Tops TIBO Full Review, The Little Knife that CAN!!!

Finally, a TIBO Review!!  This has been a long time coming. I’ve had this knife for many, many months now.  I’ve known the designer, Brian Griffin for several years though a couple forums and Facebook and many mutual friends.  Real stand-up guy who knows his trade and knife design and use incredibly well, one of the absolute best.    Which is one of the reasons this review has been so long in coming.  It’s difficult to be truly unbiased when you’re close to the person whose gear you’re reviewing.    I needed to fully put this knife through its paces to ensure I knew the design well enough to do that objectively.

It's a nice looking and very well handling knife.

It’s a nice looking and very well handling knife.

The Tibo “Which means Stinger” (Which this knife does have a great point) is produced by Tops knives.  There are various runs of the knife, both a carbon steel version and a special limited run of cryo dipped CM154 Stainless.  (Cryo Dipping is a type of tempering at sub -300 degree temperatures rather than room temperature Oil or Water).  This is an excellent technique for hardening stainless steel alloys.   If I remember correctly, there are only 124 of this model of Tibo and all were sold before production.  So you may find it difficult to find one of this model.  I do not own the 1095 steel version available on the website, but after owning other 1095 steel knives from Tops, I’m sure the 1095 Tibo is right on the money with the rest and is identical to this model.

Blade shape lends itself to many functions.  I like using it on fish.

Blade shape lends itself to many functions. I like using it on fish.

Tops does a great job with their knives.  My wife has a Lioness, and I have a HOG, both of which are 1095 carbon steel and came from them with excellent edges right out of the box.  So when I received my Tibo I was surprised to find the final grind was far steeper than on the other knives and it wasn’t nearly as sharp as other knives out of the box.  I played with it for a day or two and decided I’d need to re-profile it a bit.

Late night fuzz sticking

Late night fuzz sticking

So I sat down with my files and stones and spent about 40 minutes lengthening the edge bevel.   I did not measure the bevel, but based on the angles on my other knives and experience, I’d estimate the bevel was around 35 or 38 degrees.  VERY steep for a small knife.   (Sure, this would be a good on a much larger knife used for chopping, but on a small “Finesse” style knife, it was just too steep.   This may have been just a 1 off issue in the limited run, Since I haven’t seen any of the other recipients of this knife make any mention of the issue.

By a nice glow.

By a nice glow.

I took the edge down to around 25 degrees which is where I keep most of my knives.  Just a good balance between sharpness and durability.  From the minute I finished the edge, this thing has been a WORKHORSE cutter that holds an edge extremely well.  It’s one of my favorite fish cleaning knives.  Normally I’m not a fan of “Skeleton” knives and I truly dislike paracord wrapped knife handles.  If a knife was meant to have scales, put scales on it.  Wrapping paracord is a poor stopgap for good quality scales.  For me and the way I use knives, a knife should have good ergonomic scales, and as much as I understand and appreciate the ultralight neck knife concept, It’s just not something I prefer.   I’ll give up a few ounces and a little bulk for a more useful set of scales.

Wonderful belly, makes short work of cutting tasks.

Wonderful belly, makes short work of cutting tasks.

However, for small skinning/cleaning jobs where I won’t be spending an hour cutting so not enough time to develop hotspots and blisters, a skeletonized knife is excellent and easier to clean.  My preferred use for the Tibo is cleaning fish.  The Tibo EXCELS at this task.  It cuts through fish bones like a bigger knife, and the point is “Pointy” enough to start into the flesh without a lot of force and allows you to get between spinal bones easily and zips through skin and flesh.  I’ve always been a fan of the drop point and the shape of this tip is dead on perfect.

Well made kydex sheath.

Well made kydex sheath.

This knife is one of the few knives I own that has a long continuous belly.  Most knives have a long straight edge and then go into the belly near the tip.  The Tibo has a nearly continuous belly that gives it a tremendous cutting surface for a small knife.  The entire belly is useful.  Making this knife operate like a bigger knife.  I have not skinned or cleaned any mammals with it yet, but considering the way it works on fish, I don’t think I’ll have any trouble with rabbits and squirrels or even bigger game.   In cleaning fish, a fairly messy, bloody, “Gutty” job, the purchase with the Tibo is excellent.

tiny tight little curls.

tiny tight little curls.

Now, my one and only con for the Tibo, (And it’s really just a personal thing, it’s not detrimental to the knife as everyone has their own preferences much like serrations) is jimping.  I’m not a fan of jimping, I’ve used knives gutting fish, cleaning animals, (I’ve worked on 2 deer with several knives) and doing wet work on meat and even when covered in blood and guts and fish slime etc., have never had a knife so slick (With blood or guts) that it needed jimping on the spine for grip.  I don’t mind a little light checkered jimping as an “Index point” to let me know where my thumb or forefinger  is on the knife, but big aggressive jimping just isn’t my thing on a knife.  The spine jimping on the Tibo is very aggressive.  (In fact I used it as a saw to cut perfect square cuts in some sticks).  But for just regular use, I would prefer it to not have the spine jimping. (The butt and finger jimping is perfect, not too aggressive, and doesn’t rub under normal or heavy use).  But if you spend a lot of time with your thumb on the back of the spine for fine work, you may find it a bit too aggressive as well.

Excellent for fine work on some good hard dry wood.

Excellent for fine work on some good hard dry wood.

One of the greatest parts of the tibo is the longer, fuller handle for a knife this small.  Most “Mini Knives” or “Neck Knives” have short handles (length and depth) to keep them small and lightweight.  With the Tibo, the handle is respectably long enough for a full purchase and shaped well for a hand filling feel.  One of the best design decisions I’ve seen is to keep a more useful handle.  The larger handle coupled with the nice long full belly of the blade make it work like a bigger knife.  So you still gain the best of both worlds, smaller, lighter knife that works very well for most every task you throw at it.

It is now my backup knife to my HOG, and it’s always in my go bag in the car, and gets put into my day pack when I hit the trails.  (I am thinking of building a custom angled IWB sheath for the Tibo so that it can always be on me.  I’m just not a neck knife guy so I just can’t get used to having it around my neck.

The heat shrink and leather.

The heat shrink and leather.

It comes with a Kydex sheath that is small and perfectly fit to the knife.  Tight enough that there is no wobble and no worry about retention.  Takes a hefty yank to pull it out.  It has a free hole to add a ferro rod clip or to attach it to another sheath.  I was planning on purchasing some aftermarket scales for it, however, I had an idea.  I grabbed some heat shrink tubing from work, cut a piece and shrunk it around the handle. It worked well, but shrunk further than anticipated.  So I cut it off and made a longer piece.  I also cut some leather fillers to put under it.  placed the leather on the handle, slid the tube over it and shrunk it.  This turned out spectacularly.  It gives the handle a little give which makes it incredibly comfortable, and very “Grippy” from a density standpoint.  Not as soft as rubber, which can give too much and cause problems, but not as hard as other materials.  Really good sweet-spot.  It is a non textured heat shrink but good semi-rubbery grip.  However, I’m considering heating up some pliers with crosshatch checkering, and roll them over the handle to add a tad bit of texture.

leather fillers on handle

leather fillers on handle

With the Tube and leather.

With the Tube and leather.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is so sharp and stays incredibly sharp for long periods.  I use it in place of an exacto tool for all of my leather work because it’s ergo’s are better and the curved belly makes it a joy to cut leather with.  I used it to do all the leather work for my Leatherman ALX sheath and it was superior to the exacto tool in every way.

Trimmed to match the sheath.  Perfect fit.

Trimmed to match the sheath. Perfect fit.

Good thickness, barely any thicker than the kydex.

Good thickness, barely any thicker than the kydex.

Finished and trimmed

Finished prior to trimming

If I had to pick a great companion, or small knife, The stainless Tibo would be high on that list.    Hands down this is one of my favorite small cutters.  The ergonomics, all the little details that went into it, all come together to make this an outstanding knife.  I’m waiting for the next run of stainless Tibo’s so I can get them for my boys as well.  (I swear my 16-year-old keeps trying to steal this one LOL).

Jimping on the spine makes great notches.

Jimping on the spine makes great notches.

Here are the specs on the Tibo.  (This is the same for both the 1095 and the CM154 versions).

  • Overall Length: 6.50″
  • Blade Length:        2.75″
  • Blade Thickness:  0.130″
  • Weight:      3.2 oz

The Tibo comes with a Kydex sheath, and there are some great aftermarket sheath and scale options available for it.

If you are looking for that small knife, backup or neck knife or piggyback with your big cutter, then this is a knife you owe it to yourself to check out.

 

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About Docwatmo

Just an average guy reviewing equipment for the average guy (or gal). View all posts by Docwatmo

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