With only a few major releases out so far in 2019 things are looking ferociously competitive already. The EZC from Monterey Bay Knives follows on the heels of the Minipin and its release in mid-January was a starter’s pistol for the year in EDC knives. Followed quickly by the first true production run of the Triple Aught Design Compact Dauntless (from Hinderer with his Tri-way pivot no less), these two releases are quite compelling and we are like 45 days deep into the year. Rave reviews from folks on the Spyderco Subvert seem to indicate that 2018 was not an anomaly. Knives are just getting better, period. Ain’t nothing wrong with that at all.
Monterey Bay Knives is a joint venture between Carmel Cutlery, a brick and mortar knife store (always support your local knife store) and Ray Laconico. Ray is a busy guy right now with everyone trying to get a few of his designs into production. He also happens to make some really strong customs, raising his game on a regular basis. The key here is two-fold: a clean, almost icy cool aesthetic and really great utility. The Keen from Massdrop was an IKC darling earning praise from Nick Shabazz and Cedric and Ada. The Gemini has been one of Kizer’s best and best selling knives for a long time. But these knives were a bit bigger than I need or like. The EZC, with its drop dead gorgeous drop point, is right in my knife wheelhouse, size-wise—3 inch blade with a 2.8 ounce carry weight.
Here is the product page. The EZC was a limited release. It was designed by Ray, produced by Carmel Cutlery, and made by Kizer, I think. There are no variants, but given how fast it sold out I would imagine there will be new and maybe different runs in the future. Here is a video review from Average Bros. This is the first written review. Here is my review sample (purchased with my own money):
Twitter Review: Pretty darn close to the Platonic Ideal of the TFF (Titanium Framelock Flipper).
So clean it looks like it was designed in a chip manufacturing room, the EZC makes quite a first impression. Yes, it is just one of eight dozen different TFFs but in many ways this knife avoids the mistakes that are so common to the form. First, the design is unique. You know this is a Laconico design without having to fumble around to find the logo (note: always in the same, and correct, spot—the spine). Second, it is not garishly large or massively thick. So often TFFs are good a flipping and bad at cutting thanks to a comically large blade. Not here. This is a knife that still cuts.
The performance ratios are both very good, not the absolute best, but nothing slouchy. The b:h is .75 hitting the b:h Golden Ratio thanks to a 3 inch blade and a 3 3/4 inch handle. The b:w is 1.07. For a all metal knife with no internal milling the 2.8 ounce weight is impressive. This is a knife where every aspect has been carefully and thoughtfully considered.
Fit and Finish: 2
Stuff coming out of China today is just so incredibly good that it is almost a given that it will be flawless. The EZC is no exception. After nearly a month of carry and use I cannot find a single flaw, errant tool mark, or uneven surface. That said, in terms of degree of difficulty, this isn’t the Steelcraft Mini Bodega or a complex Hinderer. I suppose with so little going on visually, any flaw would stand out, but it might be time to modify the fit and finish score to indicate both how well something was made and how difficult it was to make it, sort of like they do in diving. Supposing this change makes sense, the EZC would score high on finish but low on degree of difficulty. Either way, still a two.
With nothing like jimping anywhere or even a bird’s beak (for more on birds see “Carry” below) at the rear of the knife, I was concerned that the EZC was going to be in the “bar of soap” bin in terms of grip, but its not. The titanium is blasted just right, the shape is good, thin enough to get your entire hand around the knife, and, in a true masterstroke, the clip, which is almost always a hindrance, really helps things along here.
As its name suggests, you will be hard pressed to find an easier on the pocket TFF than the EZC. It glides in and out of the pocket with ease, thanks to a NON-exposed rear tang. Its eased edges and straight handle make it a delight to pull out and push into your pocket. And the sculpted clip has just the right amount of spring to it. And then there is the weight—at a paltry 2.8 ounces, this is a knife that doesn’t feel like a pocket pendulum at all. Also note in the picture above how much the pivot end of the knife looks like a surprised metal parakeet or the weird chicken Hei Hei from Moana (which is a surprisingly great movie—great message, beautiful visuals, great performance by the Rock and some LSD inspired moments with a jewel encrusted crab).
S35VN doesn’t have the best edge retention in the world, but it is fine. The real power of the steel comes from its all around goodness combined with an sharpenability that makes its older brother, S30V, envious. I could go on, but I am fairly certain that you, as a reader of this site, know the deal with S35VN.
Blade Shape: 2
One thing that I have not been blown away by with Laconico collabs is their droopy blade shape. It is just a bit off on the Jasmine and the upcoming Yorkie seems sad too. But here, we have a perfect rendition of the custom and one hell of a beautiful drop point. For me, I like a drop point that is about 1/4 of the blade’s height below the line of the spine. That gives you a good deal of belly (unless the maker starts the curve too close to the point, see: Lionsteel SR1) and doesn’t have that sad trambone look to it. This is ideal, in my book—a great looking blade that works well too.
The stock here is medium thick for an EDC folder but it tapers down quite nicely thanks to a well rendered full flat grind. The EZC proved slicey, at the top of the second tier. But the blade thickness also made me feel okay doing harder tasks with the EZC. It wasn’t something I was worried about, which, with knives like Neutron, I could get some cut anxiety when approaching especially beefy cutting tasks.
Deployment Method: 2
The flipper here, like the rest of the knife, is a master class in good design. Its not too big and not too small. It is the right shape for good traction and yet it does not resort to the classic design crutch—jimping. This is just an excellent flipper tab and the deployment, largely because of it, is smooth, crisp, and addicting (see more on this below).
Retention Method: 2
The clip is beautiful, with a groove down the center repeating the groove found on the handle itself. That is not all that uncommon for sculpted clips. What is uncommon is the perfect amount of spring tension and the fact that the clip actually AIDS, as opposed hinders, in grip. I like this clip a lot and for me, given that it is a sculpted Ti clip, that is saying quite a bit.
With good fit and finish, usually comes a good lock, and here there is no exception to that heuristic. For lock fetishists that prefer ultra-early lock up (which is silly, BTW), this is not your jam, but for the rest of us, the solid engagement between the blade the lock is sturdy, easy to engage, and easy to disengage.
This is the best “wedge” style opening I have seen on a liner lock or frame lock. By that I mean there is no relief cut in the handle that allows you to push the lock out of the way from the side. Instead, in order to preserve the beautiful lines, you have to wedge your thumb into the blade well and disengage the lock that way. Most wedge-style locks are terrible and yet, with a bit of forethought and excellent tolerances Laconico, Monterey Bay, and Kizer (I think) nailed it here. The cutouts on the bottom of the handle help, but really this is all about how nice the lock is.
Really excellent job here by Ray Laconico, Monterey Bay Knives and whoever made the knife (Kizer).
Fidget Factor: Very High
While not as swift and effortless as the Brian Nadeau designed Micro Typhoon, the EZC has a real kinesis to it, a pull and a snap that lets you feel the detent working and gives you a sense of mechanical systems working. The knife is addicting in a fundamental way. I challenge you, as a knife guy, to drive in stop and go traffic with this in your car and not fire it open a few times. Of course, pay attention to the road too.
Fett Effect: High
While the stonewashed blade shows almost nothing, that is the purpose of the finish. The blasted handle and clip do acquire the taletell snail trails of titanium and over time will likely come to mellow into something like a stonewashed finish, much like has happened with my Small Shamwari. Given how good the knife is, it is likely to be around long enough for folks to find out.
At $180 for S35VN and Ti, this is not a bad deal, but the Neutron is $20 less and has better steel. Not only that, it is made in the USA. The Gent, even the fancy version, is the same materials for $80 less. This is a persistent problem on the value front—the Neutron is so amazing for a domestically produced knife and the Gent is equally compelling on the value front for an overseas made knife. But still there are knives like the Spyderco Brouwer out there that are mystifyingly expensive for what you get. So we end up neither foul nor fair here—somewhere in the middle.
SImply because there is no place else to mention it, I thought I would bring up another point here—knife packaging has gotten WAY out of hand. The Russian doll box within a box here was a little silly, a gauche touch for a simple knife. Even for a gleaming, kilobuck custom this was overblown. I can’t help but think that all this packaging, the padded knife case, and the laser cut logos on the cardboard add a great deal of cost. I was a fan of Strider’s original packaging—clear zip lock baggy. If it is between the EZC at $180 or $170, I’d rather go for the cheaper option sans packaging baloney. I don’t want to hear the marketer’s refrain—“Oh this is an experience...this is why there are a lot of people that make and watch unboxing videos. Packaging is a fundamental part of how a consumer interacts with products these days.” Lots of people can’t find France on a map too, making me skeptical of wisdom of masses-type logic. I don’t care how many unboxing videos there, of which I have watched ZERO ever, packaging adds cost without adding function or performance. And it is wasteful. I now have two piles of EDC detrius—unused padded knife cases and terrible friction fit pocket clips. Bring back the clear zip lock baggie or, alternatively, send the knife is something I can reuse like a tiny Otterbox. If I were an environmentalist the rant here would be even longer and significantly more preachy.
Overall Score: 20 out of 20
This is a knife, price blind that runs well with the Massdrop Gent, my current go to flipper benchmark. When you drop in the additional $100 on the price tag, its hard to say that the EZC is a perfect knife despite the 20/20 score. That said, over and over again, from the delightful clip to the great lock design, its clear that Laconico is one of the best knife designers on the planet right now. This is a knife for people that revel in details and despite the ultra clean look there are many of them and they are wonderful. Its one cool design easter egg after another here and your first look at the EZC is merely an appetizer for what, over time, becomes a case study is superior knife design. I am not willing to drop the perfect label here because of the value and competition, but this is one of the best knives I have reviewed in a long time and given the run we are in right now, since basically 2017, that is high praise. If you want a thoughtlessly excellent TFF, get the EZC. If you want the most refined and pocketable of Laconico’s productions, get the EZC. If you want a classy but not snooty folder, get the EZC. I really can’t think of someone that likes knives that wouldn’t be happy with one of these blades.
Competition at this price point and with this kind of design (TFF) is pretty intense. There are a half dozen WE Knives that compete, a dozen Kizer knives that compete (and both will have released two more by the time you finish reading this sentence). The Gent is an obvious comparison point and as mentioned above, its significantly less. The EZC is a bit classier than the Gent with its hyperclean look and nicer pocket clip, but it is not so much better that the EZC’s price is justified. I also think that the Spyderco Chaparral, one of the classy ones like the CF version or my favorite Chap, the Raffir Noble version, are similarly sized and equally nice. In the end, despite a lot of competition, the EZC’s stark appearance and excellent blade make it more than just another TFF. Its not better than the Gent, but it is nice enough and unique enough that it doesn’t automatically lose in the comparison. This, folks, is the value of superior design.