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Spartan Blades SF3SWBKAL Pallas
Folding Knife review

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Spartan Blades
SF3SWBKAL Pallas Folding Knife

The other day I was browsing the net, actually I was sifting through the steel manufacturer's sites searching for the new alloys, then started checking out knives made from various alloys, when one folder caught my eye, blade design was appealing, handle too, so I went on to find out more. The folder turned out to be Spartan Blades Pallas. I have heard before about the company, but I have never checked out any of their products. Well, this time I did, went through their site, checked out the chatter, etc. I do like bunch of their designs, the only thing is they are sticking strictly with CPM S35VN steel, for now at least, and I just don't feel like picking up half a dozen knives in the same alloy unless I have a good reason for it. As of now(fall 2015) I have no reason like that, as far as CPM S35VN is concerned, so I just got the folder I liked, and one other detail that influenced my decision - the button lock. That is a nice change these days, when every high end knife has to be a titanium framelock, of which I am quite tired to be honest :) Yeah, they do work, work well too, but as I mentioned in other reviews, I do think framelock breaks handle symmetry, left and right slabs have to be different and I'm not really keen on that. Anyway, once CPM S35VN steel knife for testing, cool looking folder, with button lock to boot, so I've placed the order right away. Lucky me, I had to wait only a few days for the knife.

Spartan Blades SF3SWBKAL Pallas Folding Knife

General

- Spartan Blades Pallas arrived packed in a white box, bronze color sticker with Spartan Blades log on it. Inside the box there was a black pouch and in side the pouch there was the Pallas. Well, you can see the packaging and the contents on the image attached to this section. As usual, I proceeded with the visual inspection. Very well made knife generally speaking. Surprise #1 was the Limited Production Run 48 of 60 written on the right side of the handle. I had no idea it was a first production run when I order it. Not that it will be any different from the later versions. The Blade and the handle are very precisely machined. Every curve, groove and transition is smooth, precise and event. No visible defects neither on the handle, nor on the blade. Fit and finish are very good. Nothing wobbles or rattles, lockup is rock solid and there is no movement whatsoever in the open position. Well, no movement in locked position either if you want the full disclosure. Blade is slightly off center, but considering that it is evenly spaced I am guessing that is by design, and may have something to do with the lock.

Pallas is a quite hefty folder, weighing in at 140.30g(4.74oz). For comparison, Geshin Ginga Sujihiki I got couple weeks later was only 133.4g ;) And that is a 300mm blade long fixed blade knife. Well, for its class that sujihiki is a very light knife, but still, medium size folder vs. 300mm blade. Obviously, thick, wide blade and all metal construction are the reason for the weight. I don't want to give an impression that Pallas is a brick though. For example, Hinderer Design 0562 M390 CF is even heavier - 155g, and nobody really complains about the weight :) Pallas is a flipper, but unlike many other flippers including the Hinderer Design 0562 M390 CF mentioned above, Pallas has fully functional thumbstuds, which serve sole purpose of opening the blade, and do not act as stop pins.

On the other hand, Pallas doesn't really flip open, not without the help of the wrist flick. According to long term users, after ~100 openings or so action smoothes out and Pallas will flip open, but that didn't really happen for me, and I've flicked and opened in all sorts of manners, way more than 100 times, closer to 500 or so, still, by pulling the flipper Pallas only opens half way w/o wrist flick. To me that's absolutely fine by the way, I'm not all that into flippers and I'd rather open the knife using a thumbstud.

Couple words about the origins. Pallas was designed by Curtis Iovito, the co-owner of the Spartan Blades company. And the name Pallas originates from Greek as you might've suspected. According to Spartan Blades website, PALE ES was a Titan god of war craft. I thought my knowledge of Greek mythology was good, and the god of war was Ares(or Mars in Roman version), I guess I gotta look things up :)

Spartan Blades SF3SWBKAL Pallas Folding Knife

Blade

- The blade on the Pallas is a medium size, 95.25mm(3.75") long. At its widest, the blade measures 35.25mm and it is ~3.9mm thick at the same place. Geometry can be described as distal taper, sabre grind, drop point, with false edge on the top. There's a mini choil present, but it's not really functional. The factory edge on the Pallas is a standard V grind edge. One thing worth noting, it was ground perfectly even. It's rare to see that level of precision on the edge grind on factory or even semi-custom knives. As far as sharpness is concerned, the edge was medium sharp. I am guessing the final grind was between 600-800 grits. I did perform it a light sharpening session, because even for a coarse edge it wasn't sharp enough for my taste. Generally speaking, Pallas is more of a hard use, utility folder than a high performance cutter. Both blade thickness and grind attribute to that. On the other hand, depends on what you call high performance cutter, compared to bunch of other knives Pallas is a very decent cutting tool. The Blade has stonewashed finish, which generally does quite good job withstanding scuffmarks and other light damage. Won't add to the protection from the elements though. The ridge on the back of the blade was explained by the designer himself, it is sort of secondary thumbramp or thumbrest, when you need to choke down on the blade. Behind the edge thickness is around 0.5mm which is considerably larger compared to really high performance cutters like any of the Phil Wilson Custom Knives, few regrinds, etc. Anyway, compared to factory folders it is in average group.

Spartan Blades SF3SWBKAL Pallas Folding Knife

CPM S35VN

- As I mentioned above, Crucible CPM S35VN stainless steel was one of the reasons I got the Pallas. CPM S35VN steel is a relatively new cutlery alloy, as in terms of knife industry adopting new alloys kindda new. Comes as an evolution of a premium and widely used Crucible CPM S30V stainless steel. Just like the CPM S30V steel, CPM S35VN steel was also developed in collaboration with knife makers. Although, as far as I know, this time less makers participated. Chris Reeve certainly did, and he was one of the first to produce the knives in CPM S35VN steel. Not sure who else participated. I already knew general properties of CPM S35VN steel, but got it to test things myself and get the feel from a real knife. To sum it up, CPM S35VN steel improved over its predecessor in terms of toughness, but gave up some of the wear resistance. Actually, as per Crucible documentation, CPM S35VN steel has 15%-20% higher toughness compared to CPM S30 steel, and no decrease in wear resistance, but the field reports do indicate CPM S30 steel having better edge holding on abrasive mediums such as cardboard, rope, etc. The question is how much was the gain and what was given up. Although, I didn't have illusions to answer that using just Pallas, because in a small knife it's rather difficult to gauge toughness increase. Wear resistance is an easier one, you can just have at it using cardboard or a rope, well the blade and edge geometries and thicknesses have to be close for better results. Lots of fun as you can see. I'll discuss the rest in the usage/testing section.

Spartan Blades SF3SWBKAL Pallas Folding Knife

Handle

- The handle on Pallas is made out of the 6061 Aluminum, which is an aerospace grade alloy. Black anodized metal has a very nice, smooth finish, but at the same time, thanks to groves, ridges and overall geometry Pallas has a secure handle. I had no issues with the grip security during all of the test cutting. On top of that, the feel is very good, it feels at home in your hand, well at least it does in mine ;) Obviously, I've tried Pallas in all sorts of grips and holds, for various types of cutting and the handle comfortability was never an issue. Longest session I did was about 1.5 hour long, mostly cardboard, and some PVC tubing. That's quite a bit of work with a folder, generally or usually I don't spend that much time cutting with folding knives, kitchen knives yes, but not folders. No hotsposts on my palms after prolonged work, which is a definite positive.

Spartan Blades SF3SWBKAL Pallas Folding Knife

As stated in the beginning, one of the primary influencing factors when buying the Pallas was the button lock on it. Pallas isn't my first button lock folder though, I've had William Henry Spearpoint(Model B12) ZDP-189 Folding Knife which also features the button lock, and I was satisfied with it. The reason I like the button lock(and axis, back, and cage locks), is that the handle is symmetrical. Both slabs have the same shape. The only difference would be button lock hole on the left side and pocket clip holes on the right side. Button lock itself is very simple to operate, once the blade is open, button base pops into the groove, locking the blade in the open position. The lockup is rock solid. I have not done any severe back whacking, but I just had to give it a few strong whacks, which was fine, rock solid lockup and no wobbling or rattling whatsoever. To close the blade, simply push the button and fold the blade back. The lock button is not protruding too far to become intrusive or to disengage it by accident. I've also used Pallas with working gloves, which are relatively thin, for deer skin working gloves by the way, which is much thicker than nitrile or latex gloves. The point is, I could still operate the button lock in those gloves. As for the pocket clip, it is secured in place with two screws, and there is one set of holes, allowing only tip down carry, and normally that'd be on the right side, but nothing prevents you from carrying it on the left side, although the clip positioning is unusual for that, you might not be happy if you are a southpaw. Oh, and for the sake of scrupulousness, the clip has the arrow cut out in it, which is kindda cool in my opinion.

Spartan Blades SF3SWBKAL Pallas Folding Knife

Usage

- Pallas is a folding knife and my tests and use were restricted to folder use, strictly. Which means I didn't try to baton through 2x4s or other hard core stunts line that. I got the knife in the middle of the week, and started EDCing it the same day. For next few days Pallas was used for mundane EDC tasks, I've opened few packages, plastic packaging, and sharpened a pencil, which is rather unusual for me, being a computer guy, pens and pencils are really hard to find at my place. Found that one while sorting through some papers, no idea how it got there, but as a test that was ok. Sharpening the pencil was a sharpness test, fine work-ability test and finally did twist test on the same pencil, after which it(the pencil) ceased to exist. Pallas was fine, and it was quite comfy for fine/controlled work. The ridge on the blade was useful for delicate work when choking down on the blade. Handle wasn't getting in a way either. Twist test on the pencil wasn't really proving much, Pallas was too much for a soft wood in pencils. For that reason, I've repeated twist test on the dry wood, which Pallas passed without any problems. That was expected, since CPM S35VN steel was specifically engineered for improved toughness, and 58-60HRC steel at 15° per side edge are enough to withstand pry/twisting.

Overall, Pallas worked just fine for a large EDC knife. I'd call 95.25mm(3.75") blade knife a medium size, but the handle is quite big and the overall length definitely puts Pallas in a large folder category. Still, it is comfortable in the pocket, doesn't bother me anyway. Operating the lock is easy and the lock is secure. Opening knife using the thumbstud is fine, and the knife still won't open using the flipper, even though I have lubed the pivot and blade few times. Like I said above, that's not an issue with me, but if you really want your knife to flip open, you might want to check Pallas in person. Maintenance wise, Pallas is quite easy, lube once in a while, and that's pretty much it, aside form edge maintenance which would mean sharpening when necessary that's all.

As for the rest of the cutting, it was the usual assortment of various garage born mediums that I always cut when testing folders and light use knives. I started of with PVC tubing which I use for building my watercooled computers. The PVC tube has 9.5mm outer diameter and 6.35mm inner diameter, which makes the wall just a hair thicker 3mm. Not really knife friendly thing to cut, tends to stick to the blade real tight. Obviously, a thin blade is an advantage, but like I said, Pallas isn't really thin. I've sliced the usual dozen rings, using mostly push cutting. Worked ok, no significant edge degradation. Obviously it wasn't performing as well the other blades half the thickness, like Krymlin Wootz 2 Utility Custom Knife, or Phil Wilson's custom knives. Next up, rubber sheet, 6mm thick. Pallas did pretty well with rubber. Next was the wiring. Copper, Aluminum and steel wires, plus coaxial cable. As I mention in all other reviews, it's safe for the edge if the edge is strong enough, and the correct technique is used to make a cut. Simply put, you need to keep the blade steady, perpendicular to the wire and carefully push through it. I didn't see any edge damage after all the wiring, even though the edge was inspected with 20x magnifying glass. I suppose even at 58-60HRC, the 15° on CPM S35VN steel was strong enough to withstand the punishment, although as usual with softer blades below 62HRC I am extra careful. After the wires, I dug up the plastic packaging, the nasty clamshell type, and proceeded with cutting. I've used the section closer to the handle about an inch long, and made three cuts, totaling 30 inches. That thing did degrade the edge, not killing it totally, but I could notice the degradation using my fingertips. I've grabbed a steeling rod and proceeded with ~10 strikes per side. The edge recovered, probably not 100%, but using my fingertips or fingernails I could no longer tell the difference between the parts that were and were not used to cut plastic. And in the end, I went with the cardboard, about 600 inches total. At the end of it, the edge was dull. Steeling did restore some of the sharpness, but generally speaking, I do not let my knives to get that dull, or in other words, once at that level I sharpen them. That's what I did with Pallas as a conclusion of the testing.

Spartan Blades SF3SWBKAL Pallas Folding Knife

Sharpening

- In two words - very easy. Since Pallas serves as a utility, hard use knife, and it's loaded with carbides I've decided to use it with a coarse edge, so I've grabbed DMT Diafold coarse/fine grit sharpener and proceeded with sharpening. All in all, took about 5 minutes to get a shaving sharp edge back. Rebeveling would take more time obviously and I've be starting with something much coarser than 600 grit, however rebeveling isn't a regular job, sharpening is. 60HRC steel, most of them at least are very easy to sharpen with proper tools, and CPM S35VN steel is no exception. For comparison, the Gokinko steel used in Aritsugu A-Type Kitchen knives is much harder to sharpen, even though the hardness is about the same.

Conclusions

- Hard use, tough folder, with modern design, modern steel, and a solid lock. Quality is very good, no issues with fit and finish, design works well, at least for me it does. The price is of course a bit steep, definitely not a budget folder, but not totally outlandish price either.

Specifications:

  • Blade - 95.25mm(3.75")
  • Thickness - 3.87mm
  • Width - 35.25mm
  • OAL - 222.00mm(8.74")
  • Steel - CPM S35VN steel at 58-60HRC
  • Handle - 6061 Aluminum
  • Weight - 140.30g(4.74oz)
  • Acquired - 08/2015 Price - 285.00$

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Last updated - 11/08/15