Sunday, November 25, 2018

Barker-Shirogorov Collab: Hokkaido

Going straight to the butt of the subject, but more on the actual booty later...

First off, thanks to all out there who has been following this space and wondering if I'm err.. "dead". No, on the contrary.. very much alive, just playing too much games and not having too many knives lately.

To kick-off, I'm thinking the usual long windedness and crappy no-narration short video format at the end of each article is getting a little stale. It would be nice to collaborate with someone else who does video presentation better while I put my wall-of-texts in words as usual. So here's to a video review at the end by James Nguyen aka on Instagram.

Let's start off to say in all honesty, this wouldn't be a design that makes it a daily go-to-knife for me. My gungho-ness with edged stuffs has been honed mostly with precise aggression involving my culinary skills for the ultimate gastronomic delights.

 However, I do appreciate the intended applications it is designed for. A no nonsense knife meant to work and get the job done, quick, once taken out. A true big bad brute of a tactical knife indeed.

When the RFT and Poluchotky arrived, I deemed those as pocket swords. The Hokkaido? It's simply a tank... something quite capable of steam rolling through anything.

Blade thickness, 4mm, matched to the width (34mm at the heel and 30mm after the drop-in)  and the manner it's pared down towards the edge makes it a very well balance blade.

Due to the width, it doesn't look long but having the same length as a F95 at 95mm is by definition a "big knife" to many.  In comparison the widest point of the F95 is only 28mm.

The 95 is flipped to make the blade comparison closer with the Russian Hokkaido. 111 still pretty much dwarfs everything when it comes to length, well almost all.
Upon holding, it didn't feel "squat"-ish. If the term isn't an oxymoron , I'll venture to call it a "big compact'. It's one of those knives you pick up and it immediately gives you that "Oomph" feeling. Solid and sturdy, weight weenies will cringe though.

While spotting the same length and thickness as a F95 yet the feel is anything similar for the blade. Not just because of the tanto-ish shape here vs the leaf point of a F95 but the heft of the blade was really the first noticeable thing.

If memory serves me well-- a normal F95 would be ~130-140gm while the Russian Hokkaido is 170gm. Handle wise the Hokkaido would not have been much diff with cutouts vs a normal F95 and materials being titanium on both are light relative to steel. Accounting a few grams here for the copper backspacer, the majority of the weight difference would have to go on the blade.. Same length but with 20-ish grams more of steel on the blade, I reckon an idea of "what the heft" this blade is packing can be imagined.
A reverse profiled screw holding up the back end of handles and spacer and from the looks, it can only be a hidden hardware for the clip
Let's continue with ogling the butt for now...

The challenge here as one looks at the clip in its entirety is that it doesn't stray too far from the flat  one found in the original design. By using a minimalist re-designing, it was kept as close to the original yet becoming something quite different with the end result. This view is not only from me but some thing found in common after talking to different folks. We can all truly appreciate what has gone into the clip area even though it doesn't seem to be packed with features or milling works.

Spacer! The one non functional area of a knife that I'm rather particular about, something that can make or break a decision at the point of buying. With Shirogorovs, that is not a problem. Nothing particularly fanciful most time in new models but they blend in nicely with the rest of the knife with the usual attention to details.. Most people ask me, what's the big deal of a few broad jimpings milled out? Grab one and a few other "lesser knives" and it really wouldn't be hard to understand.

Of course any jimping are always aligned to the handles, I expect no less from the factory's standard on such details and it never disappoint. The opening here is a lot friendlier than many, so putting on your favorite bead and lanyard wouldn't require the same effort as shoving an elephant into your storeroom and asking the poor animal to make a u-turn.

The milling on Shirogorov knives are taken for granted by now. Even so, the work on the Hokkaido jumps out at me this time. The previous few collaborations had nice millings too but of the very fine kind. Here the lines are deep and clean, if anyone still remembers the batch of full custom F95 Seashell from ~ 2014?? It looks a lot like those here on the Russian Hokkaido but here its deep and seems even more refined than the Seashells in the finishing. I may never have the chance to own the full customs but even if their trickle down effects reaches a few years late in other makes, I'm certainly not complaining.

Though nothing new by now but the pivot collar with its bronze anodization lends a classy polished overall demeanor . Presentation side of the pivot adds a nice touch by being aligned horizontally with the blade. Ideally it would be on both sides but that will take some carefully calculated custom turned screws... I have seen those in 1-off custom works but reckon to repeat on 200 pieces would really be quite hard to justify the cost and time involved for something that may be easily missed.

The milling actually wasn't the focus of the photo above. The intention was to highlight the logos. Not one to fancy logo on the blade as often said in past writings, this is one of those that I have no qualms. Cleanly and deeply lasered. Very defined at different angles. Again, while its not a big thing like the aligned pivot  but I sure hope all knives from the factory in future with logo on the blade would be of this quality.

While the above gives a clearer view of the logo, what I also like as seen in the picture is the lock geometry and the overall profiling given to this area. The lock interface of the insert is only on the top half, the bottom half matching the tang area has a deep groove. If one look closely, it looks a little like jig saw pieces fitted together. Psychologically, an added assurance of everything being secure at lock up, although I suspect that is only something from my over imaginative mind. Others might not agree.

Angle of the lock setting is also nicely done on this particular one, which is something that can vary from knife to knife as these are individually finished. Nice early lockup with no signs of wobbling and due to the angle (I think), nothing to push inwards too easily as some others have been. On this point I had some I had a discussion with folks on the pros and con of the acuteness of the lock face on the blade side of a knife that can cause this "moving inward" of the lock bar.

Early but firm lock up at around 30%

Haven't opened up any of the collaborations since the Jeans and RDD from 2 years ago. Unlike earlier days where every little detail from inside to out intrigues me, if a knife arrives these days I normally leave them as it is. Only if somehow the action or centering is off, would I venture a take down. If that is the case, I frankly wouldn't consider it a good knife to begin with. All knives should leave a factory/ or someone's workshop without a need to disassemble until it comes actual maintenance due to usage over time.

So with this is where a collaboration review with James works out. I'm glad that inquisitive streak is alive in someone else these days :) Wouldn't have found out otherwise how much the insides and hidden view of things have changed

Photo credit: Courtest of James Nguten, (IG)
SRRBS on hardened steel washer keeps everything rolling.

Signature pac man screws are now used on the insides to fasten the insert and clip. Pivot detent first seen only on full custom finally made it to the collaborations. I suspect it started with the RFT but cannot vouch for that as I have not seen an opened up RFT so far. My suspicion comes from trying to turn the pivot loose.. if its all locktited and has a pivot detent, it will loosen with a bit of force, otherwise both ends will rotate together.

Single row roller bearings on hardened steel plate washers gets the whole package rotating. I like it on some knives but not others.. Here it works out well with the combination of the blade weight. A smooth closing even though the detent and lock bar strength is set pretty strong.

The deep extensive milling is probably how the weight has been kept down to 170gm and would explain why logos are not done on the insides anymore these days.. There simply isn't space for them.

It took a few rounds of comparison on action. Final trio is here with the Hokkaido sitting right smack in between. Speed wise it's closer to the RFT. Both knives with their heft has more of a deliberate feel in their momentum when flipping out. Poluchotky still remains the in-your-face hard and lightning fast blade. But it shares the sturdiness and firmness of detent and lock strength with the Hokkaido which are a tad lighter in the RFT.

No secret that I've always been a fan of Shirogorov flipper tabs. Not much changes to make it look too subdue like the previous few collaborations and this knife definitely need a bigger tab for proper grip-and-flip purchase.  What's nice is the detailed milling for functional purposes that is not lost.  It makes no sense to have lines and corners that are physically sharp, creating hotspots when flipping. Here it is looking clean and sharply defined but pleasantly comfortable.

Whether you tab the jimping or prefer to dig your index finger in front and trigger pull like me the blade fires positively every time. If you trigger pull, then you will appreciate the front has an ever so slight a convex surface.

Parking it right. Or should I say parking it tight. It's upping the game in getting closer to the sides and probably with the edge closer to the backspacer these days. In real it looks a lot closer than this close up pic. Frankly I was a little paranoid at first.." What if after a few flip and things start to loosen a little, will it touch the spacer?"  Ok-- had about 300 flips.. all's good, still centered.

Parking it Tight: Hokkaido (left) vs Ti Russian Dr Death

One last comparison pic, this one with the RFT (left). While there are a number of grinds near the back of Shiro blades, having compound grinds are far and few in between. Both here are not as extensive as some other makes but whatever is produced on one has to remain consistent over 200. I guess that takes a lot of consideration for each an d every line added onto the blade. When the RFT first came, having the compound marks a step up. 

Maybe it's easier to get the definitions "sharper" on the Hokkaido due to the steel being worked on? M390 on the RFT vs Vanax 37 here. Whatever it is, there is really nothing not to like about it on the Hokkaido. Even with an extra dimension of sloping down from the back added here, it's still not overly complicated. A subtle statement of change while keeping with the quality of finishing and consistency is apparent.

Something to choke up nicely when a firm grip is needed. Not with the index finger in front of the flipper though as maxing out of edge length means only a small choil is retained in the design.

Now to James video before a couple of show pics below.

As my South African machinist friend calls it-- The Chameleon Knife, because depending on the lighting, it never quite look the same.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Mod F95... pt 2

Ahem.. digressing so much from the last post-- it never even got to the latest modifications done on my de-facto EDC, Shirogorov F95.

How it all started?
When the fixation for a convex edge struck and an idea of modding the edge about a year ago, it turned out to be a half-educated trial and error that worked. But close inspection with a digital magnifier says there is still a lot of micro unevenness. Still it solved one of my issue with this knife... namely a keen cutting edge with good retention for daily tasks.

Info out there is that Shiros have between 20-22.5 dps (degree per side) depending on models (and maybe to an extent the steel type used in each model?)  Chatting with folks-- many find 19-20 dps seems to be magical numbers for models like F95, F3 and Hati and ~21 for the Shirogorov 111. Though some swear by 19 or 20 as well.

Like most, too eager and thinking good steel can take a much more acute angle, earlier on it was messed up with a 17dps. It took forever to sharpen and that widened the edge as a result. Finally gotten it to hair splitting sharp but edge retention became an issue. With such an acute angle, I was also getting tiny chips.. no big deal but annoying nonetheless.

Subsequent re-profiling took it to 17.5, then 18 and finally at ~18.5 dps-- it was better. The chips doesn't happen much anymore. Edge retention improved but not stellar.

Next was a microbevel at 22. This works fine but under the magnifier-- my microbevel was still horribly uneven in width. Much later I discovered part of this was due to the limits of my sharpening system and a little overdose of elbow grease on my part :)

All of these started my process into looking more intensively at stropping and the making of a thousand different strops to test various compounds etc... which are detailed in the last post.

Next, the edge was re-profiled further at 1 degree intervals.. so the 18.5 stepped up into a 19.5 followed by 20.5 and then another step somewhere between this and the 22 dps microbevel. Frankly I still don't trust the accuracy and clamping of my guided system even after making some changes and DIY to it... but it's all I have to sharpen on.

Getting things ready...
A key process was trying to strop everything down to a curvy surface after the sharpening...I have no idea really if it really work then, as the thickness behind the edge by now is not exactly thick enough to eyeball easily and my digital magnifier can't focus depth well.

As mentioned this was a positive trial-and-error experimentation. The theory behind seems sound and all it boiled down to was the execution.  Well, everything seems to work.. I slice and slice and it did cut the way I like my knives to be... "de-shouldered" with the least amount of resistance like my convex edge Japanese kitchen knives. The edge lasted well too.

For almost a year now -- it only got stropped every couple of weeks and never needed another serious sharpening session.

Test piece with D2 blade
The idea of a faux harmon line came up earlier but I filed it away till last wee when a week at home and boredom got the better of me... 1st thought was whether is it even worth doing? Aesthetics is one but what if it ends up looking "cheap". 2ndly-- is there an added functionality or can I add anything to the process? Part of it was to try and remove some scratches near the edge on the stonewash surface.

Anyway I started out on another "test" knife with D2 steel.

Masking and polishing away, it was easy quick work.
I initially tried to sand off some before the polish. Absolutely unnecessary. in fact it left lots more scratches but the dremel and diamond paste took care of things fast. In fact it was "too easy" and soon a hi shine "mirror started surfacing.

It wasn't a bad thing but after removing the masking tapes.. the blade is basically 2 tone with a wavy line clearly delineating the tones. I need something a little more subtle...

D2 Test knife on the right and subtle toning on F95 (left)

What's needed was something more subtle and a little fuzzy with more than just one clean line.

The F95 turned out to be quite different. First, the stonewash finish is probably blasted smooth, so taking it off was a lot harder. The underlying S90V steel probably contributed to that as well.

It took a much longer time and as the surface starts to shine, it was several more rounds of gentle buffing. It never got to the same high shine as the D2. But that was actually a bonus as it gives off a hue that goes better with the remaining stonewashed surface.

Next was a bit of dremeling black magic... I changed up to a smaller micron diamond paste onto wooden cotton Q-tips. Pressing at 45 degree on a piece of wood till it became cone shaped... and then polish of right along the line, resulting in what's seen in pic here, an additional line following the masked one but in a different tone.

Bits and pieces from my bike bin transforming the F95 blade into a "push-knife" :)
While certain characteristics are forming, everything was still pretty raw and scratches were slapped on the worked on area. Everywhere. I end up with maybe 100x more scratches than trying to remove in the first place... but these are only temporary. The scratches while numerous, were not deeply scored.

On the first D2 test piece, the edge was gone and I had to do a total re-sharpening after all the polishing. But D2 isn't that hard and I changed that one up into my "convex" edge as well.

My S90V F95 was still spotting a nice crisp edge so I thought if edges were taped up before polishing - that will save me some work. It was just too little surface for the tape to secure itself... a few pass at 2000-4000rpm of the dremel.. off it came and yes.. I knew that a re-sharpening is definitely in the books ;(  Ok we all learn something everyday. Maybe nail polish  might have worked better.

"Push Handle" serving as rotational knob, especially useful when nearing edge and need a softer touch.
Since it had to be re-sharpen, thought might as well push it a little further.

Thus the sharpening was stepped up sequentially in 0.3-0.5 degree each time from 18.5.

Owing to what was done previously... non appearance of a burr was not a concern... in fact if it starts before would indicate things were really off on the edge before the sharpening this time around.

The unevenness described due to previous sharpening was manifested indirectly in the the uneven burring  appearing. It started off at ~22 but parts of it did not appear near the curve before the tip and at the heel. Taking it further this time... a full burring was achieved at ~22.5 degrees.

As usual... hitting the apex at the tip took forever... but I bide my time this time around. No forceful grating.

Freshly done... no matter how much time spent on the sharpening, certain final bits have to be done on the strop. And done patiently... like the tip.

Still a long way from finish...
Finish off by going back to 16.5 degrees,, just lightly passing each side several times. This is to prep it up for the next step...
and...on to the endless stropping process.

Took muchlonger than usual because the purpose is now 3-fold. First to get apex cleaned up and smoothed. Check that there is no chips or areas that catches when slicing which may be due to an undulating apex.

Secondly to curve out all those stepped angles into one continuous curve and lastly, this time it will (hopefully) also move beyond the already non existent shoulder and flow with the recently polished out area. And here it is also where the removal of all those polishing scratches will take place...    Several sessions at multiple angles of stropping..

A lot of these is "I think.... that's how it will work" but truly without an idea if it actually does. The surefire way is of course to test it.

By way of bench-marking, tapping down and cut-- so far only my Rockstead Higo does that nicely with its machine perfect convex grind and my ultra sharp custom Buster, hand ground and manually sharpened to ridiculous accuracy by my good friend Snecx. So "will the F95 be able to meet that mark now?"

and...cutting down on folded lines on a standing piece of paper is a little too easy by now. Finding a way down the middle of 2 folded section?

 Edge retention? No I'm not gonna start cutting hemp ropes to the point of failure. Just use it normally.

Based on the rate I use this knife-- if it doesn't need a sharpening and even less stropping than before this whole modification-- it pass.

Next, on to my first use after its done. Dinner!
Perfect surface at each cut-- flatter than ham off the slicing machine.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Mod F95... pt 1

Endless Strop. The last step to finishing an edge shouldn't that take forever.. but things are a little different here.. Convexing and de-shouldering. Not having a very precise guided sharpening system, much has been left in the finishing touches of stropping. In itself it was another subset of experiments and learning...

As with most things these days, it all started with keystroke offerings to the Great Google Deity, searching and picking up the the bits and pieces of information available. After a while, it seems everyone has their own  unique DIY wizardry and mods that seems to work. To avoid going through 7 billion attempts as there are as many people on earth-- I decided the best is to ditch everything and experiment what works best.

A mental calculation on buying the number of strops needed would put me on the verge of filing for bankruptcy. Yes, like any good scientific endeavour, blinds and controls having similar parameters to actual test pieces would be needed..

DIY strop boards are the cheapest. Just a piece of wood, glue and a piece of leather. Some will swear by X brand or Y strop on the market.. I'm not arguing but if you think that because the leather comes from an animal that has been massaged since it was a fetus in the womb and slapped onto a  majestic looking piece of mahogany for added sturdiness -- go ahead, get them.

For me, the focus is first on the leather.. From tough to chew cow hide to canvas and everything in between... short of baby animal skin with pieces of placenta still stuck to it, I have pretty much tried them all. Including corrugated nylon strips.

Verdict: Soft thin horse hide works best. I have no specification apart from being 5mm thick pieces from some online website-- I just bought from the cheapest vendors. There are other leather pieces I've paid that cost a a few times more and their best use ends up as things like mouse-pad or  fashioned into coasters for my endless cups of teas.

This, however is only 1/3 of the complex equation. Next are the compounds.

Again the quest went with the entire repertoire of red, green, white plus two hundred thousand other colors of compounds within the electromagnetic spectrum and on it went further to a whole array of different diamond compounds. Some were good, some not. Some work on certain knives/ steels but not others... It was an alchemist nightmare... lots of data and not really getting anywhere.

It was as bad as trying to nail how to brew different kind of tea leaves around the house.

Ok... time to pop a Fuckitol pill and take a level headed rational approach...

...breaking down empirically, when stropping-- 3 things are in contact.. the strop surface and the type of steel and the compound in between. try with each one just having 3 options, factor out the number of options one can have... !

But wait, it's not necessary to go for what is best for each steel type.. Since the hardest steel in my usual doodling is S90v which imo is one of the "bitchiest" steel to get sharpened and honed-- whatever works should work relatively well for less demanding steel (and yes-- it has been sort of proven when I stropped my D2, Elmax, Cr8 etc with relative ease to get them to where its desired compared to my S90V knives)

Time to cut short-

5mm thick Horse Hide, surface smooth but not slick + Wicked Edge Diamond compounds..

After throwing out the whole entire rainbow of colored non diamond compounds, my preferred ones which worked well so far are Wicked Edge 5 and 3.5 microns paste... (ok, partly because I have not bought their other sizes but test were conducted with 3-4 other brands of diamond paste with the similar stated particle sizes)

Applied sparingly  (dotting and slightly spreading when dry), a 1gm tube do last a very long time on my home brew 2.5" x 10.5" strops. Other diamond compounds of the same microns was frustrating and have been used a lot more with lesser effect on similarly made strops. This is important because grit-for-the-buck, it is really the best value for the money although I always think that 2 tiny 1 gm syringe costing US$14 is expensive. (Yes-- add another US$30 for shipping because I live in some ass end of the world where no one sells the stuff I ever needed).

The Strop Feel
This is rather subjective as learned from talking to friends and trying their strops during blade gathering sessions. My preference leans towards the "dry" feel but not sticking or facing strong resistance/ drag as edge is "spread" on the leather.

Is the grittiness a part of the equation? I personally deduce a lot of that actually is due to the fine bits of steel that is being stropped off and subsequent passes picking up a little here and there. I don't really count on them to help much during the stropping process which some say is the key... where these bits work together with the compound to form a metallic paste that aids in the stropping (because if this is the case, why bother having any more diamond particles in there?). It's more a case of "what you feel is not what is real" to me.

But I do prefer to have a certain grittiness.. it actually helps to judge as the edge is moved across the strop to know if it has been pressed too hard or angled correctly especially in the first few passes before settling into a rhythm. In any case I use a finger to tab off any large pieces on the strop to avoid stray scratches especially once a wire edge has come off the knife.

When the flow starts going smooth, which for me is a rocking motion. Forward and back, forward and back (see video)... it probably sounds stupid but having that uniform movement rocking on the heels and ball of foot with shoulder slightly "locked" (not stiffened as that would usually make pressing down the blade too hard) actually works a lot easier.. the only other movement is now with the wrist and slight roll of the fingers holding the handle to angle as edge nears tip.  Strop -Tai-Chi, Spreading Zen or watcha-wanna-call-it!

If it is quiet enough-- listen to the sound of the entire stropping motion from end to end.. one continuous "ziggy" humming. Too much fluctuation usually means hand unsteadiness and or too rapid a change in the tilting towards the tip or change in speed of stropping.

Tip to heel or Heel to Tip Motion?
Your call. I prefer Heel to tip generally. Angle change is easier to control.

Press a finger to the blade when stropping to ensure entire edge gets in contact like during stone sharpening? 
Again your call... but there is a tendency to press too hard especially if you are doing too many continuous passes on one side.

Multiple pass on one side before moving to the other? 
Depends. Initial "coarser stropping, I usually go with a few passes each side before turning over. But fine stropping is usually alternating. But fine stropping to get the high shine (which usually is not touching the apex yet) then its again multiple passes on one side before the other and sometimes where I go in a tip to heel motion.

 Ok-- one final section. We read all the time, never mix the compounds on your strop and strops need to be refresh.. Yes on the latter but on mixing, I find different results. Mixing different microns of the same brand or different brands of diamond paste is like what everyone says.. not a good idea.

And when a couple of strops were too dry with use, softening with mineral oil was another bad idea which I found out.

But something different happens when adding fine liquid metal polish to a drying out strop... This helps greatly in my 3.5 and 5 micron strops. it increase lifespan in between adding more diamond compound and even on those with less than stellar compounds. I know there are a ton of such liquid metal polish out there and have also yet to experiment with larger grits diamond paste. Hence this is not complete but so far on above combos, it's been rather positive.

For one- it at least helps to bring the shine out faster-- exposing whatever scratches still left and being more visible so that you can actually concentrate to work on certain sections to even things out.

Ok I started out wanting to write about the modification done on my F95... seems like it has become a full blown article just on stropping itself..  will cover the actual mod in a "part 2"...

Tuesday, November 28, 2017


The lithe form of the Sigma exudes a sense of grace and deftness even within the confines of a still shot...

The 9th collaboration between Shirogorov and Dmitry Sinkevich.

As usual, I shall dispense with the product specs and some of the general information that are already posted officially on the Shirogorov website.

I'll start right off to say this one is definitely a winner in my book and not just as a rabid fanboy raving because it is another great score of a collaboration piece.

As anticipated from looking at the first few preview pics early this year, it has every quality from ergonomics to great action plus a sweet sharp cutting edge mated to a perfect sizing I wanted in an "ideal" knife...

In many ways, a return to the simplicity of Dmitry's earlier designs can be seen on the Sigma.

The clip is reminiscent of earlier works with spring clips. A few folks probably thought it could have used a more modern looking 3D milled design.

Deceptive!  No, it's certainly not a bent spring. Just milled to look that way. The actual spring, similar to a lock bar, is a cut-out on the underside,  hidden away from view until one peeks through.

Complete with an all round bevel finishing to ensure no hot spots, for a "plain" finish on the outside, just like an old humble spring clip.

On the whole, it imparts a sense of tactile classiness when held, thanks to the combination of uniformly fine media blasted finish.

Good 'simple' titanium surface finishing is one of those traits from the Shirogorov factory that sets them apart from many.

A continuous improvement trait seen by comparing knives old to new. There are no sudden wild changes. Slow but consistent ones, each generation of knife gets a little extra and better added to it. 

Other than hiding parts of itself from plain sight... The clip covers the two screws affixing the nested liner lock tucked into the carbon fiber.

Minimizing the distraction of having one too many hardwares dotting the landscape of the handles. As always... it's all about the little attention to details

To round it off at the butt, a wide contouring that adds to a good grip and hand feel when the knife is open and ready for use.

It's similar to another of SiDi's early design, the Dark with G10... another one of my all time favorite.

If it's not obvious from above pics, the clip follows the general outline of the handle rather closely, resulting in a pleasing flow that draws the eye towards naturally towards the blade. This make sense as to why the clip is simple.. it serves to direct attention rather than try to be a showcase in itself.

What makes a design a success? Of course asking such a question, the answer varies. Something with the simplest and cleanest of lines, where it leaves me thinking it is perfectly great as it is but can sure  take a bit more embellishment without looking overkill or garish.

CF or Ti? : While being a great fan of Shirogorov's fine milling on ti handles like the RDD and RFT, I have to say choosing CF as the material for the Sigma is definitely the right choice bringing about a certain sense of warmth to mellow out those sharp sensual lines.
The new pivot design with the blue anodizing matches up with that sliver of a backspacer almost to the same tone of vibrant blue. Together they give a harmonious flow and just that bit of sufficient contrast to an otherwise 'plain' knife.
The last few knives that came into my possession happened to be designed with tiny flippers relative to the overall size. In a way I was looking to see how various makers can push the envelope on this aspect to make a tiny (but not necessary the tiniest), most unobtrusive flipper tab for a more beautiful flow in the overall design while retaining a good opening action.

The Sigma came in with the smallest yet fires out confident and strong, aided by the momentum on the Persian-ish blade shape.

Rising up ~2mm at its highest point and angled towards the horizontal w.r.t. the CF handles, it opens up to a "flipper-less look. Mated to the raised humpback SiDi signature handles, it's designed to provides maximum clearance when cutting down. Collector item or not-- first and foremost a functional tool.

Bigger blade designs with a tip curving up well above the center-line of the pivot always have great momentum.
Sharp and pointy right out of the box with a gleaming edge, there isn't a reason to doubt it's cutting/ slicing capabilities.
"Is that triangular point sharp?" To an extent, I reckon that will depend on the lock and detent setting of individual knife. Mine happen to be spot-on. Whether light switch or a forward bias trigger pulling, the ribbed apex gives a positive catch on the index finger but doesn't dig in painfully.  Blade flies out almost immediately. Very positive, all the way to full lock up from the momentum. Definitely not a finger breaker despite how it may look and hardly one of those "1/2-fired" instances.

From pictures alone, I was wondering if the sharp edge would dig into the finger when using. Similar thought arise on choking up on its choil-less design. Again no issue on both counts. Heel of the edge is angled well forward so it wouldn't catch on the finger when in proximity. Still I'll exercise caution lest the finger pushes forward onto the edge in some tough cut/ slice.

For folks who home in from the point of using a knife, the ease of sharpening with this clean straight profile on the edge can't be missed.

An edge tool that is designed with actual intention of being used.

The slim zippered-look of the backspacer was one of the highlighted feature when sneak pictures of the Sigma first appeared.

Noticing the bit sticking out, it wasn't apparent why and I thought little of it back then.

Upon closer scrutinizing, it's obvious many things need to come together in very precise fashion. The protrusion of the backspacer acts like a centering indicator. A little off from the centering of the blade, slight difference in thickness from milling of the carbon fiber scales, it would all add to a glaring offset.

...all about precision yet without being loud  at the same time.

Flipping over to see the other side of blade centering. Unlike titanium handles, there's space constraint and any engraving or etched on logo look less sharp. Location and placement for the bearing system and steel type is tastefully done here.
 Big, light and balanced, normally one get to choose two out of the three. I like sizeable knives (ie 3.75" - 4"  blade length) with an emphasis on balance. While wishing at times certain knives doesn't make themselves felt as much when pocketed, I've never been much in the weight weenie camp.

In fact when highlights of a knife is being super light, the first thing that comes to mind is whether it will actually be a compromise. I'll touch on the topic of "light" knives another time.

Balancing point about 1 finger width behind the pivot, weight is a little front bias but nicely counter balance by the excess in the rear when properly gripped.
The Sigma fulfilled all three aspects. A very respectable sizing and balanced. It's hardly noticeably when closed and dropped into the pocket. Most importantly, the lightness does not convey a sense of fragility in any way. I take back my words now "hoping it would be a thinner 3.5mm spine" thinking that it would translate to a thin edge super slicing type.

While unable to pin it exactly, the flat grind on the Sigma starting at 4mm in the spine just felt thinner behind a very sharp factory edge compared to a number of other similar thickness flat-grind blades I have, including a number of other Shirogorov.

As with all the collaborations and higher tier knives recently-- sharpness coupled with a nice gleaming polish on the edge is immediately noticeable out of the box.

It would certainly be an arduous decision holding back not carrying and or using it more often.

Owing to the patterns in carbon fiber it is not always easy to mill and show the work involved at a glance. The milling on the Sigma doen't need to be seen up close.. in fact I find myself staring into something in the vein of a Van Gogh's piece with the criss-crossing vortex-ish swirls. 

Putting it in perspective with other knives, blade wise it is a tad longer. It feels close to a F95 right until the up-swept tip which is more delicate but feels more precise in cutting motion. Weight wise it is the same 88gm (for mine, official spec says 85gm) as the similar length CF Russian Dr Death collaboration, another 100mm blade length knife that felt much slimmer and smaller due to the narrower width of the blade.

The Sigma is a winner for me as stated at the start of this writing. In the truest sense of being a perfect all-rounder even among all my other Shirogorov knives. Yes, this is a big statement to make. I have to admit like most of my collaborations it will be more inclined to sit within the collection to be appreciated rather than becoming a daily user.

My philosophy hasn't changed on what makes one a "favorite" or top few within that list  -- "when push comes to shove, which knife will I take out of the box and use without hesitation". To that end, consideration of ergonomics, ease of use and my comfort level with its overall size etc are various things factored in.

For now-- the clear winner is this latest Sigma flanked by my two Cannabis, the Ice and the Real.

The rest,  I leave it to the video below...

Thursday, September 28, 2017


An additional touch.. A little idea that sprang up to contrast the fine stonewash. Surprised at where Snecx actually put the embellishment on my Buster. Mirror front side. Perfect.

...from that "leap of faith" over a year ago...

Landed and Unleashed! Yes folks, Beast Mode Buster.
Uncompressed  >>>

In a nutshell, size wise, Buster is about having the largest blade on the slimmest handle while achieving the best balance possible.

Mated with precision and his penchant for ultra tight tolerances, it is definitely a work meant to showcase these aspects. More importantly, the design concept focuses on problem solving the usual niggles associated with many folders. While there is much to ogle as the knife is picked up, it was meant as a fully functional workhorse. Thus there is a need to look at it from various angles and starting with the practical.

Parts for all remaining Busters are ready and key features will remain constant but from the point of tuning to different finishes for the next 16 up and coming ones-- consider each to be an experiment in itself. Whatever those differences maybe, there would be no doubt  that each will come with a pristine fit and finish on every knife.

This is the story of #2...
Parking the blade heel to tip. Many knives have this feature shown on the tip.  Here with the heel it adds another interesting visual aspect to the knife. With index finger positioned into the slight recess in front of the flipper there is a natural position where it is operated with minimal effort.

An impossibly small flipper for an incredibly big blade. 
Not being a fan of a big dollop sticking out like a sore thumb on a knife especially a big one like this, the smallest possible tab is certainly an appeal... provided it must function optimally. 

First flip out of the box, blade snaps to lockup with authority albeit a little slow due to weight of such a big knife and what I thought may be a need for the lube to sit in more... The initial consensus was, this is more of a "trigger-pull" rather than "light switching" kind of blade.

It gets better,  but more on the action later...

In closed position, the HDPS doing its job where the pin locks up the blade at close, as opposed to being on the broadside of the tang  surface in a conventional ball detent system. A thick lock-bar with a strong set lock and flush finishing on contacting surfaces ensures everything stay in place with no discernible play.

  Hybrid Detent Pin System, HDPS
First up, a radical departure from other knives... "Rod-Detent? Stop-Lock Pin?" what do you call it?

Fancy nomenclatures and acronym alone does nothing and the question is to ask, "Why reinvent the wheel" or in this case, the detent ball and generally the whole lock area? - To address the ease of maintenance, durability, not having to compensate lock strength to detent ball sizing and still having a desired smooth action throughout the range of motion.

The goal was to achieve a state of consistency while ensuring everything is tight, yet smooth with the integration of the detent and locking surface on the pin.

Quite a sackful to fill...  after 12 days of of flipping, I have to say this system indeed work.And it is really something to get excited over in a knife, which doesn't often happen with me.
Action from start to finish

On tabbing the flipper.. the massive tang lends it's weight to nudge the lock outward allowing the fillet radius/ chamfer * a gradual transition that eliminates any sudden on/off" feel.

The securing of blade in closed position is liken to that of a spring latch assembly of a door lock.

With the pin disengaged-- the lapped and polished flat end glides on the equally polished blade tang, resistance is imperceptible and accelerates all the way to lock-up.
* for being a machining ignoramus-- that sloping end section on the pin is either a fillet radius or a chamfer-- go Google and decide what the correct term should be.. I'm 50/50 on this ;)
Not visible in photos, the stop pin doubles up as the locking interface. It is pressed fit into a front facing C-channel that exposes just only the portion that stops the blade when open while the rest of the lockbar milled mere microns away. Precision right here!
When locked in open position-- it makes partial use of the pin lengthwise to stop the blade from moving further. The lock setting here looks simple enough except for makers who will understand the nuances on this part of a knife and looking at how it all has to be given a new approach and the tolerances with the pin here. The accuracy of where the hole for the pin is pressed fit into has to be spot on.


Rock solid. Zero break in time in this area. Flush fit and absolutely stick-free. I honestly cannot ask for better lock up in a knife. Turning over, it can be seen that the ridiculously large over travel pin at the other end is snugly nestled into the hook on the blade. Combined with the thickness of the tang and large pivot, there is no concern over any lateral wiggling/ blade play.

Disengaging to close, unlike traditional ball detent, the HDPS is immediately released just as during opening.

In a normal ball detent there is still quite a way before the the tang's end pushes it's way past the detent ball-- resulting in the familiar 2-step motion in closing.

For knives with weaker lock and or very small detent relative to blade size/ weight, this may not be felt much, like Buster here.

The key difference is that the functionality of the lock is not being compromised for the sake of "smoothness".

This is smoothness in it's truest sense from open to closing motions. Packaged up together, it is another feat pulled off where one doesn't think of it as a washer based knife but I was comparing it very much to the best IKBS or MRBS bearing knives out there.

If one thing is still not apparent by now, it's how the entire detent is fully exposed. The open design  does not leave much place to trap dirt and grit. All that is needed is a wipe without a full disassembly on most days.

Top Left: HDPS locking in at closed position. Location of the detent is far forward of usual ball detents and works more like a spring latch with greater contact surface than a  ball, making it much harder to shake loose.
Top Right: Blade is just very slightly displacing the depth of the fillet radius. Approx  ~ 1:1 ratio as I eyeball that the blade  tip has been raised roughly the distance of ~1.5mm from the horizontal; about the same as the depth of the fillet radius itself. Bottom Left-Right: Lock is now disengaged with blade at start of travel in contact with the flat end of pin. Blade locked out and pin works in the same manner as in closed to hold the blade in place with the additional surface from the front of the pin acting as the lock surface.

Cutting Edge

A knife that cannot cut well is essentially a useless knife.

Having said, the edge has been approached with an almost religious fervor. Entirely hand sharpened with Wicked Edge and an array of modded jigs. 62rc M390 with a 15dps starting off wide at 5mm thick at the spine (although the multi top grinds and chamfer makes it out to be visually slimmer).

To make cutting straight down smooth, it was "de-shouldered" at the top end of the edge for mine (other Busters may differ). Here an additional tiny beveling was ground to 1200 grit, making it stand out in the light. Apex and this are both arrow straight, adding on to the no-nonsense look of the Buster lines.

Put to a comparative test with my best sharpened knives, the cuts and slicing are precise thanks to the well razor straight edge. Put to real task in the kitchen, it again cuts cleanly with everything coming out crisp from contact with the blade. For those who takes pride in food prep and presentation, you know what I'm talking about here .

Just like my trusty cleaver but spotting top notch edge aesthetics!

  • Cutting edge: 101.7mm / 4"
  • Overall length 240mm / 9.47"
  • Blade thickness: 5mm / 0.20"
  • Handle thickness: 16" / 0,63"
  • Estimated Weight: 185g / 6.53oz 
#2 came out at? >>>> 184g and the rest of the specs were spot on.

Everything is massive on the Buster, yet the illusion of being smaller is another of those things tastefully fitted into the overall design by the maker to make a visual difference when holding.

Small to medium-ish? ? An illusion as the longer end of the handle is tucked underneath the palm, with only the short side sticking out,  making it look smaller than it actually is.  By the way these 2 pics are showing the best way to hold the knife to flip as effortlessly as possible by not touching the lock.

 and "Honey I Blew Up the Knife"...
Once opened, like a practical fixed blade with an ample sized handle, it leaves enough at the rear, to balance out the beefy blade up front during use. Balance!

GTC Plasma, Buster, Shirogorov/ Southard collab RFT - all over 4" blade length. Bottom right: Comparison to a smaller knife the Shirogorov Neon at 3.25" for the blade. Note the handle length sculpted to tuck away by far the largest blade in both thickness and lengthwise among all 4 compared here. The overall thickness is again another point of balancing, making it feel adequate with a full grip snugged against the whole palm.

Choking: While making sure it doesn't hit the finger, the choil is calculated to angle forward at the heel sufficiently without sacrificing the cutting edge more than necessary,

Photographing the colors right is harder than thought due to the distinct contrast of the blade and the handle. Between the choice of satin and stonewash, I took the choice of the stonewash after practical consideration of putting the knife in use. Stonewash might be considered mundane compared to many other finishing out there but Snecx has elevated his methods to an art that needs to be seen in real to appreciate.

This shot is as close to the tones in real. Entire hue on the ti handle is a uniform light gun grey under natural lighting. Almost as if painted on. Texturing of stonewash can only be seen when magnified and looks to be pretty durable from my handling so far.  Exotic materials to spice up with color and look has their place but a good piece worked with simple material casting attention to details on finishes like this truly marks the skill and dedication of a maker.
Almost Mirror. Tilted in the right angle to catch the natural light reveals a reflective surface beyond the stonewash.

Lines are so defined, actual pics takes on an almost computer generated "3D look"

Weight and Milling
The first unfinished Buster #1 back in Oct 2016
Weight shaving in knives is all the rage these days with  materials milled out to the max.

There's  however a big difference between knocking off the grams/ ounces and having a  knife that still feel balanced at the end of the day. It takes a lot more in the thought process to carefully balance the weight with where to cut out from the design to retain the practical aspects and comfort when actually using it

I'll let the maker's own words on Instagram says little more on this aspect     >>>

I was half expecting a bias with the blade's weight pulling it down when gripped. But the balance was well built into design of the handle as well giving it a truly neutral feel.

No shortcut into areas that can't be seen. Every bit taken out resulting in ever more lines and steps are just as meticulously finished on the outside. The same even tone of the stonewash on every facet on the entire handle inside out.
Subtle signatures. Various makers have unsaid elements within their designs that waits to be noticed. Symmetry and balance are constant features in Snecx's designs. Top left, note the geometric shape of the blade's front and both sides of the handle.
Right: Milling on the inners are not just merely maximizing materials that can be removed but stepped in different heights to maintain a balance for strength where needed. Not obvious is actually how much on each side is removed to keep the weight balanced on both sides after accounting for the clip and cut out on lock as well. There's more on these  but I'll leave those discovery for other owners of other Busters to find out.

Wrapping up...

This review was supposed to be up last weekend but I felt the need to pocket it afew more days to be objective. One of the first thing noticed initially were the sharp lines found everywhere. What Snecx calls a "prismatic" finish, where things are milled and lines forming the various angles meet results in a crisp clean finish. It is an attestation to the meticulous way of putting forth the kind of intended precision and the theme in Buster. However a couple of things were a little too sharp to me.

  • Tip of clip
  • The apex at the handle's rear
  • Flipper tab
While the objective is clear on such sharp lines, the angular pointy-ness presented makes for handling and carrying (not having the sharp points catching in the pocket etc) something to think about.

Particularly the 2 forward facing corners at the flipper tab. One concern in having it slightly rounded was it may not give sufficient grip purchase when flipping due to the smaller flipper.

A week passed since those initial thoughts above. Metal is no match for my callus laden fingers.. the sharp points actually just worn themselves down a smidge from the flipping and poses no discomfort by now.  It can "light-switch" as easily as "trigger-pull" as seen in the video above. 

All said, the sharpness of the 3 areas can easily be toned down without significant changes or impairment to the aesthetics or functionality of the knife. I believe it will boil down to individual preferences for each Buster's owner to come.

The floating pivot is something I like. Not just here but in other knives with similar pivot constructions. For one, no Loctite is needed, something absolutely disliked in a knife. Being adjustable on both sides, there really isn't an issue of over-tightening and having  things stuck. With the ease of just 2 screws and on washers and a detent that can be cleaned without disassembly there really isn't anything simpler.

The smoothness generated from the generous sized washers and HDPS makes me forget it is actually  a knife on washers speaks volume.

While it may not appeal with a sense of sensual flowing aesthetics due to a lack of things curvy, the polished crispness and clean lines are packaged up beautifully in its own way and not make you afraid to use it.

Combined that with a salute to the HDPS feature, something which I can only hope to see on more knives in the future, the Buster has achieved what it was intended to be.

A true big and sharp working brute cleverly hidden and tucked among its classy lines to impart an air of quality at the same time. An unmistakable industrial chic look without a need to conform to prevailing trends.

Personally, Buster will be something to pack with my field gears and of course around the kitchen

In the field?...

... Did someone say "Zombies"