Darrel Ralph Apogee Review (long!)

Mar 25, 1999
The Darrel Ralph Apogee. The apogee is the highest point attainable in an orbit around the Earth. This Apogee instantaneously rocketed to the top of my collection.

Initially, I'd like to cover some background behind the maker. It's often been said that when you purchase a custom knife, you are inheriting a small bit of the maker's soul, in the form of the sweat and skill needed to produce a work of art. In the same manner, you are also fostering a relationship, from purchaser to maker, and the knife is the embodiment of that trust where the knife is expected to perform to the level of its design.

As such, it is of great importance that the knifemaker stand behind his work. In addition, the knifemaker is often more knowledgeable than the consumer, and therefore may be in the best position to provide advice and helpful observation on the selection and maintenance of a knife.

Darrel Ralph is one of these knifemakers. From individually e-mailing me as to the suitability of modifications I wished to have done on my Apogee, to moderating an internet knifemaking forum, to posting on rec.knives before Knifeforums and Bladeforums ever existed, Darrel has been deeply involved in the education of his customers. More importantly, after doing a comprehensive search on these three mediums, I have yet to find a single complaint regarding Darrel's character or workmanship. 100% customer satisfaction is very rare these days, especially considering that disgruntled people are inevitably more vocal than satisfied ones. Here's the concluding line in Darrel's e-mail:

"I am really proud that this is your first custom. I hope you enjoy it."

To me, Darrel's forte appears to be high-end art knives, utilizing custom Damascus steel, inlaying, engraving, filework, and many artistic touches not normally necessary in a working knife. However, Darrel has recently produced two series of knives designed to be used, and used hard. The first is the Krait, which was released in late 1997. Reviews may be found by doing searches in Bladeforums, Knifeforums, and rec.knives using the DejaNews search engine. Additional pictures may be viewed at these URLs:


The second, and the topic of this article, is the Apogee, which was released earlier this year. Currently, the only pictures I have found are located here on Darrel's web page:


As a former materials engineer, Darrel has selected the materials, and designs of the above knives in very subtle ways, to produce the best knife he feels is possible.

Enough about Darrel. Onto the knife.

Stats on the Apogee, as measured by me:

Handle length: 5 1/4"
Blade length (tip to hilt): 3 13/16"
Overall length: 9"
Overall width (closed): 1 3/16"
Handle thickness w/o clip: 3/8"
Handle thickness w/ clip: 9/16"
Blade thickness (small model): Approx. 0.100"
Blade thickness (large/x-large): Approx. 0.120"
Weight: 130 g, 4.55 oz
Clip Orientation: Pivot mounted, tip down
Blade Grind: Full flat grind, with recurve
Steel: CPM 420V, Rc 56-58
Handle Material: 6Al 4V Titanium
Locking Mechanism: Integral Lock


Darrel makes the Apogee in three sizes. I've named these as the small, large, and x-large versions.

Size Blade length Price
Small 3.17" $375
Large 3.9" $450
x-Large 4.25" $500

Let there be no mistakes or mis-interpretations. I don't have any previous experience in evaluating custom knives. This large Apogee is my first custom knife, amid a score of production Benchmades, Spydercos, and Gerbers. This knife is my reward after achieving a personal goal I've been striving towards for the past several years. However, in a more pragmatic way, it's also the personal acknowledgement that my fingers are worth more than the puny sum of a few hundred dollars. Of the twelve production knives from the above companies, I've defeated the locks on four models. This includes both liner-lock and lockback knives, using the Talmadge/Barr Lock tests, in addition to inserting the knife into a solid piece of cardboard and torquing the handle foos-ball style.

I have grown to distrust the locks on my folders, and treat the lock as if the likelihood of failure is 100%. I never put unsupported pressure on the spine and treat the lock-knife as if it were a slip-joint folder. Yes, manufacturers will give you a refund or repair the knife upon accusation of lock failure, but a nasty cut entails lost time at work or school, as well as the possibility of permanent nerve damage. That can never be fully refunded.

The 1/8" thick integral lock on Darrel's Apogee has about three-quarters the width, or approximately 3/32" of the lock bar engaging the tang. Once the lock-bar wears further so that it moves another 1/32" to the right, the entire 1/8" thickness of the lock-bar will be seated against the blade tang. I will say that visually, I'd prefer it if the lock-bar had this additional travel. However, I have little doubt about the strength of the lock, and I believe the main factor in the lock's reliability to be the angle of engagement between the lock-bar and the tang. Here, I must trust Darrel's skill. I've not heard any complaints from other Darrel Ralph knifeowners on the Internet, so Darrel looks like he's got the locking mechanism down.

The integral lock improves on both the strength, and the reliability of the lock engagement. The tension on the 1/8" thick locking bar is approximately the same on this knife versus my AFCK liner-lock. Like the AFCK, the lock-bar seems to "stick" against the blade tang, which makes the lock significantly more difficult to disengage. However, by the very nature of the 1/8" thick locking bar, there is substantially more lock-bar surface area contacting the blade tang in the Apogee model. Apparently, titanium has the property of galling against a dissimilar metal, such as the stainless steel in the blade tang.. While this is an excellent feature in use, as it minimizes the possibility of accidental lock release, it also entails additional caution at the beginning of ownership. A person unaccustomed to the stickiness of the integral lock may use more force, not only in trying to release the lock-bar, but also in closing the blade. When unlocking the knife, at the point where the lock gives, and disengages, the blade will close rapidly under finger pressure, and potentially lead to a cut. This is the one disadvantage of the integral lock, in my opinion. The fingers must still be in the path of the blade arc in order to unlock the knife.

The two current locks on the market that do not exhibit the above flaw are REKAT's Rolling Lock, and the Benchmade Axis Lock, and may soon be joined by EDI's Rock Lock. However, in contrast to the aforementioned locks, the integral lock is impressively simple in design, requiring no additional springs or levers. The fact that the integral lock is constructed simply from the two handle slabs means that there are no nooks and crannies where dirt or food debris can collect. This "self-cleaning" trait is further manifested in the use of a single post at the rear, instead of a spacer, as are found in Benchmade's liner-lock knives. By using a post, there is no backing on the inside of the knife to collect lint, and other pocket chaff. The tradeoff is that the open back easily admits the entry of coins, which may scratch or dull the blade. Put your spare change in the non-knife pocket.

This adds up to a knife that is simple on function, and by design is very difficult to get dirty. Should any lint or dirt accumulate, the knife's open design facilitates easy clean up. It should be noted here that most other knife locks are very finicky around dirt. My lockbacks and liner-locks often become unreliable when dirty. The knife is assembled using one size Torx screws for the clip, and another size Torx screw for the pivot, stop pin, and rear posts, should you need to disassemble the knife for cleaning.

The rear post, and the stop pin both have a diameter of 1/4". These are constructed of 174-ph stainless steel, hardened to Rc 46. The blade tang has a semi-circular cutout which mates with the stop pin, so the force exerted on the stop pin by the blade is spread out to a larger load-bearing surface. As I have not disassembled this knife, I cannot confirm whether the ends of these posts are actually embedded into the titanium handles. However, the handles are solidly and rigidly secure. A common complaint with the Benchmade AFCK is the blade rubbing against the left liner (the liner with the lock-bar). I believe this is caused by the misalignment of the handle scales, which is facilitated by the use of a low number of small-diameter screws to hold the knife together. The common fix for this blade mis-alignment is to close the blade, and simply flex the center of the handle to the right. A second method of fixing the mis-alignment is by opening the blade, and, while holding the handle in one hand, and the blade in the other, flexing the blade sideways as if mimicking prying with the knife.

Conversely, an aligned AFCK blade may be brought into mis-alignment using the second method above. Take a centered AFCK, open it, and flex the blade sideways. Upon closing the AFCK blade, the once centered blade will now rub against the liner. However, when the Apogee blade is opened, and the handle/blade junction is flexed using the second method, by hand pressure only, the blade remains centered in the handle when closed. Darrel's posts are that strong, which reduces or perhaps even eliminates handle mis-alignment.

The only tradeoff against this rigidity is a small sacrifice in the blade : handle ratio. The blade is 3 13/16" while the handle is 5 1/4" inch to allow for a good overlap between the blade and handle at the pivot.

The Apogee was subjected to the battery of Talmadge/Barr tests, and easily passed them all. This includes fast and whippy spine-whacks, and other harder spine whacks, to simulate possible events in an emergency defensive position. To get an idea of the force used, all the whacks were delivered to either my unpadded knees, or the flat of my elbow. I then inserted the knife blade into cardboard, and attempted to unlock the knife by torquing foos-ball style. The Apogee easily passed this test, which my AFCK fails, as long as only one layer of cardboard was used. When one layer of cardboard was used, the blade would actually rotate through the cut, gouging a semi-circular cutout in the cardboard. Once the thickness of the cardboard was doubled and tripled, the cardboard thickness resisted the blade's rotation, which meant that the torquing force I applied was being directed against the handle and the lock-bar.

The bottom of the Apogee's lock-bar is actually about 1/8" lower than the bottom of the opposite scale. This facilitates the thumb entering to unlock the knife. However, it also means that a substantial amount of the index finger's pressure is directed to the protruding bottom of the lock bar. Normally, this is fine, as the pressure of the index finger actually serves to reinforce the knife's lock-up. However, during the above torquing test, the index finger is no longer pressing in such a vector as to hold the lock-bar closed. In fact, the index finger is trying to force the lock to open, and the only forces resisting this are the lockbar's tension, and the galling friction between the blade tang and lock-bar. These forces are insufficient to keep the knife locked open.

I'm now going to arbitrarily name three joints in the index finger. The joint furthest away from the palm of your hand I'll name the distal joint. The next joint inwards I'll name the medial joint, and the joint connecting our index finger to the palm of your hand I'll name the proximal joint.

In normal cutting, my forward grip has the Apogee's lockbar nestled in the index finger between the distal, and medial joints. Here, torquing in cardboard to close the knife is fairly difficult. In comparison, when the lockbar is cradled between the distal joint and the tip of my finger (rare I grant you), the knife is slightly easier to torque unlocked. When the lockbar is placed on the index finger between the medial and proximal joints, unlocking is nearly a given if any torquing pressure is applied. I believe it's possible to come across any of these three grips if the knife is grabbed suddenly, although in actual utility use, I never deviate from the first grip. I'll mention here that my hands are fairly small. My right hand, when fully spread on a standard PC keyboard touches the following keys:

Thumb: Z
Index Finger: F4
Middle Finger: F6
Ring Finger: F8
Pinky Finger: [

Then the adjustment of the pivot was checked after jamming the integral lock open using a small piece of folded paper lodged between the handle slabs. The blade was checked for play at all points along the opening arc, as well as in the open position. No vertical play was present in the open and locked position. There was a very slight, barely discernible lateral play both along the opening arc, and in the open position. Tightening of the pivot screw did not seem to help. I notified Darrel, and was told to send the knife back with him paying shipping ways. Given that I've not heard of any other complaints regarding blade play in a Darrel Ralph knife, I conclude this was just a freak occurrence. Great customer service and support.

The paper was removed, and the knife checked for blade play in the closed position. The blade can be easily pushed to the left lock-bar side of the handle, whereupon it springs back to center, but the blade cannot be pushed over to the right. The Apogee uses a 1/4" diameter pivot pin of 174-ph stainless steel. The blade rotates on its washers very smoothly; when the lock-bar was jammed open, the knife opened and closed using gravity only. The action is easily the smoothest compared to any of my production knives that I've personally tweaked, lubed and polished. The washer material is Nylatron GS, and 6-6 nylon, which in Darrel's opinion is the toughest and slickest nylon available for this application. The Nylatron GS will wear less than phosphorous bronze washers, and hence need adjustment less frequently.

Wow! So, what else do you get for spending the additional $350 above a Benchmade AFCK? Well, the answer is very simple. You gain the ability to carry around a 3.9" folder without setting off a string of 911 calls because "there's a crazy lunatic on the loose." I believe that carrying around an art knife that is capable of hard use as being much like a "wolf in sheep's clothing." Consider Darrel's skillful artwork as a form of tactical camouflage. Much like a pink Delica, only far more elegant and pleasing to the eye. To me, that's worth a serious amount of money right there.

Many people on this forum, myself included, carry more than one knife. The rationale is that the innocuous gentleman's scalpel is used in the public domain, with the harder-use knife discreetly tucked away. But what about a situation where a LEO or other official with the power to mess up your life discovers you are toting multiple knives? In the urban public's eyes, a person carrying a knife is a rarity. A person carrying multiple knives is a definite loony. Who knows if the judge or jury will see it that way too? The $350 you save carrying an AFCK and a Calypso Jr. may be more than negated once the cop doesn't buy your argument and asks you to kindly "come with me please."

Therefore, why not carry a single knife with the edge geometry to cut like a scalpel, backed with the metallurgy and handle design to be used for hard work? More of that later. What about the ergonomics?

Past the lock, my next priority is the handle. Darrel has constructed the Apogee out of 1/8" thick 6Al 4V titanium slabs. When looking at Darrel's picture of the Apogee underside, it's apparent that there is contouring at the index and pinky regions of the handle. In addition to allowing easy indexing of the ambidextrous thumb studs, these contours form a palm swell that nestles the knife deep into the hand. Darrel has informed me via e-mail that all three sizes of the new Apogees will have the contouring relief all the way around the bottom of the handle, instead of just at the index and pinky regions.

There are also multiple grooves in the flats of both handle slabs. These grooves and the bead-blasted finish underneath the anodizing increase the grippability of the knife. The grooves are shallow and the corners of the grooves are beveled to prevent any edges from digging slightly into the fingers and palm. There are ridges fileworked along the top of both the blade spine and knife handle to act as thumb grooves. This filework is very gentle, spread out, and rounded, as opposed to the sharp, tightly spaced thumb ridges found in the AFCK series. I like the increase in comfort over the AFCK-style thumb grooves, however, the AFCK grooves do seem to offer a bit more friction by sacrificing thumb friendliness.

Holds in the forward hammer grip were secure. The forward saber grip with the thumb on top of the blade was similarly good, although the edge of the clip does dig slightly into the index finger. This problem seems to be a necessary evil in that the protruding clip of a modern knife is going to be an ergonomic liability. However, Darrel has a concept clip in the works with should make the clip a lot less obtrusive in the hand. The knife handle is slightly too long for my short hands to nestle the knife butt into the palm of my hand. I found the reverse (icepick) grip with the thumb capping the rounded pommel to be very strong. In these grip however, your fingers can notice that the inside corners of the handle scales have not been broken. The grippability of the knife stayed high when the handle was splashed with tap water.

The index cutout and the traction grooves machined into the lock bar and the forward "bolster" region of the handle increased the security of the forward grips substantially. A choke-up grip is easily possible with the middle finger resting in the index cut-out, the index finger in the grooved "bolster" area, and the thumb on top of the blade spine. Darrel has thoughtfully extended the filework on the blade spine far enough that the thumb still finds purchase even in the choke-up grip.

As a utility knife with the handle ergonomics to double as a fighter, I wish there was a pointed pommel, so that the closed knife could be more effectively used as a striking weapon, to allow the escalation of force. The new Apogees have an increased relief in the pinky region, which should aid the pommel strikes. Since the Apogee has a handle length of over 5", there is a useful amount of pommel protruding from the back of my hand. IMHO, cutting a person in self-defense should really be a last resort. The knife with a combined handle and blade width of "1 3/16" closed can be carried inside a closed fist, for strikes analogous to using a kubotan. This width is about the maximum for me; any wider, and my fists don't feel securely closed.

Now, we move into the raison d'être of a knife, its blade. It is often the quality of the blade that leads a knife knut to classify one knife as a "high performance matter separator", and another as "that knife that don't cut good."

The Apogee is constructed of Crucible CPM 420V steel, heat treated personally by Darrel to Rc 56-58. Here's some more information on the making of CPM steel, in addition to spec sheets on CPM 420V as found on Cliff Stamp's web-site.


My interpretation is that CPM steel is essentially a soup: an iron broth with a mixture of other elements. The quantity, and selection of these elements determines the steel's characteristics, but, like emptying a shaker of salt into a cup of water, there is a finite quantity of other elements that can be added before they precipitate out of the iron solvent. Crucible Particle Metal technology makes it possible to vastly increase the quantities of elements that can be integrated into the iron/other element soup. Therefore, ratios of elements can be attained using CPM that cannot be otherwise obtained making steel in the traditional manner.

What really counts is whether CPM 420V is measurably better than the current line of stainless steels in whatever properties you feel are most important. For me, this is edge retention. The magic trinity of blade properties are usually toughness, corrosion resistance, and wear resistance or edge retention (either via hardness, or hard, embedded carbides in the iron matrix). You can gain any two of the above with the proper steel selection by compromising the third. For me, edge retention is vastly more important than toughness or corrosion resistance. A folder this expensive is not going to be used as an impromptu screwdriver / pry-bar nor will it be left outside in the rain. However, as edge retention is directly measured in terms of "cutting ability", and cutting ability is directly intertwined with edge geometry, I must first describe the Apogee blade before presenting the cutting test results.

The Apogee blade is fully flat-ground to the spine, which I feel is the best compromise for a tough, working folder that still strongly values cutting ability. On Tim Flanagan's model, you can see a very slight swedge ground into the top of the blade. I asked Darrel to flat grind my knife to avoid this swedge. Swedges are usually used to lighten the blade, or increase the piercing ability of the tip. I'm not convinced that a small swedge helps fulfill either of the above criteria, and to my eyes makes the knife look just a bit meaner and less pedestrian. Out it went.

I do wish the knife had been flat-ground more to thin the blade a bit further. My test for edge geometry is to pinch my index and middle fingertip together, and then to attempt to slide the knife edge between my finger tips. A thick blade behind the edge presents a considerable amount of resistance, much like someone is trying to slide a piece of wire between my fingertips, while a thinly ground edge effortlessly sneaks between my fingers. If the knife encounters resistance when passing between your fingertips because of thickness behind the edge, it will similarly bind up when the blade is fully "immersed" in a cutting media, such as zipper-cutting cardboard. This means the knife is not cutting through as efficiently and easily as it potentially could. Darrel informs me that the new Apogees have been re-designed with a full-width wider blade. This should mean the newer models will have a thinner edge.

This knife is fairly thick just behind its edge. It should be noted that CPM 420V is a tough steel to grind down. In addition, this is my first CPM steeled knife of any type, and I'm not at all sure about the blade's toughness. I do know that my AFCK came with a factory edge as thick as the Apogee, and thinning that edge caused cutting performance to jump, while making it very susceptible to chipping,. As I believe the 420V is tougher at the hardness Darrel has used, I believe the edge could be thinned out further. However, given that Darrel has immensely more experience with CPM 420V than I, plus the fact that I'm not at all anxious to try to re-profile a CPM 420V blade that also has a recurve, I've decided to just leave the knife as is for now!

Regarding the recurve, Joe Talmadge has expounded (endlessly!) on the substantial increase in slicing performance from the recurve. On a drawing slice, where the knife is pulled back towards the body in a sawing motion, this cutting performance is attributed to the recurve drawing and gathering the material to be cut until the outward swell of the belly is reached. At this point, the leverage generated by the cutting motion is maximal, which makes the belly the optimal place for slicing and allows the material to be cut easily with little pressure. In addition, the recurve means that in addition to the simple downward cutting vector attacking the top of the material exhibited by a straight blade, there is another cutting vector slicing into the side of the material to be cut. In effect, the recurve acts as a macroscopically magnified analogy of the inward arc of a single serration.

Ever noticed how a thick-bladed tactical knife starts binding into the side of a cardboard box just as the knife is fully immersed in the cardboard material? The cardboard didn't suddenly become more resilient and cut-proof; rather, the increased resistance and binding is caused by the friction of the knife/cardboard interface as the knife wedges into the unyielding cardboard material.

Perhaps another analogy is appropriate here: Imagine you have a hatchet, which you've sharpened to a thin, highly polished edge that will shave your arm bare like a Gillette Sensor. In addition, you've also got a snap-off X-acto box cutter which has had its blade dull down just past hair-scraping sharp into the non-shaving region of sharpness.

Which would you rather whittle with, and which would slice through cardboard better?

I'll wager the shaving-sharp hatchet whittles immensely better than the X-acto knife, while the X-acto knife outslices the hatchet on cardboard. Why is this, given that the X-acto knife would be considered a dull knife by most knife knuts' standards? The reason for the performance noted against the cardboard media is that the hatchet is nothing more than a fat, sharpened wedge, while the super thin X-acto blade presents very little profile to the material to be cut. And here I define two types of cutting.

Surface cutting: The knife penetrates a small distance into the object to be cut, often no deeper than just beyond the edge bevels. Examples include: shaving, scoring paper, whittling.

Cut-through cutting: A large portion, if not the whole of the knife penetrates into the object to be cut. Examples include: Chopping through a potato with a kitchen knife, slicing through cardboard, hack-sawing through a piece of wood.

In surface cutting, the thinness of the blade at, and behind the edge, and the precise mating of the two edge bevels to produce a sharp edge are of paramount importance. Every try whittling with the thick edge of a factory production folder? Performance is poor, but improves dramatically once you thin down the edge. Here, the thin, polished, matched-angles of the hatchet make it whittle great.

In cut-through cutting, the blade thickness, as well as its geometry are most important. Hollow-ground blades and flat-ground blades present a thinner profile to the medium to be cut, and so offer less friction. This is perceived as less cutting resistance, or: "The knife cuts good." This is why I find thin-bladed Forschner kitchen knives to out-cut thick-bladed Henckels on large veggies. And my Chinese cleaver, with a blade thickness of 0.5 mm two inches above the edge bevel is another tier above the Forschners on those same potatoes.

Another great example where thin profile is important for cut-through effectiveness: the typical hack-saw blade at the spine is 1 mm. Can you imagine trying to hacksaw something if that blade had a flat-grind swelling up to 1/8" at the spine like the typical folding knife? The hack-saw would bind like crazy. So it goes with thick-bladed knives. The X-acto knife, due to its extremely thin profile, will still go through cardboard easily despite its edge not being in the best shape.

Happily enough, you get the best of both worlds with the Apogee. You get my favorite blade grind, a full flat grind up to the spine, mated to a blade steel that can be thinned out a fair amount. Therefore, you gain good performance in both surface cutting tasks, as well as cut-through chores.

So how am I going to carry this knife?

I have three places where I traditionally carry my primary knife. 1) Clipped into the right front pocket. 2) Clipped into the waistband at 1 o'clock (assuming the navel is 12 o'clock) so the body of the knife follows the crease between thigh and groin. 3) Clipped into the waistband at 4 o'clock in what I call "waistband at the kidneys".

The clip is a three screw clip with the screws occupying the same position in the clip as the standard Benchmade clip. Unfortunately, my Apogee's clip only has screws in the outer two holes. The center hole has no screw, and the handle is not drilled and tapped to accept a screw. I personally wish there was that additional screw, for visual correctness if nothing else, although Darrel assures me that the clip would break before the two-screw attachment fails. The clip is mounted into the pivot end of the knife, however, the angle of attachment is slightly different from the average pivot-mounted clip. The Apogee clip incorporates a slight change in angle, which helps against the clip affecting the index finger during a forward grip.

Darrel is working on a fold-over, one screw clip that fits into a slot above the pivot. This will allow for deep pocket carry, where most of the knife is discreetly hidden in your pocket. This is a feature that has not been exploited to its full potential in the production knife market. Yet another advantage of going the route of a custom knife. You should bug Darrel for more details!

The waistband carry at 1 o'clock is not radically affected by the change in clip placement, although it allows the clip to remain in a more vertical up/down position with the handle body still diagonally following the thigh crease. I feel the kidney waistband carry is weakened slightly by the position of the new clip mount as the butt of the knife protrudes slightly more out towards the right side. Luckily though, I prefer right front carry, followed by 1 o'clock carry, with kidney carry coming in third place. Right front pocket is the most accessible for my right hand, while the advantage of 1 o'clock is that both hands have access to the knife.

Which brings me to my next point, namely ambidexterity. Many production knife companies have now acknowledged that many people wish to operate knives left-handed. The possible changes to making lefty-friendly knives runs the gamut from reversible clips, to reversed liner-locks, to ambidextrous locks such as the rocker bar lockback, or the new Axis lock. One should also realize that the opening device also needs to be operable with the left hand. Darrel's Apogee tackles these problems by using ambidextrous dual thumb studs. Should you wish a dedicated left-handed knife, with the left-handed lock, just order it that way!

Access to the right-hand thumb stud is very easy due to the presence of both the index cut-out, and the contouring. This thumb stud acts as a fairly good target when pushed from the side. It doesn't present as large a surface area as a blade hole, but due to the contouring and the thumb stud placement, I have no trouble consistently sliding the blade open. Pushing down on the pointed apex of the thumb stud gets a bit painful after time; the side of the thumb stud is a much better target. For the left-hand thumb stud, the pocket clip complicates access, and the rounding of the thumb stud (performed at my request) makes left-hand access more difficult by lowering the height of the original stud. The thumb stud must be accessed by pushing down on the rounded apex, and once the blade is partially out of the handle, only then can the thumb gain clearance to push against the side of the stud.

A common problem with dual thumb studs is the tendency for the clip-side stud to snag against clothing as the clipped knife is drawn. Darrel suggested, and performed, rounding of the high, pointy clip-side stud (the left-handed stud on a right handed knife), and I'm happy to report the knife doesn't snag during draws from any of the three above carry locations.

So, the way I've had Darrel make this "my knife" was by modifying for a full flat grind, and rounding of one thumb stud. Oh, and did I mention this knife is numbered? Darrel is numbering the first twenty of the Small, Medium, and Large Apogees, for a total of sixty numbered knives. At the time I ordered, at mid-June, Darrel had four numbers left for the medium model.

Finally, Darrel intended this knife to be a working knife. Display knives don't need state of the art stainless steel, or one of the strongest locking mechanisms. Should you use the knife, and put scratches into the finish, Darrel will re-finish your knife for $25 plus shipping.

To sum up, the Apogee uses state of the art materials such as 6Al 4V titanium handle slabs, and CPM 420V blade steel. Talonite or Damasteel Damascus can also be had as an alternate blade material. Costs for these upgrades are:

Small: $475
Large: $600
x-Large: $650

More information on the making of Damasteel can be found on the Benchmade web-site under the link "Metallurgy" in the "Articles section.


These prices reflect the increased cost of the blade material, and the prices are set to just cover the cost of materials and tooling to work with the alternate blade materials. Darrel also offers the Agent Elite, a carbon-fiber handled Apogee for the same price as the regular Apogee line. A picture is available here:


The Apogee has very good ergonomics, and between the exceptional blade materials available, the recurve, and the flat grind, the potential to be an amazing cutter. The knife can accommodate both left and right-handed individuals, and is available in three sizes to suit different working environments. Finally, the knife comes backed by a very fine gentleman, who is willing to listen and act on your concerns. What more need be said?


[This message has been edited by Protein (edited 08 July 1999).]
Heh, what more can be said?
I take it you like your knife?

A. Dale McLean
<A HREF="http://www.nt.net/~admclean/Index.htm" TARGET="_blank">ADaM Sharps Cutlery - Canadian Knife Dealer</A>
Heya Dale!

The Apogee is a beautiful knife, yet ironically enough it's the Panther I bought from you a few months back that is currently in my pocket. Go figure huh?

In any case, I wanted to do as thorough a treatise on the Apogee as possible. I've found that I often buy knives based on other people's reviews and opinions. This was simply an opportunity to say thank you by returning the favour, in addition to plugging a most excellent gentleman and knifemaker.


I didn't have time to read the whole article but it is so far a very well written piecce. Something often not seen in cutlery literature! Mike Turber is looking for forumites to write articels for the future on-line mag - perhaps you should volunteer.

Good work!