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Trace Rinaldi Talonite Warhawk
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Trace Rinaldi Talonite Warhawk

Story - Warhawk is my first knife from Trace Rinaldi, and I definitely hope not the last one :) Matter of fact I am positive about that :) Trace is a well-known person amongst knife enthusiasts, and has very well deserved reputation. All of his blades are heat treated by Paul Boss and cryogenically stress relieved(though Talonite doesn't need any of those). In other words, that means getting the max out of the steel. Combine that with maker's excellent workmanship and experience and you get a blade that is better than great. Also, at least to me, worth mentioning that Trace never went flaming in Talonite related flame wars :) He's a real gentleman, and in general it's easy to do business with him.
    It all started with Talonite. After all the flames, fights and hype I've seen on the Bladeforums, where the detonator repeatedly was Talonite, I've decided to get one. Just out of curiosity, to see what this was all about. Now the task was to find a maker. By that time (summer 00) Trace didn't list Talonite as his blade material on his website, so it took some time till I've learned that. Matter of fact, fellow forumite mentioned Rinaldi's Talonite Warhawk in his message on the Bladeforums and posted a pic along with it. When I saw it, I've decided that the search was over :) I've contacted Trace, and inquired about the blade. I wanted some minor modifications in the base model, Trace was very forthcoming, and after few months of waiting I finally got my blade :) Just gorgeous!

General

 - Despite of Rinaldi's high reputation, when the Warhawk came in I just said WOW! It was much better that I have ever anticipated. Excellent design, and very close attention to every single detail in the knife, no matter how small. Even the pins on the handle :)I'm really pleased with Trace's work.
    Warhawk is a full tang, fixed blade. Medium size, 11.5" overall, 6.5 inch blade, 3/16" thick. It will make a very good utility/camp knife with certain limitations imposed by material choice, but on the other hand, Talonite has it's advantages too. I'll discuss that later. Overall, Warhawk is perfectly executed. No uneven grinds, no flaws anywhere. Edges are nicely rounded. The only thing I'd change would be a longer thumbramp. When I was discussing the details with Trace I've missed that part, basically I didn't know it'd be there, and never asked :) Anyways, I like Warhawk a lot.

Blade

 - Clip point, recurved blade measures 6 inches total and 5.5 from the choil. As I've mentioned above, it's 3/16" thick. On one side blade has Trace Rinaldi Logo, on the other. the word Talonite stamped.
    Blade geometry makes Warhawk an excellent, versatile, utility knife. It has plenty of belly, plus the recurve. For finer cutting tasks Warhawk has a choil too :) I personally find the presence of choil on the larger blade to be very useful, though some disagree, stating that the choil will prevent or make the draw [of the knife] difficult. Well, to each his own. Because it's made of Talonite it won't be a good choice for chopping or prying, but for cutting softer materials it should do great. Considering Talonite's alleged ability to hold the edge on soft materials, plus blade geometry, this got to be a good one :) Later when my next cardboard cutting session comes, I'll update this page definitely :) The blade is beadblasted, but obviously the sharpened edge has Talonite exposed. It is quite different than any steel I've seen so far ;) Seems somewhat oily, and quite slippery. Well, not exactly sure how that would affect cutting ability :)
    As the rest of this excellent blade, the handle is just great :) Very comfortable, solid feel, and the double finger groove is really useful for both, when cutting and when drawing the knife from the sheath. To be more exact, the second finger groove is still out when the knife is in the sheath, making the drawing faster and easier. I haven't used the Warhawk hard yet, but I couldn't find any Hot Spots on the handle by examination. G10 is nicely machined and rounded. Reverse grip is slightly less comfortable, but still very good.

Talonite

 - One of the major reasons for getting Warhawk was it's blade material - Talonite. Like I said, it was a cause for many flame wars on the Bladeforums. In short Talonite is a Cobalt alloy produced by Carbide Processors. At that time, Talonite as a knife material was being distributed solely by Simonich Knives. Later when Rob passed away, it obviously changed. Much more info regarding Talonite can be found at Marion David Poff's Talonite web resource. You can find chemical composition of this alloy there. Major components are Cobalt and Chromium, also relatively high percentage of Tungsten, from 3.5% to 5.5%. Due to the composition the alloy itself is quite expensive. Add here all the Talonite hype, and it's obvious why Talonite knives are rather on the expensive side.
    To be honest I am not quite sure why Talonite became such a hot topic. More or less it's very similar to Stelite 6K and Boye Dendritic Cobalt. Anyways, the short story would be that at the beginning Talonite as a new material was promoted as probably the best material for the knife blade. People were asking for Talonite folders, fixed blades, choppers, swords etc... Sure, Talonite definitely has lots of properties making it very attractive for knife blade. That'd include non magnetism, real stainlessness, i.e. Talonite won't rust, it's impervious to environmental conditions, salt water, moisture etc. Some claim that Talonite is impervious to every acid known to humans, however I personally doubt that one. I don't have Sulfuric acid here to check my doubts, besides I do not feel like destroying the blade anyways :) The best to my knowledge Talonite was developed for industrial cutting applications in aggressive environments, including high temperature, moisture, acidic agents, etc. As I understand it was used to cover saw tips and such. However one thing is industrial cutting, another is everyday cutting with a knife. One more reason that contributed to Talonite promotion was the ease of its use for the makers. As Rob Simonich stated, Talonite is much easier to grind on the belt grinder than the same Stelite 6K, plus it doesn't require any heat treatment, which is very time consuming and complicated process, and as usual adds to knife cost quite a bit, and is a major factor defining blade properties.
    So, overall Talonite is not steel, has different properties and thus, behaves differently. Simply put, this is a set of very hard tungsten carbides in the Cobalt matrix. While carbides crystals are there, the edge will cut, and cut well on the soft materials, i.e. pure wear resistance is very high. On the other hand, with hard materials or impacts the edge dents and rolls easily, for that the Cobalt matrix is soft, approx 45 HRC on the Rockwell scale. Because of the same reason, Talonite blades are not recommended to be sharpened to the very fine edge, as the supporting matrix will become very weak at the edge and the carbide crystals will simply chip out. BTW, Rob Simonich himself described Talonite as less suitable for the larger blades - Talonite isnt really suited for big knives that are goint to do a lot of hard impacts on the edge, the various Busse's, Beckers, Customs etc in a good quality steel with a good heat treat are going to do better in that roll. I have made big choppers out of Talonite and was dissapointed in the results and have never reccomended it for big choppers. It will hold up with the right geometry, just not as good as a good steel knife.
    To me the bottom line is, that Talonite should hold the mediocre edge (let's define it as not shaving, but still able to slice through the free hanging paper easily) for a long time, however it will dent, roll and deform on hard impacts, making it les preferable for the large, heavy duty use blades, such as Battle Mistress, Project I or Jereboam II.
    Well, all I've said above is my opinion regarding Talonite, if you disagree fine, if you need more info check Poff's page, the link is above, and go to Bladeforums, you'll find lots of different opinions, that should help you with making your own :). I might be wrong in my assumptions, time will show :) Now, that I have my own Talonite blade it's won't take too long to check things out.

Talonite Edge Holding, Round 1

 - As I've said above, as soon as the first results would be available, I'd be posting them here. So, here we go. As you can guess, the first round of cutting tests was conducted using the original edge on the Warhawk. Originally, it came quite sharp. It wasn't what one would call Scary Sharp, but it had no problem with shaving and cutting free hanging paper. So, for the first tests I've had practically a virgin edge, practically because out of curiosity I've made 3 light passes on each side with Fine DMT diamond steel. That definitely improved the edge, but slightly, it would shave easier.
    Considering that I live in bay area, being a programmer, I didn't really have few hundred pounds of meat to process, or a dozen of games to skin, plus the other Talonite specific conditions, (that would be no hard materials, at least for the first test series), all I've had to cut was the same, good, old cardboard :).
    In short, Talonite behaved as many folks described, more or less, but still it's a pretty much weird thing, especially when you are new to it. For the first 100 inches I was mostly push cutting, but as it was getting close to 100 inches, and especially after that, it would take significantly more effort to cut like that, and it was getting more difficult quite fast. Obviously, the loss of cutting ability was not exactly linear. Closer to 150" mark it was clear that push cutting was not an option anymore. The blade would simply rip and tear cardboard.
    At that point I've stopped and examined the edge. No visible damage, well, I wouldn't expect any from the cardboard anyways, but accidents happen :) Next thing was the shaving test - nowhere near it... Checked the edge with my thumb - felt really dull. Ok, so far, it was more or les expected :) Then, I've checked Warhawk with the free hanging paper, to be more exact I've sliced through it, not push, for that it was hopeless :)
    At this time, the result was surprisingly good. For the blade that seemed so dull it performed very well. I've switched back to cardboard cutting, but at this time I was slicing, not pushing. The results were significantly better. Basically, that day I've sliced approx 300" more cardboard, with no apparent edge degradation. It was clear that Talonite would perform much better with slicing, or saw-cutting than push-cutting. For that day the tests were over, for I was quite tired, and simply ran out of cutting material. I've not sharpened Warhawk, as I was interested how long it'd retain that level of performance. Next weekend I've resumed cutting. At this time some 200" cardboard sliced, and still, at the end of testing Warhawk had no problem slicing through the free hanging paper. During the last week, I've had some more cardboard to cut, which totaled approx. 100", and the blade still can freely slice through the free hanging paper. Well, quite stable I'd say :) Out of curiosity I'm gonna continue with that until it won't be able to handle free hanging paper slice test, basically that's the only indicator I have. BTW, one of the things contributing to that is Warhawk's blade geometry. Nice belly, long recurve behind it, that all makes slicing more efficient.
    Finally last weekend I was able to finish first round. The overall result was approx 600 inches of cardboard before the blade became unable to cut free hanging paper.

Talonite Edge Holding, Round 2

 - To be precise, this was not exactly cutting test, round 2. It's rather sharpening a Talonite blade. Like I've mentioned Talonite is quite weird, so was the sharpening. I'm not sure what was the final grit Trace used to sharpen the edge, but turns out, it was something pretty fine.
    After the Warhawk stopped cutting free hanging paper, I've proceeded with sharpening. After all, no matter how good the edge holding is, eventually you'll have to sharpen your knife (if used) :). So, I've started with DMT diafold sharpened, fine grit. I did 5 strokes on each side, and rather out of curiosity checked the edge, it felt really sharp. I was more than surprised. Well, if that would bring back all the performance that'd be just fantastic. Checked with hanging paper, easily sliced through, whoa! Went back to cardboard, and here I was disappointed... After just 25 inches it was significantly duller, I could feel the difference already. After 50 inches it was just as dull as before sharpening. Ok, there are no miracles :) First thing to come to my mind was a wire edge, but I have no idea how could I form it with 5 strokes. Besides, as usual I examine the edge after sharpening, but fro the lack of better explanation I'll have to assume that that's what happened. Another more complicated theory, I've heard later was that the carbides were already worn or chipped out of the matrix at the edge, so what I've sharpened was the soft cobalt matrix, which lost the edge very quickly. Ok, that makes more sense :)
    Second time, I was sharpening more seriously. After approx. 150 strokes I've checked the edge again, felt sharp again, then I've switched to extra fine DMT stone. Overall, the edge came out rougher than the original one. I've made 3 very light passes with the ceramic stick, to get rid burr, if any, but no stropping. Then, proceeded with cardboard again. After around 100-120 inches, Warhawk was still in shape, and had no problems with hanging paper. I didn't do more, for a simple reason, there was no more cardboard to cut. So, basically the testing was paused at that point :) If I have time this weekend, I'll be doing some wood whittling and whatever else I find suitable.

Talonite In The Kitchen

 - Although from what you read above regarding Talonite properties and behavior would make you think it'd be a good knife in the kitchen, overall Warhawk didn't really work out well for food preparation. Talonite will hold acceptable edge for very long time, thanks to its nature the edge will be quite rough, thus slice well. On top of all that it is literally stainless. Won't rust even if you leave it in lemon juice. Pretty much similar to ceramics, and not as brittle as ceramics too. However, ceramics will hold the edge longer, because it's harder. The problem was that Warhawk is simply too thick for the kitchen knife. ¾" isn't too much by today's tactical/field knife standards, but in the kitchen it's way beyond reasonable. So, it wasn't all too good for delicate cutting due to its thickness, and because of Talonite I was unable to use it for heavy duty cutting where thick blades perform the best. That was the reason I gave up on it. It'd still work well as a meat slicer, but having several kitchen knives that could handle the job, I didn't bother, especially that thin slices are not easy to manage with 3/16 thick blade. For comparison Global Knives GF-33 8" Forged Chef's Knife worked several times better compared to talonite. Thiner blade, hard edge. I ended up with much less cutting and maintenance efforts on global chef's knife compared to Warhawk. In the end the morale is to pick the right tool for the job, only materials won't cut, literally.

Conclusion

 - Of course, all that isn't very scientific, nor precise, but after all I'm not using my knives for scientific purposes either :) Rather for fun. Anyways, this thing [Talonite] behaves quite interestingly. As some people were stating Tungsten carbide crystals, being rather big and very hard, behave like a saw on the microscopic level. To me, that perfectly explains the behavior observed. After I'm done with this test, I'll try to conduct another tests, with harder materials, including plastic, rubber, probably some wood whittling, etc.

Specifications:

  • Blade - 152.40mm(6")
  • Thickness - 4.76mm
  • OAL - 279.40mm(11")
  • Blade Material - Talonite at ~40HRC;
  • Handle - Micarta
  • Acquired - 03/2001 Price - 450.00$

Last updated - 09/01/11