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RAT Cutlery Izula Knife Review
by Keith A. Williams
"Izula" is the common name in Peru that is given to what most of the world knows as the Bullet Ant. This creature is aggressive, determined, tough, and independent. A more appropriate name for such a knife would be hard to imagine.
In the ever growing world of outdoor enthusiasts, there are few better examples of practicality than the RAT Cutlery Co. For those unfamiliar with them, the RAT knives concept began when members of the Randall’s Adventure & Training group (RAT) perceived the need for simple, yet well build and designed blades. These could be affordable to the average person, and should be produced without sacrificing the quality demanded by outdoor extremes.
Over the last several years, this company has come up with what I feel are fantastic examples of this line of thinking. I have followed their progress over the years, and taken every opportunity to evaluate the latest designs whenever possible. I have had the pleasure of using and owning many products from this fine company for prolonged periods, and have yet to come away from the experience feeling dissatisfied. I am not a collector of knives, but rather consider myself to be an avid outdoorsman, in both the professional and personal aspects of my life. I depend on quality tools, and would not hesitate to recommend any of these for rugged outdoor usage. Earlier in the year, initial whispers started floating around about a RAT designed neck knife being in the works, but some final sheath tweaks were needed, and this resulted in a short delay on actual distribution.
I spoke with Jeff Randall about the possibility of reviewing this new product and was shipped one in short order. I was informed by Jeff that the knife is available as an option of just receiving the knife and sheath only, or as a complete kit, and was not sure what would be sent. Upon receiving the package I was a little surprised at everything that had been included. Inside was detailed information about how to rig the knife sheath in its various ambidextrous carry configurations, MOLLE lock, some paracord (for cord wrapping handle or use as a lanyard), cord lock, snap link (for snapping system on to outdoor gear), split ring, fire flint, and whistle. Also included was a hard plastic RAT Cutlery Co. business card that had some basic survival info printed onto the back, which I thought this was a nice touch.
The knife itself measures 6.25” in overall length, with a blade length of 2.88” of 1095 steel. The blade has a full flat grind and features thumb serrations for about half an inch along the spine. It measures one inch at its widest point. I don’t have I micrometer, but the specs list it at .156” thick. The knife itself weighs in at 2 oz. and I find this to be very reasonable for neck carry.
This knife is finished with a lightly textured powder coating and is available in color options of Black, Desert Tan, Olive Green, and the new Tactical Pink. Mine came in Desert Tan, and was a fine specimen, indeed. Close inspection of the finished revealed a nice even coat that had just enough of a tactile feel to it, without being uncomfortable. Imprinted on the knife was the RAT Logo, individual serial number, the word “Izula”, as well as what would have made for a very appropriate cave drawing of a Bullet Ant.
I was immediately pleased that the Izula came well sharpened. Most knives come with some resemblance of an edge, but are really not suitable for best usage without first spending a little time developing a decent edge. The Izula came with such a hair popping edge, right out of the box, that I felt no need to initially modify it. Upon immediate carving on seasoned hardwood, I found that the knife was quite comfortable to use, and that I was very well balanced for whittling trap triggers and other delicate tasks for which a larger knife is less suited. I think that this is one of the most practical things that I can do with a test knife, as it quickly mimics the kinds of real world tasks that I often do. If a knife proves to be unwieldy in this activity, it doesn’t take long for any bad opinions to surface.
I did not do much testing with the synthetic fire steel that came with the knife. I did try it for a few strikes to make sure that I was comfortable with its spark throwing ability. As expected, I had to scrape away a bit of the blade coating on the spine to properly do so. Since I had a larger rod that was already well worn, I used it with the Izula to make several fires. Satisfied with the little rod, I put it onto the little split ring and looped the neck lanyard through it. I have found that I can comfortably carry a fire steel in this fashion without it being noticed, and access it in seconds without having to untie any knots. The smaller size of this rod makes it ideal for this purpose. I don’t like things rattling around though, so I did a quick lash with a small bungee cord over the top of it, and like it so much that it may end up being a new standard carry for me.
The sheath was of injection molded plastic that was secured by hollow rivets. It could be set up for a variety of different carry options including ambidextrous carry of the knife in horizontal or vertical fashion, in handle up or down positions, and on either side. It could also be hung upside down and clipped to a pack, or even added to a key ring with the accompanying split ring. I found these to make for a very versatile sheathing system and each method worked quite well. In the end, I still preferred to carry it around my neck with the handle down. I was pleased that the length of paracord was long enough for me to double both sections back before securing the ends so that I could make quick length adjustments without having to take it off and re-tie any knots.
I was able to use this knife for several days without the factory edge really losing its cutting ability, but wanted to see first hand how easy it was to sharpen it with ordinary means. Normally I have found that by far the best thing to seriously dull a knife blade is to attempt to cut rope which has been tangled around a lawn mower blade. My wife assists me with the yard maintenance so I get frequent opportunities to test these things. Since it is late January here, I was not that eager to doing any serious lawn care. As a backup plan, I grabbed a ceramic rod and did a couple of ninety degree passes along the edge, and sure enough, that did just the trick.
Having sharpened many similar products from RAT Cutlery, I was not surprised at the scalpel like edge that I was able to put on this knife in about 15 minutes with standard Norton stones. I finished up with a couple of simple passes on a ceramic rod and then a few more passes on a loaded leather strop. The final edge was quite sharp and rates right up there with the high praise that I normally reserve for my fantastic little 1095 RAT 3. Since this sharpening, I have only done light whittling with this blade, but am pleased to note that the edge did not roll when cutting the depression for a homemade bearing block from a small piece of hickory. I have used the Izula for a wide assortment of kitchen duties and have had no complaints at all with the edge holding ability nor the general usability of this knife.
I will sum up my feelings for the Izula by saying that it works well for me. I carry it, and can wholeheartedly recommend it as a durable knife that could be relied on to handle most any practical chore suitable for a knife this size, with the bonus of taking up so little space that you could pack one along as a backup and have that extra little piece of mind without worrying about having to leave another item behind in order make room for it. This is not a knife to be taken lightly, and is best appreciated when actually used. With the RAT Cutlery’s unconditional warranty, you can rest easy with the knowledge that they will stand behind their products.
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