Splendorous. Eye-opening. Mind altering. Each of those could be words that describe an amazing acid trip, or so I am told, I have never done LSD, or it could be a description of the Scott Sawby Swift. This is a blade, that for me, represents the Platonic Ideal of "knife" made by a master and honed by years of working at his craft. It is familiar enough to be immediately recognizable as a knife, yet it has features, like the Self Lock, found no where else. And with the engraving, it is a knife that, in my opinion, is literally artwork. And while these kinds of knives are by no means cheap, for the level of skill and artistry involved it is a bargain. Mark Rothko painting, this ain't (sorry, Mark Rothko fans, I like stripes too, just not that much; call me a Philistine if you want).
But before I go on (and on, and on), let me lay out a disclaimer--I am not going pretend like there is any semblance of reason or moderation or critique here. This is me praising a blade endlessly. It deserves it, for sure, but my capacity to give a hard-nosed breakdown of a knife like this is very limited. I have loved this design since I first saw it at a Northeast Cutlery Collector Association Show. It is a truly timeless design. If it slid out of someone's pocket in the 1950s it wouldn't look out of place and when it slides out of my pocket in 2017 it still looks good. And so, for this one knife, I am going to dispense with the review scale and not even call it a review. This is, as is appropriate given its lyrical beauty and this write-up's lack structure, a rhapsody on the knife.
After seeing the knife at the NCCA show, I was obsessed. I reached out to Scott Sawby and put my name on his books for a Swift with mirror polish. My hope was to have Scott make it and Marion, his wife and amazing engraver embellish it. A few years later, three or four or five, I lost count, he emailed me and told me it was my turn. I asked if I still wanted the same knife, the Swift. After a week of feverishly scouring the internet for pictures of other blades I came all the way back around and settled on the Swift. Unfortunately my engraving plan wouldn't work as Marion, unfortunately, had passed. After a debate about the handle scales, I placed my order, sent my money. And waited.
About a month later, a package arrived and inside was the Swift. The moment I took it out of its pouch I was enthralled. It was so thin, so clean, so smooth to the touch. The backspacer, and I am guessing that it is one, is so flush that I can't even see the seams between the pieces, let alone feel them. The blade is centered perfectly, ground perfectly, has a screaming and uniform edge. The bolsters gleamed. The transition between materials was absolutely glass-smooth. The lock worked marvelously. The blade had no blade play. It cut paper so cleanly and silently that I had to watch it pass through the material to make sure I was cutting it. Simply put the fit and finish was many times better than what I had seen in any other knife in my collection.
There is a maxim in high end audio that I think applies well to other things--the 10/100 rule. I have mentioned it before, but just in case you missed it, it is something like this: the rational limit on a purchase is when you get a 10% increase in performance for 100% more money. It works in cars, woodworking tools (curse you Festool!), and knives. Until I got the Swift. The fit and finish here is not 10% better, but something like 10 times better. It so good I cannot figure out how Scott did some of the things he did on the knife (like that backspacer).
But the knife is only half the story here. As beautiful as it was, I had intended it to be engraved. I really wanted to have one knife in my collection that stood out and inched me ever closer to the Art Knife World. Raymond Cover, one of the better known engravers in America, agreed to do some work on the knife, completing what I had envisioned for the blade all those years ago.
We went back and forth with a few different designs and in the process I learned a bit about ornamental engraving. In the end I went with McKenzie scroll, which is a variant of "banknote" engraving. The effect in pictures is very pleasing to the eye. The effect in person is stunning. To imagine that all of this shape and depth exists in a barely three dimensional plane is insane. Then realizing that someone did all of this work not by addition, but by subtraction only is truly incredible. Engraving, of course, adds zero functionality to the knife, but with a knife like this, function is secondary.
It almost pains me to write that, but variety is important. It is also important to push your boundaries a bit and this knife does just that in a hundred different ways. I couldn't be more pleased with the final results. The blade itself from Mr. Sawby is spectacular, breathtaking, and something of a puzzle. The engraving from Mr. Cover just sets the whole thing off. There is nothing left undone here and the entire package is one gorgeous piece of cutlery.