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Phil Wilson CPM S125V Meadows Semi Skinner
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Phil Wilson Meadows Semi Skinner

As you might have noticed, I have a thing for the exotic, high performance steels :) That is, if you read other reviews. If not, then now you know. As such, CPM S125V was extremely interesting to me, because of its unique properties and since I didn't have a knife made out of it, I really wanted to get one. So, I've started exchanging emails with Phil Wilson, during the spring 2008. I've mentioned it before, I'll repeat again, as of today, I consider Phil to be the best knifemaker specialist with CPM series steels. Considering that most of the knife makers simply refuse to work with CPM-10V or even CPM-3V, it's really lucky, to know the maker that works with that difficult steel, and what's even better, can squeeze every last bit of performance out of it. Long story short, I've had several CPM S125V knives in mind, but unfortunately, looks like I'll have to settle for just one. I'll explain that in detail below. I've met Phil on BAKCA show in September 2008. He had one CPM S125V blade for the show, which I've picked up right away. I've had couple other projects in progress with Phil, but I liked this little knife too. That's how I ended up with Meadows Semi Skinner.

General

 - Because I got the knife from Phil on the BAKCA show, there was no shipping, and there was no box. I've inspected the knife at his table. I was playing with it for a while, but I knew I loved it the moment I picked it up. It is a relatively small, skinner type knife, as the name suggests. Thin blade, nice satin finish, comfortable handle and superb cutter. By the way, that nice, satin finish requires three times the effort compared to other hard working steels.
    As for the inspection, well, Phil's' work is flawless as usual, and semi skinner was no exception. Extreme precision and attention to detail. Nice, leather sheath as usual. It is a high performance cutter, pure and simple. Designed to cut for very long times, without the need for sharpening. It will require sharpening eventually, but edge holding, even on very abrasive materials is extremely high. I have never seen, or owned a knife with the steel so wear resistant. Although, it does have its own peculiarities, and the extreme wear resistance equals extreme troubles making the knives out of it.

Blade

 - Meadows semi skinner is a small, or may be medium size knife. I'd call it small though. The blade is 115mm(4½") long, and about 2.75mm thick at the spine. As other knives from Phil, it's a distal taper blade. Full flat ground. Initial edge on it was around 2000 grit finished and very sharp. Blade also has a choil, which as you can see on the picture isn't decoratively small, but fully functional choil, that you can use for delicate works. From the right side there is Phil's logo etched on it, and from the left, CPM125V. As for the blade geometry, this is a typical American upswept tip skinner blade. I didn't really like this type of knives, not until I saw and handled meadows semi skinner. In person it looks mucho better than on most of the pictures. Although, the beauty is in the eye of the beholder. As far as its efficiency goes, well, it is extremely efficient cutter, really nimble and maneuverable. I can get into really tight spots or make long slices real easy. The tip is plenty strong, but I wouldn't ever pry or chop with this knife. It's not designed for it. What it is designed is cutting, and it really excels at that.

Handle

 - Very nice, full tang, desert ironwood handle made by Phil. Slabs are attached to the tang with four pins. There is a pretty well defined fingerguard on the handle, which is necessary, since the blade itself is roughly the same width with the handle, plus skinner knife means you'll be working with raw meat, so security and prevention of stubbing is necessary. Which this particular fingerguard accomplishes very well. The handle has lanyard hole at the end. Might be useful if I ever take it to the field. At home no real use for it. Then again, it is a field knife ;) On the other hand, handles a lot of home utility cutting just about perfect.

I really appreciated handle ergonomics and geometry when I was cutting up that wild boar few months ago. It was pretty messy job, that lasted several hours. Obviously my hands and the handle were eventually covered in fat and other stuff, but I never had to complain about it becoming either insecure in my hands or slipping on it. Two of my friends had a chance to use it the same day, both commented very positively about handle ergonomics and knife superb performance in general. So, as you can see it's a really good handle. Three different people, with different palm sizes and different cutting styles, that handle worked well for all of us.

Steel

 - CPM S125V is as exotic and extreme steel as it can get with today's science and technology. Just look at the elemental makeup:
C - 3.25%, Cr - 14.00%, V - 12.00%, Mo - 2.5%. More information can be found in Crucible Brochure.
There are very few other steels worldwide with the C(Carbon) content of 3% or above. I know only two of those, both are Japanese PM(Powder Metallurgy) steels, Cowry-X and ZDP-189. Major difference between CPM S125V and the other two is that while Japanese steels have 20% Cr(Chromium), CPM S125V has 14% Cr and 12% Vanadium. More chromium in theory means more stain resistance. However, it's not as simple and linear. The very large amount of Carbon in those steels ties up portion of Chromium in carbides, which are the cutting particles in the edge, leaving less free Cr to fight the rust. I've seen reports of ZDP-189 knives rusting, so far my ZDP-189 Sanetsu Gyuto has no problems whatsoever, but then again, neither do my Carbon kitchen knives, because I take care of them and I don't live in humid environment. With CPM S125V the picture is different. Even with 14% Chromium, which is 6% less compared to either one of the Japanese steels, the majority of carbides are formed with Vanadium. Thus most of the chromium is left free in the alloy, contributing to the steel stain resistance property. Another positive aspect, Vanadium carbides are much harder that Chromium or even Tungsten carbides. This means increased wear resistance and therefore edge holding as well. Edgeholding isn't the function of only wear resistance, but higher wear resistance definitely helps a lot.

Al of the above is very good for the finished knife and knife user. However, for knifemakers that steel is a nightmare. I've talked to Phil a lot about it, and he shared a lot of very interesting information regarding CPM S125V. Originally it was developed for Dental industry, not for knives, but then again, with the exception of very few cases, like S30V and Aogami/Shirogami steel series, no steel is designed for knives specifically, some of the just happen to work well for knives. Why Dentists? Human teeth are very tough to work with, and highly wear resistant tools are required, plus rust resistance is crucial, because human saliva is pretty reactive and corrosive.

From Crucible side it was more like an experiment. Well, the steel got out as they wanted, with the properties desired. However there was a big problem, the steel was warping, that is the steel sheet wasn't very smooth. This may not sound like a big deal, but first thing you'd have to do is to smooth that sheet of the steel. Try that with super wear resistant steel though. Very time and resource consuming. Another problem was, whoever those dental guys were, they didn't have efficient enough equipment to make tools out of CPM S125V. Again, too hard and wear resistant. Thus, eventually the whole thing got cancelled. I've seen some talks and plans from various knifemakers to produce knives in CPM S125V, but I haven't seen anything materialized. From the mass manufacturers, Spyderco was the only one planning to produce folding knives, (I think Native) using CPM S125V steel, but I guess once they saw how difficult it was to work with they just dropped it,and opted for easier ZDP-189, which by itself is no candy either.

As I said above, sadly and most likely this is my last CPM S125V knife. I had two more knife projects with Phil using CPM S125V steel, but unfortunately, one of the knife, finished pretty much 90%, broke due to the defect in a metal internal structure. After that Phil just gave up on it. As frustrating it is to me, I can understand his frustration too. He'd have to spend 3 times are much work and time to make the same knife out of 125V compared to most of the steels out there, and that's 3x wear on tools as we. So, for now he stopped working on other knives from CPM S125V. As things are today, unlikely that he'll even resume. Besides, progress doesn't stop, and Crucible guys already have other super-steel out, CPM-110V. So, my next knife with Phil will be out of that. Phew :) That's a long story of one steel, but that's not the complete story either. The best to my knowledge Crucible discontinued CPM S125V.

Usage

  - In Progress.

    Specs:
  • Blade - 115.00mm(4.53")
  • Thickness - 2.75mm
  • Width - 26.00mm
  • OAL - 235.00mm(9.25")
  • Steel - CPM S125V steel at 65HRC
  • Handle - Desert Ironwood
  • Weight - 117.60g(3.98oz)
  • Acquired - 10/2008 Price - 600.00$

Last updated - 09/01/11