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Rock and Aqua Salts

Posted: Tue Mar 11, 2008 11:55 pm
by clovisc
Rock and Aqua Salts in Alaska

Got a huge surprise in the mail from Golden a couple days ago... two of them, actually... :D

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. :D 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. :D 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... :D

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... :D

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.

Posted: Tue Mar 11, 2008 11:56 pm
by clovisc
I'd like to finish by saying... these two knives represent two different forms of perfection. The Aqua Salt is a perfection of utility, and versatility. The Rock Salt -- a perfection of the hardcore, survival-oriented, ultra-hard-use knife concept. I'll carry the Aqua Salt everywhere, all the time... and buy a serrated one as soon as I'm able to. It's an absolute perfect FB for me. The Rock Salt will travel with me in my bag, in my car... on my belt in the forest, or on long hikes through the middle of nowhere. S sometimes hits the F here in Alaska, and this is knife I'd want to have with me in a bad situation... meaning I mean to make sure that it is nearby when I'm far from home.

There you go... below's some more fun stuff. I'd be glad to answer any questions you may have!

Thanks again so very much, Sal and Kristi!!!!! These knives take my breath away!

The Stats:

Balance R - 5, A - 4
Brush Clearing R - 5, A - 3
Chopping R - 5, A - 3
Batoning R - 5, A - 4
Ease of Carry R - 2.5, A - 4
Edge Retention R - 4 , A - 3
Ergos R - 4.5, A - 4
Fatigue R - 5, A - 3.5
Fishing Buddy R - 2.5, A - 4.5
Food Prep R - 2, A - 4
Grind R - 5, A - 4
Looks R - 4, A - 4
Marine R - 2.5, A - 5
MBC Potential R - 4, A - 3
NKP Fear Factor R - 1, A - 4
Performance With Gloves R - 4, A - 3.5
Slicing R - 4, A - 4
Strength R - 5, A - 5
Survival R - 5, A - 4
Tip R - 3, A - 3

Rock Salt - 78
Aqua Salt - 76.5

Rock Salt -- Spyderco's ultimate survival knife, capable of breezing through all general outdoor and camp needs, including some serious chopping. Supremely refined ergonomics, beautiful looks... but still, no nonsense. Don't plan on wearing it around town, or to an ice cream social, though.

Aqua Salt -- A near-perfect all around outdoor utility knife that really feels at home in a marine environment. Does everything a fixed blade should do, and extremely well. Big enough to handle nearly anything, small enough for light and discrete carry. A great little knife for batoning... but bring your hatchet for chopping.

The knives in question, in sheaths.

<a href=" ... C00606.jpg" target="_blank"><img src=" ... C00606.jpg" border="0" alt="Photobucket"></a>

Tasman, Aqua, and Rock Salts

<a href=" ... C00602.jpg" target="_blank"><img src=" ... C00602.jpg" border="0" alt="Photobucket"></a>

Sheaths look very attractive in person

<a href=" ... C00603.jpg" target="_blank"><img src=" ... C00603.jpg" border="0" alt="Photobucket"></a>

Chopping away with the Rock Salt halved some really hard, dry cedar in a matter of seconds.

<a href=" ... 0607-1.jpg" target="_blank"><img src=" ... 0607-1.jpg" border="0" alt="Photobucket"></a>

The Rock Salt slashes through heavy, free-standing brush (like this Devil's Club) with no problem whatsoever.

<a href=" ... C00617.jpg" target="_blank"><img src=" ... C00617.jpg" border="0" alt="Photobucket"></a>

A truly excellent all-around marine knife, the Aqua Salt feels most at home around the ocean.

<a href=" ... C00627.jpg" target="_blank"><img src=" ... C00627.jpg" border="0" alt="Photobucket"></a>

Where temperate rainforest meets the sea... the Aqua Salt is ready for any challenge.

<a href=" ... C00630.jpg" target="_blank"><img src=" ... C00630.jpg" border="0" alt="Photobucket"></a>

Posted: Wed Mar 12, 2008 12:10 am
by jaislandboy
thanks for the excellent review and pix clovisc, congrats on the H-1 candy and what a wonderful gesture from the gang at Spyderco.... :cool:
those aggressively textured FRN handles look bombproof and slipproof....must work great when handling slimy rockfish :p

Posted: Wed Mar 12, 2008 5:31 am
by zenheretic
Thanks for the dreamy review Clovisc. :D Let's see H1 and Ed together. Yippee!

Posted: Wed Mar 12, 2008 5:56 am
by Zozo*HC*
thanks for the great rewievs :cool: Both Knives are AWESOME! :spyder: ROCK'S

Posted: Wed Mar 12, 2008 6:31 am
by Billy
Great reviews and pics! I was pleasantly surprised at your comments about the Rock's edge retention. It really does seem like a top notch hard use knife from your review! :)

Posted: Wed Mar 12, 2008 8:02 am
by SimpleIsGood229
Great review!

From what I know, H-1 is precipitation hardened (i.e. not heat treated). Does the Rock Salt have a convex edge like the Hossom FBs?

Posted: Wed Mar 12, 2008 12:47 pm
by Joshua J.
Nice pics, and good review.
I knew I'd love the Rock Salt, but seeing the Aqua from different angles makes it much more appealing. The belly on that knife looks great.
Can't wait to get both.

Posted: Wed Mar 12, 2008 1:26 pm
by Mr Blonde
Awesome review and great pics of the knives in action. Thanks for sharing those results; you just made the wait for an Aqua Salt that much harder for me!


Posted: Wed Mar 12, 2008 1:47 pm
by tonydahose
great review and like what was said nice gesture by Sal & the gang.

Posted: Wed Mar 12, 2008 4:39 pm
by mrappraisit
clovisc - great review. I like that you used them both for a variety of uses, I am sure these reviews will help alot of people. I have wondered about the Aqua Salt as a camp knife that isn't a huge machete, and am glad to hear that it felt great in hand while being used hard. Enjoy your new knives. :)

Sal, Kristi and crew what a great gesture. You guys really have earned the great reputation you have.

Posted: Wed Mar 12, 2008 5:47 pm
by CajunMike
Great review! I've been wanting the Rock Salt since I saw the first pics of the prototype by Wouter.

I have little or no use for such a beast of a knife but I still want it.

Sal calls it a true 100 year knife. That gives me plenty to time to find something to cut with it. :D :D


Posted: Wed Mar 12, 2008 8:34 pm
by Tank
clovisc, great review. I have been really interested in the Aqua Salt and now I really can not wait to get one. While the Rock Salt looks completely awsome. I think it may be to big for my needs. (But that doesnt rule out getting one ;) :D

Thanks again.

Posted: Thu Mar 13, 2008 2:21 am
by clovisc
jaislandboy -- yea -- the texturing on both knives is extremely awesome.

tank -- i thought the rock salt would be too big, too... but IMHO, it's the perfect size for a hard use camp knife. if you're going to a big place, or out into the wilderness... this knife is just the thing. it's perfect for alaskan rainforest... :D

billy -- i was concerned that the PE H1 in the rock salt might not offer the edge retention needed for hard use over prolonged periods of times outdoors... especially with chopping. i was pretty amazed by the retention, though... don't know why it seems so awesome. i can't imagine how good it'll be after some "work hardening" :D

joshua j -- the belly on the aqua is indeed extremely pleasing.

i agree with you guys -- it was an amazing gesture on sal and kristi's part. i don't mean to keep bringing this up... but i'm a federal AmeriCorps/VISTA volunteer, and i get paid a pretty meager living allowance. i work 40+ hours per week for less than minimum wage, and am prohibited by law from having any other employer. among other things, this means i can't own all the knives i'd like to... the rock salt is certainly way out of my price range. that being said... this gift means a whole lot to me. :D

Posted: Thu Mar 13, 2008 9:18 pm
by griff76
Wow, very nice of the Spydercrew!! Clovisc, I am very interested in both of these models and will definately be getting an aqua salt (or two), but like many, I am a bit apprehensive about the size of the Rock salt. I was wondering if it was too much to ask to see a picture of the Rock salt sheathed on your (or someones) person. I just want to see how it rides. Maybe a comparison shot on the belt would be nice. Many thanks!! Thanks for the great reviews as well.

Posted: Fri Mar 14, 2008 12:30 am
by clovisc
griff76 wrote:Wow, very nice of the Spydercrew!! Clovisc, I am very interested in both of these models and will definately be getting an aqua salt (or two), but like many, I am a bit apprehensive about the size of the Rock salt. I was wondering if it was too much to ask to see a picture of the Rock salt sheathed on your (or someones) person. I just want to see how it rides. Maybe a comparison shot on the belt would be nice. Many thanks!! Thanks for the great reviews as well.
i'll see what i can do... i'll be outside lots this weekend, so maybe... :D

used both knives on fish for the first time. used the aqua salt to bleed a couple rockfish and lingcod... did an excellent job... of course.

i'm starting to reconsider the rock salt's usefulness in the kitchen, after seeing it slice off filets... AFTER all the chopping and testing. with no touch-ups to the edge!!!! :eek: :eek: :eek:

Posted: Fri Mar 14, 2008 12:37 am
by ozspyder
Awesome gesture from the Spydercrew :)

Great knives Clovisc. Wouldn't mind getting one or two Rock Salts myself. If you can take some more shots in hand and alongside some other useful general items for a sense of scale would be great. I am trying to convince someone that the Hobbit Sword is really not that huge even though from stock photos it does look like it could be a short sword !

I bet it would take down a few bushes and trees in my yard without any hesitation :D

Posted: Fri Mar 14, 2008 9:05 pm
by jaislandboy
yeah clovisc, I wuz fiddling w/my MuleTeam Kydex sheath w/G clip (from Scott Gere) that seems identical to the one in the pix of your Aqua Salt Sheath, for example....I believe the sheaths that you received w/the RockSalt and AquaSalt are kydex if they were made by Scott... the clip is impressively thick like maybe 3mm to the naked eye on mine, and seems quite ruggedly constructed :cool:

Posted: Sat Mar 15, 2008 5:50 pm
by griff76
clovisc wrote:i'll see what i can do... i'll be outside lots this weekend, so maybe... :D

used both knives on fish for the first time. used the aqua salt to bleed a couple rockfish and lingcod... did an excellent job... of course.

i'm starting to reconsider the rock salt's usefulness in the kitchen, after seeing it slice off filets... AFTER all the chopping and testing. with no touch-ups to the edge!!!! :eek: :eek: :eek:
Thanks Clovisc, Throw in some fish pics if you get a chance. Maybe we should start a fish pics thread in the off-topic section. I would love to see some photos of you hauling one of those dinosaurs (sturgeon) out of the water.

Posted: Sat Mar 15, 2008 6:02 pm
by MAT888

For all the good work you do for the community at low wage i think you deserve it!
I think they will serve you well as working tools!
Thanks again for the great pictures and updates on these ones. Keep us posted on your Alaskan adventure.
Great gesture from the Co.

Cheers :cool: