Category Archives: Knife Reviews

DIY – Leatherman ALX Sheath

2016-09-30-06-59-58I’ve been wanting to do this project for a while.  After my last factory sheath died a horrible death on my belt.  I decided I wanted to build one myself.  I didn’t like the sheaths that were available in other materials besides leather.  But the leather sheaths I found were either custom, and far too expensive for me (Even though I would LOVE to have some of them) but also, the factory sheath didn’t have the features I wanted.  So I set about and designed one of my own.

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This is what I came up with.  Unfortunately I didn’t document the process, I was just in a hurry to knock it out and get it back on my belt.  I had missed it for quite a few months.

The leather is not as heavy as I would like.  This is about 3oz leather.  A heavier 5 oz would be better.  But this is scrap I had laying around (Did I mention I’m a cheapskate LOL).

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The most important thing I wanted was to be able to carry the bit kit with it.  In my first Leatherman sheath the bit kit rode in the sheath in a similar manner, but was always getting stuck and difficult to pull out.  After that sheath broke, the canvas sheath had a stretch fabric to hold the bit kit and the corners of the bit kit tore it up really fast.

This is hand punched and hand stitched.  The snap was from a kit.  This is just the prototype and it has a tiny bit more play than I intended.  So the next will be a tad bit tighter.  I did wet-form it around the weatherman wrapped in a Ziploc bag to get some definition to the sheath, but it could stand to be a tad bit tighter.

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I didn’t have the bottom cut out as I intended to have it sealed, but once I started stitching I discovered that that would not work.  So I cut a half moon on the bottom and that corrected it.  Due to this modification, the Leatherman can be carried opened up in the pliers configuration.

The stitching is done with a waxed natural hemp cord.  This stuff is very strong for it’s size and has the more natural look than modern threading.  I died the leather with a Sedona Red stain.  Helps protect it and the deep redish color makes it fit in well with bot jeans and my dress clothes for work.

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I also extended the belt loop up  a bit. Both of the old sheaths rode high on the belt and would occasionally poke into my side sitting in chairs or in the car.  This longer loop allows it to dangle down a tad bit more and has a little more flexibility.  Much more comfortable to wear.

I did stamp my initials on it, but did not do it very deep.

I’m going to duplicate this sheath with some heavier leather.  This was just the practice and concept version.

It’s obviously nothing fancy.  None of the refinement you’ll see in leather goods produced by true craftsman.  But it gets the job done and as in life, everything is a learning process. You don’t have to be an expert.  You just have to make the effort.

This is also proof that anyone can do this.  A leather punch, some thread, a sharp knife (I use the Tibo from the previous review for all my leather work) a big needle and some cheap scrap leather and anyone can do it.  I learned a few things building this, and when I do the next one, it will be better, and each time I do something after that, it will be better.  So keep working on your projects, they will improve.  I have no talent when it  comes to crafts like this.  If I can do it, anyone can do it.  Pick up some scrap leather and start playing with it.  Make a small bag, or a phone cover or something simply just to get started.  Before you know it, you’ll be making really useful stuff that will last a lifetime.

Hope this inspires you to get out there and build something.

Doc

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

 


CRKT Woods Kangee Tomahawk

Image Courtesy of CRKT

Image Courtesy of CRKT

Finally managed to get around to picking up some new gear to test.  I almost bought a couple of the SOG hawks which I’ve done a little hands on with and liked, but I’ve been eyeballing the CRKT Woods Kangee for some time now.  For the price (About $41) it’s an impressive piece of gear.  It is heavier than the SOG hawks and feels excellent in the hand.  Let’s run down the first impressions.

Field expedient replaceable handle. The primary reason I like hawk designs over most hatchet designs is the ease of replacing the handle in the field.  Yes, you can carve a fancy handle to match A Gransfors Bruks but it will take quite a bit of time.   Also, there is a small amount of extra time involved fitting the head and pinning it with a wedge.  (I have done this in the field and it’s not difficult, but does take some extra work and if you don’t do it well, the head lands in a patch of poison ivy 30 feet away).    Comparatively, you can strip a limb and narrow it down with a knife (Or the head of the hawk, which is VERY comfortable to use on its own) and slide it onto the new handle with a few tweaks.  That being said, yes, the better designed hatchet/axe handles are more comfortable and the angles and bends can give them a little more power and control.  So that is the trade off.  Everyone

Top Edge Notice how different the bevel is than the bottom edge.

Top Edge Notice how different the bevel is than the bottom edge.

Bottom edge is nearly perfect.

Bottom edge is nearly perfect.

has to decide which is more important to them.  If I’m planning on building a small log cabin, I’d prefer a larger dedicated axe.  But just something to keep strapped to my pack for small shelter building or to tear a stump apart to get to some fat wood or even to dig a root out of the ground, the hawk form just has a bit more flexibility.

Hawk vs Axe.  We touched on the hawk vs axe above, but to expand, I like dedicated tools that perform best for some functions.  So in my van when “Car” camping, or setting up a base-camp I always have a full sized axe available for big chopping tasks.  But when I head out on the trail, I don’t want to lug too much weight with me, so I like smaller more multipurpose tools.  This is the primary reason I decided to try out the Kangee.  It’s a bit heavier than most of the hawks out there but still lighter than a full sized ax.   The heavier head gives it an advantage over most hawks when chopping.  The longer handle also gives it a comfortable 2 handed chopping grip.  It also fits well on a pack hung through a carabineer.  The Kangee has a spike on the rear rather than the typical hammer.  I was split 50/50 on whether to get the Chogan model with the hammer or the Kangee with the spike.  So I sat down and decided what exactly am going to do with it in the woods?  The hammer is nice for pounding tent stakes, or pressing some dirt in to level a cook stove, but those are tasks that can be accomplished easily with just a piece of wood.   The spike however is useful for tearing apart wood (To reach fat wood, or if you REALLY need the sustenance, grabbing some grubs) or ripping apart a troublesome knot.  It also works great for digging, (Using it in the frozen ground was excellent.  Could breach ice and frozen dirt far better than a stake).  It works kind of like a mini mattock.  So having used many hatchets with hammer backs over the years, I decided to go with the spike.  Glad I did.  The spike is a great shape for tearing stuff apart.  Fat enough, with a good bevel on the edges.  It REALLY digs in.  (One cautionary note, the Kangee does NOT come with a sheath or holster.  There are some aftermarket kits for it though.  I am in process of building a leather “Bungee” cover for it.  I’ll post that project when it is completed.

The heavier weight and design of the spike makes it dig in deep.

The heavier weight and design of the spike makes it dig in deep.

Spike really tears stuff up

Spike really tears stuff up.  (My oldest boy really enjoyed tearing the stump up with it).

One thing that did disappoint me was the edge.  I’ve been a big fan of CRKT for many years, every knife I’ve ever received from them was shaving sharp right out of the box.  When the Kangee arrived, the first thing I noticed was the bevel was off, (about a 30% difference on one end of the blade, and about 10% on the other.  There was a huge overgrind on one side that left a very large bur along the top 1.5 inches of the blade.   It literally would not cut paper out of the box.  I had to do some work on the blade.  Took about 10 minutes to clear the bur and re-profile the edge so that it was somewhat even on the cutting surface.  This is not a problem for me, I’ve done it on many blades, but if you’ve never worked an edge like this, it could be difficult to get an edge and if you aren’t a big knife guy/gal, you could use this out of the box and not be able to cut anything with it.  I spent a little more time tonight fixing the edge.  It’ll shave but it’s still slightly off.  Most of the fit and finish of the head was outstanding, the hickory handle is fully functional and long enough to get a really full swing out of it even with both hands.  But the quality control on the blade edge bugged me.  I have seen online that this has been an issue on many of the Kangee and Chogan hawks.  Again, it’s not difficult to fix, but it is a little disappointing on a tool coming from CRKT.  I will contact them about this and let you know what I hear.  They have been a good company to deal with in the past, so I’m sure they will handle this well.

My oldest boy using the hawk to fuzz some wood

My oldest boy using the hawk to fuzz some wood

Price, this is what blows me away.  The cost for this hawk ranges from $39 to $50, I paid $42 for mine through Knifeworks.com.  There are a lot of high quality hatchets out there like the Gransfors Bruks, which are outstanding tools.  But for the price, this is really a tremendous bargain.  Will this last as long as a Gransfors?  Maybe, maybe not, but at 1/3rd the cost, you could purchase 3 of these, and if by any chance one finally wears out some

Spike splits a frozen stump really well.

Spike splits a frozen stump really well.

time in the next millennia, you can pull out the new one and keep on truckin and STILL have a spare waiting in wings.   I do like high quality stuff, but I will absolutely jump on something that come close.  Only time will tell if the quality is good enough for a lifetime.  But from

Makes short work of a 3 inch limb quickly.

Makes short work of a 3 inch limb quickly.

initial testing, and what I’ve seen from others.  The quality is outstanding.  Don’t get me wrong, I like high quality stuff.  I REALLY want a Gransfors axe someday, but in the meantime, it’s hard to justify spending that much money on a single tool, when I could get something like this and have enough left over to get another high quality knife or tool.

After spending some heavy cutting time with it, I do have to say it chops like a dream, but being heavier it does wear on you a bit more.  That heavier head does its job very well.

 


Tops HOG 4.5 Review (UPDATED)

I like knives, I have several knives (Understatement warning) and each one has its plus and minus points depending on what I am using it for.  My favorite has been an original Cold Steel SRK that my brother gave me many years ago.  I loved it so much that I never used it.  Kept it like a special keepsake.  A good friend (Thanks Rich, You know who you are!)  Told me a year ago, “A good knife is meant to be used, get out there and use it”. So I started using it and it has been my go to knife ever since.  If you go through the blog history you will see many of the knives I own and use.  I have never done a review on the SRK because, quite frankly it’s not the current model most people could get their hands on.

First of all, a little history.  Well, a couple years ago, I was introduced to the Norseman (Gunnery Sgt. David Williams), long before he retired from the Marine Corps, on the back end of the TSP Forum.  I liked this guy from the outset.  Well spoken, tough as nails with a sense of honor that is far and few between these days.   He was developing a knife he called the “Surviveology” and hand building versions of it.  (There is some great info about the knife in the bio on tops, or on the http://www.survivalhardwarellc.com website, check it out)!  I had wanted one for a long time, but my finances never allowed me to get something at that level of quality custom made.   Along the way, my middle boy got into knives and started designing his own knives on paper.  I wanted to encourage him, so I had him and my oldest boy both draw up knives for me.   They had no idea what was in store.  I copied their designs and sent them to David and he built them to spec and got them back to me in time for Christmas.  (I have to tell you, that was the absolute best Christmas EVER).   Those were the first hands on I’ve had with any of his knives and I was duly impressed.  I’d have to say I don’t know exactly what he does for heat treats, but its freakin magic.  TOUGHEST knives I’ve ever seen.

Time goes by, David retires and moves onto a homestead and starts up www.survivalhardwarellc.com and starts doing these knives and renames it to the H.O.G.  (Hunter of Gunmen) and gets the knife into Tops.  The Tops version is what I have.  Top’s does some amazing work on knives.  (Read the write up on Tops for more details about this knives creation http://www.topsknives.com/product_info.php?products_id=434 ).   And as for the price, you can’t get them any better, however, after my experience with the two he made for my boys, I’d HIGHLY, HIGHLY recommend getting one directly from the maker. Just check out his website and he throws up new knives as he completes them.  I don’t know what Norse magic he puts into them, but they are the hardest, toughest tools I’ve ever used.

But back to the tops version.  I’ve had this knife for a couple months now and have put it through its normal set of paces just by using it for everyday tasks both in and out of the woods.  I don’t “Torture” test a knife to the extreme.  Mostly because,  A:  I can’t afford to buy 2 of each knife and beat one to death and B:  others do that and this is “Average Guys Reviews” so the typical average guy isn’t going to hammer a half dozen of them into a stone wall to make a ladder out of so we really don’t need to go there.  I have no doubt in my mind that this knife can take that kind of abuse, but for those of us in the real world, it just needs to do what we want it to do and this knife not only excels at that, but I’d trust my life to this knife in any way shape or form even under those “Extreme” conditions and uses.

Image Courtesy of Tops Knives

Image Courtesy of Tops Knives

Let’s start with the knife, Tops always sends some decent kit with a knife, Got a good whistle, and an interesting (Though bulky) sheath.  I like the leather sheaths that Norseman makes on his site for the hogs, maybe I’m a bit more old school, but they are just more comfortable, hang better and look amazing.  I kind of wish I’d dropped the extra coin to pick up the leather sheath instead of the tops sheath.   But it works well and has plenty of options for mode of carry.  The sheath can be strapped on any way you want to carry it.   The sheath has an extra pouch to add a tinder box or a sharpening stone or whatever suits your needs in the field.

SRK on Left, BG middle (With personalized Veff serrations from the man himself) and the Hog with sheath on the right.

SRK on Left, BG middle (With personalized Veff serrations from the man himself) and the Hog with sheath on the right.

Out of the box this knife was shaving sharp, in fact the first thing I did with it was shave the right side of my face.  I won’t be trading in my straight razor for shaving anytime soon though, but the knife cuts well enough.   I have not touched up the edge yet.  I want to see how long it will hold an edge before I put stone to it.  So far, 2 months of moderate to heavy use hasn’t even phased it.  It will still shave the hair off my arm with a little bit more drag though.  (Update, I finally touched it to my stone and steel last night (2 months to the day after purchasing it).  I took 8 swipes on the stone (Very fine synthetic) and 4 swipes on a steel and it’ s back to shaving sharp.  no edge damage from my usage (And I’m a little “Primitive Pete” with tools sometimes so that’s saying a lot).

Fuzz stick trial

Fuzz stick trial

I’m not an expert at fuzz sticks, they don’t look pretty when I make them, but they catch a spark just fine.  You can’t see it very well in the picture with my thumb in the way, but this shaving is so thin it was opaque.  The other picture with the tiny fuzz stick shows the fine work capable with this knife.

Paper thin shavings

Paper thin shavings

Note the detail work, that fuzz stick is barely bigger than the 2nd bevel of the blade.  For a decent sized field knife, this can do some amazing fine work.

Note the detail work, that fuzz stick is barely bigger than the 2nd bevel of the blade. For a decent sized field knife, this can do some amazing fine work.

The stick is barely bigger than the secondary bevel on the blade!.   The handle is remarkable, fills the hand exactly where you would expect it to.  It is a tad short for my over sized meat hooks, but not enough to bother me.   The ring in the handle was originally designed to be a retention device, but serves many other uses.  Pin a carbineer through it and you can clip it to your gear pretty easy.  I like to run an 8 inch paracord lanyard through it as you can see in this pic, this allows me to grip the knife further back with just my two fingers for chopping which makes this knife chop like a much bigger knife.  The grind is not quite full, which give the best compromise between grind and spine strength.  You can baton with this knife and not worry about being too rough with it.  It can take it just fine.

8 inch (16 inches folded) with 2 knots for adding clips or carbiners

8 inch (16 inches folded) with 2 knots for adding clips or carabiners

Talk about a well-balanced knife.  You’ve probably heard that term before, and many people will lay a knife across their finger at the hilt and if the knife balances, they call it well balanced.   That is not a well-balanced knife, that is just a knife balanced between the handle and the blade which is good for some application, but not for others.  This knife feels like an extension of your hand.  You can close your eyes and draw with the tip of this thing in the sand.  Typically called “tip awareness”, this knife truly feels “Balanced”.  Normally this kind of balance makes for a great working knife, but not a great chopper,  but with a lanyard in the tail, it chops pretty damn well.  My SRK is bigger and heavier and chops well, but the dead straight handle does not help it for chopping and this knife chops better.  I would not recommend using it to build a log cabin, but it will make short work of 2 inch branches for building a shelter.

The details of the knife specs are as follows.  Overall Length is 9-3/4” with a blade length of 4 3/8” (In Iowa where I live this means the knife is not qualified as a weapon and can be carried without a license).  Your local and state laws may be different so do your homework.  The knife is 1095 High Carbon steel.  (Which in my opinion is a great steel for knives).  It does require the user take care to keep it clean, but well worth it for the price.  You can pay far more for more exotic steels, but the small improvements over 1095 just don’t add up mathematically for me.    The handle is a palm filling Black Linen Micarta which gives great feel and texture.   With so much emphasis on skeleton knives and paracord wrapped survival knives these days, this handle is far and away one of the best and most comfortable I’ve ever used.

A good notch working a try stick.

A good notch working a try stick.

Unfortunately, my hands are far larger than “Average” (Pun intended).  I could use an extra ½ inch on the handle, but even though it’s a bit short for me, it still feels amazing.  The swells fill the palm in just the right places no matter what grip I use.  I can be doing a fine work, choked up on it, I can have it in a two or three finger chopping grip, a standard full grip or even a revers defensive grip and the handle just blends to the hand.  I can’t emphasize enough how well done these scales are.  If you read the description on tops, you’ll understand what went into the design and you’ll understand how it can fit so well.   I don’t think I’ll ever use another skeleton knife again.  (Except a Tibo, I still wanna to get one of those little guys).

This blade is 3/16ths thick and uses a high flat grind so it gives a good blade thickness without becoming a sharpened pry-bar yet still has a solid spine for heavy duty work and batoning etc.

The blade coating is the standard epoxy based black friction coating.  It is VERY tough, but does add a little friction to the blade (Hence the name LOL).  This is another tradeoff.  Normally I don’t like coatings, but since this is a non stainless knife, I’ll keep it on to help protect it.

The handle is just amazing, can't say enough about the comfort and feel of this knife.

The handle is just amazing, can’t say enough about the comfort and feel of this knife.

I love everything about this knife.  I do have to be fair though and everyone is different, and uses a knife for different purposes so a knife that is perfect for one person or for one use may not be perfect for another person or use.  This knife covers all the bases so well it is as close to a perfect knife as I’ve found.  It’s features work well across different uses.

A little better on the fuzz stick with practice.

A little better on the fuzz stick with practice.

Where some knives compromise between 2 features or styles and never quite work for either, this knife blends them and gives the full range of use.   If I could change anything about it (Simply to suit me, not that it needs any changes), I’d extend the handle about a ½ inch for my big hands and I’d reduce the distance between the rear blade edge and the handle for fine close up work.  This is more a cosmetic thing as it works fine as is, just one of those little things that I personally like.

The tops price on this knife is $179.00 and it’s well worth it.  However, if you want something a bit more unique with the makers own personal heat treat (Which I consider one of the best I’ve ever seen), then hit up www.survivalhardwarellc.com and watch as one off pieces show up on the site.  Each has all the features that make the Tops version outstanding, but with some mods or tweaks that make them uniquely beautiful as well as imminently functional.

As always be safe out there and enjoy what you’re doing.  Take the right tool along for the job and you’ll be happy you did.

Doc

 

 

Almost forgot my favorite pic of the HOG in action on my boys 9lb blue cat.

The HOG in action on my boys 9lb cat he dragged in with light tackle.  Worked as well for the thin slicing as it did for cutting through the heavy bone.  Very Functional Knife.

The HOG in action on my boys 9lb cat he dragged in with light tackle. Worked as well for the thin slicing as it did for cutting through the heavy bone. Very Functional Knife.

 

UPDATE ADDED!

 

After playing with the ring a bit.  I made another modification to the kit I use with the knife.  I took about 38 inches of paracord, and dropped a figure 8 on each end.  This gets run through a mini carabiner and through the ring.  This is a very flexible setup.    I noticed after doing a lot of chopping (I went through two 4 inch chunks of maple as fast as I could) with the carabiner through the ring that it could pinch every once in a while and the carabiner could give some hot spots on the fingers.  (Gloves would alleviate this).  I had a chunk of paracord to extend it for both a lanyard and for extending to chop with, but the lanyard isn’t very flexible and too short to do much of anything with.

So see the pictures to see how I set this rig up.

Pic 1 shows the full cord separated with the carabiner and the Hog

2014-08-26 18.31.43

Finished cord is 32 inches long loop to loop.

Next pic is the normal carry position.  This gives about 16 inches of lanyard, enough to go round the elbow and lock the knife into the hand (Gives counter pressure to the knife while its being used).  I found this turns the knife into an extension of your arm.  For chopping I reverse the loop and run the middle of the lanyard through the ring and keep the carabiner through both end loops on the loose end.  That lets me hold just cordage for chopping which for me was a bit more comfortable.   This can then be clipped to gear or a vest if your working close.

Carabiner in loops in knife.

Carabiner in loops in knife.

Last is the long leash,  This is for working over water or in terrain where dropping your knife could be disastrous.    The figure 8 loop is wrapped through itself at the ring of the knife, and the carabiner clips through the other loop and connects to your belt or chest strap of a pack etc.  32 inches is ideal for me (It gives me near full extension from the backpack ring on my chest or belt).

Full Length Rig

Full Length Rig

The ring is very useful.  Since it’s larger than a standard lanyard hole, it adds much more functionality.


Back to the Knives. SAK Today!

Well, I’ve always been a fan of the versatility of the SAK (Swiss Army Knife).  But the older models I grew up with didn’t have locking blades and I did manage to cut myself on numerous occasions with them because of that.  I got away from non locking knives for many, many years.  I switched to a Leatherman charge ALX about 4 years ago and never looked back.  On the Leatherman all the tools lock and its a great multi-tool.   Superior to the old SAK’s I had used.  However, about a year ago, I managed to get my hands on a modern SAK from Victorinox.

This particular model is called the Trecker.  I bears many similarities to the old standard SAK’s from my youth.  With a couple of improvements.   First of all, and most importantly, the primary blade locks open with a liner lock.   This feature alone makes SAK’s viable for me again.  Non locking knives are just too hazardous.  We are all human and make mistakes and it only takes a little oblique pressure to a folding blade to twist the knife and close the blade on your hand.  So I love that this classic knife, now locks open.  Along with that, another excellent upgrade is the over sized thumb-hole on the primary blade.  This allows for one handed opening!  Yes, you heard me, an SAK you can open 1 handed.   Which makes this a go-to knife when your working on projects.   I normally have my CRKT M21 on my pocket for one handed quick use, but now that I have gotten used to the SAK, I keep the M21 sharp and ready as a defensive  tool rather than an everyday work knife.   That duty has rolled over to the SAK.   I have a tendency to not use new things because I want to keep them looking new, but a very wise friend of mine (Rich Rockwell over at the Wilderwolf blog) told me to get out there and use them, THAT’S what they are for.  So I’ve taken his advice and now enjoy using my good knives as well as looking at them.  Thanks Rich!

Well Worn and used Trecker SAK

As you can see in the pictures, this guy is getting a little worn, it has taken everything I’ve thrown at it and keeps on ticking.  The scales are good, They have that hard old fashioned knife feel to them.  However, they do get a little slick, not a good knife to use if your hands are greasy.   If your going to work in an environment where you need some good grip, there are better more dedicated knives that have superior grips.    This guy is just fine for every day use though.   The rounded edges feel good in your hand.

It has the usual assortment of extra tools, bottle opener, can opener (Which is smaller than the bottle opener, I’d revers this and make the can opener a bit larger, most bottles are twist off  caps anymore so the utility of a bottle opener is minimal at best.  (Heck just pop the cap on the nearest wooden object, no opener required).   It also has a flat screwdriver on the tip of the bottle opener and a philips bit in the back.  The Philips bit is just a tad oversized,but fits most every screw I’ve put it against, but not the smaller electronics that I find myself working on periodically.  But that is fine, my Leatherman has interchangeable bits and covers the gap quite well.  There is the leather punch/awl.  This is a great tool for multiple uses.  I have only ever put new holes in my belts with an SAK awl.   Just worked out that way because it’s always handy in my pocket.  The bottle opener/screwdriver bit also locks open for use as a straight screwdriver which is another plus, however this would be more useful on the can opener as it has a tendency to stick int he can and half close if you try going fast at the can when your hungry.  Patience is a virtue when using the can opener.

Another of the better changes on this model SAK is the saw blade.  They have incorporated a double row of triangular teeth on the saw-blade that make short work of sawing tasks.  You don’t want to cut a sapling down with this thing, but to put notches in wooden tool handles, it is perfect.  The saw is a great improvement.  The saw blade also extends about 1 or 2 millimeters past the edge of the knife, which makes opening it with a finger tip easy.  No more broken fingernails trying to pull it up from the closed position.

It does include the tweezers which are surprisingly good for getting splinters out of your knuckle (Yes, for real), I have used the tweezers 3 times to remove splinters and thay have a great fine edge that will bite onto those pesky little embedded pieces of wood.  It also has the classic SAK toothpic which works well to get that erent piece of tendon out of your teath after downing that 22 ounce porterhouse.

This is made with the same stainless steel used in all Victorinox SAK’s.  It’s a good hard steel that holds an edge well and is VERY resistant to corrosion.  My blade still looks new after a year of heavy use.  I have only sharpened it twice as it holds a razor edge for a long time.

All in all, I would have to give this knife a 9 out of 10.  A larger can opener being the only thing it would need to be a 10 in my book.

This guy is available through Amazon for only $31 right now.  A steal for one of the best SAK’s on the market.   This is one of those knives that I will keep for a lifetime and can’t wait to buy for my kids.

Chime in and let me know of your SAK experiences.


Follow up on Bear Grylls knife with Mods

After the last review, I did a few mods to the knife.  I added some cordage to the ferite rod so it wouldn’t get lost.  The cordage stuffs between the sheath

Cordage Tucked

and the canvas hanger so it doesn’t get snagged.   It has saved the rod at least 3 times since I put it on.   But I find myself using this knife inverted on my pack now rather than on my belt which keeps it accessible but doesn’t get it hung up as much as on my belt.

Cordage tied to ferrite rod

Also, after reviewing the CRKT M21 earlier, I was contacted by Tom Veff, the fellow who created the Veff serations on the M21 and various other CRKT knives.  Tom is an “Edgologist”, the man can sharpen better than anyone I’ve ever seen.  But on top of that, his Veff serations are the best serations I’ve ever used on a knife.  Well, since I wasn’t happy with the generic serrations on the Gerber, I sent the knife to Tom to have him install his Veff serrations on it.  I just got it back today, (Very quickly I might add).   To say I’m amazed is an understatement.  The over-sized Veff serrations that replaced the old serration are just amazing.  They are sharper than any blade I’ve ever held in my hand.  I can’t wait to get out in the field and use this knife.Tom runs a sharpening service (See him at Veff Sharpening at www.veffsharpening.com).  When he isn’t designing the best serrations the planet has ever seen, he is making sharp things sharper.  Check him out if you get a chance.  He also has a sharpening tool set called the Veff Sharp (Sold through CRKT) that I hope to get my hands on in the next couple of weeks.  This is a simplified tool set for sharpening serrations and other odd or small blades.

Look at the polish and workmanship on his update to this knife.   Absolutely perfect.   And the custom job is even sharper than the factory job on the CRKT M21 when I purchased it, which just absolutely amazed me.

Tom can add these seration to a straight knife, or replace the dinky useless little serations on any other knife as he did with this Gerber.

A big shout out to Tom for his great work.   The man knows sharp like nobody else.  I can’t wait to cut stuff with my newly modified knife.

Closeup of the increadible Veff serations

Look at that customized knife, great work Tom


CRKT M21-14SFG EDC Knife

This is a $40 knife that acts like a $100 knife.   (Its on sale at Amazon for about $40 right now) I’ve had this guy on my pocket for a little over a year now as my Every Day Carry (EDC) knife.   I use it every day as a utility knife.  Sure, it’s meant to be a “Tactical Folder” but the features that make it good for a soldier (and subsequently good for self-defense) also make it AMAZING for the average guy (or gal).   The first thing you notice about this knife when it comes out of the box is the size; it’s a full size folder.  It’s just over 5 1/4 inches closed with blade length of 3.8 inches.   Make no mistake this is a big knife.  For EDC it’s the biggest I would recommend to someone (if you have small hands this may be a bit too big, the handle fits my massive meat hooks (I’m 6 foot 3, 280 lbs. with large hands) perfectly though.  The second thing you notice is the weight, it’s not “Heavy” and not “Light”, it’s in the perfect middle ground.  (Mine is the G10 handle, the aluminum models are more expensive but a little lighter).  It feels like a knife in your hand as it should.

 

The second thing that catches your eye is the double hilt designed to prevent the hand from slipping onto the blade during stabbing or heavy use.   This is a tactical trapping that takes a little getting used to.  Normally I don’t like an upper hilt on an EDC knife as it can get in the way of doing fine detail cutting work, but the hilt just isn’t big enough to interfere with most daily use of the knife.   It also makes opening the knife incredibly easy and fast one handed.  the one downside I’ve discovered, is the cut of the pants pocket can be an issue.  I have 1 pair of pants with a very “Steep” pocket cut, and on occasion the hilt will catch on the cut.  This is not a major problem as that is 1 pair of slacks out of a dozen pairs of pants, but if you pockets opening are angled very high, it can catch.  It does ride very low as well, great for concealing, without interfering with grabbing).

Next up is the serrations.  I’m also not normally a fan of serrations on an EDC knife; I don’t mind them on survival knives or backup knives etc.  But I like a lot of clean edge on my daily use knives for cutting.   However, the patented Veff-Serrations, (named after Tom Veff who designed them)  it is hands down the best serration I’ve ever used.  It has two things going for it above and beyond typical serrations.  First, its large enough to cut like sharks teeth, just tears right through anything you put it up against,  Literally 1/2 the motion or cutting is required on anything I’ve used this knife to cut.   Second, it’s EASY to sharpen the serrations.

Unlike most serrations that are either too small to sharpen or you have to have special tools to sharpen, any small round diamond or dog bone sharpener that will fit in the groove can re-sharpen these serrations.   They are simple to keep sharp.  The thing I use them most for is plastic blister packs.   Everything you buy today comes in those damn plastic blister packs that are a pain to open.  A straight edge knife works but tends to slip a bit.  The curve of the Veff-serations holds the plastic in the middle of the serration and just slices through them like butter.  I’ve literally opened 500 blister packs with the serrations and have only sharpened them 1 time.  This is the only serration I will ever purchase on a knife again.

The knife has double thumb studs but you’ll never use them to open it as the “Carson Flipper” makes it far easier.  These studs actually act as a stop to the knife blade to strengthen the spine at the rotation point on the knife.  Another plus to the strength of this knife.

Next is the deep bellied spear point.   BEST utility design I’ve used in a knife. The deep belly not only makes the knife stronger, but gives it a very rich and useful edge for a variety of cutting tasks.  It also has a simple curve to sharpen with no odd angles.  And as far as sharpening, I have to say, I’m a huge fan of CRKT blades because they use the 8Cr14Mov steel which is a perfect balance between affordability, strength and ease of sharpening.   You can buy more expensive knives with better steel that take more effort to sharpen, but for the average guy using this knife, the extra $60 bucks can be used somewhere else as it’s not needed in this knife.

The G10 handle is good, it is a bit more “Square” than I like, but it’s a good compromise between carry and use.  A flat handle makes carrying easier and less bulky, while a rounded handle fits the hand better.  This guy is about as good a fit as you can get ½ way between those two options.

This knife has the patented AutoLAWKS™  system which uses a spring and lock mechanism to push the blade lock (Locking liner style) into place and binds it

with a lock.  This is as close to a fixed blade quality folder as you can get.  I have used this system extensively for a year (and the non-spring loaded version on the older CRKT M16 model knives for 4 or 5 years) and they are simple to operate (Takes a little practice to learn to unlock it one handed but once you figure it out, it is simple to unlock one handed).

The spring steel clip can be changed to any of 4 positions,  so you can carry right/left handed and tip up/down.  NOTE:  CRKT Does not recomend TIP up pocket carry because this knife does not “Lock” closesed in any way and typcial movement would allow gravity to partially open the knife in the pocket.  Tip up carry is for Molle or other gear type carry

It does require a small star drive to change though.  I did not have the correct size so I modified an old mini straight screwdriver to do the trick.

I have tortured this knife as a typical day to day user and am happy to say I would buy it a hundred times over.  Best knife price to performance ratio on the market.  You can’t buy a better $40 knife that performs at the level of most $100 knives.  This thing is fast, solid and performs amazingly well.

On a scale of 1 to 10, this is one of the few products I would ever give an 11.  One of the best knives available at any price.


Gerber Bear Grylls Survival Knife Review

After spending a week with this knife I have some good and not so good things to say about it.  But overall its good for the price.  I would be on the fence as to buying it myself.  I still love my Original SRK (Strapped to the black pack below)  and its hands down a better knife, but this one does the job quite well.

The upside down fire starter is a BAD idea.  It was fine on the pack (Carried inverted, tip up), but when I tried belt carry, strong-side, tip down and across the belt on the back horizontal carry, I nearly lost it 3 times from brushing up against stuff in the first 2 hours,  It should be on the inside of the sheath, next to the sharpener, would protect it and prevent loss.  It is a GREAT rod, throws off plenty of sparks and works very well.  I did 2 fire starting demo’s with it and had no problems.  It is a great tool, just needs to be secured a little better.  There is a lanyard hole and I have since attached it via a piece of para-cord to the sheath so it can’t get lost.  A friend of mine (Nicodemus on the TSP Forum) suggested a rubber band or something elastic to keep it retained which is still a great idea even with the para-lanyard as it would keep it from falling out in the first place.  Thanks Nico.

The whistle is anemic, better than nothing, but you can make louder whistle on a blade of grass.  I’d ditch this whistle and attach a better whistle.

The Sheath is fantastic for inverted or strong-side carry.   I didn’t like it at first because it seemed overly bulky, but after wearing it, it keeps the knife in the absolute perfect position to grab (just far enough away from the body to not rub, or interfere, and made for easy gripping.  Very secure, knife never fell out and probably wont (I didn’t use the Velcro handle wrap for tip down belt carry as it was excessive and not necessary, but for inverted on the pack I used it for a second layer of security although I think retention of the sheath is good enough that it may not be necessary unless your really tearing up the trails with it inverted.   I really did like the sheath a LOT.  It can be carried in multiple ways, harness attached, belt vertical and horizontal as well as across the belt.

The knife handle is mostly good,  It fits my hand very well and has a great soft rubbery feel that is very comfortable to use, especially for small detail work, like whittling and making tools etc.  However, that softness comes at the price of security when chopping with the knife.  Its just a tad soft and almost feels like its slipping when your chopping.  All in all its great as I don’t spend much time chopping down trees with a knife.  I built a bow drill set and a primitive hawk and made some walking sticks for various scouts along the way with it and the handle was perfect for those jobs.

The knife feels really good, just a touch handle heavy, would prefer a tad more weight toward the blade but fairly well balanced.  Felt good for every task except chopping (and that wasn’t bad, just wasn’t great).   The blade is wonderful, I spent 7 days abusing it, and never once had to sharpen it, it held its edge just fine.   Only caveat is the serrations.  I am not a serration fan anyway so I am biased, but the serrations take up half of the usable straight edge portion of the blade and I use that part of a fixed blade knife the most for carving.  Particularly when carving the handle for my hawk the serrations really got on my nerves.

At first I hated the orange,  made it stand out and look gaudy, but after having it for a week, it seems more subdued now and actually doesn’t look too bad strapped to the pack or hip.   (I’ll post more pictures of it with the lanyard later).

All in all, its a great knife and kit for the price.  For what its supposed to be, its good.   If they offered it without the serrations, I’d easily pay the $50 bucks for another.

Update:  It is available on Amazon for for $38.99 which is a great price for this and well worth it if you put your feelings about comercial endorsements asside and buy the knife for what it is, A Knife!

 

I am very happy with it though.

Doc