The Cold Steel AD-15 is an excellent knife with some very, very aggressive G-10 (or polymer on the AD-15 Lite) scales from the factory. Those scales are great for grip in difficult conditions but they are murder for your pants pockets. Thankfully, there is a new alternative from Scalegarden.
Scalegarden offers custom scales for the AD-15 in carbon fiber, natural canvas micarta, and orange canvas micarta. I have the natural canvas micarta scales and they completely change this knife. They look great, offer excellent grip, fit perfectly, and actually make the AD-15 practical for EDC… at least as practical as a knife this beefy can be.
Stay tuned for a review of the Cold Steel AD-15. Visit Scalegarden to learn more about their AD-15 scale options: Scalegarden
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 carry a fixed blade knife every day and there are times when unsheathing it just to trim a loose string or cut open a box feels more than a little conspicuous. So, I typically also carry some kind of small folding knife as a companian. The Jesper Voxnaes designed CRKT Pilar is excellent in this role.
Jesper Voxnaes has a real knack for designing small knives that still manage to fill the hand – “little big knives”, so to speak. The Pilar is both large enough to get a four-fingered grip and small enough to fit easily in the coin pocket of your jeans. This is thanks to a generous finger choil that helps complete the grip when the knife is opened.
The 2.4″ blade lends itself perfectly to utility cuts and offers excellent control of the surprisingly useable tip. The tall flat grind leaves plenty of meat behind the edge while still offering reasonable slicing performance. The 8Cr13MoV steel on my example sharpens easily but can’t compete with some of the more premium steels offered on some models but I like it for how inexpensive it is.
The Pilar offers right-side tip-up or tip-down clip positions. The clip is relatively low profile. It also doesn’t get in the way much when the knife is being used.
If the Pilar has a glaring flaw, it’s weight. The regular, plain-jane Pilar comes with stainless steel scales on both the show and the frame-lock side of the knife. This compact, svelte, sleek little knife is surprisingly a bit of a porker at 4.2 ounces! That said, I like the knife so much I invested in a micarta scale for mine which greatly reduced the weight.
That micarta scale brings up another great thing about the Pilar. It is so darn popular that it is available in several special versions with different materials and there is a ton of aftermarket support. The basic Pilar can be a cheap canvas that you can customize to your heart’s content.
Finally, I want to mention that I think this makes a good first folding knife. In fact, that is exactly what I bought for my oldest daughter. The frame lock is secure and easy to operate. It is compact enough for kid pockets. The choil offers a safe, tactile, and secure grip. It also doesn’t break the bank so you don’t sweat it when your kid leaves it in the woods, never to be seen again.
Bargain or Just Cheap?
This one is definitely a bargain. It is an ergonomic wonder, a design that oozes style, and a functional EDC knife. It is small enough to be inconspicuous and large enough to do real work. At less than $40 shipped, it’s a bargain all day long.
I am using Amazon as the price baseline for this series. All knives were purchased by me from Amazon: CRKT Pilar
For those who want a slightly larger option, I also own and like the Pilar II though not quite as much as the original.
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 Skylark series of knives from WELmade Knives consists of a single design in multiple finish options. It’s design is both practical and radical… brutish and refined. It’s a very visual knife that is aimed squarely at the everyday carry (EDC) market and comes with everything you need to add it to your EDC right out of the box.
The Skylark is crafted for WELmade knives by Dauntless MFG. If you are familiar with Dauntless MFG, you’ll know they bring a custom level of fit and finish to both the knives and sheaths that they craft.
It features a 3.24″ long blade with a modified tanto/recurve shape that is ground from 154-CPM steel. This full-tang construction knife is 7″ long overall and weighs 5.5 ounces with the included kydex sheath. It is available with multiple handle scale options including the black G-10 over white G-10 liners on my example. The handle screws are blue anodized titanium.
Observations from Use
The Skylark is a striking knife – not just in the design but also in the details. The shape is eye-catching and very unique. The stone-washed blade finish looks great and the handle treatment brings to mind a tuxedo. The pop of color from the screws is subtle depending on the light but it makes you take a second look when they catch the sun. I just like looking at it and I have told others that I am not cool or classy enough to carry a knife like this.
Thankfully, WELmade Knives intends for you to do more than look at this knife. The blade shape, while unconventional, is very useful. The recurve section catches things like twine and cuts it aggressively. The leading edge has a slight amount of belly and reminds me of a chef’s knife or a kiridashi in how it orients in the hand and lays on a cutting board. The high flat grind makes this knife surprisingly “slicey” and the swedge grind gives a very strong, useful, and acute point. I would probably prefer a flat section of edge to the small section of recurve but I can’t deny that this blade shape wants to work.
The handle on this knife looked small to me in pictures but looks are deceiving. WELmade Knives gave us some nice, thick scales. It is actually quite hand-filling while still remaining compact for carry. The handles are mostly round but with flats that prevent the knife from turning in the hand. The finger choil behind the well-rounded guard is somewhat compact but works well for my average-sized hands. It might be a little cramped for sausage fingers. I easily fit all 4 fingers on the handle and find it to be comfortable for edge-out and edge-in grips.
The sheath that is included with the Skylark is excellent. It is a fold-over, kydex sheath that is very compact. It is machined to fit the contours of the knife perfectly and the included Discreet Carry Concepts clip makes it very easy to clip on and go. It carries well in a pocket or on your belt line. Dauntless MFG is well-known for their sheaths and sheaths like this are the reason why that is. It’s very well designed.
There are a lot of thoughtful touches on this knife that really only come out when you spend time with it. It has a nifty shallow thumb rest on the top that falls naturally and comfortably under the thumb. This ramp provides just a little more control for cuts in both directions. I also appreciate how the shape of the handle sort of grips the first 3 fingers with a broad, shallow finger groove which also works in concert with the thumb ramp to provide more purchase for both push and pull cuts. The tapered shape of the handle lets the user orient the edge to a flat surface easily while providing clearance for the knuckles. Finally, the sheath itself has a clever offset rivet that makes it so the clip can ride more vertically and closer to the centerline. This is extremely clever and really improves how the knife carries.
Nothing is perfect. As good as this knife is, it could be even better. It works really well in a pinch grip so it would be nice if the scales were relieved just a little bit to better support this useful grip. The edges of the sheath were a little sharp around the opening and these edges can be pushed into your side when the knife is out of the sheath. I trimmed the sharp parts easily but it would be nice if that was already done.
This is a visually striking knife that is easy to carry and offers a ton of utility in a small amount of space. The quality and design touches exude pure class but the materials and shape beg for work. If you are looking for a unique fixed blade for EDC that is both gentlemanly and rugged, the WELmade Knives Skylark has to be on your radar.
The EDC Tool Roll is a feature on Jerking the Trigger in which we profile various everyday carry worthy tools. The tools shown aren’t multi-tools but rather real tools, that by virtue of their compact size, light weight, usefulness, or unique functionality, can find a place in any range kit, emergency kit, or everyday carry bag.
Feel free to comment on the tools that you carry so we can all learn! The discussion on these posts has been very valuable so far.
If you are looking for some of the lightest, most compact, and functional handtools for your version of The EDC Tool Roll, you might have to leave the hardware store and head over to the bike shop. That is where you are most likely to find this slick ratchet/driver combination tool we are focusing on today… the Topeak Ratchet Rocket Lite DX.
The ratchet/driver included with this kit has a unique format with a reversible ratcheting end complete with a finger wheel and a fixed inline end. The configuration is excellent allowing for the speed of a ratcheting driver along with the easier starts and longer reach of a fixed, inline driver. Both ends hold standard hex shank bits with excellent retention. This format is VERY useful in a small driver.
I was initially interested in the Topeak Ratchet Rocket Lite DX for just the ratchet/driver. I thought the other items might be too bike-specific to be useful to me but I have been pleasantly surprised with how much I like the included pouch. The pouch holds the contents securely and is very compact. You can easily exchange the bike-specific bits for whatever you need (though the labeled sizes won’t match). Additionally, if you remove the tire levers, you can fit a Knipex Cobra Plier 87 00 100 in the kit turning it into a smaller than wallet size EDC Tool Roll on it’s own.
This kit doesn’t come with a hex shank to socket adapter. It is worth adding one on your own because makes a fine socket wrench and nut driver. I purchase them from iFixit.
The Hard Ready Brand HR-1 is an important knife as a model of what can be done. At just $80, it has several notable and important features that are typically reserved for knives costing 3 times as much. The HR-1 democratizes the defensive fixed blade and you should know about it.
The HR-1 is a full tang knife ground from .125″ thick German X30Cr12 Steel. It features a 2.5″ long blade and a 7.125″ overall length. The flat saber ground tanto knife has a bare tang handle that terminates in a large finger loop.
It comes with a full-size aluminum trainer and a kydex sheath with a centerline clip. It is these features that really set it apart at its $80 price tag.
Observations from Use
The HR-1, in my opinion, is a study on how to hit a price point the right way. Hard Ready Brand made several smart decisions in designing this knife that kept the price low without sacrificing function.
The HR-1’s tanto blade is an understandable choice though it likely wouldn’t be the first choice of many including myself. This blade shape offers a strong point and is easy to sharpen. It doesn’t penetrate as readily as something like a spearpoint but, in my testing, it still pokes holes in stuff. Hard Ready Brand tells me other blade shapes may be available at a later date.
The handle has something for everyone. If you like a karambit-esque finger ring, it has one. However, if you don’t like them, the handle is shaped such that you can just completely ignore it in exchange for the VERY deep first finger choil that can be used to index the knife right out of the sheath. There is a sort of bump behind the finger choil that I could do without but I do acknowledge that this is a great ledge for retrieving the knife from the sheath.
The handle is bare and very thin. This is not a utility knife meant to be used hours on end. It’s a defensive knife with a handle design that offers great retention, resists twisting, and leaves no doubt how the edge is oriented. It fits a variety of hand sizes, especially if you ignore the finger ring. If you want to add a bit of grip without adding much bulk, it is easy to wrap with hockey tape, though I don’t think it’s necessary.
The choice of German X30Cr12 Steel is a smart one. This is basically a German equivalent of 420 series steel. I can already hear the knife snobs choking but hear me out. This steel is almost an asset to the knife as 420 series steels are fairly tough and corrosion-resistant while still being very affordable. It makes perfect sense for a knife that needs to be tough, affordable, and that you will carry next to your body day in and day out. I’ve even worn mine while swimming without fear of rust.
Now we can get into the two features that really make the HR-1 an incredible feature – the sheath and the trainer.
This knife actually comes with a real aluminum training knife. That is basically unheard of unless you want to pay at least twice as much and, even then, the choices would be slim. The training knife fits the included kydex sheath which is excellent.
The sheath is kydex and, while there is definitely room for improvement, it is more functional than the vast, vast majority of knives on the market. It includes stainless hardware including a centerline clip that can be mounted on either side of the sheath. The clip is what makes this sheath. It has a tooth that grips your belt, webbing, and even the waistline of your athletic shorts fairy tenaciously. That’s right, you don’t need a belt to wear the HR-1 which puts it in rarified air in terms of sheath design. It’s not a Discreet Carry Concepts clip but it works.
All that said, the retention on the sheath could be better. It seems like the sheath needs an adjustable screw on the edges side or, cheaper still, just another eyelet. The sheath retains the trainer perfectly but it is a little loose on the live blade. It is almost as if the sheath is molded for the trainer leaving it just a little loose on the live blade. I fixed this easily by adding a ranger band which helps pinch the kydex together at the right location.
As I said in the first paragraph, the HR-1 is an important knife. This is a knife that gets the most important things right at a price that is basically untouchable. It’s not perfect but it is better than many, many other knives that think they can target this market space just by painting their blade black and adding tactical to their name.
It brings the functionality of a modern, defensive fixed blade to those who are unwilling or unable to pay $200+. It’s a bold concept and I am glad that Hard Ready Brand is trying something this ambitious.
Maybe you didn’t think you could afford a modern, purpose-built defensive knife with a trainer and centerline sheath or maybe you just don’t want to wear your $400 knife when you are wading in a creek… either way, check out the Hard Ready Brand HR-1.