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Strider Buck BG-42 Spearpoint Folding Knife Review

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 Strider Buck Folder

Well, the same story once again, my curiosity :) In general I have a strong opinion against liner lock folders, so there must be some other good reason for me to buy a liner lock folding knife. Besides, after having Buck M9 I try to stay away from Buck knives, for I was less than pleased with the performance of M9. To be fair my I've set my expectations higher than I should have. May be it's not right, as M9 is a bayonet, but when you call something a Field Knife I expect it to perform like one. Anyway, that's irrelevant to the subject at hand, so let's move on. And once again, the subject of my curiosity was BG-42 steel. Also the reputation of Strider Knives played important role in making this decision. At that time, the most interesting part was to have a BG-42 blade heat treated by Paul Boss. The idea of owning the Strider folder, that is claimed to be the toughest folder in the world, was very interesting too(BTW, have to admit, from what I've seen it is very true :), at least for the production folders.
    Although Strider Buck Spearpoint is not the first folder from Strider, earlier there was, (well there still is in production) another Strider/Buck collaboration, actually the same folder, but with the tanto point blade. So, one of the reasons to get this one was its spearpoint blade. I don't consider tanto point being particularly useful for utility use at all, and I don't like it aesthetically either. Therefore I just waited until the spearpoint version appeared.

General

 - Strider has a well-deserved reputation for making great knives that are meant to be used. And used hard. The Strider/Buck folder is no exception. The one that I got is a special pre-production run. Mine is #109 of 500. What's special about this run, is the blade material - Latrobe BG-42. The serial production knives will have ATS-34 blades, though still, heat treated by Mr. Paul Boss. To be more exact, P. Boss overlooks heat treatment process for production knives, and treats custom knives personally. I was once already more than impressed by Strider MH performance, that had ATS-34 treated by P. Boss, but still, BG-42 is more interesting. Being a cleaner alloy, it offers better wear and rust resistance, as well as increased toughness. However BG-42 is much more complex to heat treat properly. So, it's not that simple after all.
    Overall the folder appears to be very tough and rugged tool, and quite rough too :) Grind lines are even, no flaws were detected. For a production knife, fit and finish are very good. Though there is couple of details. Number one is the blade/handle ratio. On the handle approx. 5" long, you have a 3.75" long blade. Doesn't look very good. Probably this has been done because of the legal issues in different states, I don't know. Also, folks wearing glows would like a longer handle too. Anyways, if you check the picture of Benchnmade 710 and Strider/Buck together, you'll notice the slightly longer blade on 710, and the shorter handle, let alone much nicer handle ergonomics of 710.
    One thing is that the blade has some horizontal play. Not sure if this is a desired behavior for this knife, for that some liner locking knives are meant to have blade play at some degree. Though when the blade is locked, it seems rock solid. The washers seem to be made of copper. Interesting. This is first time I see copper washers on the folder. Plus they are different, the liner side has one washer, that is thick, and the other side has 2 washers, much thinner, basically those 2 together are still thinner than the other side washer. I guess because of the liner lock the washers are different. Smaller one on the lock side.
    One more interesting detail is that, if you look at the opened blade from the inside, i.e. edge towards you, it seems to be off center, shifted to the opposite side of the liner, same with the closed blade, definitely off center. However, from the top the blade looks perfectly centered, must be an optical illusion :)

Blade

 - Actually, the blade is what I like in this knife the most. Spearpoint, low saber ground, 3/16"(?, not sure, might be thicker) thick, It is very strong, and versatile due to its spearpoint geometry. As you can see on this picture one side of the blade has been decorated quite a bit with writings :) including the serial number, the fact that it's a first production run, the logo, etc. It's sort of overdone, in my opinion. The other side has Paul Boss logo stamped on it.
    The blade has a notched thumbramp, that I find very useful, hopefully you too :). The notches are well executed, which means they are defined just well enough to prevent slipping, and at the same time not to bite your thumb too badly. Strider/Buck blade is equipped with a thumb opener, but not ambidextrous, so lefties might have to reverse it, not sure if it is reversible easily though. The thumbstud has a groove with somewhat sharp top edge, which doesn't do any good to your thumb tip IMHO. One hand opening of Strider/Buck without hand flick is not much fun definitely. Besides the thumbstud, the blade has small protrusion at the base, which overlaps the stopper pin approximately by half of pin's diameter. As you open the blade pushing the stud with your thumb there's a good chance that the flash at the base of the point finger will get caught between that protrusion and the stopper pin. Nothing lethal :) Just a bite. In short, better to flick than not to. Not sure what the manufacturer will say, but in general flicking the folding knife is not exactly welcomed.
    In terms of pure blade strength, I think Strider/Buck won't have many competitors amongst folders, if any. Especially in BG-42 version, which is tougher than ATS-34. Just the sheer amount of metal in the blade alone, makes it a formidable piece of cutlery, and let's not forget who has heat treated the blade :) I took this picture of picture of Benchnmade 710 and Strider Buck from the top, so you can get a better idea what am I talking about. Even though 710's M2 tool steel is a tough one, obviously Strider has a significant advantage strength-wise, just because of the thickness. However nothing comes for free, and there is a loss of cutting ability because of that. 710 needs much less effort to cut through the cardboard or the linoleum. Another example illustrating that, was cutting cardboard with Strider and Nimravus. While Strider folder was still shaving sharp, and Nimravus has already lost shaving sharp edge, it would take significantly less efforts to push cut through the cardboard with Nimravus compared to Strider folder.

Handle

 - Well, when I got this folder, that was first time when I fully realized what does it mean when the Strider folks say that they don't really care about ergonomics. While I was very pleasantly surprised with Strider MH G10 handle comfort, this folder was totally the opposite. Well, after all I knew what I was getting, more or less :) I was not expecting much in terms of ergonomics. So, as you can see from the pictures, the handle has very simple geometry. G10 scales have aggressive texturing, that provides very secure grip, but far from being comfortable, especially the edges on the scales that are roughly finished. So, unless you have real rough hands, you'd be much better off using gloves when using Strider Buck for any kind of hard or prolonged work. The clip doesn't contribute to handle comfortability either. When holding the knife in the hammer grip, with your pointing finger in the groove, your pinky ends up somewhere close to the clip base, i.e. the part that is elevated the most. After some use you'll feel it. For other tasks, such as cutting cardboard this is less noticeable, as you don't have to squeeze the handle too tight.

Lock - Don't have much to say in general. This is a liner lock, nothing new. Rather hard to disengage, quite hard if you've opened the knife with a flick. Notches are well defined, and after dozen of opening, closing cycles your thumb gets sore. Ok, yours may not, but mine did. Anyways, I do not share much excitement regarding linerlocks in general. Even the thick liner lock on Strider Buck fails under side torque and twisting. I didn't do it personally, however there's a thread on the Bladeforums regarding this problem.

Sharpenability

 - Have to mention separately the sharpenabiilty of this blade. In short it's very difficult. Grinding even with the coarse stones is very slow. Diamond stones work a little bit faster, but still, compared to many other alloys, BG-42 is definitely hard to grind. However, hard to grind in this case definitely means good edge holding :) I could say - Very Good edge holding. In general, having two different blades made of two different steel, heat treated by Paul Boss, I can say I am very glad with their performance. Indeed, the good heat treat can do wonders [unfortunately, a crappy one will do the same, though less likely you'll be happy with those wonders].

Edge Retention And Prolonged Use

 - Like virtually all factory knives, the original edge on the Strider Buck folder was just too thick, above 28 degrees per side. Since I was going to use it as a knife, obviously I've had to lower it. Yet, out of curiosity I've tried to do some cutting with the original, factory edge. As usual I don't do that though. I'm referring to thick, not so sharp factory edge testing. For one, the factory edge will be gone after first use, or second or third... It doesn't matter, just it will be gone. Second, if I feel that the edge is too thick, thus not suitable for intended use, what's the point of testing it? Anyway, at this time I just wanted to see how it'd hold up and then compare to the thinner edge, which I was gonna put on it. As a baseline it would do.

Factory Edge

 - Out of the box edge was not really sharp, wouldn't cut free hanging paper, let alone shaving. I've made a few passes on the ceramic rod, which improved the edge to the level when it could slice the free hanging paper, and proceeded to cut some material, such as cardboard, carpet, linoleum and plastic. Cardboard cutting was the easiest task, though the edge was dulled very fast, approx. after 50 inches of cardboard. 15 strokes on each side of the ceramic rod restored it, which is a good result for the edge that thick. However things got more complicated with rougher materials, such as carpet and linoleum. The knife felt really uncomfortable for those tasks. Because of the thick and dull edge I've had to exert significant force to actually cut the material. Obviously I've got tired relatively fast, and very soon I got several sore spots on my palm and fingers, and as I didn't feel like acquiring blisters for that weekend I've put on the gloves. That improved things significantly. The grip was very secure thanks to the aggressively checkered G10, and it was much more comfortable that way. However, the edge was getting dull quickly. Second time it took twice as much strokes to restore the edge more or less. Third time I just gave up. At the end, to check the point strength I've conducted some prying on wood. No problems whatsoever, it easily snapped the wood out. It is really strong, may be the tanto point is stronger, but to me the spearpoint one is plenty strong :)

Coarse Edge, 24 degrees approx.

 - Second series of edge testing the next weekend started with some serious resharpening, for that I've felt the edge was too thick and obviously the thinner edge would improve things significantly. The same was Cliff Stamp's opinion regarding the Strider Buck Tanto folder edge, (check out Cliff's excellent Strider Buck Tanto Folder review here). Also, I was expecting much better results from BG-42 steel treated by such an acknowledged master as Paul Boss. So, since the intended use for this knife can be defined as Heavy Duty or Rough Utility, I've decided not to polish but get relatively coarse edge, as it would fit better rough cutting tasks. Hence, I didn't use the edge-pro, instead I've sharpened it freehand, using DMT stones. I've started with coarse, then moved to fine and finished with extra fine, that gave the edge that was shaving sharp, approx. 5 degrees lower (10 included) than the original factory edge. And still quite rougher than that Edge Pro would produce with 320 grit stone.
    This time things were significantly better. After some 200+ inches of cardboard including several copper staples, the edge was still shaving. Now that was much better :)))
    During next 4 months I was using Strider folder with that edge, well, to be more exact maintaining it at that level, that is relatively rough, unpolished edge at 24 degrees. I say relatively unpolished, because the edge was finished with DMT extra fine stone, with very light strokes. It was quite smooth, but not mirror polished.
    Overall, that configuration proved to be more than adequate for any hard utility use. The edge held up very well on rough materials such as old carpet, linoleum, plastic, wood, wiring, etc. I didn't use the blade every day, or for something extreme, like pry-opening jammed doors, or something from that opera, yet for any other folding knife suitable(and not so suitable too) tasks, whatever I needed it performed superbly, no chipping, no dents, no rolls. The edge was easy to restore as usual, few strokes with the ceramic rode, that's all it needed, though real sharpening is a pain, as I have described it above.

Mirror Polished Edge, 21 degrees

 - After a while I've decided to try out the high polish edge on the same blade, plus lower the angle, as 24 degree proved to be more then strong for any cutting task I've used it for. So, I took out my trusted edge-pro, and started sharpening. The result was 21 degree, mirror polished edge, obtained by using coarse, 180, 320, 600 grit stones consequently, then the 3000 grit polishing tape, and a final touch was the few very light strokes on 1000 grit ceramics rod. Honestly, it was a pain, overall it took over 2 hours to get done, and bear in mind, the edge was already at 24 degrees :) Anyways, the edge was scary sharp now, it'd shave w/o irritating the skin, cleanly push cut through the free hanging paper, no slicing needed. Here's a picture of the blade after that operation.

    Light Cutting - The big test was once again, cardboard cutting, as I've got plenty of it for the weekend to process :) To make it a little bit more interesting, those cardboard boxes had lots of tape on them. As expected, the thinner, polished edge was much more aggressive cutter, especially for push cutting. In general, I prefer other, thinner and flat ground blades for such tasks, as they push cut easier, e.g. Nimravus, but at this time the experiment was to test the new edge on Strider folder BG-42 specimen.
    In the beginning, I was checking the edge after every 100 inches; I couldn't tell the edge degradation after 200 inches, it's still shave like crazy and push cut through the thin paper. Then I've decided to check the edge more often. In short I've noticed that I got some difficulties with shaving hair in the opposite direction after 275 inches. After 575 inches of cardboard the blade would still shave, but I needed to apply some effort, and at that point it stopped push cutting the test paper. Though had no problems whatsoever with slicing it cleanly. For a long time there were no changes. Which also makes sense, as the edge gets duller further blunting is slower, because the edge is getting thicker, thus the cutting edge has more material to wear. Only after 975 inches of cardboard I've started noticing that the cut edges weren't as clean. At this point the blade practically wouldn't shave, but still, it was able to slice through the test paper. Yes the edges were not very clean, nonetheless, for the utility edge, it was in a great shape so far.

    Heavy duty use, prying, chopping - Obviously folding knives are poor choice for those sort of tasks. On the other hand it was interesting to test an overbuilt folder like that. To see some of its abilities. This test was conducted few months later than the one described above. Overall I was working with Strider folder approximately for 2 hours. The use was not exactly right for the folding knife, or even the knife. While doing some small repair job at home I needed to cut different types of cables and wiring. Since I didn't have a proper tool at home I've proceeded with the Strider folder.
    In the beginning I was cutting the wiring using slicing motion. While I was cutting copper wires it didn't pose any problems. Once I've switched to the cable that had steel wire embedded in it things got more difficult. I needed to exert significant force to make a cut. Mainly I was pulling the cable and blade in the opposite directions. Which produced a few rolls on the edge. For the record 24 degree edge held up the same abuse without a hiccup. However at this time the edge was significantly lower, thus the strength was lower too. It took a few minutes to align the edge using the smooth steel, and the a few strokes to restore the original sharpness.
    Since the rest of the cables were even thicker and I still had to do a lot of cutting, I've decided to try push cuts. This time, the cable was placed on the wooden block and I was pushing the blade vertically using both hands. This style proved to be more blade friendly, apparently because of the better control. I've checked the edge after roughly 15 cuts, no problems on the edge, still shaving. Subsequently, I've switched to hammer, that is hammered the blade through the cable. Also no problems, well I was being careful though.
    The next part was using Strider folder as a chisel. Obviously that rather constitutes the knife abuse, not use, but it held up well. I needed to enlarge a few holes in the wooden panels, and the spearpoint Strider did it very well. The handle butt didn't have any markings after hammering on it. Frankly I was afraid of dents on the Ti liners, but no, it was fine. Same with G10 scales, they survived just fine, although the scales didn't receive the impacts directly. As I've mentioned above the spearpoint blade tip is strong, and this "test" proved it one more time. And finally I've used Strider to pry couple splinters off of the wall. It wasn't really hard task for a pry bar or a large fixed blade, but for the folder it is still heavy duty work. Anyway, I was watching carefully not to twist the knife while prying, as the linerlocks are prune to fail in this situation(prying plus twisting). During all that time, I didn't feel any flex in the knife. 0.18" thick blade in conjunction with oversized liners was pretty stiff. In the end, I am not planing to use the folding knife in such manner in the future. This was a test and I was completely satisfied with the results, however keep in mind that it is not the intended use of the folding knife.

Conclusion

 - To make the long story short, I think Strider folder achieved excellent results. For any knife in general those would've been very good results. For comparison, (although not really a fair comparison), all of my 154 CM blades out of which Benchmade Osborne folders are made, have the mirror polished edge at 24 or 21 degrees, but will loose shaving ability after about 250 inches. Cold Steel AUS8A blades of which I have a few, are not even there, however those all are a lot easier to sharpen :) But, then again, BM blades tend to chip at 21 degree as soon as they hit something hard, BG-42 doesn't, neither does AUS8A from CS, but it holds the edge noticeably worse than BMs, let alone the Strider folder. So, here they are, the results. Obviously, you should draw your own conclusions.
    For now the plan is to keep the mirror polished 21 degree edge for some time, to see what else it can do, and more importantly how well it can do the job. Although I am confident, it'll do :) I'm not exactly sure how it will hold up for the harder materials, so I still have a few things to experiment with :) One more interesting thing to do, whenever I make to it, is to sharpen my Lightfoot Pitbull to the same edge, and test it on the same material. The blade length is similar to Strider folder, but it's thinner and wider. Also, and that's more interesting, it was heat treated differently as I know, so it will make a good comparison :)
    In the end, it's a good knife. I think the 150$(190$ for pre prod run) price tag is expensive for it though. Definitely I wouldn't buy ATS-34 one. This is one tough folder, intended for heavy duty use, however honestly, I don't quite understand why not to put more comfortable handles on the hard user knife. IMHO that's when you need them the most. Ok, the gloves will help, but that may not be an option sometimes. Also, it'd be very nice to have a better lock on this knife, unfortunately Buck Knives hasn't come up with their modern type lock yet, something like Axis or Arc lock would be much better. Knowing Buck Knives I'm afraid it won't happen sometimes soon :(

    Specifications:
  • Model: Strider Buck Spearpoint;
  • Blade: Latrobe BG-42 Stainless steel, Hardened to 61 HRC;
  • Length: 3.75" Thickness: 3/16";
  • Open: 9.75" Closed: 5.0";
  • Weight: 5.75oz.;
  • Handle: G-10 scales/Titanium liners;
  • Lock Mechanism: Liner Lock;
  • Warranty: Limited Lifetime;

Last updated - 09/01/11

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