SOG KNIVES “KIKU” SERIES

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SOG knives collaborates with legendary knife maker Matsuda Kikuo to create the “Kiku” series of knives offered in a variety of sizes and finishes while still maintaining a solid salute to Matsuda’s grinding style.
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Most knife collectors are big fans of factory/custom maker collaborations. If done right, it is one of those “win win” situations. Fans of a certain maker will have the chance to own something from their favorite artists at greater availability and less cost. If a buyer were on the fence about a maker(and costly purchase), collaborations like this can influence them in the right direction(which is almost always to purchase the knife).

Makers can gain from the project in the way of more notoriety and exposure. The key here is, to make sure the exposure is representative of what the original maker’s product is. A tall order in this case, but I think SOG did a great job with this series overall.

Kiku Matsuda is known to be a 5th generation knife grinder from Seki city Japan. He started grinding since the age of 15 years, and now over 34 years later, has mastered the art of blade grinding. His tendency towards complicated grinds are well captured in the SOG/Kiku line up. The two examples from the Kiku line we had an opportunity to look at are the Kiku Small Fixed blade and the Small Kiku Folder.
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Specs on these blades per SOG’s website are as follows…

Kiku – Small Fixed, Satin / KU-2001 MSRP $188 ($95 street price)

Finish Satin
Blade Shape Drop Point
Edge Type Straight
Blade Steel Type AUS-8 Stainless Steel
Hardness Rc. 56-58
US Standard| Metric
Overall Length 9.76″
Product Weight 8.50 oz
Blade Length 4.9″
Blade Thickness 0.20″

Kiku Folder / KU-1001 MSRP $135($75 street price)

Finish Polished, Satin
Blade Shape Tanto
Edge Type Straight
Blade Steel Type AUS-8
Hardness Rc. 56-58
US Standard| Metric
Product Weight 4.20 oz
Blade Length 3.5″
Blade Thickness 0.16″

The straight blade Kiku is a definite winner, and worthy of the Kiku name. This small version of the knife is comparable in size to Benchmade’s Nimravus. With a street price of less than $100 this is an excellent value that contends well with other knives in this range.
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The blade thickness is robust and the handle design has function as well as form. It sports Linen Micarta handles like the folder. They seem to be a lighter color green compared to the folder with a “dry” look. The blade is satin finished on this particular knife. As much as coated and/or colored blades add menacing appeal, the satin finish will not become as noticeably scratched and aged. At least not as quickly as a coated blade. If it does happen to get scratched, it can be polished again without too much hassle. For a working blade, satin is a good way to go, but the knife is offered in other finishes as well.
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The blade is made with AUS 8 stainless steel. Some would argue this is not the latest and greatest blade steel, but, AUS 8 is still a solid blade material, and more than capable for these knives. AUS 8 should also prove to be workable for the end user when it comes to maintenance and sharpening.
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The blade design is definitely reminiscent of Matsuda Kikuo’s work, The lower part of the blade is a gently recurved hollow grind. Knife lovers always have different opinions about recurved blades, but this one is not so radical that it would be to much trouble to resharpen, but aggressive enough to make use of the recurve blade’s advantages. The upper edge of the blade is a “Hamaguri” or convex grind which should add to the tip strength while looking great in the process. The back edge of the blade is a false ground drop point. This should aid in thrusting utility, again while looking very attractive in the process. The rest of the spine is flat and provides a good place for a thumb to choke up on. There is also some notched out file work to help the thumb stay planted.
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The handle design on the fixed blade is very natural and ambidextrous. Grooving is aggressive enough to provide grip in gloved or naked hand but not so aggressive that it bites back. The hilt comes to a point and can be used to smash a window or any similar task. The bottom of the blade has a lanyard hole. There is a finger cutout for the index finger and a hollow cutout on the top edge where the inside of the thumb rests naturally on the left or right hand.
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The fixed blade also comes with a Kydex sheath with two mounting options. A belt loop and a clip. The sheath has a “SOG” etched on the side. This included sheath is especially impressive considering a sheath of this quality is an add on option for other fixed blades in this price range. The clip is long enough to reach behind 1.5 inch belts and sized to fit into molle/pals compatible webbing gear. The belt loop option also adds the extra retention of a thumb snap.
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Now taking a look at the folder version of the Kiku. This is the smaller version of the Kiku folder with a 3.5 inch blade length. There are a few very minor concerns but overall it is a solid knife.
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The folder looks handsome in it’s OD Linen Micarta handles. It is well packaged and included is a left handed and right handed deep seated pocket clip. The Micarta seems to be oil quenched especially compared to the straight blade version’s handle. There are circular cutouts around the edge of the handle which reveal the black colored steel liner underneath. This could have been less noticeable had SOG mimicked the Straight bladed Kiku handle design, however, the handle design does make the knife more pocket friendly.
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The Micarta seems to be frayed at the edges because of the shaping of the handle leaves the edges a bit thin. There is some standoff distance between the handle and the edge of the liner so it isn’t a concern of durability as much as an aesthetic concern.
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Most of the users who handled this knife pointed out the liners are on the thin side as well. Most knife makers will defend that the thickness is adequate, and once locked out, would not be a point of failure. It does need to be mentioned that these details are minor, and the knife is very well built. It is sure to last the user for an indefinite service life.
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The folder’s blade shares nearly the same blade design as the fixed blade minus the file work along the back edge. The blade is deployed by way of a thumb stud and swings out very smoothly with a solid lock up. There appears to be copper or phosphor bronze shims used to smooth out the action. Right out of the Box the action is smooth as butter, which eliminates the need for a few hundred repetitions to break in properly. The liner lock is grooved to provide better grip when disengaging. When the liner lock falls away from the handle, it reveals how thin it really is. This is the small version of this folder so not really much can be said. The lower portion spacer is aluminum where the clip mounts and is open all along the back of the handle which should make cleaning a cinch.
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The Folder clips deep into the pocket and the hollow of the handle is where the clip rests. This provides a very strong hold in the pocket. This eliminates the worry of losing the knife, but if the blade were needed in a hurry, this could prove to be a problem. After carrying the blade for a week or so I was able to perfect the draw, and effectively speed it up by pushing the knife up out of the pocket before establishing a pinch grip on it.
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In short it seems like SOG did Matsuda Kiku proud with their tribute to the complex work of this maker. According to the SOG website, the black version of the fixed blade will be available soon. With such an attractive street price, it can be expected that these blades will be flying off the shelves.
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Michael Y

Mike is a life long shooter and gun lover. He is currently serving in the USAF with 12 years in, 8 years to go. Hobbies include anything that sucks up money such as guns, motorcycles, cars, knives, photography, and travel. Has also been labeled by some as a “gun nut,” and a “gear queer,” among other things we won’t mention…


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  • sianmink

    That fixed blade is attractive as hell. Consider me sorely tempted. I generally stay away from liner-lock folders. they just don’t have the strength.

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

      It’s a good looking knife. I really like that blade design.

    • allannon

      Liner lock is a perfectly strong lockup, as well as mechanically simple. Axis is stronger and more reliable, but also more complex; lockback is more complex and more failure prone (since the lockup mechanism can get stuff, like lint, inside that drastically reduces lockup strength). Framelock is basically a heavy-duty linerlock.

      But even in the event of a failure, linerlock will generally fail open. I’ve broken a CRKT linerlock (well, AutoLAWKS), where the lock bent, but it stayed open rather than doing something unpleasant like close on my hand.

  • james

    I wish it didn’t have a liner lock. I hate them. Had too many disengage on me. If the handle gets torqued they find right up.

  • BattleshipGrey

    I have never seen a SOG knife that looked good….until now.

    • meatdonut

      SOG is kind of schizophrenic, they put out a few nice knives that can hang with Benchmade and Spyderco, and a bunch of crap that would compete with the low end Kershaw/CRKT models if SOG crap knives weren’t oddly overpriced. Look at the models with VG-10 steel, they’re of Japanese origin and pretty decent.

      SOG never seems to get clips right though. The clip on this folder looks about as bad as a clip can be. My SOG Visionary is almost a perfect EDC knife but the stupid deep carry clip makes it a chore to pull out.

      • BattleshipGrey

        I’m glad I’m not the only one that hates the clips too. I’ve never owned one, but I cringe every time I see one for sale. It’s hard to even make it past the clip since that’s what everyone will see. The clip in this article actually doesn’t look too bad, except for the big “SOG” written on it. I don’t like the placement though.

        • ATman

          I have yet to buy a Visionary yet but i did pick up the SOG flash 2 not the most amazing knife ever but I must say the clip is the same as the Visionary it looks identical to some clip on a crappy pen I got from a seminar.

          • meatdonut

            I’ve toyed with the idea of drilling and tapping my Visionary to take a common Spyderco clip or similar.

            I had a Pentagon Elite for a long time. It was a good knife and the clip was much more normal, but it was too weak to hold it in my pocket. Like I’d go for my car keys and WTF why is my knife on the ground.

          • ATman

            I have a secret I am a Kershaw fan desptie owning 2 Sogs and 9 CRKT 2 Custom 8 knockoff 1 Spyderco I own 6 kershaw and they are my wet dreams involve collecting a whole bunch of ZT kives but with there high purchase price the urge to buy a buk can of ammo is just to much.

  • Clone

    The two different grinds coming together into a point like a bitch to sharpen by hand.

  • Rob in Katy

    What do you guys use to sharpen a curved blade? I bought some diamond plates and they are too wide to get good contact all the way across the play. bought some sharping stones that are about 3/8″ and that seems to work better, but I can sure screw stuff up!

    • Michael Y

      I like the Spyderco Triangle sharpener. It uses triangular stones that are mounted in a V shape. The stones edge is thin enough to sharpen serrations. So with a steady hand you just have to follow the edge. If you had some stones similar to those you should be ok.

  • TheSmellofNapalm

    Yeah, what a great firearm, guys. Why don’t you stop lying to yourselves and just call it The Combat Blog, because that’s what all this stuff is.

  • suchumski

    i do not know what i would use this knife for in the first place.
    its not a hunter, not a skinner, nor for fighting or bushcraft….
    a good mora or hutlaforce for 10$ will beet this
    thing and you’ll have some ugs
    for whatever left.

  • Audible Silence

    I dont see it for sale anywhere near the street price.