Archive | Bargain or Just Cheap?

Bargain or Just Cheap? – Steel Will Cutjack C22M

Welcome to Bargain or Just Cheap? This series will review budget friendly knives for a variety of uses in a short format. All of the knives will cost less than $50 (in most cases, much less) and will be purchased out of my own pocket. I’ll buy them, carry them, and use them in an attempt to determine if the knife is a bargain or just cheap.


I have already reviewed the Steel Will Modus in a past installment of Bargain or Just Cheap?. That knife is one that started to change what I expected from an affordable Chinese knife. As good as the Modus is in terms of a stylish EDC knife, the Cutjack is better. If the Modus is a great knife, the Cutjack is verging on “classic” status.

Steel Will offers the Cutjack in two sizes – the 3″ bladed C22M and the 3.5″ bladed C22. Like the Modus, they also offer it in a more upscale model with upgraded materials and blade steel. This review will be confined to the more budget oriented C22 and C22M models both of which features excellent textured FRN scales and a D2 steel blade.

The blade is a flat ground, drop point design with a flipper tab that acts as a guard and a large choil meant for chocking up. That large choil is a big part of the magic of this knife because it is actually very comfortable to use. The handle design works very well with the choil which means that the knife can feel very compact when folded but offer a handle that feels very roomy when opened. Couple that small-in-pocket-but-big-in-hand design with a very slicey blade grind, pocket-friendly scales, and a 3 ounce weight… You are approaching EDC perfection.

Steel Will’s liner locks are excellent in my experience. They lock up fully but early enough that you will get years and years of use out of them. They also do great work with flippers on phosphor bronze washers. The detent also seems to be perfectly tuned for great flipping action without the need for bearings. The action on these knives also punches well above their weight class. It locks up strong and flips well.

I think the cheaper and smaller C22M is the pick of the litter unless you need the extra size of the C22. The C22M, being smaller, really optimizes the advantages of this design.

Bargain or Just Cheap?

The Steel Will Cutjack is an incredible knife. It is a bargain at $60, let alone the $38ish you’ll actually pay. The Cutjack is lightweight, deploys smoother than many flippers costing significantly more, and offers a lot of cutting performance in a compact package.

I am using Amazon as the price baseline for this series. All knives were purchased by me from Amazon: Steel Will Cutjack Series


Our goal is to represent knives for a variety of uses from EDC, to outdoor, to tactical knives. Do you have a favorite affordable knife? Let us know about it in the comments!

The above article contains affiliate links.

Bargain or Just Cheap? – Steel Will Modus F25

Welcome to Bargain or Just Cheap? This series will review budget friendly knives for a variety of uses in a short format. All of the knives will cost less than $50 (in most cases, much less) and will be purchased out of my own pocket. I’ll buy them, carry them, and use them in an attempt to determine if the knife is a bargain or just cheap.


There was a time when Chinese made knives were mostly junk – at least those that were imported and sold very inexpensively. That is changing thanks to a wave of manufacturers like Steel Wil and othersl that are offering some really excellent knives that are often priced very competitively. That is certainly the case with the subject of today’s installment of Bargain or Just Cheap? – the Steel Will Modus F25.

Steel Will often offers two versions of the same design, one with more premium materials and one with more working class materials like FRN handle slabs and D2 steel. I often tend toward to working class model because they are very affordable and I actually happen to like D2 steel and FRN (plastic) as a handle material from all my years carrying Spyderco knives. The particular version of the Modus that I purchased is the F25-12 model. It features a 3.25″ D2 steel blade with green FRN handles.

The Modus features a modified sheepsfoot shape. Most sheepsfoot knives have a completely straight edge but the Modus’ edge sweeps gently up toward the tip giving it some belly. The blade is quite tall for a folder and the primary flat grind is nearly full height which does a very good job of thinning the edge. It cuts and slices very well.

The handle feels great in the handle and the texture provided by the patterned FRN scales is great. The full steel liners under the FRN have been skeletonized to reduce weight.

The lock up on these Steel Will liner locks is excellent. They typically exhibit early lock up with full engagement. The lock up on my Modus is among the best I have seen on a liner lock.

The Modus weighs in at under 3.4 ounces and it its FRN handle makes it very easy on pockets. The pocket clip is quite good with tip down left or right side carry, solid tension, and no sharp edges. I find these knives to be a joy to carry.

I think my favorite thing about these knives is how well they deploy. They are opened via a flipper and Steel Will has absolutely mastered the art of the flipper even without the use of ball bearing pivots which is mildly mind blowing. This knife is buttery smooth and has a perfect detent. It fires open easily and locks up with a satisfying snick.

NOTE: I have seen one Steel Will flipper that didn’t deploy well. It turns out the phosphor bronze washers were installed backwards (the smoother, more rounded side should be against the blade). Once they were corrected, the knife fired like a champ. It’s an easy fix.

Bargain or Just Cheap?

The Steel Will Modus is an EDC gem. It isn’t just a good knife, it is one of my favorite knives!

At around $40, it is definitely a bargain. It is light weight, deploys smoother than many flippers costing significantly more, and offers a lot of cutting performance in a sensibly sized package.

I am using Amazon as the price base line for this series. All knives were purchased by me from Amazon: Steel Will Modus F25-12 (there are other colors available)


Our goal is to represent knives for a variety of uses from EDC, to outdoor, to tactical knives. Do you have a favorite affordable knife? Let us know about it in the comments!

The above article contains affiliate links.

It’s Not Just Because They are Cheap… Why Mora Knives?

I recently wrote an article about the Mora Robust and Companion Heavy Duty (click here to read), two knives that I see as some of the best values in the extensive Mora line and some of the best values on the knife market, period. I tout these two knives as a great option for those who have been hesitant to try Mora knives due to preconceived notions about the lightweight, inexpensive knives being fragile.

I received two emails after the article went live. One was from a long time reader who bought a Robust on my recommendation. The second email was less than approving. To put it nicely, reader Allen K. expressed his concern that I was going to “get someone killed” by recommending Moras and accused me of being “cheap”. He was genuinely upset.

My initial reaction was to treat this like any other of the weird emails or comments that come along with being on the internet. As I thought more about it, it seemed like a great opportunity to articulate some thoughts that I have had for a long time – thoughts about why even with all the expensive knives I own, even knives of my own design, you will probably find a Mora in my pack.

Weight – This is pretty straight forward. I am not talking about some kind of subjective balance or feel. I am talking about the measurable weight of the knife. A Mora Robust weighs 5.07 ounces and it is one of the heavier Moras thanks to it’s thicker blade stock. That is a full 2-3 ounces lighter (and in some cases a lot more) than a typical full tang knife of similar size. I am interested in saving weight for anything that have to carry on my back or belt. If you are worried about breaking one, you could carry two Moras and still weigh yourself down less than some full tang knives.

Function – I need to do two things with a knife in the outdoors – cut random things and process wood for fires. I can do both with a Mora and do them well. The Scandi grind used on Mora knives is well known for how it cuts wood. They are thin enough to cut well and they work really well for their intended purpose. In fact, they outperform many popular knives on the market in this regard. Many makers seem to have lost sight of the fact that knives should cut. Morakniv hasn’t.

Ergonomics – Mora Knives typically have excellent ergonomics. The handles tend to be comfortable and hand filling. They offer positive grip that works well with wet or gloved hands. Moras also typically have unobtrusive guards and they tend to bring the cutting edge all the way to the handle which increases leverage and efficiency (and thus safety) in power cuts. These are knives designed by people who use knives.

Quality – These are actually well made knives. They typically come with a good edge that can be easily refined further by the end user. Morakniv uses 12C27 hardened to HRC 56-58 or UHB-20C hardened to HRC 58-60 (basically 1095 carbon steel) and that is just in the lower end knives. These are high quality steels taken to hardness levels that provides very good performance.

Basically, you choose a Mora for ALL THE SAME REASONS YOU WOULD CHOOSE ANY ANOTHER KNIFE! Moras tend to be good quality, high performing knives, that also happen to be extremely inexpensive.

I understand that there is something of a mental hurdle here that takes a little bit of effort to get over. We live in a world where good things are rarely cheap. We also have a lot of romantic ideas about survival with a knife or how we think we will use a knife in the outdoors.

Mora knives are usually more than enough knife for me

Bargain or Just Cheap? – CRKT Minimalist

Welcome to Bargain or Just Cheap? This series will review budget friendly knives for a variety of uses in a short format. All of the knives will cost less than $50 (in most cases, much less) and will be purchased out of my own pocket. I’ll buy them, carry them, and use them in an attempt to determine if the knife is a bargain or just cheap.


The CRKT Minimalist is based on the original, custom Alan Folts designed Minimalist. This popular compact fixed blade can be found for less than $30 and it is extremely easy to carry… but is it a Bargain or Just Cheap?

Specs:

Handle: Micarta slabs

Steel: 5Cr15MoV

Blade Length: 2″

Overall Length: 4.875″

Weight: 1.2 ounces

Sheath: Injection Molded Plastic

Observations from Use

I’ll spill the beans right up front. The Minimalist is a Bargain, not just cheap. It doesn’t have the latest super steel. It doesn’t have the cache of a custom knife. But still, it’s a great knife in part because its small and well designed.

The Minimalist is small – truly small – which makes it very easy to carry. Whether you carry it on your belt, as a neck knife, or in your pocket, the Minimalist is small enough to forget it’s there. It can be carried on your belt as a compact self-defense knife or even attached to something like a Raven Concealment Pocket Shield.

Everybody hates knife handles with finger grooves… until they try a CRKT Minimalist. In most cases, finger grooves are an annoyance but in the case of the Minimalist, they are the key to how a knife with such a small handle manages to lock into the user’s hand. That is really the genius of this Alan Folts design.

The Minimalist is ground from .10″ thick steel stock and has a relatively high hollow grind, especially on the wharncliffe style blade that I prefer. It is an extremely aggressive cutter thanks to this thin stock and good geometry.

The sheath is injection molded but it would pass for real heat molded kydex at a glance. It is actually a decent sheath that retains the knife well and allows a full grip on the knife handle.

Bargain or Just Cheap?

Like I said, it’s a bargain. The Minimalist is a great little knife if you want a small utility blade to EDC. It’s an affordable, compact defensive fixed blade. It’s just a great knife all around.

I am using Amazon as the price base line for this series. All knives were purchased by me from Amazon: CRKT Minimalist


Our goal is to represent knives for a variety of uses from EDC, to outdoor, to tactical knives. Do you have a favorite affordable knife? Let us know about it in the comments!

The above article may contain affiliate links.

Bargain or Just Cheap? – Cold Steel Trail Boss Axe

Welcome to Bargain or Just Cheap? This series reviews budget friendly knives for a variety of uses in a short format. All of the knives will cost less than $50 (in most cases, much less) and will be purchased out of my own pocket. I’ll buy them, carry them, and use them in an attempt to determine if the knife is a bargain or just cheap.


It isn’t hard to find an axe at the hardware store but finding one worth owning is another story. There are lots of tools that look like axes but much of the nuance of what makes an axe good has been lost. You can still get great axes but they tend to cost a fortune. Is the Cold Steel Trail Boss an a bargain pack axe for the budget woodsman or is it just cheap?

Specs:

Head weight: 2.5 lbs

Total weight: 2.77 lbs

Overall length: 23″

Steel: Forged 1055

Observations from Use:

The Trail Boss is probably a bit of an odd duck to the axe purist. I have seen its head referred to as a Hudson Bay pattern but it really has more in common with German designs thanks to its larger, fan shaped bit. Its 23″ handle has some shaping but it is mostly straight overall, likely to save cost. It really is a mish-mash of design elements but… it works really, really well.

It is always best to be able to inspect an axe in person when purchasing but I bought this one on Amazon per the rules for this series of reviews. The hang is quite good – straight, tight, with wood pushed out, filling the eye. The handle is quite good too with good grain orientation, no heart wood, run out, etc. I have been able to handle several of these and they have all been quite good.

The Trail Boss carries very light for an axe this size. It is large enough and heavy enough for light felling (especially when used with a compact saw of some kind) and compact enough to lash easily to most overnight or larger bags. This would be an extremely handy tool for packing into a winter camp.

The bit has nice thin cheeks which is surprising on an inexpensive axe. The head comes with only a courtesy edge that you will need to finish when the axe arrives but once you do, you will be treated to an axe that bites deep thanks to the efficient shape of its cutting bit. It also splits surprisingly well for a compact axe and splitting is likely the most important thing you will ask of a camp axe. This attention to head geometry is what makes an axe work and what is largely missing from most hardware store axes.

I am not exactly breaking the news that this is a great budget axe so there is already a solid after-market for this axe. That means that if you want an axe mask (bit cover) or sheath, you can easily find them and they aren’t expensive either.

There are still a few things I would change and most of them have to do with the haft. The are of the haft above the flared butt is where users are likely to grip the Trail Boss most often. This area has been left slightly square which can easily be fixed with a rasp or belt sander. It’s odd but also not that uncomfortable. The haft also comes with a lacquer finish. Boiled linseed oil would be preferable as lacquer finishes cause blisters on bare hands but this too is easily fixed… I still haven’t “fixed” mine because it works and I wear gloves.

Bargain or Just Cheap?

The Cold Steel Trail Boss is certainly a BARGAIN. It shows, in its design, an understanding of what makes an axe functional. It won’t have the camp cache of a swedish axe but it also won’t set you back nearly as much and will perform nearly as well. It is functional as delivered and the knowledgeable axeman can really transform it into something special.

I am probably going to buy another one.

I use Amazon as the price base line for this series. All knives (and axes) were purchased by me, from Amazon:

Cold Steel Trail Boss


Our goal is to represent knives for a variety of uses from EDC, to outdoor, to tactical knives. Do you have a favorite affordable knife? Let us know about it in the comments!

The above article contains affiliate links.

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