08 May 2009

EDC Knives: Tactical Makers IV

SOG: SOG Specialty Knives was started in 1986 to produce and market a single knife, the S1 Bowie, an improved replica of the famous MACV SOG fixed-blade combat knife issued during the Vietnam War. It was a great success, and led to the elite U.S. Navy SEALS adopting SOG’s latest-gen SEAL Team combat knife for duty.

As they grew, SOG moved much of their production from Seki, Japan, to Taiwan and China, to lower costs, and introduced a range of both fixed blade and folding tactical knives in a competitive price range. Although they have a reputation for fighting knives, several of their folders are very practical EDC blades. I gushed before about my SOG Flash I. It’s feather light (1.3 oz.), carries deep, opens fast and closes easy. It just gets it all right. While their quality is not quite Benchmade-caliber, I like SOG knives. A lot.

SOG Flash I

Smith & Wesson (Taylor Brands LLC): Taylor Brands LLC is the parent company of Schrade, Old Timer and Uncle Henry folding knives (mostly folders, anyway), and “over eighty other brands” of other knives and whatnot. Those additional 80+ unnamed brands certainly include the OEM manufacture of knives for many firearm, outdoor, and sporting goods companies. They are dull designs made overseas in anonymous factories from generic stainless steels, cheap plastics and undistinguished woods. They are Cheap Chinese Clones with slick commercial branding. They are not even value knives, just well-marketed consumer knives. So well marketed, in fact, that if you’ve ever bought one, I guarantee you paid too much for it.

Taylor’s principal tactical knife brand is Smith & Wesson. You will see them in knife cases everywhere next to true value and premium brands, but don’t be fooled. They are not in the same league. I owned one, briefly, but returned it. The cheap plastic blade lock did not work, the blade screening was smeared, and overall the quality was shabby. I thought it must be a counterfeit, and said as much to the seller, who informed me that they were located just five miles from Taylor Brands LLC and that it certainly was not a counterfeit. My mistake. It was genuine dreck. I took the refund and did what I should have the first time. I bought a Kershaw Oso Sweet.

Spyderco: If combat tacticals have a grand old man among makers, it is Emerson. But if EDC work knives have one, it is Spyderco. Spyderco led the way in the early 80s by introducing EDC knives that had all the features we regard as genre-defining today: light-weight polymer handles, easy one-handed opening and closing, light weight, great blade steel, etc. They made the pocket-clip a conventional feature and greatly popularized the serrated blade. Their serrations are still as good as they get. Spydercos look ferocious, but those stubby, wide, serrated blades are designed for work, not defense. But, no doubt, a lot of guys love that (dare I say) "goth" aesthetic.

Spyderco designed an amazingly smart and effective knife in their original C01 Worker, and while they have produced a huge range of knives, most every Spyderco bears a striking resemblance to that first. Perhaps no knife manufacturer has ever stayed so loyal to an archetypal design. Certainly they have been imitated, and you may mistake another knife for a Spyderco, but you will never mistake a Spyderco for anything else.

Spyderco Delica 4, one of Spyderco’s most popular current models.

Next up: Knife month concludes with a presidential folder.

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