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Abe Elias

Searching For TSA-Safe EDCs

Though always open to TSA interpretation, these tools just might pass muster.

It’s the job of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents to help ensure the safety of all commercial flights, which includes confiscating anything and everything from passenger carry-on that might jeopardize such safety. With the summer vacation season and the plane travel that accompanies it beckoning, the focus of this story is to avail you of some EDCs that might pass TSA muster.

Before continuing, there is always going to be that one TSA agent who will find something wrong with a carry-on EDC, no matter what it is, so be prepared for that eventuality. For the most part I read through the TSA’s rules and there appears to be some openings for such EDCs—not many, mind you, but some.

From left: the Leatherman Raptor, Big Idea Design TPT Slide and Gerber Prybrid-X.
From left: the Leatherman Raptor, Big Idea Design TPT Slide and Gerber Prybrid-X.

One is the TPT Slide from Big Idea Design. Lets dive right in to why I think the TSA would OK the TPT for carry-on. First, simply because, in my experience, the TSA has. Back in my trade show days I carried several knives that were structured like the TPT. It is a utility knife with a removable blade. I would throw the knife in my carry-on minus the blade. Since I was working trade shows, I would simply leave some utility blades in the booth for when I got there. If you don’t have a setup like that it is easy enough to just buy a pack of blades in a store at your destination. When you depart to come home, leave them as an extra tip to the chambermaid.

The TPT takes utility blades, the single trapezoid style. You need no tools to remove the blade. In other knives of this style I have seen many different ways to remove the blade. The TPT’s method isn’t difficult but it isn’t a cakewalk like some others, either. Once you get the hang of it, though, you will have an easier time.

A flat-head screwdriver/pry bar is incorporated into the handle butt. There’s also a socket that takes quarter-inch bits. It is a trim package and has a pocket clip for carry or sleek leather pouch that also holds an extra blade. The pocket clip is tight—tight enough that when you get it, give it a good stretch to open it up. Included are two faux blades. They look exactly like utility blades but have no edge. They would be great for chores like breaking tape on packages, though I would not advise attempting to take them through security. You might be pushing your luck.

scissors of the Leatherman Raptor
The author found the scissors of the Leatherman Raptor very useful. He carries a pair in his service bag. Good scissors can cut a variety of materials, from paper to cord and zip ties.

The TPT is a nice piece of kit and gives you a compact tool for EDC, though I can’t see why you couldn’t carry on any utility knife without the blades as long as it fits the guidelines. I do like it enough that it will see duty in my EDC rotation. Country of origin: USA. MSRP: $80.

Sound Substitue

The Leatherman Raptor is basically a set of EMT shears with a few tricks up its sleeve. If you read through the TSA guidelines, they exclude any scissors or shears with blades longer than 3 inches from the pivot point. The Raptor’s blades are only 1.9 inches. As well, I would figure the fact the blade tips are not sharp/pointed wouldn’t raise any alarms either. Keep in mind, I have not carried a Raptor on a plane. Unlike utility knives, I have no firsthand experience with shears to fall back on.

To carry the Raptor you have two choices: a plastic molded belt sheath and a belt clip. You can use the belt clip only when the scissors are folded. They fold up for a nice stowaway package. Other scissors features are an oxygen tank wrench, ring cutter, strap-cutter and a glassbreaker. The sheath will accommodate up to a 1.5-inch-wide belt. I know a number of firefighters who carry a Raptor on a belt daily. I carried one for years on my ankle first-aid kit.

TPT Slide’s faux blade cutting open packages
Use the tip of the TPT Slide’s faux blade to cut open packages and such. The faux blade is great in areas with knife restrictions.

It is a versatile tool with tons of cutting power. The one blade is shaped like a sheepsfoot and, if you use the point, can be manipulated to score or cut things. The Raptor might not be as quick to use as a knife but it does have uses a knife doesn’t. Best of all, it doesn’t incorporate a bottle opener. (As you may or may not know, I hate having bottle openers on everything. At the current rate, pretty soon humans will be born with bottle-opening appendages.) If I were limited to what I could carry for an EDC, the Raptor would be a good practical alternative to a knife. Country of origin: USA. MSRP: $79.95.

Light L’il Bro

The Gerber Prybrid-X might look familiar as it has a big bro, the Prybrid. The Prybrid-X appears to fall under the TSA’s removal-blade category, but instead of a utility blade it takes a #11 crafting blade. The latter might not be as widely available as a utility blade, though by no means is it like shopping for hen’s teeth, either.

To deploy the blade, depress a button and push the blade out the front. The Prybrid-X comes with a pry bar, wire stripper, bottle opener and two flat-head screwdrivers formed out to the tips of the pry bar. It is a design that takes up very little real estate in your pocket. It does have a clip but the paracord lanyard makes it easy to find at the bottom of a pocket.

small, sharp blade of the Prybrid-X.
Sometimes a blade’s ease of access is more important than its size. You can do a lot of chores with the small, sharp blade of the Prybrid-X.

It is a light-duty tool for opening packages, stripping Romex® wire, digging out splinters, etc. If working in non-knife-friendly places like some retail stores, it is a great tool due to its low profile. For the size and weight, I can see it in, say, a tactical pocket pouch or just as that extra blade crazy knife guys like to carry. Country of origin: USA. MSRP: $28.

The Challenge

Carrying an EDC can be challenging at times for many reasons, including regulations and workplace rules. I have a friend whose workplace banned knives. Hence, he couldn’t carry a Swiss Army knife to work but could carry a multi-tool because it was “not technically a knife.”

TPT is easily carried in the belt line
A trim piece such as the TPT is easily carried in the belt line. The author likes carrying it in a belt loop. It saves space in a pocket and promotes easy access.

Fortunately, the knife community is constantly innovating and finding ways to address situations where a “TSA safe” tool is needed, though such tools are few and far between. And that is the challenge. I would like to know if there are more such implements out there. Instead of utility knives, you just remove the blades from, list the more creative stuff in the comments below, the things that make you sit up and take notice.

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Boker And Condor’s Back To Basics Bushcraft Knives

We put the Boker Plus Vigtig vs. Wild and Condor Tool & Knife head to head to see which come out on top in the backwoods.

A couple of decades ago, attention started turning to the category of bushcraft knives. As usual, custom knifemakers were the ones filling the demand and leading the way. I was proud to be among them, along with such makers as Scott Gossman and others. There were those* before us but the push back then seemed more on survival knives with a tactical leaning.

After the push started, many smelled the opportunity to make money and the genre was flooded with assorted marketing schemes and people seeking their 15 minutes of fame. In all the confusion of people wanting to become famous and cash in, the true meaning of bushcraft was lost.

Boker Vigtig vs. Condor Wild
The thinner steel thickness on the Condor Tool & Knife Lipotes enables it to make finer curlicues than the Boker Vigtig vs. Wild. Designed by Dave Wenger and made in Germany, the Boker has an MSRP of $194.95. Joe Flowers designed the Lipotes, which is made in El Salvador. MSRP: $64.98.

A bushcraft knife is not something meant to be indestructible at all costs. It instead has always been a tool of creation. Now I see most marketing or testing related to whether the knife can be pounded through a log, a log that most likely would be unavailable if not for a chainsaw. No, the bushcraft knife started out as a tool, nimble in hand, keen in cutting and used to fabricate things in the bush, things not just to accommodate survival but to help a person thrive. In that reasonable light and practical expectation of the genre, let’s see how the Boker Plus Vigtig vs. Wild and Condor Tool & Knife Lipotes are suited to help you thrive in nature.

Boker Plus Vigtig

Boker sports a molded Kydex sheath
The Boker sports a molded Kydex sheath with an ambidextrous belt clip. The sheath holds the knife secure while still allowing for an easy draw when using a thumb push off.

The Boker’s 3.35-inch blade features a Scandinavian, aka Scandi, grind, a grind in which the major bevel is the only bevel and goes straight to zero. Executed correctly, the grind should take up at least a third of the blade’s width. If the grind is any shallower it will be too steep. Some variation on the height of the grind is due to the thickness of material. Being too steep will decrease the effectiveness of the blade to cut because the angle of the edge will plow into the work material—and when I cut with the Boker, it did just that. It is not that it won’t cut with a steep angle, it just tries to take heavier cuts as it dives. Therefore, you don’t get the thin controlled cuts as easy as a properly executed grind.

Scandi grinds are popular in bushcraft because of their amazing effectiveness carving wood. In the game area they work fine but you will often find that bone wreaks havoc on a Scandi edge. In addition, the cross profile of the blade is not optimized for processing meat. Full flat grinds process soft, malleable materials such as meat best since there is no shoulder on the blade to bind as the meat flows along the cross-section profile. On flat grinds you also have a secondary bevel, or micro bevel as some call it, and it takes hitting bone better.
The Boker is a full-tang knife with a blade .16 inch thick at the thickest, somewhat thick for a bushcraft knife. A clever feature is how the spine is finished. To strike a ferro rod off the blade spine you need a crisp edge. Sharp spines are more effective at generating sparks but are not very comfortable if you need to use a pinch grip or a thumb extension on a power grip. To address the issue, the Boker has a sharp spine toward the tip and a crisp spine section near the handle.

Blade thickness comparision
Note how much thicker (.16 inch at the thickest) the Boker blade is than that of the Lipotes (.13 inch at the thickest).

The handle is green linen Micarta® with beefy mechanical fasteners that double as lanyard holes. For those who prefer a full grip it has good profile contouring and leaves a blocky handle from side to side. There are no hot spots while still providing control.
The blade is CPM MagnaCut stainless steel and is wide for its size. With its thicker blade it batons well through small branches to make small kindling. You trade some agility for durability with a beefier blade material.

The molded Kydex sheath rides high and boasts a metal belt clip that screws on for right- or left-hand carry. The knife locks securely into the sheath yet not so much you can’t easily withdraw it.

I think the Boker has its good points. I do prefer my bushcraft knife to be more of a nimble cutting tool. Overall, if the edge were ground higher this knife would up its game substantially.

Wild and Condor Tool & Knife Lipotes

Lipotes batoning
For ease of baton work, the general rule is the cutting medium should be no wider than one-third the length of the blade. The Lipotes has a 4.15-inch blade of 14C28N stainless steel.

Let’s start with the handle on the Lipotes (among others, a lipotes is an endangered species of dolphin). It is an extended hidden tang and not a full tang—that’s right, not a full tang. Some time ago a well-known knife company introduced an extended-hidden-tang version of a knife and called it a full tang, and all the marketers and social media influencers decided to rename a feature so everyone could fall in line. If you can’t see the tang all around the knife’s handle, it isn’t a full tang.

Along with rat-tail tangs, hidden tangs have the distinct advantage of being some of the most comfortable knives in use. The steel element is totally encapsulated in the handle, allowing the maker to have full control in contouring the scales. In other words, you basically have a tang that will not interrupt how the material is shaped.

The Lipotes handle is very comfortable and the texture in the molded material provides a secure grip. As for the hidden tang extension, it can be used as a small hammering device or even a scraper.

Except for the grind, I like the overall proportions of the knife. As with the Boker, the grind doesn’t go high enough. It will still cut but the cutting would be greatly optimized if the grind were half its height taller. It performed well in its cutting tasks with power cuts, feathering and the like. However, it still missed the ease of cut and control of a higher grind. If I could, I would love to get my hands on a bunch of these blades and regrind them.

Lipotes sheath
The Lipotes has a quality sheath that holds the knife nice and tight when you ramble through the woods. The leather belt loop riveted to the back won’t accommodate a wide belt.

I really like the sheath. It has a nice, deep carry. It is a molded plastic with a good friction fit. It is a bit mysterious to me as to why the belt loop is so small. Only a dress belt would fit through it. You could still run a cord through it for neck carry or a baldric. The Joe Flowers design checks off so many of the boxes for a good tool. I would have been singing its praises more with a higher grind. Instead, I am pretty much humming.

More Than Survival

To repeat, a bushcraft knife isn’t just for survival, it is a tool of creation. Often the real goal of an issue gets lost in the minutiae that results from personal gain and egos. Over the years, marketing and self-promotion have polluted bushcraft until we have lost it in a sea of books and an ocean of social media. A look at a simple tool such as a knife can really remind us of what bushcraft is about. It is about man’s will to do more than just survive. Man strives to prosper.

I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes about tools by Thomas Carlyle: “Man is a tool-using animal. Without tools he is nothing, with tools he is all.”

*Author’s note: The origins of the discussions of bushcraft can be attributed to such enthusiasts as Mors Kochanski, Larry Dean Olsen, Lofty Wiseman, Ray Mears and others.

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Neo-Slippies: Not Your Granddad’s Slip Joint Knives

Tradition meshes with modern in today’s new-age factory slip joint knives.

Like all tools, slip-joint pocketknives have seen their own evolutionary journey. In the olden days there were quality tools and then there were ones produced to be a bit more affordable, yet they still had their utility. These days many people buy knives for their utility, and I would say a number buy them for what I call the “Gucci factor.” As times change what’s considered attractive changes too, and, of course, makers leave their marks with their own innovations.

This time we’re not only going to test the latest in factory slip joints but also examine how companies and designers are innovating the age-old design to ensure it’s useful enough for the user and pretty enough for the collector. I took them all for a spin by shoehorning them into my everyday carry (EDC) rotation. The results are revealing.

CRKT Forebear

Forebarer's nail nick
CRKT Forebear

A couple of things update the CRKT Forebear. The first is the modified wharncliffe blades of 12C27 stainless steel. They’re not too big of a departure from the traditional style but still enough to make you notice. They are streamlined with an aggressive tip. Second is the use of a streaked-red-and-black G-10 handle. Unlike using texture to add dimension like, say, in a jigged material such as bone, the handle has two contrasting colors instead.

The knife is in a two-blade configuration—small and large wharncliffes—designed by custom maker Darriel Caston. The blades remind me of those on German chip-carving knives. Such blades are excellent for detail work and chores at which utility-style blades excel. They are flat ground and have long nail nicks that follow the spine.

I must say I was disappointed with the out-of-the-box finished edges on the blades. They were very uneven. One side had a larger micro bevel than the other. Machines do the great majority of the work creating the parts of a factory knife. In the end, though, the final edge is most often applied by hand. Before getting full use out of the knife I had to even out the bevels.

CRKT Forebarer slip joint
A handle closeup gives you a good idea of the depth the two-colored G-10 scales bring to the Forebear. At 3.43 inches closed, it’s a nice size for the watch pocket on your jeans.

Again, fit and finish was a bit of a disappointment, especially coming from CRKT. I have come to expect great value from the finishes on the company’s knives. Both scales exhibited shaping flaws and were left unpolished in spots, leaving an uneven appearance.

I actually like the design. It has great potential for everyday use with the two wharncliffes. It needs some work as mentioned on the edges. With a user knife it’s easier to overlook some fit-and-finish errors. After all, knives become better looking with familiarity as enthusiasts grow attached to their EDCs. As for the edge, it’s very fixable but it should come ready to use out of the box.

Boker Plus Koteyka

Boker Koteyka
The file-style work on the spine of the Koteyka breaks up the profile and gives the blade some character.

The Boker Plus Koteyka is a stylized clip-point-blade folder. The handle is jigged black G-10. The blade is flat-ground D2 tool steel and opens via a nail nick. Closed length: 3.5 inches. I really like that Boker Plus sends the Koteyka in a box wrapped in wax paper like the old-time knives. On the back of the blade is some machining that resembles filework.

Out of the box it cut very well after I stropped it to bring it to the crazy sharp level. The finish on the G-10 has machining marks for a rustic look. One day I will end up hitting it on a buffing wheel. With a high luster polish I think it would be killer. Granted, the MSRP is only $69, so I’m just expressing my own thoughts on its presentation. Texture wise it can be a little rough on your hand, so that is another reason why I will buff it. The blade action and spring tension are good. It is a great little pocketknife update. I look forward to using it further.

Lionsteel Bestman

Lionsteel Bestman slip joint
Lionsteel Bestman

In the Bestman, Lionsteel offers a pocketknife with all the traditional elements, though it’s the presentation and materials that give it the updated look. The folder has three choices of blade configuration: clip and spear points and a combination two-blade set up of clip point and wharncliffe. I received the clip point for the test. Blade steel: M390 stainless. Closed length: 3.75 inches.

The Bestman features two sets of bolsters with a decorative groove. Handle materials come in an array of natural or synthetic materials, from olive wood to carbon fiber. I chose the canvas Micarta® for the rugged look. Lionsteel kept the design blocky while smoothing over the edges to avoid hot spots. None of the metal on the knife is polished. It has a satin finish, as did some of the older high-end brands in which one side of the blade would be polished and the other side hand rubbed. In place of pins are Torx fasteners. Even the execution of the grind on the clip point departs from the traditional by keeping all the lines crisp.

The blade opens via a nail nick. The blade action is smooth yet has a definite half stop. The spring tension is dead on. I must say I am impressed and like it. It came right out of the box ready for work. The materials and design will last a lifetime of chores.

Heretic Jinn

Heretic JInn
Heretic JInn

At first, adding the Jinn by Heretic Knives to the review was iffy at best for me. I saw it on the company’s website and I somewhat reluctantly included it. To me, a pocketknife design from Heretic is akin to having a thrasher band perform Simon & Garfunkel. Nothing personal, I just thought Heretic couldn’t pull it off. In the end, though, I am the fool standing there clapping after the rest of the audience has stopped.

The sheepsfoot blade of CPM MagnaCut stainless with a combination serrated/plain edge has great application for EDC use. It can cut everything from soup to nuts. For style Heretic includes a false grind. The knife opens via a long nail nick at the blade’s back half. If I had one criticism it would be the position of the nail nick. There would be a greater advantage in opening the blade if the nick were farther away from the pivot point. Just pinching the blade closer to the tip allows for a smoother pull-on opening.

Heretic Jinn clip
The Jinn is the only slip joint reviewed with a pocket clip.

A half stop enhances user safety and the knife is finished off in carbon fiber scales with a trim, low-profile pocket clip. The clip is my next issue. It is too tight to easily clip onto floppy and thick pocket rims. The design is such that you really don’t want to bend the clip, either.

All else considered, the Jinn really surprised me. It is a great worker. Overall, its looks fit right in with any modern one-hand-opening pocketknife. Closed length: 3.8 inches.

Slip joints have a certain romance to them. On a base level the designs have tons of utility, and updating their appearances helps keep consumers interested. Of course, there will always be the ongoing love affair with the traditional designs. Many wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Replaceable Blade Knives: Options To Always Keep You Sharp


In the field, these knives always help you keep your edge.

And now for a style of edged tool that brings its own brand of controversy most wherever it goes—the replaceable-blade knife. No, not the utility knives you see in a ton of kitchen junk drawers, tradesman’s tool bags and on garage workbenches, but the models made for hunting and possible EDC use.

The controversy tends to surface between the traditional knife-carrying crowd and those who appreciate convenience. As one who loves and teaches sharpening, I tend to leave the replacement blades for my utility knives. These days, however, they have made their way into many different knife styles.

I’m going to gauge how four of the latest replacement models cut and handle, and, most importantly in my mind, how easy it is to change a blade on each one.

Hogue Expel Scalpel 2.5

Hogue’s Expel Scalpel
You get a sturdy full-tang design with Hogue’s Expel Scalpel. A tight-fitting cover with a split ring carries the blade. Country of origin: USA.

Right off the bat, you will notice the Hogue Expel Scalpel 2.5 is some serious gear. The handle is a steel tang construction with textured G-10 scales in a blaze orange. The front bolster area is gimped, complete with a thumb ramp. Though the bolsters are screwed on the thumb ramp is not reversible, so sorry to all you southpaws out there. The handle is American made but the blade is marked England and #60. A #60 scalpel is used in dental surgery and postmortem work (it’s nice to know medical examiners wait for the person to expire before they start hacking into them with such a scalpel). Instead of stainless the blade is a high carbon steel. If you want to prolong the life of the Expel’s replacement blade, you can easily strop it.

Since it is an actual scalpel blade, that means you should be able to source multiples of them easy enough. I would go online and order. Since the pattern is used for postmortem work, that would raise fewer eyebrows. I did a quick check and was able to find a pack of 20 of the blades for around $10.

Hogue’s design for its replaceable blade knife uses the traditional blade mounting system. The best way to change the blade is with a pair of pliers. Doctors usually use a set of forceps. Handling wise the knife is quick and nimble. You hold it like a regular scalpel, with your index finger along the blade spine, and guide the edge. It comes with a zipped pouch and a plastic sleeve that fits over the blade. Having the textured G-10 scales and beefier handle contour enhances purchase. I like the design. It fits my hand well. I had perfect control over the edge. I wouldn’t hesitate to take this with me hunting and use it as a caping knife. I certainly will be packing it for pheasant hunting this fall to process the birds and clean up the gizzards.

Hogue Expel Scalpel 2.5 Specs
Overall Length: 7″
Closed Length: Not applicable
Blade Length: 2.5″
Handle material: Orange G-10
MSRP: $114.95

Coast 1919 Reserve Shift

Selection of blades for Coast 1919
The selection of blades Coast supplies with the 1919 is compatible with regular utility blades. From top: an attached regular utility blade, drop point and gut hook. Country of origin: China.

With the 1919 Reserve Shift, Coast has gone with more of a traditional utility folder design. Don’t let that fool you, though, because the knife does offer some innovations. Coast has patented both the blade changing arrangement—called the swap out system—as well as the blade storage system. Two of the three blade styles that come with the knife are customized: the spear tip and gut hook. The third is a regular utility pattern. The system is compatible with standard utility blades, which means you can buy other patterns such as serrated and a roofer’s hooked blades. I don’t know why the company bothered designing a gut hook, as a hooked utility blade would work just as well. The handle is a glass reinforced nylon with a textured rubber insert. The 1919 carries in a pouch sheath.

There are two locking systems. The primary is a linerlock and a double lock prevents the liner from moving to the side. A thumb stud provides ambidextrous one-hand opening. The stud is also part of the opening system. Depress the button on the stud, slide the stud down and the blade comes out.

The blade release system works well but, as far as innovation goes, it doesn’t draw a “wow” from me. Conversely, that Coast bothered to care about how easy it is for you to access the extra blade storage is impressive. It is a straightforward arrangement but, after all, what good is a replaceable-blade system if you can’t get at the extra blades?

Overall, the knife handles like any other utility folder, but the devil is in the details. All the little extras help it edge out the other similar designs. Best of all, except for the proprietary blades, you can pretty much walk into a Walmart and get a blade for the 1919.

Coast 1919 Reserve Shift Specs
Overall Length: 6.875″
Closed Length: 4.375″
Blade Length: 2.5″
Handle material: Glass reinforced nylon w/textured rubber inlay
MSRP: $39.99

Havalon Piranta Bolt

thumb disc on the Havalon Bolt’s blade holder
Note the thumb disc on the Havalon Bolt’s blade holder, which makes ambidextrous opening possible. Also, the bright orange ABS handle on this replaceable blade knife makes it more likely you will find the knife if you ever set it down. Country of origin: handle made in Taiwan and the blades are made in India.

The Havalon Piranta Bolt is a blend between the Coast 1919 and the Hogue Expel Scalpel. The Bolt uses a #60 surgical blade like the Expel Scalpel, though Havalon’s is marked 60A and listed as stainless steel. The blade opens via an ambidextrous thumb disc and locks via a linerlock like the 1919.

A belt carry case houses 12 extra blades. If you only occasionally stropped your blades instead of changing them out, you would have a ton of cutting time. The handle is a bright orange ABS plastic with a textured rubber insert. It feels blocky in the hand. Using ABS plastic keeps the knife lightweight. Between the lightweight feel of the plastic and the lack of contouring, it is not a comfortable grip. The small, trim-profile pocket clip is stronger than it looks.

Havalon gets innovative as far as providing a blade-replacing tool. When changing a scalpel blade, normally you take a set of forceps or a pliers and lift up the back end and push the blade forward. Havalon’s little clamshell-style tool closes around the blade so the edge is not exposed. Snap the tool closed and the rear of the blade bends upward, enabling you to pull the blade off the holder. It worked every time I tried it and it didn’t damage the blade. I was even able to reinstall the same blade. An issue is that there is no place to store the tool in the pouch and, due to its size, would be easy to misplace/lose.

Havalon Piranta Bolt Specs
Overall Length: 7.375″
Closed Length: 4.5″
Blade Length: 2.75″
Handle material: ABS plastic w/rubber inlay
MSRP: $54.99

Kershaw LoneRock RBK 2

Kershaw fixed-blade handle
Kershaw also includes a fixed-blade handle with its replaceable blade knife’s kit. It’s lightweight and the texture and profile offer plenty of purchase power.

The Kershaw LoneRock RBK 2 is another replaceable model that uses a #60 scalpel blade. (I’m starting to feel like a few of these companies had a meeting and I wasn’t invited.) The RBK 2 comes with 14 extra blades in a carry case and one on the knife. A pocket in the belt pouch holds the carry case. A cool feature of the case is a slash pocket for the knife, making it easier to get a purchase on the handle for deployment.

Speaking of the handle, it’s glass filled nylon with rubber overlay. It’s listed as black and tan but looks more like black and green. If I had to pick something Kershaw should have had more foresight about, it’s the color. Green and black pretty much screams “lose me” for a hunting knife. On the other hand, for caping the #60 scalpel blades should do the trick. Also, Kershaw did a great job contouring the handle so it’s easy and comfortable to hold. The blade opens ambidextrously via the double thumb stud and secures via a linerlock. There is no pocket clip, though there is a hole for a lanyard.

Kershaw really put its thinking cap on when it comes to tool-less blade removal. A liner lifts the rear of the scalpel blade, enabling you to slide the blade off. However, I would still play it safe and grab the blade with, say, a pair of pliers. During use I never had an issue with the removal liner being bumped, but I will wait and see. I must say, Kershaw impressed me with this one.

Kershaw LoneRock RBK 2 Specs
Overall Length: 7.2″
Closed Length: 4.4″
Blade Length: 2.8″
Handle material: Glass filled nylon w/rubber overlay
MSRP: $47.99

Points To Ponder

Replaceable-blade knives add to the depth of edged tools available in the cutlery world. As with all knives, they have their place. They have already experienced some popularity among certain trades and professions. If you like to sharpen, remember that even a replaceable blade can be touched up at times.

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Condor K-Tact Kukri Review: New Old School


With the K-Tact Kukri, Condor goes both old school and modern.

As with all knives, the steel is only as strong as the hand that wields it—and perhaps with no knife is this so true as the kukri.

The kukri—aka khukuri—has a reputation so legendary that even some non-knife enthusiasts recognize the knife when they see one. To understand how the kukri got its reputation, let’s examine the people who used it and help grow the legend.

Kukri History

You can’t mention the kukri without mentioning the hand behind the blade: the Gurkhas. The history of the Gurkhas dates back several centuries to the small mountainous kingdom of Gorkha, located in what is now central Nepal. In the early 19th century, the British East India Company was expanding through the Indian subcontinent and faced challenges from local rulers and neighboring powers. The Gurkhas had a reputation for being a substantial military force in the region. So, the company began recruiting Gurkhas into its own army. The first Gurkha units were formed in 1815 and they quickly gained a reputation for bravery and loyalty.

Gurkha with Kukris
Gurkhas not only were fearsome warriors with their kukris, they also used them for daily chores. This sketch shows Gurkhas catching fish with their kukris in India’s Bazar Valley circa 1900. (Istockphoto.com image)

Since the first Gurkha units were formed, they played a pivotal role in many conflicts and to this day remain an important part of the British Army. The Gurkhas fought for the British during the two World Wars, with Gurkha soldiers serving in various theaters of operations, including the Western Front, North Africa and Southeast Asia. About 200,000—virtually an entire male population—enlisted to fight in World War I. About 250,000 fought in World War II. In the two wars, 30,000 Gurkha troops were killed.

Continuing to serve with the British, they participated in the Falklands War in 1982, and have been involved in recent conflicts in Malaya, Borneo, Bosnia, Iraq—including the Gulf War—and Afghanistan. Soldiers that have served alongside the Gurkhas regard them with respect. The spine-chilling cry of “Ayo Gurkhali!”—“The Gurkhas are coming!”—has terrified countless enemies. The Gurkhas’ bravery and determination in battle earned them numerous honors and awards. In the two World Wars alone, they won nearly 5,000 medals for gallantry.

traditional kukri
The traditional kukri includes a natural handle material and the double-notched choil. Note the extra small knife and a sharpening steel—their handles protrude from the sheath here—that ride in the sheath. (Istockphoto.com image)

After the second World War, the British started to pull back from their colonial interests, allowing their various colonies to practice more independent self-governance. Even so, the British Army continued including the Gurkhas as an important part of their operations. Meanwhile, the kukri legend had no choice but to grow as it was made famous by the Gurkhas’ outstanding reputation for bravery and loyalty.

K-Tact Kukri Updates

The traditionally made kukri is a coveted piece in anyone’s collection. Condor Tool & Knife has updated the design with the use of modern materials to bring about a new tool with a pedigree. With the K-Tact Kukri Knife Army Green designed by Joe Flowers, the company remains loyal to the original shape but modified some materials and proportions.

K-Tact Kukri in hand
The overall profile of the Condor Tool & Knife K-Tact Kukri forms somewhat of a pistol grip. The grip angle serves well during chopping and carving. In less peaceful times, it accommodates thrusting without the need for a guard. Blade and overall lengths: 10 and 14.5 inches.

Instead of using the wide variety of natural handle materials seen on kukris over the years, Condor opted for a green Micarta®. Micarta is much more stable, and for better grip Condor gives it a textured bead-blasted finish.

You may have heard how the blades of the originals were made from truck leaf springs. Truck leaf springs were made from such carbon steels as 5160 or 1095, or reasonable facsimiles. I often wonder about the truck leaf spring story. If you think about it, seeing as how the kukri also was used by villagers along with other patterns of knives to get work done, that means a lot of trucks would be losing their springs. Condor uses 1075 carbon steel with a bead-blasted finish for the K-Tact, which is named after Alan Kay, season one winner of History Channel’s Alone reality survival show.

K-Tact pommel
The pommel helps balance the knife and serves as a hammer. According to the author, the synthetic Micarta® deals with any vibration from hammering and chopping better than natural materials.

Traditional kukris have a convex edge and are finished in a high polish. Condor convexes the K-Tact only part way up the blade and then leaves it flat. Blade thickness is .2 inch, thinner than most traditional models.

The average Nepalese villager’s kukri was made differently than the official Gurkha model. Possibly due to the time needed to make them and the lack of available steel, villager kukris had stick tangs. The Gurkha models have always been full tang and so is the K-Tact. Because of the thinner stock and the fact Condor took some weight off the blade with a stylized dip in the spine, the knife is livelier in the hand and feels more balanced.

Any of the traditional kukris I have held have had forward-heavy blades. They have a thick pommel plate the same thickness as that of the blade material. Having a thick pommel gives you a convenient hammer when needed and also enhances the knife’s balance.

K-Tact Kukri Versatility

One of the big keys to the kukri design is that it’s a great maker’s tool. It is not used for combat only. Among the recognized attributes of the Gurkha fighting units is their resourcefulness, and a large part of that is that the kukri lends itself to being a maker’s tool. Just the overall shape allows you to do many chores. It can act as a small draw knife due to the arched shape.

Chopping with K-Tact Kukri
The author is not a big fan of batonning. “If you are going to do so,” he observed, “the rule of thumb is baton through nothing larger than one third the length of the knife. Following that rule allows you to keep leverage on the cut.”

For the sheath, instead of the traditional water-buffalo-covered wood, Condor uses a molded Kydex with a drop-leg leather strap and a retention strap. Despite being a huge traditionalist at times, I have to say the modern sheath is a huge improvement. The fit is spot on and you get none of the Kydex-rattling syndrome.

If I had to voice a disappointment in the K-Tact, to be fair it would be more of a “I want my cake and eat it, too” complaint. On a traditional kukri you get an extra small knife and a steel that ride behind the blade next to your body in the same sheath. Though I don’t have much use for the sharpening steel—I carry other sharpeners—a secondary small blade is a key part to the maker’s aspect of the knife.

K-Tact Kukri chopping
Due to the profile of the kukri, the sweet spot for chopping is at the belly a bit farther back from the tip than on a number of other chopper designs.

Yes, I know, I can carry another smaller knife, hence the “cake and eat it, too.” Having said that, there is still something about the knife presenting as a kit all in one housing. Keep in mind I am a father-and-son-knife-set collector. All I’m saying is, it would have been nice to have a matching small blade with it.

Use Before Buying

I must say I have enjoyed playing with this knife. It works well. Kukri-style knives aren’t for everyone, so do try and use one before you buy. Each knife style has its own little ins and outs. If all knives worked the same, what reason would enthusiasts have to collect multiples?

As a final thought, the K-Tact is a good, solid, dependable piece of kit and in the right hands can take you far. Who knows? You might discover that you just want a modern version of a legendary style. Made in El Salvador, it has an MSRP of $162.84.

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Non-Metallic Knives: Stealthy Stash Blades


Super affordable and lightweight, these stash knives are cool.

Since some knife fans long have been obsessed with what steel blades are made from, maybe it’s time to talk about blades that aren’t made of steel at all. I’m referring to the covert type built from materials designed to be less detectable, the kind you might want to keep as a backup.

There are knives made with just such materials. Five are the VZ Grips Executive Hydra Black Gray, Cold Steel FGX Ring Dagger and FGX Boot Blade, and the Kershaw Interval and Arise. The list is by no means exhaustive, though I am covering more knives than I usually do in my BLADE® stories. It also doesn’t include ceramic, obsidian, flint and other non-metal models. My goal was to test knives less likely to show up by scanning methods such as X-ray and metal detection.

According to Doug Ritter of Knife Rights, there are restrictions in some states concerning non-metallic knives. For the legal status of non-metallics in your state, visit LegalBlade.org for links to Knife Rights’ free Legal Blade knife law app for state-by-state information on laws concerning undetectable knives.

There is a move to ban knives of the non-metallic type. Knives are covered by the Second Amendment, so to keep legislatures from infringing on your rights, remain vigilant. To both stay informed and for how you can help protect your 2A rights, visit the respective sites of Knife Rights and the American Knife & Tool Institute.

Versatile: VZ Grips Executive Gen 2 Hydra

In all my years of collecting, I’d never held a knife with a G-10 blade—until the test model from VZ Grips. Such knives have been around a long time but until now I really hadn’t given them much thought. When I saw the VZ Grips Executive Gen 2 Hydra Black and Grey during a search for pistol grips, I made note of it for just such an occasion. Out of the knives reviewed, it has the most versatility in presentation options. As you can imagine, with pistol grips being VZ’s primary business, the variety of G-10 materials it offers is practically endless. The company has other non-metallic knives as well.

Non-Metallic Knife VZ Executive
The VZ Executive is a palm-style knife with an indentation in the handle just before the blade. Thin and sleek, it has a profile made for punching holes.

G-10 blades aren’t particularly useful for EDC work. You can do things like open some packages with them all right. They also make great letter openers. If you live in an area where you need a backup tool for self-protection and weight is a concern, these knives tuck away nicely. I carried the Executive inside my waistline at the 4 o’clock position for a few days. It comes with a sheath that has a belt loop, which tucked behind my belt. After a short while it didn’t feel as if I were carrying a knife at all.

It is in a sleek double-edge dagger style but because the edges aren’t sharp, it doesn’t count as a double-edged knife. It is a palm-held piece because it lacks a guard, and the tip is more than sharp enough for use. To enhance grip there’s a thumb depression where the handle meets the blade. Overall, it is a great little package and will find a place in my gear somewhere.

Budget Friendly: Cold Steel’s FGX Boot Blade And FGX Ring Dagger

Cold Steel non-metallic knife
Cold Steel uses a checkered-pattern Kray-Ex overmold rubber on the handle of the FGX Boot Dagger. The checkering isn’t very aggressive but still provides solid purchase.

At manufacturer’s suggested retail prices (MSRPs) of only $8.99 each, Cold Steel’s FGX Boot Blade and FGX Ring Dagger are the most economical of the test bunch. If this knife genre interests you, these two are but a smattering of Cold Steel’s non-metallic blade offerings. The company reproduces a number of its steel models in the non-metallic material Griv-Ex. I chose these two because they are among the styles that represent a traditional-looking boot dagger. Both knives come with a metal ring through the handle and no sheath. The Boot Blade has a Kray-Ex grip. Both have guards that encourage a hammer grip.

Two interesting features on the Ring Dagger are a reinforced tip and serrated edges. During the penetration tests when I stabbed a bunch of cardboard, the reinforced tip helped the Ring Dagger a lot. As for the serrated edge it did well cutting several things, though of course not as well as a steel edge. I put it up against cardboard, plastic packaging and packing bands. The edge will help in a pinch but I would not count on it as an everyday user.

Cold Steel Ring Dagger
The combination of the Cold Steel Ring Dagger’s reinforced tip and dual serrated edge make it a very aggressive blade for soft materials.

For the money the knives are an outstanding deal. Without sheaths, though, just finding a way to carry them might end up costing you more than the knives themselves. The tips are sharp enough to pierce some clothes, so stashing them in a bag might be problematic.

Concealable: Kershaw Interval And Arise

At press time, the Interval and Arise were Kershaw’s lone offerings in the genre. As you may or may not know, I like to comment on knife names. In this case and with the cutlery market so flooded these days, it seems Kershaw might have just opened a dictionary and pointed. Conversely, names have little to do with quality.

Kershaw Interval
Kershaw’s Interval is so slim it tucks in perfectly into the tight spaces in your EDC gear and clothing.

Both knives are made from a PA-66 glass fiber. A traditional dagger design bests describes the Arise. For whatever reason Kershaw decided to install four Torx® screws in the handle. The presence of screws obviously makes the knife detectable by metal detectors. As a traditional dagger design it has a guard to prevent your hand from slipping forward. As with the VZ knife the edges aren’t sharp so it should be legal in states that restrict double-edge knives. The blade shape is somewhat difficult to describe since Kershaw takes an angular approach. For sturdiness the blade has a fuller. A simple ribbed design provides handle texture.

The Interval is a palm-style knife with no guard. It’s very lightweight and for whatever reason there’s a metal insert on the inside of the diamond-shaped lanyard hole, which makes the knife detectable by a metal detector as well. A geometric-style surface design provides handle texture. I like the knife very much. It is the easiest to stash of the review pieces so I can see getting more examples as backups and putting them in my kit. The tip is sharp but the main edge isn’t.

Kershaw torex screw
Steel Torx® bolts in the handle make the Kershaw Arise detectable by metal scanners. If you want, you can remove the bolts.

Both knives come without a sheath but due to the sharp tips I would still prefer a sheath for carry. Given the knives’ size (7.4-inch overall lengths) sheaths would be nothing to make. You want to keep stash blades tucked away and undetectable. As one who has dug through many EDC bags looking for stuff stowed properly, one of these knives would be hard to find for a person who didn’t know it was there, say at the bottom of a pocket or in a small fold. My only beef is the inclusion of the metal lanyard ring/insert or these knives would be practically invisible. Both models did well in cutting tests and would make good stash blades.

VZ Executive Gen 2

Non-Metallic Knife VZ

Blade Material: G-10
Overall Length: 7.75″
Blade Length: 3.25″
Metal Parts: None
MSRP: $79.99
Country of Origin: USA

Kershaw Interval

Non-Metallic Knife Kershaw Interval

Blade Material: PA-66 glass fiber
Overall Length: 7.4″
Blade Length: 3.5″
Metal Parts: Yes
MSRP: $11.99
Country of Origin: China

Cold Steel FGX Ring Dagger

Non-Metallic Knife FGX

Blade Material: Griv-Ex/Kray-Ex
Overall Length: 9.1875″
Blade Length: 3.5″
Metal Parts: Yes
MSRP: $8.99
Country of Origin: Offshore

Cold Steel FGX Boot Blade

Non-Metallic Knife Cold Steel

Blade Material: Griv-Ex/Kray-Ex
Overall Length: 9.5″
Blade Length: 4.875″
Metal Parts: Yes
MSRP: $8.99
Country of Origin: Offshore

Kershaw Arise

Non-Metallic Knife Kershaw Arise

Blade Material: PA-66 glass fiber
Overall Length: 8.4″
Blade Length: 4.2″
Metal Parts: Yes
MSRP: $14.39
Country of Origin: China

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How To Make An Atlatl


We’ll take a momentary break from knives to talk about how to make this ancient and useful hunting tool—the atlatl.

Over 20 years ago I attended a primitive skills event in Michigan where the Michigan Atlatl Association was having its annual competition. I was amazed at how accurate the people could be using an atlatl, not to mention how much energy they could generate throwing one. However, I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. For starters I want to explain why I’m discussing atlatls in the first place.

One of the key points to remember during a survival situation is efficiency, because efficiency saves calories and resources. I know, many have heard of making a survival bow, but the time and resources used to make an atlatl are way less. An atlatl is simple: a throwing stick that allows you to increase your power when throwing a dart.

Imagine you were a pitcher in the major leagues and you could increase the length of your arm by half. The advantage you would create would be amazing. Similarly, not only is an atlatl easy and fast to make, it also increases your ability to throw a projectile farther and faster. Don’t get me wrong; I am not against bows by any means, but in the time it takes just to make a string for a bow, you can make an atlatl and a fist full of darts. In the end, if I were in a survival situation and needed something to hunt with, I would start with an atlatl.

How To Make An Atlatl

Handcrafted atlatls
At left are two single-finger throwers. At right is a snowbrush Chris Oberg used as a thrower to win the Michigan Atlatl Association championship. A hammer-style grip works well with the snowbrush thrower as the scraper end acts as a stop.

As mentioned, the atlatl is simply a stick used to increase your throwing advantage. To start, the simplest version is a branch with a secondary branch sprouting off the main shaft.

Take a branch and cut it to the length of you forearm, being sure to leave the secondary branch near the end. Now all you need do is cut the secondary branch to a small point, or leave a pocket. Which method you use will affect how you make your darts. With the point configuration, you must put a bit of a dimple in the end of the dart so it can rest on the point of the thrower arm. Another method is to form a pocket by attaching other materials. These days most survival kits and a lot of EDC kits include duct tape. Simply cut yourself a stick, again the length of you forearm. At one end of the stick form a pocket with a piece of duct tape to cradle the back end of your dart.

There are a couple of methods to hold the atlatl. The first and easiest without having to do any more work on the atlatl itself is the hammer grip. To apply a hammer grip, grab the end of the thrower with the bottom three fingers of your throwing hand. Take your other hand and place the dart on the holder. Then rest the thrower in the palm of your hand and, with your thumb and index finger, grab the shaft of the dart, suspending it off the thrower.

A second method makes your thrower in the basketmaker’s* style. To do this you will need a bit of cord (a shoelace will work) or anything you can use to form two loops on the side of the atlatl shaft. At the end of your thrower, tie a knot that creates two loops on the handle. Insert your index finger in one loop and your middle finger in the other. Having the two loops makes it easier for you to retain the thrower throughout as it is now attached to your throwing hand. A thrower is that easy to make.

Making Spears And Darts

variety of darts
A thrower and a variety of darts illustrate the basic concepts of harvesting and utilizing various materials, including lashing smaller pieces together to make a dart.

An atlatl dart is simply a large arrow. If you can wrap your head around that, you start to see potential dart material everywhere—perhaps a piece of a broken fishing rod, the extra pole in your tent bag, a leg from a folding chair—the possibilities are pretty much endless. The mark of humanity is that there is plenty of garbage most everywhere, so remember to capitalize on any resource you run across.

For natural resources you can turn to plants and bushes that grow almost straight shaft shoots. Some examples in North America are those from mullein, rosewood cane, ragweed and dogwood. In places like Asia, bamboo is a natural selection. Since plant shafts grow in a tapered fashion, be sure to put the heavier end of your dart at the tip. Having the heavier end at the rear will cause the momentum of the heavier back to lift the tip, as the heavier end will want to pass the front.

For length, look for the dart to be at least twice that of the thrower or longer. The longer and lighter the dart, the more energy you can produce. Note: The heavier the dart, the strong the thrower must be.
Start by stripping the shafts and straightening them. During the initial straightening you can bend the shafts or create friction on the concaved side, which will release the tension in the material. As time passes you might do the occasional straightening over a campfire, as the heat helps.

Now that you have the shafts straight you need to carve a small dimple in the back of each one to rest on the point of the thrower. If you are using materials that have nodes along the shaft like bamboo and mullein, be sure to carve the pocket just before a node to avoid splitting the shaft of the dart.

Now for creating drag. Just like with an arrow, to keep a dart flying straight it helps to have drag. Consequently, fletch the dart by splitting leaves and lashing them to the shaft. A more expedient way is to make fletching out of duct tape. You don’t necessarily need fletching but for throwing longer distances it helps.

For making the tip, simply sharpen the point or as mentioned earlier get creative and find something to use that has been left behind—a soda can cut and folded to form tips, for example. How does the saying go? Recycle, reduce and reuse.

What’s An Atlatl Good For?

Thrower's take aim with atlatl and dart
Carter Gammill takes aim. In terms of accurate throwing, the hardest part is getting your timing down as to when to release the dart. Setting up a target for practice provides an added element of challenge.

Atlatls have been in use for thousands of years as hunting tools. There are still Inuit tribes that use them to hunt narwhal to this day. It is expedient, uses little resources and best of all you can carve one with your favorite knife in no time. You will want to try making one first to get the idea. After that you will be surprised how you start to see so many things that can be made into an atlatl. The hardest part is getting your timing down as to when to release the dart when you throw it. Most importantly, knowing how to make and use an atlatl puts yet another worthwhile tool in your kit.

*The Basketmaker culture of the pre-Ancestral Puebloans began about 1500 BC and continued until about 750 AD with the dawn of the Pueblo Era in what is now the American Southwest. They used the atlatl for hunting and as a combat weapon. The culture was named Basketmaker for the large numbers of baskets found at local archaeological sites dated circa 800 BC to 200 AD.

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