The knife world has different loci, places where trends diverge form the norm and form their own little world. In America, we have traditional folders and titanium framelock flippers, big thick massive "tactical folders" in the Terzuola style. In Frace, folders are much more likely to be proficient food prep knives, so the Laguiole is the dominant form. But one of the most overlooked of the major knife design loci is found in South Africa. There designers like the Burgers, Gareth Bull, Jason Guthrie and others have pushed a unique form of flipper-the front flipper. The South Africa locus clearly influenced Lundquist, as evidenced not just by this knife, but a review of Lundquist's IG page where the Shamwari was featured heavily in pictures around the time the Feist's prototype was developed. This exchange of ideas from across the globe is interesting and shows the cultural exchange that the knife world promotes. Knives, it seems, are a universal language, even if the words used are different from place to place. What we have here, then, is an American designer, influenced by South African makers, designing a knife that was developed as a production blade by a Chinese company and then sold worldwide. The next time some small-minded person begrudges your knife habit as a "redneck hobby" it might be worth it to show them the Feist, the emblem of meaningful multiculturalism, and explain that they are the person with a parochial perspective.
Here is my review sample:
Twitter Review Summary: Kizer is killin' it.
On paper, the Lundquist design is striking, a minimalist design that is hard to take your eyes off of once seen.
It seems impossibly simple compared to other modern knives, spare, austere, and resolute. There is not a single stray line or unaccounted for angle. The effect of viewing and handling the Feist in person is akin to that first time you saw an iPod in person, a revelation of a design that you instantly recognized as a powerful statement. But this is not just an object of beauty. The knife has real chops to it, a great design for use. It is also worth noting that if you are tired (really-fucking-put-me-in-a-goddam-coma tired) of the TTF trend, then the Feist is suitably different to be worth look. This is a unique take on the TTF trend in the production world.
The performance ratios are decent. The blade:handle is .79, which is exceptionally good. The blade:weigh is .93, which is pretty close to the middle of the pack.
Fit and Finish: 2
IKC has reported two major issues with the Feist regarding fit and finish: gritty locks and gritty pivots. The actual unit I have is immaculate, as good as any production folder in this price range. The pivot is smooth both not loose, the handles are expertly sculpted, and the finish on the blade, a bright stonewash, is quite nice. One feature that is worth specific mention is the crowned spine. This is a feature found on higher end knives like the Sebenza, and here it fits the look of the Feist so well that I can't imagine the knife without. It makes the Feist pleasant in the hand and in the pocket and it gives it a high end feel.
Cliff Stamp had a great video on knife grips and he said one of his favorite was the old Cold Steel Twist Master, which has a nearly perfectly tubular handle. While the Feist is not that round by any means, it is still quite neutral in the hand. There is texturing to the titanium and the clip adds a bit to hang on to that so the knife is not a wet bar of soap. The balance here between neutral and still grippy is exactly right in my opinion.
Once in your pocket, the Feist is about as pleasant as it gets for a metal object. The generously rounded handle scales and the crowned spine make this knife about as likely to scrap up your knuckles as a marble. Thanks to its small size, even when the handles are thick enough to be rounded over, the overall profile of the knife in the pocket is quite good.
S35VN isn't exotic anymore. Just about every maker can get it and its not all that pricey. But that doesn't mean that its a bad steel. In fact, I like it quite a bit. Its easily a top ten steel when done right. Cedric and Ada's steel data shows there is a great deal of variability in S35VN's performance. In my tasks, the Feist's steel has been as good as the best S35VN I have used, which is to say quite good.
Blade Shape: 2
The more I carry a knife, the more I am convinced that the best shape, folder or fixed blade, is one where the cutting edge is, as Mors Kochanski demands, a continuous curve. Here you get a modified drop point or sheepsfoot hybrid and the result is a blade shape that challenges the taxonomy of knives, but works exceedingly well. I am beginning to just avoid knives with long straightaways and no belly. The leaf shaped blade on Spydercos, the fascinating shape on the Benchmade Mini Grip, and this blade all just speak to me, no matter the task. Oh and there is that little thing called the Insingo blade shape, that is a another story for another day...
This is a dished, indistinct grind. Its not ugly, not at all. But it isn't as beautiful as, say, a-crisp-as-a-new-dollar-bill Jesse Jarosz grind (but then again, few grinds are). What it lacks in looks though is made up for with by its ability to produce quick and clean cuts. This is a very good grind.
Deployment Method: 1
Yikes. This is a bit of a misstep. Its not a dealbreaker. Its not something that you can't train yourself to avoid. But the crowned spine and gently, almost pillowed jimping can be tough to use to reliably open the knife. Here, unlike say, with the Small Shamwari, you technique needs to be very good. The rear tang on this front flipper needs to be hit directly in the right spot. If you don't this knife isn't going to open. That is just how front flippers work, especially ones with jimping this polished. This is a small error and one that Kizer could correct quite easily. There is a rumor that the Feist is being updated. If it is, this should be one thing they chance. It would be an easy change and one that would make the knife much better.
Retention Method: 1
Ladies and Gentleman, this is Exhibit 1 in the Case Against Scultped Clips. The reality is they are simply too hard to make work. They end up being more like hooks and less like spring clips. This clip barely works on jeans. Once it is there, its stays and it isn't impossible to retrieve. Its just getting the Feist to clip on pants--that's the real problem. Its not impossible it is just more difficult than it should be. So again, if a new Feist is coming, this should be fixed too.
Kizer's dialed in these framelocks to the point where they operate flawlessly. There is no blade play, no lock bar wiggle, no difficulty engaging or disengaging the blade. Everything is just spot on.
Overall Score: 18 out of 20
The Kizer Feist is a great knife, a unique TFF, and just a few steps away from the pinnacle of of the EDC folder mountain. I really like the Feist and that is even after I have used and carried the Small Shamwari, which is a custom knife designed exactly to my specifications by the skilled and creative Gareth Bull.
The Small Shamwari is a better knife, but it is much, much harder to get and more expensive. For the vast majority of people, the Feist is a very competent substitution. As a stand alone design, its a testament to the skill of Justin Lundquist and the keen insights of the Kizer team. I look forward to seeing what's next.
Part of the reason why this knife is so sweet is because it is not a lot like other knives. For the price, the 555-1 Mini Grip is better, but not as striking or fun to fidget with, while there are a dozen or so ZTs and other Kizer in this range that are, in my opinion, more "me too" TTF designs. I like the Mantra about the same but it too isn't the looker that the Feist is.