Blackjack Small

A shot of the Blackjack small :

blackjack small

The review consists of :


The Blackjack Small has been heavily used and sharpened by Owen McMurrey. The knife is made from 52100 by stock removal. It is 0.215" thick with a distal taper and swedge. It weighs 110 g and is balanced just behind the guard. The blade has a a full convex primary grind with just a hint of a secondary edge bevel, about 0.010" thick, an angle of about 9-12 degrees per side. The full profile specifics :

Cross section measurements of a Blackjack small
Thickness Width Angle
0.009 0.02410.6
0.023 0.075  7.8
0.049 0.175  7.4
0.088 0.350  6.4
0.134 0.600  5.3
0.172 0.914  3.5
0.122 1.05010.4

This is a similar blade profile to the Valiant Golok. While the blade is only 7.5 cm long, it is fully sharpened to maximize edge length. The handle is 9.2 cm long (total length is 17.2 cm), and significantly contoured. The width is 1.48 cm at the most narrow and thickens by 30% to form a significant swell. The leather sheath shows scuffing, and though the glue has separated on one of the belt loops which were cut by Owen.

Stock work

Sharpened on some waterstones and finishing on a 1200 grit DMT hone the Blackjack small took 18 and 9 lbs to cut through 3/8" hemp on a push and slice respectively. With 15 passes per side on 0.5 micron chromium oxide loaded leather the force was reduced to 12.5 (5) lbs on a push 7.5 (5) lbs on a slice.

Carving hardwoods, the performance was extremely high due to the thin blade stock and acute primary and edge profile combined with the excellent leverage due to the edge being fully sharpened right to the handle. On birch flooring it took 8.0 (1.0) slices to make a point. Splitting small sections took 42 (9) lbs on a push.

Cutting television cable the Blackjack small 40-42 lbs and took light damage twice (less than 0.015 millimeters) through twelve cuts.

The tip penetration was moderate, with a hard vertical stab the penetration was 544 (44) pages into a phonebook.

The 2x4 digging was not attempted due to the thin cross section of the tip. The tip cracked easily while attempting to open a coconut. There was little flex in the tip, the fracture cost 1/8" of tip, the knife was 0.018" thick at the back of the break.

The wood chopping ability is essentially not significant, it can clear some small limbs, but even a small piece of hardwood like a broom handle is a chore to chop through and takes a lot of hacking as the penetration is minimal. The knife is similar too light, however with a baton, the thin profile readily chew through woods.

Food preperation

The Blackjack Small was a nice paring knife due to its thin and acute edge, however the wide blade inhibited turning the knife in cuts. While it cut into potatos well for example, it was somewhat awkward to work around them to generate a continuous peel so it tends to work in small slices :

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When sharp it easily trimmed meats and cut apart small chickens for stock. However the stock thickness reduced cutting efficiency on thicker vegetables due to heavy binding. For example cutting through a medium sized carrot, the Blackjack Small required 8-10 lbs of force compared to a just 4-5 lbs with a Japanese Utility knife.


It did very well on onions as they are not very binding and thus the thicker spine isn't a functional draw back :


The short length was also cumbersome on larger vegetables and the relative performance dropped due to the lack of ability to make an effective rocking cut, the deeper material also induced more binding forces. Cutting a large turnip in half the Blackjack Small needed 20-22 lbs and the Japanese utility just 5-7 lbs. The short blade was also problematic in working with thick pieces of meat due to lack of reach. The guard also reduced efficiency somewhat, but because it isn't too large, the effect is not that bad. It is much more workable for use on a cutting board for example than the Pronghorn due to the much shorther guard.

The blade has to be rinsed and dried once in contact with acidic foods and other corrosive substance as the steel has low corrosion resistance, though doesn't patina as fast as O1 or L6. In regards to ergonomics, during clearing a few trout, the handle was a little slick, a more secure texture would be appreciated.


As a brush clearing tool the Blackjack Small is rather limited as it is so short. The highly contoured handle also makes attaching it to a stick for extra length difficult. It is thus really inefficient for cutting grasses and heavier vegetation :

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For a dedicated whittler the Blackjack small is too broad but as reflected in the performance on the basswood dowel it is readily capable of removing large amount of waste wood. It does very nicely in roughing down a walking stick, making stakes or pegs, or sharpening sticks for roasting foods over an open fire. It works very well for general shaping of woods for tools, able to quickly rough out shapes as well as do precise work as seen when used alongside a Ratweiler to carve a small snow scoop.

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For chopping and splitting woods , The Blackjack small has little inherent ability due to its size and weight. The handle is also fairly slick and difficult to keep secure if a partial grip is used at the end to shift the balance forward. The point can also not be used to weaken wood for chopping or splitting very efficiently as it is too thin. A baton can be used to augment the abilties of the knife, and it does then cut well as the profile is an efficient cutter. However the versatility and functionality is limited for such work mainly due to the small blade length which makes working on wood that is more than a couple of inches thick very time consuming. The goal is to make wedges rather than split the wood directly. The initial split can be started by driving the point into the wood by hammering on the butt, gently as it is a wooden grip, and then working the point back and forth to widen the cut. With the point hammered in three times t allowed a slab of wood to be pried off a small round :

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As the stock is 7/32" thick on such a short blade prying through the main body isn't a concern as long as the force applied is concentrated near the handle so as to not load the partial tang inside the grip. With the slab removed (it broke in half during the prying) it is quickly shaped into a wedge and this will readily break down the rest of the round. A cut is started by batoning the Blackjack small into the wood and then following with the wedge :

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The efficient edge on the Small also allows it to readily just put cut the slabs into thinner splits and readily make shavings :

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To assist in fire starting, The Blackjack Small works well in creating scrapings and getting light barks (birch) for first stage tinder and making shavings to fuel the fire once lit. It doesn't have a lot of chopping ability and thus heavy bark is a solid source of immediate fuel and if covered in pitch can readily burn for up up an hour :

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Some green vegetation will work well as a smudge and also serves to keep mist and light snow off of the coal as it is building up a solid base :

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This doesn't tend to burn well but will preserve the fire which will readily and rapidly rekindle itself once more fuel is provided :

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For most cutting the performance of the knife was relatively high due to the edge geometry. It general it excelled on shallow cuts, but would fall behind thinner knives like an Opinel significantly on materials which were very thick and rigid. For example it handled narrow rubber tubing well, but in order to cut through some very thick walled three inch tubing, the rubber had to be bent for the tension to pull the tube apart so it could not bind on the blade. Similar for carboard, it could cut the light material fine, but on very heavy 1/2" cardboard, it took a lot more effort than something light like the Deerhunter. It also tended to bind on materials like thick styrofoam due to the spine thickness and induce cracking :

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Edge retention

The Blackjack Small was compared to several very high alloy and high wear resistant steels cutting cardboard. The edge retention on a slice was well behind for various edge finishes. It was similar in performance to the MEUK, also made from 52100.


The 52100 blade is easily ground and tends to form little of a burr. The only real concern is that the full convex profile does tend to mean a lot of material has to be removed if the profile is to be maintained. For light cutting on nonabrasive material like carving most woods, the sharpness can be maintained by just some light work on fine abrasives, however if the knife is used to cut abrasive material and heavily blunted it takes some time to work the profile back down even with x-coarse hones. In general it is more practical to apply a slight secondary bevel when sharpening is necessary and as time permits blend this back into the primary grind with a coarse abrasive.


In hard stabbing, the hand tends to ramp forward over the smooth grip into the guard which is a bit squarish and thus uncomfortable for such contacts. Placing the thumb over the end of the handle aids in retention, however it transfers the shock to the thumb which can then recieve quite a jarring motion. In regards to toughness, the wood handle is very easily damaged by shock. It suffered a fracture at the butt just from a drop onto the floor (came this way from Owen). Thus impacts would want to be avoid, especially during batoning work, or use as a bill hook. In addition, use of the pommell as a pseudo-hammer on had objects is obviously not recommended.


The sheath holds the knife decently firm, but not tight. While the sheath can be inverted without the knife falling out, it only takes a little few shakes and the blade will slide free. It was worn with comfort in the back pocket as well as on the belt, which is a bit cumbersome due to the dual belt loops.


The blade profile and steel are solid choices for a general work knife for shallow cutting which needs to be able to take heavy use including some lateral strain. The surface corrosion resistance is low so care will need to be taken. The handle while a little slick is decently comfortable in extended work, though not very durable so avoid impacts or other shocks. This makes a very nice knife for wood work as long as it is coupled with a saw or chopping tool for cutting thick wood.

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Last updated : 04 : 23 : 2006
Originally written : 08 : 23 : 2003