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HSI & Mini first impressions

HJA

Joined
Apr 29, 2021
Messages
3
Wanted to share my recent experience with Kailash. I've always liked the khukuri design; I'm not a big knife owner/user but I figured what the hell; let's do something fun.

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So here's a rough timeline. I note that now on their website due to the current massive covid outbreak and govt. restrictions their queue times may be longer, and some parts may be harder to source than usual.

On 16th March 2021 I ordered from Kailash a Historical Service issue (11.5", Performance Grind, Micarta wrap, copper hardware, small handle, 1x traditional sheath, 1x salyani style, satin finish) and a Mini in the same configuration, but with a 7" blade, polished finish, and a buffalo horn handle.
On 22nd March I received an image of the work in progress blades saying they were ready to be put in the grinding queue.
On 21 April I was told they were complete and ready to ship.
On 28th April I received them from Fedex in the US (Note that the fedex original location was Dubai; they use a forwarding service. It might be good for Kailash to mention this on their website somewhere if they don't already; I assumed this delivery was for someone else when I first got the text).

Packaging was great, everything arrived in good condition — the HSI had a small area of dirt on one side that was easy to clean up. Initial impressions are; everything is pretty awesome — and I'm not just saying that because of the 10% off on the next order deal they offer if you give them a proper review (so keep that in mind if scouring the net for reviews). The mini in particular feels really great in the hand; I'm not sure how much I'll actually use it for anything but it's a damn cool blade. Both are fairly sharp and the hardware joinery around the handle all looks great, no dodgy dents or ill fittings. I did a little bit of chopping old firewood with the HSI and it was pretty fun; no issues with the edge and I didn't hack my leg off, which seems like a genuine possibility.

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So the sheaths. Construction quality seems excellent; the Salyani leather is a little more of a brown hue than the images on their website but that's to be expected if the camera isn't whitebalanced, photo was edited and so on. Retention is hit and miss; on the HSI salyani it requires vigorous shaking to get it to drop out maybe 2cm, after that happens a bit more shaking drops the blade out. I think that's quite good and doubt I'll have an issue. Typical inserting/removing the blade works perfectly. Retention is a bit worse on the traditional sheath but nothing awful.

For the mini the Salyani retention is not great, a moderate shake will drop it out, there's also a stiff area when inserting the blade that makes it a little less smooth. Still, works quite well. On the traditional sheath it's the same situation but a little bit better. Overall I think the sheaths are quite good, and it's pretty good value to get the traditional ones free when getting the Salyani. Note that I'm not saying one style has better retention than another, just that out of the 4x samples I have this is the variance you can expect — from decent-but-needs-adjusting to pretty much perfect on arrival. There are supposedly ways to loosen/tighten sheaths with oil/heat since organic materials can adjust due to environmental effects and so on, so if it bugs me I'll give those a go. Anyway.

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Copper hardware has some minor blemishing, I suspect it isn't full copper but electroplated or some such (edit: Nope, see post below, it's a weld seam), probably Andrew or someone at Kailash can correct me on that. I was pleasantly surprised to see copper as an optional extra; I think it's quite beautiful. Also in this picture the handle-side end of the cho was fairly sharp on arrival, I softened it up with a file just in case my hand slips forward; one less sharp edge can't hurt (.....)

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Micarta wrap feels quite good, didn't have any complaints after a minor amount of light chopping without gloves but I'm no expert so take that with a grain of salt. For what it's worth Micarta seems like a great option. I will note that the Cho on my HSI seems a lot larger than the ones pictured on the store page — I've read the cho thread here and really don't think it will be an issue, but just for peace of mind I'd probably have preferred a smaller cho. At the shortest point at the cho the blade is 25mm tall. Anyway, it almost certainly won't ever matter.

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So overall — very happy with the purchase. I might end up collecting more khukuris in the future — I have a cheaper modern service issue I ordered from KHHI, before Kailash, that I've no idea on the status of.. so plus one to Kailash there for turnaround times. FWIW both companies responded to emails quickly.

I will note the HSI balance seems very tilted to one side:

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If you're considering buying a khukuri Kailash definitely seems like the premier option for these reasons:

1) Their website is excellent — a lot of other khukuri sellers websites are atrocious — difficult to navigate or downright shady-looking. Kailash's is easy to navigate and browse, has good info and a reasonably modern design.
2) They oil quench and have a three stage normalisation and tempering process. I know very little about bladesmithing and don't have the apparatus to test these claims (but have no reason to doubt), so I can't attest to how much of a deal this really is — but worth considering.
3) Simple & practical customisation options — they're not trying to sell you a keychain and stand and a bunch of other crap at the same time. No karda/chakmak also keeps the costs down. Brilliant. Clear and distinct modern & traditional sections.
4) Ethics — I was reading a lot about Khukuris and it was very common to see "The K word" used in various manufacturers pages & youtube videos, so I was surprised to read Kailash's thoughts on the term. It's also nice they have a staff section on the page with a short bio and pic along with their maker's mark so you can tell who made your knife.

Another manufacturer that seems interesting is Dragonfly Khukuri and Knives: They have some curious models (MK5 workhorse) and offer some khukuris in 52100 ball-bearing steel — maybe a worthwhile change, maybe not — but I can't find anything about their tempering process. They also offer far fewer options than Kailash. At this point I think if I were to order another Khukuri I'd probably be getting a Pensioner or Angkhola Dui Chirra, or perhaps a Mutiny, and maybe a Chitlange from Kailash. I also wonder if there'd by any point in a modern service issue with a ~6mm spine thickness. I like the shape but it's clear from the description they don't think you should be buying a MSI. I'm also seeing some interesting designs from another Australian who goes by DML on the tubes. He also has some decent Khukuri content if you're interested.

That's it for now, if you have any questions about these two let me know and I'll do my best to answer. Big thumbs up to Kailash for the great knives and service; hope you guys make it through this latest covid outbreak OK.
 
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Kailash Blades

Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider
Joined
Nov 21, 2015
Messages
420
Thanks so much for taking the time to write a review!
It's great to see overall that you're happy with the blades you got from us. I'm sure you'll find a use for the Mini, even if it's not outdoors camping. Try putting one in your kitchen and see what kind of utility fits to it in those kind of scenarios.

We use proper sheet metal copper for our hardware (and plate if the blade requires), what you can see isn that photo is a soldering seam :)
This is because traditional khukuri bolsters are formed by hand to each blade and need to be soldered to make a uniform piece out of it. This can be seen on our brass blades as well, but when polished the colour contrast isn't as high.

Sorry to hear your salyani sheath wasn't particularly snug. While our smiths have a lot of talent, some blade shapes can be more difficult than others and they haven't had a lot of practice with the salyani style yet. In my experience a great way to add retention to a sheath like this without losing functionality is by gluing a strip of thin leather or felt to the interior of the throat to produce a bit of "clamping" force once the thick metal near the bolster comes in. It's the thickest part of the blade so the rest of the draw/return is uninhibited. The sharp corners on the cho were something propbuildervash propbuildervash pointed out with his expedition cleaver too. It's really helpful feedback and helps us to focus on the kind of small improvements we can focus on to create a big impact. Please get in touch if you feel the side to side imbalance of the khukuri creates an issue in your application. We'll look into it and make sure you're taken care of.

Thanks so much for the kind words regarding this recent covid situation. So far our team and their families are safe and healthy but numbers are not looking good. Cases are at an all time high for the country, with there being more cases requiring hospitalisation than available hospital beds. The government of Nepal has acted far too weakly and far too late to get the situation under control and look as though they don't have a plan for how to manage things from here. The Kailash team will be doing whatever it can to stay safe even if it means shutting down production for an extended period of time- we'll also being looking outwards into the community to see what we can to to help as a business.

Take care,
Andrew
 
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Kailash Blades

Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider
Joined
Nov 21, 2015
Messages
420
Another manufacturer that seems interesting is Dragonfly Khukuri and Knives: They have some curious models (MK5 workhorse) and offer some khukuris in 52100 ball-bearing steel — maybe a worthwhile change, maybe not — but I can't find anything about their tempering process... I'm also seeing some interesting designs from another Australian who goes by DML on the tubes. He also has some decent Khukuri content if you're interested.
Timothy McLaughlin who runs DKnK is a great guy. He's been a longtime khukuri fan and is just getting into having his own blades made in the last few years. He has quite a lot of interesting models, some with a historical basis and some of his own design. He has a strong aesthetic style and many of his blades feature unique ornamentation. Aside from making his own designs he also acts as a retailer for blacksmiths in Nepal who have broken away from other houses and are establishing themselves on their own. In this role he helps to bridge the gap between their traditional skills and an available market, which we respect enormously.

Daniel Murray Lake is a similar story- a longtime khukuri fan who has transitioned from getting custom designs made for his personal use to getting them made and sold to others. For the past few years he's been getting designs made and sold through a multitude of nepalese businesses, however in the last couple of months it's looking like he'll be moving out into his own branding a bit more- alongside blades he's forged himself. This is a great business model that I think allows him to grow his skills as a bladesmith and designer and build a reputation of his own while still supporting nepalese makers and offering two tiers of pricing for the same design.
His work, while still informed by traditional design has a much stronger creative pulse to it with more exotic designs that cover a wide size range and an aesthetic that straddles high fantasy and sci fi. We met at the Sydney Knife show in 2019 and he's also worked with us in the past on custom designs of his own, always giving us a challenge in terms of new construction methods or ornamentation.

52100 is being seen advertised more frequently in recent years in Nepal.
The steel used is plate EN31, imported from india with a composition which is equivalent to 52100. Initially used by KHHI to allow them to use CNC plasma cutting techniques it was later used by GB as well for the same reasons. Aside from allowing cnc operations it also has the benefits of not requiring normalisation (apart from forging strain if present) and a higher consistency of product, with lower percentage of blades being rejected due to voids in the steel etc. This reduced waste and lower QC load also helps save money in larger operations.

As a steel it can be viewed as almost identical to 5160 but with 66% more carbon content. This allows for a higher hardness which can also allow for better edge life, higher maximum sharpness etc. It's often used for razors, scissors and woodcarving knives etc as a result of these traits. On large chopping blades it's a less snug fit however as with that hardness comes lower toughness and a slightly more brittle blade. This could be avoided through underhardening the blades but this then brings on its own set of problems.
The second issue is that it's a lot less forgiving a steel to heat treat compared to 5160. With KHHI it was being water quenched via traditional means with no temper, which is not a recipe for a high performing and optimised blade steel. There is a newer crop of houses aligning themselves with 52100 however. Most claim to forge and also oil quench their blades which is good to see, though I'm again concerned that there's a lot of space for error here in the rest of the heat treat- an aspect of knifemaking that the Nepali knifemaking industry as a whole doesn't seem to take very seriously.
 

HJA

Joined
Apr 29, 2021
Messages
3
We use proper sheet metal copper for our hardware (and plate if the blade requires), what you can see isn that photo is a soldering seam :)
This is because traditional khukuri bolsters are formed by hand to each blade and need to be soldered to make a uniform piece out of it. This can be seen on our brass blades as well, but when polished the colour contrast isn't as high.

Sorry to hear your salyani sheath wasn't particularly snug. While our smiths have a lot of talent, some blade shapes can be more difficult than others and they haven't had a lot of practice with the salyani style yet. In my experience a great way to add retention to a sheath like this without losing functionality is by gluing a strip of thin leather or felt to the interior of the throat to produce a bit of "clamping" force once the thick metal near the bolster comes in. It's the thickest part of the blade so the rest of the draw/return is uninhibited. The sharp corners on the cho were something propbuildervash propbuildervash pointed out with his expedition cleaver too. It's really helpful feedback and helps us to focus on the kind of small improvements we can focus on to create a big impact. Please get in touch if you feel the side to side imbalance of the khukuri creates an issue in your application. We'll look into it and make sure you're taken care of.

Thanks, I'm happy with everything as it is, the balance and sheath are perfectly fine for my uses, they're not anything I even notice in regular use. Hopefully everyone knows when ordering handmade stuff that fit and finish can have a little variance. As it arrived everything is 100% usable and good condition. And thanks for clarifying the welding seam part, that makes sense why I hadn't noticed it in pictures of brass hardware. Super happy Kailash offers copper as I didn't see anyone else doing it and copper is just an amazing metal.

Those are some interesting caveats for 52100 as well. I believe DML mentioned some of the khukuris prototypes he made locally were other types of steel, I forget exactly what, but the production runs done in nepal would be 5160. I see Coldsteel's khukuri machete is 1055 and the Vakra zombie khuk is 5160. Would there be much point in even making a khukuri out of modern 'supersteels' seen in obscenely expensive knives? Apart from sourcing it in nepal, the amount of steel needed / production requirements probably make it totally unreasonable anyway I'm guessing? I'm purely asking out of curiosity, I doubt I'd ever run into any issues with 5160, recycling leaf springs is pretty brilliant.

Re: covid, it would be amazing if pressure from people like Bernie Sanders had any hand in pushing pfizer or moderna to releasing their vaccine to be produced by anyone (given strict quality control) but that's part of the timeless battle between ethics and profits so...
 

Kailash Blades

Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider
Joined
Nov 21, 2015
Messages
420
Copper is a great option to have- I was surprised too when I learned that it was readily available we had the skills to work with it. It loosk great polished and can patina in the most amazing ways.
I think there's a lot of potential benefits to be gained from having a khukuri made in higher end steels- just not the same high hardness steels sought after in pocket knives etc.
Something like CPM3V could be a good application- higher toughness than 5160 at higher hardness levels. It's also bordering on semi stainless which is a big benefit for outdoors blades. In terms of performance, this comes from being able to make a thinner grind, which it would allow you to do.
Issues are cost, sourcing it into nepal, forging difficulties and that the heat treat technicality is beyond what's being done in the country currently.

We'll see how things go- if the west starts to see that the kind of uncontrolled spread in developing nations could threaten them maybe a more charitable approach will appeal.
 
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