Fallkniven 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-making 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. Fallkniven manufactures folders, fixed blades and even some kitchen and butcher knives. They also sell knife blades ready to handle and knife sharpeners as well. 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 one of the flagships from Fallkniven's impressive fleet. 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 a high end stainless steel … the selection is rather scanty. The company offers two models of the A1. They are basically the same, except one of them has a black Ceracoat H8 surface coating on the blade while the other is satin finished. This review is about the latter.
Steel: Laminated Stainless VG-10 @ HRC 59
Overall length: 282mm /11.1"
Blade length: 159mm / 6.26"
Blade width: 33mm / 1.3" (at the widest)
Blade thickness: 6mm / 0.24"
Weight: 300g / 10.58 Oz. (the sheath is another 75g / 2.65 Oz.)
Laminated VG-10 is a staple steel in the line up of Fallkniven 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:
Carbon - 1.00
Silicon - 0.6
Manganese – 0.5
Phosphorus – 0.03
Chromium – 15.0
Molybdenum – 1.05
Cobalt – 1.4
Vanadium – 0.2
The A1 (like other Fallkniven models) comes in a simple, white cardboard box with all the info (description, warranty, sharpening guide, etc...) written on the sides. There were a few minor scratches on the spine, above the swedge and there was a tiny burr along the full length of the cutting edge. Although the edge was sharp enough to shave arm hair even with the burr, I fixed it up with a few swipes on a charged leather strop. Other than these minor issues, the fit and finish was good all around. The knife has a no nonsense, straightforward design. It has a nice heft, but it is not overly heavy for its medium size. The balance point is right about at the front edge of the handle. The satin finished clip point blade has a swedge (or swage) going back for about 75mm from the tip. This gives the knife a more acute point and improves penetration. The grind is almost a saber grind, except the primary grind here is convex, not flat. This convex grind combined with the 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 A1 has a full, hidden tang construction with the tang extending beyond the butt of the knife for about 2mm. This extended tang comes handy not only for hammering with it , but hammering on it (with a piece of wood...) as well, if we have to use it for example as a chisel.
The nicely shaped and sized handle is made from black coloured Kraton with 3 dimensional, diamond texture on the sides. It has a pronounced finger-guard at the front and a hollow stainless steel pin for a lanyard at the back. This somewhat squarish handle provides a very secure and comfortable grip even when wet. I particularly like the shaping for the little finger around the butt of the handle. But, let us see some in hand photos.
The narrow profile sheath of the A1 is made from Zytel and has a nylon webbing belt loop with a retaining strap and snap closure. It gives a secure fit, but for upside down carry you definitely have to use the retaining strap all the times, 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 Fallkniven offers leather sheaths to go with the A1 model, for those who like a more traditional look and material.
I have tried to use this knife in some diverse assignments to get a better feel for the capabilities and potential of it. The A1 is more of an all-purpose/survival blade than a bushcraft knife, but it can be pressed into service in a lot of situations with excellent results. These sample trials and demonstrations are grouped by field of use, rather than chronological order.
I took the knife on a few day-trips to the woods in order to give it some workout in that arena.
I was able to make nice feather-sticks and shavings with the help of the sharp convex edge.
As for whittling, I constructed a figure 4 trap with all the notches and then "armed" it. The A1 worked well and the figure 4 turned out nicely.
Also, I managed to put a very fine point on a stick.
To section larger diameter wood with this blade, the aid of a baton is a better choice, as opposed to chopping.
This knife can chop if it is called for. But, since it is a midsized blade and lacks sufficient weight and length, this is not its forte.
During chopping and batoning the Kraton handle dampens felt vibration and the 6mm thick saber/convex ground blade does quick work of the splitting. In my experience (everything else is being equal) I find generally the best blade geometry for wood splitting and batoning is the saber grind, followed closely by the full flat grind. (But the "FFG" has a tendency to bind in the wood a bit more often.) This particular saber configuration with the convex grind binds even less and in my opinion it is probably the best blade geometry for these kind of tasks.
A little fire preparation...
Some fatwood collection for later use. Here it is all nicely split and cleaned up by the A1.
To test the strength of the point, I did some digging and prying with the tip of the blade in this big log. The tip had absolutely no problem breaking out sizable chunks.
Also, drilled a hole into a ½ inch thick pine board without any difficulty...
...and stabbed the knife into a piece of steel-stud track. It pierced the metal right through with ease and no damage whatsoever to the tip or the cutting edge.
This point is pretty strong and it is up to almost any task.
The spine of the blade is sharp and square enough to make wood scrapings and throw nice sparks with a ferrocerium rod.
The A1 had no trouble tackling any of these tasks. This knife is very useful and a welcome companion in the bush, for sure.
For this battery of tests I have used a wide assortment of materials to gain a deeper experience. Things, such as nylon webbing...
PVC cord (used for welding linoleum flooring)...
plastic plumbing pipe...
and another kind of thick walled, harder and more rigid plumbing pipe. With this tough material I applied heavy push cuts.
Reinforced rubber pneumatic air-hose...
bicycle inner tube...
and an old car tire. Here, the knife produced excellent penetration as well.
Of course, I did not leave out the paper products, like newsprint...
and a big cardboard box...
which was quickly reduced to this pile, by the A1.
The knife had no problem with any of these materials, it cut and sliced all of them beautifully.
In the kitchen this blade performed admirably. Naturally, it would not be the first choice of a gourmet chef as a primary cutting tool... But considering the thickness and weight of the blade, it does a pretty good job in this field. It would serve well for instance, as a camp knife. Here are some photos of the A1 pressed into kitchen duty.
After close inspection for damages, deformations, chips or rolls in the edge, the only visible sign of use was some minor scratches on the blade surface. This is definitely a tough, heavy duty and versatile knife. It can take some abuse with no problems. It is easy to clean and maintain this blade and the Zytel sheath as well. The A1 took everything and anything I threw at it in strides and passed with flying colours. At the end of all these trial sessions the blade still had a nice working edge and to restore shaving sharpness took all but a few minutes on a charged leather strop. So, the laminated VG-10 steel has very good edge retention and ease of sharpening. This blade is a great and simple design, constructed from good quality materials. Being stainless steel is a definite plus, especially in wet and humid environments or near water/salt water. This knife would serve anybody well in a variety of applications (including military use). You can really depend on this knife and it is an excellent choice for a main survival blade or a primary all around outdoor cutting tool.
I can think only one thing to better the A1..., perhaps an updated belt loop on the sheath could be an improvement.