Entirely handmade. The blade, the handle, the pivot, even the screws. This is as close as you can get to the knife equivalent of Milton Friedman's Single Source Pencil. And like that pencil, if you think about it, the Yuna EQ-1 is the perfect symbol of the power of global markets--there is enough profit to entice a maker in Southeast Asia to produce knives that are entirely handmade.
Yuna's stuff has been well received by folks all across the IKC. The problem, inherent with their appeal, is availability. When you are making everything down to the screws, you can't exactly speed through the process. I am not a huge fan of the corrugated appearance, but I can tell you that the zombie-slaying, hyper-aggro look is easily made up for by the insanely great blade and grind. For the longest time I couldn't find a Yuna that appealed to me, in part because of the designs and in part because of the size of most Yuna blades. Then an EQ-1, one of his smallest designs came up on the USN. I swooped in and bought it up. After about two years, I sold it, and then, in a fortuitous moment, I got it back. Now four years after I initially bought the EQ-1, I am ready to review it.
Here is the product page. The Yuna EQ-1 costs roughly $825 new, but more on the secondary market. There is a huge wait list if you order direct from the maker (so long that I stopped keeping track of it years ago). They are exceptionally rare hence no written reviews (other than an old one written by yours truly during my first ownership of this knife, found here) . Here is a video on a Yuna from Jim Skelton.
Here is my review sample:
Twitter Review Summary: The sexiest grind ever.
The design is quite nice, but for the ugly and primitive looking corrugations on the handle scale. They do an excellent job of providing grip and Yunas can be had without them. I would have much preferred a normal slab of gray G-10 or, if I had the choice, a nice swirly chunk of desert ironwood. Still, I am not sure if it is fair to deduct a point for something that: a) is an option; and b) looks ugly but works well. One design choice that is a negative is the custom pivot screw. I have the custom pivot tool, but really, I just can't ever understand the case for a custom pivot.
In the hand the EQ-1 is a master class in performance. The handle shape, the blade's spine, and the grind combine for one wicked cutter. Its amazing how everything just works on the EQ-1 despite the lack of a finger choil. Knives this small (see: Dragonfly II or Roadie) almost always need a choil for there to be anything like a functional grip, but here, thanks to some careful space management and good shapes, the EQ-1 just works. The design is quite good and the knife really works despite being minuscule.
Specs matter here because each knife, while of the same model, is unique in some way. My EQ-1 has a blade length of 2 3/8 inches. It has a handle of 3 3/8 inches. It weighs 2.22 ounces. The blade:weight is 1.07 and the blade:handle is .70. The performance ratios are decent, largely because the knife is so tiny and thoughtfully made, but they are deceptive. The blade fits so nicely in the handle that you get a relatively tall blade in a comparatively short package. So the .70, while accurate is not representative of the magic that is the EQ-1. This is exactly what you want to see. One thing that is hard to capture fully with the numbers, is the amount of blade that is crammed into the handle. Here, because the thumb studs are the blade stops both in the open and closed position, there is no wasted interior space. It is a design trick I have seen on a few knives, like the flawed but interesting Surefire flipper, but no knife employs this trick more effectively than the EQ-1. The end result is a very generously sized blade for the handle.
Fit and Finish: 2
There is nothing overly sophisticated here--no crazy inlays or gee whiz floating backspacers. On the custom knife scale, this is miles away from the gleaming, liquid appeal of the Sawby Swift, but at the same time, this knife has no flaws at all. If the Swift was the standard for a 2, everything else I own, and 99.9% of knives I have handled would score a 1. That's no fun, nor does it make any sense. Think of this knife as the finest Strider you have ever held--it has basically the same materials and design. The finish on the blade is superb, a high polish satin that really jumps out and catches the light. The heavy matte finish on the titanium is nice, and the dots of anodization on the handle are excellent.
I can't say I like the look of the G10 scale, but at the same time I can say definitively that I like how it feels in the hand. This is a great grip and the cuts and curves are all perfect. The index notch is in the right place, and the tapered "neck" (the portion between the index notch and the spine of the blade) is just perfect, giving the user a real sense of control and responsiveness.
The jimping is also a wonderful thing. It has that bulky, Hummer look, but its nicely finished, riding the line between comfy and grippy in just the right way.
If you look at some of the more exotic Yuna knives, they look like they'd be killer both on your hands and in the pocket. They are these monstrously complex and angular shapes. The EQ-1 bears only the name in common. This is as good a pocket companion as one could imagine and sits well in a coin pocket or clipped to the lip of your pocket. Even in the breast pocket on a dress shirt, the EQ-1 behaves. This is one of the inherent advantages of a small knife--it carries well enough that you will take it with you. And in the end, that's why we have knives--to use. Or at least that was the case before Instagram.
Most Yuna knives now run M390, but this EQ-1 sports a blade of beautifully finished ZDP-189, which is quite remarkable. Generally speaking, only knives made in Japan have ZDP-189 (the same is true with Super Blue, White steel, and SG2). The reason is simple: Japan has strict export rules that limit how much of these steels can be shipped out of the country. I would imagine Yuna's tiny amount of steel didn't run afoul of the export rules. Whatever the reason, the end result is a gorgeous blade that has remained sharp for years. ZDP-189 is still, close to 15 years after its debut, one of the best steels on the market. 3% carbon and 20% chromium in an ultra-clean powder formula will tend to produce remarkable edges.
Blade Shape: 2
This is a very good blade shape--a drop point, sorta, with a very good landing strip for your thumb. This allows you to place a ton of pressure on the edge and really choke up on the knife.
The end result is a knife that moves deftly in the hand and through a wide variety of material. The blade shape definitely helps get a full four fingers on the knife.
There are two things that make this grind incredible--one performance based, and the other just for looks.
This is the most hollowed out hollow grind I have ever seen. The end result is a thickness behind the edge that is incredibly slim. That, coupled with the ZDP-189, gives you an edge that lasts forever and cuts like a demon. In many ways these two things (plus the size of the knife) make this the custom equivalent of my beloved Dragonfly II--easy in the pocket, great in the hand, and eternally sharp.
But the grind here is something more than just utility. This is one of only handful of knives that I can think of where the grind is really and truly beautiful. Knife knuts like you and I can appreciate the fineries of a Jarosz grind--balanced from side to side, crisp plunge lines, and a perfect grinder satin. But for a non-knife person those details might be missed. But here, the grind is so scooped out and the actual finish on the blade is so different that I have received comments from a few non-knife folks. Its hard not to stare at a grind this aesthetically pleasing.
Deployment Method: 2
The thumb studs are huge. They are blade stops in both directions--opened and closed--so they need to be a certain size. But the size is also perfect for coin flipping this knife open. Over the years that I have owned the EQ-1, the pivot has broken in to something that is fluid and quick. A nudge from my thumb and the knife is open. The detent is good too, giving you some real resistance. Overall, this is about as good as thumb studs get.
Retention Method: 2
Dear Custom Knifemakers,
Are we done with the sculpted clip yet?
The PTLTUCKFROTIG (People that Like to Use and Carry Knives for reasons other than Instagram)
I am not a fan of sculpted clips. They may have a certain "high quality" look to them, but by in large they are a waste, making it much more difficult than it needs to be to clip a knife to your pocket. Here, cooler heads prevailed and we get a simple, effective, and stylish spring clip. And because this is a Yuna, there are some interesting details and some contouring here, giving the clip some visual and mechanical interest. It didn't need it, but it sure looks cool. Highly functional clip and neat to look at to boot. Excellent.
Okay, I am going to totally blow your mind. This is a knife that runs, ready for this, a framelock made of...titanium. Yeah, so its not exactly new, but again, its handmade. And it works very well, snapping into place with authority and disengaging with the right amount of pressure. There is a large decorative pivot that acts as an overtravel stop. Overall, its a very solid lock with no blade play in any direction. It could have just as easily been a liner lock and I would have been happy.
Overall Score: 20 out of 20
This is not a perfect knife. The corrugated handle scale is not the most eye-pleasing design. But beyond that, I have nothing to complain about with the EQ-1. Its basically a handmade Dragonfly II in ZDP-189 so you know I am going to like it. It is also the most staid and practical light in the Yuna Knives line up, a high performance Honda Accord amid a product catalog of Batmobiles. The action on the pivot is damn good and the lock works well. The clip is one of the better clips out there and the clever space savings afforded by the triple purpose thumb stud is really great on a knife this small. But all of this play second fiddle to the grind. This is a grind with a knife built around it. It is incredibly hard to overstate just how spectacular the grind is. Its deep and refined, leaving a cutting edge that is super keen and especially responsive. Its on par with the best grinds I have used--the Le Francais and the Spyderco Chaparral. This is just an all-around excellent knife. If you can find one and you prefer customs that are made for non-gorilla hands, you should pick one up.
There are a few good small customs out there. I am a bit partial to the Gareth Bull Small Shamwari. I also like the Southard Downing, though I have never handled one. The problem with comparing the Yuna to another knife is that they are so rare and so unique it doesn't really make sense. The Shamwari is a more practical knife, but this knife exudes a soul like no other. I'd probably grab the Shamwari 5 out of 7 days in a week, but that's not because this is a bad knife at all. And those 2 days that I carry this knife I will probably be transfixed by the grind.