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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.
    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    Michael Y

    Mike is a life long shooter and gun lover. He is currently serving in the USAF with 13 years in, 7 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…