Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Review: Gerber Freeman Guide [Fixed Blade Knife]

About Gerber


Gerber is an American manufacturer of knives and multi-tools located near Portland, Oregon, USA, though it is owned by the Finnish company, Fiskars. The company was founded in 1939. Lately they don't seem to have much of a following among knife enthusiasts.

Gerber Freeman Guide

Price: About $20

Gerber Freeman Guide Fixed Blade Knife
The Freeman Guide is a fixed blade hunting knife also suitable for camping and general utility. I am not positive where mine was made as it doesn't seem to have any marking which would indicate its country of origin, though the sheath clearly states that it was made in China. If I had to guess, I would say the knife is made in China as well.

My review sample was purchased from Amazon.com.



Official Specs


  • 5Cr15MoV SS blade, glass bead finish
  • Hollow ground blade
  • Large finger grooves, tachide on lay, full tang and lanyard slot
  • Formed nylon sheath included
  • Blade length 4-Inch, overall length 8.38-Inch
  • 6.5 ounces with sheath


Blade


The Freeman has a hollow ground, drop point blade, which has a full tang. There is also a groove for a lanyard. It has a fair bit of belly to it as well, which is something I look for in a camp knife. The Gerber logo is laser etched onto the blade, but curiously there is no clear indication of where it was made, which is something I don't look for in a knife. Look, just tell me where it's made and let me be the judge of whether I want to buy it or not.

Handle


The handle is just awesome. It has the best feel of almost any knife I have. The Tachide scales on the handle have a superb feel to them. I've never heard of Tachide, but whatever it is, I like it. Extra points for the jimping around almost the entire surface of the handle.

The lanyard groove looks a little clumsy but I guess it could double as a hammer or glass breaker so I can live with it, though I think the knife would be much sleeker without it.

Sheath


Honestly, if you buy this knife expecting it to have a great sheath, then you deserve the mostly bad sheath you get. Every review I read mentioned how bad the sheath was, so I'm not really holding it against them. Forewarned is forearmed, right? But I will say that my Bear Hunter only cost $4 more and came with a real leather sheath. I bought this Freeman with the intention to either buy a custom Kydex sheath for it or hunker down and learn to make those sheaths myself.

But having said that, the included sheath isn't as bad as I expected. The plastic insert is decently thick, though I'm still not sure I trust it completely. It's interesting to note that the Freeman fits the sheath from my Mora Clipper pretty well, though the setup is a little longer than with the Gerber sheath.

Fit and Finish


Overall, acceptable. The blade came with a decent edge but there's a few minor flaws as well as a minor issue with the machining on the point of the blade. The jimping is perfect, and the scales are acceptable. They have some minor flaws but one of the scales doesn't meet up with the blade perfectly and there's a small gap. It may just need to be tightened with a Torx driver, but it's still disappointing to see a noticeable gap, even on a budget knife like this. A few manufacturers are making knives in this price range that rival even the expensive ones. Gerber needs to do better.


Usability


This is a decently usable knife with a solid feel to it. So far it seems to be a good combination of what I look for in a camp/utility knife. I haven't used it for food prep yet but I'm expecting it to do well with the type of grind it has. So far the main obstacle to its usability is the sheath. It's very hard to snap the strap which holds the knife in. I couldn't imagine doing that with it on my belt.

Conclusions


I think that once I find/make a kydex sheath for it and tune the scales up a bit, this might be a decent EDC knife. Gerber makes a USA-made version of this knife which looks similar and has a decent sheath. I like the form factor of this knife, so maybe it's the USA-made version that I'm really after. But that one only seems to come with the stag scales, so I think I'm also going to ask around to see if I can put these rubberized scales (which feel superb) on the better quality blade.

Overall though, the look and feel of this knife is exactly what I am looking for. If I could get this exact knife but with a higher quality and a great sheath, I would pay at least double. Or at least they should sell a better sheath or make it optional or something.

UPDATE: I disabled comments for this post because for some reason I was getting about a dozen spam comments per day.


Gallery

Gerber Freeman Guide Fixed Blade Knife
It comes in typical packaging you'd find in a store

Gerber Freeman Guide Fixed Blade Knife
Notice that it says Fiskars, also made in China, which is not indicated on the knife itself

Gerber Freeman Guide Fixed Blade Knife
Next to a Mora Clipper

Gerber Freeman Guide Fixed Blade Knife
Yep, the Freeman has some belly

Gerber Freeman Guide Fixed Blade Knife
Notice the tip isn't very pronounced - defect on my sample?

Gerber Freeman Guide Fixed Blade Knife
Grip, grip and more grip

Gerber Freeman Guide Fixed Blade Knife
From top, Mora Clipper, Gerber Freeman Guide, Kershaw Bear Hunter II

Gerber Freeman Guide Fixed Blade Knife
It has a great feel

Gerber Freeman Guide Fixed Blade Knife
...though the grip is a little awkward in a reverse grip, which is fine because this isn't a self defense knife

Gerber Freeman Guide Fixed Blade Knife
It fits the Mora's sheath pretty good! It's just a little long...

Gerber Freeman Guide Fixed Blade Knife
Lanyards aren't really my thing, but it looks cool I guess

Gerber Freeman Guide Fixed Blade Knife
The only marking on the blade

Gerber Freeman Guide Fixed Blade Knife
Did I mention this knife has a great grip?

Gerber Freeman Guide Fixed Blade Knife
I'm hoping the edge will clean up a little on my whetstone

Gerber Freeman Guide Fixed Blade Knife
The sheath leaves most of the handle exposed

Gerber Freeman Guide Fixed Blade Knife
Thank you Google for randomly changing the orientation of my photos!







Sunday, November 11, 2012

Review: Navy 2001 [Keychain Tool]

About Navy

Navy CUI 2001 Keychain Tool

They are a Chinese company which I don't know much about, other than they are associated with Sanrenmu and a couple other Chinese knife brands known for making high quality, budget knives. My guess is that all these brands are made in the same factory, which is also rumored to make some of the Chinese Spyderco folding knife models like the Tenacious.

Navy CUI 2001

Price: About $10 shipped - add $1 for leather sheath

First off, this is clearly a knockoff of the Atwood Prybaby. I have seen the side by side comparisons of the real thing, and this is not supposed to be as good, which isn't surprising considering it's 1/10th the price. I'm not interested in the politics, and personally I think that most knockoff products serve mainly to draw attention to the real thing. Certainly the fact that this tool is only about $10 will interest some folks.

My review sample was purchased from exduct.com. I ordered the brown leather sheath with it just for kicks and giggles.


Design


It's a very simple design, with half a dozen metric wrenches, a bottle opener and pry-bar. It's supposed to be a functional flat head screwdriver like the Atwood, but I read in one review where the steel used isn't suitable.

There's some jimping around the tool for a better grip.

Fit and Finish


Again, I'm not expecting the fit and finish to compare to a $100 tool, but with that being said, the fit and finish on my unit is superb. The Chinese have really stepped up their game. At least this factory/conglomerate/whatever.

Usability 


I haven't done too much with it yet, but so far this appears to be a serious tool. I did use it to break a 12 mm bolt on some chair hulk in the garage waiting to go to the dump.

Conclusions


This tool I think is going to replace my Gerber Shard on my truck key chain. It doesn't give me viable screwdrivers like the Shard, but then again the Shard doesn't have great screwdrivers either. Besides, I'm really more interested in the metric wrenches on it. Yeah, Navy copied the design, but they seem to have done it justice, though I'm not lucky enough to own the Atwood.

The sheath is nice, but this will probably go on my keychain or on a carabiner in my EDC bag. Either way, it's a great addition. Now, what can I use the little sheath for...


Gallery


Navy CUI 2001 Keychain Tool being tested on 12mm bolt
I broke a 12 mm bolt loose with it
Navy CUI 2001 Keychain Tool
Shown with a couple other EDC gadgets

Navy CUI 2001 Keychain Tool shown with Gerber Shard
Shown with a Gerber shard, which is a similar tool

Navy CUI 2001 Keychain Tool shown with Gerber Shard (back)

Navy CUI 2001 Keychain Tool on my keychain with a Sears Keychain Screwdriver and Fenix E01 AAA Flashlight
It fits and looks great on my truck keychain

Navy CUI 2001 Keychain Tool Shown with Sunwayman V11R Flashlight
Shown in the optional leather sheath with a Sunwayman V11R flashlight

Navy CUI 2001 Keychain Tool shown with quarter for scale
Shown with a quarter for scale. This tool is smaller than it looks in most of the pictures

Navy CUI 2001 Keychain Tool in the optional leather sheath
Shown in the optional leather sheath, which is actually decent quality

Navy CUI 2001 Keychain Tool in the optional leather sheath in my hand for scale
The sheath has a nice feel to it

Navy CUI 2001 Keychain Tool being weighed on the scale
Shown on the scale, in ounces






Saturday, November 10, 2012

Vintage Find

Today someone gave me a vintage Imperial Camper pocket knife. They aren't really rare, and this one isn't in great shape, but I'm going to clean it up. I remember having one of these as a small child. My dad used to take us camping a lot, so these types of scout knives have a sentimental value for me even though they don't have much monetary value.

Gallery

Vintage Imperial Camper Pocket Knife



Vintage Imperial Camper Pocket Knife

Vintage Imperial Camper Pocket Knife

Vintage Imperial Camper Pocket Knife

Vintage Imperial Camper Pocket Knife

Vintage Imperial Camper Pocket Knife

Vintage Imperial Camper Pocket Knife

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Review: Sanrenmu 704 [Pocket Knife]


About Sanrenmu


Sanrenmu (or just "SRM") is a Chinese manufacturer which is well regarded among knife enthusiasts. So much so that it can be hard to find their products at times. Almost all of their products are in the $10 range and compare well to knives costing 5-10 times as much. Sanrenmu is rumored to make products for American manufacturers such as Spyderco.


Product Description

Price: About $10 online

Sanrenmu 704 Folding Pocket Knife
The 704 is a nice little EDC pocket knife which was out of production for about a year and a half. I originally bought one from manafont.com and gave it to my dad, thinking I could just get another one. But when I went to order a replacement, I found out the 704 had been discontinued. So, I was happy to find out that exduct.com was selling them, which is where I bought my review sample. Not only are they making this model again, the new versions do not have the SRM logo printed on the handle, which makes the knife look even better.


This sample was purchased from exduct.com and took about a month to arrive. I notice that it's now available on Amazon.


Official Specs


Length Opened: 162 mm
Handle: G10
Blade Width: 23 mm
Blade Length: 70 mm
Blade Thicknes: 2.6 mm
Steel: 8Cr13Mov

Blade


The blade is a hollow ground with a spear point tip, with a swedge that runs about half the length of the blade. It has a thumb stud screwed into it with a Torx screw, but does not appear to be reversible, though you could probably take it off. The blade is also reasonably thick. There's not as much belly on the blade as the 763, which makes the knife overall slimmer.

The SRM logo is laser etched onto the blade (next to the thumb stud) with the 704 number to the right of it.

Handle


The handle is made of textured G10 material, which is not quite as aggressively textured as its siblings such as the 763 or the T11, shown below. I prefer the more aggressive texturing, but find the texturing on the 704 to be plenty acceptable.

The G10 material sandwiches solid steel liners, presumably made from the same steel as the blade. The pins also appear to be steel and have Torx bit screws holding them together, which means the knife can be disassembled. 

The clip is also steel and comes mounted for right-handed, tip-down, deep-pocket carry. If you're a lefty, well, you're screwed. The clip can however be switched to tip-up carry. It's held on by two Torx bit screws and is a little stiffer than I would like, though I'm sure it will loosen over time. I'm not that big into clips anyway.

Right-Handed


This is a right handed knife, as neither the clip or thumb stud can be changed for left-handed carry.

Locking Mechanism


The 704 is a liner lock knife with a steel skeleton. The liner is a little on the thin side, but I don't think that anyone will ever mistake this for a heavy duty knife. A thicker liner would make the knife bulkier, so I think they struck the right balance for an EDC knife.

The lock has no jimping on it like some of the newer models. In fact, the knife has no jimping whatsoever.

Overall Design


This is a fairly typical, though maybe a little outdated design. There's not much to say about the design. It's just a basic, compact and lightweight folder at a great price. It's a simple, functional, well-executed design, and I'm glad that these are back in production. 

Fit And Finish


On my review sample the fit and finish is good overall. Mine came with the pivot screw over tightened, and I had to loosen it before the blade could be deployed one-handed. The blade is also a little bit off-center, which does not seem to affect the knife, i.e. I can discern no wear or scratch marks from it.

The lockup on mine is solid, and overall the knife has a great feel for one so compact. Over time the action has gotten a little smoother. My sample came with a razor sharp edge on it.

There are numerous but barely noticeable tool and machining marks, which I have to look very closely to see. These are cosmetic only. The G10 handle material and handle screws are perfect from what I can tell.

Usability


This is a very usable knife for EDC. Between the two I've owned, I have carried this model a total of a couple months. It has a nice slender feel, and I can reliably open it one-handed most of the time. Because it's a liner lock, it's a little heavy for its size compared to something like my Spyderco Dragonfly, which is 1.0 ounce versus the 2.4 ounces of this knife. But some people prefer a more stout knife. The blade grind and geometry are well-suited to EDC tasks such as opening mail, light food prep, basic cutting, etc.

Conclusions


This is a great little pocket knife. While the design is a little dated compared to some of their newer models, it still holds its own because of its compact shape and no-nonsense style. I would consider this a "gentleman's folder" - one I would happily (and did) give my dad. At about 10 bucks, it is also an amazing value which is on par with knives that cost several times more.

I have purchased a bunch of SRM knives through exduct.com (the only official distributor?) and I look forward to more. SRM just seems like one of those budget companies that doesn't try to cut any corners on quality. As far as I can tell, for the price you don't sacrifice much, if anything.

One-Handed Open


I think I'm going to start putting up short videos demonstrating how these various knives open and close one-handed.



Gallery



Folded, From top: Sanrenmu 704, Sanrenmu T11, Sanrenmu GB-763
folded, from top: Sanrenmu 704, Sanrenmu T11, Sanrenmu GB-763
From top: Sanrenmu 704, Sanrenmu T11, Sanrenmu GB-763
deployed from top: Sanrenmu 704, Sanrenmu T11, Sanrenmu GB-763

Sanrenmu 704 Folding Pocket Knife: Folded, showing clip
Full view of steel clip

Sanrenmu 704 Folding Pocket Knife: Laser etching on blade
Laser etching on blade

Sanrenmu 704 Folding Pocket Knife: Showing spear point, hollow ground blade
It's a nice spear point blade

Sanrenmu 704 Folding Pocket Knife: In medium sized hands
It's a little small in my medium sized hands

Sanrenmu 704 Folding Pocket Knife:Reverse grip iIn medium sized hands
A little awkward in a reverse grip

Sanrenmu 704 Folding Pocket Knife shown with Spyderco Dragonfly folding knife
Shown with Spyderco Dragonfly FRN

Sanrenmu 704 Folding Pocket Knife showing centered blade
The blade is well centered on mine

Sanrenmu 704 Folding Pocket Knife showing closeup of clip and screws
Closeup of pivot and clip screws, which are Torx head

Sanrenmu 704 Folding Pocket Knife showing full view of clip
Full view of the polished steel clip

Sanrenmu 704 Folding Pocket Knife on scale
2.4 ounces with clip

Sanrenmu 704 Folding Pocket Knife showing closeup of liner
Here you can see some of the machining marks, which do not affect the functionality

Sanrenmu 704 Folding Pocket Knife showing closeup of spine
Closeup of the lock from the top

Sanrenmu 704 Folding Pocket Knife showing blade thickness
Closeup of the spine - the blade is thick for a small knife