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SOG X-42 Field Knife review

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SOG X-42 Field Knife

Finally, this very long awaited knife is here. SOG announced X-42 Field Knife at 2001 SHOT show. After X42 Recondo appeared a year earlier, knife enthusiasts were asking for more conventional, utility use knife in BG-42 steel from SOG. Obviously Recondo doesn't qualify as conventional or utility use knife. It's highly specialized blade geometry rather excluded utility use. SOG was listening I guess, and as the result the X-42 Field Knife was born. However, it took another 14-16 months until the first batches of X-42 Field Knife actually started shipping. For the record, I got mine in 06/2002.

General

 - SOG uses X-42 to mark it's BG-42 blades, therefore you can guess the blade material, high-end, high-alloy BG-42 Steel from Latrobe. I've written quite a bit regarding this steel in Recondo and Strider folder reviews, so I'll skip that part here. X-42 Field knife is totally different from X-42 Recondo. Well, the handles are the same, and they share X-42 mark in their names, that's all.
    The name - Field knife describes this blade and its intended use quite precisely. It's 5 inch bladed, full flat ground, stainless steel fixed blade, with Zytel handles. After examining the NIB knife, I didn't find any problems with fit and finish. Satin finish is very nicely done, closer to mirror polish. And the weak point of 99.99% factory knives, the edge, was very well done too. Also almost mirror polished, it was shaving sharp, and sliced through the free hanging paper without a problem. The #1 thing I wasn't exactly excited was the sheath. I'll write more regarding the sheath little bit further. Also the very aggressively checkered thumbramp, same as on Recondo, too much for the bare hand. Other than that it's an excellent light use knife, especially considering the material, execution and the price.

Blade

 - X-42 Field knife features 5 inches long, full flat ground blade, or probably very high saber ground. Also, for more delicate cutting tasks it has a choil. Which is not very standard, rather wide and rather rectangular than circular. Anyway, I've used this knife for various cutting tasks and choil worked just fine. Blade geometry is simple. Slightly dropped point, slightly recurved blade with plenty of belly. For various types of cutting all that works pretty well. In short it is a quite versatile blade. I'd prefer this knife in the thinner configuration, vs. current thickness, it would improve cutting performance. However for the field knife which may be used for heavy duty cutting, and probably prying/chopping 1/8" or something like that may be too small. Personally I do not intend to use this one for anything but light cutting anyways. For heavy duty use it is neither as heavy nor as strong as 1/4" thick blades I have from other manufacturers. But if you insist on 1 knife configuration for your camping/hiking trip, well this might be the very good choice.

Handle

 - One of the strong points of the Field Knife is its handle. Very comfortable and practically in any grip. Zytel scales are aggressively checkered, thus providing secure grip, and not annoying by being too abrasive. I've already mentioned the thumbramp problem above. It is way too aggressive. I didn't do anything about my Recondo, since I didn't have any use for it, but since I was planing to use Field knife intensively I've decided to make small modification and smooth down the checkering of the ramp. It took 15 minutes with dremel to do the job. Surprisingly enough I didn't damage neither the knife, nor myself and the results greatly exceeded my expectations :) Now the ramp is just perfect for bare hand. Well, at least I do like it that way. It does improve the grip security, yet won't bite into your thumb when you have to exert significant force. Obviously everything is relative and if you depress your thumb very hard, you'll feel the serrations eventually, but for normal cutting it's great. I guess I'll perform the same operation on my Numravus, its thumbramp is also, rather annoying than helpful.

Prolonged Use, Part I, Factory knife

 - NIB knives don't last long for me. As usual I check few things out, make several cuts, or sometimes don't even try to cut anything, due to very thick and dull edge, and then proceed to sharpening. Very rarely I get the edge NIB knife that is satisfactory to me. Since the field knife came with a very decent edge, I've decided to work with it more than usual. Edge Pro measured the edge at 21 degree per side. This is quite thin for the factory knife. Typical number is above 25, which gives 50 degree included, more like an axe than knife ;) Anyway, I'd say X-42 had high performance NIB edge, and for most of the users it would've been more than adequate. For testing I've picked various materials, to be precise: cardboard, old carpet, linoleum and several different cables. For the record, based on my past experience with Recondo thumbramp, I've been using glows all the time.
    Test #1 was the cardboard. Very nice! Comfortable handle, flat grind and satin finish, obviously plus really sharp edge worked very well. Field knife worked very well for both, push cutting and slicing. I didn't have to apply significant force to make a cut. Also, the satin finish was really nice to clean afterwards. Those sticky stains from the tape are not easy to remove from the coated blades, especially from rough coating, or even BC or BT2. From satin finished field knife I was able to clean the blade just by wiping it down with a piece of paper. Very good. After approximately 200 inches of cardboard I've stopped cutting and examined the edge. No damage, and no significant degradation either. It was still able to slice through the free hanging paper and shave. Before proceeding to the next step I just used smooth steel. a dozen strokes per side and the edge was back to the original condition.
    Next came the linoleum and carpet. Of course those were much harder to cut than the cardboard. I've had to apply significant efforts to make the cuts. Besides, the old linoleum and carpet as usual contain dirt, glue, other dirt in them, which can easily cause the edge to roll, or even chip. Obviously the blade received more lateral loads this time. However once I was done with cutting I've carefully examined the edge. Didn't notice any edge deformation at all. However the edge has degraded significantly. It could barely shave, and when slicing through the paper it wouldn't cut as clean as before. Again, for experimenting I've used only the smooth steel to restore the edge. Sure, it took more time, but I was still able to restore the shaving sharp edge using smooth steel only. Which is a good result. Ok, it wasn't exactly the original edge, but still, more than serviceable :)
    And finally those cables. I've used some standard mix, copper only and copper/steel cables. Made several cuts for each type of cable using different cutting style. No edge deformation using push cutting and slicing with the cable on the board. However I did damage the edge while cutting the thick cable by pulling the knife through the cable loop. The edge rolled in 2 places, around 1 mm long. However, it was no problem to realign the edge using the smooth steel. Few more passes with the 800 grit ceramic rod and the edge was completely back, shaving sharp. In the conclusion I have to say that, the field knife NIB edge was performing very well as a general light utility use knife. In other words it cut well, and that's what I was expecting from it. I didn't try neither prying, nor chopping with it, since it's not in my plans for this knife. Although it may fare relatively well for light chopping, despite of the light weight.

Prolonged Use, Part II, Modified knife

 - As I've mentioned above the designed use for the Field Knife was light cutting. Therefore, I've had to optimize it as such. Simply put I've sharpened it to the lower angle, approx. 17 degree to be precise, I guess slightly more. It's not all that thin but still, it was notably thinner that the factory edge. Also, by this time I've already smoothed that aggressive checkering on the thumbramp, hence I didn't need glows. I haven't used modified knife for long periods, so it was just my guess that I wouldn't need glows. The new edge was highly polished, and would shave effortlessly in both directions, and push cut through the free hanging paper cleanly.
    Obviously thinner edge performed better on cardboard cutting. Improvement was significant. I could tell the difference just by the force I needed to exert to cut through the medium. Thinned down edge retained shaving ability much longer than the NIB one. After 400 inches it could still shave and slice through the paper. For comparison the factory edge lost shaving ability approximately after 250 inches of cardboard. For the record it took less time to cut greater am ount of cardboard with the new edge, for obvious reasons.
    Next task was linoleum and carpet. I was not exactly sure whether the thinned edge would withstand old carpet and linoleum. Those had plenty of hard particles in them. Nevertheless the results were very positive. No chops, no rolls, no visible edge deformation. At this point I really appreciated smoother thumbramp. Overall, by that time I've been cutting for more than half an hour, yet there were no sore spots neither on my thumb nor on my palm. One may object that half an hour is not all that much. Well, may be, for the butcher it is not much, but for an average knife user it is plenty :) And one more important point, I've been using the same knife before, and after 30 mins even in the glows I could feel my thumb.
    Just for experimenting I took the smaller copper cable and proceeded with cutting. No problems. However later, next cable with steel wiring did roll the edge, and at this time the rolls were longer. However no chipping on the edge. Rolls as usual are easy to fix. Few passes on the smooth steel and you've got your edge back.
    All that took approximately 40 minutes total. Even though I was done with pure edge-holding/cutting ability tests, I still wanted to test the modified handle in terms of prolonged use. Besides I still had to cut the rest of the cardboard. Once I was done with cardboard, which by the way took another hour or so, I've proceeded with wood whittling. To try different grip, and variety after all. So, I've honestly cut for more than 2 hours with bare hand, no glows, and the handle was totally satisfactory to me.
    In the end I'd say that the thinner edge worked out very well for the Field Knife. Later on I have plans to grind even thinner edge on it. The difference will be that the new edge will be full convex vs. current V grind. Granted that I master sharpening convex edges ;) I'm working on it currently. Theoretically that'd push knife performance a step further.

Specifications:

  • Blade - 127.00mm(5")
  • Thickness - 4.76mm
  • OAL - 254.00mm(10")
  • Steel - BG-42 steel at 60HRC
  • Handle - Zytel
  • Acquired - 02/2003 Price - 200.00$

Last updated - 06/25/13