Friday, September 30, 2011

Fallkniven F1, S1, and A1 Knife Review

Fallkniven F1, S1, and A1 Knife Review

Recently a friend asked what was the best survival knife made without regard to price. That had me looking back and reflecting of my life long love affair with knives.  Over the years I collected the most premium production and custom knives ever offered.. I have a few. There are many fine knife brands, however one of my most coveted brands has been Fallkniven knives of Sweden which sadly a few years ago I sold and was financially ready to pony up for the replacements. To be up front, they are not inexpensive by any means due to their laminated VG10 steel, but they offer a level of performance un-available from any other knife manufacturer I have tested.


ABOUT FALLKNIVEN KNIVES
Fallkniven started in 1984 focused on manufacturing the highest quality production cutlery available anywhere using current materials and manufacturing.  After ten years participating in Swedish military testing of a multitude of other knife manufacturer designs, they found most would not survive the harsh cold environments the Swiss military. Fallkniven started back at the drawing board and developed a fundamentally different approach with the then new VG10 steel and by updating an old Japanese laminated steel Kasumi technique to produce a harder, tougher, and sharper blade. In 1995 Fallkniven began producing the now famous laminated Fallkniven F1 Survival knife for the Swedish military which many, including myself, consider to be the best light-weight survival knife ever produced. Today they offer a variety of knives, sizes and options, including the Fallkniven F1-3G, S1, and A1 knives I am reviewing here.

WHAT MAKES FALLKNIVEN KNIVES SPECIAL
Where many knife manufacturers focus on the latest and greatest trendy knife design, Fallkniven focuses on offering no-nonsense knife designs that are safe, comfortable, strong and sharp with the best steel available anywhere. The old clip and drop point designs used by them are nothing new, but they have proven to be the most useful designs through time. What makes Fallkniven special is really the steel used in their knives.  Very few knife manufactures use the extremely expensive VG-10 steel for their blades outside of the kitchen knife industry, Fallkniven is unique in that they enhance the strength and durability of this steel further by laminating the knife through another forging process called the Kasumi technique.  Think of the Kasumi lamination as plywood or an Oreo cookie where there are outside and inside layers.  This process typically will increase the strength and flexibility of a blade by an exponential factor.  

The resulting knife blank is contoured for a convex edge.  This again is a very expenseive process that few manufacturers offer. Most manufacturers just grind a simple edge into a slightly contoured blank.  The convex edge retains more of the steel in support of the edge, which provides for a stronger finer sharper cutting edge which will be less prone to chipping than a ground edge.  The smooth grind itself cuts and passes through things much more easily than a multi-angle  ground blade.  This expensive convex grind process nets a very strong but extremely sharp edge which is typically only found on hand made custom knives.

Fallkniven bested themselves when they introduced the 3G steel. This steel increases performance of the VG10 steel significantly and is from my experience the most advanced cutlery steel anywhere.  Of course Fallkniven laminated this as well so we end up with a insanely strong and sharp knife with no equal.  If you choose the 3G steel option on their F1 knife as I did, you will be rewarded with the longest sharpest edge holding knife you can buy, however at a $364 ($270 street) price, perfection comes at a price.
FINISH, FIT, FEEL, FEATURES, FUNCTIONING
FINISH & FIT
The finish and & fit are perfect and the edge grind is pure convex ground perfection.  Put a Fallkniven knife in your hand and you will see custom knife quality in a production knife. Some might look at the molded on Thermorun handle on the F1, S1, and A1 knives and yawn a bit when comparing them to the glittery materials of other knives, however this handle is one of the most comfortable long-term use handles I have used and assures your hand will not slip during use.

FEEL
These knives feel like an extension of the hand and It is obvious that Fallkniven spent significant time assuring balance and comfort were perfect.  The small 3.8oz Fallkniven F1 (flight survival knife) with a 3.8” blade is the most popular design in the company’s line and was the original design for the Swedish Military and provides the ultimate light weight knife option for survivalist.  My overall favorite size is the 6.7oz S1 Survival Knife with a 5.1” blade which offers a light knife, but with a longer thicker blade which can take on more substantial tasks but still remain useful for delicate bushcraft and small game cleaning needs.  On that point you will notice that the Fallkniven knives are thicker than most other knives which adds to their durability.  The third knife I purchased was the Fallkniven A1 (Army) which is a beefy ¼” thick, 12oz, 6.3” blade design which will stand up to any military hard use environment. 

FEATURES
The Fallkniven S1 and A1 I purchased feature the same construction and sheath as my F1-3G but are made with the laminated VG10 steel which still outperforms any other production knife on the market.

The core of the Fallkniven knife design is a modified clip point, or in the case of the F1 series, a simple drop point design.  

Although the Fallkniven F1 is available in the standard VG10 steel, I purchased the new Fallkniven F1z3G with Zytel sheath with Fallkniven’s own 3G steel.  The 3G steel and resulting knife is very expensive with a $270 street price, but from my perspective has no strength or sharpness equal. Based on my testing, the edge on this knife remained sharp far longer than any other knife I have in my inventory.  It an outstanding steel that just continues to cut far past my patience for testing.  The F1, S1, and A1 all feature a tip to butt full tang construction that protrudes through the rear of the handle.  This is a great feature and allows use of the knife as a hammer if needed.  The handles on all the knives are riveted in place and provides a secure hole for lanyard attachment.

The sheath is really nice, safe, durable and high quality, however If there is a weak point with Fallkniven some may say the non-tactical sheath is it.  The Fallkniven Zytel sheaths do everything a standard leather sheath would while offering the safer carry of a Kydex sheath however it does limit carry options to a belt attachment.  Fallkniven did initially offer custom Kydex sheaths with Tec-Locks however after testing and complaints of knife wear due to the sheaths they switched to the Zytel sheaths instead. Another reason for Zytel design was Kydex has an abrading quality Kydex has which affects blade and handle wear. Just the act of pulling the knife in and out of a Kydex sheath will wear on the knife. The other reason is Kydex would not sustain the extremely cold temperatures without fracturing where Zytel will and this is one reason the Fallkniven sheaths have such a loose tolerance. Go run your Kydex sheathed knife under water and then freeze it... changes are that suction fit will freeze the knife in the sheath which is not so good in a survival situation. Zytel is also more easily sterilized than Kydex due to smoother surface structure. More advanced flexible Kydex carry system sheaths are available from a number of custom sheath manufacturers if you feel you have the need however the standard Fallkniven sheath does everything it should plus outperform most tactical sheaths.  Look for a future article where I show you how to make your own Kydex sheath.


FUNCTIONING
Testing included a range of brushwork, bushcraft, and even a little game cleaning.  As an general purpose camp and hunting knife the Fallkniven F1 is a tough sizes to beat and is so light you forget it is attached to your belt.  With a more flexible kydex sheath, this would be a great backup and carry knife for those having that need. There are many sheath manufactures who offer accessory sheaths for the knife line to accommodate this carry need. The Fallkniven’s roughly 4” bladed F1 is the quintessential backpacking knife that will not add un-necessary weight and provides substantial utility.

The S1 is an all around great compromise size for all types of survival and utility tasks.  The size is big enough that it could be baton’ed through large trees without having to repositioned but small enough that you can still accomplish the detailed tasks.  A couple snap cuts is all that was needed with this knife to bring down 1” saplings and I even baton’ed it easily this through a 2” tree. This would be my choice for my a general purpose extended survival knife. A nice in between size without a lot of weight.

The Fallkniven A1 is a large heavy duty Military and survival knife for more difficult environments requiring a larger more substantial blade that will see prying and substantial abuse.  I found it was simple to snap cut 1” saplings and the thick blade easily provided hatchet level utility to split small logs for fires.  The Fallkniven A1 is a brutish knife than can stand up to anything you can dish out... all while remaining razor sharp.

FINAL THOUGHTS
Many will gasp over the idea of spending $300 on a 4” bladed knife or around $200 for a larger VG10 bladed knife, however as any military person or hard core survivalist will tell you, never gamble your life on budget equipment. Fallkniven is technical knife equivalent of the Bugatti Veyron and is not available everywhere nor do I expect it to be.  It is a knife which provides the best that manufacturing and technology have to offer regardless of where the price ends up and I for one am OK with that. If you want a less expensive knife there are other options and I will be the first to note that everyone will not be able (or willing) to afford Fallkniven’s quality for an outdoor and survival knife. There are a variety of great manufacturers out there with very good high quality knives, however once we start talking about long term cutting performance, strength, durability, & comfort no other manufacturer comes close.  Cold Steel’s laminiated San Mai line is close and similar in price, however the VG10 and 3G steels used on Fallkniven’s knives are still superior.  I consider the knife the most basic and important tool in any survival and outdoor kit and the investment in an extraordinarily sharp & tough knife is money well spent.

Fallkniven knives are simply designed knives featuring the best laminated knife steel in the world which have been developed specifically to handle the most harsh environments.  For those in the know about cutlery, there is a bit of exclusivity to Fallkniven ownership due to the price and performance. Super exclusive extra credit is due those owners who have added a custom kydex sheath.  Fallkniven has certainly delivered on their design goal of safe, comfortable, strong and sharp knives, which comes at a premium, but provides the owner with the ultimate survival knife. To answer my friends question, invest your money in a Fallkniven if you want the best.

KNIFE SPECS
Fallkniven F1z/3G

  • Total length:    210 mm (8.3")
  • Blade length:     97 mm (3.8")
  • Blade thickness:  4.5 mm (0.18"), tapered
  • Tang:           Broad, protruding
  • Weight (knife):   150 g (6oz)
  • Steel:                     3G
  • Blade hardness:      62 HRC
  • Handle:              Thermorun
  • Sheath:            Zytel sheath
  • $364 ($270 Street)
Fallkniven S1z
  • Total length: 9.7" (247 mm)
  • Blade length: 5.1" (130 mm)
  • Blade thickness: 0.2" (5 mm)
  • Tang: Full, protruding
  • Weight (knife): 6.7 oz (190 g)
  • Steel: Lam.VG10
  • Blade hardness: 59 HRC
  • Handle: Thermorun
  • Sheath: Zytel sheath
  • $220 ($170 Street)
Fallkniven A1
  • Total length:   280 mm (11")
  • Blade length:   160 mm (6.3")
  • Blade thickness:  6 mm (0.24")
  • Tang:  Almost full tang, tang visible at handle end
  • Weight (knife):   305 g (12 oz)
  • Steel:              Lam. VG10
  • Blade hardness:  59 HRC
  • Handle:            Kraton®
  • Sheath:             Zytel®  
  • $290 ($216 Street)

SOURCES
http://www.fallkniven.com

4 comments:

Wo Ra said...

Good review.

I wonder if S1 got good penetration ability ? I'm looking for good knife for combat use.
Did you ever try to thrust something with S1 or F1 ?

Major Pandemic said...

Yes the S1 would be a great combat knife. As sharp as these are and the standard tried and true edge geometry, I would bet that they would be a great combat knife.

Waffensammler said...

Good review, thanks! The Swiss military has nothing to do with Sweden, though. :-)

Waffensammler said...

Great review, thanks! The Swiss military has nothing to do with Sweden, though...