I have always been fascinated by watching machines that can make “things” from raw materials, probably because designing the tooling for anything like that is light years ahead of my own mechanical abilities. One machine in particular, that I have watched several times on a web video, feeds a constant stream of flat sheet metal into its dies and then folds each in to the handle for the classic Solingen utility lockback knife most of us call a “black panther.” The Germans are said to have developed this technique sometime in the 1890’s and the tough but inexpensive folders were very popular with their troops during WWI. In the 1920’s the French copied the basic process and produced millions of “trade knives” for their far-flung colonies in Africa and Asia. Both styles of knives are still in production, but the big news is SOG Specialty has taken the concept and truly updated it into a state-of-the-art 21st century tactical folder with their new “SlimJim” series.

The SlimJim currently comes in two sizes, a 4.13-inch blade and one 3.19 inches long. Both are available in a choice of flat gray bead blast finish or a black coating. The blade steel is AUS-8 stainless at an RC of 56-58. All are assisted opening with ambidextrous thumb studs and a reversible steel carry clip. The large version weights 2.7 ounces and the smaller 2.4 ounces. Suggested retails run between $65 and $90 depending on size and finish.

Flat Profile

From the first, one of the features that made this type of knife construction so desirable was its extremely flat handle profile. Not only did this make these folders less of an encumbrance for pocket carry, it also made them handier for discrete concealment. Back during the 1960’s, the pattern was popular with users on both side of the legal fence as a self-defense weapon. The truth be known, I carried one behind my wallet daily through most of my teen years only, to give it to a friend working on a highway construction crew the night before I entered the army. When I returned home a few years later he wanted to know where he could find a replacement for the knife as he had lost the first on a job site. It had impressed him so much that he had been waiting all that time to ask me about it.

While I thankfully never had any reason to use that first knife as a weapon, the folder still made a very tough, practical cutting tool for EDC. At 5/16 inches thick, the SOG SlimJims frames are actually even thinner than the old 7/16-inch thick black panthers. Since the SOG’s versions arrived for evaluation, I have been carrying one in the inside breast pocket of a travel vest I like to wear while working or hiking in the woods. It has proven to be a very easy knife to forget is even there until you need it, and makes a great backup to any heavier duty cutting tools I might be using.

Of course, by adding an assisted opening mechanism, thumb pegs and carry clip, SOG has turned this style of knife into a much more tactical animal. Like many assisted openers, the SlimJims are equipped with a safety, in this case, a small sliding projection behind the lock release that can be used to both hold the knife open or closed. One word, though, about that safety, use it if you are carrying the folder in a front pocket. I found out the hard way that without the safety on, the knife can open in your pocket and, no big surprise here, cut you unexpectedly. Well, I’ve been cut before and probably will be again in the future. On the plus side, SOG spring assist certainly snaps the blade open with authority and it never failed to lock into battery.

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