Danish custom knife maker Jens Ansø has left his mark in the world of custom knife making with sizzling schlagers such as the "67', "Cox", "Zulu" and "Haddock". He has made more affordable production versions of all these in collaboration with German knife giant Böker. This latest addition is the olive wood variant of the Böker Arctos, also named Arctos 42.
Ansø has an unmistakable style, never shy to explore the odd curve in his designs. The 42 is a bit more conservatively styled than, say, his Whale folder but his fingerprints are all over this thing nevertheless.
Jens Ansø works out of his workshop in the windswept no-mans-land countryside of the Danish mainland, Jutland. These are the plains where vikings impatiently hatched their evil plans to hack the British to pieces with their meticulously crafted swords and later discovered the United States (except those guys were from Iceland). This is also the home turf of another Danish Prodigal Son of Knife Makery, Jesper Voxnaes, also a Boker collaborator.
My folding knife fascination has gone through many stages - lately I have been into more toned-down, gentlemanly styles. The Arctos is a perfect example of just that - a refined, beautifully crafted folder that makes you want to grow an epic mustache.
The original Arctos is operated with a thumb stud while this olive wood version has the classic nail nick. I thought I wouldn't like it, but the result is nice and clean. The Austrian N690BO steel blade shape could be described as a "wharncliffey drop point"... great for every day cutting tasks. The hollow grind gives you a nice, thin cutting surface. Paper push cut sharp out of the box.
We had the chance to ask Jens Ansø a few questions about the Arctos.
Can you tell us a bit about the story of how the Arctos 42 came to be?
JA: The Arctos is a design I made and presented to Boker. They liked it and it is now in production in two sizes and various configurations.
The Arctos was originally designed as a two size model meant as a folding hunting knife. The Arctos42 is made specifically to comply with a German knife law that allows for a locking blade but not a one hand opened blade…. so called section 42 in the law. Hence the 42 name on several models in Böker's catalog.
What's it like working with Böker?
JA: It has been really interesting to work with large knife manufacturers over the past years. I have had a close connection to the Böker factory during this project with several visits to the factory in Solingen.
The process varies from them asking me to design something for a specific purpose or user group or I will design a model I think will do well in their lineup and show it at one of our design meetings.
This knife is beautiful and simple. Faultless olive wood finish - not too shiny, just right. This is a chunky little fella, but not too fat to seem freakish.
Great clean and solid pocket clip - probably one of my most favorite clip designs. All steel parts are smooth and the satin-finished blade is gorgeous.
The fat handles definitely gives you something to hold on to, but I don't do well with short handles like this. A comfortable 3-finger grip, but that is it - and, I guess, what is to be expected from a knife under 7" long.
It feels pretty heavy in the hand, but I think in this case it works in its favor. There's just something satisfying about a good, solid piece of steel and wood - a great alternative to flimsy, lightweight folders.
After having used a number of fool proof designs that guard your hand from slippage (such as the ZT 0560) the Arctos doesn't offer the same level of protection.
FIT & FINISH
Great quality; up a notch over the cheaper Boker Plus line.. The blade is perfectly ground and the transition between wood scales and stainless steel bolsters is impeccable. The scales line up perfectly, all edges are soft and curvy. And the smooth feel of opening the blade could be described as "creamy".
I'd rate the packaging a B-. Nice enough that your boss doesn't suspect you found his/her gift in the bargain bin.
I wouldn't doubt that the Arctos could stand a bit of rough handling, but the wood scales would probably wear a lot sooner than most modern composite handle materials. Easy to clean due to the open back construction.
The titanium-enforced liner lock seems solid enough but I haven't had a chance to confirm with brutal, reckless punishing use.
The Arctos 42 is pretty affordable compared to many other medium-high end production folders. The more conservative design and folksy wood scales (as opposed to, say, micarta) makes the knife appear harmless when out in public.
Its smaller size makes it nicely pocketable, but it might be a tad too fat for everyday, all day carry. In a pair of tight jeans it could easily be mistaken for a "drifter" in your pants. In fact, I would have added back a half star if it was just a tiny bit slimmer, so you'd be more likely to carry it more often.
The hollow grind is perfect for all kinds of precise cutting - it is my perfect grind of all the grinds in the land.
It is an ideal gift. - not quite a collectors item, but a nice user.
The biggest disappointment is the meek "SCHLOK" when you open the knife. It's a springy, hollow sound - one of the saddest knife locking sounds I ever heard. Having said that, the lock-up is solid and the blade is centered and firm.
It needs two hands to open, which might please some Europeans dealing with tricky knife legislation (such as Denmark).
A classic-looking piece that looks and feels premium (for a production folder), but is still very affordable. Very stylish and harmless looking with a strong blade and sturdy lock. I have a feeling it will age well once you get over your fear of scratching up the beautiful olive wood.
Its smaller, thicker size could limit its versatility, though. For prolonged, more intensive use I'd prefer a longer grip and possibly a longer blade as well.
At a glance:
Overall length: 6 3/4"
Blade length: 2 7/8"
Weight: 5.9 oz.
Blade material: N690BO
Blade grind: Hollow
Blade style: Wharncliffe
Handle material: Olive Wood
Made in: Germany