Friday, April 26, 2013

Benchmade VS Benchmade

Benchmade Throw-Down

Most of us will agree that today’s factory folding knives are some of the best ever made.  You can spend more, but for the money Benchmade gives you one hell heck of a knife.

Let’s compare two of the newest.  To my knowledge, nobody  has published an article in the national mags about them. 

Honesty compels me to tell you I own one and the other is for sale so I can’t cut sheetrock or gut watermelons or do any real physical testing.  But then, how many of us buy a knife based on the amount of hemp rope it can dice.  If you need chopped hemp, buy a hammer mill and not a knife.

Here’s the main event.

Ladies and gents, in this corner we have Benchmade’s Ball Axis Flipper.  In the other corner we have Benchmade’s Volli.  Okay you two, I want a clean fight, no punching below the axis lock and break clean when I call it.

Benchmade  Ball and Volli
"...wearing the black grips is the Volli and in brown we have the Flipper."

The Ball Axis Flipper is new to Benchmade.  Flipper knives are very popular now.  Most open so smooth and cleanly you might think you have an auto opener.  With no spring to worry about or concerns that a police officer might believe it’s an auto, you’re ready for action.

I’m on board with that idea.  But really, couldn’t we get a better name other than Ball Axis Flipper?  I’m going to call it the Flipper.  To my knowledge the Ball 300 or Ball Axis is the first Benchmade flipper knife in production.  Please correct me if I'm wrong.

The Flipper’s blade is 3 inches of 154CM steel hardened to RC 58-61.  The blade can be described as a drop point with a shallow swedge and flat saber grind.  A series of narrow scallops softens the handle’s contours and provides friction ridges.  The alternating layers of brown and tan G-10 make a bit of color in what might be a considered a drab handle.

Butch Balls Axis flipper
Butch Ball's design for Benchmade, the 300 Axis Flipper

Steel liners under Tan G10
The Ball 300 has sturdy steel liners, a feature I like.

Does the blade open smooth?  Yes.  Can I flip it open with one finger only?  I needed the tiniest amount of wrist action to pop it open.  You could argue the one finger opening is a side effect of the blade design.  The real purpose of the flipper is to act as a guard making the knife safer to use.  That’s something to think about if you find yourself having to explain why you’re carrying this sweetheart.  And frankly, what's not to like about Benchmade's axis lock?

Clips side of both benchmade knives
Volli and Ball 300, clip side.  Benchmades are typically set up for  tip up carry.

The knife weighs 4.8 ounces and the weight balances right behind the Axis lock.  For me this makes the knife a little blade heavy.  I like a little more weight in my hand.  I think it makes the blade more responsive.

The Volli, with its catalog number 1000001, is an almost a digital knife.  Okay, it’s a lame joke but there is nothing lame about the Volli.

The Volli has a large thumb groove carved into the G10.
It’s an assisted opening.  The 3.25 inch blade is made from S30V steel and is a high grind drop point.  S30V is one of the new wonder steels and is hardened to Rockwell C of 58-60.  Both sides of the handle have a groove carved in the black G10 that funnels your thumb to the opening stud.  It’s a great feature.  Even blindfolded or in the dark the groove locates the blade side and facilitates finding the stud.  It reminds me of Benchmade’s Emissary or CRKT’s Crawford Kasper folder.  

Another look at the thumb groove on the Volli.

The handle has a slight palm swell that is scalloped with a series of flat surfaces across the entire surface.  It looks interesting.  It feels better.  The spine has small knobby rectangles of G-10 protruding upward.  They remind me of vertebrae. 

The Ball has an open spine, better for cleaning, but I like the knobby 'vertebrae' on the Volli and the handle's slight palm swell.
At the end of the vertebrae sits a lock which can be used to prevent the knife from opening.  

Balance?  The weight seems to be concentrated in the handle.  For me, the balance point seemed to be at the Axis lock and not behind it like the Flipper.  The slight difference in balance point between these two makes a significant difference to me.

I never have been concerned about knives opening in my pocket.  I typically wear them with the blade pressed into the seam side of the pocket where there is no room to open.  But if you’re active enough, or wear your Volli differently your might find that lock useful.

So here’s the throw down: 

Blade Steel
Blade Length
Opening Action
Tip up right or left
Assisted w/ Stud
Ball Flipper
Tip up right or left
Flipper w/ Stud

I didn’t mention price.  They are very similar.  MSRP for the Volli is $160 while the Ball 300 is $175.  Both are great knives with good value for the price.

My preference? I’m not afraid to catalog my knives by use.  Sort of a dress vs. tennis shoe approach to which knife I carry for any function.

I’d carry either for a casual day in the woods.  I’d carry either in and about town to work or shopping.  The Volli is almost nice enough for formal wear, you know, weddings and funerals.  But if I knew I was going stand in a dark alley with my pulse pounding in my ears, or was heading out to hike the Buckeye Trail I’d want the Ball Axis Flipper.  I think it’s a slightly better knife.

But check them out.  Your opinion may be different.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Dale Warther Memorial Expo Knife Show 2013

WRCA (Western Reserve Cutlery Association) held its March 2013 Dover Show in April this year.  Confused?  You’re not alone.  We were scheduled at the Dover National Guard Armory in March, but someone in the Guard liked our date better and we found ourselves sitting on our asses outside and off the calendar.  The best we could do was reschedule on April 6 and 7th.

Several of our favorite vendors couldn’t reschedule and they were missed.

But still, the show was a lot of fun.  It was nice to spend time yakking with the other vendors and I picked up a really nice knife.  More on that later.  The downside (Yes, most shows have a downside.   It’s more interesting to write about conflict and problems.) was low attendance.  The unofficial count was around 350 attendees over two days.  It is a given in the retail business, no matter if you are buying or selling, you need lots of foot traffic for sales. 

Maybe it was the drop dead gorgeous weather.  Maybe it was the change in date.  Maybe the inability to put an advertising sign in the Armory’s front yard was our fatal flaw.  Maybe, well there’s no maybe about it, we’re doing something wrong.  Let’s see what we do next year.

My NEW Knife

I picked up an unused Elishewitz-1 (small) from the German company Eickhorn-Solinger. 

my new knife front side
My new Elishwitz-1 pocket knife

The seller told me it was one of those companies that had gone out of business in Germany, but their website indicates they are doing well.

My new Elishwitz knife showing clip
For the size of the knife, it has a nice proportion of blade to handle.

Eickhorn is one of many knife companies that has been making edged steel in the “City of Blades,” as Solinger is known in Germany, for 140 years.  They are best known for their high quality military knifes.  This knife shows the quality.

The almost 3-inch blade is a nice spear point with a well-proportioned swage and partial flat grind.  The steel is cryo-quenched 420 stainless steel that has been softened to HRC 55-56.  Softened is the right term.  Just hardened steel can be so brittle it can’t be worked without breaking.  The blade is laser engraved with first production run 0936 of 2000 and logos.

The handle is aircraft aluminum with G-10 inserts
Closed and showing clip side.  The handle is aircraft aluminum with G-10 inserts.

The handle is G-10 with an aluminum/magnesium anodized alloy insert.  That’s sort of the opposite of what I often see.

The knife locks open with a steel frame lock.  
The steel liner shows serrations for friction
The knife looks unused.   The original grind marks are still on the edge of the blade.

Eickhorn has serrated the edge of the steel frame to increase your grip.  Of course it has a clip so it will stay where I put it. 

I got it with the original plastic box and paperwork.  I found it was still available online and you can get one for 45 euros.
Reminds me of Tupperware
Kind of reminds me of Tupperware!

The company’s logo is a long-eared squirrel with a sword with a sort of a give-me-the-bird-seed-or-your-life kind of look.   

laser etched in blade steel
The trademark has been laser etched into the steel.  Not too visible in this photo, you can see where the laser paused or started leaving little periods in the letters.
The company was founded by the Eickhorn family with that name 140 years ago, so I took a chance and translated squirrel into German and got eichhornchen.  I suspect the boys often got tagged with the nickname squirrel. 

laser etched
Elishewitz logo.  You can see little spots were the laser paused for a microsecond.