Just another knife? Hardly the case!
It should comes as no surprise that I have a bit of a gear addiction. It’s also safe to say that my addiction includes knives. I have knives of all sorts, types, and configurations. So much so that I pretty much have a knife for every occasion. I know better than to look at new knives because it usually results in purchase of that particular knife. The responsible part of me has learned to only buy knives when they fit a specific need (I believe this is called justifying an impulse buy!) and have a fair price tag. Sometimes this works well for me, and sometimes I buy knives I can’t really justify. My latest purchase turned out to be the former.
I was looking for a small fixed blade knife that would look appropriate when I’m sporting tactical style pants. I have a small Marbles knife that has served me well, but the brown leather sheath and stag antler handle stand out like a sore thumb on a BDU belt and tactical pants. I could usually care less about how I look, but for some reason this style faux-pas was unacceptable. So the search for the perfect knife begins….
The number of “survival” and “tactical” knives available is staggering. A lot of them are nice, some are complete crap. Each one that seems to work well has a cult following. I decided to delve into the information on the internet to see if I could sort the wheat from the chaff. As is turns out, only a few knives seem to have great reviews. With the state of Texas having laws in place that limit us to 5.5 inches, that narrowed it down a little further. I tend to hate any sort of radical design for fixed blade knives, so now there are even fewer. That was a lot of searching to find most companies either have a stupid looking design or are made of substandard materials.
I’ve heard of the RAT Cutlery knives for years, and the guys over at In The Rabbit Hole Podcast seem to really like them. I figured they were worth looking at. Some internet research revealed that the RAT name is licensed to Ontario Knife, and that the original manufacturer now uses the name ESEE. I managed to snag one at the local gun show for a little less than retail price. Make no mistake, these aren’t inexpensive knives. These are top quality in both material and construction. After much rambling, it’s time to get to the particulars of my perfect new belt knife.
The model I ended up with is the ESEE Izula II. Apparenty, the Izula is a pretty serious little ant in the Amazon jungle. The knife lives up to its namesake. It is sleek, slender, and ready to sting.
To save time, I’m going to borrow the specs directly from the ESEE website. I hope they don’t mind!
O.A Length: 6.75″
Blade Length (end of handle to tip): 2.88″
Cutting Edge Length: 2 5/8″
O.A. Blade Length: 2 3/4″
Maximum Thickness: .156″
1095 Steel – 57 Rc.
Blade Width: 1.0″
Handles: Canvas Micarta
Weight: 3.2 Ounces (Knife & Handles Only)
Sheathing: Injection Molded, Black
Pommel: .550″ Diameter Hole To Accommodate Carabiner
Spine: Thumb Grippers
Finish: Textured Powder Coat
My initial impressions were pretty favorable. The knife balances very well and they handle shape and size is very comfortable. The Micarta handle offers a no-slip grip. But as always, the best way to judge a knife is to use it. Here at Surviving Modern Life, I prefer to abuse the hell out of something before I give it a favorable review.
A weekend camping trip proved to be a great testing ground to see if this knife could handle my particular brand of abuse. Like I said, I wanted to give it a thorough test, so I wasn’t concerned about marring the finish or chipping the blade. Turns out, I didn’t need too. The first round of testing involved wild onions. They were growing everywhere in the rocky soil around the creek. Out comes the knife and into the ground it goes. It turns out that wild onions can really hold on to the ground. Each onion dug out required digging around it and loosening up all the rocks to get it out. When you use a knife to dig, you generally don’t like to hear crunching or scraping sounds. There were plenty of knife killing sounds going on. I got my harvest of onions then washed the knife off in the creek. I did dry it on my pants before resheathing out of habit.
The next round came before dinner time. It was time to start a fire and I went all out on knife abuse. The blade is less than 3 inches long, so it isn’t optimal for batoning wood. I’m not one to let “less than optimal” hold me back. Into a chunk of oak goes the knife and I proceed to beat on it with another log. Pretty soon I have a neat little pile of kindling and a couple of bloody knuckles. Now I know why a longer knife is preferable for this technique! Now I finally have some damage on my knife. The powdercoat finish on the blade flatten out a little bit. It didn’t peel off at all, just lost some of the texture. Functionality isn’t affected at all, just the cosmetics.
Now it’s on to dinnertime. I could have grabbed my Mora. I could have grabbed the kitchen knife we brought. Oh please, we’re in the middle of a gear test! After a quick washing, the Izula is in the camp kitchen. Of course I can’t find many ways to abuse it in the kitchen. The best I could do was some food chopping on the aluminum table. Since the knife has a Rockwell hardness of 57, I could have cut the table in two without damaging the blade.
At this point I decided to call it on further testing. I couldn’t think of any other sinister tests that would mimic real life use. I have to say I was very impressed. Now onto my not impressed impressions.
The sheath that comes with the knife is a hard plastic job that the knife fits into snugly. Unfortunately, it’s just a sheath. It doesn’t even include a belt clip. These are sold separately. I ended up using paracord to lash it to my belt for the weekend. Even if I was inclined to buy a belt clip, the knife would sit way too high on my belt. There are folks out there that offer leather and Kydex sheaths in a traditional style. This is the option I took. I found a great sheath from Endless Mountain Supply on Ebay.
The next issue I take with the knife is the Micarta handles. They start out a very pretty subdued greenish gray color. After using it with dirty hands for a weekend, it darkened quite a bit. Now it’s almost black. The functionality and grip are unaffected however.
I’m so impressed with the durability and craftsmanship in this knife that I’m now planning to purchase the ESEE 4, which is the same knife with a 4+ inch blade. I love the size of the Izula, but some jobs require a little more blade. I can safely say that if you are in the market for a higher end knife, you can’t go wrong. It has all the attention to details that you usually find from custom makers for a fraction of the custom price. ESEE gets the Surviving Modern Life endorsement. I look forward to getting the ESEE 4 and giving it the same style of abusive testing.