Dec 24, 2010

Pocket Knife comparison

I think most of us carry a knife of some sort on a daily basis. For many of us, it's a single-blade folder. Benchmade, Gerber, CRKT, Kershaw, whatever. All are great knives with a purpose. But let's face it - some days, a knife blade isn't quite the best tool for a job.

Over the summer I picked up a Victorinox Tinker and carried it around for a week before giving it to my brother-in-law as I got on an airplane to go home. It was a nice knife to have around.

Looking for something along the same idea as a Victorinox Classic, I decided to get a Leatherman Style. That arrived early this month. A few weeks ago, Amazon did a sale on Victorinox knives, so I picked up a few, including an Alox Classic.

Once I had them side-by-side, a review pretty much became mandatory.

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The specs are pretty similar. Both are a hair over 2" long, both have a short knife blade, both have a file/screwdriver, both have scissors. Either of them can be had for under $20, and usually under $15.

The Alox Classic is a VERY slim knife, and foregoes the tweezers and toothpick that Swiss Army Knives are known for. It's also about 2/3 the weight of the Style. By getting a traditional red Classic, the thickness increases, as does the weight, but it adds tweezers and a toothpick.

The Style... I want to like it. The size is right. The tools are right. Leatherman has a great reputation for quality tools - I own at least four of their full-size tools and have zero complaints about any of them.

Unfortunately, the Style is a piece of crap.

It feels cheap and unfinished.

Here we go, with pictures:

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First up, the knife blade. Both are a bit over 1.5" long; a good size for opening envelopes, peeling an orange, cutting small rope or twine - basically, any small-knife tasks! Out of the box, both are VERY sharp.

The Style has a "normal" blade profile, and is single-grind: the back side is flat all the way to the cutting edge, the front side has a fairly wide angle to it. Easy to sharpen, but for a left-handed user, a push-cut will be less effective. Additionally, the spine of the blade has VERY sharp edges - a quick grind down both sides would have smoothed it out tremendously. It just feels unfinished.

The Classic has the usual pen knife "spear point" blade, and is a lighter blade than the Style. For anything this size knife is appropriate for, the lighter blade is perfectly acceptable.


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Both have a nail file/flat screwdriver combination blade, and the only gripe I have about the Style in this regard is that the opening divot is within the file. It's an unpleasant sensation to grind the end of a nail into the file, as opposed to filing it.

Neither screwdriver is suited for heavy tasks, but that's typical of any small knife - and many of the larger multi-tools, as well. If you need a screwdriver, go get a screwdriver!


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The scissors... The scissors on the Style are pathetic. The little lever that is supposed to open them up for you doesn't have enough oomph to open them any further than what you see above. Acceptable for snipping a thread, perhaps, but nothing else. Additionally, because of where the moving part of the scissor is relative to how it folds out, getting a full-depth cut means squeezing the lever past the edge of the knife. It's really a poor design.


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Style on the left, Alox Classic on the right. The Style is, quite literally, twice the thickness of the Classic.

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Next to keys for size comparison; I keep the Classic on this keyring now, and the Style has been quickly relegated to the drawer o' knives.

One other point about the Style: on the right end (in the picture above), the pointy end is not tacked or riveted down. It's made of very thin metal, and has a penchant for bending away from the body of the knife just slightly. It was less than 24 hours before I stabbed the end of my finger on that point, quite painfully (but no blood).

I still like my Leatherman multi-tools. A PST, a Core, a 200, and a Kick all float around my pockets and gear from time to time. I gave my groomsmen Squirt tools for my wedding, and those are, to the best of my knowledge, still getting regular use.

Unfortunately, I cannot recommend the Style as a wise purchase. If you need a small pocket knife for times when a clip-on folder isn't appropriate, spend your money on a Victorinox or Wenger Swiss Army Knife.

1 comment:

mhaithaca said...

I took advantage of that Tinker and Classic combo deal at Amazon a couple of weeks ago. The Classic will replace the one I've been carrying around in my pocket for a decade that's showing its age and its constant use, and the TInker replaces my first Swiss Army knife, which I've probably had for thirty years but haven't seen in a while. It wouldn't always live in my pocket, but would go camping with me along with the Buck and the cool sheathed straight blade whose identity escapes me.

I hadn't been aware of the Alox. I love the design, and the thin and light factors, but I'd probably miss the toothpick and tweezers.