Flipping through a knife catalog on the train in full public view is never a great experience for me. So I have resorted to dumping all knife catalogs known to man onto my iPad so I can discretely browse them wherever. My latest addition is the 2014 Böker catalog - flipping through it quickly, a few knives stand out in the crowd. The special run Applegate daggers, the Haddock Anniversary Edition, Buffalo Soul 42, The Boker Plus F3, Kwaiken Carbon etc. One I kept coming back to was the olive handled oldie-but-goodie; the Exskelibur I.
Böker make a lot of beautiful, well-built knives. They also do a lot of gimmicky ones... I am particularly not into their Reality-Based lineup or their AK Series.
I like their Böker Plus line, however, and I think the quality-to-cost ratio is pretty great. I know some people are concerned with the Chinese hit-and-miss quality and finish in these knives, so I am always curious to see how my purchases hold up. I have never been disappointed, though.
Exskelibur - the knife with the most impossible name to spell, began life as a Mike Skellern and Fred Burger custom knife collaboration out of South Africa.
The Böker version is a faithful replica of the popular custom model. It has gone on to be a very popular model for Böker, too, and is now available in various finishes and spin-offs, such as the smaller version, Exskelibur II and the more upscale variant, Exskelimoor I and II.
To me, this latest olive wood edition is the nicest looking one - the light wood matches the overall design style of this super simple and elegant folding knife.
I have never personally handled the original $270 Burger "Large Exkelibur" but word on the street is that the two are very, very similar. From what I see, the lines are exactly similar, but the Burger custom version has a flat grind, not the hollow grind of the Böker, which is also a tad bit shorter.
The knife arrived in its standard foam-lined black Böker Plus box and was absolutely mega sharp right out of the box. Easily the most razor-like factory grind job I have experienced.
BEHIND THE SCENES
I asked Mike Skellern to give us some background on the birth of this blade:
"After a South African Knifemakers Guild show, around 25 years ago, I organised a get-together of knifemakers including Owen Wood, Fred Burger and Des Horn, at a trout fishing venue.
We all were tasked with identifying and putting forward the best qualities and features of all known available liner locking pocket knives. I correlated the viewpoints and had scrimshander Hilton Purvis draw a sketch of the resultant combo. I then processed that drawing and made prototypes till we were happy with the results - in two sizes, of the proposed knife.
Together with good friend Fred Burger (knifemaker and expert machinist - the name origin is " Ex - Skellern/Burger - abbreviated to Exkelibur) we set about producing the knife in numbers to satisfy the local knife shows and mail order market in South Africa. The knife was a star from the start and we had orders coming out of our ears from all over the country and eventually after showing it overseas, from Europe and USA.
The knife was always intended for using, so it was designed to withstand a lot of use and abuse, weigh nothing in your pocket, and be capable of doing what is expected of a modern one-handed pocket knife. We made a model with a chisel pointed tanto style blade, and a double-ground dagger style blade, for those with tactical inclinations. Having openly offered to (for free) replace, fix or compensate for any problematic knives for many years, I can assure that the knives do run the course and will outlast most owners!
Eventually Fred Burger pulled out due to other commitments and after a spell of working with his son Trevor, I had an appointment with Carsten Felix-Dalichow and the Boker connection was born. It was a rather flattering and humbling occasion.
Boker have for 5 years been making this knife and selling it successfully into the European and USA markets and its popularity has not waned in the face of really great and stylish other productions. I think this is to an extent because it has become a tried and trusted workhorse of a knife."
I am a big fan of clean lines and no bullshit. At a glance, this knife is elegantly bare bones; it is as if it was the original template from whence all folding knives were spawned.. It has no superfluous extras; there are no nail nicks, spyder holes or thumb studs. I would have loved a lanyard hole - this knife is begging for some raw leather attached to the end of it.
The "flamboyant" pivot screw adds a bit of personality. The blue titanium liners and clip detract from the elegant simplicity for me - I just don't see the point. If you want color, why not go all the way? IMHO clean, polished liners would just look so much nicer - so much so that I am tempted to mess with mine. The pocket clip is pretty standard, but not subpar for a sub-$100 knife.
The handle is long enough that you can get a firm grip. The scales are just too thin for a firm grip for longer periods of time.
The inside edges of the liners are also very sharp. I don't understand why some liners are not rounded to make them less hot spotty.
The "reversed flipper" takes a little getting used to, but it is a refreshing change to have a flipping mechanism that doesn't protrude from the side of otherwise pocket-friendly slim scales.
FIT & FINISH
This knife seems to be made in the part of China where people pay a lot of attention to detail. It is mostly very well made and well finished.
How could this knife be improved? Firstly, and this is a superficial problem that most pocket knives have, when folded the Böker Plus logo just peeks up from the liners. But just a bit. Why not design and place the logo or word marks so it either disappears or looks well placed when the knife is open AND closed?
The pivot is also a bit off-center in its drilled hole which looks a little sloppy.
No wriggle in the blade, and the construction seems solid. I love the titanium lines as they add a bit of rigid "skeleton" to the thing.
This is a finer instrument. I wouldn't chop down my christmas tree like I did with my Bravo 1, for example. But for normal, civilized use, I would presume it could hold up very well - as well as a wood-scaled folding knife can.
The steel is not magical crypto steel, but it does the job and it can be sharpened to a hellishly fine edge.
Just under 4 inches, this knife has enough cutting edge for most every day tasks. If anything, the blade is a little thin for "dirty work", but the incredible light weight and multi-purpose blade shape outweigh the cons of its somewhat delicate construction.
The blue pocket clip, while not my favorite, it does blend in perfectly with jeans.
Did I mention it is light? yes I did. It is very light. I almost find it too light as I prefer to feel some weight in my hands. But this is one of the lightest folders for its size - and the size is perfect. It really is the perfect trade-off for a non-tacti-magical EDC knife. I wouldn't bring it to Afghanistan, though.
The blade action is surprisingly smooth and fast when you get a hang of flipping it open. It sounds delightful as well, as the liner lock engages with a solid KLEKK.
Finding new ways to open it can keep you busy for a few hours. It feels nice to hold, but is a little too light to feel like a mean piece of kit.
As I mentioned, the Exskelibur is like the prototype for all folding knives. It has that ancient DNA of The Golden Standard.
For the price, the knife is perfect. If it was a little more expensive I might be disappointed by some details as described above.
Most people might love the fact that this knife is incredibly light, but for some reason I'd love a bit more girth, a bit more weight to it. The scales might feel a little too thin, where the Böker Arctos 42 feels a little too fat. But for pocket carry it can't be beat.
The steel might not hold up for longer periods of use, but rest assured that this knife can be made really, really, really sharp. It is a deluxe slicer. A perfect picnic companion.
GOES WELL WITH
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