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#138303 - 07/01/08 04:28 AM Review: Three Items from Cold Steel
dougwalkabout Offline
Crazy Canuck
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 02/03/07
Posts: 2741
Loc: Alberta, Canada

So, in a moment of weakness, I broke down and ordered some Cold Steel items from a mail-order house: the Special Forces Shovel, the Canadian Belt Knife, and the Heavy Machete.

A bit of background: I have a couple of Cold Steel blades from many years ago, and they were impressive. The Carbon V Twistmaster (solid Zytel handle and Opinel-type locking mechanism) has to be the strongest, sharpest featherweight folder I've ever seen. Naturally, I had high expectations of the new arrivals.

Special Forces Shovel: PASS.

A very sturdy digging tool, in a packable size and weight, that can serve as a decent two-handed machete. There are a number of ways to grip this shovel for different jobs, and the heft and balance feel right each time. A small file would be handy to frequently touch up the cutting edges -- it doesn't hold an edge as well as most axes. The factory edges on the "digging" surfaces are too thin, and will nick badly when hitting rocks; I'll gradually file them to a 45 deg. bevel and keep the thinner cutting edges on the sides. Overall, I like it more every time I use it, and I'm looking forward to using it for some hiking-plus-trail-maintenance work.

Canadian Belt Knife: PASS, with caveats.

This is a blatant steal of the famous Grohmann design, of course, with fair-to-middling steel and an injection-molded polypro handle (like a kitchen knife). But I like the feel of this design. When cutting meat or vegetables, it's like an extension of my finger. Based on this, I'm going to get a genuine Grohmann as a gift for my father. It's hard to know how strong this knife really is. I can feel it flex when making fuzz sticks, so I wouldn't use it for anything but straight cutting. At 2.2 ounces it would be adequate as a backpacking knife. The sheath is okay, but I wouldn't want to fall on it (no plastic insert). Is this blade as sharp or strong as a Mora? Nope, it's not. But I'll enjoy using it in the kitchen.

Heavy Machete: FAIL.

This thing is embarassingly bad -- a complete waste of money. It's like they cut out a chunk of door from a '48 Chev truck, put on a handle, and called it a machete. It's so flexible that it flops all over, wasting energy from each strike. The steel is so soft that half a dozen swings at mild hardwood makes it dull. It's the worst machete I've ever used, by an order of magnitude. Since it's not worth the postage to return it, it will be relegated to chopping up garden waste for compost. Or if I need to chop a tree root, I'll whack this thing with a sledgehammer and save my axes.

Hope all this is of some value or interest to the group.

#138313 - 07/01/08 08:10 AM Re: Review: Three Items from Cold Steel [Re: dougwalkabout]
bigreddog Offline

Registered: 07/02/06
Posts: 253
Thanks for the review (reviews are always a good thing)

Shovel sounds interesting - there are some environments where digging and light chopping are the order of the day

I have reservations about the belt knife - not for what it is in terms of performance (light duty knife) but just the blatant steal from Grohmanns who I have a soft spot for

Machetes are bizarre - so simple yet sometimes people get them so wrong!

#138325 - 07/01/08 11:45 AM Re: Review: Three Items from Cold Steel [Re: bigreddog]
Nishnabotna Offline
Icon of Sin

Registered: 12/31/07
Posts: 512
Loc: Nebraska
I've never owned one, but they appear so cheesy that I wouldn't take the chance.

#138331 - 07/01/08 01:08 PM Re: Review: Three Items from Cold Steel [Re: dougwalkabout]
SwampDonkey Offline

Registered: 07/08/07
Posts: 1268
Loc: Northeastern Ontario, Canada
Hi Doug,

Thanks for the reviews, I think a CS Shovel will have to go on my wish list.


#138332 - 07/01/08 01:11 PM Re: Review: Three Items from Cold Steel [Re: dougwalkabout]
OldBaldGuy Offline

Registered: 09/30/01
Posts: 5695
Loc: Former AFB in CA, recouping fr...
Thanks. I guess that CS, like everyone else, can make the good, the bad, and the ugly...

#138340 - 07/01/08 02:03 PM Re: Review: Three Items from Cold Steel [Re: OldBaldGuy]
dougwalkabout Offline
Crazy Canuck
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 02/03/07
Posts: 2741
Loc: Alberta, Canada
I have to wonder -- did they blow the heat treating on this batch of machetes? It's the same steel as the kukris that people have spoken highly of on this forum. I wouldn't complain if it held an edge.

Edited by dougwalkabout (07/01/08 02:04 PM)

#138341 - 07/01/08 02:22 PM Re: Review: Three Items from Cold Steel [Re: dougwalkabout]
bsmith Offline
day hiker

Registered: 02/15/07
Posts: 584
Loc: ventura county, ca

thank you for taking the time to review these products for us. it is appreciated.

“Everyone should have a horse. It is a great way to store meat without refrigeration. Just don’t ever get on one.”
- ponder's dad

#138350 - 07/01/08 03:08 PM Re: Review: Three Items from Cold Steel [Re: dougwalkabout]
Dan_McI Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 12/10/07
Posts: 844
Loc: NYC
Originally Posted By: dougwalkabout
I have to wonder -- did they blow the heat treating on this batch of machetes? It's the same steel as the kukris that people have spoken highly of on this forum. I wouldn't complain if it held an edge.

The kukri is thicker according to coldsteel.com. That may be the problem iwth the heavy machete. I have a kukri from coldsteel, and while it is not my first choice for the job, it worked to cut down a tree about 4-5 inches in diameter.

Thanks for the review, in any event. I've been thinking about a shovel like that one.

#138367 - 07/01/08 05:13 PM Re: Review: Three Items from Cold Steel [Re: dougwalkabout]
haertig Online   content

Registered: 03/13/05
Posts: 2067
Loc: Colorado
I guess while we're reviewing ColdSteel knifes, I'll throw in my comments. I bought a bunch of ColdSteel many years ago, but nothing from them recently.


The best ColdSteel knife I own. I have not put it through hard usage so I can't comment on it's strength. It appears very solid and fits my hand well. The blade shape is good for many tasks. Bought as a factory second for $29 (the tip was off a little to one side, but easily fixed with a sharpening stone).

Recon Tanto: PASS, with notation

I don't know why I bought it. I've never found a practical use for it. The blade shape does not lend itself to anything I can see a need for. Factory second for $34 (The "ColdSteel" stamping at the base of the blade is difficult to read - who cares?!) However, it is a nicely made knife for the price.

Bird & Trout Knife: FAIL

Too awkward for me to use. Don't like the way you have to grip it. Don't like the ring that goes around your finger. It's a solution in search of a problem.

Ready Edge (now called Super Edge): PASS, but has been superseded

Worked OK, but not great, for tasks like cutting open cardboard boxes and cutting mailing tape on those boxes. The serrations hang on everything. Has been superseded by a Frosts Mora Craftsman knife. Half the cost of the Ready Edge, and much better for the "general utility" task. But the Mora is a much bigger knife.

Mini Pal: FAIL

To small and awkward to be useful for anything.

UltraLock Folder: PASS

No longer made, but decent enough for a large relatively inexpensive folder. Now serves as a backup in my survival kit and does not get daily use.

Itsy Bitsy Small Folder (forgot it's name): PASS

A little 1 inch blade (?) keychain lockback folder. No longer made. Wish it was. It was a great keychain knife until one of its grips fell off and was lost (grip was glued on - not so good, but it lasted for years).

#138371 - 07/01/08 05:36 PM Re: Review: Three Items from Cold Steel [Re: bsmith]
Chris Kavanaugh Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 02/09/01
Posts: 3824
Cold Steel's marketing strategy seems to consist of a magnet, made of their proprietary wunder steel ( you wonder who is making it this week) dragged through the world picking up every ethnic cutting tool or museum piece, reproducing the form but not the nuance of original genius and stabbing a Buick on Video. You want a machete? Get a cheap brazilian Tramontina. Spetsnaz commando shovel ? Army surplus from Germany,UK,or your own tax dollar US of A. I won't comment on the Russell. The sad part in all this is Cold steel has marketed some very nice items ( marketed, not manufactured. Anyone still lament the loss of a few NY based makers?)The SRK, once you scrub off that epoxy scab and buy at aftermarket discount is a great surival knife. you might even rescue somebody with it! Odds are, it will be some kid who watched Tom Cruise rewrite japanese history in his reprise of Richard Chamberlain in SHOGUN ( or was it the Karate kid?) packing a Cold Steel lion spear, machete,Tanto and boot knife- but no whistle or compass. Items Cold Steel does not make.

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