Most readers are probably familiar with Maxpedition for its extensive line of rugged bags, packs and pouches. They may not know, though, that Maxpedition now also has many knives in its line up to go along with their gear, the Ferox knives and the higher end Excelsa knives, as well as a new fixed blade being introduced this year. Whereas the Ferox uses a liner lock and perfectly functional but basic 5CR13 steel and nylon reinforced handles, the Excelsa really steps things up by using D2 tool steel blades and an 6A14V alloy titanium frame with a frame lock mechanism. It comes in both a small and large size, which share the same general outline and styling. The small is 6.7 inches overall with a 2.9-inch blade, which should make it legal in most municipalities, with the exception of some extremely restrictive locations like Chicago. The weight on the small is only 2.7 ounces, making it extremely easy to carry.
The large adds a bit of length to both the handle and blade and measures in at 8.3 inches overall with its 3.6-inch blade. Weight on the large is a still very reasonable 5.1 ounces. Both knives use a drop point, flat ground blade of D2 treated to a high 58-60 Rockwell. Opening is via a reversible thumb stud and lock up is via a solid frame lock complete with over travel stop. A low profile pocket clip is affixed for right-hand, tip-down carry but it can be reversed for tip-up carry if that’s your preference. A thong hole is provided at the butt of the knife so that you can add a lanyard if you choose to do so. Fit and finish is very good and the knives lockup quite solidly, with no obvious wiggle or play. The Excelsa’s come very well packaged in a slide -open box lined with a heavy foam rubber cut out to accept each respective knife. A user maintenance pamphlet is provided as is a Torx wrench. Overall, it makes for a very nice presentation and would make the knives well suited for use as gifts to my thinking. Both blades are manufactured in Taiwan and labeled as such on the box, although the knives themselves are devoid of any markings except the Maxpedition logo along the frame locking bar.
OPEN FRAME DESIGN:
The Excelsa knives have an open frame design that should keep pocket crud or other dirt from building up inside the knife. If you really manage to get things gummed up, Maxpedition provides you with a T6/T8 Torx wrench that allows you to fully disassemble the knife for cleaning and maintenance. It’s an interesting touch that you don’t always see; a great feature if you use your knife in harsh conditions, which might require an occasional full breakdown for cleaning and lubrication. It’s also neat just to be able to take your knife apart and still be able to put it back together again.
Technical details aside, the Excelsa presents as a solid, well-made folder with clean lines. The titanium handles are nicely contoured from both an ergonomic and aesthetic standpoint. The large model particularly feels good in the hand. A short section of thumb serrations is provided on the spine of the blade just above the opening stud. They’re deep enough to provide decent traction, but well-rounded so that they don’t dig into the thumb during use. In fact most, of the knife has nice, melted edges devoid of sharp angles to include the spine of the blade. The only exception to that is the reversible thumb stud. The stud is a ramped and serrated piece of steel and the top edge is a little sharp. The top of that stud sits a little higher than the knife scales when the knives are closed and I had some concern that the slightly sharp edge would wear on clothing over time in the pocket. I didn’t notice anything during my testing period, though, so it may not be an issue. The worst case is that you round it slightly with some sandpaper, so it’s an easy fix if it bugs you. When opening the knives I generally had to use two motions, the first to pop the knife free of the handle, and then I’d have to shift my grip slightly to roll open the knives the rest of the way. That may just be me though; your mileage may vary and a single, smooth motion might become habit with more use.
The D2 blade came with an excellent factory edge, and it showed the edge retention that D2 is known for. I did a lot of cutting that will typically dull a knife during the course of my daily duties as well as some deliberate bench testing. I tend to get a lot of packages shipped to me in the course of my writing so I always have cardboard boxes that need to be broken down. I used the large Excelsa as my primary recycling knife for the month and zipped up a good number of boxes during that time. I also just sat down and sliced and diced cardboard to see how it cut. I also used it on some dirty old sisal rope, and some rather nasty radiator hose that came off of a friend’s Land Rover rebuild project. The plain edge D2 did a great job on all of these materials. The rubber was actually pretty tough to cut, but the large Excelsa powered through it and made clean cuts. It would do the trick nicely if you had to do a field repair on a cracked hose. I did some stab tests with the Excelsa as well and found that although the handle is smooth and devoid of any sort of checkering, the overall handle contour kept your hand in place and off of the blade even in full power stabs. Penetration in my stacked cardboard test target was good, with me averaging sinking the knife blade about three quarters of the way.
The melted edges and deep carry clips make both knives easy to carry. The clips are well designed in that they have enough of an upward sweep to catch the lip of the pocket and enough tension to stay put when you’re carrying them while still providing you with a reasonable draw. The large is a great choice if you’re wearing jeans, work clothes or any sort of uniform. Even in my plain clothes attire of Dockers at work it carried pretty nicely. If you don’t need the bigger blade or want a lighter and more discrete pocket carry, though, the compact small is the way to go. It has all of the functional attributes of its bigger brother just in a lighter, more compact package. If you’re looking for a good companion for your Maxpedition bag or pack, consider adding an Excelsa to your cart the next time you’re shopping on their site. Price for the small is $119 whereas the large adds $20 to that price tag. Even if you don’t have a Maxpedition bag that’s a very fair price for a solid, quality built knife of titanium and D2 in its own right.
For more information on the Maxpedition Precision Folding Knives, visit: maxpedition.com