Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Edges Part III - Winkler Belt Knife

It's time now for the much anticipated third installment of Edges, a series which seems to be escalating and becoming progressively more serious as the Roman numeral numbering scheme approaches the point where a "V" is thrown confusingly into the fray.

Ever since I was a kid and primarily concerned with using knives to whittle pointed sticks, I've appreciated how different blade designs influence performance. Tradeoffs are always present as properties such as alloy, shape, grind, and thickness are altered.

The Winkler Knives II Belt Knife is proportionally similar to the Nimravus in the previous post with a 4.75-inch blade, overall length of 9 inches and 6.7-ounce weight, yet it behaves quite differently. Where the Benchmade's thin edge and long taper make for a very good slicer, the Winkler leans more into utility knife territory. The blade is thick and wedge-like, creating strength for chopping, prying, batoning, and penetrating heavy materials. Meanwhile the belly is curved, allowing for a longer cutting surface which is a trait common to skinning knives - this makes it perfect for hard, slashing strokes such as cutting a drift boat anchor rope in an emergency.

What results is a compact, versatile tool that stands up to heavy use. The Belt Knife is durable and the blade carries thickness all the way to the tip where many are fragile. If you were cutting vegetables, a Nimravus would slice more effortlessly but the Winkler gets the job done while being capable of the serious prying/chopping that causes thin designs to fail.

Winkler Knives Belt Knife - Blog Size

A flat grind is used providing ease of sharpening and the 80CRV2 carbon steel takes and retains a nice edge. The Belt Knife is easy to use and easy to maintain. Winkler offers a number of different handle options for this product including wood, rubber, micarta, and sculpted micarta (shown here). Personally I love sculpted micarta handles; they are my favorite above all others not only due to the excellent grip they provide both wet and dry, but because they tend to be individually crafted and therefore unique.

This make/model gained a great deal of notoriety when it was revealed that Matt Bissonnette (a U.S. Navy S.E.A.L. operator assigned to Team Six) carried the Winkler Belt Knife as part of his combat load out, and had one with him on the Bin Laden raid.

Part of what makes this blade such a solid choice as a tactical or utility tool is the outstanding sheath. Winkler uses a leather/kydex sandwich to produce a simple and highly functional solution. The knife is held in place firmly without the need for a retention strap, making it immediately accessible. A lanyard can be used at the point, and the belt attachment is adjustable via spacers to get the perfect horizontal or vertical mount on any belt, strap, or MALICE clip.

This is one of my all-time favorite knives because it's an ideal size for easy carry, tremendously accessible owing to the brilliant sheath, and is such a solid blend of blade strength, cutting ability, and ease of sharpening. It's on the expensive side, but Winklers just plain last and work hard. It may have come across that I am partial to this sheath, and I will mention that many knives costing upwards of $250 either come with a cheap sheath or none at all. Quite a few consumers end up with an aftermarket or custom accessory, and here you get one that really stands apart in my opinion.

To wrap up, Winkler also offers some similar knives with slightly different blade designs that have many of the same properties. If you are intrigued by the Belt Knife, you may want to check out the Utility Knife,Spike, and Hunting Knife also.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Edges Part II - Benchmade Nimravus

Next up on my list of current favorites is the BenchmadeNimravus 140BK, which is a mid-sized knife that comes with a versatile nylon sheath. I really like the blade design as an all-around camp knife, because it's thin and very light with a drop point that makes it excellent for slicing and puncturing.

When you pick up the Nimravus, it's much lighter than you would expect for its size. The blade length is 4.5" and overall the knife is 9.45" long, yet it only weighs about 6 oz. The unique aluminum handle scales contribute to this effect, and I like the handle although it can tend to feel cold during frigid temperatures with bare hands. There is a heavy choil and handle carve-out for the index finger along with very aggressive jimping along the back of the blade which combine to provide a lot of control.

As a slicing design the blade makes short work of food preparation, cord/rope cutting, creating wood shavings for kindling, fish cleaning, and so forth. The blade is thin enough that it works for filleting and it's also a great steak knife. It's not a heavy-duty chopper so you won't want to take it out and use it to baton or hack off tree limbs. Those types of tasks clearly necessitate ANOTHER KNIFE OR KNIVES which we will get to in subsequent posts.

Benchmade Nimravus Blog Size

When I want a jack-of-all-trades camp knife that can easily be attached to a belt or pack without adding noticeable weight, the Nimravus is my go-to.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Edges Part I - Southern Grind Rat

Like most sportsmen, I have a few knives. By "a few" I mean that slight shifts in the bottom layers of my collection often cause tremors which are mistaken for seismic activity at our local university's geology department.

The issue is that, much like with fly rods or shotguns, there happens to be an ideal tool for certain types of jobs. In turn, this necessitates the ownership of a specific product to best meet the demands of the task at hand. Mathematicians have worked out the exact number of cutting implements required by the modern sportsman, and represent that figure as follows:

This is often mispronounced by those in close association with an outdoorsman as "a bazillion," as in "I don't see why you need a bazillion knives." It's OK to gently correct the speaker in these cases and let them know that while "a bazillion" does tend to represent a large, exaggerated number, in this case the proper term is "infinity."

In the coming days I'm going to share some of my favorite fixed blades that I've been able to use over the past year.

First up is the Southern Grind Rat. At only 4.9 inches in overall length and 1.5 ounces in weight, the Rat is incredibly useful for stowing unobtrusively in packs or pockets. It comes with a great little Kydex sheath that can be attached wherever you see fit or be worn around the neck. While small, this knife is actually very capable and can be pressed into service for most cutting tasks. You won't be using it for chopping kindling or anything heavy duty, but it's got a really nice flat grind and the 8670M high carbon steel takes an edge well. The finish is Cerakote and holds up nicely under use.

Southern Grind Rat - Blog Size

Where I use The Rat most often is as a backup that occupies virtually no space and stays in my day pack all the time. It also works perfectly for when you are traveling light and want a just-in-case knife that won't interfere with anything else you're bringing along.

Southern Grind fixed blades are not mass produced, so availability can be limited but at the time of this writing they are in stock both in tanto and drop point configurations.