Spyderco Military


The review consists of :

Description

The Spyderco Military is a linear locking folder with a modified clip point blade and a textured G10 grip with a back spacer for rigidity. The S30V stainless steel is hardened to 58-59 HRC. The blade has a full distal taper from the maximum thickness (0.153") and width (1.2") to a fine point. The knife weighs 122 g and balances 1.2 inches behind the guard. The blade is 10.4 cm in length (9.5 cm sharpened) with an edge thickness from 0.017" to 0.020" and ground at 14.8 (9) degrees per side. There were a few minor cosmetic problems; the sharpness was less than optimal, the action of the lock was slightly gritty, and the edge bevel in the tip was significantly wider on one side than the other.

Stock work

The Military was decently sharp out of the box near the choil and could slice newsprint but not shave, near the tip it was much sharper and could push cut newsprint and shave readily. The sharpness and light cutting ability was measured on light thread and poly and 3/8" hemp. The Military was sharpened and the work repeated, details follow :

Initial sharpness and cutting ability of the Spyderco Military
Condition Thread Poly Hemp
push slice
base tip
grams cm lbs
NIB 205 (47) 2.0   (9) 19.0 (5) 45.0 (5) 21 (1)
Honed 112 (17) 0.69 (9) 21.0 (5) 25.0 (5) 18.5 (5)

After honing the sharpness rose by about double on the thread and by more than a factor of three on the poly . The increased sharpness made a large influence on the cutting ability near the choil as shown by the performance on the hemp rope which almost doubled in that region. The sharpness difference made a large effect in the kitchen.

Pointing some ends on a basswood dowel the Military required 3.78 (54) slices. The performance was high due to the thin blade stock and thin and acute edge bevel, combined with the excellent leverage due to the edge being fully sharpened right to the handle.

With a 50 lbs push, the tip sank to 266 (8) pages into a phone book, with a hard stab (icepick grip), the penetration was 681 (35) pages. The extreme distal taper, high flat grind and triangular blade design all combined to form a a slender tip to give near optimal penetration on soft targets. The 2x4 digging was not attempted due to the thin cross section of the tip.

The wood chopping ability was high compared to a Mora 2000, specifically the Military had 208% the performance of the fixed blade.

Food preparation

After the initial honing the Military easily peeled potatoes, sliced up raw and cooked meats, trimmed fats and cuts difficult to slice foods like tomatoes and ripe plums. On binding vegetables like carrots and turnips, it required slightly more than double (118%) the force than an optomized kitchen knife, a Japanese utility. On softer foods like onions the performance between the knives was much closer as binding was reduced and the Military only needed 40% more force as the Japanese knife.

The Military worked well preparing medium sized chickens for stock, easily handling separating the meat and dividing up the body into chunks. The slender point penetrated easily and allowed precise trimming of connective tissue. The Temperance felt nicer in hand on such work as the grip was more filling however the Military was lighter and better able to perform precision cutting such as trimming the meat from the legs. The blade curvature also allows cuts flush to the cutting board and the flat spine makes an excellent scraper for transferring food from the cutting board to the cooking pot. The steel also suited kitchen use well showing no corrosion after extended use. The only drawback to kitchen work was difficulty of cleaning around the pivot if contaminated with foods which may rot, much more of a problem with folders than with fixed blades in general.

Brush and wood work

The Military easily handles light vegetation as this mainly requires just a sharp edge. It does suffer from a lack of reach due to the short blade length so there is a lot of extra bending and stooping. For this type of work a longer blade length would be of considerable benefit. The optimal blade here is a traditional machete, and large butcher knife patterns work very well also. The Military was lashed to a short pole to form a light use bill hook which solved the lack of reach problem readily. The only real concern was juices and sap getting in around the pivot which is difficult to clean.

The raw wood cutting ability of the Military is strong as evidenced by the performance on the basswood dowel. The narrow blade and flatter handle profile also make it more suitable for delicate carving, especially curves than the Temperance for example. The thin and sharp tip also allow very high precision cuts with ease. For carving notches and in general shaping of wood the Military works well for hogging off material and precision carving. As noted previously, the tip is very slender so when digging hollows the wood has to be extensively cross checkered to weaken the grain to allow sections to be pried out without harm to the tip. With this method making a soup spoon took about five minutes, and a wooden bowl (3/4 cup) took twenty minutes.

The Military has little chopping ability compared to a hatchet or large knife, it simply doesn't have the heft. However compared to the Mora 2000 a common bushcraft fixed blade, the Military does very well, actually outchopping the Mora 2000 by about two to one. This isn't enough chopping ability to take down even small trees, but it can limb out small sticks and can cut some really soft woods like Alders of a few inches thick. In general for anything larger it is better to use a baton and hammer the spine of the Military to section the wood.

Splitting : on some some small with the lock wedged open with a small wedge of the Military could be hammered on the spine with a piece of wood without stressing the lock. This was cumbersome because to keep the blade stable the wrist had to provide the countertorque through rotation by pressing down through the thumb and pulling up with the pinky. A few sections of wood were split this with with light to moderate impacts. The lock was then engaged and wrist impacts (11-13 ft.lbs) were used. When the knots got so bad that this level of effort could not split the wood, the Military was removed simply by rotating it out and several wedges carved out of pine by the Military were used to complete the split. Fifteen splits were made using this method.

The lock had developed slight vertical play of about half a millimeter, though was still secure under impacts. The impacts were raised up to elbow driven swings (23-27 ft.lbs) and after four splits of about ten impacts per split the liner had traveled across the tang and under just light hand pressure would move almost over to the other side. On the next round the liner bent and was permanently engaged. Under inspection the liner was also mushroomed flat on the top from pressure off the tang. The knife was still perfectly functional and the liner could be bent to the unlocked condition however the peening on top was enough to prevent the blade from being able to fold into the handle.

The performance of the Military was superior to the the Al Mar Sere 2000 in the same work which is to be expected as it lacks the cutout in the liner.

In regards to heavy tip work, the Military has a very fine tip profile which gives it very high penetration though leaves the tip with a low stiffness. The knife was unable to pry out even pieces of hardwood from even a shallow stab so any digging or prying (unless the wood is very soft) is best done by cutting a checkering pattern into the wood to weaken the grain and insure that prying in only done on small sections.

Miscellaneous

The Military was carried daily for an extended period of time (months) and used for all cutting chores. One of the stand out features was the the tip is almost needle like in ability to handle precision work. This does of course also limit functionality for various heavy uses, mainly in regards to prying or digging where a much more robust blade profile would be of benefit. The only real drawback was that it is quite large and thus can print as a weapon much more so than a SAK (Swiss Army Knife) for some.

Along those lines, compared to a SAK, specifically a Rucksack which was carried alongside the Military daily, both were similar in regard to cutting ability with the SAK being slightly ahead on heavily binding materials like thick cardboard due to the thinner stock. The Military held a crisp edge significantly longer than the SAK especially when cutting or scraping hard materials. The Military was also more robust than the SAK which can quite easily take a bend through the main blade body, the SAK lock is also much less heavy duty. The Military also had a more secure grip but the SAK's was ergonomic in some work as it thicker. There was no significant problem with corrosion with either blade. The SAK's additional tools greatly raise its overall functionality.

Edge retention

As a stock test for edge retention, the Military was used to slice through free standing 3/8" manilla hemp. Details :

Edge retention of the Spyderco Military with a 22 degree micro bevel formed by a fine DMT rod. The media cut was 3/8" Manila hemp on a slice. The sharpness was checked by measuring slicing aggression on 1/4" poly held under 1000 g of tension
# cutsEdge length required to cut the poly
cm
  01.23 +/- 0.09
  21.43 +/- 0.09
  61.20 +/- 0.07
 141.62 +/- 0.05
 301.75 +/- 0.07
 622.05 +/- 0.12
1262.83 +/- 0.12
2544.50 +/- 0.26

The performance here matched other lower alloy blades for the same work.

On used carpet, three runs were made with the Military, Temperance, carbon steel mora and Mora 2000, with the cuts made in random order through out the carpet. The knives were all sharpened to similar edge angles with a microbevel of 22 degrees per set with a 600 grit DMT rod. In short the stainless blades were not significantly different, and all had an advantage over the carbon mora.

On cardboard, the push cutting edge retention of the Military was compared to the Spyderco Temperance on 1/8 and 1/16" ridged cardboard. In short no significant difference was noted in either initial sharpness or ability to stay sharp during the cutting using push cutting light thread to check for edge retention .

Ease of sharpening

For the first sharpening, the Military responded well to a 200 grit silicon carbide hone, the edge was clean showing an even grind. The grindability of S30V is very low and thus later the primary edge angle was reduced down to 10 degrees per side with a belt sander to increase cutting ability and ease of sharpening.

Handle ergonomics and security

While nicely contoured the grip is thin and the clip can induce hot spots with extended use. The inside of the handle slabs are also left somewhat squarish at the corners which can be fixed with some sanding. The security in hand however is high due to the aggressive surface texture. Overall the knife is high in regard to security and average in comfort in hand. While there are no steel liners in the Military, the handle is very stiff due to the thick G10 slabs and the back spacer which reinforces the strength.

The aggressive surface texture also allows heavy work to be performed even when the grip has been compromised with oil, fats or other lubricants. However the knife does poorly in regards to ergonomics when stabbing. While it is solid in regards to comfort on a thrust (thumb on spine), used in an ice pick grip, the clip is a high abrasion point with the palm. When the blade is rotated so the clip it out and the fingers wrap round it, the top of the clip becomes even more abrasive and even a single stab can be unpleasant. In general ice pick stabs are more functional and more secure as the thumb can naturally wrap around the rounded pommell to both aid security and comfort.

Ice pick stabs also exert forces on the lock so as to rotate the blade back towards the "over closed" position, reverse grip stabs do the opposite and exert force in the vector needed to collapse the lock. The Military was subjected to a dozen hard stabs into the phone book in a reverse grip to test the stability of the lock, no effect was seen. The average penetration was a bit lower, 582 +/- 23 pages, due mainly to hesitation and ergonomic concerns.

Lock

Past experience : a Military was used some years ago in S60V and the lock could be released under "white knuckling". When sent back to Spyderco for a retuning the problem persisted though at a reduced level. On this Military however the liner lock held secure under "white knuckling" as well as various spine whacks. Torques on the blade necessary to split a piece of 1x4" did not disengage the lock, nor was it damaged under a combination of torques and vertical loads such as broke the Buck/Strider folder. The Military also held up fine under the heaviest of the dynamic cutting. However heavier torques in thick woods could readily induce the lock to release. The well known Spyderhole makes opening the blade easy one handed, even with gloves on (checked with leather work gloves as well as knitted winter gloves), and the ridges on the lock do the same for closing.

Summary

The Military is far above average in regards to cutting ability due to the high flat grind and thin and acute edge. The very slim point also offers extreme ease of penetration, though care needs to be taken to avoid lateral loads due to the small cross section. New in box the sharpness was a little below average for Spyderco though still sharper than a lot of other production knives. The handle ergonomics were about average for a clip-folder and the security high due to the aggressive texture on the G10 slabs.

Comments and references

Comments can be sent by email to : cliffstamp[REMOVE]@cutleryscience.com or posted in the following thread :

More information on this knife plus others from Spyderco can be seen on the Spyderco webpage.


Last updated : 08 : 22 : 2005
Originally written : 11: 18 : 2003
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