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RTAK review too

Oct 12, 1999
Hello all! I just received my Newt Livesay RTAK today and this is my initial review.

Firstly, the physical dimensions:

Overall length-16 7/8"
Handle length-6 1/8"
Blade length-10 ¾"
Sharpened edge-9 ¾"
Blade width-2"
Blade thickness-3/16"

Out of the box impressions:

This is a substantial knife; it's big, broad and hefty. The fit and finish on the handles are top notch. The brass rivets holding the micarta slabs to the tang are perfectly flush, as is the tang to the slabs. Nor is there any gapping or spaces between tang and slabs. The blade itself was rather dirty and grimy and so required a little cleaning with some soap and water. Once that was done and I could inspect the finish closely I found it to be uniform if a little rough. But I'm told that's the way a parkerized finish looks so I won't complain.
The sheath is very nice and holds the blade very well, the best I've seen so far for fit. There are twenty-six brass rivets strengthening the sheath and I think it may need it. There are more than a dozen places where the seam between the pieces of kydex are separating. I don't think it's a structural issue, but one I thought I 'd mention. That being said, I quite like the sheath.
The first thing I did was to see how sharp the edge was straight off. I have to say I was rather disappointed. The RTAK could not even cut paper, it simply tore it. This didn't bother me too much as I almost always re-sharpen my knives when I get them. I've had so many knives that had poor or uneven grinds that I find it easier in the long run to correct the grind from the get go. What surprised me was how out one side of the grind was. The angle varied from 24-degrees to 26-degrees along the length of the blade. Using my EdgePro Apex it took me about 25 minutes to put on an even 24-degree grind and then another 35 minutes to fully sharpen the knife. It took me this much time not because it was particularly difficult but because there is so much blade to sharpen! I took it to 600 grit and at that point the RTAK could push cut paper and shave. I didn't want to take it any higher because I wanted it to have a bit more bite than some of my other knives.

Out in the yard:

I headed in search of trees to de-limb and then chop. I hacked my way through about a half a dozen trees with diameters ranging from 2"-3". The RTAK handled them with no problem. I also used it to split a two-foot section of a 3" tree in half. I used another section of the tree to pound the spine. It split the section with ease. I also went around and cleared some overhanging branches. Again, no problem.
I checked the blade and while it was no longer shaving sharp it could still push cut paper. I then got some carpet ends and started cutting. After about 25 slices (each one being about 4" long) I started getting some serious resistance and decided that was enough. At this point the RTAK could not push cut and tended to tear more than slice paper. A few strokes on an 800 grit ceramic steel and then a few more on a loaded strop and it was sharp enough to cut paper easily but not push cut. A minute or two on the Apex and it was push cutting sharp again. During all of this cutting there was no rolling or damage to the edge.
I carefully inspected the finish and found absolutely no signs of damage or scuffing. This is the first parkerized knife I have owned and it has to be the toughest finish I've seen. Even after pounding on the spine there were no scuff marks.
However, there was one problem that soon became apparent. The RTAK's handle was fast producing a very nasty blood blister on my hand, just below my ring finger. It rose very quickly and soon became too painful to continue chopping. I'm not sure if it was the grip I was using or the handle, I'll give it a few more days of testing before I make up my mind which.
What's my initial opinion of the RTAK? Good value for the money. The blade is made of a good steel with good edge holding and sharpening characteristics. While the sheath had some separation, I had no concerns about failure (particularly with all those rivets). The finish, while not as smooth as some others, certainly has the edge in toughness. My only real complaint is the handle, and as I said I'm not sure if that's really the handle or just my grip. This is only an initial review. So there will be more to come.

"Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heav'n"
John Milton
There are only two types of people; those who understand this, and those who think they do.
It's the handle. I would have gotten a blister in the same place had it not been for the callous already there.

I think I'll bring this up in my next e-mail to Newt. (The poor man has GOT to be getting sick of all my e-mail!)
The handle looks decent to me, but it is extremely difficult to tell this from a picture. Was you grip stable during chops or was it moving? Was there discomfort from impacts or abrasion? How would you want the handle modified to make it more ergonomic?

the4th-Glad to know it wasn't just me, I wonder if there's anything I can do to modify the handle?

Cliff-The blood blister formed from impacts between the flesh of my hand and the handle when chopping. I used both a secure and loose grip trying to see which one gave the best results, but it was defientely impact not abrasion. As I said in my brief reveiw, I've only been playing with it for a day so I'll try modifiying my grip and see if that produces an improvement. The problem, I think, is the palm swell is just a little too much. If you're interested I can always drop if off to you and you can play with it on person.

"Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heav'n"
John Milton
There are only two types of people; those who understand this, and those who think they do.
Okay, here's my first update on the RTAK. I had several emails from Newt Livesay this morning and he informed me that the seperations on the edge of the kydex sheath were normal as the sheath is formed under pressure so no worries there.

He apologized that the knife wasn't as sharp as I would like it. Good on him. He also informed me that as many as 300 knives are sharpened, by hand, a day and that a variance of 2-3 degrees was considered normal. I can certainly see that, particularly as the RTAK has such a long blade the likelyhood of a variance is quite high.

As far as the palm swell, Newt gave the same advice as Cliff Stamp and Ron Hood-try another grip and see if that helps. This is exactly what I planned to do and I will let you all know if I can find a grip that works for me. If I can't find a comfortable grip I'm going to modify the palm swell. This is where dealing with Newt was a real pleasure. He told me the "do's and don'ts" of grinding a handle and added that if worst came to worse I could send it back and they would re-grind the handle to my specs. The only cost being shipping. Now really, I couldn't ask for much more than that. Over the coming weekend I intend to conclude my testing of the RTAK so look for a final update then.

"Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heav'n"
John Milton
There are only two types of people; those who understand this, and those who think they do.