Friday, March 9, 2012

Knife Review #7: Gas Station Specials and me.

Hey folks, your old pal 12-Gauge Chimp here, bringing you another knife review/rant.

I mentioned in my review of the Kershaw Crown (Knife Review #6, February 27th, 2012) that I would be doing a review on what I called "Gas Station Special" knives and how I disliked them. Well, here it is.

I'll give you a little background on this subject and why I feel so strongly about it. Back when I was a wee Chimp, I used to spend practically all my allowance on cheap knives, simply because I didn't know any better and frankly I liked sharp, pointy things. Over the years, I ended up with at least two plastic storage tubs full of crappy knives, both of the folding and fixed blade variety. Some were pretty good, but most were useless for anything other than opening an envelope. Again, some were purchased from knife shops, but most were purchased from gas stations, hence the nickname "Gas Station Special".

Now, depending on where you live in the US, you can buy cheap pocket knives and fixed blades at the check-out counter. Often times, the knives are less than 10 bucks a pop with some of the larger ones going for about 20 to 30 bucks. These knives range from knock-offs of Kershaw, Benchmade, and Spyderco (which seems to be the most popular brand to make fakes of, by the way) designs to ugly fantasy style knives with zero practical use. The fixed blade knives are even worse. I swear for every normal looking fixed blade, there's at least twelve that look like something out of a bored high school students sketchbook.

The quality of these knives ranges from workable to "Who let the blind monkey near the CNC machine again ? ". Most of them are made from 440 stainless steel, the quality of which can vary widely. Some 440 steel is decent and can hold an edge for a long time, while other 440 steel loses its edge if you look at it wrong or cut a piece of paper. Seriously, I spent a half hour sharpening a Gas Station Special only to have it dull on me after I used it to open a letter. Let's just say that knife is no longer in my collection, at least not the whole knife anyway. The handle materials can vary in composition, most of the time they are cheap plastic with some using what looks like a cross between micarta and particle board.

Some of the worst offenders in the GSS area are the knives from Pakistan. Most are just horribly made and simply sheets of stainless steel stamped into the basic shape of a knife. I had a pair of boot knives made in Pakistan when I was younger and the construction left a lot to be desired. The blades rusted if you looked at them funny and the wood handles were poorly fitted and had big cracks in them from the tang of the blade being pounded into them. There are some GSS knives that are made in China and Korea, which are surprisingly good for most purposes. Are they as good as the factory knives costing three or four times as much ? Heck no, but they are good for cutting stuff and tossing in a tool box or tacklebox when you don't feel like losing your 100 dollar Benchmade or three hundred dollar custom knife.

So, all in all, I'd say buyer beware on some of these knives. If you're at a gas station and they have a sign saying "Benchmade knives $19.99" save your money because what they mean by "Benchmade" is that the knives were made on a bench in a shack somewhere in the desert. Spend the 20 bucks on gas or a novelty Zippo with the silhouette of a naked lady or a wolf on it.

In the meantime, 12-Gauge Chimp's Blog will be undergoing some changes in a few weeks, mostly I'll be dropping the 's and Blog at the end of the site header. As for the YouTube videos, keep an eye out for those and a possible YouTube channel for 12-Gauge Chimp.

As always, this is 12-Gauge Chimp signing off.