Sunday, March 18, 2018

What Economic System Will Dominate the Future?

It has been quite a while since my last post. I have been swamped wrapping up my Master's degree. Today I submitted my thesis pretext, and letting go of that burden seems to have freed some of my mental energy. Just now I started writing a Facebook post and it got out of hand, so I thought I would share it here. It is the most that I have written about an idea that has been bouncing around in my head for years now, so sharing it now is a place to start. It was all inspired by this picture:
The passing of Hawking has led to a renewed sharing of his words.  And if anyone captures the essence of the absurdity of the idea that physical ability is the source of human value, it is Hawking.

The really interesting thing (in my opinion) about what Hawking is saying in this quote, is that he is describing an approach to economics that hasn't been tried. The Industrial Revolution brought us the clash between capitalism and communism, but we never actually got to the point where anyone got an economic system going that worked for everyone.

True believers will say that this is simply because their ideal system was never done right. But in any case, both of those dominant paradigms were developed to deal with the changing realities brought on by the Industrial Revolution. Both of these economic systems are deeply concerned with labor (because the industrial revolution was about maximizing the productive power of lots and lots of labor). And with those systems came ideologies to support the systems. And one of the toxic byproducts of this focus on labor (particularly in our society) is the idea that industriousness is the chief virtue. The idea that our work makes us valuable. This idea that work is what makes us valuable is useful for increasing productivity as long as there is adequate employment, but it is toxic when opportunities for meaningful employment vanish. This toxic ideology is behind the idea that good people are people who work and "contribute" to the system, while people that "take" from the system are parasites. Employment is virtuous, and needing help makes you worthless. While this ideology was never really okay, it is becoming a rapidly growing hobble to our growth, happiness, and prosperity as a nation and a species. Simply put, the rapid growth of automation is making the majority of our labor irrelevant. We don't need your strong back to make microchips because your fat fingers will just make a hash of the delicate processes anyway. That means that much of the meaningful labor work is gone. And that means that people who gain their sense of human worth through their labor are left parasites according to the ideology they have been surrounded by since birth. Our country has figured out some workarounds for this. The most obvious is "disability" payments from Social Security. The idea is that if you are not "able-bodied" then you cannot generate worth as a human on your own, so you can be subsidized. Being physically incapable of labor makes parasitism honorable. So people on disability can still feel smugly superior to people who need help because they have non-physical limitations. Except the idea that physical disability is somehow morally superior to mental, emotional, or even opportunity based disability is horseshit. Our society already has more strong backs than it can use. Most of the decent paying jobs we have today require mental work far more than physical labor. A bad back doesn't mean you can't type. Treating physical disability as morally superior to other reasons that you don't have a job is absurd at best, and I would argue mostly evil in effect. The worst thing about this ideology is the idea that you only have value as a person if you are a contributing member of society, and the only contribution that counts in this ideology is contributing through having a job. Being virtuously physically disabled allows people a way to avoid feeling worthless, but not the same way that having an occupation would. The simple truth is that your value as a human being is not derived from your occupation, it is intrinsic to the fact of your existence. If you believe that human life has value, and that humans should have rights, then dividing people up into contributors and parasites is unsupportable. Humans don't deserve to live because they have jobs, they deserve to live because they are human. But. In every historical period before our current era, people needed to work to survive. For most of human existence that work was hunting and gathering. Then ~10,000 years ago many people shifted over to having to farm. After 10,000 years people got pretty accustomed to the order of that system, but then things changed. The Industrial Revolution freed most people from having to work to feed themselves. But in that labor intensive system, people needed to be motivated to work, so people had to work to live. But now things are changing again. Automation and post-industrial realities mean that most labor is now superfluous to production. Very few people are needed to do the work of supporting our society, and very few people are needed to do the work of feeding our society. That means that for a system in which human value is derived from working, that most human beings in our society are surplus waste. But our ideology tells us that humans only have value if they have jobs, and so ever larger segments of our population work service sector jobs. Since we are not needed to produce, we are employed as servants to one another. There will always be reason and a market for a good waiter at a fine restaurant, but does having a line cook and a checkout person at a drive through really improve the quality or efficiency of your fast-food eating experience? The truth is no, and with advances in automation, we really don't need most people to be employed as servers anymore. But our ideology still tells us that people need to have jobs to live. But in an economic sense, that is simply not true. Most jobs people work today can be better done by robots, now or in the near future. The idea that people need to work to live is holding back our society. The insistence on classifying people as productive or parasitic is holding all of us back. The simple truth is that we don't need most of the people to work jobs that keep society materially functioning. That sort of employment is a shrinking field. Most people could stop working to survive, and society could run while supporting them. Because we have enough wealth and productive power to guarantee the satisfaction of the foundations of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. We don't need to have everyone working to keep society working, we need them working to keep them occupied. But right now we are still locked in the idea that people need to work to live. We have enough for everyone to be guaranteed enough to live. In the sense of the basic Marxist idea of "to each according to their need," we have enough to provide the material needs of everyone. But satisfying material needs does not satisfy mental needs. People don't need to work to live, but most people do need some manner of occupation to feel fulfilled. And that is a marvelous thing. Because if no one needs to work simply to survive, then people can pursue occupations that satisfy them. A world in which everyone is free to pursue self-actualization (pursuit, not guaranteed achievement) is within our reach, if not quite yet our grasp. We are literally standing at the edge of a future in which everyone in our society can actually be offered _Life, Liberty, and The Pursuit Of Happiness_. We can all live lives where we pursue occupations that satisfy us. There will always be inequality, but we don't need to tolerate poverty. Or conversely, we can allow the wealth of machine productivity to be allotted to only a few people. But that is a dark future indeed. Because that scenario will not end well. If the majority of people are cut out of the wealth of our future, the same thing will happen that always happens when the rich control all the wealth and the masses have nothing. And that outcome is cataclysm. And if the world is burned and the machines are smashed then no one will be left with a future worth having. The choices our society makes now will determine which future we will pursue. If we stay our current course we will be left with shattered ruin, or we can pursue a future in which all people are guaranteed life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But wishing won't get us there. We have reached another turning point in human history. And just like capitalist and communist thought emerged in response to the last revolution in human economics, we are now faced with developing new ways of thinking about the ways our systems should be structured in a world where productivity has come unmoored from human labor. As a species, we never really figured out how to make industrialization work for everyone, and industrialization needed lots of workers to function. Now we are faced with a future of automation where we don't even need the workers. We are faced with the question of whether the future is for everyone, or conversely if the majority are to be seen as parasites to be eliminated. It is a choice prior generations have never faced, except in sci-fi fantasies. And it is unexplored territory. We lack economic theory devoted to a world where human labor is not a primary requirement, and we lack ideologies for a world where people don't need to work to live. I hope it works out, because it could be wonderful.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Knife Review: Carothers Performance Knives Heavy Duty Field Knife (CPK HDFK)

The Carothers Performance Knives - Heavy Duty Field Knife (AKA: CPK HDFK)


This is a review of the newly released Carothers Performance Knives Heavy Duty Field knife (CPK HDFK), or if you hang out on the Carothers Performance Knives forum this knife is perhaps better known as the NASK, for Not A Survival Knife (a nickname derived from a desire to avoid confusion with Survive! Knives).  This is a knife designed to be an indestructible heavy use knife that can be a one-knife solution for all your survival needs.  While I am not a "one-knife-to-do-everything" kind of guy, I do enjoy reviewing survival knives.  And of the knives I have reviewed and used in this class, none of them have performed better overall.  This really is a superbly designed indestructible everything knife.

I was fortunate enough to land one of the D2 Prototypes of the HDFK pattern.  The D2 (Actually PSF 27, a spray formed version of D2 made by SBSM) prototype version differs from the regular production version in a few ways beyond the steel (the regular version will be in D3V).  The blade is "Sterile" which means that it doesn't have the maker or designer marks that will be found on the regular production versions.  Additionally, the "bark" was left on the sides of the blade for a less refined looking finish.  I tend to prefer a more polished level of finish, but I have to admit the rugged finish looked pretty cool.  The only marking on the blade was a simple D2 to let you know what steel this was made with.  I only had two weeks to review this knife before I had to send it on to its permanent owner, but I made sure to give it a thorough workout.

As one can see looking at this knife, the design legacy shares many elements with the CPK Light Chopper.  But even though there is a great deal of visual similarity, this knife functions very differently in pretty much every type of use I put it to.  The knife is also much smaller than the Light Chopper.  As the company and designer of this knife are the same as my recent CPK LC review, I will quote myself:
The knife is made by Carothers Performance Knives, which is headed by Nathan Carothers (and his wife Jo).  Nathan Carothers is a very experienced machinist, with a vast materials knowledge, as well as a truly impressive capability at using CNC machining.  He is also very willing to share his knowledge, I have learned a lot over the last year and a half or so paying attention to Carothers (Here is a BladeForums thread of people asking Nathan questions and him answering, it is educational and about 50 pages long).  CPK is an exciting brand to pay attention to, but at the current time demand is far exceeding their production capability which makes it hard to get a lot of CPK knives.  Sales for the Light Chopper (for example) are typically for 20 or so at a time, and they usually sell out in less than 5 seconds.  The other option is to buy the knives on the secondary market (which is how I purchased the reviewed knife), but prices can vary dramatically, and availability is still limited.

The knife was designed in cooperation with Lorien Arnold, a talented knife designer from British Columbia, Canada.  Lorien cooperates with numerous knife makers, but has been partnering extensively with CPK recently.  Sadly I can't afford the custom knives he designs, but I am a fan nonetheless.

The TL;DR review summary:

I do not know of a better quality survival knife, regardless of price.  This knife really impressed me.  For any given purpose there are better knife options available, but for an all purpose knife that can stand up to significant abuse, I have not used a knife that handles as many tasks as well as this one.  Like any CPK knife, this one is hard to acquire, but it is well worth the cost and trouble if you are looking for a survival knife.

Let's Start With the Specs:

(Specs from the CPK HDFK D2 Prototype sales thread)
PSF 27 D2, tested 61-62 HRC, .220" thick at ricasso
Total length 11.825"
Blade length 6.5"”
Weight 12.8 oz
Grippy 3D machined scales in micarta
Black oxide treated 18-8 stainless steel fasteners

Fortunately for the purposes of this review, the HDFK was almost exactly the same length as my Spartan Harsey Difensa, this was handy since it meant that direct comparisons to a very comparable knife were easy to make.  The Difensa has been my go to knife for survival knife comparisons, so I have been able to compare it to other knives like the Ambush Alpha and the Fiddleback Forge Bushfinger, which means that I am able to contrast performance across multiple similar knives from a standard baseline.

The handle of the HDFK is made of unbuffed black canvas micarta.  Micarta is made by layering textiles (canvas, linen, or paper usually) with phenolic resin and compressing them.  The unbuffed micarta is less shiny and grippier.  As I have written in numerous other reviews, I really like micartas in general, and canvas micarta is probably my favorite high performing handle material.  To me, micarta feels warm in the hand, like wood, and even though it is actually a very hard material, it somehow feels soft in my hand (at least when shaped well).  But one of my favorite things about an unsealed canvas micarta, is that the tiny bit of exposed textile ends actually make micarta grippier when wet.  Not a ton grippier (after all most of the resin soaked textile is impermiable), it is just the very surface that is affected, but it is a nice feature.  From a materials perspective, as a user, unbuffed canvas micarta is hard to beat in my book.

The steel is PSF-27 D2.  This is a steel I had absolutely no prior experience with.  D2 is a not-quite-stainless tool steel used fairly commonly in cutlery.  Despite that fact, I had not previously used any sort of D2 steel knife, so I have no baseline for the steel.  PSF-27 is a special version of D2. It is the same alloy (same combination of elements make up the steel) as D2, however it is spray-formed, rather than ingot formed or particle metallurgy.  As I disclaim in all of my reviews, I am not a metallurgist.  Spray-forming may not be the same as particle metallurgy, but from my knowledge level I will at least call this a metallurgy-magic steel, if not a science-magic particle steel.  According to Nathan Carothers, this version of D2, with the correct heat treat, offers some significant toughness advantages over standard D2, though it is less tough overall than D3V (D3V will be the standard steel for this knife model).

The metal stock that this knife is made of is pretty thick.  I have certainly seen thicker knives, but this is a stout blade.  The stock is 0.220 inches thick, or very close to a quarter inch.  It is almost 25% thicker than the stock for the Light Chopper or the Difensa.  Despite being significantly thicker, the HDFK only weighs 1.5oz more than the Difensa, presumably thanks to the fullering and skeletonization of the handle.
The CPK Light Chopper (left) and the CPK HDFK (right)

The Spartan Harsey Difensa (top) and CPK HDFK (bottom)

A Note on the Sheath:

This knife comes with a high quality Kydex sheath made by Mashed Cat.  The two options offered were Tek-Lok or a dangler.  Since I had tried (and not really liked) the Tek-Lok in the past, I opted for the dangler sheath.  This was my first experience with a dangler sheath, and I have to admit, I was not thrilled with it.  It turns out I really prefer a traditional drop loop style sheath.  The dangler felt like it swung a little too freely for me, so I tried to make a field expedient thigh strap out of paracord, but that had a tendency to slide down to my knee while I was working, which would then pull down my pants.  So I went back to letting it swing free, which made the knife a little harder to draw.  Despite my issues with the way the sheath attached to my belt, the Kydex work was really well done.  Very secure retention with a satisfying click.  If I had been keeping the knife long term I probably would have purchased a Drop Loop from Mashed Cat.  One of the advantages of a Kydex style sheath is the modularity that lets you swap out parts.  A drop loop only costs $15, which would be totally worth it in my opinion.

The sheath with my paracord leg loop.

Another option could be a custom sheath.  I recently purchased a custom leather sheath from a fellow who goes by Grogimus.  With a knife like this it is not unreasonable to invest in a sheath made exactly how you want it.  I was happy with Grog's work and interactions on the CPK LC sheath he made for me.  I will post a review of that sheath soon.



Comparing the PSF-27 steel to my experiences with CPK's D3V, I have to say I prefer the D3V.  When the HDFK came to me from Carothers Performance Knives the knife was quite possibly the sharpest knife I had ever handled:

The HDFK shaved my arm so cleanly that the picture above had to be semi-staged.  The knife wasn't just shaving sharp, it was hair popping sharp, the hair just flew off my arm, I had to pick it up to show in the picture.  After two weeks of intense (but not abusive) use, the HDFK was no longer shaving sharp, and I felt that edge degradation due to lateral stresses from wood working were evident (though I did not have a macro-lens adequate to show what I mean).  The knife was still sharp enough to cut ripe tomatoes without crushing them (so let's be clear, I am being very picky), but the drop off in sharpness was noticeable.  I compare that with the D3V of the Light Chopper, which was never quite as sharp, but even after more than a month of (less intensive) use still shaved hair.

But the D2 is still impressive.  I used the HDFK for pretty much everything.  I chopped with it, cooked with it, feather-sticked with it, split kindling with it, and shredded a shipping box with it:

Despite all this use the knife still cut ripe tomatoes without crushing, so it holds a good edge through a lot of work.

My biggest complaint about the steel probably has more to do with my failure to treat the steel as non-stainless.  The knife spent a couple days in a pack next to a damp shirt, and that resulted in rust spots on the edge and a pepper spot on the blade.  These things were not terrible, but it made me realize that I couldn't treat this steel as fully stainless, and I like low maintenance steel on a survival knife.  Once again, even though D3V is not truly stainless either, based on my experiences I would opt for a D3V steel for this knife.
Rust spots on edge

Pepper spot on blade

Blade Finish:

The blade finish on this knife is a kind of unique thing.  The milled primary bevels are stone-washed, but the flats of the blade retain their bark from being processed into sheets.  For performance purposes the important finish is the stone-wash on the flats.  It is my experience that CPK stonewashing seems to show scratches and wear a little faster than some other stone-wash finishes I have used, but that is a very subjective statement.  In general, stone-wash remains one of my favorite finishes.  It is a low friction, scratch hiding, reduced reflectivity finish.


The blade design on this knife is definitely a winner in my book.  The blade is nice looking and practical.  The thumb ramp is well placed.  The tip of the blade has plenty of belly while still having a functional point.  The fuller on the blade saves weight and allows the balance of the knife to be right about at the front of the handle.  There is also a finger choil to allow the user to choke up on the knife for more detailed work.  Unfortunately for me, that choil isn't big enough to accommodate my... robust... fingers.  After some small cuts, I had to wear gloves to make use of the choil safely.

Another neat touch on this knife, that I never would have noticed myself, is the grind.  I assumed it was just a high flat saber grind, but the grind is actually a subtle S-grind.  I had no idea until I saw Nathan Carothers mention it.  It is a subtle thing, and I don't have any pictures that show it, but it means that there is a little more metal behind the edge like a convex grind while also having less metal through the flats which makes slicing a little easier.  It is an example of the kind of complex machining that Carothers manages.


The handle is ergonomically excellent.  The micarta was extremely grippy.  They handle was comfortable to use for long periods.  Like everything else about this knife, the handle is well designed and thoroughly machined and sculpted.  The handles of CPK knives really need to me held to be believed.
As always I feel the need to remind readers that I have extra-large (size 10 1/2-11) hands.  Knives in my hands are usually larger than they appear.

I am firmly of the opinion that an ergonomically superior handle is one of the most important reasons to buy an expensive knife, and yet many expensive knives have flashy looking handles that are unpleasant to use.  I like to buy knives to use them, and a well designed handle is crucial to pleasurable use.  My favorite designers are ones who give as much thought to the handle as to the blade, and this is a prime example of that sort of design.

Fit and Finish:

This prototype was marketed as being a rougher level of finish, described as "field grade."  So rather than all of the surfaces being smoothed to a uniform polish before being stone-washed, the machining marks and "bark" was left on the blades.  In person this level of finish was very attractive.

There were no flaws that I identified on the knife, and no quality failures found during use.  My impression of the fit and finish quality of CPK knives from the examples I have handles is that they are second to none.

Use Review:

To simplify my use review for this knife I am dividing it up into different sorts of tasks that I used it for to compare performance to other comparable knives.


Chopping is a use that I did not place a lot of emphasis on until I started carrying my Difensa while clearing brush.  I used to be of the opinion that if you wanted to chop wood you were better off just carrying a hatchet, saw, or machete.  If you are looking to process large amounts of wood that is still true, but having a knife that can handle some chopping is actually very handy.  Once I started using a knife to chop smaller branches and such I really grew to like it.  Now I consider chopping performance to definitely be something worth considering in a survival knife.
Obviously the HDFK doesn't chop as well as the Light Chopper, but I thought it was a nice picture.

The chopping performance of the HDFK was nearly identical to the Difensa as far as I could tell.

In chopping use the HDFK was a capable chopper that performed about the same as the Difensa.  It certainly isn't a machete, but it does a pretty good job.  Bear in mind that the chopping performance of the Difensa was what originally convinced me that a belt knife could be useful for chopping duty, so this is very good for a comparably sized knife.  It was definitely a better chopper than the Ambush Alpha or the (significantly smaller) Fiddleback Bushfinger.

Feather Sticking:

I am not a great featherstick maker, but I tend to use the ease with which I can make a featherstick with a knife as a proxy for how easily I can work wood overall with the knife.  For me, things like a knife edge close to parallel with the handle angle are important to the ease with which I can finely control the knife edge.  Additionally, the grind of the blade is very important to easy wood working.  For me, nothing beats a scandi grind for most wood working tasks, though for other primary grinds a convexed terminal bevel certainly helps since a convex edge helps avoid shouldering in wood (If you want more general info on knife grinds I talk briefly about grinds in my post "Knives: A Primer," or if you just want to know about cutting geometry here is a very informative video).  The complex (but so subtle I didn't notice it) S-grind of the seems to help a little in this department.  It acted similarly to a convex edge in limiting the shouldering of the blade.

All in all I was not blown away by my ability to featherstick with the HDFK.  The HDFK out-performed the Difensa and Bushfinger in this area, but the Ambush Alpha definitely outperformed the HDFK.  Of course my $10 Mora outperforms all of these knives in the realm of woodworking, but it can't really compete with the others in chopping, batoning, cooking, etc.

Other Woodworking:

The HDFK was a capable enough woodworking knife, though I wouldn't want to try to carve a spoon with it.  The large size of the blade makes a lot of finer work challenging, even with the choil.  But for rougher woodwork the blade handled fine.
As an example of the importance of an edge that doesn't shoulder too much, since you can keep the edge of the blade in contact with the wood you can keep cutting with the edge rather than with force.  This means that you can cut away at a branch without breaking it until the wood is pretty thin.

For tasks like notching (important if you are building shelters or small structures for things like traps) the HDFK is an excellent choice.


I am never going to stop being a little mystified at the popularity of batoning, but one cannot review a heavy duty knife without talking about how effectively it can be pounded through logs.  Rest assured, the HDFK is an excellent kindling processor.


I really don't stab things much, but I thought I would mention it.  The point of the HDFK is not very acute.  This is good for most things I would ever use the knife for, but if you are looking for a stabby knife this is probably not the knife for you.  If you look at the picture below you can see that the knives are both in to about the same width, but since the Difensa has a much more acute tip the actual depth difference is about a half inch.  So the Difensa went about twice as deep into the wood.  I didn't stab hard.  Unless you are expecting to be in close combat situations I don't think this is a particularly valuable demonstration.

Cardboard Cutting:

Cutting cardboard isn't really a survival task, but it is a fun way to give the cutting ability and edge retention of a knife a workout.  This was a lot of fun and the HDFK did a great job.  Cardboard can take an edge down pretty fast, but the D2 seemed totally unfazed by this.  The super fine edge of the knife went away early in the overall testing, but the really good working edge of this knife shrugged off everything that followed.  After all the testing I did the edge still cut ripe tomatoes without crushing them, and the cardboard cutting came right in the middle.


Now we get down to where the HDFK really outshone the Difensa and Alpha, the kitchen.  Food preparation is very important in a camp knife.  Presumably, if one is surviving one is eating.  Plus, if you are just regular camping you are probably going to want to cook.  And the effectiveness in the kitchen is going to reflect the knife's utility for working with game.  The HDFK has a serious advantage over most other survival knives when it comes to food prep.  And a big part of that is the design of the blade/guard/handle interface and angles:
As compared to the Light Chopper, the rake of the HDFK handle is much less pronounced.  This means that the blade is much easier to use on a flat surface.

Most survival knives have large guards to protect the user.  The HDFK is no exception, except the design of that guard does not hold the blade far away from flat cutting surfaces.  This is very useful if you are using a cutting board, or really doing anything other than cutting away from a surface.

I cannot over-emphasize how much of a difference having a guard that doesn't interfere with cutting makes for me.  And the rake of the handle also helps a lot.  This knife really worked well in the kitchen.  I used this knife for everything in the kitchen, but it turns out I didn't take as many pictures as I had intended.  The less acute tip makes this knife a little less useful as a petty knife than the Bushfinger, but the larger size helps in general use.  This is impressive since the Bushfinger actually impressed me enough that it is in my knife block in the kitchen.  The HDFK probably would not have ended up in the kitchen full time, but that is because it would be competing more with a chef's knife.  For a camp cooking knife, this is a very good option.
The HDFK works well in general use.

It handles fine stuff well.

It even handled peeling and cutting a butternut squash.

I'm not going to say it was a piece of cake, but I didn't break down and use any other knife.


This is an outstanding knife.  I don't know of a better heavy duty all-purpose knife.  Unavoidably for a knife of this type, other knives can out-perform this knife for a lot of tasks.  But those other knives would not be able to take the abuse that this knife can take.  I don't typically abuse my knives, so that isn't usually a primary consideration for me, but if I was looking for one knife to do it all, I can't think of another knife I would pick over it.

To put it another way, before I bought this knife I set up an agreement with another fellow who would buy if from me after I did my review.  I did this so that I could do my review without spending a lot of money.  I figured that since I already have multiple survival knives including one that is almost the same size, that it would be silly to buy another.  As soon as I started reviewing the knife I became sad that I was going to have to send it on.  I really wanted to keep it.  I really liked this knife, and I know the current owner is going to love it.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Knife Review: Carothers Performance Knives Light Chopper

Carothers Performance Knives Light Chopper in Delta 3V with TeroTuf handle scales


This review is a special one for me, but also a little sad because the pattern is being retired.  I have been looking forward to reviewing the Light Chopper (LC) since I started following following the design process for this knife back in 2015.  This knife became a dream knife for me, but it wasn't until a month and a half ago that I finally got my hands on one.  Then I found out that Carothers Performance Knives (CPK) is discontinuing this pattern.  There will be a similar pattern called the Medium Chopper that will be released, and I may review one for contrast, but I think it is a real shame that this pattern is being discontinued.  CPK knives are tricky to get hold of already, but I had hoped that after more Light Choppers were produced it would get easier, sadly it looks like less than 500 or so will be produced in total.

One day a week I clear brush.  During my undergraduate years I supported myself with landscaping and brush clearing, and I still enjoy it enough to keep clearing brush part time while I work on grad school.  So I was very excited about this tool being developed because it is designed to be a chopper that can swing fast enough to handle springy materials while still being easier to carry than something like a machete without being too heavy.  I don't like carrying a machete when I am walking and operating a weed-whacker or other tools all day, but the Difensa proved the value of having a fixed blade that can handle some chopping.  The Light Chopper manages to combine the cutting and chopping power of a machete with a size that is just about the maximum size and weight that I find comfortable to carry on my hip.  For me the LC manages a darn near magical Goldilocks ratio of chopping capability and carry-ability.  The LC isn't great for a lot of other uses, but it is fantastic in its intended applications.

The knife is made by Carothers Performance Knives, which is headed by Nathan Carothers (and his wife Jo).  Nathan Carothers is a very experienced machinist, with a vast materials knowledge, as well as a truly impressive capability at using CNC machining.  He is also very willing to share his knowledge, I have learned a lot over the last year and a half or so paying attention to Carothers (Here is a BladeForums thread of people asking Nathan questions and him answering, it is educational and about 50 pages long).  CPK is an exciting brand to pay attention to, but at the current time demand is far exceeding their production capability which makes it hard to get a lot of CPK knives.  Sales for the Light Chopper (for example) are typically for 20 or so at a time, and they usually sell out in less than 5 seconds.  The other option is to buy the knives on the secondary market (which is how I purchased the reviewed knife), but prices can vary dramatically, and availability is still limited.

The knife was designed in cooperation with Lorien Arnold, a talented knife designer from British Columbia, Canada.  Lorien cooperates with numerous knife makers, but has been partnering extensively with CPK recently.  Sadly I can't afford the custom knives he designs, but I am a fan nonetheless.

The TL;DR review summary:

I love this knife.  For clearing brush and light undergrowth with a knife that isn't too big or heavy to carry on a hike this, knife is ideal.  The outstanding materials and exceptional treatment of those materials makes this knife a truly impressive performer.  The design and craftsmanship that goes into this knife make it well worth the trouble it takes to land one.

This knife is big enough that it doesn't even look small in my hands!  I don't usually post pictures of the knives I review in my hands because my extra-large hands (size 10 1/2-11) don't provide a useful sense of scale for most people.  But trust me, this is a substantial knife.

Let's Start With the Specs:

(From Carothers Performance Knives website):
Steel: CPM 3V (With the proprietary heat treat applied to Carothers 3V this metal is known as Delta3V)
Hardness: 60.5 HRC
Thickness: .188” thick at ricasso
Total length: 15.625”
Blade length: 9.875”
Edge is sharpened 20 DPS
Weight: 17.1 oz
Handle: Grippy 3D machined scales in micarta or TeroTuf (The reviewed knife has TeroTuff handle scales)
Black oxide treated 18-8 stainless steel fasteners

The Light Chopper is only "light" for a chopper.  The knife weighs more than a pound.  But while 17.1 oz might seem like a lot, a Gerber Gator Machete (the machete I primarily used for significant chopping prior to the LC) is 18 oz while being almost a foot longer.  So the LC is actually lighter than most regular sized machetes in a much smaller package, and if you compare the LC to fancier machetes like the Baryonyx Machete then the weigh and size savings become even more pronounced.

The handle of the LC is made out of TeroTuf.  TeroTuf is a composite material somewhat similar to G10 or Micarta.  All three materials are made out of layered textiles compressed with resin.  The difference in TeroTuf is that both the textile and the resin are polyester, as opposed to phenolic resins with either fiberglass (G10) or a variety of materials (paper, linen, canvas) for micarta.  There are a few advantages to TeroTuf: For the knife maker, TeroTuf produces less toxic gases during machining.  But from a user's perspective the biggest advantage would be lateral toughness (Here is a good video demonstration by HelmGrind) and enhanced grippyness.  Since G10 and Micarta already have outstanding lateral toughness and dimensional stability the only real edge from my perspective is grip.  I found the TeroTuf to be a little grippier when dry than unfinished micarta.  I prefer canvas micarta for the most knife applications, but I really think the TeroTuf is an excellent choice for a chopper.

In the past I have satisfied myself with the following description of  CPM 3V:
The steel for this knife is CPM 3V.  CPM 3V is a particle super steel, as I have said before, these steels are made with science magic.  I'm not going to try to explain all of the specifics because I am not a metallurgist and blade steel is a surprisingly complicated topic.  There is no one perfect steel for every knife.  Each steel type has its own set of properties, and the choice of which properties are important to a knife is a key decision for knife makers.  Additionally, the properties of various steels are affected by heat treatment (the ways that the metal is heated and cooled to control hardness) and heat treatment can even affect the crystalline structure of the steel and the ways that the compounds in the steel combine.  So for the purposes of my reviews, science magic.
That said, I think it is worthwhile to discuss the characteristics of CPM 3V a little.  CPM 3V is not a stainless steel, though it does contain 7.5% chromium, which provides more stain resistance than one might expect from a carbon steel.  In terms of edge holding properties at the hardness used for this knife, CPM 3V is very comparable to CPM S35VN (which is the stainless particle steel the Difensa is made of).  The biggest difference between 3V and S35VN (besides rust resistance) is toughness.  3V is roughly 3 times as impact resistant as S35VN.  It is a very tough steel, appropriate for a knife intended for rough applications.
To sum up on the steel:  CPM 3V is very, very tough, not stainless, and holds an edge well.
But for the Delta 3V (D3V) I think a little more discussion is needed.  This is really an exceptional heat treat of an already outstanding steel.  Nathan Carothers (AKA Nathan The Machinist on BladeForums) developed his proprietary heat treat of 3V that provides a pretty unbeatable combination of hardness, toughness, lateral strength, resilience, edge retention, and as an added bonus the heat treat leaves a higher percentage of free chromium in the steel matrix which makes D3V almost-but-not-quite-stainless.  Standard 3V is an excellent steel, D3V elevates that steel to a level that is unmatched in my experience for a heavy use knife (Busse knives uses a proprietary steel called INFI which is generally considered the industry standard for heavy use knives, but I have never used an INFI knife myself).

You can watch this video of Nathan Carothers demonstrating the performance of D3V on a prototype Light Chopper below.  The video is well worth watching (This video is not mine, it is a CPK video, I wouldn't do this to a knife):

People often ask what steel is best for a knife, and the answer depends on what the intended use of the knife is.  But almost as important is the heat treat used on the steel.  A good heat treat can elevate a steel above its basic characteristics.  For example, Buck Knives originally distinguished itself through a superior steel performance due to good heat treating.  Even today Buck gets really good performance out of 420HC steel, which can be a pretty inferior steel if not well done.  So it is not just the steel, but also the treatment of that steel that define the characteristics for the end user.  And the Carothers heat treat of CPM 3V is really something special.

A Note on the Sheath:

The CPK LC in its Kydex sheath
The sheath on the reviewed knife is Kydex with a Tek-Lok belt clip.  Kydex is a formed thermoplastic, which makes for a good friction-fit sheath.  The knife locks into place through the friction and formed fit of the plastic, but can be pulled out if sufficient force is used.  It allows the knife to be securely in the sheath without needing to use snaps or straps to hold the knife in place.  This is handy if you want to be able to deploy the knife quickly, or in the case of the LC, if you will be pulling it out fairly often while also moving over unpredictable terrain.  The Tek-Lok belt clip allows the orientation of the sheath to be adjusted, as well as making the belt width adjustable for secure seating on your belt or pack.

The Tek-Lok is ideally suited to mounting the knife on a pack or other load bearing equipment, for carrying on the hip as I like to do I find the Tek-Lok leaves the sheath riding way too high, and it interferes with my freedom of movement.  CPK also offers a dangler sheath, but I bought this knife second hand and didn't have a choice on sheath type.  I have ordered a custom leather sheath for my Light Chopper.  So I can't say I like the sheath with the Tek-Lok, but that is because it isn't suited to my preferred style of carry.



In the past I have simply referred to CPM (Crucible Particle Metallurgy) steels "science magic steels."  The steel is literally made by turning the molten metal into powder and squishing it back together (if you want more info you can find it here).  I would call D3V an enhanced science magic steel.  The CPM magic is enhanced with Nathan Carothers' metallurgical knowledge and experimentation.  I have a hard time imagining a better metal for this knife.

Blade Finish:

The blade on this knife was given a stonewashed finish, which is one of my favorite finish types.  A stonewash finish is created by... tumbling the knife with pebbles.  It is what it sounds like.  In my experience stonewash finishes feel pretty low friction, and they are more resistant to corrosion than bead blasted finishes.  Additionally the stonewash hides scratches pretty well, which helps keep the blade looking nice.  The stonewash finish also keeps the blade from being too reflective if that is a concern.


The blade on the LC is very purposefully designed.  The blade is about 10 inches long, so this is a big knife.  The blade is not designed for stabbing or to be a kitchen knife, it is designed for chopping, and it excels at the intended function.
For size comparison, the knife underneath the LC is the Spartan Harsey Difensa.  The Difensa is a large knife itself with a 6 1/4 inch blade, but it looks small next to the LC.  The knife above the LC is a Spartan Harsey Model I which has a 7 5/8 inch blade.
Despite the large blade, the weight distribution is surprisingly balanced toward the handle.  This is a result of careful weight distribution between the ways that the handle is partially skeletonized and the blade is fullered.  Choppers are usually more blade heavy, but the design of the LC results in a blade that chops and performs excellently while being surprisingly nimble.


The handle of the reviewed knife is TeroTuf, as previously discussed, but the handle material is not nearly as important as the handle shape.  The grippiest handle material in the world doesn't mean much if the handle itself doesn't work well.  The handle scales are machined (just like the blade) and are definitely an example of the confluence of Lorien's design and Nathan's machining expertise.  Despite being machined, the scales are ergonomically designed.  They are sculpted and formed to work well with no hotspots.  The scales also have fluting grooves that enhance grip in addition to the grip provided by the material and handle design.  The result is a handle that fits securely in your hand without forcing you into an artificial grip.

I might have preferred a slightly greater flare at the butt of the knife to make the grip more secure when using work gloves, but the handle works very well with bare hands.  Fortunately the ergonomic design prevents discomfort when used with bare hands, since extended use was certainly easier for me without gloves.

Fit and Finish:

In the past I have had knives that were primarily machined that did not display perfect symmetry, but that is certainly not the case here.  There is nothing that I have found to complain about on this knife.  The craftsmanship is excellent.  This knife is obviously not a polished showpiece knife, it is a working knife, but the quality it apparent and excellent.
A closeup of Lorien Arnold's Design logo

A closeup of the Carothers makers mark as well as the Delta 3V logo.

One of the neat touches of the CPK knives is that the logos and marks on the blade are actually machined in, rather than being etched or stamped.  This makes the marks very clear and durable.

Use Review:

I primarily focused on using this knife for chopping stuff at work.  And the knife performed admirably as a chopper.  It easily matched my machetes for chopping lighter vegetation, and the solidness of the LC seemed to translate into better performance in thicker dryer wood like oak.  The LC was fantastic at slicing through greenwood of softer species like cottonwood and willow.  I was truly impressed there.

The long and short of the chopping performance was that this is the first knife that I have owned that I would consider replacing a hatchet with for camping.  I have long been a proponent of using a hatchet for wood processing rather than trying to make a survival knife do all the wood processing work.  I will have to actually experiment with this in the future to see if the LC actually can take the place of a hatchet.  It is fun to use, and a capable wood processor.

The LC is also described as a large camp knife, so I of course used it for other tasks:

The LC isn't a kitchen knife, but for a chopper it is made out of pretty thin stock.  This means that it slices surprisingly well.  On balance I am not really sold on this knife for an all around use knife.  I really prefer it as a specialist kind of knife.  You CAN cut your vegetables with it, but it isn't really well suited to such tasks.  It is too big to be easily detailed with, and the handle angle and guard make it not so great for processing vegetables.

During the fourth week of working with the knife I finally had a little accident.  I was chopping a branch on the ground and hit a rock pretty good.  It damaged the edge, but nothing horrible:

A closeup of the damage immediately after hitting the rock

The other side of the blade

The damaged section after honing with a butcher's steel

Another closeup of the damage after honing

A view of the edge to show the relatively minor damage after honing

I nailed the rock pretty good, but the damage was surprisingly light.  I was pleased with the knife, though I was not pleased with myself for whacking a rock.

But the final detail of the use review is the edge retention.  After a month of use, with no sharpening (I did use a butcher's steel, but no whetstone or waterstone) I decided to see if the LC would still shave.  I did a single swipe on my upper arm, and this was the result:
Yeah, it still shaved.  After a month of significant use with no sharpening.  The D3V really is impressive
I was very impressed with the edge retention.


Long story short, I love this knife.  It isn't really an all purpose knife.  It wouldn't be my first choice as a do everything camp knife.  It's too big for detail work, and isn't ideal for food processing, but it is great for chopping.  This is a knife that was truly designed for the kind of hiking and brush clearing that I do, and it is truly outstanding for that purpose.  If this knife seems like it would fit your needs I would unequivocally recommend it.