Old knife test: Eclipse, Voyager, Goddard

dano

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Oct 3, 1998
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I originally posted this at the old recdotknives board...it's a bit outdated, but all three models still exist, so..enjoy...

--dan


Usage Test: Zytel handled folders:
1. Benchmade's Eclipse (830s)
2. Cold Steel's "Voyager" (CS34LC)
3. Spyderco's Goddard Lightweight (SPC16PSBK)

Intro:

Since the very early eighties and Gerber's introduction of the first lightweight plastic handled folders which did not need a liner to retain sufficient strength, knife users have continually turned to these plastic or Zytel-handled folders for their high quality, high strength, and low cost. The three knives listed above all contain similar features, and their street prices are within a few dollars of each other. So, what sets each apart? This test focused on approximately 6 months of normal every day usage, including opening boxes and letters, stripping wires, cutting food, etc. There was not any rope cutting tests, nor did I hang any weights from the knives to test lock-up strength. (It would have been nice to do, but hey! I'm on a budget!)

Specifications:

ECLIPSE VOYAGER
weight: 2.6 ounces weight: 3.3 ounces
length closed/open: 4.75/8.25 inches length closed/open: 5.125/9.25 inches
blade length: 3.5 inches blade length: 4.125 inches
steel: ATS-34 steel: AUS-8A
blade thickness: 1/8 inch blade thickness: 1/8 inch
hardness: 57-59 hardness: 57

GODDARD
weight: 3.2 ounces
length closed/open: 5.25/8.75 inches
blade length: 3.75 inches
steel: ATS-55
blade thickness: 1/8 inch
hardness: 57-59

Knife Details: As the above chart indicates, all three knives have similar specifications, though they all have their individual characteristics. The Eclipse features Benchmade's new "sonically" welded thread inserts, which allow the metal clip to be unscrewed (with a Torx T-8) and placed either pivot up or pivot down, depending on the user's carry preference. The Goddard also has a movable clip, but it can be unscrewed with a standard screwdriver and placed on either side of the handle. This is especially useful for left handers. The Voyager has a plastic pocket clip which is situated for pivot down carry, and is not removable.

All three feature a one hand opening system, with the Eclipse and Goddard using the large Spyderco opening hole, while the Voyager sports a thumb stud on the left hand side of the blade.
The main difference between the three knives is the manufacturer's choice of blade steel. The Voyager uses AUS-8A, which Cold Steel and several other makers use extensively. The Benchmade uses ATS-34, which was once a rarity in production knives, but now is being used quite frequently. The new steel, ATS-55 is used in the Goddard. It is proprietary to Spyderco, and like ATS-34, is produced by Hitachi. Both the Benchmade and the Spyderco I used had partially serrated blades, while the Voyager was a plain edge model.

Fit and Finish: All three knives have excellent fit and finish. There was no excess flashing on the handles, and blade grind and edge lines matched up perfectly on all three knives. Lock-up was also excellent, with none of the samples exhibiting any lock/blade play. The Benchmade, though, had an edge with very noticable grinding wheel lines. Overall, I would say that the three knives were great representatives of their respective manufacturers.

The Tests: I would have liked to subject the knives to some extreme abuse, but my budget did not allow this, as I still wanted usable tools when this usage trial was over. And, to be honest, how many users of quality folding cutlery hang weights from the handles to test lock strength or use large strands of manila rope to test edge retention? I tried to use them in a real world environment, and as I did, I came up with some unusual results.....

CARRYING
All three knives were comfortable when carried in the right front pants pocket. The Voyager, though, when clipped to a pocket has approximately 3/4 of an inch of the knife exposed. This is due to the Voyager's clip design, which cannot be easily altered by the user. The Goddard also has a small portion of the knife hanging out of the pocket, but it was not a concern. Spyderco's new "Volcano" stipling pattern on the handles did create some drag when drawing from the pocket. The Benchmade and it's smooth profile was the easiest to draw. I especially liked carrying the Eclipse tip up.

OPENING
The Goddard and Eclipse both have the Spyderco opening hole as their means of opening, while the Voyager has a thumb stud. I encountered a peculiar problem when I opened the Eclipse. Because of the Eclipse's strong spring tension, as I opened it, my fingers would slip into the blade's opening/closing path. If my thumb would happen to slip out of the opening hole, my fingers would be directly in line with the blade, and a severe cutting could result. The Goddard was the easiest of the three to open, while the Voyager's thumb stud was somewhat tricky--I think a small cut-out in the stud side handle would allow more thumb to engage the stud, thus making opening easier.

PERFORMANCE
1. Goddard: I did all sorts of cutting with this knife, and the edge held up better then I expected. I initially thought the rather thinly ground plain edge portion of the blade would not be durable. Out-of-the-box sharpness was very good, due to the thin edge. The partially serrated blade sports very aggressive serrations, which had no problems cutting old automotive drive belts and radiator hoses. This knife also had the task of taking wax off of several antique candle holders. The edge held up o.k., but small parts of the blade's edge did bend during this. The handle shape I found to be extremely comfortable to use, with rounded edges and no protruding sharp corners. Over the test period, nothing on the Goddard failed, the lock up remained tight, with no angular blade play. The pocket clip was a bit of a problem, though. It came loose several times, and I finally had to use some loc-tite and a large screw driver to tighten it down. I haven't had any problems since. As for resharpening, the ATS-55 does take some time to resharpen--so some patience is mandatory.

2. Voyager: After all the hype by Cold Steel, I was anxious to see just what the Voyager was capable of. Out-of-the box sharpness was excellent; it was the sharpest of the three knives. But this sharpness also came at a price: the stock edge was too thin and was not very durable. Just basic around the house use dulled the edge, though resharpening was a breeze on a Lansky system. Once resharpened, the edge stayed sharp much longer then the stock edge would have. Lockup remained tight throughout. I don't understand the concept of the "bump" in the knife pivot that Cold Steel uses, however. To me, this slows down the knife's opening and I found it annoying. The knife's ergonomics posed no usage problems, though felt a bit "boxy" in the hand and the plastic clip did not break (something that I was told was a common problem with this knife).

3. Eclipse: Overall, the Eclipse performed decently. I had no problems with edge holding, and the serrations aggresively cut just about anything. Edge holding was excellent, with resharpening done with a basic Lansky system. Over time, though, the lock on the knife developed both lateral and vertical play in the joint. An attempt was made to cure this by tightening the pivot screw, but that only caused the knife to become more difficult to open. Upon inspecting what I could on the knife, it appeared that the lock spring isn't very secure and this may be the cause of the knife developing a sloppy joint. Another problem, which may be related to the loose spring, also developed. The knife would not close all the way unless excessive pressure was put upon it. About 1/8" (enough to expose the point of the knife) of the blade remained exposed. In order to fully close the knife, I had to use my thumb to push down on the spine.

CONCLUSION:
To pick one of the three, for me, was easy...I chose the Goddard over the Eclipse and Voyager; the main reasons being that the Voyager just wasn't as ergonomically friendly, and too much of it was exposed when clipped inside of a pocket. The Eclipse fell apart, and I just could not gain confidence in using it. I believe the joint and lock up of a knife is its most important aspect, and the Eclipse just doesn't feel safe in that regard.

 
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