Category Archives: Tools

Review: Spyderco Para-Military2

I bought my 1st Spyderco early this year. It was a Persistence. As the forums had promised, it hadn’t stopped there. The Tenacious (now sold) soon followed, followed by an Ambitious. All made in China; all with pretty good fit and finish to boot, if a little bulky. I was curious about the higher end stuff, and bought a Urban Slipit in G10 Foliage green followed by a FFG Delica with Grey FRN handles. On the advice of Tony, I purchased a Dragonfly 2 in ZDP-189 – great knife. I was still a little curious, a serrated Dragonfly 2 Salt and serrated Ladybug Hawkbill Salt joined the collection.

The Dragonfly 2 ZDP-189 has become my favourite knife. Small and light, fits my hand minus the pinky, cuts great for the stuff I want it to do. Not too intimidating.

More curiosity. All that I’ve had so far was made in Seki City, Japan. I still had nothing from “Golden, Colorado, USA, Earth”. If the stuff the company made in an outsourced factory half-way around the world was already so good, was I to expect even better in a USA-made product? I jumped on a regular production Para-Military2 in CPM-S30V and black G-10 handles.

It is a great knife. Overbuilt for sure, from the 3.5mm thick blade, beefy standoffs, the innovative compression lock, to the ergonomics. It has outstanding build quality. I also understand that the bushing system was engineered to let the blade freely swing no matter how hard the pivot is tightened, with no blade play when locked open. This allows the blade swing from fully open to fully closed by gravity once the lock is disengaged. Very cool. The only one niggle I have with it is the clip. I would have liked something that rides lower.

For all the Para-Military2’s perfection I wanted to love it; and yet I don’t. I still love my Dragonfly2, either in ZDP-189 or H1. For 60% more blade (that I don’t typically need), it weighs 3 times more. The DF2 has a better clip, IMO. The PM2 has better looks, nicer handles, a cooler lock. For it’s size, and for the fact that it’s so overbuilt, it comes across as being a little inelegant, compared to the svelte compactness of the DF2.

Yes I know, you can’t compare the two. They are like apples and oranges, and made for different needs. I guess what I’m trying to say is that while the PM2 would be great for a camping trip, or a BBQ, the length and weight precludes me from carrying this regularly. For me, the DF2 does pretty much what I need, and with aplomb. I guess this one goes into the drawer to come out for special occasions…. or the zombie apocalypse.

Review: United Cutlery Tactical Defense Pen

I had recently retired my 3 year old Lamy because my mod broke it.

Some old/new requirements I had:

  1. Cost: It couldn’t cost a fortune.
  2. Looks: Even as a “tactical pen”, it couldn’t have features like a crown/DNA catcher that would more likely hurt me (or my clothing) than for its intended purpose. Also, it needs to be able to get through airport checkpoints without undue delay.
  3. Features: It had to be the twist to open/close type because I don’t really want to be fumbling with a cap.

So… for USD18 or so, I think this one is pretty good. The grooves offer good grip and looks rather cool. The anodising looks solid. There is a positive stop when the tip is fully extended, so the force of your hand when writing won’t force the tip back into the body. The clip is strong, but doesn’t look like it was designed to tear clothing apart. It also sits pretty low in a shirt pocket.

The downside? I don’t know how it will perform for its “non-intended purpose”, but out of the box it wrote like crap. This wouldn’t do – hey its a PEN!!

Happily, this is easily resolved by replacing the cartridge it came with with one from Parker. Direct drop-in – no mods. I personally prefer gel-type inks, I understand Parker does offer it in this form-factor but all I could find at short notice was ball-point. I chose the fine-tip, good for 3500m of writing. Much better.

Friction Folder by Deviant

Decadent. I bought myself a custom-made friction folder by Filip De Leeuw of Deviant Blades in Belgium. Wonderful thing this internet is. One gets to find talented people like him from all over the world. Now we know for a fact that besides beer and chocolate, Belgium is also good for its knifemakers and their attention to detail!

3 inch satin finished non locking chinese-shaped blade in RWL-34 steel; handles of orange G10. I think this is one of his older knives; I understand that he has begun to put his maker’s mark on his new work. This one doesn’t have it.

Excellent work!

Review: Landi RSK

I ordered a RSK from custom knifemaker John Landi – and it’s just arrived. From his website @

RSK specifications: This knife came out of my Kinzua model. In November 2009, I ground off the thumb ramp on a Kinzua, and liked it! I then decided to have the blank jet out with a cavity in the center so it could be easily cord wrapped. The RSK acronym stands for “reserve survival knife”, similar to the PSK concept. I liked the way RSK sounded and wanted to differentiate slightly from the PSK. I am also having handle scales milled-out to fit into the cavity and lock into place and be contoured on the other. They should be ready in August 2010 and will be interchangeable. Leather sheaths will also be available to fit the blank when it has scales mounted to it. The knife is ground be hand, by me, and finished to medium scotch-brite. The primary bevel is ground full flat with a convexed secondary bevel.

Measurements: OAL: 7-5/8″. Cutting edge: 3-3/8″. Stock: 1/8″.

Finishing: These A2 knives (I am loving A2) are heat treated, cryogenically treated, triple tempered, and tested to guaranteed Rc of 59-61 by Peters of Meadville, PA.

Other Details: The knife weighs 2.5 ounces wrapped with lanyard, and 3.5 with sheath. There is approximately 7 feet of 550 para-cord used in wrapping each knife.

All Landi knives are what he calls mid-tech, which I understand means that the blanks are CNC cut, and then personally finished by the maker. All his knives are produced this way and in batches, which allows him to achieve some kind of production scale and keep prices affordable for peasants like me. I am also to understand that he soon intends to rename this model, since another maker has already taken the RSK name. I’ll update as I find out.

On to some pictures!

Row 1: Size comparisons with an ESEE 4, iPhone4 in Otterbox Defender, Spyderco Tenacious
Row 2: Fit and Finish on the sheath vs on the ESEE 4
Row 3: Some closeups on the blade to show the grind. There are some strange markings and scratches on the blade.
Row 4: Some shots in hand.

I had some gripes initially, but all of my blades are users – so I decided to take matters into my own hands and make it my own.
1. The sheath had some awkward corners, so I put it to sandpaper.
2. The sheath wouldn’t retain very well, so i heated the mouth of it and clamped it together for a little more security.
3. I’m starting to have doubts on my choice of paracord wrap. Let’s see if John will sell me some black canvas micarta scales. ;-)
4. Maybe custom kydex to accommodate the scaled blade. I’m pretty sure the current sheath is scratching the blade… see pics in hand.
5. The choil area was sharp, and a potential hotspot. I took a fine stone to the corners. I can hardly see the effect on the choil, but I can certainly feel the difference!

Some closing thoughts. For the price, this is a brilliant fixed blade and I can see it living up to its given Reserve Survival Knife name. The shape is just perfect. Fits my hand well, its even got some extra tang length and I can beat with it. It’s light and thin, and you wouldn’t notice you’re carrying it until you need it. This can be a good or bad thing. I can’t say I trust the retention of the sheath and I may not notice if its gone missing! The knife did not arrive ready for safe-queen duty. If its gonna be a user, then you won’t have a problem with some pre-love love.

Lastly, the more I look at the sheathed profile, the more I’m thinking… Hey John, how about a Reserve Survival Chopper? RSC. Sounds catchy.

Sharpening Kitchen Knife

I collect knives. I use them too. But I’m an absolute sharpen-tard. For many people its an art. They sharpen freehand on a stone and if you look up some videos on youtube, they make it look easy. I try that, and I reduce my knives to a pile of blunt, useless steel.

So for me, it is an absolute science, with precise angles and bevels and all that. Mike Casey has a great article on sharpening, which led me to think that I just need some kind of guided system. There are some great DIY jigs people build to sharpen their knives; there are also some great guided systems out there. I went with the DMT Diafold Magna-Guide system because, apparently, DMT makes the best stones. I got the kit with Coarse, Fine, Extra Fine and Extra-Extra Fine stones.

These are what I have now…
a $5 stone (I wanted to build one of these)
a Wusthof 2899 2-Stage Pocket Knife Sharpener (piece of shite, I’ll explain later)
and the DMT system – the aligner clamp, magnetic angle guide, and 2 diafolds. See Video

As soon as they arrived, I started off with our oldest kitchen knife.

After trying for a while to sharpen the knife, I realised that the blade was chipped.

Decided we needed a fresh start, and blunted the knife by drawing it lengthwise along the stone, effectively removing the chip.

Now that the knife was completely blunted, I wanted to put a preliminary edge (or bevel) on the knife with the Wusthof. The damned thing chipped the knife again. Piece of Shite. I had to blunt it a second time.

Putting an edge back on the blunted knife took a lot of time. I wish I had gone and bought the extra-coarse stone. So I did the next best thing and used the stone with the guide clamp. See vid.

Now that the primary bevel is in, time to put in the cutting edge with the DMT. Notice the result. 2 angles. I like!