Let me say, I know going in that this review is not going to help tamp down my reputation as terrible Gear Enabler. Sorry, everyone's wallet. Blame me.
This blog is a lot of fun to write. There is a bit of organization that is required and running the blog for years has honed my organizational skills. I now have a relatively well-laid out plan setting out the order in which pieces will be published. Then something happens, like the release of the Massdrop x Ferrum Forge Gent, and I am reminded of one of my absolute favorite quotes:
“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
The-Bard-of-Our-Times, Mike Tyson, uttered these brilliant and insightful words in a lead up to a match in which he was facing an allegedly superior opponent with more agility. Reporters, in one of the many scrums leading up to the fight, asked Iron Mike if he thought his opponent would win because of his plan and his superior lateral movement. That is when Tyson busted out the above quote.
The best part of this quote is that it applies to all kinds of things in life. In prepping for trial, especially with a younger lawyer, I always used the quote to explain why all of the binders of preparation and all of the motions in limine don’t really matter. Once the gavel drops and witnesses get on the stand, crazy stuff happens and preparation goes out the window. Similarly when raising kids—my wife and I are probably closer to the “Planner” end of the spectrum, but when a 4 month old wakes you up in the middle of the night for a diaper change only to defecate again all over the wall once you get him naked to change said diaper, you realize that Tyson was right.
Sure, sure there are more articulate versions of this saying, such as—no plan survives contact with the enemy—but they all lack of the odd combination of elegance and crudeness that this quote has. This brings me to the Massdrop x Ferrum Forge Gent. I acquired this knife solely for purposes of having a well-rounded reviews library with no real thought to the fact that I might like it. Sure, it had decent specs, but so do dozens of other knives released in this epic third wave of the Golden Age of Gear. The Gent, however, has proven to me that there will never be a substitute for real, in-hand experience. Spec beasts catch your eye, but great design captivates your hand. And there is no question—the Gent is a great design.
Here is the product page. The first drop sold out. A second drop is in the works with two new scale colors—blue and olive green. It is scheduled to close on April 1, 2018 (no joke). The Gent costs $80. Here is a written review. Here is a video review. Here is my video overview.
And here is the review sample:
Twitter Review Summary: Is this the best production knife available?
The Gent does great things both big and subtle. There is an amazing amount of details that are just right. There are big things that are just perfect. This knife is one amazing feature after another. Let’s go big first. The flipper tab design is the best I have seen. It is easy to engage, responsive, and thanks to a lack of jimping, does no damage to your finger even after repeated use (which, given how smooth and kinetic the action is, going to happen). Along with the Mantra’s flipper, this is the best in the business. Then there is the fact that this is a flipper with a true choil. Yep, if you want to choke up you totally can. And unlike a lot of choils this one seems pretty intentional. The letterboxed G10 is excellent, giving the knife a clean look and a bit of three dimensionality. The drop point here is just right too—utility embodied. Like I said, the Gent racks up the big design wins.
But going from great to all time awesome requires mastery of the details as well and the Gent scores here too. Many a great linerlock or framelock fails in terms of access to the lock bar. Sometimes the designer just forgets about this entirely. In other instances the cut out is so big it wrecks handle ergos. But here, there is just a slight reveal—not a bother grip-wise, but also perfectly enough to quickly and surely disengage the lock. The pocket clip’s upturned end is just right, enough to allow you to thoughtlessly push the knife into a pocket but not so much that it snags stuff. Again and again, the details are spot-on.
The knife’s size is just right and the performance ratios are very good, reflecting that “just right” feel in numbers. The b:w is a very nice 1.25. Anything over 1:1 is nice, so that number is certainly good. The b:h is .83. That is truly remarkable. The b:h on the record holder, the Al Mar Hawk Ultralight is .84. This is a very well designed and perfectly sized knife.
Fit and Finish: 2
I am aware that some Gents came a bit off centered, but mine exhibits none of those tendencies. Overall, this knife is flawless. I got mine in trade and it had a resharpened edge, so I can’t speak to out of box sharpness (which is useful only as a metric of how much the maker’s care, not as a benchmark of performance). However, the rest of the knife was so meticulous that I can’t imagine the out of box edge being atrocious. The slight chamfer added to the spine of the knife is a sign—no finishing step was overlooked.
A quick aside is necessary here—WE Knives have put out some amazing stuff. WE Knives is the OEM here for Massdrop and Ferrum Forge. This is the third knife of theirs that I have handled and all have been flawless fit and finish-wise. It used to be that on Chris Reeve was consistently this good, but between Reate, Kizer, and WE Knives, as well as Taichung Spydercos I am really at a loss to describe just how good these blades are. The Mini Bodega from Reate was drop dead amazing. But this and the WE Knives Valiant have been just as well executed. I think it is time that we recognize that the bar as been raised.
Unlike a lot of knives that run a choil, the Gent’s design doesn’t REQUIRE you to use it. If you do, great; if not no big deal. The balanced and simple handle design does really well in hand and the letterboxing makes the knife feel meatier than it is. This tiny trick is a good one because most 3D handles are really nothing more than extra fat handles with a bit of rounding. If you are especially attentive you will notice that even the tiny G10 onlays have a bit of rounding to them because, well, no details were overlooked here.
When a knife has a 3 inch blade weighs 2.4 ounces it is going to carry well, pretty much no matter what, but to get into the “Elite Carry” tier of knives, the blade has to do something extra special. Here we have two things—the entire handle and spine are nicely chamfered and the flipper is not oddly shaped or unnecessarily large. The end result is a knife that slides in and out of the pocket with ease and carries like its not there, up until the moment you need it.
S35VN is the new AUS8–its everywhere. Its on US-made knives. It is on overseas-made knives. It is on cheap knives like the TBFK and expensive knives like the Steelcraft Mini Bodega. It is everywhere. But that doesn’t mean it is bad. S35VN is an excellent balance of the four main attributes of steel—hardness, toughness, corrosion resistance, and ease of sharpening. If you want a thoughtless steel S35VN is it. In use I am not sure how much difference there is between this steel and more expensive steels like M390 or CTS-XHP, so the logic of paying a premium for those steels is on weak ground. Good choice for this knife and a good way to keep the Gent under $100 without sacrificing much quality.
Blade Shape: 2
That Bob Loveless guy, he got so many things right and this blade shape, the drop point, is chief among them. In terms of general utility tasks, I’d take a drop point over anything else. Here the drop point is quite nice looking too—just the right amount of drop. Not much to mull over here—its great.
I am impressed with WE Knives. For all their embellishment and gilding, they still get this crucial part of the knife correct. Some of these TFF are just fidget tools that can, under some limited circumstances, cut things. All three WE Knives I have had cut well and the Gent is probably the best of them. Thin grinds work well.
Deployment Method: 2
The Gent does everything very very well. Its a superior knife in every respect, but here, it really pulls ahead of the field. This is the best flipping action I have ever seen on a production knife ever. It is better than the Shirogorov Neon. It is better (or at least equal) to the flipping action on a Norseman. This gem, riding on ceramic bearings, flips effortlessly, yet, is still centered and still has a strong and functioning detent. Getting the just right feel on flippers is incredibly difficult to do and most knives fall down somewhere—requiring a wrist flick or having a half-functioning detent. Yet the Gent, this small, unassuming knife made by three different players in the knife game, just nails it. It will be a long time until something flips better than the Gent.
It was so good I thought the blade had some blade play in it. I checked and lo and behold it did. I disassembled the knife, tightened the pivot, and put it back together. There was zero blade play. I was sure the flipping action would stink. But it didn’t. It was just as silky smooth, just as kinetic, and just as crisp as before. In the end, I can’t think of a better flipper, custom or production, that I have handled. Amazing.
Retention Method: 2
A lot of people have complained about the clip, but the reality is the clip is very good. It does not look like a knife pocket clip and that is a good thing, unless concealed carry is an issue for you (check your local knife laws; this is not legal advice).
Its clean, simple, and effect. It looks very much like a pen pocket clip. It is also an excellent deep carry clip, burying the knife way down in the pocket. Given their single job, it is amazing to me that there are so many different clip designs, but as the Gent proves (yet again) simple is best.
The tiny exposed sliver of the lock bar is just enough to make disengagement effortless. The smooth pivot and fast action make lock up just as easy. And the tight tolerances ensure that there is no blade play. I’d like to reiterate just how much I like a linerlock. Its a framelock without the worry of overtravel. Great lock here.
Overall Score: 20 out of 20; PERFECT
It is not often that I bust on the Perfect moniker and logo, but the Gent totally deserves it. This knife is amazing in every way. I got mine in trade so I wasn’t 100% sure what the final price was from Massdrop. I assumed it was something around $120, which is what I believe the opening price was for the drop (prices go down the more people get in on the drop). When I found out that the Gent actually cost $80 I was stunned. I don’t mention price in reviewed, generally, because I don’t know how to calculate value. If you are a millionaire, a Mini Bodega is not a price prohibitive as if you were a normal Joe. But here the Gent’s price is so extraordinary that I have to mention it. The last frontier of great design, the undiscovered country for these amazing knife makers, is value. This is why Victorinox is still in business more than 100 years later—they make great designs with watch-like attention to detail and they do it for incredible price points. The Gent is there in that same place. This is a great knife, a great design, and, for the first time in this Third Wave of the Golden Age of Gear, a great value. At this point, in March of 2018, the Overall Gear of the Year Award is the Gent’s to lose. I do not envy the competition trying to catch the Gent. That will not be an easy task.
We are in elite territory and for me the two major competitors are the Spyderco Chaparral in FRN (review coming, as well as shoot out) and something much pricier in the form of the Benchmade Mini Grip. They all come in around the same size and weight, all three exhibit superior iterative designs. And all three have very good steel. One of these three is probably the best production folder for most people interesting in (but not crazy about) knives.