May 5, 2019898 views

An afternoon's play with the Kershaw Reverb

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My Reverb came today and I was surprised by all the things I liked about it for a $20 knife. But it has a horrible action, and that's really down to a couple purposeful design elements. The first is that the stop pin is so close to the pivot point that there's not much room for a washer -- less than standard washers will allow, in fact. And the second is the frame lock is very heavy on the tang, and flipping wise it's a bit of a lead balloon, with a lot of drag on the action. So I decided to dive into it.
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Not a ton to it, which I like. And lo and behold, causes for the poor action quickly emerged.
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As you can see, the washers have been chewed up. I thought the stop pin was rubbing -- the stop pin is fine, it's the detent ball. Before sanding
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(See the circle worn in the metal? That's from the ball bearing embedded in the detent, grinding against the steel.) After sanding, the works was a little smoother.
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None of the standard washers I have would fit this pivot with the stop pin right there, and any that would fit would be so thin that they'd be providing questionable support to the pivot, and would be prone to quickly crush and fail under pressure. So no perfect solution existed and I decided to see if a little phosphor bronze and some filework would suffice as a replacement. Phosphor bronze wears in over time and becomes smoother with use, but is strong enough to resist crush pressure, because when the washers start deforming, that introduces a lot of side to side wobble in folding knife blades. The washers would be too thick to spin, they'd have to be notched to fit against the stop pin, which would kind of lock them in place and hence lose some of their value as washers, but what the hell -- I wasn't putting the chewed up nylon things back on, so onward it was. Fifteen minutes later:
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Almost, but not quite, as if I knew what I were doing! The knife went back together as simple as you please, which is a good thing.
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And there are the bronze washers in the knife. They look to be settling into their new home. The net result? Well, it's still not a flipper, but it's a lot smoother than it was, and the knife will stand up to a little heavier of use now. If you look at it like that, it's kinda not that big of a deal, but I entertained myself for a few hours getting to know this thing, and I made it a little bit better in the process. That's a lazy Saturday afternoon gone just fine, by my standards. :)
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Jetblackc22, Kevin, and 15 others
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get a buck apex !! much better in every way and comes in cf!!!
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the buck one has been out years before the kershaw and they are much better built , and on top of that i was able to get them on sale at academy for 14$ so i bought 4 including a cf one i also have several Chinese versions , but none are as good as the buck one , i prefer US made bucks but if the product is good i will buy whatever , ( unfortunately most buck Chinese products are crap , but this on is not and if you like this style of knives you can't go wrong with the apex !
Fleric
this calls for some research!
check out the buck apex ( think thats the name ) but it much better and comes in cf as well as bright aluminum colors , i have 4 of them . very good coin pocket knives !
So when I was looking around the net I saw this Kubey knife, which prolly seems a little familiar to the readers of this thread:
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The Kubey KU-111. $12.99 from Jeff Bezos' posse. I ordered it, because i've been curious as to whether Kubey is one of SRM's brands. The main reason is that this isn't the first SRM knife I've seen with an identical looking but slightly cheaper Kubey version. The way I see it, there's four possibilities: Case A - one is a competitor's copy of the other. Yes, the Chinese clone each others' successful designs. Justice, people figure, right? We do this too of course - Coke v Pepsi, Ford v GM, Miller v Budweiser... we sometimes make fun of it but no one I know refuses to buy a Pepsi, or a Coke, just because whenever Pepsi or Coke comes out with something new, the other has their version of it out within a month. We know fashion knockoffs, too. Case B - both brands are owned by the same company and one is more prestigious or otherwise expensive than the other (Like Volkswagen and Bugatti). This happens a lot in the US and we're familiar with it and how it works. No need to spend too much time on it. Case C - both brands are owned by different companies and the knife is made by a third party. Less familiar to us but it still happens, mostly with the cheapest knives (although it's how WE Knife got good at knives.) Much more visible in the beer industry where one big brewery might be the same place a ton of microbrews with distinct marketing identities but zero manufacturing footprint actually get made. If you've ever actually worked in a factory, you know that that means the question is really "Out of everything that factory made, what did they sell to whom and what was properly made and what wasn't?" Because factories fuck up from time to time. That, you can bank on. Case D - The knife is made by one of the companies and the second company has bought some with their own logo on it. Which happens a lot more often in Chinese business than it does over here in our knife industry. Chinese business seems to have its own rules and once you consider how they do things, it doesn't seem so strange, but at first that just seems to Western eyes like something that shouldn't be allowed. They seem to make it work for their purposes tho. The upside? These knives may prove differ in certain ways like quality of build or materials, especially if one of the brands is looking to protect its brand, or the competitor just wants a cheap version. So which is it? A, B, C, or D? Well, here is the Kubey with the SRM and the Reverb just as a refresher:
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Below - Kubey and SRM. The SRM's on bottom - the o ring around the flipper knob is something I added to it before I realized I'd be taking a photograph like this. ;)
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Flip it open? Easy. A little tighter than the SRM but still pretty fast once you get the trick. That knob on the flipper can be pressed down to help disengage the detent and lockbar.
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Yeah, identical designs. OK, it's reasonable to dismiss Case A. These knives are clearly more than similar. So is one made of different materials? Doesn't look like it, at first. But if you look carefully at that backspacer, you can see a tiny chip with some brown rust in it.
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Different metal? or the same metal but from a lower quality batch of parts? or just random? No way to know, but it's suggestive that the QC was worse. Also, compare the brand marks. Doesn't Kubey look kinda like 'Bubey' in that font and at that size? Is it just sloppy coloring?
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Not sloppy then. Look at the SRM:
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That's a lot crisper, right? Suggests that the size of the area for 'logo space' was determined more around making sure SanRenMu could be visible, and maybe not so much around what a sort of gothic 'Kubey' might look like. Suggests much more time was spent on making SRM's logo look right than Kubey's. Suggests only, but still. So opening it up...
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That's a little different. No bushing holes on the brass? As a reminder this is how it looks on the SRM:
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On the Kubey:
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So phosphor bronze and brass, just not with the bushing holes. Those are expensive, believe it or not -- much much much easier to punch a washer out of a sheet than it is to punch precise holes in the washer. Probably why most people don't do it. Hella good tech tho. Simple and effective. Also note that the PB is maybe a tad rougher than the ones on the SRM. So what do we have here? We have dispensed with Case A -- separate manufacturers, one ripping off the other. The knives are identical in dimension. So is it B? Is Kubey a cheaper brand of SRM? Are they separate brands that both bought this knife from a third party (Case C)? Or are they separate companies and did SRM sell a knockoff of one of their models of knives at wholesale to Kubey to rebrand and resell (Case D)? Well, it's probably not B. There's a few other Kubeys that kind of look like a few SRMs, but not like this. Nothing like the amount of overlap between SRM and Real Steel, say. Also there's a lot of Kubeys for sale made from 6-4 Ti and S35VN for $100-$200 and the SRM brand only has one or maybe two knives I'm aware of with a Ti handle and none in S35VN. Materials indicate prestige, so this indicator goes opposite to what we'd expect if Kubey were a house brand. Either way it's a clear indication Kubey isn't positioned as an inferior brand to SRM based on how they price and what materials they use on their prestige items. So for the two to be the same company would mean that SRM is maintaining Kubey not just as a line, but doing so with an irrational pricing structure, especially if branding is an issue. And that's the point of all this, branding, right? So it could be, but I don't think B is our best answer. It's always hard to rule out C in China. The reason I'm inclined to hesitate about it here is that both knives have a grind that's pretty distinctive to SRM knives, with a mix of hollow and flat grinds and a bit of tanto-esque swaging. Also, can't forget about the Kershaw Reverb, which by now I've concluded was OEMed by SRM -- if it were OEMed by a third party that also supplied SRM with its signature grind knives, there'd be no particular reason for SRM to be at the table so handily as they are here. SRM would just be someone else wanting to buy the design. Who needs them? But they’re at the table here. There's never not a reason for that. So I'm not so sure about C either. So is it D? Are they different companies but they did a deal? Did whoever owns Kubey just go 'I like your knife and would like some with my logo on it because i don't have anything in that segment of the market?' And did SRM go 'Well, we're pretty proud of this one and we're planning on building our brand with things like this, but I hear you -- let's see if we can't do something that makes sense'? Sitting here at my desk on the other side of the world and reading the tea leaves, it's important to remember that I can never be sure of my conclusions -- but I think that's exactly what happened. Case D. Kubey agreed to take a knife that's not QUITE so good, probably for a discount. SRM chose to do a deal that emphasized their own quality over the chance to perhaps make more money up front by offering Kubey a more expensive build. I got two knives that are mostly the same, but the SRM's just a skosh better, and opens a little faster. The third - the Reverb - well, I like that handle, but it is more expensive than either of the others and I think they both are better knives, even ignoring price. The carabiner is also better secured to a backspacer like the SRM than to one side of the frame like on the Reverb. But it’s hard to be pissed at Kershaw; they’re the founder of the feast, you might say. Without them none of these knives exist. I was wondering whether Kubey could be a SRM brand, and now am thinking they are a separate company that buys some or all of their knives from other companies and rebrands them. It fits somewhat with other observations of Kubey that I've made. And that worries me a bit about them. They might not have any of their own manufacturing capability. I think they bought and rebranded some of Albatross's cheap wooden handled folders, and Albatross isn't all that good of a line to begin with in my estimation. Stuff looks better than it is. So who else is Kubey buying from? Are those expensive knives built by someone else too? If so, are they good like SRM or bad like Albatross? I haven't shelled out for one yet and now, frankly, I'm kind of hesitant to do so. My Kubey fixed knife was just fine at ~$30, but $175 for one of their premier folders is a bit different of a research proposition. I suppose they could be with Enlan, which makes ok but not great knives. (Many people like the Enlan Bee.) Enlan might be the owner of Albatross. The firm that holds the Kubey trademark also holds an Enlan trademark. But appearances can deceive and if there's one thing I know about Chinese knife companies it's that nothing's ever simple. So it's hard to be conclusive. Anyway those are my findings. Take them with as much salt as you want to, coming from a guy on the other side of the world from where both knives are from. As for me, at least I am now fairly satisfied that Kubey is not one of SRM's brands. Who knows, maybe tomorrow they'll prove me wrong. )
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Thanks for the in-depth. I wish Kershaw would just hire Sanrenmu to do the job for them.
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That's one hell of a write up. Thanks for the hard work.
fhood
appreciated. Work isn’t the right word.... it takes time and energy but there’s a nerdish pleasure to sharing the info that makes all this not-work somehow. It’s all data they try to keep behind the curtains usually. I hate facades and like figuring out what lies beneath. Especially these days with all the problems we can’t solve, one I can solve is pleasant medicine.
Thanks for the in depth! I hope mine arrived with better action! Chinese Kershaws seem to be hit or miss in terms of quality or action. I wish they would just contract out to Sanrenmu since they seem to know what they are doing!
I decided to take the edge in a bit. Before:
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Classic factory grind. Microserrations. When it slices through paper it will slice clean but it will sound a bit like it's tearing the paper, because it is, thousands of little microserrations are sawing through the microscopic structure of the paper. Really, for most people and purposes, the factory grind is superior. It has more 'bite'. Best at cutting -- not best at clean slicing, when it's most important that whatever is being cut have a smooth and even cut edge, like sushi or rare roast beef, but it cuts through the same amount of material with less effort than a true honed edge takes. I'm not exactly going to use this thing to prepare ahi, so sharpening it so soon after buying it is arguably pointless, but I'm bored. After:
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Beveled hone edge. Awesome for most steels, easy as pie with a belt sharpener. Bit of a quick strop to finish the edge. The microserrations are now only visible as the remnants of the grind lines that produced them. The texture you're seeing now is the structure of the steel. In terms of sharpness?
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That's the edge it leaves slicing through toilet paper. It'll do.
Thanks for posting your investigation and refinements. It all comes down to it being a budget knife made in China. I don't know why I continue to buy budget knives when I have dozens in the high hundred dollar range and a few over that. I just received mine and so far I have no issues with it, but should there be any, I have you to thank for documenting what can be done.
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That sums it up pretty well. I get a lot of pleasure out of my collection.
stoutdog
Yeah. Let's be honest tho, part of it goes past that. There are two kinds of people in the world, and one of them is the sort that if they walk into a room and see a few hundred knives, it's an alarming and unsettling event. I'm the other sort and I expect you and the majority of people posting here are as well. That is related to but slightly different from the joy of collection, in which we also indulge. In a lot of ways, knife collectors are like other collectors... but we aren't collecting butterflies or stamps, we're collecting something that approximately zero people ever forget is a lethal weapon no matter how many other uses we have for it, and I don't think that's by accident. Knives just have that frisson and we are just the type of people who like it most. I mean, there might be people out there who collect knives who might as easily collect teacups, I've just never got that sense upon meeting one. Know what I mean?