Thursday, October 16, 2014

Knives: My Search For My Ideal Every Day Carry (EDC) Knife: Part II: The White Whale!

So as I was writing in my last entry, I was (and am) not done obsessing over the Lone Wolf Harsey T1 knife. But I was pretty satisfied with the Knives I had.  

My Gerber Applegate Fairbairn Covert was very nice and was (and is) holding up very well to some pretty heavy use.  The flat ground edge holds up well to the abuse I have subjected it to. The serrations have come in handy when I have needed to cut through cordage and the like (though I actually prefer a plain edge because I like to whittle when bored). My only complaint is that the dagger/combat style of the knife, while not gaudy or unnecessarily aggressive looking, makes the knife seem somewhat incongruous in certain settings. Also the smallness of the belly of the blade makes it not quite the right knife for opening boxes at the museum.

My Kershaw Scrambler has a nice assisted open function and it handles light duty quite well. It's appearance makes it a little more acceptable in mixed company. The wide belly is great for cutting boxes. The hollow grind also helps with cutting tasks, but it makes the edge more fragile. This is worth noting especially because the steel is 8Cr13MoV, which is a good steel, but a little prone to folding. I have found that the edge can get damaged much more easily than the Gerber when giving it some abuse. So the Scrambler isn't quite up to all the tasks I would ask of an every day knife. Plus it is point up carry, and as I said, I don't like that.


Two weeks ago I looked online to see if there were any T1's to be had, and there were.  On eBay. There were two for auction and one for sale. I made the mistake of looking at the listings. The auction was 6 days away from closing, but the bids were were only $50 for the G10 handle version and the Rosewood handle version. The one for sale is a carbon fiber handle version and they were asking for $499.95. It's still for sale if you want to look at it. As $500 dollars is way outside of the range I am even thinking about, and I am not crazy about carbon fiber as a handle material, that knife was not much of a consideration. But ooh, those ones for auction... I wanted one so bad.

I won't go into the play by play of the auction. My absolute limit for bidding was $90 dollars. The rosewood went for ~$160 and the G10 ~$170. I even suspect that the bidding might have gone higher if people's attention hadn't been split between the two knives. I realized that I wasn't going to be finding a bargain.

But I had been worked up about the knives again for a week solid. I had let myself get hopeful, even though I knew intellectually that the hope was foolish. Then I lost the auction and an hour later the Seahawks (the team I ALWAYS root for) lost to the Cowboys (the team I ALWAYS root against). It was a sad Sunday.

It got me thinking about what it was going to take to actually get my hands on a T1. More as a long term goal than as a short term goal. An aspirational purchase rather than a bargain hunt... I figured that I would probably need to be ready to spend ~$200 to get the knife, and since I was fired up this seemed totally reasonable. But when my thoughts turned to spending double what I have ever spent on a pocket knife I started wondering what else might be available in that range. Auctions are stressful, maybe I could just buy what I wanted outright.

So I started looking at other options.
So close to exactly what I want...

Bill Harsey has another collaboration on a knife very similar to the T series with Fantoni Knives, and Italian knife maker.  The Fantoni HB series.  The Fantoni HB02 is very similar to the T1, and it has titanium liners instead of stainless steel.  It even has a flipper, but it has a tip up clip and is not set up for other options. And I really prefer back pocket carry. And at that price I want EXACTLY what I want, not pretty close.

So I decided that as nice as the Fantoni was, it was just not going to meet my needs and wants well enough to allow me to explain to my wife why I NEEDED to spend $250 on the knife.

Oh well...

But wait!

What about similar designs from other makers/designers?
Oooh, that's a heck of a thing

I found a Rick Hinderer designed Zero Tolerance knife, the Zero Tolerance Hinderer 0561 that has the handle form and jimping I wanted (though the blade is just a bit broader than I wanted) with an honest to god assisted open flipper, a tip down carry option pre-drilled, and with a titanium frame lock. But this one is bigger and much heavier than what I want. It tips the scales at 6 oz, which is heavier than the Scrambler. The blade is the same length as the Covert, but beefier. Ultimately the beefiness of this one makes it hard for me to think about buying it. But there is a lot to like about it. I could well imagine that holding it in my hand would change my mind. And once again, I'm not looking to pay $200+ for anything other than exactly what I want.
Very nice, but doesn't quite scratch the itch

Of course Zero Tolerance also has the Zero Tolerance 0566, also a Hinderer design. It is the right size and everything, except that it is still awfully heavy. It's about the same size and weight as the Scrambler, because despite the price difference the frame lock on the 0566 is steel rather than titanium. There are plenty of reasons to get this knife. The steel is Elmax, the jimping is exactly what I want, and the four potential positions for the pocket clip mean you can carry this however you want. I'm just not sure that there are $155 dollars worth of reasons for me to get this one, which is the price difference between the Scrambler and the 0566.

Now before I get on to the knife that I finally bought, I wanted to talk briefly about Rick Hinderer.  I don't know Rick Hinderer, and I really don't know much about him beyond what is on his website.  I do know that he has designed knives for Gerber.  And Pete Kershaw (Kershaw/Zero Tolerance) used to work for Gerber, and Bill Harsey designed for Gerber too.  Considering how much my search for the knife I want has ended up pushing me in the direction of these guys I can't really believe it's just a coincidence.
Drooly drool...  But this is really a knife for someone else

One knife I wanted to point out, even though it is not on my list of potential knives for myself is the Hinderer XM folder series.  And to be clear, the only reason that these are not on my list of desired knives is cost.  I think the XM 18 3" in particular looks incredible for everything that I would want, including light weight.  Unfortunately demand for Hinderer's XM knives far outstrips supply.  Hinderer's suggested retail price for the XM 18 3" is $385.  Good luck finding it for sale under $600.

One exception to that is if you are Active Military, LEO, Fire Fighter, or EMT.  Then you can buy direct from Hinderer.  I really can't actually recommend knives I have never seen or touched in person, but those ones just look exquisite to me.

But now we get to the knife I did buy to calm my desire for a T1

I had been complaining to my friend Nate throughout this process of looking at all of these different knives.  And I had just gone through all of these issues, and I realized that I could just try looking for the things I had listed myself as wanting.  And when I did that I found the Kershaw Cryo G10

If you look closely you can see that this is not in fact the Zero Tolerance 0566 for $140 less...  See it says Kershaw.  But seriously there are plenty of differences, but if you aren't nerding out they look pretty similar.
It had the jimping I wanted.  It had the G10 handle scale that I am partial to.  It is pre-drilled for tip up/down/left/right carry.  It has a flipper.  It has a frame lock.  And the blade is 2 3/4 inches long.  The steel is only described as stainless steel, and it isn't made in America, but for ~$33 I felt like it was just too close to what I wanted to pass up.

I just ordered it yesterday, so I'll have to wait to tell you how it works for me.  It isn't the T1, but ordering it made me feel better.

So that's it for my writing about my obsession with the T1.  I don't have exactly what I want, but that's OK.  I spent a lot of time obsessing over what I wanted, and now I get to find out if what I wanted is really what I wanted, at a pretty low price.

As you have probably gathered I get pretty monomaniacal when I decide on things that I want.  That is why when people sometimes ask me about knives I tell them that I'm not a great person to ask.  What I like in a knife is not what everyone likes, and I tend to get fixated on very specific details.

When I was doing some archaeology work the other week one of the other archaeologists asked me what kind of knife she should get.  She had realized that she needed a knife to carry while out in the field.  I realized that I didn't really have the best advice for her, because I get obsessive about things like steel, handle material, carry style, jimping, blade geometry, etc.  I explained that to her, and my advice was to go to a store like Cabela's and just check out the knives.  Hold them, look at them.  And decide what you want out of a knife, because it doesn't matter what I think about a knife, it matters what you think about a knife.  Are you going to carry it?  Does it feel right to you?  What do you want it to do?  I'm hyper-specific about what I want, but that doesn't necessarily translate to you.

Which brings me to what I will write about next, knife features and vocabulary.  As you start getting into knives you run into lots of esoteric jargon, and incomprehensible specs.  I'm not an expert on knives, but I have tried to learn enough to figure out what I want.  I will try to go over my main considerations so that someone else might have an easier time figuring out what they want.  I'll do my best to try to provide a general primer on knives.

So stay tuned for more of Jon talking about knives...

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