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Review Carothers Performance Knives Behemoth Chopper Review

Discussion in 'Knife Reviews & Testing' started by abbydaddy, Oct 2, 2018.

  1. abbydaddy

    abbydaddy Gold Member Gold Member

    Oct 14, 2014
    As per usual, this review is essentially identical to the one on my personal blog. The only difference is that there are more functioning links in the original on my blog (if you want, you can view the original here), but since the idea is not to use BladeForums as a way to get people to go to my own site I try to make sure that everything important is available here.


    The Carothers Performance Knives Behemoth Chopper. It is a Behemoth. Big enough that even my hand doesn't ruin the visual scale.

    Today’s knife review is a fun one for me. I was fortunate enough to manage to finagle an opportunity to review a Carothers Performance Knives Behemoth Chopper (BC from here on out). It was a lot of fun, and it definitely made me sad to send the BC on to its permanent home when I had finished my two weeks with it. The BC is a very large and quite expensive knife. The BC was the most expensive knife I have ever gotten to handle coming in at right around the $700 mark with the sheath, handle options, and shipping as tested. I simply couldn’t afford to keep the knife at this time in my life, but I wanted to. On that note, I’ll go ahead and put the TL;DR right up front.

    The TL;DR review summary:
    The Behemoth Chopper is a big expensive knife. In terms of practical functionality, it might be hard to justify the cost over the cost of a simple machete, but I’ve never used a machete that was so fun. This is a fun knife. The ergonomics and just the way it feels in your hand are outstanding. If you can afford to spend the money on a fun chopper, I don’t think you will be disappointed.

    The knife is made by Carothers Performance Knives, which is headed by Nathan Carothers (and his wife Jo). Nathan Carothers is a very experienced machinist, with a vast materials knowledge, as well as a truly impressive capability at using CNC machining. He is also very willing to share his knowledge, I have learned a lot over the few years paying attention to Carothers (Here is a BladeForums thread of people asking Nathan questions and him answering, it is educational and up to 93 pages long as of the writing of this post). CPK is an exciting brand to pay attention to, but at the current time demand is far exceeding their production capability which makes it hard to get a lot of CPK knives. Sales for many of the models literally sell out in under 5 seconds, which means that buying a CPK knife can be tricky and leave you with no option but heading to the secondary market where prices can vary. However, CPK has been working hard at upping their production capacity, and recently they have had a few sales that lasted for multiple minutes. That might not seem like much, but it is a good sign for people wanting to get their hands on one of these knives.

    The knife was designed in cooperation with Lorien Arnold, a talented knife designer from British Columbia, Canada. Lorien cooperates with numerous knife makers, but has been partnering extensively with CPK recently. Sadly, I can't afford the custom knives he designs, but I am a fan nonetheless.

    The Carothers/Arnold collaboration has been a very interesting one to watch. I have previously reviewed the Medium Chopper, Light Chopper, and Heavy Duty Field Knife from this partnership.

    A family photo. Top to bottom: Behemoth Chopper, Medium Chopper, Light Chopper

    Let's Start With the Specs:
    Delta 3V, 60.5 HRC, .250 thick at ricasso (1/4")
    Total length 17.75"
    Blade length 12.0"
    Weight 24.5 oz
    Edge angle 20 DPS
    .035" BTE with additional meat towards the tip.
    Grippy 3D machined scales in micarta or TeroTuf
    Black oxide treated 18-8 stainless steel fasteners
    Hidden lanyard hole

    The Behemoth Chopper name seems appropriate considering that A) it is a really big knife, and B) it is too long to meet the Blade Sports competition chopper limits.

    The handle of the BC I reviewed is made of unbuffed olive drab (OD) canvas micarta. Micarta is made by layering textiles (canvas, linen, or paper usually) with phenolic resin and compressing them. The unbuffed micarta is less shiny and grippier. As I have written in numerous other reviews, I really like micartas in general, and canvas micarta is one of my favorite high performing handle materials. To me, micarta feels warm in the hand, like wood, and even though it is actually a very hard material, it somehow feels soft in my hand (at least when shaped well). But one of my favorite things about an unsealed canvas micarta, is that the tiny bit of exposed textile ends actually make micarta grippier when wet. Not a ton grippier (after all most of the resin soaked textile is impermiable), it is just the very surface that is affected, but it is a nice feature. From a materials perspective, as a user, unbuffed canvas micarta is hard to beat in my book; however, if I had been choosing a handle material for myself, I would have gone with Ebonite (as on the Medium Chopper I recently reviewed). But Ebonite does certainly have tradeoffs in terms of durability, and micarta is always an excellent option.

    The blade material on this knife is CPK's proprietary heat treat of CPM 3V, known as Delta 3V (D3V). CPM 3V is a particle super steel, it is made with science magic. I'm not going to try to explain all the specifics because I am not a metallurgist and blade steel is a surprisingly complicated topic. There is no one perfect steel for every knife. Each steel type has its own set of properties, and the choice of which properties are important to a knife is a key decision for knife makers. Additionally, the properties of various steels are affected by heat treatment (the ways that the metal is heated and cooled to control hardness) and heat treatment can even affect the crystalline structure of the steel and the ways that the compounds in the steel combine. So for the purposes of my reviews, science magic.

    That said, I think it is worthwhile to discuss the characteristics of CPM 3V a little. CPM 3V is not a stainless steel, though it does contain 7.5% chromium, which provides more stain resistance than one might expect from a carbon steel. In terms of edge holding properties at the hardness used for most knives, CPM 3V is very comparable to CPM S35VN (which is the stainless particle steel the Difensa is made of). The biggest difference between 3V and S35VN (besides rust resistance) is toughness. 3V is roughly 3 times as impact resistant as S35VN. It is a very tough steel, appropriate for a knife intended for rough applications. CPM 3V is very, very tough, not stainless, and holds an edge well.

    D3V is really an exceptional heat treat of an already outstanding steel. Nathan Carothers (AKA Nathan The Machinist on BladeForums) developed his proprietary heat treat of 3V that provides a pretty unbeatable combination of hardness, toughness, lateral strength, resilience, edge retention, and as an added bonus the heat treat leaves a higher percentage of free chromium in the steel matrix which makes D3V almost-but-not-quite-stainless. Standard 3V is an excellent steel, D3V elevates that steel to a level that is unmatched in my experience for a heavy use knife (Busse knives uses a proprietary steel called INFI which is generally considered the industry standard for heavy use knives, but I have never used an INFI knife myself).

    A Note on the Sheath:
    Behemoth Chopper with the Mashed Cat Kydex Sheath

    This knife was reviewed with the drop loop kydex sheath produced by Mashed Cat. The seath was quite excellent. The drop loop placed the knife at a good height. The retention was secure, but not too hard to extract the knife from. All in all, it was an excellent sheath option. Out of the CPK knives that I have reviewed, this knife had the best standard sheath in my opinion. I would not feel compelled to buy a different sheath or aftermarket belt loop. I still prefer leather in terms of appearance, but for practical purposes, I don’t know that you could improve much on the Mashed Cat sheath.
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2018
    Daniel L, Standard78, Odog27 and 2 others like this.
  2. abbydaddy

    abbydaddy Gold Member Gold Member

    Oct 14, 2014
    What else can I say about this steel? In the past I have simply referred to CPM (Crucible Particle Metallurgy) steels "science magic steels." The steel is literally made by turning the molten metal into powder and squishing it back together (if you want more info you can find it here). I would call D3V an enhanced science magic steel. The CPM magic is enhanced with Nathan Carothers' metallurgical knowledge and experimentation. I have a hard time imagining a better metal for this knife.

    I have used a number of knives with D3V steel at this point, and the material has proven to be frankly unmatched in my experience. For certain uses I would still prefer a truly stainless steel, but I have had zero trouble with rust or corrosion on my LC over the past year. For a high impact, rough use steel, D3V just flat out performs. My LC has (accidentally) gone through a few nails over the past year, and has seen many hours of work. The edge could still be mostly brought back to shaving sharpness with just a butcher's steel.

    Blade Finish:
    The blade finish on this knife was stone washed. Stone wash is one of my favorite finishes for a knife intended for actual use. If you are tactically minded, then the relatively low reflectivity of the finish might be a selling point, but this isn’t a tactical knife, and I am not someone who has ever needed to use a knife “tactically.” I like stone wash because it maintains better stain resistance than a bead-blasted finish, and it hides scratches from use better than any other finish I of which I am aware. I also like that, unlike most blade coatings, stone wash does not negatively impact friction coefficient. Stone wash is attractive, low maintenance, and practical for a knife intended for real use.

    The blade is large and heavy, but not awkward or unbalanced. The knife really feels RIGHT in the hand, and a lot of that comes down to a blade that feels appropriate to the handle and purpose of the knife. The balance is far enough back toward the handle that the knife feels very controllable and fast, while still providing the oomph for hard deep cuts.

    The handle on the Behemoth Chopper is almost identical to the handle on the Medium Chopper. In fact, the handle scales for the MC and BC are apparently interchangeable. As I stated in the MC review, the redesigned handles are fantastic. After getting my LC more than a year ago I honestly didn’t think the handle could be significantly improved upon, but this current generation Carothers handle is a clear improvement. What is more, when this handle shape is paired with the BC, the handle feels like it has been paired with an ideal match. I found the BC to feel more RIGHT to me than the MC did. But that is a purely subjective evaluation.

    Fit and Finish:
    As with every CPK knife I have ever held or observed in person, the fit and finish was second-to-none. CPK uses more extensive CNC milling and programmed manufacturing techniques than most knife makers, and the result is a precision that meets the kind of robotic flawlessness that one would imagine comes from such an approach. As I have learned over the years, even very competent machinists using computer drafting methods and CNC milling have a hard time actually producing knives that feel flawless. Nathan has a great deal of experience and expertise as a machinist, and it really shows in the products that CPK sells.
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2018
  3. abbydaddy

    abbydaddy Gold Member Gold Member

    Oct 14, 2014
    Use Review:
    That picture is not a trick. The BC bit hard enough to actually start a real split in the round and break open the bark. It really bites deep and hard. I was not able to actually split a round, but it felt tantalizingly close to doable.

    When I started using the BC for my review, I quickly realized that comparing it to the LC and the MC was not really the correct approach. The BC is both more capable as a chopper, and less convenient to carry on my belt. The LC and MC are really well suited for keeping on the belt during a day of constant movement and hiking. They are capable choppers for being so relatively compact and they don’t drag down my pants. As a big guy with a torso that certainly has a rather ovate geometry, I really have a hard time with knives that pull down my pants more than they already want to fall down. The BC pulled my pants down a lot more than the LC or BC. The BC is also far more effective as a chopper. The BC is really more comparable for my brush clearing work to a full-size machete. So, for the work comparison, I used my trusty old Corona machete.

    My friend took a few swings with the BC as well. He also found it a formidable chopper.

    The BC and my old Corona machete.

    For most of the lighter work, the Corona machete was very comparable in performance. I didn’t try chopping down a tree with the machete, but I used the Corona right alongside the BC for most tasks. Now I have had my old Corona for well over a decade, and I have used it a lot (though I have also gone through other machetes during that time). Back when I supported myself full time with landscaping one of my clients used to call me “Machete Man” because I used it for so many purposes. I have read that more recent Coronas are perhaps not as good as the older ones, but mine has been extremely reliable, and it cost about 1/35th as much as the BC.

    It is quite easy to really bury a lot of the blade into a block with a regular chop.

    The machete also bites deep.

    If you are looking for pure practicality, it is hard to beat the cost effectiveness of a decent machete. That said, the machete is even more awkward to carry on a belt all day, the handle is not nearly as nice as the BC, and the BC really powers through heavier material better than the Corona. Also worth mentioning, the Corona came from the store as dull as a butterknife. If you can’t sharpen your own tools, you are never going to get really good performance out of your machete, and even if you can sharpen well, you are going to need to sharpen far more often with a normal machete, and the blade is not nearly as tough. I have certainly destroyed other machetes, and the Corona is still around because it has been my reserve as I went through other slightly fancier machetes. So there are definitely clear reasons to opt for a BC if you have the money. A standard machete is a lot cheaper, and the performance is fairly comparable, but the BC is far more robust, the materials are almost incomparable, and the ergonomics are more pleasant with the BC. Also, the BC is just a ton of fun.

    In terms of practical use, the BC really impressed me when I was cutting back hazels (hazelnut bush/trees throw off many stems and can form one plant thickets). The BC had the tip speed to handle soft plants and thin shoots, but it also had the weight and mass to power through thicker hazels and let me bust out old dry hazels. The BC was also more effective for uses like chopping down trees, but I usually just use an axe for trees, so that isn’t really a fair or practical comparison in my mind. If you want to cut down a tree with a knife, then the BC is certainly your huckleberry, but for practical tasks I think the BC really shines with the medium thickness work.

    The BC really shone in the Hazels. Not only was I able to cut cleanly through some pretty substantial green wood, I also found the BC ideal for busting out dry dead wood.

    I always have to do at least a little food prep. I didn't do a ton of cooking with the BC, but it worked fine for such a big knife. At 12 inches, the blade is awfully big for food prep, but it gets the job done pretty well for such a big knife.

    As I did with the MC, I chopped down a few trees with the BC. The first tree was so small and so quickly cut down that I decided to try a bigger tree than I would normally chop with a knife. As you can see on the second video, I got totally gassed and my cuts really suffered toward the end, but it was a pretty substantial tree.

    The BC made short work of the little tree.

    Yeah, that one got me tired. I think I will stick to axes for trees thicker than 6 inches.

    For pure practicality, the BC can be hard to justify. But let’s be honest, if you are considering the BC you are not looking for the most cost-effective brush clearing tool, you are looking for an indestructible piece of material and machining art that is a joy to use. The Carothers Performance Knives Behemoth Chopper is absolutely fun to use. It cuts very well on all manner of materials. The robust geometry is acute enough to be very effective at slicing while steel providing enough beef to be absolutely rugged.

    For my work needs, the BC is not what I would want to have on my belt all the time, but if I hadn’t committed to selling the BC ahead of time I would have had a very hard time parting with it even though I really couldn’t afford to keep it. I did not want to let go of the Behemoth. It was too fun. And I think that is my takeaway from this review. At close to $700, the BC is a very expensive luxury item, but it is a luxury I wish I got to keep.

    Saw this little gopher snake, and I thought it was a good photo op. See you next review.
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2018
  4. Revolverrodger

    Revolverrodger Gold Member Gold Member

    Jul 23, 2007
    The problem with thin machetes is that they often bind while chopping in hard wood
    It makes them much less useful that way
  5. abbydaddy

    abbydaddy Gold Member Gold Member

    Oct 14, 2014
    That is very true. And trying to free a thin machete from a bind is a lot more likely to ruin the blade than a BC.

    But for myself, I don't typically use a chopper to go through thick wood. I'm more likely to use an axe or saw. So my focus tends to be on thinner wood and softer vegetation when I am considering use for a chopper. Obviously, that is a matter of personal habit and use pattern.
    Revolverrodger likes this.
  6. Darkpast

    Darkpast Gold Member Gold Member

    May 5, 2013
    Great review. Review like this one helps me form an opinion and make s final decision on purchasing any product. Thank you very much. Keep them coming.
    abbydaddy likes this.
  7. Cobalt

    Cobalt Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 23, 1998
    Excellent review.
    abbydaddy likes this.
  8. duramax

    duramax KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Nov 29, 2012
    Well done, nice review :)
    abbydaddy likes this.

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