From big to small, I review them all. That little jingle may be pretty lame, but it is also pretty true. My last review was of the ESEE Junglas, 16 inches of high carbon steel. Worth a look if want a knife that you can strap to your back and enter the breach with.
Today’s topic is on the other end of the spectrum, a feather light folder by Al Mar knives. This is my first Al Mar knife review, and it’s a company I have had in my sights for a while now. For those unfamiliar with Al Mar, there is actually a long and rich history that could become an article of its own. In a couple sentences, Al Mar was the head of knife design for Gerber, and served in that position for over 10 years. Al then formed his own company in 1979, Al Mar Knives. The knives are made in Seki City, Japan and follow that area’s rich tradition of knife and sword making. Al Mar died in 1992, but the company is still producing knives to this day.
The Al Mar Hawk is the smallest knife in their series of traditional folders, and has some interesting quirks that are worth mentioning. Well built and hand finished, the details are what make this knife enduring, for better or for worse. If you are looking for something ultralight and a little different, the Hawk could be just the ticket.
The Al Mar Hawk is a special little knife, and for many, it serves a special purpose. A quintessential “gentleman’s folder,” the Hawk could make a discrete and stylish companion anywhere from the grocery store to a black tie event. It is certainly a good choice for the office, as it is about as inconspicuous and people friendly as knives get. It could also serve as an EDC blade (or backup EDC blade) for those looking for something lightweight and high quality. It also a knife that appeals to collectors. I find it to be a handsome little blade that could easily be kept in my desk or dresser and admired (and perhaps even used) from time to time.
General Dimensions and Blade Details
The Al Mar Hawk has a 3.25 inch handle, with a 2.75 inch blade and an overall length of 6 inches. This is among the lightest knives I have handled, weighing in just under an ounce. This knife disappears into pockets and is literally a knife that you will forget you are carrying.
The blade, like the rest of the knife, is slender and understated. It is made of relatively thin stock, which combined with a flat grind makes it a phenomenal slicer. It features a simple drop point shape and is made from AUS-8 steel. AUS-8 isn’t a “wundersteele” by any stretch of the imagination, but again, you have to understand that this is a Japanese knife, made with a Japanese steel and certain traditions and eccentricities are part of what makes the knife special. In today’s world of high end super steels, now might be a good time to remind you that AUS-8 is by no means a bad steel. I find it takes a very sharp edge although it may not hold that edge as long as say, VG-10, another Japanese steel.
Handle, Ergonomics and Pocket Clip
The handle of the Al Mar Hawk is simple and elegant with it’s pair of piano black linen micarta scales. The hand rubbed micarta is smooth, but not slippery, providing a pleasant feel. The handle is punctuated by flush mounted nickle silver rivets given an almost mirror-polish. There are no liners or bolsters, which is part of the reason why this knife is so lightweight. Despite this omission the handle feels solid and secure, with a stainless steel lock back bar running the length of the handle.
Another feature absent from the Hawk is a pocket clip. For such a small knife, it hardly seems necessary, and in fact it may be somewhat offensive to have a clip hanging off of the otherwise svelte lines of this little folder. If a pocket clip is a “must have,” consider upgrading to the slightly larger Eagle or Falcon models. The clips are very nice with a black coating and red Al Mar logo. The Hawk does have a lanyard hole, which could aid in retrieval.
The ergonomics of the Hawk are surprisingly pleasant for such a small design. The knife fits comfortably in hand and I have no complaints. There is no jimping, thumb ramp or choil, so as for aggressive use, you will probably want to carry another knife. For the knife’s purpose I think the current configuration it works just fine.
Deployment and Lock-up
The Hawk utilizes a couple good sized thumb studs to facilitate easy deployment. The pivot point on this knife isn’t adjustable (in fact, the entire knife is riveted together), but due to the high level of quality control, you can be certain that the knife will come well tuned from the factory. The deployment starts off on the stiff side, but after some use the knife will break in and you will find that the blade deploys smoothly, and can be flicked out if necessary.
The Hawk uses a lock-back mechanism, located near the front of the knife. This is another classic design element and it holds the blade securely in place. Of course, from such a small and lightweight knife will have its disadvantages and one is that the lock is not particularly strong. For light EDC tasks that you would expect to do with a gentleman’s folder or dress knife, the Hawk will serve admirably. While there isn’t any play in the knife, the liner-less design lends itself to some flex. Don’t expect to chop down a tree or use the knife as a crow bar and I think you will be satisfied with the lock’s performance.
Value and Final Thoughts
At the time of this article, the Hawk is hovering around $100. That isn’t cheap for a little knife. That said, it is very well built, made in Japan, hand finished, etc – in may ways you get what you pay for. The materials are good, but for the money I’d love to see VG-10 in place of the AUS-8. Also, I wouldn’t complain if they could squeeze a pocket clip on there (you could always take it off).
It goes without saying that you are also paying for exclusivity. It adds just a touch of class to your every day gear, any few people will have it, let alone recognize what it is. So I would conclude that as far as value goes, this knife is definitely more of a luxury item than a high value item. But, if you like fine knives, or don’t want to look like an evil knife guy on your next trip to the water cooler, the Hawk could be an easily justified purchase that will provide years of service and enjoyment.
Photo Credits: Many thanks to Bernard of EveryDay-Carry.com for the exceptional pictures of the Al Mar Hawk.
For those who are curious (and I know I was) the watch is a Seiko SRP027K1 and the Spyderco pictured is a Leafstorm that Bernard has modified by dying the handle black. If you didn’t already know, Bernard is a fellow gear and knife nut and he runs an endlessly entertaining blog on EDC options. It was really cool of him to let me feature his photography – thanks again!