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Review Rockstead Shu

Discussion in 'Knife Reviews & Testing' started by CPP, Apr 22, 2018.

  1. CPP

    CPP Gold Member Gold Member

    743
    Sep 8, 2014
    Shu Review Part 1

    I picked up my first Rockstead, a Shu in ZDP 189, in the midst of a knife buying binge. I had wanted a Rockstead in general for some time and as many people seem to do I considered it financially out of bounds.
    [​IMG]
    The review of the Ryo at the now defunct Edge Observer site was my introduction to the brand and I was initially adamant that if I ever had enough money to spend on a knife that would be the one. I then looked into the various Rockstead models and couldn't decide on a particular model. After comparing folding models over the course of years I narrowed it down to the Shu and the aforementioned Ryo. The $300 price difference was only a minor factor because the cheaper of the two, the Shu, is ~$1,500 so what's a few hundred more dollars on top of that? The psychology of an obsessive, I suppose, as I am hardly Daddy Warbucks.
    [​IMG]
    The deciding factor for me between the Shu and the Ryo was the pocket clip. The Shu comes with a lock-side which all of my knives with pocket clips have, while the Ryo has a retractable spine mounted clip. The Ryo's clip looks innovative and functional but was also an unknown variable as I was unsure how it would sit in my pocket especially on pants made from thinner material. In addition, I respect how they attributed part of the retractable clip mechanism to its inventor, Joseph Caswell, licensing it to him once that issue was brought to their attention. Both knives have the same handle and blade material, are roughly the same size, have the same convex grind, thumb studs and button lock as well as a forward finger choil. The familiar pocket clip sold me on the Shu.

    I ordered the Shu from BladeHQ in the darker of the two colors offered. While the presentation of the knife's packaging is only secondary to the knife itself it did increase my anticipation as I removed it from the box it was shipped in. [​IMG]
    Followed by a branded wooden box inside the cardboard sleeve.
    [​IMG]
    And, to continue with my tedious strip-tease approach to showing you my new purchase, there was a layer of foam inside.
    [​IMG]
    And finally the Shu itself in all of its titanium glory. The knife comes equipped with a filler tab in place of the pocket clip with the clip itself inserted in the foam separate from the knife.
    [​IMG]
    And here it is:
    [​IMG]
    And:
    [​IMG]
    To be continued after a bike ride in the belated spring weather...

    I originally posted my write up on the Rockstead Shu in the Rockstead knowledge thread.
     
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2018 at 8:01 AM
    Cryptyc, SeVeNA7, microbe and 3 others like this.
  2. CPP

    CPP Gold Member Gold Member

    743
    Sep 8, 2014
    Shu Review Part 2

    Both sides of the titanium handle are engraved with what Rockstead describes as a "Japanese apricot motif" each side being a unique version of the motif. This is my first knife with decorative engraving and while I can't say I bought the Shu because of it I also didn't do so in spite of it. That being said it has grown on me and I think it adds a certain subtle sophistication to its appearance and possibly some traction in the user's hand. The handles are coated in DLC, Diamond Like Carbon.[​IMG]

    You can also see the relief in the scalloping which appears on either side of the handle. The angle this relief is ground at allows your index finger to sink into to place resulting in a secure and comfortable grip.

    The Shu also has a forward finger choil half of which falls on the handle and half on the blade allowing the user to choke up on the blade for delicate cutting tasks. What stands out about this forward choil is that is just as comfortable to use as to not–it is truly an optional feature as opposed to the default grip.[​IMG] I have had three Spyderco knives, the Dragonfly II, the Lil' Native and the Sage I and with each using the forward choil is the only way to usefully grip the knife. This is meant not as a criticism of Spyderco's use of the choil as they clearly intended it to be used as such but as an observation. On the CFK Peace Duke using the forward choil is the more natural grip but gripping it with your index finger behing the flipper tab is also functional. The only knife I had with both grips being more or less of equal comfort was the Hinderer XM18.
    [​IMG]
    This arguably broadens the potential uses for this knife. This choil has a short section of lateral texturing which in conjunction with the relief being gripped by the middle finger in a choked-up position provides the user with a very firm hold on the knife.
    [​IMG]
    The spine of the handle is formed by the two titanium scales meeting with a visible but not obvious line. The fit-and-finish is such that not light is visible where the two scales are held together by three Torx screws the heads of which appear on the side with the pocket clip and with no trace on the other. A series of engraved lines traverse the the majority of the spine flaring out toward the pommel with the seam serving as the middle line passing through a relatively small lanyard hole.
    [​IMG]
    The inch or so of the handle just before the blade features texturing that is a fragmentation of the lines just described. The spine of the blade also has texturing similar in both depth and frequency to that found on the Sebenza and Manandi. Restricting my grip to the handle I find my thumb lands on the handle's texturing in spite of the picture above showing my thumb on the spine of the blade. When choking up with my index finger in the forward choil my thumb naturally falls on the blade's texturing and is complemented by the texturing within the choil. To reiterate, both grips are secure and comfortable.
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2018
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  3. CPP

    CPP Gold Member Gold Member

    743
    Sep 8, 2014
    Shu Review Part 3

    The Shu locks firmly using a button lock with the button itself protruding unobtrusively from handle's show side and its mechanics hidden away inside the handle. This is my first knife with a button lock and I am very impressing with its strength as a lock and ease of operation. The detent is firm and appears to be independent of the locking mechanism as evidenced by my observation that the button moves only when locking open but not upon shutting; the author of the Edge Observer blog came to the same conclusion in his review of the Ryo which as mentioned earlier also has a button lock.
    [​IMG]
    In the first picture you can see the knife in the closed position with the button depressed. It seems to me that were the detent a function of the locking mechanism the button would return to its outward locked position. Take this with the same grain of salt you would any amateur's opinion.
    [​IMG]
    The important matter is that both the lock and the detent work and work well. When open there is no blade play at all in any direction once the lock is engaged which it does with an authoritative click. If covert missions are you thing I do not recommend this knife. The lock is disengaged by depressing the button located a short distance from the thumbs in-use-position on the spine of the handle or blade. That much should be obvious.
    [​IMG]
    The knife does not fall shut which presents no concern for me and detent clicks into place upon full closure and holds the blade firmly and securely within the handle. As the knife has a tip-up pocket clip–should you opt to use it–these is little chance that the knife will fall open while riding in you pocket. This is apparently accomplished by means of ridge just inside the handle from the choil visible in the photo below.
    [​IMG]
    The detent is easily overcome using the dual thumbstubs. Comfortable on the thumb and at an effective distance from the pivot I have no problem whatsoever opening this knife smoothly. It should be noted that the knife does not swing open once the detent mechanism has been disengaged as is the case on a knife with an Axis Lock and requires a consistent sweeping motion with your thumb until locking in the open position not unlike a Sebenza, Mnandi or a non-flipping Emerson. The same is true when closing the knife.
    [​IMG]
    While "spine-wacking" may have become the practice of some it is overkill for the intended use of a folding pocket knife. However, I like to "spine-tap" a new knife against my palm or the arm of an upholstered chair to see if there is any movement or shifting as might occur in a liner or frame-lock. There is no movement or shifting whatsoever in the blade itself or button when "spine-tapped" against my palm.

    All of my locking knives are either liner-locks, frame-locks or some adaptation of one or the other such as the liner-less tab-lock on the Shirogorov Sigma or Hoback MK Ultra save for one compression lock, the Lil' Native. Each knife locks securely with no complaint from me but even on the best frame or liner-lock the lock-will slide–perhaps only slightly along the tang toward the opposite handle scale. This presents no weakness in my opinion and could even be construed as an asset: the harder you use it the harder it locks. However frivolous my spine-tap may seem to the reader I'm curious as to the interaction between the tang and the lock-bar and not at all "testing" for lock failure. The button lock as implemented on the Shu shows no such shift or movement. I have taken apart most of the knives I own for the purpose of maintenance with curiosity as an ulterior motive but I am hesitant or disassemble this knife without need as I am sure the button lock is more complex than a frame or liner-lock. And, springs make me nervous ever since taking apart a Benchmade Valet and struggling briefly to refit the Omega Spring properly.
     
  4. CPP

    CPP Gold Member Gold Member

    743
    Sep 8, 2014
    Shu Review Part 4

    The Shu comes with a filler tab in the inset for mounting the pocket clip and the clip itself in slot in the foam insert the knife arrived in. The tab is flush with the handle including on the curved part on the pommel and is held in place by two T6 screws. I prefer the Shu in hand and aesthetically without the pocket clip but not wanting to use a sheath of some sort with a folding knife function wins over fashion.
    [​IMG]
    The Shu's tab is easier to remove than the one for a Sebenza which has a very tight fit. However, this does not result in any unsightly gaps or spaces. There is a third hole lying beneath the tab which I assume is for the purpose of pushing out the tab out should it become stuck for whatever reason.
    [​IMG]
    No Loctite was used to hold the two Torx screws in place so once undone the tab falls out without any effort.
    [​IMG]
    The pocket clip is installed using the same two screws and is of the deep-carry variety keeping the entire handle out of site as the clip extends approximately two millimeters beyond the handle. There is a slight gap between the clip's not-quite-point-of-contact and the handle which creates no problem for me, while further up the clip toward the butt of the handle there sufficient space for thicker pant material.
    [​IMG]
    The clip is made of SUS 420j2 as stated on the included specification sheet and is 1mm thick HRc50 so is relatively soft and flexible. 420j2 is described by AZO Materials as a stainless steel that both "inexpensive and highly corrosion resistant" and "possess[es] good strength and reasonable impact resistant properties in hardened and tempered conditions when compared with 440 grades." The clip gets a secure enough grip on a pants pocket for casual use which is perfect for all of the uses I have for a folding knife except for biking for which I prefer the stiffer clip of an Emerson to hold in place while being held almost upside down.
    [​IMG]
    The clip is at a pronounced angle from the direction of the handle which serves as an advantage by directing the weight of knife toward the rear of a jeans or similar pocket making it less likely that it will swing forward while walking. The pocket clip is barely noticeable and does not result in a hot spot while held for cutting
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2018
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  5. brownshoe

    brownshoe I support this site with my MIND

    Sep 6, 2002
    Nice review, great pictures. What have you cut with it? My test is to cut the back out of a chicken for BBQ :)
     
  6. CPP

    CPP Gold Member Gold Member

    743
    Sep 8, 2014
    I'm saving the best (and most important) part for last: the cutting, which makes the Shu worth its price tag
     
  7. CPP

    CPP Gold Member Gold Member

    743
    Sep 8, 2014
    Shu Review Part 5

    The Shu is extremely and noticeably sharp and even comes with a sheet of paper warning as much. As a result of this in addition to zero-ground convex blade the Shu effortlessly cuts through paper, single-sheet cardboard as well as thicker corrugated cardboard. And, it stays sharp after reasonably heavy use. In this part of the review I will discuss the blade material, the grind and the mirror finish primarily summarized from the Rockstead site where the manufacturing process is described in detail.

    [​IMG]

    ZDP-189 by Rockstead as a "high-carbon" "powder stainless steel" on an insert included with the Shu. According to ZKnives it has "[o]verall, very good edge holding and toughness. Hard to sharpen compared to other steels, nothing impossible, really."

    The ability to be hardened more than most other steels is a distinguishing trait of ZDP-189. My Shu is hardened to HRc 66.9 while, for the sake of comparison, M390, another high-end steel, can be hardened to 62HRc. "Hardness is a measure of a steel’s resistance to deformation" that is typically measured by means of the Rockwell C test denoted by the initials HRc (hardness Rockwell C). This test is performed by measuring an indentation made in the steel with a small indentation demonstrating high hardness as it "resists being dented." (These last two sentences are either quoted or paraphrased from the Crucible website.) Apparently this indentation can be found on the right side of the Shu's ricasso just above the choil.

    [​IMG]

    High hardness in general does not necessarily translate into improved wear resistance as illustrated by Ankerson's edge retention tests which place ZDP-189 in the fourth category of nine with the first having the best retention. Perhaps not the most accurate comparison as the blade tested was hardened to 65HRc in addition to being flat ground–it was on an Endura 4–instead of convex ground. This categorization puts ZDP-189 in the company of CPM-154, CTS-XHP, Elmax and CPM 3V; not bad company at all.

    There are two aspects of a Rockstead knife that likely stand out to most people: the overall knife itself and the price. Perhaps the one of the two you notice first determines if you will be the owner of at least one Rockstead knife. An inevitable question is whether it is worth its price and why it costs as much as it does. I cannot help the reader with the first question but will at least attempt to shed light on the second. There are two plausible explanations for the high cost of a Rockstead. The first is that ZDP-189 is an expensive steel according to ZKnives. Of course there are other manufacturers that produce knives in this material that cost significantly less, for example, Spyderco and Zero Tolerance. The second explanation is provided by Rockstead itself which states that the manufacturing process–in particular, the varying degree of the convex grind from the tip to the base and the mirror-polish finish–is very time consuming and therefore expensive.
     
  8. ridnovir

    ridnovir Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 12, 2012
    Excellent wright up! Awesome knife! :thumbsup:
     
  9. CPP

    CPP Gold Member Gold Member

    743
    Sep 8, 2014
    Thanks
     
  10. 4mer_FMF

    4mer_FMF Basic Member Basic Member

    Jun 9, 2016
    Thank you for the review and pictures. I was able to handle one of these a retailer. They truly are amazing.

    Congratulations. I hope you enjoy your knife!
     
    CPP likes this.
  11. CPP

    CPP Gold Member Gold Member

    743
    Sep 8, 2014
    Shu Review Part 6

    As I mentioned in the previous installment one aspect that perhaps justifies the cost of a Rockstead knife is the manufacturing process. A major segment of this process is, of course, focused on transforming a piece of steel into an incredibly sharp tool. Rockstead provides a rather in-depth description beginning with machining, heat-treat and then moving on to the meticulous sharpening by hand progressing through decreasing grits of sandpaper and on to buffing. Rockstead even have a "custom propretary machine" affectionately named "The Super-Finisher" just for the blade's tip. Having sharpened several of my knives to a near-mirror finish on just the secondary bevel using my Wicked Edge sharpener I can appreciate the hard work and time spent on this process.
    [​IMG]
    The Shu features a convex grind, zero ground–no secondary bevel, from the plunge line where the grind begins to the edge is one continuous arc. The Honzukuri blade grind was inspired by Japanese swords and is one of two blade shapes they use on their various models.
    [​IMG]
    In use, everything I have described above culminates in a smooth cut almost unimpeded by whatever medium being cut through. To quote Rockstead: "Slicing through a sheet of paper will confirm Rockstead's unrivaled sharpness." In an informal comparison cutting through printer paper followed by thin cardboard in my kitchen this statement manifested in experience. Cutting with the Shu along with another knife with a full-flat-ground M390 blade and another with a hollow-ground blade in CTS-XHP the Shu glided through the paper and cardboard unmatched by the other knives. As I said, an informal comparison, and I'm not sure if there exists a formal comparison of cutting smoothness.
    [​IMG]
    Usually when I buy a new knife I handle it without putting it to use until I am confident it's a keeper so if it's not I can recoup most of the money spent. However, the Shu had no such probationary period and once I had sufficiently gazed into my crystal clear reflection in its mirror polished blade I put it to use. I recently had most of the lighting in my house replaced and was left with many cardboard boxes, big and small, thick and thin. The Shu effortlessly sliced the cardboard which on some boxes was approaching an inch thick and consisted of several layers. This made cleanup not just easy but also enjoyable. The pictures immediately above and below show the blade after this heavy usage.
    [​IMG]
    As you can see the cardboard left only surface scratches and the blade has maintained its mirror-like finish. My concern with the knife's finish after cutting through so much cardboard has much more to do with durability than aesthetics. As a non-metallurgist I think it's safe to assume deeper scratches and any traces of use would result in a snowballing effect of wear. I examined the blade using a 10x loupe to see if any chipping had occurred and while I did notice some light reflecting at unusual angles I saw none. Below is my attempt at a close-up in which you can see how superficial the scratches are while still seeing the reflection of the loupe I took the picture through–at least I think that's what it is.
    [​IMG]
    I stropped using both sides of my strop using compound for coarse and fine and then with Rockstead's description of the Kon–"When pushed with force,this knife will cut though a phone book as if it were butter"–in mind I brought out my unused Yellow Pages. The Shu cut through the inch or so thick phone book without me having to apply much pressure or use a sawing motion. Doing so was strangely satisfying to both feel via the hand holding the knife and to see. I tried to take of video of this by putting my phone in the vice on my workbench and was disappointed to find that the footage was sketchy and failed to capture the visual impact of slicing off that first corner.
     
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  12. now

    now

    8
    Dec 27, 2017
    Shu Review Part 7 – Disassembly?
     
  13. JimMD

    JimMD Gold Member Gold Member

    156
    Dec 6, 2017
    It seems unusual that cardboard would leave scratches on ZDP-189. Is it possibly clad in a softer steel to resist corrosion?
     
  14. CPP

    CPP Gold Member Gold Member

    743
    Sep 8, 2014
    As I’m unfamiliar with the the button lock I’m waiting until it’s necassary to take it apart. Locking Mechanisms with springs tend to be more complicated than frame and liner locks as I learned taking apart the only Benchmade I’ve owned.

    No it’s solid ZDP189 although other Rockstead knives encase it in VG10. The scratches are superficial and don’t catch my fingernail when running it across it. Those scratches are likely just more visible due to the mirror finish whereas a stonewash finish, for example, will mask minor scratches.
     
  15. CPP

    CPP Gold Member Gold Member

    743
    Sep 8, 2014
    Update
    As I don't always carry a knife the Shu is the closest I have to a go-to-knife. It handles all of my day-to-day tasks without any difficulty and stays sharp in the process. Periodically, I have stropped it using both sides of my leather strop.
    [​IMG]
    The only signs of wear are the micro-scratches mentioned above on the blade and some minor fading of the DLC finish near the button-lock. This does not at all present a problem as signs of use indicate a knife has been used. The mirror-finished bevel has maintained its mirror finish.
    [​IMG]
     
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  16. 4mer_FMF

    4mer_FMF Basic Member Basic Member

    Jun 9, 2016
    It certainly is an elegant knife. I think it’s great you enjoy using such a beauty.
     
    CPP likes this.
  17. jstrange

    jstrange

    Mar 31, 2012
    I didn’t know the Edge Observer was gone. That was a cool site :(
     
  18. CPP

    CPP Gold Member Gold Member

    743
    Sep 8, 2014
    Blade Reviews is re-publishing the Edge Observer reviews and has completed a few so far
     
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  19. jstrange

    jstrange

    Mar 31, 2012
    Cool thanks.
     

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