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.

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