Review of Sean Perkins Gryfen #3

Burke

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Feb 25, 1999
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Intrigued by the design, I recently (beginning of December) purchased a Gryfen (#3) from Sean Perkins ( http://www.perkinsknives.com ). This is a small knife, about 3” overall, with a differentially tempered 2” blade of A2 steel. I actually considered this knife for several reasons. First, because it seemed to have potential as a key-ring knife: a small, inoffensive blade to be kept handy at all times, in almost all places (courtrooms excepted). Second, the aesthetics of it intrigued me. I like the effects that can be produced by differential tempering (though I know little about the hows and whys), and this seemed like a nice way to showcase them. Finally, I’ve been looking at Mr. Perkins’ website for some time, as he originally made these knives from ¼” stock, with a “scythe” grind, and I’ve seen how his techniques have changed (though the style has, to my eyes, remained very similar). I’ve always thought they were “neat” little knives, and so I decided, struck by this particular design, that it was time for me to have one.
On to the knife itself. As I remarked above, this is a small knife. I somehow expected it to be bigger, and when I received it and opened the package, I was a little disappointed. But as soon as I took the edge to paper, effortlessly slicing off a narrow ribbon, I knew this knife was a keeper. The edge has a unique feel to it, either a result of the hardening process, or of the somewhat rustic finish given the blade. It is toothy, even after a light sharpening on a white Spyderco Profile stone, and a quick stropping. Despite this toothiness, the knife will still shave arm hair, and cuts extremely smoothly and aggressively. The blade even seems to keep this aggressive cutting characteristic when slightly dulled. I haven’t let it get really dull, so I can’t comment on ease of sharpening or other wear characteristics, but edge retention is good, and touchups are simple. For opening boxes and envelopes, snipping threads, and the like, the blade on this knife is just about perfect. I should also note that the hamon formed by the hardening process is nicely distinctive, and I really like the overall look of this knife. The finish might best be described as “rustic,” with grind lines slightly showing. I find this attractive, given that it is the intended effect, and do not feel that it is a flaw in terms of the knife’s finish in any way. In fact, I find it adds to the authenticity of this knife as a handmade object, and really like it. Additionally, it seems to hide scratches quite well, and I haven’t seen any sign of rust on the knife so far despite its constant presence in my pocket.
The sheath this knife came with is also impressive. Formed from an extremely thick piece of leather, and secured with several rivets, it does a good job of protecting both blade and user. I had my worries about its security in the pocket, however after a month or so of daily carry the blade sat somewhat deeper in the sheath than it had originally, and I’m really not worried about it coming out now. I should note that I do take care, when pulling my keys out of my pocket, to grab the sheath along with my keys, as I think this is safer. Aesthetically, this is also a very nice sheath, with the thick leather dyed a nice shade of reddish-brown, and showing a little bit of fading on the edges that get the most rubbing my pocket. On the reverse of the sheath the number 3 is stamped, while on the obverse is “S. Perkins”. All in all, this sheath compliments the knife very nicely in terms of general classiness and use. In some ways a kydex sheath would be better (lower profile, marginally more secure), as found on Emerson’s version of La Griffe, but I don’t think it would look or feel half as nice, and I’d hate having to jerk the knife out all the time to get at the blade if the retention was too tight. There is a small hole along one side of the sheath, for passing a cord through for use as a belt-loop or neck thong. I haven’t carried the knife in this way, and don’t plan to, so I don’t really care about this feature. I can see it being useful to attach a lanyard to keep the sheath attached to the knife, or to one’s belt, if carried in the pocket, however I think any other use would result in the sheath flopping around and would not work particularly well.
The ergonomics of the bare knife are not particularly impressive. I found the extremely short handle on this model difficult to index and control. But this knife comes with a keyring attached, and with four keys (car and house) attached, along with a Photon II microlight, there is just about the perfect amount of bulk for comfortably pulling the knife from its sheath and using it for light cutting tasks. The index finger cut-out in the handle comfortably fits my somewhat fat little digits, and the file-work on the back of the spine provides good security for my thumb in a saber grip. These are however a little sharp-feeling when doing any hard cutting that requires pushing down on the back of the blade. I also found (whether intentional or not) that the knife is very comfortable when held as a push dagger between my index and middle fingers, with the blade facing down when held in a thumb-up fist. This results in a very strong grip, and one that I feel would be suitable for both slashing and stabbing in an altercation.
One other note I should make is that this knife is slightly wider (I think), with a little more belly, than the Gryfens currently on display on Mr. Perkins’ website, for those of you who may be considering buying one.
Overall, I really like this knife. It fits the role I had in mind for it perfectly. It is both an attractive art object, and a really useful, thoughtfully designed, and well-made cutting tool, capable of doing work that belies its small size. I’ve received many compliments on it when people ask “Can I borrow a knife?” For the price, as well, I feel it is a great value. I doubt that it will be my last purchase from Mr. Perkins, who I should note was truly a pleasure to deal with. He kept me informed of the status of the knife, and always returned my e-mails courteously and promptly, as well as giving his blessing to my request to do a brief review. As always, I welcome questions or comments in this thread, or via e-mail at brkriete@yahoo.com.

(edited for UBB code and fixed paragraphs)


[This message has been edited by Burke (edited 02-02-2001).]
 
Burke, good review! As an owner of a bunch of Sean's knives, I thought I'd add some insights...

1) The hamon you described will get more apparent as the knife is used. The hamon is created because the hardened part of the knife has a different crystal structure than the soft part (on Sean's knives, generally most of the blade is hard and the handle and choil are soft, including a bit of the spine). As the knife is used it will darken a bit due to a light amount of corrosion, etching from the acids in the air and finger oils, etc and it will be a little more obvious.

2) Sean is always tweaking his designs. The original Scythe Grind was on 1/4" steel and while those knives are super nice, they simply don't cut like his 1/8" flat ground ones. Now he is doing Scythe Grinds on 1/8" stock, and for a while he was doing flat ground 3/16", too. I have two 1/4" Scythes, one flat ground 1/8" and one flat ground 3/16" and there isn't a whole lot of difference in the flat grinds. One of the 1/4" Scythes stays sharp forever and never dulls, while the other just never seems to get to that level. That's the variability of knife-making! I have made several of my own Scythe-ground knives in 1/8" and they come out pretty dull, so to do it right takes major practice, which is a real testament to Sean's skills.

3) That extra bite you notice in the edge likely comes from the way Sean finished the non-sharpened part of the chisel grind. I don't know if yous is flat or Scythe ground, but either way the right side of the blade does not have a secondary edge bevel, so whatever finish that grind has will play into the cutting. For example, my 1/4" knives are smooth and more or less polished on the Scythe ground part, so there isn't much bite. The 3/16" Herveste has a rough belt finish, maybe 60 grit but I think more like 30 grit. That's a little too much. My folder has a more refined belt finish, maybe 120 grit, that creates a "mini-serrations" type of effect on the cutting edge. Maybe yours is similar.

3) I have found that rust forms readily on A-2, and I always have to remove rust created by the leather thongs on my Perkins knives. I have had rust form in less than a day from pocket carry in the summer. My folder rusts really easily, too. The problem is that I don't like to oil them for pocket carry because then they get all sorts of lint all over them. I suppose it's just one of the compromises. I'll be interested to see if yours rust more when the heat and humidity hits, if you get that in your neck of the woods.

4) Finally, the ergonomics. From a comfort point of view, Sean's 1/4" knives were the best. From my own experiences, it's really tough to make a 1/8" thick knife comfy without using handle scales. Especially on a keychain knife, it's darn near impossible. Again, it's a compromise. I've found that all of Sean's knives take some getting used to, but once you have adapted, they are a dream to use. Good going on your purchase!

------------------
Steve Agocs, D.C.
http://www.geocities.com/Chiro75/frames.html


agocs_s@hotmail.com
 
Thanks Chiro. Yes, this is a Scythe Grind, on 1/8" stock. It cuts quite well, and will shave hair off my arm. Thanks for your comments on the "extra bite" of the edge; I would guess that it is about 120 grit finish. I haven't seen any trouble with rust, which slightly surprised me. Though it's pretty cold and dry in Massachusetts right now, the fact that I'm constantly in and out of buildings on campus, walking fast and building up a sweat, etc., should mean that the blade sees some moisture. But it hasn't rusted at all. I would guess this is because of the finish, which is slightly rough, and hides discoloration, and because of the sheath, the leather of which probably tends to polish the blade as it shifts around inside it in my pocket. Thanks for your thoughts.
 
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