I don’t consider myself a reviewer. Reviewing knives is not my passion, and I am terrible at taking pictures of them. Instead, I just like to share things with folks who appreciate them, and I like the same in turn. Museums will always be cool places to visit for me.
However, I’ve recently noticed that a couple of knives I’d been eyeballing didn’t really have many reviews online, at least not that I could find. To be honest, I don’t have much time this year to be writing blog posts about my knives, but the lack of information online about some great blades has lit a fire under my ass, and I am going to hash out a couple of reviews between chapter edits.
Before we continue any further, I need to explain a few things. First, I’m a big fan of the Blade Show, and the awards earned there. Sure, one could argue that some of that is political, but everything seems to have political elements these days. I find Blade to be much better than other industry events like SHOT Show for finding new makers and knife technologies. Don’t get me wrong, I still watch SHOT coverage, but Blade has the advantage of being a very specific sort of event. I can’t wait to attend in person one day.
Before I got into knife collecting, there were several iconic knives that won the overall prize at Blade, and Zero Tolerance won this award three years in a row. The Zero Tolerance winners caught my attention and imagination. The innovation in materials and design just spoke to me, but then I researched the price of any of these knives, if one can even find them.
Ouch. Limited editions ain’t cheap.
This knife is the Zero Tolerance 0777, an iconic knife in the collecting world. I lifted this pic from Instagram, and the photographer is obviously 1000x better than me (you’ll see). The ZT 0777 won overall best in show at Blade in 2011. This is also the knife that started the public feud between Anthony Marfione of Microtech, and KAI, the company the owns the Zero Tolerance and Kershaw brands. I’m not going to talk about that here, but I will say that I love this design, and I am a fan of both KAI (less so with newer designs) and Marfione/Microtech. I actually own a custom Matrix, and it’s one of my favorite knives in my collection.
Whew, I digress!
Anyhoo, the composite Vanax, stainless herringbone damascus-bladed versions of these knives are rare as hens’ teeth. Only 250ish were made, last I heard. I am not an authority on this, so please don’t get mad at me if I misspeak here, but for sure, not many were made. They originally sold for $400-$500 (I think…it’s hard to track down this info). This is a lot of money, sure. However, these knives /easily/ sell for $1500-$3000 as of 2020 when this blog is being written.
There were cheaper versions made, too. These versions had an M390 blade, either in PVD or stonewashed (iirc). These knives originally sold for about half the price of the fancy versions, and nowadays still go for $800+ on the secondary market. I actually have this version. If anyone ever wants to just check out the design, KAI came out with the (smaller and assisted) Zero Tolerance 0770, and more recently has begun producing the Kershaw Natrix. The Natrix XL (which I also have) is the exact same size as the original 0777, just with far inferior materials.
This is a little article by KAI about the history of the knife. https://zt.kaiusaltd.com/blog/a-look-at-zts-award-winning-history
So as you can tell, I’m a huge fan of this design, and I’d love to one day own every version of it, but…holy shit, Batman. Finding a composite version of the 0777 is friggin’ hard, and they just keep going up in price. This is one of those situations where even if Bill Gates wanted to buy this thing, he might have a tough time.
The fact is that limited edition Blade Show winning knives go up in price very quickly. I know that some reviewers like Nick Shabazz are not fond of limited edition knives, and I get it, but I also understand why companies do this. A limited edition knife is basically a manufacturer’s way of creating the same buzz and collectible nature that in-demand custom knife makers generate. It’s great for marketing at the very least.
Zero Tolerance won best in show at Blade three years in a row. Then Lionsteel did the same thing. As of 2019, Fox Knives, from Italy, has won two years in a row. To see a rundown of winners year-by-year, you can check out this page: https://blog.knife-depot.com/knife-of-the-year-winners-of-last-10-years/. Fox Knives’ wins are very exciting, not least of which because they’re bringing some really incredible innovation to the market. In 2018, we were introduced to the Fox Knives Suru. When this knife came out, it was not a limited edition, and can be found in multiple colors.
This picture of the Suru comes from Blade HQ, and if you’re interested in picking one of these knives up, I can suggest this retailer. (Link to BladeHQ) I’ve never had any problems with them (and Blade HQ, thank you in advance for not destroying me for using your picture!). This knife is small, smooth, and incredibly light. I bought it as a gift for someone, and it’s their favorite knife now.
As you can imagine, I’ve been eyeballing both Blade Show, and Fox knives. So when the company won the overall best in show for 2019, and another award on top of that for the same knife, I was impressed. Then after researching the knife, I knew I had to have one.
The Fox Knives Radius uses a completely new and unique opening mechanism. Basically, the way it works is that you press the button to the side of the pivot, push in, and rotate it along its track. This helps prevent closing the blade on your fingers. Similar mechanism have been used before on other knives, but this one is mechanically different.
This page about the 2019 winners by Blade has a video embedded that shows the action if you’d like to take a look. https://blademag.com/blade-show/2019-knife-of-the-year-award-winners-custom-knife-award-winners-blade-show
As you can probably imagine, I was excited about this design (by Denis Simonutti), and I’ve been carefully watching the interwebs for when it’d be available. It first popped up on the Fox Knives site, with specifications and such. What is kind of funny about this is that Fox actually listed the blade steel for the fancy model as being “DAMASTEEL® DS93X™ Gysinge™”….which is not the case. I was confused for a minute.
This page can be found here: https://www.foxcutlery.com/n/en/product/2167/radius.html
Actually, the fancy version of the knife has a Damacore blade–a fact that is even engraved on the inside of the knife. Damacore (which is trademarked) is also by the same folks who make Damasteel. What makes Damacore different is that it’s effectively san mai. Regular (“regular,” ha!) Damasteel is basically two different steels that are worked together to create a beautiful pattern that can be etched, because the two steels have different properties. Damasteel has several different mixes of steels and patterns, and what makes their products so cool is that none of these steels are welded together, they’re one solid billet, as if they were just one steel.
And the back…
Regular, pattern-welded “damascus” (real damascus steel was actually wootz, but that’s another discussion) is made by welding alternating pieces of different steel together, folding them, and forging them out. This can be done multiple times, and creates beautiful patterns. The ancient Japanese used a process similar to this in order to purify their blades from sub-par materials to something more effective.
“San mai,” which has been trademarked by Cold Steel (the name and graphic, etc, not the process), means there is one type of steel in the center of a blade, and it’s clad in another type of steel, so one steel is the cutting edge, while it’s sandwiched between another.
*A quick note about the Cold Steel trademark: I understand why emotions can be high about these things, but a company cannot maintain a trademark without protecting it. This is actually a fact. I’m not going to actually give my opinion either way, but I can understand CS’s position, and that of folks who are upset by cease and desist letters they’d gotten.
Damacore is actually a san mai constructed blade with a cutting edge (center) of N11X, a high nitrogen steel. The sides are made of Damasteel with a blend of RLW34, and PMC27. For non steel nerds, this is absolutely incredible. What’s more, the entire process uses powdered metal to create one perfect billet of steel. This is not possible with traditional methods of creating damascus steel. More about Damacore can be found here: https://damasteel.se/2018/07/10/new-release-damacore-dc18n/
So what does all of this mean? Will a Damacore blade cut better than a gas station knife? No. But an old junker car won’t get you to the grocery store any faster day-to-day than a McLaren F1, either. What Damacore is, is beautiful and high performance in a way that most people honestly don’t need, but also is markedly better than lower level steels.
OKAY! *deep breath* That’s a lot of knife geekery. Let’s get on with the story.
I didn’t know how rare the fancy version of the Radius would be, I just knew I wanted one. As a result, when I finally found one for sale through a foreign knife vendor, I jumped on it, even though the price was enough to induce vomiting. Keep in mind, I say this as someone with a number of custom knives. The price was WTF, but based on the price of the new Damacore knives that Brian Tighe has made, I can imagine that the materials had a large part to play.
So I knew that the fancy version would be rare. In fact, I figured that the plain version would be sold regularly, and the fancy version would be somewhat like the Zero Tolerance 0777, where only 200-300 would be made, and they’d be snapped up super fast. Well, I got the knife, and it was beautiful. It came with a cool presentation box and the (numbered) Damacore that the blade had been cut from. It also came with a cool pouch. Not too shabby.
Then…I also learned that only 15 were made. Trying to explain my reaction here would be difficult. I was happy, sure, but also dumbstruck. Keep in mind, I never plan to sell this knife. Someone would basically have to trade me a Vanax version ZT 0777, ZT 0454, and a ZT 0999 for it, all three. ….well, two at least. I’m weak. But to imagine that only 15 PRODUCTION knives were made for the pictured variant of the knife that won 2019 Blade, and that I had one…as a collector, this is insane. I plan to carry it too. Don’t hate me.
So let’s look at some pictures of my knife, then get into my opinions. This portion of the article is as much for folks who want to buy the readily available version as much as the folks who want to drool over the Damacore version.
Handle: Copper Carbon Fiber
Clip and hardware: Pink anodized titanium (it looks more rose imo)
Blade length: 2.95″
Blade Thickness: 4mm
Weight: 4.05 oz.
One of the things that surprised me was the size. It’s still comfortable in the hand, but your pinky will wrap around the butt end. The design is very clever to allow this, while still maintaining such a small size. The blade to handle ratio is excellent.
The blade itself is beautiful.
Action is smooth, and fit and finish are amazing. I think even a non-knife person would know they’re holding something truly special with this one.
For a size comparison, here is a lineup with a We Knives Eschaton, a Benchmade 940, a Zero Tolerance 0770, and my Fallout themed FrankenGriptilian.
So I don’t know what the readily available version will cost, but if it’s not out of your budget, I can recommend this knife. The action is smooth and safe, and it feels good in the hand. I am a huge fan of reverse tanto blade shapes (obviously), so if that is your bag too, you’ll like this too. All this said, I am a fan of lanyards, and I was a little disappointed that the Radius didn’t have a lanyard hole. I keep going back and forth about drilling one, but I think I will talk myself out of it.
Wearing a knife that may be worth the price of a used car one day is one thing, but drilling holes in it might even hurt my soul, or cause a disturbance in the knife collecting collective.
So here’s one last picture just for fun: The Radius next to my M390 ZT 0777. Maybe one day I can find the fancy version and display the Radius next to it.