Just leaf through our pages and you’ll find ads by the big names in blades. They make outstanding knives, and their array of new models for 2013 is impressive. But this time I wanted to showcase some of The Other Guys in the knife world; some start-ups, some lesser known, and at least a few I’ll bet you’re going to see a lot more of in the future. Enjoy!
No, Hallmark Cutlery is not a teensy division of the greeting-card giant, but since they teamed up with custom knifemaker Sean Kendrick, sales of production models of his “Bad Blood” designs are reaching giant proportions. The Harbinger is one; a hefty hand-filler with a 4″ bead-blasted blade of 8cr14 steel in a pretty and practical profile. Thick, textured G10 scales and the solid stainless liners, hardware and pocket clip add up to a heck of a bargain for about $50!
SCAR Blades is a small family and friends operation in the Rockies; an outfit that grinds, tempers and finishes every knife by hand. One of those friends is John Luthy, a former Marine, Iraq veteran and dedicated outdoorsman who put all his experience into the beefy, highly versatile Papa Bear. It can bushwhack, skin, dress, chop, dig, slice and more. You’ll have to go to the website and watch his video to appreciate the thought that went into every angle and feature, the differential heat-treating and multiple grip options — it’ll make you a believer!
Springing from a background of biomechanics, art and precision machining, Jason Brous drew early praise from serious customers with a stealthy, 1-piece little neck knife called the Silent Soldier. Now rapidly-growing Brous Blades offers several designs including, by popular demand, a folding framelock version of his original called the Silent Soldier Flipper. Carbon fiber scales and titanium liners complement a 2.7″ double-ground, double-swedged blade of D2 tool steel you open by pushing the flipper like a button — a fast, fierce little folder.
About a year ago Jared West, the mad wizard of Mantis Knives, put Mantis on autopilot and dropped off the radar. He just popped back up, having invented the all-new super-strong and smooth ORB pivot system and a new knife company: Quartermaster Knives. The QTR-4 Hannibal is the biggest of ‘em, and it’s a monster! Eleven inches long opened, it has a 5″, 5mm thick modified tanto blade of 154CM, an extremely strong lock-up, and an unbelievably agile action. Pull this one out and it will either spark instant conversation — or screaming panic!
The TOPS Knives name is becoming better known but in my opinion is still “under-appreciated” for the brute strength and quality of their work. Now, every knife nut ought to own at least one purebred fighter, and the Zero Dark 30 is a fine example of the breed. The 6″ blade of 3/16″ 1095 high carbon steel is ground and balanced to be quick and maneuverable, and the deeply grooved black linen Micarta handle scales assure a solid grip. It’s a knife with many uses, but its lines clearly show its heritage and deadly intent.
Everybody knows Maxpedition Gear, right? But did you know the honcho, Tim Tang, was a knife-knut long before he stitched his first pack? He’s always wanted to design his own every day carry utility folder; a tough, all-around performer priced so every Maxpedition customer could have one — or two. His new FEROX folder has a 3.25″ drop-point blade of 5Cr13 steel, ergonomic fiber-reinforced nylon handle scales, and a slick liner-lock action initiated by either using the ambi-thumbstuds or flippin’ the flipper. You can have it in serrated or plain-edge, in black, green or khaki, for … get this: $29.99!
WEB BLAST EXTRA
In the paper mag we showed you Hallmark Cutlery’s “Bad Blood” Harbinger folder, a hot-selling bargain-priced version of a Sean Kendrick custom design. Here’s one of his most popular fixed-blade models in the Bad Blood line, the Partisan Nano. At an overall length of 8 7/8″ with a 3 ¾” blade, it doesn’t seem very “nano” to me, but instead, just about right for a do-all, go-anywhere sized cutter. The blade is 8cr14 stainless, and the nicely contoured handle scales are subtly textured G10. There’s a good parking place for your thumb just forward of the handle, and gripping options for both close-cutting and free-swingin’, plus a lanyard hole if you want to stuff it somewhere deep in its fiber-reinforced nylon sheath, then yank it out with a pull on a cord. This one’s a bargain too, listing at $72.
Here’s another coupla views of John Luthy’s Papa Bear from SCAR Blades. I wanted to show you the kydex sheath that comes with it too; a minimum-bulk, versatile and secure design. Have you been to SCAR’s website yet to see John’s video on the Papa Bear? Definitely do that. Pay particular attention to the grip options and their uses. You’ll see what I mean by the thought that went into every angle and feature. The differential heat treating he specifies, for example, keeps the cutting edges suitably hard, the heart appropriately ductile for lateral strength, and the top flat softer and tougher to withstand hammering and “batonning” to split kindling without chipping or shattering the blade. Yeah; I’ve done that. More than once.
I’m not impressed with blades designed on the basis of “Hey, this looks cool and kinda edgy” versus those borne from a lot of experience carrying out field chores with `em. In this respect, John Luthy reminds me of Paul Scheiter, designer of the Blackbird SK-5. John designed his Papa from practical experience in the Rockies and Iraq. Paul designed his Blackbird from tons of experience in the tangly-woods and riverbottoms of rural Missouri. Both came up with blade profiles you might call “conventional” and even boringly “plain.” That’s often the case with thoughtful designers (as well as unimaginative morons). Ya know why?
Simple. Many “conventional” profiles only became conventional because over ten or 100 or 1,000 generations, humans found these to be the most effective and utilitarian shapes. The ancient and cutting-edge (no pun) spear-point, for example, has been around since man began pokin’ animals and other men with sharp sticks and then sticks with flaked rocks on one end. It works! Think about that the next time you look at a plain-Jane blade. When you get down near the end of this Web Blast you’ll find a little homage to Paul and his Blackbird. Meantime, check out the Papa Bear!
At a list price of $325, this is one of those knives you have to think of in terms of “value amortized over 20 or 30 years,” and then use the heck out of it! Don’t worry; the Bear can take it.
Oh, yeah; you’re gonna see a lot more knives from Jason Brous in the future. After the debut of his slick, simple one-piece Silent Soldier, his skills and connections with other dynamic youngsters in the industry have flourished. The Reloader Flipper shown here is only his second folding knife, a collaborative design with Mikkel Willumsen. The blade is satin-finished CPM D2 tool steel, featuring a combination of a hollow main grind with a flat tanto-style tip and a thick secondary swedge on each side. You can open it either by using the slot machined in the blade or the integral flipper, and the titanium liner lock is treated with tungsten carbide for less “stickiness” and harder lock surface. Overall length opened is 8.32″, closed is 4.6, and the blade is 3.5″. It weighs four ounces.
The hardware is stainless steel and the action moves on a ball bearing pivot system. Handle scales and backspacer are black G10, and milled grooves provide a firm natural grip. The pocket clip is reversible and allows for a deep-set, tip up carry. He’s only making a limited first run of 500 Reloaders, so if you want one you might have to move fast. List price is $299. If you’re too late, just wait: Jason’s sure to have more designs coming soon.
On the right, that’s Quartermaster’s monstrous 11″ QTR-4 Hannibal again. Just wanted to tell you, since foolin’ around with it a little more, I’m really impressed with the balance Jared West put into this design. It’s a huge folder — I mean, a real attention-getting bruiser — but it’s also surprisingly well balanced and, let’s say, agile for all its bulk and length. Here’s an example:
The blade is 3/8″ thick and almost 6″ (sharpened edge is 4.5″) from its concealed back end to blade tip. That’s a big, heavy folder blade. Now consider the integral “flipper” on the back of the blade only protrudes up 1/4″. Still, you can easily — and lightning-quickly — flick that big blade out to full extension and lock with a casual, negligible motion and almost zero force. Huh… I’m sure that’s due both to a lot of attention to final balance, altering the grind, experimenting with removing and adding mass, etc., plus Jared’s new ORB pivot system, but still, that’s impressive.
On the left is Hannibal’s compact cousin, the short, stout little QTR-1 H.M. Murdock. Jared has designed a lot of small knives right down to coin-sized, but all of them have been impressively functional. The Murdock is no exception.
The CPM 154 blade is 2.75″ long and a stiff, heavy-duty .1875″ thick, riding on the same big ORB pivot system as the Hannibal. It’s smooth, sharp and an efficient cutter, and here’s the best part: Compact-length folders can be very handy in a lot of situations, but my biggest beef with `em is they’re usually too thin from side to side. Without more length to lend stability in the hand, when you bear down to do some serious cutting, short thinner knives tend to yaw and list in your grubby mitt so it’s always trying to go over sideways. Between the full liners, the thick handle scales, the thickness of the blade (translated into need for a wider spacing in this open-construction flushable design) the body of the knife is a full 3/4″ thick. Now that gives you stability when cuttin’!
List on the H.M. Murdock is $88. All Quartermaster knives are USA-made.
If you tend to stray off the paved path now and then, here’s a couple of treats from TOPS Knives: The RUK 16 (Rural & Urban Kit) is a soft suede leather pouch holding a whole handful of useful survival goodies accompanying their little Latitude North 43 knife, a slab of anti-corrosion coated 1095 high carbon steel with a 1.75″ blade. Other contents include a TOPS Pocket Survival Saw, a steel snap link and three feet of para cord, fishing line and hooks, liquid-filled button compass, a Fresnel magnifying card, flat signal whistle, an acrylic signal mirror, fire-starting ferro rod and more. The RUK 16 can be worn around the neck, clipped to a belt or pack, or tossed in your go-bag. It lists for $47.95, which is probably less than your life insurance premium.
If you want a more compact “canned” array of “all alone in a lonely place” gear, check out TOPS’ E-16 Kit. It has many of the same goodies found in the RUK, sans the knife (though you also get a razor blade), and it all fits into a palm-sized metal can held sealed and shut with a big heavy-duty rubber band. Check out the other contents on the website. Kits like this are like parachutes: If you need one and don’t have one, you’re probably never gonna need one again.
Every time you write about knives — or any other gear, for that matter — that you haven’t personally tested, all you can do is tell folks what the makers claim about `em and hope they actually “perform as advertised.” I don’t like that much. Heck, I don’t even like it when I can check one out — and it’s a prototype. The production model might not be as good, and in rare cases, it turns out to be junk. When I wrote up Maxpedition’s new FEROX folders, I just had to rely on my faith in Tim Tang that he’d never put out junk. His rep, his integrity, is too precious to him. Still, given their $29.99 price tag and the fact they’re made in China, I was a little uneasy. I know he was trying to keep the price down to where the typical Maxpedition customer could afford one for each Maxpedition bag or pack, but…
Well, between the time I hit “send” on the paper edition and uploading this Web Blast, two FEROX samples arrived, and dudes, what a relief! These handy, solid little cutters just might be the best folders for the bucks in the business! Whew!
Tim musta been hovering over the China operation, because all the tell-tales — smoothness of action, consistency of lockup, lack of wiggle, edge sharpness outta the box, uniformly secured hardware, fit and finish, the whole nine yards — is very well done! The pocket clips are strong and stiff, the fiber-reinforced nylon handle scales are nicely sculpted and textured, and overall performance, like going totally one-handed from the pocket back to the pocket, and opening via either the thumbstud or flipper, is right on the money.
Worried about losing your every-day-carry folder and being knifeless while waiting for a replacement? At this price you can have multiple backups — in different colors, serrated and plain-edge! Good job, Tim!
Remember up top of this mess in the commentary about John Luthy’s Papa Bear knife I mentioned Paul Scheiter and his Blackbird SK-5? This is it, in the photo, with Ontario Knife Company’s nylon sheath and Paul’s handmade leather sheath. It’s been over two years since I discovered and wrote up the SK-5, and I wanted to fill you in on what I’ve been doing with mine.
I’ve used it virtually every day, in the kitchen preparing food, in the shop cutting dang near anything and everything, and in the field for every kind of utility chore. I’ll come back from cutting cardboard, rope, webbing or whatever, diggin’ road-kibble outta my boots, clean it in the kitchen and commence slicin’ vegetables, meat, poultry whatever with it. Then it’s cleaned, put aside and ready to leave again. Besides cleaning and sanitizing it, all I’ve ever done to maintain it is cleaning up the edge with a little $5.99 Lansky Quick-Fix Pocket Sharpener, and once gave it a couple of licks with a DMT folding paddle sharpener. That’s it, folks.
Paul and I have stayed in touch. He’s an interesting kid; a guy who started at a very young age doing stuff like heading out into the tangly-woods with a knife and a couple of matches, never mind those purply storm clouds gathering, telling himself, “Think I’ll just hike `til I’m tired, then, well… survive — or not.” As a result, he has wilderness skills `way beyond his years.
`Member what I said about “every detail, every angle and feature being thoughtfully selected,” even if it looks like the most plain-Jane knife in the world? Go to Paul’s website, check out the SK-5 and watch the video. Then click on “Survival Articles.” Enjoy!
I think if I get hold of a Papa Bear I’ll do the same kinda thing, and report back to you about it, okay?
Finally, a plug for the all-around bestest bushwhackin’, trailblazing, limb-stripping, pruning, brush-cuttin’ tool extant, period: The Woodman’s Pal; introduced to the military in 1941, coveted by soldiers ever since, still handcrafted in Pennsylvania of all-American raw materials.
I’m glad I got this photo when mine were spanky-new, because boy, have I put `em to the test. They’re still 100 percent Good2Go, and I anticipate a century of service, but they ain’t pristine any more. I gave the wood-handled classic to my son, who keeps it handy all the time, and kept the military model for myself. It lives in the back of my Jeep, right next to my trauma pack and field ruck, always ready.
The Woodman’s Pal was originally issued to field radio signalmen and cannon-cockers who found it superior to machetes, hatchets and light axes for clearing operation sites. When Marines started slashing their way through Pacific island jungles, they learned its utility too — and then discovered what a fearsome fighting tool it made in hand-to-hand combat. They even developed a little booklet of fighting techniques for it, and the company offers reprints.
Wouldn’t steer you wrong on this, folks; it’s a terrific tool, deserving far more attention than it gets.
Whoa. I’m done here. Hope you all find something you like.
By John Connor
For more info: www.americanhandgunner.com/product-index and click on the company name.