Monday, August 4, 2014

Kizer Ki4412 Titanium Frame-Lock Review

Kizer Ki4412 Ti Frame lock posing at sunset
Click any of the photos for a larger view

If you're a knife nut, you've probably seen the plethora of counterfeit knives that have been pouring out of China. Makers such as Chris Reeve to Hinderer to Strider have all been victims of counterfeiting down to their very names on the counterfeits. Initially, the reports were that the knives were (for lack of a better term) crap. Fast forward to the last couple of years however and reports about the counterfeits claimed that the quality was actually pretty good. Most knife nuts won't admit wanting to handle one "just to see" but there were always lots of questions and even a few admitted to buying one to see. Out of respect for the original makers, I refused to ever purchase one. One question I always pondered was that if there were machinists in Guangdong with the ability to make a high quality product, why not start a company and make their own designs? Well apparently, there were some good machinists in Guangdong who thought coming up with their own designs was a good idea. Recently I saw a post on the net about a company called Kizer knives. I read some exchanges on the forums about the quality of their knives. The discussions got so far into the weeds that Kizer actually produced proof that they were in fact purchasing S35VN steel from THE U.S. source. There were also some exchanges with a U.S. knife maker who claimed that one of their designs was actually a copy of his, known as the Tango. While I'm not judge or jury, further reading on the subject satisfied me this was probably not the case. I had to satisfy my conscience that I was buying from an honest company. I purchased their Ki4412 off of Amazon because thus far, I my opinion is that Kizer is playing by the rules and that they may unfortunately be presumed guilty by association / location. I could be wrong, but that's my impression thus far. I thought they deserved an honest review of one of their products; the Ki4412 .


Out of the box, I was impressed with how light weight the knife was but that's to be expected with Titanium. It came boxed in a blue cardboard box and some standard instructions and warranty info (2 years btw). When I tried to flick the knife open, I was not impressed. The detent was very tight and the action was about as smooth as a $5.00 convenience store knife. It took lots of effort to flip it open. Once open however, there was ZERO blade play in any direction. Lock up on the frame lock was at about 40% and it was SOLID. Disengaging the lockbar was very smooth with no apparent sticking. The blade was slightly off center but nothing to worry about (no rubbing or anything). The knife carry position with the clip was tip down with no option otherwise. The clip was just the right amount of tension and slipped in and out of the pocket smoothly and carried very low in the pocket. I immediately noticed that the scales, while beautiful, where VERY slick. Fit and finish with the exception of the blade action and detent was very good. Everything was tight, tolerances were very well done and the stand-offs looked very good. One of the reasons that I chose the Ki4412 over the other Kizer offerings was the Stainless steel insert on the Ti lock face. This, in theory prevents wear to the Ti and should be smoother unlocking than Ti on Ti.

The Kizer Ki4412 included a tip-down carry only Ti pocket clip
Lock up is at around 40% with the stainless insert against the blade. Nice and tight!


This in one area of concern that I initially had purchasing this knife. Was it real Ti and was it real S35VN? Well I can tell you this, the scales feel like Titanium, are ultra light like Titanium, non-magnetic like Titanium and finally, scratches easily JUST LIKE Titanium. I think it's titanium :)
So is the steel S35VN? Well what I know about S35VN is that is considered one of Crucible's "super steels" and allot (like all steels) depends on heat treats. Chris Reeve knives uses S35VN in many of their knives now and as any self respecting knife nut knows, Chris Reeve uses only top quality materials.  My main experience with S35VN is mainly with my Chris Reeve Sebenza and the ZT 0550. Interestingly, while both of those knives have S35VN blades, my experiences with them was quite different. With the ZT0550, an extremely fine edge seemed to roll a bit initially until I sharpened it. It re-sharpened very easily and once I put more of "working edge" instead of a shaving edge on it, it worked great. With my Sebenza, it was razor sharp and stayed razor sharp for a long time. Once I did finally sharpen it, it was a little tougher to sharpen. I assume these differences were due to different heat treats. I liked both blades but for different reasons. So what about the Kizer claim of S35VN? Well, it behaved somewhat like the blade steel on the ZT0550 . Out of the box, the Kizer came sharp enough to shave with, quite impressive really. Then I took it out for some whittling on some Mesquite wood; a very tough woods. In no time, the Kizer blade rolled in a couple of spots. So I broke out the Lanskey and made a less refined (but very sharp) edge. After that, the same whittling had little effect. In addition, you can see no evidence that it's ever been sharpened. The Kizer blade behaved almost just like the ZT0550 and the visible texture appeared very similar. I'm convinced it is S35VN and the blade performed well.

The tip on this Kizer was a little finer than I would normally like but I knew that before I ordered it so no ding on this point. The groove along the length of the blade looks like a blood groove and while I don't see the utility of it, it continues into the Ti handle scales making a very nice looking knife.
The Kizer Ki4412 is a very nice looking knife.

Ergos on the Kizer Ki4412 are well done for such a big knife. It feels good in the hand with comfortable jimping on the thumb ramp and the base of the back of the blade. This being said, the Ti scales are VERY slick with sweaty hands or in the case of a life or death situation, blood and sweat would make it very tough to hold onto. This brings me to another point. This knife to me seems kinda confused. It has the size and build of a heavy duty folder and "looks somewhat tactical". If however, your definition of tactical is a knife that a police officer would EDC on patrol for every day tasks including last ditch self defense tool or a military troop would carry for quick deployment for about the same reasons, then this is not a tactical knife. It's too slick and too tough to flip open; maybe I received a bad copy?
So if it's not tactical, then it must be a gentleman's folder right? I don't think so. A gentleman's folder should not make the sheeple quiver in fear when flicked open in public. The size and looks of this knife disqualify this knife from that description. To sheeple, a knife of this size with a "blood groove", flicked open with one hand might look "mean". So what role does it fit? In truth, I don't know. I think it's leans more in the direction of gentleman's or just a general purpose folder.
The Kizer Ki4412  is a light 4.4 ounces. The weight is very good for a knife of this size mainly due to the Ti scales. The open length is 8.03 inches and thus, like any larger sized knives, must be opened around sheeple with some sense of  it's size. For those of us with a little common sense however and not scared of our shadows, this knife is a very nice size, substantial enough for many EDC tasks. The closed length of this knife is comfortable 4.5 inches and fits nicely in the pocket. This knife had very little pocket hog issues and carried very well in the pocket. Here are a couple of comparisons with a couple of my other knives.
The Kizer Ki4412 compared to the Spyderco Endura

The Kizer Ki4412 compared to the ZT0560

Well, as I stated above, the smoothness of opening this knife or it's flickability out of the box was not good at all. Due to the proprietary pivot screw, I have not been able to take it apart to sand the washers. So my best option was to add some break free, work it, dry it, work it, add some more break free and work it some more. I then added a little nano oil. While the flickabiliy has improved, it's still a little tough  to flick open. I can do it with either hand but it takes more effort than it should in my opinion. The detent is so strong that even under handed wrist flicking is a chore. It can be done but I've got to flick the heck out of it. NOTE: I don't recommend this for any knife and is just done for reference. For a truly tactical knife, one must be able to open a knife one handed from muscle memory and due to the slick scales, strong detent and tightness, opening this knife under stress would be a non-starter.


Well, as I said before, while this knife is large, built strong and "tough looking", it doesn't qualify in my book for tactical purposes. It does however make a nice general purpose folder. It's looks and size prevent it from being a gentleman's folder. Don't get me wrong, this is a NICE knife. I just think it's confused about what it wants to be. I think if Kizer added G-10 to one side and remedied the tightness and detent issue I think it would lean more towards a tactical folder.


According to Kizer's website and the included instructions in the box, the warranty is against workmanship for 2 years. In layman's terms I assume this to mean excessive blade play, breaking screws, parts falling off under normal use. Not bad in my opinion BUT the problem is, their warranty department is on the other side of the planet. I don't think many retailers are going to take in a knife 9 months after a purchase for warranty issues, which leaves dealing with a company on the other side of the world. I hope Kizer opens a state side warranty department, that would fix this concern.


If you've read the entire article, then you might get the impression that I don't think much of this knife. Well, while I like 90% of this knife, the little things that I pointed out make it a no-go for me. . The truth is that this is a nice knife, built with tight tolerances using very good materials. Lock-up is nice and very little wiggle in the blade in any direction. Mainly, it just doesn't fit my own personal needs and doesn't fit well into either the tactical knife category nor the gentleman's folder category.  The only real complains with the build were the tight detent and how tight the blade was initially. It has loosened to the point that I can flick it open with either hand now, but I could have remedied the tightness sooner if I could gotten to the washers and sanded them down a bit. WHY do companies feel the need to have proprietary pivot screws? A torx, slot or even a phillips would be much better in my opinion. All this being said, if you were to buy a production knife with these materials built in the U.S. you'd could be looking in the $200-$400 range and I picked this one up for less than $150. Of course a knife made in the U.S. with these materials would probably come from a company that stands behind it's workmanship and offer a good warranty. This is where Kizer may really fall short in my opinion. In many cases over the years when I have purchased products that failed, often the dealer either would not stand behind the sale or just flatly referred me to the manufacturer for warranty service. In the case of Kiser, you be dealing with a company on the other side of the planet. This may or may not be a problem for you.  Kizer has many other offerings that I think would better fit by needs better than this one. I would just hope the next one flips better. I think Kizer is going to be a company to be reckoned with by building such nice knives at such low prices. I really like the direction that they are going and I'm kinda interested in trying out some of their other offerings such as the Ki403B2 or their Kizer Cutlery Titanium . We'll see....

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