A few days ago, Tony published his review of the Lionsteel Roundhead. There are a few points he makes that I don't find fair, so I disagreed with him in the comments of the original post as well as in this post on Instagram. He then invited me to write a fuller response to his review.
Overall, I agree with him, even the score he gave it (15/20). Most of his points are dead on, especially his overarching argument that the Roundhead is lacking in the charm department. It doesn’t have the joie de vivre of a Northfield #77 or a Canal Street Cutlery Boy’s Knife, and I’m not here to argue otherwise. I’m here to argue that the Roundhead is a fine cutting tool, and in some (not all) respects a better knife than those made by masters of the form like Great Eastern Cutlery.
Tony’s review gives off the impression that the Roundhead captures neither the essence nor the performance of a traditional pocket knife. In my opinion, a more accurate portrayal of the Roundhead would criticize CollectorKnives and LionSteel for tossing out so much of a traditional knife’s charm while acknowledging that the Roundhead, practically speaking, is a superior tool.
The first point that that we disagree on is also an argument that I don’t want to make: honestly, the screws aren’t that bad. Yes, they’re more noticeable than pins; no, they don’t look as good either. Even so, if you set aesthetics aside, the truth is that torx screws are the better choice for maintaining, repairing, or customizing a knife.
There’s a slight caveat, however: you actually have to use torx construction. If you remove the bolsters and covers, you’ll find that the pivot has a torx screw. Great! Most of the time, that’s the only fastener I adjust. Sadly, everything else is pinned together, which takes full disassembly off of the table. If you’re going to go to the trouble of torx construction, Lionsteel, commit to it. This is still a functional improvement over pinned construction, but only just.
Another point of contention lies in his critique of the Roundhead’s profile, in which he likens it to a Melon Tester as opposed to a Barlow. For those not in the know, a Melon Tester (also known as a Melon Sampler or Fruit Sampler) is a long, thin folding knife used to check a variety of produce for quality. Typically, the blade of a Melon Tester measures upwards of 4” and is no wider than .5” throughout. Clearly, Tony’s argument isn’t meant to be taken literally, and even I can see a passing resemblance between, say, A.G. Russell’s Fruit Sampler and the Roundhead. Straight lines and simple curves are going to look similar.
However, the claim that the Roundhead’s blade is too narrow seems unwarranted. When compared to a Northfield #77 (arguably one of the better Barlows available), the proportions are very similar. By my measurements, the #77 and the Roundhead have the same blade-to-handle ratio, and though the #77 is has a wider peak (due to the hump of the clip point), the Roundhead is slightly taller throughout. My anecdotal experience is that both blades are nimble, useful, and worthy of the “jack of all trades” moniker.
My final point isn’t a criticism of Tony’s review, but more akin to an update. The second run of Roundheads was supposed to be thinner behind the edge. I can’t guarantee that such is the case, as I don’t have a Roundhead from the first run anymore (it was traded to Tony, and is the original review sample). I don't remember it being a poor cutter, but it didn't stand out as a great slicer either. However, my second generation Roundhead cuts very well, and seems about as thin behind the edge as my Canal Street Cutlery Boy’s Knife.
A visual check isn’t worth much by itself, so I also used the Roundhead and the Boy’s Knife to slice and core a pair of apples, both of which were Gala apples of the same firmness and size. If there’s a difference in cutting ability between the two, it’s too slight for my faculties to detect.
In closing, I'd like to reiterate that Tony's review is mostly fair. The Roundhead is a boring, by the numbers version of a classic American slipjoint. LionSteel/CollectorKnives made one too many flaws for me to recommend it without reservations. That said, it's still easier to maintain and features one of the best steels available on the market. Boring? Yes. Effective? Absolutely.
EDITOR'S NOTE: I agree with most of Grayson's points, and I appreciate the update. I don't think it warrants a change in score because, as I wrote, a lot of my criticisms are subjective. Grayson is correct--it is a good knife, better than average (hence the 15/20), but it is not close to the knife that the Boy's Knife is nor is it a worthy competitor to something like the Benchmade Proper, which is a knife with a very similar design philosophy (make old new again). I am sure a lot of people like the Roundhead. The steel is good and the pattern is one of the best. But the knife could have been so much better, so much more than what we get now. Compared to a truly inspired Barlow, like the Boy's Knife, the Roundhead just falls short. It is a reminder that even in this age of technical wizardry, skill and craft count for a lot. The Roundhead is good, not great and I don't think Grayson and I disagree on that front.