First of all, this is not really a review. The 0888MAX is a pure collectible for me. A collectible I was able to acquire through a trade with my good friend Andrew of the Edge Observer. The knife has been admired and “fondled” (as much as I hate that word – it’s right up there with “hubby” and “moist” for me), but certainly not carried and used. Given the value and rarity of a knife like the 0888MAX, I hope those who came here for a rough and tumble review can look past that and enjoy the knife from the same collector’s mindset that I have.
It seems as if Zero Tolerance has lost their way in some respects with their recent limited editions. To me knives like the 0777>, the 454CF, and this 0888 represent the pinnacle of ZT’s limited editions: bold and innovative designs that are beautifully and meticulously executed, featuring feats of engineering largely unseen in their regular lineup, yet the knives are still timeless and universally appealing.
A 0392 with “toxic green” hardware doesn’t get me going in the same way an 0888 does. The 0427 is cool, but a little busy. It is more of an acquired taste, than a timeless classic. I have similar feelings about the 0999. To me they just gratuitously layered on more stuff, like a chef at a fancy restaurant simply piling on more expensive ingredients.
There is something about the 0888 that places it the top my favorite ZT LE’s. Maybe because it is an in house design, so simple and elegant yet so meticulously and beautifully rendered. The gentle play between the open blade and handle, the fully contoured titanium scales, and the ingenious one piece pocket clip that flows seamlessly with the rest of the knife, all serve to elevate this design from the rest. There is something almost magical about the 888, made even more etheral by the limited quantity: a mere 250 pieces of the 0888 and 250 of the 0888MAX. These days Zero Tolerance limited releases even seem to be less limited. But that’s OK, this only serves to make the 0888MAX more special.
General Dimensions and Blade Details
The 0888MAX has an overall length of 9.125″, a 3.75″ blade, a weight of 7.56 ounces, and is made in the USA. I will use “0888” and “0888MAX” interchangeably throughout this article except for when specifically discussing the steel below. With that said, the difference between the 2 is that the 0888 is uncoated and comes with a composite S110V and 14C28N blade, while the 0888MAX is black DLC coated and approximately half of the 0888MAX knives feature Maxamet steel, and the other half have M390 steel blades after Zero Tolerance realized it would be too difficult to finish out the entire batch in Maxamet. Also the fuller on the regular 0888 does not extend the length of the blade like the 0888MAX.
The 0888 was apparently the 2012 Overall Knife of the Year. Although I agree with Tony that this is an award of dubious distinction, in this case I think they got the award right, and the 0888 is certainly worthy of the Knife of the Year title.
The 0888 features a modified drop point blade. It’s almost a spearpoint, and that spear shaped blade is further accented by a dramatic fuller that runs the length of the blade before transitioning into the handle. The knife is flat ground, with the grind running half the height of the blade. There is no swedge.
The “MAX” in 0888MAX signifies ZT’s choice of Carpenter’s Maxamet high speed powder tool steel. Here is a link to Carpenter’s datasheet. Here is a link to ZKnives always informative Composition Analysis Graph, Equivalents and Overview.
After reviewing Carpenter’s datasheet, it looks like Maxamet is to be hardened to anywhere between 66-71 HRc, which is super high on the Rockwell C scale for knife blades. For reference, steels like S110V and ZDP 189 are taken up to the low 60s (maybe as high as 65 for ZDP-189). According to Zknives, ZT had trouble grinding the Maxamet blades after heat treat, and experienced issues with warping if they ground the blades before heat treat. That is why they did not make the full 250 piece run of 0888MAXs in Maxamet, and that is what makes a “real” Maxamet clad 0888MAX so special.
This all sounds great, but since I have not used this knife I cannot comment on the real world implications of a knife with a Maxamet blade. I can’t imagine it being easy to sharpen.
Handle, Ergonomics, and Pocket Clip
The 0888 comes with a 3 piece titanium handle. I love the absence of visable hardware except for the custom pivot on the show side. The end result is an exceptionally clean and elegant knife; especially when you consider that this was released several years ago. These days we are seeing more integral designs hit the market, but at the time that wasn’t the case. The handle has a full titanium backspacer tastefully engraved with the “Zero Tolerance” wordmark.
The overall fit, finish, and execution of the handle is fabulous. Your fingers catch on the fine, almost herringbone, machining on the handle. The backspacer and handles are almost seamless, and the lockbar is precision cut. The all black MAX version is especially seductive, lending the knife a stealth fighter feel.
The 0888 is a large and comfortable knife. It’s simple shape provides the end user with excellent ergonomics. Again, I haven’t cut with this knife, or carried it, so I can’t offer much besides impressions after handling it. If you were to use it my best guess is that it would feel great. There is no jimping to speak of.
The pocket clip is also quite special. It’s a one piece ambidextrous tip-up pocket clip. Again, it is beautifully finished and 3-d machined from a single piece of titanium. This is easily the most elaborate clip I have ever seen on a knife. It is secured by a single phillips screw hidden from view unless you look down into the inside of the handle. I haven’t carried my 0888MAX. It’s a big heavy knife, and my guess is that you would really feel it in the pocket. Not my choice for an every day carry piece, but definitely a cool collectible.
Deployment and Lockup
The 0888 is a bearing equipped flipper. The action is crisp and smooth, and the knife opens with a distinctive metallic click. After disengaging the lock you can shake the blade closed. Blade centering is perfect on my knife. As with some ZTs, you need to keep your finger off the lock bar when using the flipper.
The 0888 is a titanium framelock with replaceable steel blade insert. I think having a steel insert is especially prudent with this Maxamet blade. If the blade is truly hardened to 66+ HRc, it will chew through a titanium lockbar. A steel insert is essential here. Lockup on my knife is early and secure. There is no blade play, and the lock does not stick. Typical ZT quality here. They have the 0888 dialed in just as good as any other Zero Tolerance framelock I have handled.
0888MAX – Final Thoughts
It is a privilege to share a knife like the 0888MAX with you. I occasionally run into some cool stuff, but largely stay within the realm of normal production folders. I don’t own many custom knives, nor do I spent a lot of time in the midtech market.
With all that in mind, the 0888 is a special piece unlike anything else I have reviewed. Even compared to my 454CF or Shirogorovs this 888 is a totally different knife. I think it is especially interesting that this is an in house design. That is a testament to the team they have built over at Zero Tolerance. Given the somewhat “funky” nature of the new ZT LE’s I think they should consider another in house design. Clearly they have some talent over there, and I think an overreliance on custom maker designs may be a step in the wrong direction at this point.
The 0888MAX is no longer available at retail, and they rarely appear on the secondary market, but if you are in the market for a Zero Tolerance knife, please consider purchasing it at Amazon or BladeHQ. By purchasing things through any of the links on this website you support BladeReviews.com, keep the website free of annoying banner ads, and help produce future reviews. Thank you very much.