The Steel Will Cutjack is a great knife, and you should probably buy one. Until next time…
What? You want specifics? Well, I suppose, seeing as how I’ve spent several weeks with this little guy. It’s been on construction sites, car rides, and even camping in the mountains. Read on to find why, despite its rather pedestrian appearance, the Cutjack has become one of my new favorites.
Before proceeding to the review, I’d like to make a brief apology to both my readers and the folks at Steel Will, who were kind enough to send this to me for evaluation. This particular article has been a long time coming, due to some unforeseen circumstances in my personal life. All’s well, but it resulted in some delays for new content on Journeywind Junk.
That being said, this extended review period gave me a chance to really get to know the Cutjack both outside and (with a little extra effort) inside. As you’ll read below, this worked in the knife’s favor.
Anyway, on to the review!
Initially, my impression of the Cutjack was sort of flat. Its 4.5-inch FRN handle houses a 3.5-inch D2 steel blade, supported by a fairly standard liner lock. The flipping action was fine (if a bit plasticy) and the pocket clip, well, kept it in my pocket. But at 8-inches overall, it was a good size to carry to my construction job. So carry it I did. And the more time I spent with the Cutjack, the more I realized how truly outstanding it is.
Let’s start with that D2 blade. Initially, I didn’t feel it was terribly special. Its high flat grind was attractive and all, with plenty of flat and belly for different tasks. The look is rather aggressive, though not too tactical for use in polite company. The real joy began once I actually started using the knife. At just 0.12-inches thick, it’s a surprisingly strong slicer. This is due at least in part to the blade’s overall height. It’s tall enough to allow that flat grind to take its time in tapering before reaching the upper swedge. But we’re getting into “Function” territory there. Its lines, on a more immediate note, are gorgeous, from the graceful swell of its satin tip to the arc of its finger choil.
And oh, that finger choil. I’ve been on an ergonomic winning streak lately, and the Cutjack may just be the best of the bunch. The combined effect of its deep choil and prominent flipper produces an almost handgun-style grip. My index finger feels as though its wrapped around a trigger, with my thumb resting securely against the upper jimping. My hand falls into place around this knife in a rare and wonderful fashion, with a variety of comfortable grips. Outstanding ergos, guys.
Moving down the handle, you’ll notice the perpendicular-pill shaped of its FRN texturing. While its effective at keeping my hand in place, the gaps between these raised areas are deep enough to accumulate crud, if you’re not paying attention. At the back of the knife lies the pocket clip, shaped almost like a Catholic cardinal’s hat. Not sure why that was the first thing that came to mind, but there you go. It’s fixed at a nicely canted angle, allowing the knife to ride toward the back of your pocket. Tip-up is the only option here, though you’ve got the option to swap it side to side.
Lastly, there’s the lanyard hole, cut directly into the backspacer. This is a great idea, and I wish more knife companies did things this way. It’s space efficient and attractive, showing a good attention to detail in the design.
So, despite my initially lukewarm reaction, I’ve found this to be an almost perfectly formed knife. It’s got plenty of blade and an incredible grip, all packed into a rather thin package. Oh, and I almost forgot the weight. That’s appropriate, because at just 3.8-ounces, it’s easy to forget the knife is in your pocket. Great stuff, Steel Will.
4. 5 stars out of 5
True to its name, this Jack cuts and cuts and cuts. That high flat grind we talked about earlier is just a joy to use, especially with the lack of thumb studs. From firewood to foodstuffs, this little guy has proven to be a prep monster. It’s all but replaced the Cold Steel Finn Wolf as my primary hiking folder. That’s no mean feat, considering this is part of Steel Will’s “Urban” line.
Beyond its abilitiy as a tool, one of my favorite aspects of the Cutjack is its action. Remember when I described it as “plasticy?” Well, the extended review period gave it a chance to break in. This knife simply flies open, with either a light-switch or push-button press. The blade is riding on bronze washers, with thin teflon overlays sandwiched between these and the steel. It’s a proved combination, also found in such knives as the Ontario RAT Models 1 and 2. Lockup is strong, hovering between 50 and 60-percent. Closure is just as excellent, featuring a fall-shut capability that brings me almost as much joy as the ZT 0450. No, it’s not as good as a $160 Zero Tolerance. But it’s damn close.
Speaking of ZT and KAI… Hey, Kershaw, are you paying attention? Steel Will made a great budget flipper without falling back on Speedsafe. What’s your excuse?
5 stars out of 5
No aspect of the Cutjack benefited from its extended review more than its Future. See, I tried several times to take this knife apart. My notes are filled with complaints and questions – “How am I supposed to trust this knife if I can’t maintain it, especially given the rust-prone nature of D2?” It was the biggest sticking point for me, and would have significantly impacted the score.
But then I took a hair dryer and pointed it at the pivot for five minutes. This finally broke the permanent thread locking compound, allowing me to loosen the primary screw. From there, it was just a matter of repeating the process for the backspacer and clip fasteners. This sense of relief was one of my most vivid experiences as a gear reviewer, because I really, really wanted to see the inside of this knife.
What I found was a mixed bag. Take a look at the photo above, and you’ll notice what appears to be a charred spot on the back of the blade tang. This didn’t come from me, so I’m assuming it was an error in production. Not a huge issue but, if you’re wondering why it didn’t get a perfect “Form” score, now you know. I was, however, pleasantly surprised to find that its stainless steel liners had been skeletonized. That’s a nice touch, and I appreciate the weight-saving.
Ok, warranty time. While the thread locker certainly hinders disassembly, taking the knife apart doesn’t appear to void the company coverage. You can look over Steel Will’s entire warranty policy here, but nowhere did I find an outright condemnation. This coverage doesn’t allow for resale, however, terminating “if the knife is sold or ownership is transferred to another party.” Still, for a knife at this price point, I’m not too concerned.
Let me say this, too – I’m impressed by the quality of Steel Will’s screws. I torqued on these much harder than I should have before resorting to the hair dryer, and not one of them shows signs of stripping out.
So, why no perfect score? It’s back to the permanent thread locker. Yes, I was able to break it loose, but I don’t think knives should come that way from the factory. Especially with a blade with a known propensity for corrosion.
4.5 stars out of 5
This knife retails for between $40 and $45, with a D2 steel blade and solid flipping action. That’s… just incredible. Honestly, other than the Ontario RAT Model 1, I don’t think this knife has any real competition in the sub-$50, medium-duty range. The RAT is a little sturdier, yeah, but it’s also a fair bit heftier. This is a truly excellent design, and I’m eagerly perusing Steel Will’s catalog for further purchases.
I suppose this is also as good a time as any to talk about the knife’s place of origin. While Steel Will does produce other models in Italy, this particular Cutjack hails from a Chinese factory. This is a pretty big deal for me, but not in the way you’d expect. Rather than thump my chest and rail against cheaply made Chinese goods (and there are plenty of those around), I’d like to take a moment to reflect on just how far some manufacturers have come. Much like Korea’s Hyundai and Kia in the automotive world (who leaped ahead while Toyota and Honda were napping), companies like Steel Will and WE Knives have taken it upon themselves to raise the bar of eastern production. That kind of commitment gets noticed, and I think they’ve done a great job here.
5 stars out of 5
Look – Just buy this knife. It stands alone as the best unassisted flipper under $50, with solid construction and strong attention to detail. The steel is good, the ergos are great, and the pocketability is outstanding.
Just be sure you’ve got a hair dryer handy when it comes time to take it apart.