Woods Monkey recently received two of Boker’s new CK-1 Rescue knives for review. Since we had two of these waterborne blades we decided to try them out in two divergent aquatic environments. Andy took the CK-1 out in the conditions it was designed in, on the rivers and ponds with a kayak, while Erich gave it a whirl is the caustic sea waters where he sails. Take a read to see how the Rescue did in both environments!
Andy’s Freshwater Review
By Andy Blanchard
I was asked if I would review the Boker plus CK-1 Rescue knife by my editor after I mentioned my wife and I enjoying kayaking our local creeks (or cricks depending on where you’re from) and lakes. He perked up and said, “I didn’t know you had a kayak.” I should have known right then and there, once again – I’d been had by the Monkey. I had of course heard of Boker. Their name enamored me to the project as much as the chance to review a new knife. I received the knife a few weeks later. I think my first impression I thought to myself was, “Hmm, that’s different.” The knife is the purpose built conception of Abe Elias. His vast knife making experience and enthusiasm for outdoor adventure, especially kayaking, are what shaped the design and construction of this piece. The CK-1 Rescue is a sheep’s foot blade profile with a skeletonized full tang and Zytel handle scales in a medium yellow. For the uninitiated, the sheep’s foot blade profile is in the simplest terms a flat edge side with no belly and an abruptly curving spine close to the tip. Using this profile I believe was intended to make self-inflicted stab wounds less likely should you find yourself in less than stable conditions. I’m envisioning bobbing along beside your kayak with a rope that has become entangled holding you and it in some nasty rapids. Need to cut the rope of course, need to cut yourself – not so much. The CK-1 Rescue design has a less defined point than more traditional knife designs and therefore the potential for said injury is lessened. The outfit comes with a nicely done Kydex sheath with really good retention. The holes on the sheath are spaced around the perimeter making it useful for neck carry in various configurations, lashing to a pack, or used in conjunction with the included Tek-lok. As a neck knife I was pleased with it. Weighing in at just 3.5 ounces it is certainly anything but cumbersome.
Moving on to the edge we find some further purpose built design features that depart from conventional thinking but seem to work well for the intended purpose. Many blades are on the market with partial serrations; it seems that nearly every company offers a few. The CK-1 Rescue is no different. Although in this case, the serrations begin about a quarter inch from the tip instead of back by the handle end of the grind. This looks odd to me, more because I am just accustom to it being the other way around. That being said it is kind of ingenious for a purpose built rescue knife. Think about this, boating you’re primarily going to cut rope and cord more than most anything else. So unless you have a plank to put it down on and cut cleanly; what do we do? We double the cord over and pull the knife through it with a reverse grip or push it away from us. A partially serrated knife in the “normal” configuration grabs the cord and bites in with the serrations and then when you come off the serrations onto the standard edge – ZIP…it flies off the end of the knife. Cut or uncut it can be very fast due to the force exerted. With the CK-1 Rescue the knife starts on the standard edge then goes into the serrations and bites before it slips off the blade. Online sources say it is also useful for cutting webbing and belts close to the body so as not to require use of the entire blade. This, again in a precariously perched situation, could prove the difference between a cut rope or webbing and a cut Woods Monkey.
I tried to keep the testing in keeping with the intent of the knife. I guess I took some reviewers liberty here but I didn’t view the piece as a knife for all occasions, rather a backup or self-rescue knife. To me, the CK-1 Rescue would perhaps find its home in a self-rescue kit, bail out bag, or get home pack long term. That is not to say however I didn’t put it through its paces (insert diabolical Woods Monkey laugh). Cutting chores were greatly improved once I got onto the mechanics of the knife, where the leverage points were. With a cutting surface of 3.5 inches I knew I wasn’t going to be felling many trees, but some fuzz sticking and some batoning proved easy enough work for the piece. Being stainless I liked not being worried about using it to process a quick meal on a hike; a quick dip or a wipe across the pants and it was ready to resheath. The anti-corrosion coating did make it impossible to throw a spark off the spine with a ferro rod, but as a last resort I used the blade with success. The tip was impractical for drilling since the knife is basically designed against this sort of thing but if it’s the only pony you’ve got I think it would do. I took the knife kayaking a number of times and made sure to plunge it in the water every so often. Even more times than I myself was plunged. The checkering on the scales gave it good purchase when my hands were wet and worn from paddling. I did find it a bit thin in the handle for extended use at .45 inches, but it would prove bulky to wear around your neck if it was beefed up. When I did carry it necker style I carried it next to my skin so I could sweat on it to see its corrosion resistance as I did all of my testing in freshwater environments.
Now, you’ll see in a bit that my co-tester got some bad results in saltwater but I have no expertise here to comment. I do know I am a habitual knife user from way back and I love me some carbon steel blades. Is it conceivable that I wiped it off on occasion out of compulsive habit? Not only do I think it’s possible, I caught myself doing it and remembered I probably shouldn’t. That being said, I had no issues of corrosion with the knife. Even after sharpening and exposing new steel to be attacked it remains keen. Taking it a step further with my metallurgical geekitude, no metal is truly stainless. Something will eat it; it is a matter of solid state chemistry. Grades like H1 and 6242 Ti are extremely resistant to corrosion and impregnation but given enough time unattended everything goes back to the earth from which it came. The titanium coating on the knife to increase corrosion resistance is probably a powdered application of titanium oxide and as such leaves the edge exposed. If by chance you were able to cultivate corrosion on the edge it could be safely presumed this would propagate and go under the coating. The metal of the knife itself is 440C and old standby to the knife trade but not a bright shiner in the final renderings of great knife steels. Maybe even a victim of carbon steel hobknobbery. I make stainless for a living so take this bit as perhaps the only thing I have any real authority on. Stainless steel by simple definition is a steel with lowered carbon specifications and an addition of chromium. 440C spec is .95-1.20 carbon by percentage and chromium of 16-18%. This is a fairly high carbon content for a stainless grade which in conjunction with the chromium is the reason you can achieve Rockwell hardness in the low 60’s. By definition 440C is a martensitic stainless as opposed to an austenitic. This means the carbon is trapped in matrix before it can precipitate out during heat treating. Bored yet? “What does that all mean to you and I”, you say? It means that the steel will take and edge and hold a reasonable edge and that it is corrosion resistant. It will fare well under normal conditions but if you saturate it with an extreme caustic or acid it will certainly oxidize and corrode. Wipe it off once in a while and oil it 10 times less than your carbon steel knives and you will be a happy camper free to tote the CK-1 Rescue around to your heart’s content.
I found that tested within the bounds of “the bag knife” or “self-rescue blade” that the piece performed really well. I don’t mean any disrespect to the creator in this; in fact I give him kudos for the alterations and breaks from the mainstream he designed into the knife. I simply mean that for most of us serious about self-reliance and wilderness survival this isn’t a primary tool, and I truthfully don’t believe it was intended to be either. With a street price of $30-$40 I feel it is purpose built for its intended use. The piece could be called more than affordably priced with inclusion of the Kydex sheath, removable scales, and Tek-lok. Furthermore I think this knife is going to make a great addition to your kit. Maybe not the paramount blade you carry into the wilds but instead a reliable backup that can safely stay in your kit for months without worry of maintenance. A blade that with the integrated safety features might make for a great teaching tool when working with children or the unpracticed in knife handling. I’m giving the Boker Plus CK-1 Rescue a thumbs up. With the right amount of knowhow, the will to get back, and a little finesse this baby could get you out of the rapids and back on smooth waters.
The CK-1 Vs. the Great Salty Sea
By Erich Smith
I recently received the Boker Plus CK-1 Rescue to review. Abe Elias is the designer and is well known by knife making and outdoor adventure groups. He has created many beautiful custom knives and the Rescue is a collaboration between Abe and Boker knives in their Boker Plus line. The CK-1 Rescue was a result of his years of experience in both knife making and kayaking. It is designed specifically for the emergency and rescue needs of people who prefer to have their adventures on the water.
First let’s talk about the basics of the design. The Boker Plus CK-1 Rescue is a sheeps foot fixed blade made from 440C Stainless Steel and has a thin coating of titanium. The titanium coating gives it a black finish and is supposed to provide corrosion resistance. The cutting surface is about 3.5 inches in length with an area of serration about an inch long near the tip. Both sides of the blade are inscribed. One side with Boker logo and the other with the designers trademark “Diving Sparrow”. The handle is about 4.25 inches long and covered with removable yellow Zytel scales. The handle has 5 large holes cut through and a lanyard hole as well. The Zytel scales have a diamond pattern providing enough friction for wet hands or gloves to control the blade. Also provided with the knife is a molded Kydex sheath that allows for a wide range of mounting angles. It retails for $49.95 but street prices can be found much lower than that.
Harsh Testing Conditions…
Living in Coastal North Carolina the waters are warm and salty. The rivers and streams here are brackish at best. I’m not sure that Mr. Elias had these waters in mind when he chose titanium coated 440C. Keeping in mind though that there are a lot of salt water kayaker’s out there we felt it was a fair test. So, how did the CK-1 do? After only two nights of shrimping in the Pamlico Sound, one off shore fishing trip, and a few afternoons of simply messing around on the river… well you can see for yourself in the pictures. While 440C has a good reputation for rust resistance in fresh water, salt water tends to take its toll on most steels. Rust had formed on the knife edge and even on the titanium coated flats of the blade. But does it still cut you ask? Well sort of… I was able to saw and cut through a garden hose, 1 inch braided nylon cord, and a 1 inch thick piece of plywood. The serrated part of the blade, as expected, sawed its way through about everything I could find but with great effort applied. The straight edge was less impressive and required repeated sharpening. Much of this is likely due to the salt water’s effect on the exposed edge of the blade and the corrosion which ensued.
The sheep foot design makes it a winner for emergency and rescue work. I wasn’t a fan of the idea of having serrates mixed with a straight edge but I found it handy when the straight edge wouldn’t bite into a piece of heavy cord in a hurry. The fact that the serrations start about a .25 inch from the tip are a testament to safety inherent in the design. The sheath is very well constructed. It is easy to mount in a wide range of positions and provides a very positive lock on the knife. It can be comfortable worn on a belt or easily mounted on gear. During the testing I wore it on my belt and usually forgot that I had it.
While the blade design and features have merit, for saltwater use I think I’ve become spoiled by knives using higher end specialty steels. The CK-1 is an inexpensive purpose designed blade that will fill its niche; however the titanium coating didn’t seem to help with corrosion resistance in these conditions. I attempted to clean the corrosion with a soft scrubbing pad and water but the titanium finish started to come off. Because this is advertised as a rescue knife that is specifically designed for use on the water, I think it would make more sense to construct the blade out of something more corrosion resistant like H-1 stainless steel. Admittedly moving to something like H1 would bump the cost of the knife up considerably so you have to factor that into your buying decision as well. Keep in mind too that this test was designed to see just how well the Rescue would hold up in the hostile ocean environment. No regular maintenance was given to the knife during testing other than resharpening and late cleanup of the rust which did occur. Regular maintenance would go a long way towards keeping the CK-1 happy and corrosion free, just like most other tools used in a saltwater environment. Stainless and rust resistant doesn’t mean rust proof and the salty seawater proved that once again!
The CK-1’s Niche (Editor’s Take)
The Boker Plus CK-1 is an interesting design form Abe Elias, a guy well known as both a knife maker and a kayaker. Its form and function are well thought out and perfectly suited to use around the unstable conditions of boats and for use near the body. In fact I think the Rescue name goes a lot further than just its use on water. It would make a great emergency tool for first responders and be a good piece of kit in a vehicle emergency kit. I also think it would make a handy chute knife for paratroopers with a more subdued handle, although the yellow is just fine for civilian skydivers. I liked Andy’s idea of using the blunt sheeps foot tip when working with kids and knives too. That’s something I may well do with my son’s scout troop soon. The serrations at the tip are an idea that’s long overdue too. The only other place I’ve seen that done has been on some Swiss Army Knives and I think it makes even more sense on a fixed blade like this. It gives you the serrations where they work the best and keeps the plain edge portion of the blade closest to the handle free where you need it most for detail work. I’m a fan of sheep’s foot blades anyway and I like the features that Abe has packed into this design. The price is great too if you’re looking at dropping one in your kit, just in case!
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