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Boker Kwaiken

A kwaiken is a small, unadorned fixed blade that was carried by men and women of the Samurai class in feudal Japan. The Boker Kwaiken is the production version of knife maker Lucas Burnley’s custom folding kwaiken. I first met Lucas Burnley several years ago at the BLADE show. I was really impressed with his kwaiken fixed blade. It was a simple design, but the fit and finish was outstanding. He’d quickly sold out, but luckily I was able to order one.

His fixed blade kwaikens were so popular he decided to make a folding version. They were beautiful in their simplicity.  Unfortunately I wasn’t in a position to get one. Then I was talking to him at BLADE and he showed me the production version that Boker.  It impressed me enough that I jumped at the chance to review it.

First thing I noticed out of the box was that the Boker Kwaiken has a stout feeling for such a slim looking knife. The green canvas micarta scales have just enough texture to be grippy, without being rough. Using the thumb disc the blade glides open thanks to the IKBS system. Once you get the hang of it, you can send the blade flying with just a flick of your thumb. The liner lock-up was secure with no detectable movement. The 3.5” inch stonewashed blade of AUS-8 steel was shaving sharp with a needle point. Overall length open is 8 3/8” inches, with a weight of 4.2 ounces. The Boker Kwaiken’s balance point is right behind the cut out for the liner-lock. Ergonomics were good thanks to the slim handle shape and rounded edges. The removable pocket clip is set up for right pocket tip-up carry only. The lanyard hole is just the right size for paracord.

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The Boker Kwaiken first saw use in my kitchen. The wife and I found ourselves with no boys and the weekend all to ourselves. As a parent your kids are everything, but you learn to make the most of your time alone together. So while my wife was getting a special dinner ready, I was in charge of making drinks. Mojitos sounded just perfect for patio dining. First I put a couple of teaspoons of sugar in our glasses. Then using the Boker Kwaiken I sliced a lime in half, then the halves into quarters. After squeezing around half a line into the glasses, I added 5 spearmint leaves. Taking a muddler, I then mashed the spearmint leaves into the lime juice/sugar mix. That done, I added the rum and stirred it until the sugar dissolved. Lastly I added the ice cubes and a splash of soda water. The first batch turned out so well that the Boker Kwaiken was soon cutting more limes. Not having a guard, you can use the full edge of the Boker Kwaiken on the cutting board.

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With the weather warming up the boys had been after me to take them fishing. Our usual spot is a small park nearby with a 126 acre lake. It’s relatively unknown unless you are a local. Another nice thing is the park limits boat size to nothing bigger than john boats with electric motors. This makes for a nice quiet spot to fish that is hardly ever crowded. Grandpa always said not to give away your favorite fishing holes, so the name of this one is staying a secret. Throwing the fishing gear in the car, and the Boker Kwaiken in my pocket, we headed out. After a quick stop for bait, we were soon picking out a spot along the shore. Both my boys had gotten new spinning reels, but had yet to learn how to use them. So once the poles were set up, and the hooks baited, I started teaching them. After showing them how to hold the line and release for casting I stepped back to let them go. All in all they did pretty well. As I expected though there was the inevitable snarled line. Some I was able to untangle by hand. For the bad snarls the Boker Kwaiken was put into play. The fine tip made it easy to get between the lines and make precise cuts. Once it was untangled I used the Boker Kwaiken to cut the hook off the old line to reuse on the new. Adding the bobber, lead weight, and a new worm, and they were back to fishing.

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I’d not paid attention when we bought bait so missed the fact that we had grabbed a container of nightcrawlers. They were way too big for the tackle we were using. Using the Boker Kwaiken I would cut the nightcrawler in half to better fit the hook. This helped stretch our bait out thankfully as the fish kept stealing our bait. My boys were starting to get frustrated, but like my Grandpa told me “It’s called fishing, not catching”. Eventually we started catching our bait thieves. The culprits turned out to be small 4” long bluegill. If we had caught something worth keeping, I have no doubt the Boker Kwaiken would of done a good job cleaning them. The micarta scales were grippy when wet, and the open frame makes it easy to clean.

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Once the fishing gear was put up, I turned my attention toward the Boker Kwaiken. As I’d been using it to cut up bait I wanted to make sure it got a thorough cleaning. After a liberal coating of mineral oil I scrubbed it with a plastic bristle brush. Then I used some compressed air to blow out the pivot area. The edge was still pretty sharp, but I figured while I was at it I’d touch it up. After a couple swipes through my Spyderco Sharpmaker the Boker Kwaiken was hair-popping sharp.

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For a Scout project I decided to make a Hobo Stove. Grabbing an empty can of beans and the Boker Kwaiken I set to work. First I gently punched the tip through the bottom of the can. Then I sawed and levered the blade to make the cut. Once I’d cut a triangle I folded it down flat against the inside of the can. Repeating the same process two more times I soon had a burner to rest a mug on. Turning my attention to what would be the bottom of my Hobo stove I proceeded to make a large square cut-out. This would be used for feeding in the fuel for the fire. Convection air flow is important in a Hobo stove so I added several slits around the bottom to help in drawing more air in to feed the flame. Taking a hexamine tab, I then added some wood shavings thanks to the Boker Kwaiken. Once I had a steady flame I proceeded to add small twigs. Within a few minutes I was able to bring a mug of water to boil.

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I really like the simplicity of the Lucas Burnley designed Boker Kwaiken. It’s pure knife without any unnecessary bells and whistles. Fit and finish is very good, as is the quality of the materials used. Ergonomics are very good, and it rides comfortably in my pocket. The early versions had some complaints about the thumb disc being difficult to access, and the tip snagging stuff when closed. When I talked to Boker at BLADE this year they were already addressing these issues. Newer versions will have an easier to access thumb disc, and the tip will sit lower in the frame. Regardless, the Boker Kwaiken does a great job at giving you almost custom quality in a production knife. A quick search online shows New Graham Knives selling the Boker Kwaiken for $93.75, and Blade HQ has them for $94.95.