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Cold Steel VG lock strength

Cliff Stamp

Oct 5, 1998
After reading the recent thread by Frank/Rage in which he described breaking several locks including the Axis and Rolling, I became interested in where the break points were on some of my folders and how difficult it would be to reach them. I chose the CS VG to use as a decent benchmark as while it is hardly high end, it was noted by Sal Glesser that the large CS lockbacks are among the strongest they have seen and can exceed Spyderco's current heavy duty standard.

I put the blade in a vice and with one hand on the vice I put my right on the handle, and pressed down lightly. Surprisingly the lock started to give right away and open up. I was actually only intending this part to give me an idea of how the stress would effect the lock. Increasing the force the lock gave way. I was not straining myself and had a couple of friends around who were very surprised to see the lock fail so easily. The vice was actually on a stool and I was keeping it stable with my left hand.

The end result was that one of the pins that keep the blade together (the second one from the top) bent about 45 degrees on both sides and the folder simply spread apart and unlocked. Fixing it was not overly difficult, I just straightened the pins and hammered the folder back together. It will not open and close fairly smoothly, including with a soft wrist flick.

I did some thrusts to estimate the amount of force I was using and it was about 150 +/- 25 lbs. I was pressing down on the handle about 5 +/- .5" from the pin. Note that since this break was not actually caused by a failure in the lock mechanism but a shearing of one of the pins in the handle, if the handle was clamped and force subjected it by a press, its strength rating would be much higher but unrealistic.

What does this mean in terms of a sensible standard for lock strength? Good question. Sal Glesser of Spyderco once noted that the 600 in.lbs region was out of the range of most of the current folders and yet what I applied above would have exceed that. As for practical use, the lock on the VG is easily strong enough to stand up to most cutting chores and I have even done light chopping with it. For survival type uses you could easily general such stresses using the folder to split wood or in prying. Sudden impacts could generate that level of force as well, for example hard thrusts into a dense targets or strikes from a stick or similar.


[This message has been edited by Cliff Stamp (edited 04-02-2000).]
I suppose that this shows that the safest knife around is still a fixed blade. Any lock, no matter how good can indeed fail. I treat any folding knife with a great deal of scepticism regarding the "lock". I have tried to instill this in our kids and hopefully they will never suffer a disatrous lock failure and lop off a finger or two.
No, the handle in the cold steel video PROOF is not clamped. Te blade is clamped then they hang weights off it. From memory they get to about 150 pounds. At this weight, you can see the handle bending down. wheter or not this is something breaking or just the blade sliding in the vise, i'm not sure. however, it looks like something is about to break.

All knives are created equal, then i get my dirty big hands on them and the real fun begins.
Will, CS testing methods apply the weight right at the end of the handle, this maximises the flex in the handle. Since the force is now off the perpendicular it gets split up into two parts. One part tries to extend the knife along its length and one part tries to snap it in half (generate a torque). The greater the angle flex the lower the torque will be on the blade.

When I applied the force as the handle bent I altered the direction of the applied force to keep it perpendicular so as to maximize the torque.

Been testifying to this ever since I gave away my CS Gunsite folder; nobody seemed to believe me and argued up and down that it was still "the best knife at it's pricepoint." Whatever. While I realize that Zytel-handled knives are supposed to be lightweight first and foremost, an underlying truth is that their (some of them, anyway) life expectancy as a utility knife is limited if one exerts pressure regularly on the pins or the zytel frame itself. The zytel on my Gunsite literally stretched around the pins; this in conjunction with the pins themselves bending as with the aforementioned Viquaro Grande made for a knife I was embarrased to give away to a friend. I did it anyway.

Why not spend another $25.00 to $40.00 and get something more reliable and with greater structural integrity? Or one which you can actually sharpen the serrations for that matter...

I guess knives like the Vaquero Grande and Gunsite folders have their place, but not for everyday utility as far as I've experienced.

Geez, could I sound a little more negative? Zytel must put me in a bad mood

[This message has been edited by Professor (edited 04-05-2000).]
Originally posted by Professor:
Why not spend another $25.00 to $40.00 and get something more reliable and with greater structural integrity? Or one which you can actually sharpen the serrations for that matter...

What would you suggest that is 25 bucks more than their line of folders? Here in Canada, CS seems to have the price factor in the palm of their hands.

Eric Chan, ekfchan@hotmail.com
ND student
Eric, I would try Outdoor Edge. If you are serious about looking towards one then bring up the subject in their forum and specifically ask about the possibly of handle failures like the above.

It occurs to me if you hang weights on the handle all the force is straight down. If you press down on it with your hand that probably isn't true; some side forces are likely and even a little side force could pull the pins a little out of their holes and make a lot more stress on the pins.

This is yet another example of how an experiment that appears more "scientific" and controlled can have less relevance to the real world. In the real world there are going to be side forces. Maybe the best test would be to put your weight on it and consciously sway back and forth to apply side force at the same time you're pressing down. I suspect any folding knife will fail under less weight if it's not applied straight down.

You could hang weights on the handle and hold a spring scale to the side of the handle and press on it to measure the side force as well as the downward force.

-Cougar :{)
Cougar :

Maybe the best test would be to put your weight on it and consciously sway back and forth to apply side force at the same time you're pressing down.

I was planning on doing this one handed before proceeding to a two handed full lean which I would have measured the force of more precisely. I takes surprisingly (to me) very little force to pop many folders apart. I was cutting hardwood with my Spyderco Calypso Jr. and leaning into it fairly heavily and noticed the handle seperating. I stopped then and took the blade in one hand (wrapped) and the grip in the other and by rotating my wrists popped it apart. I gave it away with a visual demonstration of why to the expectant owner the next day.

The only folder I currently carry is the SAK Rusksack and it is decently stable because the steel is so weak the blade gives out before the lock (laterally anyway, I have not looked at it straight up and down).

Are you planning on discussing this with Cold Steel and possibly getting a refund? I think we all know what the answer would be (NO. Because of abuse.) but it would be nice to have it on record. I own a factory second from them but am hesitant to buy anything else. I think it is hypocritical of them to brag about how tuff their knives are in "Proof" and then tell you that you void their warranty if you duplicate the tests. At least with a factory second you know you are getting a break in price in exchange for cosmetic defects and no warranty. They have some good designs and seem to have a knife for any conceivable situation. It's too bad that they don't hype their customer service as much as their product.

I knew going into this that what I would do would void the warrenty so a replacement is not an option. If CS has an email address (anyone?) then I would point them to this thread so they can comment on it.

Mike, why not get a CS forum on here anyway?

I have always had an issue with CS's warranty. If they're knives are so strong, why do they only have a 1 year warranty on folders. Most respectable knife co's have a lifetime warranty. Also, did anyone notice something missing from the 'Proof' video? I want to see other brands of knives failing the tests. For all I know, every production knife will pass those tests. Anyone??

"We are the musicmakers, and we are dreamers of dreams"

For all I know, every production knife will pass those tests. Anyone??

Cougar Allen has commented to this many times when someone offers proof of a blades ability. It is one of the reasons that blades should never be reviewed in isolation.

I think a knife like the Big Gunsite or grande Vaquero are last ditch self defense knives for which they serve their purpose well. But for heavy utility work, I would agree they are not that strong a knife.