New knife from Mel Sorg

Nov 1, 1998
Knife Review
Mel Sorg custom 18"
On 21 May I was the proud recipient of my latest Mel Sorg blade, an 18" hunk of CPM 3V. It's pictured at, the top two pictures, called the 'Edge' camp knife - a reasonable name, as it was made for an 'Edgeworth' :)
CPM 3V is one of the new 'miracle' steels, with some pretty remarkable characteristics (if you go by the steel-makers specifications). Basically, I looked in the steel specifications for two characteristics, wear (edge-holding) and toughness. CPM 3V shows as having about the same wear characteristics as M2, and about twice that of one of my personal favorites, D-2 (Mel has commented that the edge-holding is as good as D-2, based on his experience at final buffing and sharpening, but probably not twice as good). At the same time it's about twice as tough as M2 OR D-2, about the same as 5160, which is well known for it's toughness. The has a chromium content of 7.5%, so it's certainly not stainless, but it will be much more corrosion-resistant than a normal high-carbon steel. If you're interested in more information on this steel (and several others), see Cliff Stamp's site at

The entire knife is 17 7/8" long, with about a 12 1/2" blade. The blade is about 0.166" thick at the spine, and 1 9/16" wide at the widest point. The balance point is a little over 1 5/8" forward of the front bolster. There's a narrow flat, about 3/16" wide, right along the spine extending about three-quarters up the blade where the black of the original steel is preserved - makes a nice accent. From there it's flat ground. The blade pattern is a very mild clip, with a very slight recurve toward the handle. The blade is ground higher and thinner towards the front and with a thinner edge before the final bevel along the last 4". This puts more meat in the chopping zone, but a thinner tip for cutting lighter things and slicing. It also changes the overall balance of the knife, pulling it more toward the hilt. This makes it surprisingly light for a knife of this size, and the balance being back makes it feel much more controllable in use.
There is a nicely patterned Damascus top bolster with well-patterned desert ironwood scales. The butt has an 'almost' butt-hook pattern, with a lined lanyard hole. I think the Damascus gives a real touch of elegance to a very functional design. OK, so it's not a Johnny Stout art folder, but I think it's quite attractive.
There's also a nice heavy-duty leather sheath with a sturdy D-ring instead of a belt-loop, which gives more carry options (particularly if you wear suspenders), such as an over-the-shoulder strap. There's also a lanyard-hole at the bottom of the sheath, for a leg thong. Also, I've found that the knife fits so snugly in the sheath that I wouldn't hesitate to use it in an over-the-shoulder butt-down 'Dundee' rig.
The handle is of the 'palm-swell' style, narrower near the front and toward the pommel, with a very definite 'bulging' at the center. The result is very natural, secure, and comfortable in a hammer-grip for my medium-sized hand. I also tried the reverse grip, and it's very comfortable this way, also. However, I'm not real sure of the circumstances that would make me want to use an 18" knife in the reverse grip! Any suggestions on this would be appreciated.
This knife was designed based on the size of a piece of CPM 3V steel from Ed Schott. Mel had told me the size, and things just kind of flowed from that. The design is somewhat of collaboration - I'd come up with a wild idea, and Mel would (usually) talk me out of it ? It was also made as a warm-up, both for Mel and for me, for a SERIOUS hunk of mean metal that Mel is even now working on. And I hope to be reporting on that piece (within a few Weeks? Months? Years? :) ) later. I'm very pleased with the knife so far, both aesthetically (it's PRETTY!) and functionally.
Since it's turned out to look much like an exceptionally elegant machete, I thought I'd test it out as a heavy whacker. Unfortunately, we don't have a whole bunch of jungle right handy in Las Vegas, Nevada for me to hack my way through. In fact, the only vegetation we have anywhere close is being watered daily by someone who probably wouldn't want me to practice hacking on it. So - we do the best we can with what we have.
What I do have is some pieces of wood in the back yard. For comparison I also took my Newt Livesay Recon machete, which is 1/4" longer than the 'edge' and made of 1095, 7/32" thick, and 2" wide, flat-ground. It's substantially heavier than the 'Edge', and therefore I didn't really think it was fair to compare it to the 'Edge' in a chopping contest, but it was the only thing I had handy to compare with. I was right - it's a grossly unfair comparison. I used an old 2x4 that's been sitting outside in the Las Vegas sun for several years and chopped off a piece with the 'edge'. That's some pretty hard wood, so it took a few minutes. I found out pretty quickly that I didn't get much more out of really hard swing than I got from an easy swing, just letting the blade do most of the work. The 'sweet spot' was just forward of the middle of the blade. I was well pleased with the way the handle felt - I just used a fairly loose grip, and it felt secure, with no particular rubbing anywhere.
Then I tried the Recon machete. After about the same time that it took to go through the wood with the 'Edge', I was about 1/4 through with the machete, and seemed to mainly be 'beating' through the wood, rather than cutting through. And my arm was getting tired, and my hand was getting sore. So I stopped.
The difference, on hard, dried wood, between the 'Edge' and the Livesay, was REALLY dramatic! This fall, when we're out camping again, I'll hope to try this test again with green wood. I wonder how much difference it would make?
After discussing the situation with Mel, I made some additional measurements. The results are shown below (in inches):
Measurement 'Edge' Livesay
Total length 17.875 18.0
Blade width 1.56 2.0
Balance point, from
Handle 1.66 1.62
Spine thickness 0.166 0.202
Blade thickness before
final bevel 0.044 0.042
Length of
final bevel 0.042 0.022 !!!
As you can see, I've listed the most important measurement last. Mel sharpened the 'Edge' at about half the angle of the Livesay blade! I did check both blades, both before and after the test. I tested for smoothness with several pulls along the length on the edge on the thumbnail, and both were completely smooth, before and after. Then I did a rough sharpness test (c'mon here, guys, when you're testing 13" blades you run out of arm-hair pretty quick, so you've got to go for something else). I checked every 1/2" or so to see if the blade would 'grab' my thumbnail. Both blades grabbed nicely, before and after. I'm not really all that familiar with 1095, so I'll assume Newt Livesay used what he considered a safe sharpening angle to protect the edge and get the best performance from the material. Since I was NOT particularly gentle in whacking my way through the 2x4 and I did NOT damage the blade in any way, Mel must have used a sharpening angle appropriate to the hardness and toughness of the CPM 3V.
I'd really like to say I followed this up with a toughness test, where I put the blade tip in a vice and pulled it to about 90 degrees with no damage, but I didn't. I did THINK about it, though. Mel has pretty reasonable prices, but I didn't really want to risk blowing off that much money just so I could say I'd done it :)
It will probably be several months before my next camping trip, where I'll try a somewhat more extensive using evaluation of the blade. But for right now I'm very pleased with the looks, feel, and demonstrated functionality of this blade.


Here's a bend test of CPM 3V, courtesy of Ed Schott:


Ed said "the jpeg is how the blade looked after going to 120deg 1" in the vice." He is hoping to have some pictures of a bend test with him shown bending the blade in a vise so that you can see how far it goes. He's hoping to have those pics up on his website with more information on Thursday or so.

I am lucky enough to know Mel and his work is only getting better and better. Every time I talk to him he has something really neat going on. "The Edge" is pretty impressive!

The direct comparasion between the edge angles is very important and probably the main reason I got interested in 3V. I could get a blade with a very low angle and thus have excellent cutting ability and yet still have the ability to be very durable. Martin has described this very well, and it is a very important point in regards to cutting performance.

Marvin, how stiff is the "Edge" in regards to flexing while heavy chopping?

Marvin, I thought I'd take the liberty to explain to you how much trouble you are in by posting this review. A rather sizable group of BF'ers have gone out of our way to keep Mel the best ketp secret in the knifemaking community, and here you go trying to ruin all that! Watch your back, is all I can say...

PS- Mel mentioned what your next project with him is going to be. Sounds twisted! Can't wait to see the picture of it. Just make sure you don't go around opening your big mouth when it comes to Mel, though. Capito?
Cliff, in regards to the stiffness of the 'Edge' while chopping - I did not notice any difference between the two blades in flexing - that is, none. After your question, I went outside with both blades. I put each about centered over a 2x4 on edge, that is with the 2" side supporting the blade. I then leaned in pretty heavy on each of them, holding toward the tip and the end of the butt. I'd estimate I used at least 100 pounds of pressure.
The Livesay blade - I could feel some flex, but couldn't actually see any curvature as I 'bounced' on it
The 'Edge' - I could actually see some flex as I bounced. It probably flexed down around an inch to an inch and a half at the tip and the butt, enough to see a definite curve. Unfortunately I was using both hands bouncing up and down, so I couldn't measure the flex!
And I will freely admit I probably wouldn't have tried that without the Ed Schott picture and description. But if he can get 120 degrees, I've got nerve enough to push it down about 10 degrees!
Steve, sorry 'bout that! Maybe I should have said 'by a certain unnamed mad poet'. Surely no one would have made the connection that way! And regarding my next 'blade' (I'm not really sure I should call it a knife!) - I am also anxious to write a review on THAT one - SOON!

I'm the pleased owner of two Mel Sorg knives. One is the first (and as far as I know, the only, at least to date) Loveless-style drop point hunter he's made. D2, Desert Ironwood, terrific knife. The other -- it's the "splinter picker" on his webpage -- is a combination of a Wharncliff blade and the Loveless style handle.

Terrific work. As Cliff Stamp noted in his review, mel is very much not hard of listening, and his work -- both to buyer's spec and original -- is terrific.

I've been trying to talk him into a modification on his Frontier Friction Folder -- to permit a pin to be inserted that would lock it open, and an accompanying sheath. Minneapolis, where I live, has a silly law that makes fixed blades technically illegal to carry, but up to a 4" folder -- no matter how carried -- isn't a problem. (Next time I'm due a treat -- like when I finish the goddamn book I'm working on -- it's either going to be a new Mel Sorg knife or an Uluchet. Or maybe both...)
Oh, and you didn't tell us how much this new knife of yours was -- pretty please?