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A Few Thoughts on the Fallkniven F1
by Keith A. "Bootlegger" Williams
For those who may not be familiar with the Fallkniven F1, I hope that you will bear with me for a few minutes while I introduce it to you. The F1 made quite the ripple in the knife world in 1995, when it became the official survival knife for the Swedish Air Force. In an era where so many organizations have opted to select all manner of "cutting edge" designs- ranging from tactical patterns, large guards, pointed pommels, strange steels, bayonet lugs, hollow handles, false edges, serrated edges, multi-bevels, ceramic blades, finger grooves, or saw back spines, it was refreshing to see that rather than try and re-invent the wheel, the Swedes chose to rely on a more established pattern. This knife has the look and feel of a typical Finnish-style knife, but with a little injection of growth hormone. The F1 is all function, and no flash. To the unknowing, such a simple design may look rather drab and uninteresting, but spend a lot of hands on time with a blade in your hands and the sheer utilitarian nature of this type of knife will soon be appreciated.
Even with this in mind, I was still pretty confident that I had gotten along pretty well in life without ever giving in and joining the masses that list the F1 as one of their must-have outdoor items. Actually, I can vividly remember thinking that very thought as I first picked it up from the trade table at an outdoors event in the mountains of North Carolina this year. Since I donít usually care for stainless steel, rubber handles, or much of anything else in the way of changing the way Iím used to normally dealing with things, I really never had much of a desire to own an F1.
Stainless steel- in an apples-to-apples comparison, generally does not sharpen as easily, nor hold a fine edge nearly as long as good old carbon steel. About the only thing that stainless steel has going for it- other than being shiny, is that it is more corrosion resistant. This has a great appeal to many but has never been that large of a factor for me in choosing my favorite blade steel. With carbon steel, a little discoloration is normal, but major rust issues are remedied easily enough with a little routine maintenance, and rust doesnít even show up if a knife is regularly used.
Kraton rubber and its relatives offer a cheap and easy to construct a handle that is fairly wear-resistant and is easily molded to most any design. Though I have owned many knives with this handle material, it was never a favorite. Most of those knives handles were just a little too soft and "grippy" for my taste.
I generally prefer really thin blades- upon which to taper apply particularly thin grinds and taper to insanely sharp edges. This practice can sometimes make for a more fragile edge, which requires a bit of finesse to use properly. The blade on the F1 was a little different. This one is made of laminated stock, which is basically a sandwich of two pieces of 420 stainless steel with a VG-10 stainless steel core. The 420 steel is tough and very corrosion resistant, but is very poor in edge holding. The VG-10 is fine-grained and quite wear resistant. This combination is an attempt to get the best out of two materials.
The blade is 4.5mm thick, which for us non-metric guys translates to being roughly 3/16". It took a little while for me to really warm up to a blade this heavy. The original taper to the edge was a little steep for my taste and though sharp, just felt like it needed that little bit of personal touch to better blend in with the rest of the family. I found that sharpening was not nearly as unpleasant as I anticipated, and that it took a very nice edge. I will note that the edge lost that really scary feel very early on, but settled in nicely at a rather deceiving level of sharpness. Although not what I intended, the way the edge bites feels very similar to one that has been buffed and polished, and surprisingly, the back of the blade is hard enough to throw a very nice shower of sparks from a ferrocerrium rod, which I always keep handy.
The F1 is available in several sheath configurations directly from the manufacturer. Mine came with a well made one in black leather, with a flap that came over the knife in a manner quite similar to many GI issue pistol holsters. This design does a fine job of securing the knife from accidental loss, but was a little more restrictive than I prefer. For a replacement, I opted to go with a black leather specimen from the fine folks at JRE Industries. This model is also of my preferred pouch design, but without any flap. This sheath fits the knife like a glove and makes for a very secure fit. It has a traditional 2" belt loop on the back with another small loop on top that makes it easily adaptable for attaching it to a carabineer or similar hanger for a manner of carry familiar to many Pukko-style knife users. This sheath also had the additional benefit of a hollow rivet on each end for a leg tie or other possible attachment, as well as an integrated loop for a standard sized ferrocerrium rod. The one that I carry on it has seen heavy usage, yet still fits quite snugly into the slot. I did take one further precaution of adding a small black elastic bungee cord from its handle to loop around the other side to act as a rather nice failsafe.
I have used my F1 for a wide assortment of tasks since those early April impressions. It has carved, cut, sliced, whittled, poked, scraped, and yes- even pried a little without any complaints. I have found it to be of sound design, and of high quality. I have been surprised to find that the handle does not slip when bloody, nor blister under prolonged wet-weather usage, and have actually decided that it is much to my liking. I did trim down the finger guard a bit, but that is just a matter of personal preference. I have not discovered any reason to dislike the stainless steel blade, as it sharpens easily, and keeps a good edge. Against all of my previous expectations, I really donít have anything bad to say about the F1. It is not my type of knife, and yet I find myself using it an awful lot, and I sure seem to have a hard time leaving it at home.
This has been my first experience with Fallkniven, and I am very pleased (and even surprised) with the quality and of this product. I will not hesitate to recommend it.
Editorís note: Mr. Williams is an experienced and skilled woodsman, and he knows what works for him. His experiences have made his tastes rather conservative, and it has been my pleasure to watch him squirm a bit as he "expands his paradigms".
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