Tag Archives: knife

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.

 


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.