MEUK by Allen Blade and Ed Caffrey


A shot of the MEUK :

MEUK side

alongside a Sub-Sniper and MNK and one from the top down showing the extensive handle curvature :

MEUK top

The review consists of :

Specifications

This MEUK (multi-environment utility knife) was ground by Allan Blade from 52100 forged by Ed Caffrey who also did the heat treatment of the blade. The primary grind was sabre-hollow. Based on my experience with the Talonite MEUK of similar geometry, the knife was modified by Ed Caffrey to a full convex grind with a slight secondary edge bevel. The thickness of the blade behind the edge bevel was around 0.005" near the base of the blade and runs a little thinner near the tip. Due to the very narrow edge bevel the angle can only be roughly estimated to be between 15-20 degrees. The knife is 0.155" thick at maximum with a full distal taper to a fine point. The total working edge length is 8.6 cm.

UPDATE : After this review was written Allan Blade had business problems which lead to him getting banned from Bladeforums. There are still people who he owes money and knives : [ref].

MEUK compared to the Sub-Sniper

To get some quantitative performance estimates the MEUK was compared to a heavily modified Sub-Sniper from Lynn Griffith. Both the MEUK and Sub-Sniper were freshly sharpened and both could easily shave hair, push cut photocopy paper, and cut light thread with about 80-120 g of force . Through push cuts on 3/8" and 1/2" poly both blades did very well with the Sub-Sniper showing a slight advantage :

Push cuts on poly : MEUK / Sub-Sniper
Model Edge profile 3/8" poly 1/2" poly
Angle Thickness Force Rank Force Rank
degrees inches lbs lbs
Sub-Sniper 9.5 (5) 0.044 43 (2) 100 51 (1) 100
MEUK 15-20 0.005 55 (1) 78 (4) 63 (2) 81 (3)

Rope is a loose material and does not exert a large amount of force on the sides of the blades so the edge angle is most critical to performance. The slight change in edge angle of a few degrees is enough to compensate for the much thicker edge of the Sub-Sniper. However his cutting is somewhat artificial in nature as the load was applied by pressing down on the spine directly driving the blade through the cut which factors out the effect of edge curvature and grip. These two effects in general can significantly influence the blades cutting abilities.

The relative performance of these knives can change when the material can exert large and deep binding forces. In such case edge thickness and nature of the primary grind are both of significant influence. When the cuts become more dynamic edge curvature and security and comfort of grip are also factors. In all of these respects the MEUK has the advantage over the Sub-Sniper and thus will raise its relative performance significantly. Using both blades on various soft woods the following relative performance was determined :

Whittling soft woods
Model Edge Profile Rank
Angle Thickness
degrees inches
MEUK 15-20 0.005 100
Sub-Sniper 9.5 (5) 0.044 54 (4)

The Sub-Sniper has a more acute edge but it is much thicker behind the bevel compared to the 52100 MEUK. Since the edge is the most obtuse part of the blade profile, minimizing its extent as on the MEUK greatly increases the cutting performance. The curvature of the blade on the MEUK is also an enhancement which makes the blade act similar to a skew chisel, introducing a slicing element into the otherwise push cut. The longer blade allows a greater draw which adds to this effect. The full grip on the MEUK also fills the hand better, as compared to the smaller and much slimmer and partial length grip on the Sub-Sniper will cause discomfort in extended high force cutting.

The type of wood can of course heavily influence the results. On hard woods the performance is controlled by a much greater extent by just the angle of the edge bevel as cuts are very shallow. Since hardwood cutting produces forces that are much to a much greater extent concentrated around the edge of the knife, the deep convex profile of the MEUK does not give it as much of an advantage as it did on the soft woods [ ref]. While the MEUK still out cuts the Sub-Sniper, it is now only doing it by a few cuts whereas in the above soft wood cutting, the performance was almost two to one.

Using both knives to cut a lot of binding materials the above performance well represented the relative performance. The MEUK was always ahead of the Sub-Sniper.

UPDATE : The Sub-Sniper used in the above has a heavily modified edge profile, it is not the stock model.

Edge retention

On hardwood dowels, Before and after the cutting mention in the above, the sharpness of the blades was measured by push cutting light thread, and slicing through 1/4" poly under a 1000 g load :

edge retention of the MEUK and SUB-Sniper on hard wood dowels
Model Initial After hardwood cutting
Thread 1/4" poly Thread 1/4" poly
g cm g cm
MEUK 95 (20) 0.40 (6) 170 (12) 0.65 (4)
Sub-Sniper 85 (10) 0.28 (5) 195 (13) 0.78 (6)

No significant difference was noted in initial sharpness or extent of blunting.

Old mats were also used as blunting stock being both abrasive and hard to cut and thus being influenced by wear resitance and hardness respectively. Fifty four slices along the whole length of the edge were made with both blades. The cuts were made in a simple heavy slice using 45 (5) lbs of drive. The initial sharpness was similar for both blades and in agreement with the previous optimal sharpness listed in the above :

initial edge sharpness of the MEUK and Sub-Sniper
Model Thread 1/4" poly : 1000 g load
g cm
MEUK 125 (11) 0.50 (4)
Sub-Sniper   75 (13) 0.15 (3)

After the mat cutting, the blades were honed using ten strokes per side on leather which made no significant improvement to either blade. They were also given ten passes per side on a smooth steel. The Sub-Sniper now cut the rope requiring 3.75 (25) centimeters of edge. The MEUK could not make more than 1/2 a cut on the rope over its full length which is more than twice that of the Sub-Sniper. This difference in edge retention is similar to the performance noted on cardboard below. The blades were restored to full sharpness by stropping on CrO loaded leather. Both blades progressed to full sharpness in a smooth linear manner in responce to the honing. When the difference in edge length (5.0 centimeters for the Sub-Sniper vs 8.6 centimeters for the MEUK) factored out the following graph is produced :

stropping graph

The slopes of the lines represent how fast the knives respond to the stropping and using linear regression gives identical results for both blades (-0.54) . While the steeling and the plain leather stropping didn't seem to do much for restoring sharpness, they can make an edge respond to honing much faster by putting an edge into proper alignment.

UPDATE : the edges should really be at the same angle for this type of comparison.

On 3/8" hemp, the MEUK was used to make slices on a two inch draw. The force used for the cutting was measured and was the sharpness periodically on thread and quarter inch poly. The edge was sharpened with a final finish obtained with a fine ceramic rod. Three seperate trials were ran with a complete sharpening before each round. The average results are presented in the following table :

edge holding of the MEUK with a fine ceramic finish
# hemp cuts Thread Poly Hemp
  grams cm lbs
  0 135 +/-  8 0.55 +/- 0.07 
  2 190 +/- 12 0.65 +/- 0.04 32.0 +/- 2.1
  6 262 +/- 17 1.52 +/- 0.23 35.0 +/- 2.1
 14 297 +/- 16 2.02 +/- 0.29 37.0 +/- 2.1
 30 315 +/- 19 4.10 +/- 0.46 38.0 +/- 0.8
 62 340 +/- 13 5.00 +/- 0.13 42.0 +/- 1.1
126 365 +/- 11 5.45 +/- 0.26 44.0 +/- 1.3

This edge holding is about twice that of the Twistmaster from Cold Steel], with both knives having the same edge finish.

Slicing cardboard, the MEUK, with a reduced edge angle, was compared to several blades slicing cardboard and found to be similar to the Blackjack Small and well behind S30V and 10V heat treated by Phil Wilson.

Edge durability

With the initial edge angle, the MEUK cut through meats and vegetables under 50+ lbs of drive making smooth cuts. It disjointing some chicken wings with no problems. Clean cuts through the tissue connecting the joints (15 +/- 5 lbs), sloppy cuts through the joints (50 +/- 10 lbs), and hard press cuts through the bone (100 +/- 20 lbs) all failed to produced visible damage, checking the edge under strong light a small glint.

The MEUK was also used for for much wood craft, including light chopping and much cutting through and around knots. It was also used with a baton (35 (5) ft.lbs) felling small saplings from three to four inches in diameter. It was about 10% as efficient in regards to time as the Bruks Wildlife hatchet. The blade is very short and rather narrow so it has to be constantly moved around the tree, working in notches. A longer knife would leave the tip free of the wood enabling much deeper cuts to be made. A more robust profile would also allow wood chips to be pried out much more readily such as on the Howling Rat. The MEUK was also used on occasion to split some small rounds for ease of burning or to obtain dry wood at the center, including careful work through knots on occasion. The MEUK suffered no edge damage during the wood craft.

Sharpening

The MEUK has a primary full convex grind, but unlike most knives ground of this style like the Blackjack small, the MEUK came with a very slight secondary edge bevel and resharpening was very efficient as a minimal amount of metal had to be removed and the steel ground easily and had minimal burr formation. If desired it would just just a few minutes wood to blend the secondary edge back into the primary grind.

Grip

The Micarta grip fully encloses the tang providing thermal and electrical insulation. The grip also fills out well in the hand and allows the use of heavy force without causing discomfort during light to medium work. Security was never a problem during use, both when the handle was clean and dry as well as when it was wet. However during several long sessions (15+ minutes) of full force cutting several parts of the handle had too "square" of a finish, specifically, the latter half of the top of the grip, and the index finger cutout. These were small problems and easily fixed by spending a few minutes with a file to increase the radius of the transition points.

The guard was also found to be more of a hindrance than of functional use. Its security was never needed and it prevent certain grips, specifically overlap grips where the guard would press against the palm just under the base joint of the thumb. This grip is used a lot in food preparation as well as scraping and similar tasks. n regards to size, for reasons mentioned in the above, this is about the smallest handle that I would want on a daily carry blade. Any smaller and the functionality of the blade is significantly reduced. While blades like the MNK are much smaller and easier to carry, the inability to get a full strong grip on the handle makes heavy cutting too difficult.

Sheath

The sheath is formed from Kydex and holds the blade securely with no rattle. There is also a small depression which acts as a push-off point so as to allow an easy draw from the sheath.

Overall

This knife is basically a larger version of the Blackjack small. It works very well for wood work, though for general cutting, especially on abrasive materials other blade profiles are more optimal like a Deerhunter in D2.

Comments and references

This blade has what Ed calls "The complete package" :

In order for a knife to be all that it can be, the maker must take the "Overall Package" into consideration. This includes not only what type of steel to use, but how that steel will perform at a given hardness, plus, how all the other aspects of the knife blend to produce the finished product. Things such as, blade geometry, distal taper, weight, and balance. Toughness, flexibility, edge retention, and ease of sharpening. All of these play a factor in the Overall Package. Each is equally important in a using knife, and worthy of the Bladesmith's attention.

This is from his Bits of Steel webpage

What is critical here is how the aspects are interrelated. Specific to the 52100-MEUK, because of the properties of the steel, the knife can be functional with its very thin edge which is what gives it the high level of cutting ability. The steel has the properties it does because of its composition as well as the way it was heat treated. You can even go further and for example look at the connection between the primary and secondary grinds. The actual edge bevel is a little obtuse (which is what gives it the high durability), but the primary grind is so full that the overall cutting ability is high. Thus in effect the full convex grind greatly increases the edge durability by allowing a more obtuse edge grind at the desired level of cutting ability.

In regards to the heat treatment this is how Ed described the process :

I forged the initial billet from 1" round stock (52100). It was normalized, then triple annealed, and sent to Alan. He ground the blade to 220 grit, leaving the edge thick (approx. 1/8"), and then sent it to me for the heat treat.
I normalized the blade again, then it was triple edge quenched in pre heated mineral oil (approx 140F) with 24hrs between quenches. (the blade was allowed to cool down in the quench bath between quenches) It was then triple tempered at 375F

The result :

... the edge always falls in the Rc 57-59 range, and the spines are in the Rc39-41.

Comments can be sent to : cliffstamp[REMOVE]@cutleryscience.com or by posting in the following threads :

Ed Caffrey, also can be reached by email and also has a website you can visit for more information.

Last updated : Fri May 16 10:55:51 NDT 2006
Origionally written 8 : 22 : 2001
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