Friday, April 24, 2015

Zero Tolerance ZT0562 Review

I feel a bit like Al Pacino in Godfather III with Hinderer designs.  I am SO done with his aesthetic and build choices.  SO FUCKING DONE.  But, because they are fundamentally good designs, every time he releases something I go take a look and more often than not, I somehow end up with another Hinderer.  That's why it took me so long to get this knife.  Fortunately, the dagger he released for TKI and the Ecklipse are passes, but damn it, the ZT0562 was something I had to get.  And despite a long history with Hinderer gear, I have to say, this is the best or one of the two best blades he has ever worked on.  Frankly I see no reason to spend money on an XM-18 3.5" when you can get this knife for less and it gives you better performance pretty much all the way around.  Its not as exclusive as a Hinderer, though their recent output has all but killed their exclusivity, but in every other way, its just better.  

Here is the product page.  There is a step up version with carbon fiber handle scales and an M390 blade.  Knowing ZT, I am sure there will be a half dozen other variants before the design is discontinued.  Here is a written review.  Here is a video review.  Here is a comparison between the XM-18 and this knife.  This review sample was provided by KnivesShipFree, where you can find the Zero Tolerance ZT0562, and all proceeds benefit the site when you purchase things through this link:

KnivesShipFree

Here is my review sample (to be given away):

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Twitter Review Summary: Better than the real thing.

NOTE:  When I got this review sample the blade was off centered.  It was not touching but off centered.  I tweaked the pivot and it has been fine ever since.  It is such a minor flaw with such a minor fix, I am not going to deduct points anywhere, but I thought you should know. 

Design: 2 

The moment I took the 0562 out of the box I was struck by how nice of a blade it was.  I noticed how nice everything looked and how solid it felt in the hand.  I really, really like this knife.  The design, in many ways, is classic Hinderer, but thankfully, that aesthetic has been filtered through other folks because, as I referenced above, the Humvee look and feel is overused.  The jimping is tamed down.  The bulk is just a smidge less.  The pocket clip is actually quite innovative.  The flipper is a better shape.  The wide chamfer around the handle is a welcomed touch and the elimination of the quilted pattern in the G10 is a good thing. 

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In many ways the 0562 is just the XM-18 3.5" slicer grind with the aggro touches reduced to a more palatable level.  Remember the Skidz brand pants from the early 90s?  The XM-18 is going to be dated in the same way.  People will see that knife in thirty years and say "Remember that crazy overbuilt folder trend from the 2010s, when people carried knives that couldn't cut stuff well and all they did with them in flip them open and closed on video?"  The 0562 may fall in line with that trend, but its design has been altered enough that it won't be neon purple and black plaid pants. 

The ratios aren't amazing, but you know that going in.  This is a porker.  The blade:handle is .72, which is decent (better than the Delica, for instance), while the blade:weight is distinctly pedestrian at .64.  Ratios aren't hard use knives' strong suit (unless you happen to be the Paramilitary 2), so don't fret too much.  

There is one curious thing, something I am going to note but not subtract points for.  In all of the debut videos ZT went out of their way to say that the thumb studs were blade stops and not thumb studs.  Jim McNair mentioned in a few that they were domed to prevent people from trying to use them as blade stops.  That is a good talking point, but when I got the knife I was surprised to see this:

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and this:

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Yep, the knife has a stop pin.  That's fine, but then why bother with the thumb stud/blade stops at all?  I have had a bunch of knives that have just blade stops and they work fine.  The knife would look cleaner and better without them, but having them isn't a huge issue.  Its just striking given that KAI USA drew our attention to them in the first place.  

Fit and Finish: 2

Its getting pretty boring to write these sections on ZT products as they are uniformly excellent and my rendition of the 0562 is no different.  There is not a single real issue I could knock even if I wanted to. 

Grip: 1

Ah...a bona fide mistake.  The double finger groove feels great in the normal forward grip, as these finger groove handles are want to do, but when you use any other grip it is just about unmanageable.  This is a perfect lesson in handle design.  These finger groove handles all FEEL great for about ten minutes when you are using the knife in this grip:

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But stray from the path and you will be punished.  These finger groove handles are design cheating.  They feel good superficially and they look ergonomic, but they are in fact, both hard to use and not ergonomically correct for the anatomy of the hand.  I have referenced this before, but it bears repeating--as the hand closes to tighten one's grip, the fingers come together.  If there is something that impedes the fingers coming together is prevents you from getting the strongest possible grip.  This came from Kyle Ver Steeg, a hand surgeon.  Its something he has referenced many times and in doing some research of my own, it is 100% true.  These finger groove handles are just a failure and while the ZT0562 isn't so bad its just below par.  Its not a failure, I just think that the handles on the 0560 or even the XM-18 itself are better.  

Carry: 1

This is a big knife.  Even with the low ride clip it still feels like a pendulum swinging in your pocket when you run.  But the really weird thing, the thing I strongly disliked, was this:

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There were more than few times that this inexplicable hook poked me in the leg.  Now I know its for the blade stops but there are two responses to this--first, the blade stops are unnecessary given the stop pin, and second, even if they were necessary there are solutions to this problem.  Strider found one:

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Get rid of either the superfluous blade stops or this claw thing.  Neither are necessary and both are annoying.

Taken together these two quirks--swinging in the pocket and the claw thing--are worth a point.

Steel: 2

The Elmax disbelievers are silly.  They seem to be hellbent on science, but take only the crudest approach to the subject.  They also seem to miss the notion of sample size.  Even the Almighty Lego has errors (their error rate in 13 per million parts, well better than anything I have ever seen in manufacturing data).  So don't worry and just go with it.  Elmax is an amazing steel.  Even after REALLY thumping (like "Did I break this thing?" thumping) through some green red oak, the edge was fine, maybe not shaving sharp, but pretty close.  The Anti-Elmax crowd is a confluence of two of the worst features of internet communities--bro science and pig piling--combined into one, with a dash of fanboyism thrown in for good measure.  The reality is simple--Elmax's makers have millions invested with thousands of man hours perfecting the product using state of the art technology run by some of the best metallurgists in the world.  Given the money at stake, they ain't fuckin' it up on a broad level.  Just not going to happen. 

Blade Shape: 2

Slicer or Spanto or whatever.  These are marketing words, buzz words, but whatever the name the shape is pretty old fashioned, and damn good; its a drop point and a very refined one at that.  It has a nice pronounced belly, a good degree of tip stability, and a clean look.   Excellent.

Grind: 2

I am not so sure I buy the utility of the so called slicer grind, but it doesn't make things worse, so I am okay with Hinderer putting it on a bunch of knives.  According to the Hinderer marketing, by lowering the grind line across the length of the blade it shortens up the angle making the knife slicier at the tip and more robust in the rear (oh God, innuendo alert...).  Is it a huge or even perceptible upgrade over a full flat grind or a hollow grind?  Nope, but if people like it and it doesn't make stuff worse, I am fine with it.  The grind here is actually quite good, with a nice wide cutting bevel.  The knife failed the "apple test," cracking them instead of slicing them, but most folders this big fail that stringent slicing test.  

Deployment: 2

This, Mr. Hinderer, is how a flipper should deploy.  Rumor has it that the latest XM-18s flip better, but the two I had were pretty bad.  The 3 inch was more broken in and it could go without a wrist flick but I practically had to meditate to make that happen.  The 3.5 inch wasn't making it, no way making it, without a bit of wrist action.  Here the 0562 fires without fail every time, no wrist flick required.  This is a damn good flipper just like almost all of the KVT-equipped knives I have tested.  The detent and pivot are so dialed in at this point, it almost goes without saying--ZT's flippers are goddam rockets launching. 

Retention: 2

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This is a very nice clip, better than the original and better than a lot of other clips.  Its funny because Thomas mentioned not giving two shits about clip designs and then ZT releases this clip.  It can be switched to both sides easily, buries deep in the pocket, helps control the knife moving around as much as it can, and looks good.  This is an excellent clip.  It can't do magic though and this knife sways a lot in the pocket, but that's not the clip's fault (and I already deducted a point for it in the Carry section above).    

Lock: 2

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As faultless as the flipping action on ZTs are, the locks are equally well dialed in.  There are no stickiness issues, no problems with engagement, lock rock or wiggle when engaged.  They are just rock solid.  

Overall Score: 18 out of 20

There aren't too many objective ways to cut it--the ZT0562 is a better knife, price blind than the 3.5" XM-18.  The reasons are numerous--better flipping action, better handle scale pattern, deep carry clip, and less aggressive but equally effective jimping.  When you factor in the price--yikes, its a suckers bet.  And if you step up to the CF version, well, I am not sure you can get an XM-18 in M390...and that knife STILL has a price advantage on the XM-18.

As a standalone product the ZT0562 is a marvelous large EDC or hard use folder.  I still prefer the Paramilitary 2 as it is almost as stout but much lighter and a much better cutter, but this is a close second.  The flipping action is really surprising.  Thomas et al hit a home run with this one and if you don't like the PM2 or want something Hinderer-ish, this is an excellent choice. 

22 comments:

  1. I am reluctant to wade in to these much-roiled waters, but it should probably be said...

    The critiques of Elmax were largely directed to (1) the heat treat selected by a particular knifemaker, which happens to be the maker of this knife, and/or (2) the post-heat treat processing of the blade stock by the knifemaker. So saying, in effect, that Bohler Uddeholm knows what it's doing isn't very responsive. It's a commonplace that steels, yes even ultra-premium steels, can have a range of heat treats and other processing by different knife companies. This is done for all sorts of reasons -- cost, wish to emphasize certain attributes such as hardness or toughness, etc. Some are more successful than others.

    This reality is written all over your reviews and articles on steel. You often discuss and compare the divergent performances of the same steel as processed by (or for) different makers. We don't hear any of this "just ain't gonna happen" rhetoric (I almost called it bluster -- I do think Andrew was doing essentially nothing but unresponsive blustering in what was mistakenly advertised as his "epic rant" about Elmax).

    Also, many of the complaints had to do particularly with the grindability of Elmax blades from this company relative to observed edge retention. They came from people who regularly do significant reprofiling of their edges in order to improve their knives' cutting geometry.

    You do not reprofile your knives. As I understand it your sharpening system is limited to a Sharpmaker and a strop. Mine is even more limited! I'm just pointing out that people who do different things with their knives, such as reprofiling, might reasonably have encountered different phenomena.

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    1. Also, the topic of reprofiling reminds me: I'm not sure the ability to cleanly slice an apple instead of splitting it is a "stringent" test of slicing ability. It is more like a test for being decent at slicing.

      A large Sodbuster, a RAT-1, a 4" Voyager, lots of other sizable knives -- knives that aren't exactly delicate tomato-rosette making things -- can pass that test all day long.

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    2. One last thought. You are an enthusiastic fan of 14C28N; you group it in elite company as a 2-point steel and have even compared it to steels like S30V.

      Now the chemical composition of 14C28N clearly is radically different from S30V. (It is basically very clean, well-handled AUS-8 with some nitrogen replacing some carbon. By the way, that is quite a desirable description, imo.) But your impressions are nevertheless empirically based; they arise from your real experiences and use.

      Should we dismiss your praise of this steel as bro science?

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    3. Sorry, I'm full of shit aout the apple test. Was thinking of something very different, but you explained before what you mean.

      For various reasons, time for a commenting hiatus by me. See you in the summer.

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    4. R.D. couple of things.

      First, and most importantly, don't stop commenting. Everything you brought up here is important.

      As for Elmax, here is the problem with the naysayers--first, there is the issue of small sample size, and second there is the distinct lack of scientific methods. The issue folks had, so far as I can trace the silly thread on the internet, came not in heat treat but in grinding the edge. The contention was that KAI USA was grinding the edge too much causing a loss of temper developed in the heat treat.

      How do we know this isn't just one or two blades with a bunch of pig piling? Also, how do we know those one or two blades are in the hands of folks that know what to look for and what they are doing? Many were reprofiling the blade, so how do we know those folks weren't the ones causing the problems in the first place? There are just too many variables--both sample size and methodologically.

      Think of it like this--B-U is a huge company, KAI USA is one of the premiere knife makers in the world, but of course they could both make mistakes. The issue is one of probability. What is the chance that both B-U and KAI made a mistake versus what is the chance that someone regrinding the knife in their garage made the mistake? Another way to look at it is to say that the burden of proof lies with the folks saying their is a problem, and from my perspective, there is not enough evidence to conclude that all Elmax blades from KAI are bad. My experience leads me to the opposite conclusion.

      As for 14C28N, I don't make scientific claims about the steel. I say that it is a good value (which I think is hard to dispute) and I say that I like it (which you can't dispute). I am not making claims about its superiority on a molecular level or things like that. It is a good steel. In my experience it has been better than AUS 8 and I like as much as S30V. I am not, and hope I have not, got into minute detail saying it is 10% better than this or that steel. That is one reason why the steel score is so imprecise. I don't think we as hobbyists can make such granular distinctions.

      As for the apple test, it is an informal test of a blade's slicing ability that, in my experience, matches a real world use for an EDC knife. Not many of us routinely make tomato rosettes with our blades. Furthermore, its pretty surprising how many blades vaunted for their slicing ability (such as this one) can't slice that well. No bro science, just a simulation of a real world task. And I love apples.

      Thanks for every single comment and forcing me to be more precise in my language.

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    5. Cool. Thanks a lot for the good word.

      I'm in a negative rut commenting. Gonna add a review/comment to the L3 L10C review (since I've been carrying that thing a lot per your rec) and then take a pause for reflection.

      PS: I really like 14C28N. I am worried that the good solid 14C28N Kershaw/KAI is fading away or getting pulled (shades of Murray's "Coming Apart") into exquisite $250 M390 ZTs at one extreme, and 3Cr garbage-steel big box Kershaws at the other.

      Peace.

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  2. Nice review, Tony. I agree - despite the Hinderer collabs getting long in the tooth, this is an excellent knife. Part of me wonders if they will be able to beat the 0562 with subsequent collaborations, and part of me doesn't care at this point.

    Dan

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  3. Hello,
    This is the first time I felt like commenting on one of your excellent reviews, but I've been enjoying your site for some time. I also own the Elmax version of the 0562 and have enjoyed carrying it for several months. There's one thing that made me curious about your review -- You mention how you dislike the finger scallops on the 0562, but the Strider whose photo appears in the review seems to have even larger scallops -- which you didn't mention in your review of that knife.

    I have never handled a Strider, so I can't speak from personal experience, but I'm wondering what the difference is in your mind. I have pretty big hands, and I find the 0562 very comfortable to handle. I haven't put it through really hard use, but I don't baby my tools, and I consider this knife to be an excellent tool.

    Again - thanks for all your time and effort in reviewing knives and other EDC gear; I really do like surfing through the various products. I'm curious to hear about your take on the Strider's finger scallops and why they're (apparently) so much better than those on the 0562.

    Jon

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    1. I'll let Tony defend the Strider because I haven't handled one. But I can tell you the design difference:

      The Strider has an index finger cutout, but the rest of the handle is a fairly standard design. If I'm remembering correctly, Mr. Ver Steeg has spoken favorably about that handle shape (the shape in general, not the strider specifically). When you tightly grip a knife like the strider, your grip strength comes from your pinky and ring fingers. That's why the handle is wider in the back. And that why you DON'T want the finger scallops of the 0562.

      You may be mistaking the forward choil combined with the index finger cutout as finger scallops. The difference is that, when gripping with the forward choil, you are presumably less concerned with grip strength and more concerned with fine control.

      In summary, the 0562's design only allows you to grip the knife one way, and doesn't even maximize that particular grip. I certainly believe you when you say your 0562 is comfortable, but there *is* a better way to do handle design. And at this point, serious knife makers should not be using finger scallops.

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    2. Jon,

      What Ameer said is correct.

      The finger notch on the PT's handle is an indexing notch, which is fine. The finger notch on the blade is a choil which you use when doing precision cuts. It allows you to choke up, in essence. The PT's handle is designed so that you don't NEED to use both but can if the situation requires it. The ZT0562 mandates you use both. That's the problem.

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    3. That makes sense. Thanks to you both.

      Jon

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  4. Hi Tony - you mentioned the confusion you faced when looking at the blade stops, when the 0562 has one already, the black bar/stop pin. Well, I've had my 0562 broken down just to tinker about, and I notice that the black stop pin at the back of the blade doesn't actually work as a blade stop when the blade is open. The "thumb studs" actually are the blade stops when the knife is deployed. Rather, the stop pin at the back holds the blade in position along with the detent, when it is closed.

    I was confused when I looked at it too, because I sought to change the standoffs on my 0562 to silver, and I was mildly irritated with that black stop pin. But, as a friend who studies physics pointed out, that black stop pin may actually have a multitude of uses. Firstly, it can act as a fixed distance gauge front of the knife, to prevent the pivot from being over-tightened over that of the width of the gap between the two handle scales. Secondly, it seems to work to stop the blade at that precise position when its closed, so that it doesn't close in too much and the edge hits the standoffs.

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    1. I have a minor gripe with the lockbar stabiliser though, and I think it's worth pointing out that the LBS on this knife seems to be more of a hinderer marketing gimmick. If you look closely, the lockbar insert for the frame lock already extends into the frame - this solves the issue of a potential need for the lockbar stabiliser. ZT could have made the lines of the 0562 cleaner if they omitted the LBS, given that large lockbar insert - but I guess marketing over design trumped that?

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    2. This is done on all the new Hinderer designs. The 0392 has the same thing. I would attribute it to marketing and ease of production. They likely already have those inserts and instead of making new ones for each knife, they streamline production by only using one style and machining the handle to accept it. The LBS is a signature Hinderer feature so of course they're going to include it regardless.

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  6. Thank you for this very thorough and objective review. PrI or to reading this, I decided to invest in a 0562 after purchasing a Cryo II for entry into this design and found the 0562 after wanting to tweak a few things to suit my needs.

    Your thoughts have strengthened my own conclusions and am proud to have it in my hands soon.

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  7. Thank you for this very thorough and objective review. PrI or to reading this, I decided to invest in a 0562 after purchasing a Cryo II for entry into this design and found the 0562 after wanting to tweak a few things to suit my needs.

    Your thoughts have strengthened my own conclusions and am proud to have it in my hands soon.

    ReplyDelete