Fällkniven S1 Forest Knife
Fällkniven AB is a relatively young, family operated firm located in the town of Boden, Norrbotten province in the north of Sweden. Founded in 1984 by Peter Hjortberger, they started to develop their own brand of knives in 1987 and today they are one of the most highly regarded knife companies in the world. They use high quality, advanced materials and their designs are based on practical experiences and the time proven demands of real outdoor fieldwork. Fällkniven designs folders, fixed blades and even some kitchen and butcher knives and the actual manufacturing takes place in Japan and it is done by Hattori. They also sell knife sharpeners. All their knives are very popular and sought after, especially in the outdoor/bushcraft/survival fraternities. Their F1 model for instance, is the official, standard issue survival knife of the Swedish Air Force since 1995. The A1 Army Survival knife is another one of the flagships from Fällkniven's impressive fleet, but this writing is about its smaller brother the S1 Forest knife, which takes the middle spot in the company's survival knife series (F1, S1, A1). As we all know, there are plenty of good quality, tough survival knives out there made from carbon steel. But, if someone is looking for a well built, strong version made from premium stainless steel … the selection is rather scanty. The company offers two models of the S1.They are basically the same, except one of them has a black Ceracoat H8 surface coat on the blade, while the other is satin finished. This review is about the latter.
About the steel:
Laminated VG-10 is a staple steel in the line up of Fällkniven and it is manufactured in Japan by the Takefu Special Steel company. The hard VG-10 core is sandwiched between two softer layers of 420J2 steel. This lamination makes an exceptionally strong blade. Everything else is being equal, the laminated version is about 20% stronger than the non laminated, standard variant. VG-10 stainless steel is well machinable and easy to grind. It has good edge retention, it is not hard to sharpen and has a fairly good corrosion resistance. It is an excellent choice for knife blades.
Components of the VG-10 alloy:
The S1 (like most other Fällkniven models) comes in a simple, white cardboard box with all the info (description, warranty, sharpening guide, etc...) written on the sides. the edge was sharp enough to shave arm hair right out of the box. The fit and finish is top notch all around. The knife has a no nonsense, straightforward design and it is very stout for its medium size. Also, it has a good heft to it, but without being heavy. The balance point of the knife is right around the finger-guard. The satin finished clip point blade has a swedge going back for about 50mm from the tip. This swedge gives the knife a more acute point and also improves penetration. The spine of the blade is just square enough to be used with a ferro-cerium rod, although it was not made for this purpose. The grind is almost a saber grind, except the primary grind here is convex, not flat. This convex grind combined with the fairly thick, laminated steel makes a very strong cutting edge and a robust, heavy duty blade. The lamination line is visible all along, above the cutting edge and on the swedge just around the tip. The S1 has a full, but hidden tang construction with the tang extending beyond the butt of the knife for about 2mm.
The nicely shaped, but in my opinion perhaps slightly undersized (in girth) handle is made from black coloured Thermorun with 3 dimensional, diamond texture on the sides.
It has a pronounced finger-guard at the front and a hollow stainless steel rivet for a lanyard at the back. This somewhat squarish handle surrounds the tang of the knife and provides a very secure and safe grip even when wet. But, let us see some in hand photos with and without gloves.
The narrow profile sheath of the S1 is made from Zytel and has a nylon webbing belt loop with a retaining strap and snap closure. It gives a secure fit, but there is a slight rattle and for any other than traditional vertical carry mode, you definitely have to use the retaining strap all the time, otherwise the knife could fall out. As for normal belt or tip down vertical carry this is not necessary while working or milling about camp and frequent sheathing/unsheathing is required. During such activities the built in self-adjusting tab provides sufficient friction and grip to keep the knife securely in the sheath without utilizing the retaining strap. Traveling, hiking, etc... of course is a different story. One more thing about the strap... the oversized “tail” is for easier unsnapping with heavy gloves in wintertime. The sheath has hidden drainage holes at the bottom and provision for additional webbing to secure it to backpacks, LBE's, PFD's or other equipments. There is a thumb rest at the mouth of the sheath to facilitate one handed draw of the knife. I like the narrow and slim design of the sheath, I am sure a lot of thought went into it. It would be nice to see a belt loop which would not require unbuckling the belt in order to mount the sheath. Also, it is worth mentioning that Fällkniven offers leather sheaths to go with the S1 model, for those who like a more traditional look and material.
I have been using this knife for over two months now for all kinds of tasks and tests, out of doors and around the house. And I would like to share my observations and experiences here with everyone who is interested.
As usual in this part of my test regime, I tried to get as many different materials as possible for cutting subjects in order to get a better idea about the potential and capabilities of the given knife.
Let's start with some fibrous stuff, like this 20mm wide nylon webbing...
… and a piece of 25mm wide one...
...another even wider and tightly woven strap.
Still in the fibrous articles... two different kind of kernmantle type ropes.
This next item could be in the plastic group as well, since one side of it is fibrous and the other is plastic. It is a piece of carpet with a plastic backing.
Talk about plastic... Here is a hard and thick walled PVC pipe...
...and a softer PVC tube.
This is some rigid, thick walled plumbing pipe...
...and a somewhat flexible electrical core-line.
Next is the rubbery materials, such as reinforced and double walled pneumatic hose...
...and some old car-tire. At this particular task the knife afforded very good penetration also.
There was some thin leather...
...and cardboard slicing
The S1 performed well at all of these tasks and tests.
Woodwork and field use:
I consider this to be the main arena for a knife like this. Even the name of the model (Forest knife) suggests it...
For example, this knife can make short work of the fire preparation. I was able to produce beautiful feather-sticks with the aid of this blade, as the following pictures can attest to it.
Feather-sticks can be used as tinder and to make them is also a good practice of knife usage.
Another stage of the fire preparation is to process wood for kindling and fuel using the knife and a piece of wood as a baton. This is also an important and useful skill, for instance to get to the dry inner part of the wood in a wet or moist environment.
The S1 splits wood very well, because the geometry and thickness of the blade is a great advantage at this task.
Some larger knotty and gnarly wood.
Still on the fire-prep subject... Here is a shot of my well used Firebox ready to go, courtesy of the S1 and a folding saw.
I have tested the tip by stabbing and prying in some dead and fallen logs. I can report, that the point of the S1 is very strong and tough.
I did a little cross-grain batoning on this next picture. This technique is very useful for sectioning or notching wood (or other material for that matter), especially if we do not have a large chopping blade or an axe handy.
The S1 is very capable at some basic whittling, as well. Hopefully, the following pictures will provide clear evidence of this.
Fairly deep cuts all around the circumference of this sapling...
...a quickly made peg...
...and some notches and a point on a stick.
Although, obviously this is not intended to be the primary field of use for this blade, it still does a decent job if it is pressed into kitchen service or camp cooking. The stainless steel and synthetic handle is a definite advantage here and despite the thick blade the sharp convex grind does a good job.
Nice thin and even slices of dry, cured salami here...
...slicing and dicing some bacon on this photo.
Dividing an apple.
Cutting, slicing and cubing some veggies on the following pictures.
...peppers and sweet potatoes.
During the past two months (or so) this knife suffered no damages of any kind except some light surface scratches on the blade, which is normal. Edge retention was good, I hardly had to use my leather strop. I have found the handle comfortable, although I would like to have it to be a little thicker. Your mileage may vary regarding the handle. The S1 has a strong and stout build, while it is still light and unobtrusive. It is capable of handling heavy duty tasks and finer, more detailed work as well. Maintaining and cleaning this blade and its sheath is very easy. All these properties make it a very versatile and useful all around outdoor cutting tool, one that can accomplish a lot of work and serve you well. We all know that military units chose Fällkniven knives around the world. For instance Swedish pilots use the F1 model, some Russian units use the A1 model and fairly recently the Canadian Armed Forces conducted some rigorous testing with a few different brand of knives. Their top pick...? Well... it was the Fällkniven S1 with the black Ceracoated blade. So, some Canadian troops will be using this model very soon (if not already...).
I really like this particular model and find it very useful and handy in a convenient, easy to carry size. I can highly recommend it and I am pretty sure you will be happy with your purchase. (Actually, I think it is more like an investment in a good, reliable tool for a lifetime).
Thanks for reading!