Chris Reeve Giraffe Bone Mnandi

Introduction

The Chris Reeve Giraffe Bone Mnandi is what I would consider to be my grail knife. It isn’t too big, nor is it too small. It has some of the highest tolerances and best craftsmanship one can find in any production knife.

This will not be a review. I do not plan on using this knife and will only carry it on certain occasions. For the most part, it will be relegated to fondling at home and a special spot on my shelf.

Specs

Date of Manufacture: October 22, 2003
Blade Material: CPM S30V at 58-59 RC
Blade Length: 2.75″
Handle Material: 6Al4V Titanium
Overall Length: 6.375″
MSRP: $400

Video

Coming soon.

Packaging and Paperwork

Luckily for me, the knife came with all of its original packaging and documentation.

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The box is interesting, as it is the older rectangular style. Since the knife was made in 2003, it only has the stickers for winning the 2000, 2001, and 2003 Manufacturing Quality Award.

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The right end of the box has stickers labeling the contents.

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Inside, there is a small sheet containing information about this specific limited edition.

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There is also the original birth card, which is often lost over the years. It is completely handwritten, in comparison to newer cards, which only have handwritten dates and Chris Reeve’s signature.

Included Items

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There is an Allen wrench that comes with each knife. I believe they were all taped to the lid of the box, as shown. They are 5/64″, which fit the screws on the knife.

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Additionally, there is a small calf skin pouch. The are still manufactured, although I have heard that there are quality and design differences between the old and new versions. It is quite interesting that this pouch is completely new, as it doesn’t show any sign of stretching at all.

Newer Mnandis come with a microfiber cloth and fluorinated grease. This one had neither.

Design

The Mnandi features the Chris Reeve Integral Lock design. In essence, it is a one piece framelock. The slabs of giraffe bone are not scales or overlays, but are, in fact, inlaid into the titanium scales. The titanium is slightly milled to precisely fit the giraffe bone. They are attached using 3M VHB (Very High Bond) tape.

The Mnandi has 13 different parts different parts.

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1. Front Scale
2. Blade
3. Back (lockbar side) Scale
4. Pivot
5. Smaller (rear) washer
6. Spacer
7. Larger (front) washer
8. Bushing
9. Long screw
10. Body pin (product page)
11. Back spacer (product page)
12. Clip (product page)
13. Short screw (product page)
14. Allen wrench

I will be doing a write-up as well as a video tutorial on how to disassemble and lubricate a Mnandi. It will be linked here after it is complete.

Fit and Finish

Tolerances are great. There is no blade play (side-to-side, up/down, back/front) at all. The blade centering is perfect both closed and opened. The lockup is good at around 50%. The lockbar itself is still, although not overly so. I never worry about the knife closing on itself.

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Left: Lockbar deploys at around 50%. Right: Blade centering is near perfect.

The hollow grind is symmetric and incredibly thin.

blade
Top: Lubricant residue shows the path of the detent ball. Bottom: The “S” signifies S30V steel.
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Lockbar side

Functionality

As I mentioned in the introduction, I do not plan on using this knife. Chris Reeve Knives does not offer re-blades for pre-2011 knives, preventing me from acquiring an extra blade to use. Furthermore, as Tim Reeve, son of Chris Reeve, pointed out, using the knife would eventually show wear on the handle, which would reduce collector’s value over time.

However, I still do find occasions to bring the knife out. The clip looks very innocent and fashionable when clipped on a shirt pocket. It is a nice accessory to have and an easy way to conceal a knife in situations where it something larger, like a Sebenza, might not be appropriate.

Value

Precises of this piece have varied wildly through the years. The original MSRP was $400, which was a small premium over the a regular Mnandi. Prices did not appear to increase until recently, when fewer and fewer have been surfacing on the market.

Previous Sales:

October 2003: $400 on Knifeart (Link)
January 2006: Unknown on British Blades (Link)
June 2008: $445 on Bladeforums (Link)
May 2010: $325 on Bladeforums (Link)
December 2016: $1750 on Bladeforums (Link)

 

 

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Chris Reeve Giraffe Bone Mnandi: Unboxing/First Look

I’ve been chasing after this knife for quite a long time. Now, it’s finally in my hands.

Specs:

Date of Manufacture: October 22, 2003
Blade Material: CPM S30V at 58-59 RC
Blade Length: 2.75″
Handle Material: 6Al4V Titanium
Overall Length: 6.375″

The Unboxing

Some First Observations

The Chris Reeve Mnandi has always appealed to me due to the elegant curves the knife has. The handle has a slight arc in it which continues on through the blade. Now, holding the knife in person, I can attest to the aesthetics beauty of the knife. I seriously cannot get over the curves.

The build quality is exceptional. There is no blade wiggle of any type and the inlays are fitted perfectly. And that titanium milled clip is just a work of art.

I’ll do a full on review after I spend some more time with the knife. Until then, enjoy some preliminary photos of the knife.

Pictures

 

Warther Wood Carving Knives

IntroductionIMG_20160321_194722

Ernest “Mooney” Warther was an American wood carver famous for creating train models and producing kitchen knives. He made his own carving knives, a unique design where different shaped blades were stored in the handle, as well as fighting (he called them “commando”) knives for members of the armed services. Here, I’ll be talking a bit about two of his carving knives that I have.

Specs

Place of Manufacture: USA
Blade Steel: 440c
Price: $37.50 (direct from Warther Cutlery)

Packaging

The knives come in these card stock boxes. The #1 model was purchased before the logo change as seen on the box.

Fit and Finish

It is evident that the knives are hand-finished. There are small issues with the knives such as handle curves that are uneven, blade grinds that are unsymmetrical among others. However, since the knives are hand-finished, they were able to remove sharp edges that might dig into the hand and ensure that the knife has no structural defects.

Functionality

This is where the knife shines. Although the steel is 440C, a relatively inexpensive steel, they have heat treated it to where it holds a decent edge. Furthermore, the blade shapes are well designed for what they are described to do:IMG_20160321_194753

#1 wood carving knife – Straight edge carving knife with 1.5″ blade. Used for scoring, lettering, and cutting straight lines.

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#10 wood carving knife – A small straight blade approx. 1″ long. This knife has a fine point for intricate detail work.

The #1 and #10 are similar in shape although the #10 has a finer point. I have the feeling that the #1 has a thicker blade nearer the tip than the #10 does as well. This is the biggest strength of these knives. Since they were designed by a master carver, they work great for what they are meant to do.

Pencil Sharpening

These knives, with their straight blades, work very well for pencil sharpening. I prefer to use the #1 as the #10 dulls too quickly. The handle allows for a comfortable grip and for the thumb to be placed on the spine of the blade. This makes accurate cuts easy.

Conclusion

While these knives may seem plain and simple to most, they are in fact well designed tools. The fit and finish could be improved, but for a handmade knife by a well-known American company at this price point, I have little complaint.

Shilin Cutter (士林刀)

I’ve always been a sucker for vintage and old styles, so the Shilin Cutter, with its large blade, thin handle and brass construction, appeals to me in many ways. The knife has an interesting history, with its manufacturing starting off in mainland China before moving to Taiwan during the Chinese civil war. It’s modern history is a bit messier, with family squabbles taking down the main manufacturer and a wave of custom makers spawning. For a fairly comprehensive history and overview of the Shilin Cutter, check out this British Blades forum post.

I acquired two examples of the Shilin Cutter this past summer at a small knife shop in the middle of a traditional market in Taiwan.

The first knife that I saw was this small one. The blade length is about the diameter of a quarter. It was kept under a glass panel in an old plastic bag. I immediately said “Yes, I’ll take it” before asking if she had anymore.

She pulled out this larger knife (size comparison at the end). She would not let me remove the knife from the bag it was kept in nor would she open it in front of me. I looked it over and it seemed like any other NOS (new old stock) knife, with a bit of patina and discoloration. Boy, was I wrong…

This larger knife had a multitude of issues, including a backspring that was so not flush that it makes the knife unusable. The sharp brass edges catch in the nooks of my hand making any task impossible. Furthermore, there was a rolled edge and the stamped logo was very faint.

With both knives, there was a thick layer of a mysterious “gunk”. I would assume that it is a type of oil something to keep the blades from rusting. I was told the smaller knife was made out of “white steel” which, if it is like anything the Japanese use, is a high carbon steel. While I was able to get most of this substance off the smaller knife, it was much more difficult on the larger blade and I eventually gave up.

I am disappointed with this experience? Both yes and no. I got one knife that I have no idea what to do with. I might experiment with grinding down either the blade or the backspring to make the larger knife useful, but that will be a project for some time down the road. On the other hand, I absolutely adore the smaller knife. Sure, the backspring has some gaps with the scales, but I honestly don’t mind that much. The knife wasn’t meant to hard tasks and as long as it stays on my desk or on my keychain for use as a letter opener, I don’t see myself noticing its flaws.

Next time I’m in Taiwan, I’ll check out some of those custom makers. The prices can get a bit high, so there’s no guarantee that I’ll purchase anything.

As a piece of history, these knives are certainly interesting. As tools, their design has the opportunity to be much more than the examples that I have. With tighter tolerances and more attention to detail, I could see myself “EDCing” one of these.

For more information, check out the original Shilin knife site or the aforementioned British Blades forum post.

Opinel Sharpening Stone Review

Introduction

I’m a pretty big fan of Opinel. For over 100 years, they’ve been able to output decent knives for a decent price. So, it goes without question that when I was looking for a budget sharpening stone, I checked if Opinel made any. To my surprise, they did. Today, we’re reviewing the Opinel Sharpening Stone.

Specs

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Dimensions: 4″ x 15/16 x 3/16
Weight: 1.3 oz
Place of Manufacture: Lombardi, Italy
Cost: $9.95 (pretty consistent among online retailers)

Packaging

When I was looking to buy this sharpening stone, Amazon was out of stock, so I bought it off of eBay. The seller was from France though shipping ended up being quite quick and cheap. The packaging, however, did not fair that well. The stone fits well and I still reuse the box to hold the stone when it is not in use.

Fit and Finish

The stone appears to have nice straight edges although this is not true. As seen from the pictures, the stone’s edges are a bit jagged and there is a taper. I believe this is due to the fact that this is a natural stone. While the dimensions of the stone are not perfect, the surfaces are all pretty flat (not a lot of lapping was needed) and there was nothing beyond cosmetic issues with it.

 

Functionality

As stated before, the stone came pretty flat. I lapped it on sandpaper for a bit to get a flatter edge though.

Through experimentation, the stone is best used wet. I usually use water although mineral oil worked all right as well. I’ve mostly used the stone to touch up blades. It does a pretty good job and a few strokes is all that’s needed to bring a knife back. I would estimate the stone to be equivalent to 800 grit.

Conclusion

I would say that this stone has a big advantage in portability, but that’s about it. I have no complaints for it nor do I have anything too spectacular to say for it. I’ll keep it in my drawer for when I need to touch up some knives or throw it in my backpack if I’m going somewhere and need to sharpen some knives (although I’m not sure if this is actually ever a possibility).

Toru Yamashita Whale Knife Review

IntroductionIMG_20160128_232308

I first saw the Toru Yamashita Whale Knife on the internet and thought it was a joke. It looked a bit “whimpy” (albeit “cool”). However, after holding the knife in person and reading about the specs, I was blown away. Today, let’s take a look at a whale knife.

Specs

Material: White Steel (core), Blue Steel (outside)
Country of Manufacture: Japan
Maker: Toru Yamashita

Packaging

The knife came slabbed between two pieces of cardboard. Threw it away pretty much when I got it.

Fit and FinishIMG_20160128_232456

The knife is blued along the edges. Though it does add some cosmetic value (if that’s your taste), it seems to do an all right job of preventing oxidation.

The steel is heat treated very well. It came with a hair splitting edge and I can touch it up easily with a leather strop or with my Opinel natural sharpening stone (review to come) if needed. Furthermore, the steel lamination is done very symmetrically and the bevels are also very nice.

The handle area is stamped on both sides “TOBA” with some waves. I have not yet found what “TOBA” means, but it is stamped on all of his knives.

FunctionalityIMG_20160128_232325

I would describe this knife as sharp. Very sharp. Although there is no information on the composition of the White Steel that is used in the core of the knife, most “white steels” are high carbon steels. Upon receiving the knife, I brushed my thumb against the edge and subsequently received a cut that would not stop for a good 10 minutes.

I bought the knife to sharpen pencils with and it does its job quite well. It’ll slide right through the wood and come out the other end. When freshly sharpened, the wood gives little resistance.

I have two issues with the knife:
1) With a convex grind, the edge bends and develops a burr when cutting objects harder than wood.
2) The steel is very prone to rusting. Although I keep the knife dry and give it a light coating of oil every time I put it away for a longer period, some rust marks have appeared (black circles). I have identified a scratch on the blade that I haven’t been able to identify. It would appear as though the scratch went through the lamination although I am not sure.

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Conclusion

My random web browsing find turned into a physical purchase that I do not regret. The blade is quite useful as a utility tool and it gets much use (as apparent by the wear). It is, however, not pocket worthy. Beyond a basic office tool, this knife has little use. It is too fragile and requires too much care. For now, it’ll stay on my desk and remain an occasional pencil sharpening utensil. IMG_20160128_232431

Opinel No8 Stainless Steel Review

IntroductionIMG_20160129_173735

Opinel has been producing knives since 1890. Their basic design, a penny knife with a wooden handle and stamped blade, is iconic and is even part of the permanent collection at New York Museum of Modern Art. I bought for its history and have found it to be one of my most useful tools, whether it’s to sharpen pencils, cut meat, or start a fire. Today, we’ll be looking at a recent production version of their No 8 knife with a stainless steel blade.

Specs

Blade length: 3.75”
Overall length: 7.5”
Weight: 1.6 oz
Price: $10-15

Packaging

The knife came in a simple cardboard box. I have long since thrown out the box but will revise the post to include the packaging from other Opinel knives if I purchase any.

Fit and Finish

At this price range, there is not too much to be expected from the fit and finish. The blade is not centered and the contours of the wood are far from symmetrical. However, in the hand, it does not feel as though anything is wrong. Further, it is actually quite difficult to tell that the knife is not perfect by just glancing at it.

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The blade is made of Sandvik 12c27 that has been modified by Opinel to have more carbon. Opinel knives originally came with high carbon (0.95%) steels. However, these would easily rust. The Sandvik steel that is used is pretty easily sharpened for a stainless steel. I frequently use my Opinel Sharpening Stone to touch up the blade when needed.

The locking ring is hit or miss. Of my two Opinel No8, one has a tight locking ring while the other is very stiff. I have adjusted them slightly with a pair of pliers (with tape on the tips of course) but still do not feel equal.

FunctionalityIMG_20160129_173827

Opinel sought to create a working man’s knife and they did. The knife is cheap and sharp. The main advantage it has over competitors is the fact that it locks. However, there are many disadvantages. For one, the wooden handle is susceptible to moisture which can cause the wood to swell. When this happens, the knife can become difficult to open.

As the knife is made of stamped steel, some edges are sharp. Most notably, the top edge of the knife is sharp enough to cause discomfort.

That being said, with some simple DIY skills, most of the issues can be solved. The moisture issue can be addressed by disassembling the knife (which will require tools) and coating the knife in linseed oil, polyurethane or something of the like. The handle is easily customized with some sand paper or, if you want a more distinct shape, a saw or knife. There are some custom Opinels with exquisitely filed blade spines (here’s a great example).

My carry version, seen above, has a few coatings of oil on the wood and the edges have been naturally rounded with time. The lock has become a bit loose although I could easily pinch the opening a bit to tighten it. I actually prefer the looser lock as I can lock and unlock it with one hand. This particular knife has been accidentally soaked in water, used to cut sheet metal, and been dropped many times. It still does its job very well and hasn’t given up.

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One of the most common tasks I do with this knife is sharpen pencils. The convex edge can slide through the wood with ease. It does need to be stropped and honed in order to readily do that though. There are many other knives that can sharpen pencils better (including my Warther wood carving knives and Whale Knife, reviews coming soon), but the Opinel has the advantage of being a folding knife and easier to bring places.

Conclusion

The Opinel is a fine tool to have. Its cheap price and reliability make it a staple for anyone requiring a sharp knife that might be lost or damaged. It has a few shortcomings that can be addressed. This will go in my backpack, for now, but I will be checking other models that Opinel has including different blade lengths, handle materials, and steel types.