Rock and Aqua Salts in Alaska
Got a huge surprise in the mail from Golden a couple days ago... two of them, actually...
Kristi gave me permission to post pictures and a review, so here goes... I apologize that the pics aren't the best (not the best camera, and weird Alaskan lighting), but hopefully, that'll just make you folks a bit more curious!
Before I begin, HUGE thanks to Sal and Kristi for making this happen... I really can't express my gratitude enough. These are exactly the sort of H1 knives I daydreamt about a couple years ago when I was in the Peace Corps in rural Zambia... it's amazing to have hold and use something I wished would exist on so many occasions.
And big props go out to Sal and Ed for two outstanding designs!
First impressions... the Rock Salt absolutely floored me. It's enormous... which made it hard for me to realistically imagine myself carrying and using it for EDC. I thought it might actually be "too big," unwieldy, or uncomfortable. (I should have known otherwise...) Also wondered just how comfortable it would be to use something so big. I marveled at the deep hollow grind, and wondered just how that recurve would perform.
The Aqua Salt seemed just about perfect, from the moment I handled it. The size, ergos, weight, 3D texturing, blade shape... it was every bit the ultimate EDC knife I imagined myself using in the forest, at sea, and on the beach. This knife felt like an old friend... or like, that girl you finally meet after dreaming about her for years... completely perfect.
The sheaths have a really unique, appealing look to them. No, they're not kydex... but its easy to get over that after you give them a chance. The belt loops are unusual... it also functions as a clip, which means I can clip the smaller Aqua Salt into my pocket, or the pocket on my chest waders. I really like that.
The knives fit snugly, and lock soundly into place. I admit to being a bit nervous about a non-kydex sheath (it's FRN, right?) without a tec-lock... but after carrying the knives for a bit, I've come to appreciate the functionality of the sheaths. The spyderbugs on them look awesome, as well... they more than make up from the minute aesthetic difference of non-kydex. It's a little difficult to adjust the configuration of the clip / belt loop... strangely difficult to get the screws into place (am I doing it wrong, I wonder?)... but I hardly ever change it, so no big deal. I'd say these are extremely functional sheaths -- as functional and secure as kydex, at a smaller cost I can appreciate.
Anyway... on to the knives!!!
I've seen Sal describe the Rock Salt as Spyderco's "Jungle Knife." I'm not in Africa anymore, nor are there jungles handy... but Revillagigedo Island, where I live, has temperate rainforest aplenty. Not to mention plenty of beach and ocean.
So out I went to Tongass National Forest, for a couple hours of playing with Spyderco's two most formidable H1 knives in old growth rainforest.
As I'm sure you can imagine I was extremely psyched! So psyched, in fact, that after I arrived, I didn't feel bad neglecting some of the finest steelhead fishing in the world as I played with my new spydies!
I took great care not to disturb the formidable beauty of the forest. Something as impressive as the Tongass deserves all the respect one can muster. I performed my testing in areas that already showed some pre-existing disturbance from humans (camping/recreation, and heavily-fished areas).
Old growth temperate rainforest represents the end of a 400 year natural cycle... meaning massive cedar trees, which eventually die, and fall to the forest floor. I found just such a gargantuan tree lying over a stream (they often lie in water, providing habitat for fish and invertebrates, for hundreds of years after they die)... a bit of an obstruction where it met the shore, so I didn't feel too bad taking the knives to it. Did some chopping on some limbs, as well as on the enormous trunk... the Rock Salt smacked easily through the wet cedar, into the dry wood. Man -- I gotta say... I never realized just how hard cedar was until today. (No wonder natives soaked woods before carving them!). Even so, the Rock Salt hacked away at the ancient, hardened wood with great success. You can see in one of the pictures I've included how well the Rock Salt performed chopping away wood at a young, VERY hard, dry (inside) limb... it took about 30 seconds for me to hack enough pieces away to halve it. Not batoning -- careful, quick chopping. I was sure that the Rock Salt would have lost some of its sharpness after all that work on hard cedar... but not at all!!!! Absolutely no chipping, or damage to the edge... which is very unlike any of my other experiences with H1. (I've cut line and fish on rocks while surf fishing, and seen some little ouches appear on my Pacific Salts, and my Aqua Salt enough to think of this slight edge rolling/dinging as normal).
Sal... did you use a different kind of heat treat on the Rock Salt? Whatever you did -- I LOVE it! You really went over the top getting H1 exactly right...
The Rock Salt proved an absolute beast at handling batoning tasks. The Aqua Salt also performed batoning tasks extremely well... in a far smaller package. The Aqua Salt was less successful at chopping, though -- especially with cedar. Just little too small for intense chopping... will handle some light branches with ease, though.
The Rock Salt was extremely effective at clearing some brush (in order to not disturb the rainforest, or the riparian area near the water, I chopped brush at an unnaturally overgrown area disturbed by a road and a bridge). Again, the Aqua Salt was a little too small and light for this. You shoulda seen the Rock Salt chop through branches around half an inch thick (sometimes a bit more!)... including some young, green cedar (with a hard inner core), and some devil's club. (A very thorny plant used for medicinal purposes by Tlingit natives.) It sliced through like a laser... I felt like the champ at a cutting contest!!!
The recurved shape of the Rock Salt performs incredibly. I worried that the "sweet spot" for chopping might be overused, and/or might wear prematurely, but it quickly becomes apparent that the heat treat rules, and that every bit of the blade is useful. The curve near the choil is perfect for initiating cuts away from one's body. The length of the recurve makes for smooth, masterful cuts. The tip is surprisingly thin (yet rugged) for such an enormous knife... that swedge does wonders. You really need to use this knife to understand how well the ergos work, and how comfortable it is. Even after prolonged hacking at hard cedar, I felt little/no fatigue. I tired much more quickly with the Aqua Salt.
Ed -- this design is an absolutely astounding work of art. Kudos to you!!!! I'm breathless at how dreamy the performance is!
After a great deal of chopping, batoning, and cutting, my knives began to take on the full, sensuous aromas of fresh-cut cedar and devil's club. A truly awesome, beautiful surprise.
The Rock Salt was the clear favorite for the forest... I'll be carrying it every time I go there. Which is often. Placed against the overwhelming beauty of the land, the knife looked anything but "too big." Back in my house, though, it felt gargantuan.
Felt a little out of place at the beach, as well. The Aqua Salt is much handier for use while fishing. Fits very securely in the front pocket of my neoprene chest waders. Small enough to be carried easily, big enough to do some serious work... light, but sturdy. A perfect companion for the marine environment. This is the knife I'll have at my side the next time I find myself headed out to an oil spill, or working as a deck hand in a pinch. The Rock Salt is a little too big for practical maritime use... doesn't mean I won't have it in my bag on the boat, though, for a serious emergency.
The Aqua Salt is also sized perfectly for use as a kitchen knife. That deeper hollow grind did an excellent job of slicing potatoes -- even after all the chopping and batoning I'd done. Still, there was a noticeable loss of sharpness, where the Rock Salt -- which I'd used MUCH harder -- seemed almost NIB sharp! The shape of the Rock Salt made it a little too impractical for my modest food prep chores. It'll be fun to use to lop the heads off of big rockfish and salmon, though...
Another interesting observance... in spite of edge retention, the Rock Salt picked up a good deal of scratches from regular use... as is usually the case with H1. Don't plan on taking your collector Rock Salt for a spin, or even out of the sheath, without acquiring some scratches fairly easily.
Both knives have a very utilitarian look and feel... very much a no BS feel to them. The NKP who looked them both over noted and were impressed by their functionality. The Rock Salt has a significant "wow" factor... but also a "YIKES" factor. I wouldn't accidentally leave this thing on my belt, that's for sure. Not the best office knife. By contrast, I could certainly wear the utilitarian-looking, yellow-handled Aqua Salt around here without attracting too much negative attention.