One of the advantages of taking a vacation in the back hills of the Sevierville region (pictures to follow once I look through them) is that you almost have to drive past the Smokey Mountain Knife Works coming or going. For the uninitiated, underneath its bold, blue roof is 55,000 square feet of knives, knife accessories, knives, knife-making tools, knives, souveniers, knives, a massive knife museum, knives, antiques, knives, kitchenware of all sorts, knives, Smokey Mountain crafts, and, oh yeah, knives. Just about every make and manufacturer is represented, and they do a bloody fair job of trying to have one of every model available, though they do come up a little short in that regard. So sad.
For me, specifically, this was convenient due to my recent search for a new carry knife, and the fact that looking at pictures and specifications of knives online does not even come close to handling them and sizing them up in person (as this trip amply demonstrated). As my two regular readers already know, I was mostly looking at fixed blades as my next carry knife, but the couple of hours I spent at the Knife Works (much to Better Half’s chagrin) taught me something interesting.
I like decent-sized grips on knives.
This revelation came to me while I was fooling around with a CRKT M16-14SF – an arguably oustanding knife, but one with a grip that is just a little too small for my hands to be comfortable with. And considering that my knives have a 100% history of hurting me instead of someone else, I had bloody well better be comfortable with the blade in question.
After that, I started looking around – to get a fixed-blade knife with a handle that felt comfortable in my hands required procuring a knife with a blade as long, if not longer, than the handle. In addition to running into potential legal concerns (viz Tennessee’s four inch maximum blade length), the question of how I was going to comfortably carry it was becoming significant, especially with how more and more fixed-blade knives are marketed towards the military/tacticool markets, complete with massive, MOLLE-compatible nylon sheaths.
With most of the fixed-blade knives being ruled out due to the blade being too big, the handle being too small, or the cost being too high, the only options left were the Ka-Bar TDIs, and the massive field of folders. Unfortunately, after fooling about with the former for a bit, I came to the decision that my brain/body was not terribly fond of the angle built into the handle of those (nor was I fond of the not-exactly-glowing recommendations the store’s staff had concerning the sheaths for those knives).
So I was back where I started initially, looking at folders, and scratching my head. For some odd reason, very few knife manufacturers make very many knives with reversable pocket clips. Removable pocket clips exist all over the place, but clips that let you carry blade-forward or blade-back, much less tip-up or tip-down, are very much in limited supply. Seems kind of strange, considering how even AR-15s are coming in lefty models, now.
At that point, I pretty much just gave up and started aimlessly wandering – not hard, considering the size and scope of the store in question, and the overwhelming number of sharp-and-pointy things contained therein. In a quest to find some examples of the Mantis knives I wrote about a bit ago (which I did, though they only had folders, and while I was neither impressed nor unimpressed, a better alternative presented itself shortly afterwards), I happened to stumble across Kershaw‘s display, and, more specifically, their Speed Bump model.
It followed me home.
Yes, it is a folder. Yes, its pocket clip is only removable, and not reversable. But it is also an “assisted-opening” knife, courtesy of Kershaw’s SpeedSafe technology, and this seems to solve both those problems.
“Assisted-opening”, for those not bored enough to be familiar with the nuances of the appropriate laws, is simply an acceptable way of saying “just barely not an automatic knife”. By the most common definitions (a consistent, overarching definition is hard to come by), the release mechanism on automatic knives (whether it is a button, a lever, or whatever) is not part of the blade itself. You push a button on the handle, and the knife blade pops out, propelled by a spring. Unfortunately, in the grand old state of Tennessee, these are frowned upon for civilian ownership. However, if the release mechanism is part of the blade, as it is with “assisted-opening” knives, then you are good to go.
Yeah, ’cause that makes sense.
Long story made short, when the Speed Bump is folded, there is a little triangular piece of metal sticking up out of the back of the handle – you push on that, the knife is “assisted” out to its full extension, and that triangle turns into a small fingerguard. The length of push is relatively insignificant – about the same as you would expect for a good-sized button – and once you have overcome the internal spring’s detent, that force turns around and throws the blade open for you, quite quickly, at that.
In this particular situation, the arrangement works out perfectly. The Speed Bump rides around tip down, so instead of using my thumb to extract it from my pocket, I reach down with my index and middle fingers on the knife handle, and my thumb on its clip. Then, once the knife is out of my pocket, my index finger is already in place to push the “Index-Open” part of the blade (as Kershaw refers to it), and the rest of my hand just falls into place. I was being quite honest when I said that opening a normal folder with my left hand was a recipie for pain and bloodshed, but, to put it simply, “assisted-opening” good. (Thanks to Sevesteen for the initial suggestion of this technology, even though I did not pay attention at the time.)
In addition to that little bit of spring-loaded goodness, the Speed Bump also has another bit of proprietary Kershaw technology in it by way of the Stud Lock, which definitely falls under the “love it or hate it” category of knife features. On the plus side, it is a remarkably strong lock, I see no way of accidentally disengaging it short of breaking off the stud entirely, and, once you get used to it, disengaging it is surprisingly natural; but on the negative side, it is completely different from liner/frame or back locks, it takes a bit of getting used to, and it uses a little fiddly spring to hold everything in place (which raises certain concerns for me, but my research online does not indicate any failures or problems). Throw in a safety on the clip-side of the body that holds the knife closed, and that rounds out the features.
The handle is comprised of some specially-named plastic with Santoprene inserts (my fellow gun nuts might be more familiar with that material when it is on Pachmayr grips), but if you want the higher-class G-10 handle, look for the appropriately higher-priced Spec Bump; and the blade is forged of Sandvik 13C26 stainless steel, which apparently is used for such things as surgical knives. Fun. Out of the box, the knife is dangerously sharp, so I can certainly see how that would be the case. As for the blade profile, Kershaw refers to it as “recurve”, which, I suppose, is appropriate, considering the bows of that design, but whatever it is called, it does seem to lend itself well to cutting things, despite the lack of a serrated section.
Oh, and in the midst of all these details and features, there lies one of the most important: bought at an American store, this knife was designed and made here in the United States as well (though Kershaw is owned by KAI, which might or might not be a Japanese corporation – not sure). At any rate, given our current financial situation, just consider it my part in keeping our economy afloat.
Expect more details an actual review after a month or two of me actually being able to use this thing. For the moment, though, getting used to having it on my left side is going to take time, and the SpeedSafe “assisted-opening” is almost as fun to play with as an automatic knife.
If my typing quality/quantity decreases in the coming few days (due to, say, bandages on my fingers), you will know why…
--Download assisting myself as PDF --