answer among those in the know usually ends up on Murray Carter.  Using traditional Japanese bladesmith techniques, chisel grinds (ground on the correct side), and exotic white and blue steels, Carter's edges are mythically sharp.  How sharp? Andrew and I were horsing around on Skype and he was filleting paper with his Carter knives.  He also mentioned that he could slice paper in mid air, as it fell.  That, my friends, is sharp.  But Carter's stuff is not just great because it is sharp, its great because those edges are on amazing blades.  But the availability of Carter blades is exceedingly limited.  It only makes sense--mythical performance is not a common feature.  

Thankful Bark River has come to your rescue.  Murray Carter opened up his design portfolio and Mike Stewart took the general lines of the Carter Neck Knife, and translated it into the Bark River design language.  The end result is one of the finest fixed blades I have ever used.  But that design heritage, as impressive as it is, isn't the end of the Adventurer's positive attributes.  Nope, this knife also has a truly unique and potentially revolutionary sheath design.  And it comes with some of the sliciest (I just coined that word) steels on the planet, a high performance steel called 20CV (data sheet found here).  

Here is the product page for the Bark River Adventurer on Knives Ship Free (I can't find a Bark River page). As is par for the course, there are dozens of handle scale options.  The review sample had black scales with gold liners (go Stillers). There are no reviews, video or written.  Here is a video with the Adventurer in it.  Here is my video overview:


Here is the review sample (provided by Knives Ship Free):

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Here is a link to KnivesShipFree, where you can find the Bark River Adventurer Neck Knife, and all proceeds benefit the site when you purchase things through this link:

KnivesShipFree

Twitter Review Summary: Gawd damn is this blade amazing.

Design: 2

The Adventurer isn't a huge knife, by any means, but it is a tad bigger than the Little Creek, the other Bark River knife I have reviewed.  Despite the extra length, about a half inch or so, it seems much, much lighter, in part because of the thinner steel and in part because of the balance of the knife.  With the forward finger choil the balance of the blade sits right in the hand making the knife itself seem almost weightless.  The whole tapered tang never seemed like that big a deal to me, and even though this knife doesn't have a tapered tang, its balance reminds of knives that do.  

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Doing actual work with a knife so perfectly balanced is something of a joy.  Its ability to cut into materials is something that seems almost magical.  I am sure this is helped by the steel, but the balance on the Adventurer is notably superior to any other fixed blade I own.

I will concede that the design is a bit busy, with the fuller and the pinch points, but frankly, I like the look.  Busy or not this is a striking blade and it is as useful as it is pretty.  It is a small knife, not tiny like the Little Creek, but still easily pocketable.  Here it is next to the Zippo: 

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Fit and Finish: 2

Bark River's fit and finish is easily on par with the best knife companies in the world--Chris Reeve, Al Mar, Lionsteel--you name it.  There is nothing even slightly picky I can say about the knife.  The sheath is not as flawless, but more on that below.  In terms of the knife itself though, this thing is a gleaming beautiful gem, superb in every way.  Put another way, you know how really well made things beg you to touch them?  The Adventurer does that.  It invites your hand in the same way that Greene and Green ebony plugs do.  This is a flawless blade.

Handle Design: 2

And the invitation isn't just a hollow preview, once there your hand absolutely locks into place.  You'll love this knife in the hand, in part because of the balance referenced above, but also because, thanks to the forward choil and excellent jimping, this knife is perfect in the hand. 

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The divots on the side make excellent resting points for your finger and thumb when making precision cuts adding just a dash of brilliance to the already great design.  

Steel: 2

I had a Hinderer XM-18 in 20CV.  It was freakin' awesome.  Its pretty awesome here too.  I have nothing to complain about whatsoever.  I love this steel and it works well here.  Its something like a steel between S30V and M390 and that is a great space to be in.  Lots of folks think that 20CV is M390 by a different name and the steels are similar but the composition is not exactly the same.  Regardless of the recipe, the steel is a winner. 

Blade Shape: 2

The Neck Knife has such a simple blade shape and its one that works well, plus, as a drop point, its one Mike Stewart ALSO does well.  Here the drop point is a perfect rendition of the form.

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Just spectacular.  

Grind: 2

The ZT and Kershaw Emersons give folks a chance to get an Emerson form without the chisel ground blade and while I am sure some Murray Carter Neck Knives weren't chisel ground, most were.  I like chisel grinds, but if you want something more conventional, this is the ticket.  After a few knives with convex grinds I am sufficiently persuaded; enough to say that this probably my grind of choice on harder use knives.  Maintenance is dead simple--strop when not as sharp.  Perhaps my recent investments in strops and stropping compound coincides with my new fondness for convex grinds.  They are just great. 

Sheath Carry: 2

I am not going to ever use a neck knife.  It probably has to do with how I live my life.  I am either in a suit, in jeans, or in pajamas.  There is really no instance in which I can carry a fixed blade knife and not carry it on my belt.  So I can't tell you about how this works as a neck knife.  But I can tell you that the supplied sheath does very well in pocket carry.  I actually liked it better than the much longer sheath that the Little Creek came with.  The magnet makes me wary of putting the knife in the same pocket as my phone, but other than that, I loved it.  

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Sheath Accessibility: 2

Once the leather is broken in, the sheath easy to separate from the knife, though not too easy.  I still like a one handed removal like on my personally designed fixed blade (here is the video), but that is very hard to design and I am not yet willing to make that the standard for a score of 2 in this category.  As it is, the sheath is just darn good.  The magnet isn't a gimmick either, it really does work and adds just a bit of snugness to the handle to make the knife stay put.

Useability: 2

With a handle that seems to melt into your hand and a remarkably smooth finish on the handle itself, there are no hotspots whatsoever.  Even after prolonged use, making kindling for fires, the Adventurer was just an extension of my hand.  Perhaps the dead perfect balance made it so nice to wield.  Whatever, the reason, this knife never stunk.  Not even for a second. 

Durability: 2

I feel like you could stand on the knife and not break it, so in that regard, I can't take off any points, but here is the state of the sheath after I first pushed the knife all the way in:

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 The side of the sheath with the magnet is really two pieces of leather and that started to separate almost instantly.  Its not actually peeling apart, it just looks ugly.  Over time I am not sure if it is going to mold to the shape of the knife and stick together or delaminate more.  Its a note, and you can always purchase the more conventional sheath or an aftermarket sheath, but its something I found surprising.  Because I am not sure how the problem will resolve I am not willing to dock the knife a point in terms of durability, especially because the knife itself is rock solid.  This one niggling concern, will however, keep the knife from getting a perfect score. 

Overall Score: 20 out of 20

In many ways this is a Murray Carter Neck Knife with Bark River touches.  Its not a forged piece, like Carter's is, but it is so superbly finished I don't think you'll complain.  But unlike a lot of production versions of custom knives, this is not a pale imitation, but something like a peer.  Bark River's fit and finish is really remarkable.  I have handled lots of high end production and custom fixed blades and they are very competitive with all but the most expensive stuff.  At around $240, in 20CV steel, the Adventurer is a knife that could be your lifelong camp knife and you'd be perfectly happy.  As an EDC fixed blade it is still decent, though a little big.  Compared to the already great Little Creek, the Adventurer is just a bit more refined and among the most perfectly balanced knives I have ever had in my hands.  The sheath is nice, though I am worried about it.  That alone keeps this in the merely damn great category and not perfect, but it is a close call.

Oh, and if you blame me for a fixed blade habit, I am hereby indemnifying MY enablers Jim Nowka and Kyle Ver Steeg.  Blame them. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Black Friday Specials

Sponsors of the blog and podcast have been kind enough to give me a preview of upcoming specials for Black Friday and the following few days.  As you can imagine, these are some killer deals and since you are so good to me, dear reader, I am returning the favor and giving you a sneak peek.  Beat out those non-reader chumps and score the gear you want.  Here goes:

Blade HQ :

EXCLUSIVE Chavez 228 Redencion (the human sized midtech version of the Redencion): $465.00
EXCLUSIVE Blue G10 Hinderer XM-18 Skinner: $649.00
EXCLUSIVE Boker/TuffKnives War Toad First Production Run: $94.99
EXCLUSIVE Benchmade 51 Balisong in Blue G10: $259.25
EXCLUSIVE Protech Punisher Auto (with etched Punisher skull): $189.00
EXCLUSIVE Orange G10 Skyline: $74.99 (this is the version to get, BTW, for keeping or modding)
EXCLUSIVE Carbon Fiber S30V Skyline: $89.99
EXCLUSIVE CRKT Shizuka noh Ken (the new, smaller version of the Otanashi noh Ken): $89.99
Lightning OTF: $19.99

There are about a dozen other specials as well.  Check out the site for more.

If you spend $25 you can get a free PVC BladeHQ Black Out patch by using the code: Blackout Patch.

If you spend $99 you can get the Tactical Stocking AND patch by using the code: Tactical Stocking

E2Field Gear:

First, Mike is killing it...he now sells custom knives and Wicked Edges (if your extra generous, buy two...I need one).  Here are some codes that will save you bucks:

Zebralight Products: 8% off.  Code: Zebra
Prometheus Alpha Pens: 20% off.  Code: Alpha
XTAR Chargers and Lights: 11% off.  Code: XTAR
ArmyTek Lights: 20% off. Code: Army
Field Notes and Word Notebooks: 10% off.  Code: Notebook

The codes go live Wednesday and will work through the weekend.  Remember you can save 8% on anything using the Commentary code.  You can only use one got at a time though.  Also, Mike is planning on loading up a bunch of custom blades from famous makers.  Not sure which ones will go up, but the list he has to choose from is incredibly impressive.  These will be grails, trust me.

Huckberry (membership required...wait, what, why aren't you signed up already?):

Topo Designs - Duck Camo Line - 20% off
Tsovet - Field Watches - 20% off
Nemo - all inline, including cosmo air with footpump and the helio shower - 25%
Peak Designs - all inline and brand new -  25%
Ministry of Supply - full of inline products - 20% off
Apolis - all inline products - 20%
Stone River - from steak knives to hunting knives - 25%

These promotions won't all go live until later in the week.

There you have it, the best deals from sellers used and trusted by Everyday Commentary.  Remember to click through these links and/or use the Commentary promotion code and the proceeds will benefit the site.  And no, I won't hold it against you if you use the Alpha code as it is better than my code.  Save some dough folks.  


Friday, November 21, 2014

Quick Hits: Smith and Sons Mudbug, Condor Bushlore, Bellroy Elements Pocket Wallet, and Muyshondt Mako Mk. II

This dose of quick hits has stuff all over the scoring spectrum, but with one thing in common--they are all pretty straightforward designs.  I have struggled to write full reviews about each of these pieces of gear because they are either simple renditions of regular gear so instead of struggling I am going to just do these as quick hit reviews.

Smith and Sons Mudbug

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You can find the Mudbug here.  There are no other reviews.  The knife is $80.  I have already given this knife away.  There are three versions, a maroon micarta, a green micarta, and this version, the natural paper micarta.

The Mudbug is a small batch production knife designed (or tweaked) by Smith and Sons, a custom fixed blade outfit out of Louisiana, and produced by Great Eastern Cutlery.  It is a modification of the GEC  #21 Bull Buster.  The Bull Buster is not a small blade, but the Mudbug ratchets up the build by adding a lockback, using a bird's eye pivot, and adding steel liners.  This is what a hard use traditional knife looks like.  The Mudbug runs 1095 steel. 

One thing that is hard to appreciate in pictures is just how big this knife is.  It is MASSIVE.  Remember when you went back to the Buck 110 for the first time after handling Delicas and Mini Grips?  Remember how you thought it was SO BIG.  You will have the same experience here. 

Overall the design is excellent--thin, easy to carry, without snag points or sharp edges.  There is no clip, and I wish there was, but this is a traditional knife.  Smith and Sons offers a clever belt sheath to go with the knife and if you plan on carrying this blade into the woods I would recommend getting the sheath.  Its smooth micarta handles make this knife a slippery booger.  The fit and finish is outstanding, as is to be expected from GEC.  The blade shape is superb as well--a sodbuster type blade with a good point, ample belly, and a long straightaway.

I do have to take off points for the steel.  1095 is a venerable steel and in big fixed blades it works well.  As implemented here--on a thin traditional folder, it leaves something to be desired.  The problem is that this knife keeps the blade thin, much thinner than modern folders, but it bills itself as a hard use knife.  Given that sort of cross purposing, I just don't like the 1095.  If you are making a small swayback or Texas Toothpick, the slim slice of 1095 is fine.  But if you bill your knife as a hard use blade, either make the blade of 1095 thick or use a different steel.  As it is, I had to sharpen the knife quite a bit and one microscopic chip developed in the edge during only moderately hard use (delimbing a small tree).  Not a big deal, but something that could be easily avoided.

Overall Score: 16 out of 20 (2 off for the steel choice and 2 off for the lack of a clip when the handles are this smooth).

Condor Bushlore

Condor tools are pretty well known, especially in outdoors/bushcraft circles.  They offer a low-mid range between Moras and the more expensive stuff like the bigger Ka-Bars and ESEE steel.  They are made in El Salvador and most are based on traditional or even indigenous blade shapes.  The Bushlore isn't a traditional blade shape, but it is a very important design.  It takes its blade, handle, and size from the ideal outdoor knife as described by Mor Kochanski in his book Bushcraft.

Here is the passage for Bushcraft:

The general purpose bush knife should have a blade as long as the width of the palm...[a]ll general use knives should have the blade tip close to the profile center line of the handle.  The back of the handle and the back of the blade should be on the same line...The blade should be of a good quality carbon steel, from two and half to three millimeters thick and about two and half centimeters wide...The metal of the knife should extend the full length of the handle (a full tang) for strength....The curvature of the cutting edge should extend for the full length of the blade...(Bushcraft, pgs. 109-111).

Here is the product page.  This is a sub-$40 knife.  There is a micarta handle version that is more expensive.  Here is a review.  And here is the Bushlore (to be given away):

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Here is a link to purchase the Bushlore, with proceeds benefiting the site:


It is the exact knife Mors describes in every way. And in that sense, the design is both excellent and timeless. But the materials are greatly under par, even at the $40 price point.  You can score a Boker or Kershaw fixed blade with better steel (440c or 14C28N) for the same price.  The 1075 steel is very tough, but very soft and prone to staining.  Its not bad in this role, but after using other steels, you get spoiled.  The handles are extremely comfortable in the hand--no hotspots or awkward hand holds here.  This handle is almost as good as the Becker handle, but loses a bit of security in high powered cuts due to the lack of an extreme parrot beak.  The walnut on the handle is smooth but cheap. A little sweat from the hand took off the color and made my hand a tad brown.  The knife is quite durable, with a full tang.  It took quite beating and the edge wasn't impossible to restore.  I can't avoid the point--this is a cheap knife because the materials are cheap--soft steel and less than okay handle scales.

While the knife is only okay, the sheath is amazing for the money:

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The leather is thick, the belt loop is nice, the stitching is clean and even. The knife is quite secure in the sheath too, maybe a little too secure.

Overall Score: 13 out of 20 (2 off for fit and finish with a rough grind on the steel and poorly finished and stained handles; 2 off for steel; 1 off for sheath accessibility as this is an all-hands on deck sheath design; and 1 off for durability as the wood handles looked and felt pretty bad after moderate to heavy use over a period of a few weekends)

Bellroy Elements Pocket Wallet

I tested this thing not once, not twice, but three different times with breaks in the middle to make sure I got it right.  I did.  This stinks.  Here is the product page.  This is a $140 wallet.  Here is a review of its bigger brother, the Elements Travel Wallet.  This was sent to me by Bellroy and is in the giveaway pile for the next WWP benefit. 

Bellroy's wallets have been, thus far, amazingly good. But this number has been, each time, a complete and total hassle to use.

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The leather is great and the zipper is nice.  The stitching is customary Bellroy--that is to say, very good.  The overall size is a bulkier than I like, coming in at probably twice as thick as a similarly loaded Note Sleeve.  I guess that is to be expected given the design is a rugged wallet.  There is not a whole lot of bad stuff with how the wallet is made.  

The problem is simple--this wallet is nigh impossible to open and access stuff.  Forget about slipping something out during a hike or a train ride one handed.  This isn't even a two handed wallet.  Really you need three hands, one to hold the wallet and two others to pry it open.  The zipper path needs to be about a half inch longer and then you could really open the wallet up.  As it is, even with a minimal card complement and a smidgen of cash, this thing just doesn't allow ready and easy to anything inside.

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For a wallet, a product designed to hold things for ready access, that is a failure.  

Maybe other wallets in this series work better, but this one is awful.  

Overall Score: 10 out of 20 (2 off for design; 2 off for carry as this is a bulky, wad in your pocket; 2 off for accessibility; 2 off for its distinctively non-serious appearance; and 2 off for efficiency as this is a fat sucker, given what it can carry)


Muyshondt Mako Mk. II

Its no surprise that I like this light. Enrique's work, for me, is among the best gear out there.  It is all smartly designed, beautifully made, and relentlessly purpose driven.  There is no bullshit, no extra "features" that make the light hard to use, and nothing to waste precious battery life.  Enrique's lights are among the best in the business and the Mako Mk. II is no different.

Here is the Mako product page.  This is a $199 light in the high output mode, which I reviewed.  There are no other reviews.   Here is the review sample (already returned to Enrique):

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The original Mako was designed as a great, keychain light, a reflectorless torch with long runtimes, simple, failproof UI, and a very compact design.  The Mako II, offered in a regular and high performance option (which doubles the lumens output on high to 60), improves on the output and runtime of the original. 

In carrying the Mako for a month or so I was really impressed at how practical it was.  This is probably not a light that would be a great solo EDC torch. The 21 lumen high is useful, but probably not enough.  If you are looking for a light like that, the Aeon Mk. II works well.  Instead the Mako II is the perfect, and I mean perfect, keychain light.  The size is perfect:

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As something you want to use to find dropped pen or illuminate a doorknob, the Mako II can't be beat.  The key, aside from the small form factor, is the runtime. Enrique's magic has always been runtime performance and the Mako is no exception.  Running on a single AAA, the runtimes seem to be around 60 hours on low using a regular alkaline battery--an impressive showing.  

If you are looking for the spiritual successor to the Arc AAA-P, with "modern" conveniences like multimode output, the Mako II is it.  At $200 its not cheap, but when you amortize that over the life of the light it is actually quite affordable. 

Overall Score: 19 out of 20 (1 point off for a low high, even for a keychain light)

Monday, November 17, 2014

Recommendation Series 2014 Wrap Up

In addition to my Top 5 Gear Items, which you can find here, I completed a longer and more in-depth series of recommendations over on All Outdoor.  You can find them here, by price:

$25 and Under
$50 and Under
$100 and Under
$250 and Under
$600 and Under
Price No Object
Best of the Rest

Hopefully this will be a good jumping off point for holiday wishlists.  I am working on a few other projects right now, so hopefully this will be a hold over until Friday. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Kizer Ki3404-3 Review

The Tim Britton Controversy

I considered not saying anything at all, but we as a group of consumers are pretty smart and want to know where our money is going.  If you do even a tiny bit of research on this knife you are going to run into this issue, and in an effort to do my due diligence and bring you the best information possible, I did a lot of research on this issue and I have decided to publish a brief summary here. 

Tim Britton claims that the Kizer knives, this one and the larger model that looks the same, are rip offs of his knife the Tango.  I do not believe this to be the case.  Here is a VERY brief summary of why:

I had planned on addressing the Tim Britton v. Kizer controversy more directly, but the deeper I got the crazier things became.  After doing all of that research, weeks, literally weeks, I am convinced that there is nothing to the claim that this is a rip off.  Not a single shred of evidence.  I emailed with Mr. Britton extensively and gave him an opportunity to make a statement but he has chosen not to do so and he also also would not agree to let me publish his emails (I gave him the opportunity to control exactly what was said, even final edit, so that he could not claim I cherry picked his words, but he turned me down).  Most, if not all of the evidence I have that leads me to believe there is nothing to Mr. Britton's claim, ironically, came from emails provided to me by Mr. Britton himself.

Then there is this absolutely damning and indisputable fact--Mr. Britton has a history of ripping off other people's designs and this behavior got him banned from the USN.  In that particular instance he ripped off a really great design from Shane Sibert.  Mr. Britton even claimed to me, during our long email correspondence, that his copy of the Shane Sibert design was an authorized one.  I contacted Mr. Sibert to confirm this (as any responsible person would, right?) here is what Mr. Sibert said:

Hello Anthony,

No, that is a blatant copy/stolen design of mine and he got banned from the USN for it. He continues to sell it claiming it is custom and charges custom prices when it appears to be made in china and he scribes his name on the blade...Fortunately, I have been able to stop dealers from selling it and the knife community has been very aggressive in response to this flaccid plagiarism.

Respectfully,

Shane-

From the USN post a few months ago:


    A few months ago a situation arose that was dealt with professionally and promptly by our stellar, concerned administrators. At the time I was told by the individual in question only 2 were made, I naively thought that that was the end of that and shrugged it off and went back to the grinder.

    I’m a bit crestfallen as drama is not something I generally subscribed to, and avoid if it can be resolved in a civil matter. But recently it has been brought to my attention that this prickly rash continues to fester. Unfortunately, I now need to necessitate a more forthright public action to raise awareness of this concern as this annoying dilemma may also encompass not only myself but other makers as well.

    Now I understand the conundrum of either unintentional or coincidental resemblances in which I generally have no qualms with as it is part of the business; but when it is an almost crude duplicate, not just similar mind you…. but an explicit and malformed facsimile of the original knife which are being produced in quantity without permission and behaving indifferently and shamelessly for gain…. Now my hackles get raised. These appear to be foreign in origin while the perpetrator is claiming them as a custom.
 

Here is a link to a BladeForums thread where you can see both the Sibert original and the Britton copy.

The bottom line is this--Mr. Britton did not provide me, or anyone I can find on the internet, with evidence that Kizer stole his design and he has a history, a documented history, of stealing designs from others while claiming he was authorized to make such copies.  There is tons of information on this in my possession, but it is not worth getting into more than this--the Kizer Ki3404-3 is not a counterfeit of Mr. Britton's Tango (an unauthorized copy purporting to be the original) and there is no evidence to support Mr. Britton's claim that the Ki3404-3 is a rip off of his design (an unauthorized copy not purporting to be the original).  I have literally tons of stuff on this, but it becomes so convoluted that it is both unimportant and not worth the effort.  If you disagree, feel free to comment below.  Again, the standing invitation to Mr. Britton remains open.  He can write whatever he wants on the subject and I will publish it UNALTERED.  I will then, in a separate post, provide information and context to those claims, but if he wants to, he can have his say complete and without editing.  Until that happens, I am going to consider this issue closed. 

On to the review.

Review      

This is part of a new wave of knives coming out of China that aren't just nice, they are truly superior tools.  The designs, the fit and finish, and the materials are all a massive step up from previous Chinese made blades.  After years of making inexpensive knives (some of which are good, see the San Ren Mu 605) and working as OEMs for other companies, we now have Chinese knives that compete with the best from anywhere in the world.

The Ki3404-3 is the most straightforward, most refined, and least ostentatious of the Kizer line.  Think of it as a Ti Cryo with better blade steel, or a Hinderer-ized flipping Sebenza.  This is a very interesting design on paper, but whether it lives up to its look and materials in use is another question.  Let's see how it performs.   

Here is the product page. The Kizer Ki 3404-3 costs $129.  I can't find a written review. Here is a video review. Here is a link to Blade HQ, where you can find the Ki 3404-3, and all proceeds benefit the site when you purchase things through this link:

Blade HQ

Here is my review sample (purchased with my own money from Blade HQ):

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Twitter Review Summary:  The benchmark in value for Ti Framelock Flippers

Design: 2

The Ki3404 is chocked full of brilliant little touches, as if Kizer has been lurking in the forums and collecting pros and cons of various designs.  But they don't just get the little stuff right--the big stuff is there too.  The flipper's shape works.  The blade shape is simple and excellent.  The handle shape is nice and the scales are even contoured.  All of the big stuff is just damn good.  Then there are the small details--a Hinderer lock stop, the stonewashing on the blade, and the handle cutout for lock disengagement--all are superb.  Overall, there is very little I could ask for in a Ti Framelock Flipper that the Ki3404 doesn't provide and it provides all of those features in a cohesive, aesthetically pleasing knife.

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The performance ratios are decent.  The blade:handle is .75. The blade:weight is .97.  Neither are the best ever, but both are above average.  A three inch blade in a 3.10 ounce body will always be good.

Fit and Finish: 2

Compared to other $130 blades the fit and finish here is insane. Compared to $300 blades the fit and finish is still bove par.  I am just stunned at what Kizer was able to do here.   The handle is blemish free.  The stonewashing is perfectly even.  The edge came hairshaving sharp.  The pivot has not loosened (that happened on all three of the following knives: my Sebenza, my PT, and my Hinderer).  The only slight ding I could levee against the knife is that the blade is moderately off centered, something like 55% to one side. It is so slight that it is impossible to photograph. That's it.

Look how clean cut and even the lock bar side is (and now nice the domed screws look):

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Grip: 2

The Ki3404 has three things that give it a superior grip--a slight curve to the handle, excellent contoured Ti handles, and a good spot for your index finger created by the hook of the flipper and cut into the scale.  In hand, it just locks into place:

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If you need jimping, its there and its good, but given everything else, its really just icing on top.  There is a drawback that impacts grip, but I have decided to count it in a different category, see retention method below.

Carry: 2

This is a 2 with a cavaet, for more on that, see below. But in terms of pocket companion, you'd be hard pressed to find better.  The gentle curve of the smooth matte handles lets the knife slide in and out of your pocket easily.  Its also a very thin knife and that helps too. Plus it weighs in around 3 ounces (3.10 ounces to be precise, I measured it on my own scales).  The overall packages is a great carry knife.

Steel: 2 

In over a month of use and carry I have no reason to believe that this is not S35VN despite what was alleged on the forums about this knife.  It has held its edge well and has stropped just like my Karroll SES, a knife made in S35VN from a custom maker I know personally and really trust. S35VN is really a very good steel, with an elegant balance of corrosion resistance, hardness, and toughness, while being less chippy and easier to sharpen than S30V.  Its not the best in the world at any one thing, but it is probably one of the best all around steels.  Here it works well.

Blade Shape: 2

Look at that:
P1040598

This is an elegant, simple drop point.  It doesn't have a recurve, a compound grind, nor does it dead end into a finger choil.  This is a simple and simply great blade shape. 

Grind: 2

This is a very good grind. The cutting bevel is wide enough to register on a strop or stones and the thin hollow grind of the main bevel does a good job thinning out the S35VN down to an accute edge.  The grind lines are pleasing to the eye with nice curves and they are quite crisp.  I can't find a single fault with the grind on the Ki3404.

Deployment Method: 2

Best production flipper?  Maybe.  Its at least as good as the KVT-based flippers.  I also like as much as Spyderco's bearing pivot flippers.  CRKT's flippers are really good, but I am not sure I could tell the difference between this knife and a good IKBS flipper in a blind "flip" test.  

P1040597

Frankly, the Ki3404 flips as well as a number of higher end knives.  The detent is incredibly stiff, so stiff that using the thumb studs is difficult.  But once the blade is pushed beyond the detent it fires like a rocket.  The flipper is a little pointy, but nothing bad at all.  You will develop a callus, but that has more to do with the addictive nature of the flipper than its pointiness. 

Retention Method: 1

It would be remarkable if this knife got a perfect score, especially given its relatively new maker.  And here is the place where the Ki3404 misses the boat.  The  clip holds the knife in the pocket fine, but the  up turn at the end of the clip itself is a real paint scraper.  Worse than that though is the fact that it is almost an instant hotspot. You can learn to hold the knife to avoid it, but the first and most natural position isn't great.

Lock: 2

Don't give the framelock a second thought.  None of the problems that are common to the form exist here.  There is no lock rock, no sticky disengagement.  Everything just works.  The disengagement point is also excellent.  

Overall Score: 19 out of 20

Don't worry about the "couterfiet" baloney.  There doesn't seem to be much to it.  Also, don't worry about the country of origin--this is lightyears better than the Bee, Elan, and San Ren Mu knives of the past. The Ki3404 gets virtually everything right and for a price that is stunning.  There is nothing close inthe Ti Framelock Flipper market.  

This knife from Kizer along with blades like the District 9 from Reate indicate that Chinese knives are about to make a turn from being budget junk to being top shelf production knives.  I am not sure if the price of the Ki3404 is way to get Kizer's foot in the door, but if it is, its a brilliant idea.  

I am pleasantly surprised how great this knife really is.  Other versions of this knife are bit garish with splash anodizing and Anso-style grooves, but this version is probably my favorite production Ti Framelock Flipper available, regardless of price. The fact that it is among the cheapest just seals the deal.

The Competition

This is better than the Mini Aegis.  It is a different class of product even if the scores are pretty close.  The insane thing is that the value proposition, even when you consider how much cheaper the Mini Aegis is, isn't that far off.  This is that good of a buy.  

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

WWP Giveaway Winners

First, let me thank the vets I know--my Dad, my father in law Dom, my friend Joe--thanks for all being selfless and great men, easily worthy of being an example for future generations of boys and girls. 

Second, let me thank all those that have served.  You did amazing and dangerous things for us.  You and your families have made sacrifices for me and my family.  We cannot hope to repay you, but please let us help return the favor.  If your coffee is paid for or your gas is free one day, consider it a small token of gratitude.  We can't repay you completely, but we can say thanks.

Third, let me thank the people that donated.  This year was a tremendous success.  It was easily as successful as the past giveaways.  The average donation (the AVERAGE) was $22.37.  More people participated this year than in the last two years.  With a response like this I don't plan on quitting any time soon.

So here are the winners, you have all been contacted by email already, but just in case it gets eaten by the spam eating machine:

1st Prize: Andrew Lang
2nd Prize: Bob Davis
Big Heart: Howard Hughes (there were two donations that tied for the biggest, so I used random.org to choose--1-50 first big donation got it, 51-100, Howard got it.  The number was 67). 
Vet: Staff Sargent Daniel Zellmer

Let me just take a second here to point out something crazy--Dan not only IS a vet, he also donated.  I specifically forbade this from happening, but I guess service men and women don't like to be limited when it comes to helping each other.  Double thanks Dan. 

Weekend Push #1: Dwayne Lively
Weekend Push #2: Jim Ogden

There you have it--winners and such.

Also, thanks to the sponsors:

Tanos/Woodcraft
Obtanium Wallets
Masterstroke
Inspirs Design

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Kizer Ki3404-3 Overview

While the review is coming soon, I am not going to beat around the bush.  This is a great knife and an extraordinary value.


You can find the Kizer Ki 3404-3 at Blade HQ, sales benefit the site.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Final Stretch for WWP

This is the final weekend to donate and to provide a bit more incentive, I have two new things to give away--the Ti Tactile Turn Shaker and a pair of custom PM2 scales from Casey Lynch, creator of the best after market Spyderco clip available.  In order to win all you have to do is donate between now and Tuesday (Veteran's day).  Thanks to Tactile Turn and Casey Lynch for their donations!

Here is how to donate.


Knife Baby Onesy

So, I promised a while ago never to do a clothing review, but like all good promises, it was made to be broken, especially when you get something as cool as the Knife Baby Onesy.  And more than half the coolness of the Knife Baby Onesy comes from the story, not just the sweet baby duds.

My wife has a friend and that friend has a brother that has disabilities.  He and his friends go to a center and they do lots of activities there.  Many of those activities are art projects.  And one of my wife's friend's brother's friend (got all of that) created this super awesome onesy.  The onesy was given to my wife's friend, because she was having a baby, and instead of using it, she decided to give it to us.

I totally get that the Knife Baby Onesy is not for everyone, but it is perfect for me.  If you look closely you'll see some promising designs in there--I could swear one of them is a very nice looking kiridashi.  Naturally when this sketch came to some of the teacher's attention they were a little freaked out, but really this is just a form of creative expression, and one I know us knife knuts can appreciate.  I am also fairly certain those very same people that freaked out use kitchen knives on a pretty regular basis. 

The way I see it, we should encourage creative output, even if it is a little surprising where it ends up.  Being less judge-y is something everyone could do.  This is a pretty darn sweet outfit for my soon to be born second son.  And I know a few of you out there have kids too and are probably a little jealous (Gavkoo).  After all, what self respecting knife knut wouldn't want a Knife Baby Onesy? Oh and be on the lookout in March for an IG post of my new little guy in this sweet get up. 

Saturday, November 1, 2014

R-Pal Latern Review

Most of the reviews I write are for things that are nice to have, but aren't exactly necessities.  And while a lantern is not a necessity in the same way air, food, and water are, it is pretty darn useful to have in the event of power outage. So instead of "This Week in Pocket Frosting..." as I have been accused of writing, enjoy something closer to a PSA. 

I am not used to reviewing laterns, but it is not because of lack of experience. Battery powered lanterns, as a product group, have only really come in to their own when the advent of modern LEDs. The old giant beasts with dim lights and huge square batteries were awful.  When I was a kid we had one and it stunk.

Flashforward 30 years (boy, that makes me sound old) and I am still using a latern.  This time it was one of the two illumination devices to let me and my wife sneak in and out of my infant son's room when he was sleeping.  It was a 4xAA Coleman that collapsed on itself.  We had had it forever, purchasing it after a major icestorm knocked out power for a few days.  It worked, but it was as durable as an origami duck.  And then there were the many rechargeable lanterns that came in my three different combo tool kits.  They were the phony tool that let Hitachi or Dewalt claim that they were selling a four piece kit (you know, the batter charger, the drill, the circular saw, and the lantern).  And despite the fact that I got one from Hitachi AND Bosch, both failed.  

Lanterns, as a genre of flashlights, just seemed like they couldn't get out of their own way. They  broke, they provided shitty, heavily artifacted light, and they didn't last.  They were the bastard child of the flashlight world (much like crank charging lights...when is someone going to make a decent one of those?).  Then I got contacted by the guys at R-Pal.  I did some research and their lantern looked...well actually good.  Real emitters, great power supply, substantial design, but a lot of lanterns look good on paper or the shelves of REI and turn out to be horrid.  So I  asked for a review sample and it came. I took the lantern on a few overnight trips into the woods and on a hiking vacation.  Its really....awesome.

Here is the product page.  The R-Pal is $129.95 without an 18650 battery.  The combo kit with a charger, the light, and two 18650s is the better deal at $164.95.  This is the first written review of the R-Pal Lantern, though it was covered by the shill sites.  Here is the Latern itself (the review sample was sent by R-Pal and has already been returned):

P1040205

You can purchase the R-Pal Lantern through this link (all purchases benefit the site):



Twitter Review Summary:  Best lantern on the market.  Not even close. 

NOTE: Because of how different lanterns are from flashlights I am not using a scoring system for this review.  If other lanterns attract my attention I might develop one, but as it is, this will be an unscored review.

The R-Pal is pretty simple--there are two switches, seen above.  The top switch increases the lumens and the bottom switch decreases them.  There is also an on/off button around the other side of the lantern.  The top of the light screws off and the 18650 drops in down the center of the unit.  There are no reflectors, as you can see, but there are three LED arrays.  The arrays are protected by a clear thick piece of what I think is polycarbonate.  It is not fixed in place, but once the top is screwed down it is held very securely and with o-rings.  There are o-rings all over this thing and the light, though made of plastic, is tough, putting me in the mind of a Surefire G2X Pro.  At the top of the light is a small steel bail and the bail has a nail knick in it to make it easier to lift it up.  The bail attaches via a threaded post which in turn fits into a universal attachment point (like the ones found on the bottom of cameras for tripod attachment).  The entire unit is very light, even with the battery.

Runtimes are good with something like 300 hours on low and significantly less, around an hour, on high.  Low is 2.9 lumens and high is 300 lumens.  The light has mode memory and an auto shutoff mode.  Overall the tint was good.  The light produced was a neutral light (listed at 3000K) and the CRI is listed around 80.  The artifacts were not awful, significantly better than the average lantern, but not as good as a flashlight (the lack of a reflector and the construction of a lantern always gives rise to artifacts).  Here is the light in a real world setting:

P1040332
 
300 lumens is a ton of light, more than enough to illuminate a camp site, like the one above with my Dad and son.  At 2.9 lumens it is a great way to get to the bathroom or find an honest man.  

My original review sample had a switching problem, but given that it was a prototype of sorts, I was more forgiving than I would be if had been a production unit.  The second unit I received was a production unit and it was bulletproof.  There are all sorts of touches that tell you this is a quality tool--the universal attachment points, the nail knick on the bail, and the dead simple UI with perfect level spacing (it is logarithmic spacing so the levels make a difference and are noticeable to the naked eye).   

Overall the R-Pal was a superb device and something that will be added to my array of lights soon.  I am not sure how much more of a review you need, because that says a good deal about the product.  I have a collection of lights that is, really, embarrassingly well-stocked, but even with some of the finest designs ever made, the R-Pal fills a role nothing else does.  It is light years ahead of the lanterns you find at Wal-Mart or Calebas.  Some of the specialty stores, like REI, have decent lanterns, but they are nothing like the R-Pal.  Its basically like comparing a Fenix to the HDS Rotary--that is the gap in quality and performance. 

The R-Pal may not be EDC strictly speaking, but it is something that you need to own if you have a house or like to go camping. Its light enough, tough enough, and small enough that you can throw it anywhere and it will be useful.  The battery choice is a bit flashoholic, but if you already have 18650 capacity (charger and battery) it is super awesome to have one around in case of an emergency or to tie on to a branch or in a tent for light.  This isn't so much a fun gadget as it is a necessary bit of kit for your emergency bag.  With a charged 18650 it will likely get you through most storm related power outages.

If you like lights, being prepared (but aren't fully committed to going "Doomsday Prepper" weird), going camping or...well...seeing things in the dark, you should probably have an R-Pal hanging around.  This isn't just for flashlight nerds, this is light most people should have, if you can deal with the battery choice.   

Now if someone could just make a decent crank light. R-Pal?