The Cold Steel Ti-Lite is a knife that I received in a trade. As a collector I find myself often buying and selling knives, and I routinely get it hit up with trade propositions. I must confess, the decision to acquire a Ti-Lite was really a product of impulsiveness rather than a well researched and rationalized decision. All I knew was the general shape of the knife and that it was a fairly popular offering from Cold Steel.
A few days later the Ti-Lite was in my hands. Again, it’s confession time. The styling of this particular knife was not my cup of tea, and I was turned off by how unfriendly the design was to left handed people like myself. So I stuck the Ti-Lite on a shelf and would revisit it occasionally. It was a great knife for when I needed a little distraction. I’d practice waving it off my pocket and imitating some of the “sweet moves” you often find in Cold Steel’s promotional videos. So when I first got it I really wasn’t interested in reviewing the knife, but the Ti-Lite has slowly grown on me. It still isn’t a part of my EDC rotation, I don’t think it’s a practical utility knife, and it really isn’t lefty friendly, but the Ti-Lite is a well made purpose-built tactical knife, and I’d still like to spend some time and talk about it.
General Dimensions and Blade Details
The Ti-Lite comes in 2 blade sizes, the 4″ version shown here and a much larger 6″ version. I happen to have the 4″ version which sports an overall length of 8-3/4″ and weighs 3.6 ounces. This is a long and slim design, and I immediately likened it to a Spyderco Endura. However, a big difference between the Ti-Lite and Endura is that the Endura is a much more versatile design, and can excel at both utility and “tactical” (defensive/offensive) tasks. In my mind the Ti-Lite is much less versatile and really is best suited for stabbing stuff. As we will learn, this Ti-Lite does that job quite well.
The blade on the Ti-Lite is a spearpoint design. The knife is hollow ground, and grind line pretty much goes down the center of the blade and reinforces the very sharp tip. On the spine of the knife you have a long aggressive swedge, and the edge has been neatly applied. There is just a very slight amount of belly here – like I said earlier, I don’t think this would make a particularly good utility knife. A nice satin finish rounds things out. All in all the blade is very well done, and resembles a folding railroad spike.
The blade is made from a 3mm thick AUS 8A stainless steel. This is a mid range Japanese stainless steel known for it’s ability to be easily sharpened and take a great edge. It’s common on Cold Steel’s current offerings and I generally don’t mind it, even if it won’t hold an edge as well as higher end steels. Really you aren’t going to do much actual cutting with this thing, mainly you need something tough – AUS8 is tough and reasonably inexpensive. Given the price, the intended use, and the way you would primarily use this knife I think AUS8 was a good choice here.
Handle, Ergonomics and Pocket Clip
My Ti-Lite came with Zytel (reinforced plastic) handle scales over full stainless steel liners. A full Zytel backspacer rounds out the design. There is also a more expensive aluminum version that weighs about an ounce more. I really don’t see any advantage to the aluminum version, but I know some people simply aren’t fans of reinforced plastic handles. The Zytel on my knife is nicely finished, and the stainless steel liners have been given a little polish. Everything is well lined up and fits flush together. I like the screw type construction and how light and sturdy the handle feels. All in all this is a well made handle.
Like the blade shape, the ergonomics of the Ti-Lite are fairly one-note. 2 sharp quillions dominate both the aesthetic considerations and ergonomic qualities of the knife. These quillions are great for deploying the blade (more on that later) but make actually handing the knife somewhat awkward in most normal positions. The quillion on the top of the knife is right where the thumb ramp would normally be, and is rather sharp and uncomfortable. Really the knife is best held in either a reverse grip or a ice pick style grip, although you could straddle the quillion and rest your thumb on the spine of the blade. In the more stabbing oriented grips, the handle really fills the hand and I found the knife to be plenty comfortable. Regular forward grips for utility work are much more awkward.
The pocket clip is a sturdy piece of steel that has been given a bright satin finish. On a knife like this I’d really prefer a blackened clip, but it does match the rest of the stainless steel hardware quite well. A bigger gripe might be that the clip allows for right side tip up carry only. But the good thing here is that the clip is sturdy and offers nice retention. Also, the knife rides rather high in the pocket, not really a big deal in my opinion because of the way the knife deploys.
Deployment and Lockup
With the Cold Steel Ti-Lite you have several options for deployment. My favorite by far is using the quillion to “wave” this knife off the right pocket. Of course what I’m referring to is the wave feature found on many Emerson knives that opens the knife as you draw it from your pocket by catching a protrusion on the blade on the corner of your pocket. This action it snaps open the blade almost instantly, and is easily the fastest way to deploy the knife.
Traditionalists may prefer using the included thumbstud. Southpaws beware, this knife only has a right side thumb stud, and it’s not reversible in the slightest. For that reason, you may prefer to use the quillions to open the knife. If this part of the review was kind of confusing, I suggest checking out my video review – I think I do a slightly better job of explaining the various deployment methods there.
Regardless of the method you choose to deploy your Ti-Light deployment will be very smooth thanks to some teflon washers. Typically I am not a huge fan of teflon washers, but they are well implemented here and I honestly didn’t even realize they were teflon until I closely examined the knife before review (after months of ownership). Blade centering is dead on as well, so I’ve got no complaints.
The Ti-Lite makes use of a large liner lock to secure the blade open. My liner lock engages about 3/4 of the way, and is extremely sturdy. I did not experience any blade play at all, even after waving the knife open hundreds of times. It is a strong lock.
Cold Steel Ti-Lite – Final Thoughts
If you are looking for a dedicated defensive knife and are a fan of the retro styling, then I can recommend the Cold Steel Ti-Lite. It’s well made, features good materials, and at around $40 new you aren’t going to break the bank. I will say that this is definitely a specialized knife. It is really only good for stabbing stuff in my opinion, and leaves much to be desired as an EDC or utility knife. Also, the knife is really not lefty friendly – if you are left handed I’d just leave this one alone.
But what the Ti-Lite does, it does really well. It’s a very strong stabbing implement. So ultimately the decision rests on the desires of the consumer. Is this a must have knife? Not in my opinion, but for what it is the Ti-Lite is a nicely done knife.