Saturday, May 31, 2014

An In Depth Review of the Boker Magnum Slicer

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For a long time I've been listening to the keyboard experts who say 440A steel is terrible. I would look at the Boker Magnum line and say to myself, self, those are pretty good looking knives but you know that steel is going to be poor. You remember the Gerber Money Clip thing? It's going to be like a lawnmower blade and probably won't even work right out of the box. So one day I even e-mailed Boker and I said look, you've got these good looking knives in the Magnum line but is there really a segment of the market who just WON'T step up to a 30 or 40 dollar knife? I mean if the steel is as bad as they say and does match some of my experiences with cheap knives, who really wants this crap? Many times you can spend another 10 bucks and get a huge leap in quality. I have had a very positive experience with the Boker Plus line and would be all over some of these knives if they were moved up to the Plus line. They never replied.

To solidify my suspicions that we are dealing with failure disguised as a folding knife they come in these nifty little tins. Boker is thinking, this just ices the cake for some people - they are going to be wowed by that tin. Shorty thereafter they will be wondering why the tin cost 22 bones because the knife isn't worth a nickel. Me on the other hand, I see the fancy packaging as a red flag. It means the knife is so worthless that even at $22 they can afford to include something other than the knife that actually has some value. They had to wrap it in something useful so that it would get to the $22 price tag because before the tin, they were making money on a Hamilton. And so, I avoided Magnum by Boker and tried to put them out of my mind.

factory edge budget knives
Not razor sharp out of the box, but it cut. What's interesting is that it was obviously polished. The finish along the edge was polished away and I even found a bit of white compound. Seems like a waste of time when the knife still isn't sharp.
Then I was on youtube and there was a Boker Magnum review by the friend of all knife enthusiasts, Cutlerylover. Turns out, he didn't really hate it. It comes down to this; you can't know until you've tried it. There is all this hate, and lots of red flags warning us away from the Magnum stuff. So I said, I'll do a real test on this thing and I'll get a useful review out there for people to consider. In my mind, a knife can be cosmetically corrected and in the process personalized, but there is nothing I can, or want to do to poor steel. I don't even know if it is 440A or what it is. Another big red flag is that they are advertised as 440 Stainless Steel. Well, some of the Magnum lines are obviously re-badged Enlans or whatever other Chinese company that is OEM for all manner of knife brands. I wouldn't even be shocked if they are from various factories and hit or miss in the consistency department. But hey, it's not like I love every knife in the line and there are only 480 of them or something so I picked one I liked and one that was obviously made to appeal to knife buyers. Boker takes credit for having the widest line on Earth as if that isn't another red flag for consumers like myself. At any rate they are kind of saying, yeah this is some kind of steel more or less like 440 - pick your letter. Hell, you probably don't know what it means and don't care. And they are probably right on.

So I got the Boker Magnum Slicer. It's a stupid name like most of their other knives. But the point here is to get past the perceptions and find out if it is worth buying. Let's face it, it's a good looking knife. It is good looking because the silhouette is 100% ZT 0777. That knife is a US made and designed slicer that won best knife of the year or some other award that sounds important and certainly alludes to something awesome. Do I think it is a ripoff? Nah. Different lock mechanism, watered down design, obviously different materials. Not to mention that Microtech, another US company, felt it was perfectly legit to copy the 0777 almost exactly in every single aspect, and then charge even MORE money for it. Anyway, a rose by any other name still smells like old ladies.

zero tolerance 0777
Lock up is solid and where it should be.
Let's talk about first impressions. That part is easy and the Slicer came in at precisely where I had marked it on my expectations scale - rough in a few places, but functional. Opening and closing is smooth but stiff. Lock up is as good as any other budget blade at even twice the money or more and I love the feel of the detent as the blade is folded into the handles. There are some positive clicking noises that go on which I suspect other knife enthusiasts understand and appreciate. The blade hits the stop pin in a solid and positive fashion producing a pleasant folding knife melody. Blade centering is good to very good. The ergos are better than I expected and the Slicer feels good in hand. As a knife, it is perfectly functional and gets most of the important stuff right. For $22, this review can come to and end. It is a cheap, functioning blade with price-adequate fit and finish.

But everyone knows that more or less. You could have guessed it. The question is; is the steel terrible? Well let's get the qualifiers out of the way. This is just one example of the model, and one example from a very large line of blades that as I stated above, carry a daunting red flag count. However, I think the point I would like to raise is, we are beyond the industrial revolution. No doubt there is some fluctuation in quality control where these things are produced but at the end of the day I picture it being pretty well formulated. They know what they want to achieve with heat treating, it's done in batches, probably in a massive automated process, and they only made a gajillion of them this week. For them, the steel is a known quantity and consistency can't be all that difficult. And with that said, the blade performed well beyond my expectations. Let's get into details.

boker magnum in depth review
Rough spots aren't hard to find. This will take some work to grind out but it's nothing major. None of it is major in fact, and while I expected problems, none of them diminish function.

budget EDC blades
Blade centering is above expectations. Nothing to complain about here and as I said earlier, the blade closes as nicely as it locks open. The detent is great and the blade is correctly fitted to the stop pin in both open and closed positions.

The most glaring cosmetic flaw is this air-ball screw hole. The screw head is jacked up as well and while I thought I would like the G10, I don't. The handle scales are set for replacement.

 What is with this pocket clip anyway? It's ugly and bizarrely shaped. The handles are very comfortable except for where you have to touch this monstrosity. That's got to go. It's springy and I hate it. There, I said it.

pilar construction budget blade
 I hate it so much we're going to talk about it some more. The profile is odd and it must be 7 or 8 inches long. I just don't get it. It sits on one of the scallops so there is daylight under it where it attaches. Any other pocket clip on Earth would have been better. Also, you see that hole in the liner? Well you know they do that to lighten the knife and we get one on each side, so there. This knife isn't light and it isn't slim, so if that's what you're looking for - not here.

Oh, you know how I hate marred screw heads. It's just sloppy work and the hardware itself is probably crap. I do like the thumb studs though. I like how they are simplistic and straight to the point. This screw can be cleaned up.

Now, get to the good stuff. You're telling me you wanted to test the steel so let's see it already. Damn! I pointed out earlier that the blade was kinda sharp - nothing amazing. So I went and cut up a bunch of cardboard to see how things would go. I did nothing to the edge. My picture does not do justice to the cutting I did or the size of that pile and what's under it. I probably made 100 cuts in some tag board type stuff and straight up cardboard. I got lots of smears allover the blade but it cut like a champ. It really is a nice slicer. It's not bar setting, but the blade shape and hollow grind want to slice.
edge retention testing bker magnum
My plan was to cut until the blade dulled. I got bored trying. I tested the edge and thought, this damn thing is still as sharp as when I took it out of the box. I know what you're thinking - lame ass test.

boker magnum
I thought so too. So I took this stick and planned to whittle it until the blade dulled. I got bored trying. This is just a handful of the shavings I could gather up. This is very dry, very thoroughly seasoned Silver Maple. It's not the hardest wood in history, but the moisture content in this stick = 0. I whittled it in half, pushed in a few cuts then twisted to get splitting action, whatever. The knife was just as sharp as it was out of the box when I finished.
 The last handful of cuts, and did I mention that it never was real sharp? OK so that just means it's hard as hell, you can't sharpen it.

Wrong, I sharpened it with ease using my highly sophisticated equipment; some cheap two sided stone that isn't even flat and a tiny Lansky (I think) Arkansas stone. For fun I stropped it with an untreated, high-end leather strop, or in other words, an old worn out belt someone gave me. It will shave hair off a gnat's ass. The only way it could get any sharper is to correct the edge geometry then properly polish it. And check the blade coating in the next images after sharpening and cleaning. Not bad.
edge taking sharpening ease

Soooooo? I'll be honest, I expected to roll the edge in the wood or chip it. I expected that at the very least it would lose a fair amount of edge after just this amount of cutting. I thought I was going to take my pile of cardboard and defeat this knife in a fairly short amount of time. I was cutting and ripping through cardboard fast enough that the blade was warm. When I got this far I asked myself, why should it be able to do more than this? I had lost zero cutting ability and completed far more cutting than I would for any reason in a typical day. If fit and finish is going to bug you, then the Magnum line probably isn't for you. I would expect issues in that regard throughout. But the steel, it is perfectly good. I am confident that I could skin a deer with this knife, or perform any other pocket knife task, without resharpening . The pocket clip sucks, thems just the facts. But, I have concluded that it is worthy of my standards for value and so the plan is to rip it all apart, replace pretty much everything and have a good time doing it. That will come in a future update. Thanks for reading.