Thursday, February 12, 2015

Ver Steeg Blades Imp Review

Okay, I am a huge liar.  I said I would never review clothes and I dropped a TAD Gear clothing review.  Then I said I would never review something made by a friend and well, I am going back on my word and going to review Kyle Ver Steeg's Imp.  Its out of production, but he is making a beefier version called the Grendel.  The issue here is that the knife is so damn good its a shame not to put it into writing.

There are no product pages or reviews.  This was an extremely small run and Kyle doesn't typically go back to a design--every onward.  Here is Ver Steeg Blade Facebook page.  Here is my video overview:

Here is my review sample (purchased with my own money and mine to keep):


Twitter Review Summary: Fixed blade EDC greatness

Design: 2

Kyle described the Imp on a few different episodes of the Knife Journal podcast.  There he stated he wanted a fixed blade small enough to drop in a pocket and disappear.  He wanted it to so invisble that you could go into the fetal position and not notice that it was in your jeans pocket.  Mission accomplished. 


This is a two finger knife, with a third coming on board if you use the lanyard.  The idea is one a lot of companies have tried, from folders like to the Spyderco Spin to fixed blades like the Bark River EPK.  Generally the problem with two finger knives is one of leverage. In light tasks, like package opening, they are fine, but in anything more strenuous than that, you feel like your a giant playing with a toy.  But  here, thanks to the superior guard and the lanyard, even in real cutting tasks, like preparing meat for a campfire, the Imp worked exceedingly well.  Here is the knife next to the Muyshondt Aeon, Mk. II:


Fit and Finish: 2

Every surface isn't just clean it is remarkably polished.  The blade and handled scales are so smooth and inviting to the touch.


The sheath locks in and stays put.  There is no baloney here, nothing to complain about even if I was being nitpicky.  I'll save some bullets to describe the grind below, but suffice to say, even the most insanely demanding collector would be happy here.  

Handle Design: 2

If you want to make a fixed blade this small you have to make compromises.  But under those circumstances, Kyle's handle design is just perfect.  The "guard" at the front of the handle really works and the addition of lanyard gives you some real control. Despite the small blade, the knife works, even in medium sized hands:


The Imp's handle is a perfect example of constraints leading to superior design.

Steel: 2

O1 isn't a super steel.  It isn't even a stainless steel.  But here is the deal--finishing makes a huge difference when it comes to steel.  I have said it before, but it bears repeating--chemistry is the the third most important thing when it comes to evaluating steel--after geometry and heat treat.  As you saw in the Al Mar Hawk Ultralight review, superior finishing can take a meh steel and make it great.  And that is what we have here.


First, Kyle had TM Hunt, make of the M-18, do the heat treat, and though Todd is a young guy, he has his O1 heat treat dialed in.  If this knife is any indication, T.M. is well on his way making his O1 like Dozier's D2.  He really gets every drop of performance out of the steel.  But there is another thing here--Kyle's polish on the steel closed the grain and created a vastly more stain resistant surface than you'd think.  I used this knife extensively in food prep and while it discolored (as you can see above) it has never rusted.  And thanks to the almost mirror polish, that coloration came right out when I stropped the knife.  I had a 3V knife, the Lil' Creek, in for review at the same time and I can't say that it shed this coloration as completely as the Imp did.  As with many things, the devil is in the details, and here, that careful attention made humble O1 something very special.  It is this kind of performance boost that makes custom cultery 100% worth the time and effort. 

Blade Shape: 2

Like the rest of the Imp, the blade shape was designed with use in mind, and it shows.  Around the yard, out in the woods, or around camp, the Imp was awesome.  The slanted spine invites your index finger and the result is a knife that works incredibly well in precision tasks. Its not exactly a drop point or a clip point, but whatever it is, its superb.

Grind:  2

Its safe to say, after six or so months of use, that the Imp is the sharpest knife I have ever used.  The convex grind on a thin slice of steel is so keen, so sharp that the paper chunking stunt you see when folks are showing off on YouTube is not just easy, but downright addicting.  And most of those paper chunkings use much bigger knives.  

The grind is stunning, 100% stunning and the edge is so sharp it disappears.  The polish on the blade helps with friction and rust, and it leads to an impossible edge.  I can easily shave arm hair even after breaking down a box or two, especially impressive given that all of the edge is used every time (such are the limits of a sub-2" blade).  

I took this knife camping and used it to cut steak and bacon and potatoes and all sorts of kindling (in that order) and it did become noticeably less sharp (note that I did not write dull).


After a few quick swipes on a strop the edge came screaming back.  Convex grinds are a thing of beauty and this is one of the finest I have seen.  

Sheath Carry:  2

Taco-style kydex sheaths are my favorite, both for weight and simplicity.  The Imp's steath takes things up a notch by being very, very small.  Kyle cut off just about every piece of kydex he could without compromising the rivets or the fit and the result is a truly coin pocket friendly fixed blade.


The sheath more than anything is the part of the Imp that makes this knife my favorite EDC fixed blade I have tried.  It can also be used as a neck knife, but as I said before, the football coach look isn't my favorite.

Sheath Accessibility: 2

For a pocket sheath, this is about as good as you can get.  Going thicker is a pain as it makes the sheath hard to carry.  Smaller and you have to worry about it popping off.  Its not complicated, but the sheath is damn good when it comes to grabbing the knife and pulling out the blade.  The lanyard helps as well, another neat touch. 

Useability: 2

The handle is contoured and curved with excellent finishing.  The shape of the handle and the shape of the guard, coupled with the lanyard give you a lot of real estate on a small knife.  No hotspots were generated even when you use the knife in tough media, such as cardboard or kindling.  There is nothing I'd change, even the small and shallow jimping is nice. 

Durability: 2

The O1 stock isn't monstrously thick, but it is substantial enough to give you confidence in carrying the blade.  The handle is epoxied and riveted in place.  The kydex is quite sturdy.  Simply put there is no reason this knife won't work for five decades or so.  The convex edge adds to the durability.  It might be small and thin, but the Imp is plenty hardy for its role as an EDC knife and could handle more challenging tasks with ease. 

Overall Score: 20 out of 20, PERFECT.

Its hard to figure out a way to make a better EDC fixed blade knife.  If you have bear paws, this probably ain't your deal.  But even then I think the lanyard might help.  Knives this small and capable really make me reconsider the need for a folder.  The whole package is smaller than the PM2 is closed and so I can't help but think that the Imp really is one of the best choices for EDC.  Its light, its small, and it is tougher than a folder could ever be.  The steel, humble as it is, has been put through its paces and the finishing really makes it perform like something much pricier.  I have used this knife for months now in lots of different tasks and I have never once been disappointed.  It came to me as the sharpest knife I have ever had and thanks to easy and regular stropping it remains that way to this day.  This is an amazing piece of cutlery and proof that Kyle Ver Steeg really knows what he is doing.  This is an easy and certain 20 out of 20 perfect score.  I consider Kyle a friend, but my worst enemy could have designed this blade and it would have still scored as well as it did.  In the end that is why I decided to publish this review.  Yep, I am biased.  But the knife is so damn good, bias didn't matter.  Anyone evaluating the Imp would have a hard time coming up with the different score, unless, as I said before, they had bear paw hands.


  1. Thanks for the review Tony. I'm so glad I was able to get one (the last he had, actually) and though mine is a little different because of the deeper recurve, it's not too bad to strop and it cuts like a knife three times its size. This knife makes stuff like the Cold Steel Recon 1 and other massive folders seem a little silly.

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  3. Very cool little fixed blade EDC. Kyle is obviously a gifted knifemaker- I love those smooth G-10 scales, I wish more makers polished G-10 as opposed to leaving it textured.

  4. Great review of a great knife. I have one of Kyle's Imps as well. I messaged him and received it shortly after seeing it here on everydaycommentary on another one of your reviews. It was one of the last 5 he made. I couldn't agree more with your assessment. I also wanted to add that I do have huge bear claw hands, and just as you suggested, the lanyard does help quite a bit with that. I do not use the lanyard as you demonstrated with a finger through it though. If I use a full 4-finger grip on the knife, 2 of my fingers grip the handle and the other 2 fingers grip the lanyard, and the ball at the end of the lanyard snugs right up on the outside of my pinky finger giving me that much more leverage on a pull swipe of the knife. It's perfect. I do wear it around the neck, but replaced the ball chain with just an outer sleeve of paracord. This makes it so comfortable that I don't even notice it most of the time until I need it. Definitely the best neck knife I have ever had by far (and I have had quite a few, both customs and production).