I like tools with a rich history, be it my grandfather’s old LC Smith side-by-side 20GA, or a knife from a company that has been making them for 125 years. The Ontario Knife company was founded in 1889 in Naples, (Ontario County) New York, and has been making knives there for the US Military and civilian consumers ever since.
Theirs is the last booth I stopped by at the Blade show. They were by one of the doors and always seemed to be busy, but by Sunday morning things had cleared out a bit and I was able to strike up a conversation with one of their representatives.
To make a long story short, I was offered a TAK at a considerable discount. I had been wanting an Ontario for a while, ever since one was entered in our knife porn contest. The TAK, is a solid knife, and certainly worth the $40 I paid for it. MSRP is $130 which strikes me as a tad steep, but it can be found in the $60 range on Amazon which I feel is a good value for a well constructed, American Made tool.
The TAK has a 4.5″ blade of .19″ zinc-coated 1095 steel. It is a burly knife, with a full tang construction and massive canvas Micarta scales. I have a medium sized hand, and the handle is at the upper limit of what I would normally consider comfortable. However, as I have been using the TAK, I have developed an appreciation for the subtle ergonomics of this knife. By completely filling my hand with a relatively generalized shape, I could maintain a firm grip without any concern with lining my hand up with jimping (the knife has none), or bracing my finger against a hilt. In a sense, there was no need for a specialized grip.
This leads me to another point about the scales. This is the first Micarta-scaled knife I have had the opportunity to test, and I am really impressed. I had been told, and have now experienced first hand, how the canvas (or sometimes linen) expands when wet. When cutting an abnormally juicy pineapple, the handle became completely drenched. It was like my hand stuck to the knife. Really cool. I have been told that the effect is even more pronounced when the handle is soaked in deer blood.
Out of the box, the TAK is relatively sharp, but not newsprint shaving sharp. It did a good job on the pineapple test, but I could tell when julienning the skin that there was more potential to unlock within this knife. However, even when middling-sharp, the blade’s shape, heft, and full-flat grind make it a very formidable camp-kitchen tool.
I wanted to take it further, and started with the Sharpmaker. That was all it took to get my Benchmade Steep Country scary sharp, but the initial results with the TAK were only fair. The 1095 steel of the TAK is only 55-56 HRC, but it was going to take more than that to get the TAK where I wanted. It was Tormek Time.
I took my time matching the bevel, first marking the edge with sharpie pen, then a quick check and adjustment to the jig. After a couple of tweaks I ground the blade in two stages, medium and fine (you dress the Tormek’s wheel with a separate stone which impregnates the slurry with finer particles.) I honed the blade on the leather wheel and checked it on a piece of 3/4″ sisal.
I then put the TAK through the corrugated cardboard test. This thing is a machine. Large knives sometimes struggle with this, as the thickness of the blade causes friction and slows the blade’s progress. Sometimes a small, thin blade yields a surprising results. But the TAK ate through well over 100 linear feet of cardboard. It was still going strong when I stopped testing, but the initial cut into the edge was beginning to tear the cardboard. Once going, it was slicing efficiently.
One observation upon finishing the cardboard test. The zinc coating had begun to wear on both sides of the blade. I was surprised, since it appeared to be quite tough when I did some batoning and chopping my way though a pine board (this knife’s heft is going to lend itself well to bushcraft once I get it to the field for long term testing).
However, the gritty friction of cutting cardboard proved to be more than the coating can handle. It clearly had begun to wear off. It gives me a new appreciation of just how hard corrugated is on blades, and how well many of them take the abuse.
While the Sharpmaker was not enough to set a good edge on the knife initially, it did a fine job of touching up and even taking it further than the Tormek had. A couple of passes along the fine ceramic blades is enough to tweak the edge to arm-shaving sharpness. It also finally did great on newsprint.
I am pleased with the TAK so far. While I wish that I still possessed the Will Wood’s Kraken, the TAK seems to be a solid production substitute for when you want a brutally elegant tool for camp use. If the rest of the testing progresses how I anticipate it will from my favorable first impression, I should be able to give this knife my full recommendation.