Hi all, this is my first post to the JerzeeDevil board, though a few of you might recognize my nondescript moniker from the Microtech board at Knife Forums back in its heyday.
I received a pre-production (“W. R. Clark” bone logo) grey Phantom a few days ago, so I thought I’d write a review to introduce myself. I’m sure most of you know the general specs, so I won’t reiterate em here.
Old world Italian swing-guard stiletto-meets-modern materials and CNC fabrication techniques is a concept I’ve been looking forward to for a long time now, and DKD has done a great job, especially given the $400-$450 asking price. The Phantom’s high-tech, essentially “tactical” esthetic, coupled with classic, understated lines gives the knife an imposing, purposeful look, but its sleek, graceful form is anything but utilitarian. I wouldn’t consider this knife to be a “user,” unless you fancy yourself a modern-day Luka Brazzi: “Don Corleone, if yo’ daughta has a child, I hope it will be a masculine child.” And “masculine child” is an apt description of someone who chooses to tote around an 11” switch-dagger as a utility knife! Fogeddaboudit; this is a safe-queen collectable all the way, though the build quality appears robust enough to help an occasional bad guy sleep widda fishes if the need should arise.
This knife has excellent action; that’s its main claim to fame, IMO. The slick juxtaposition of classic design and contemporary materials wouldn’t mean squat if the knife didn’t walk and talk as well as its price-point colleagues. It’s fast, smooth, and just powerful enough to insure a quick, solid lock-up every time it’s deployed, but not so powerful that it will eventually pound itself apart. I have a pet peeve with over-sprung, all brawn and no brains automatics: A good auto should be carefully tuned to open reliably and consistently, not just overloaded with so much kick that it wants to hammer its blade-stop and pivot loose in record time. I don’t find a needlessly powerful bang impressive; I think it’s crude. The Phantom is just right.
The grey anodized finish on the integral CNC’d aluminum bolsters/liners (another excellent feature) is good looking and seems quite durable. Repeated cycling has left only the slightest faint marking of the front bolsters where they contact the swing-guard.
The bead-blasted matt black G-10 handle scales give the knife a no-nonsense look and offer a nice non-slip grip, which is a good thing when those dual springs kick out the long blade. There are a few slightly sharp corners where the scales meet the bolsters, but they’re no big deal. To my eye, this material isn’t quite as attractive as smooth carbon fiber or micarta, but it’s a lot less slippery and just as tough and lightweight.
Did I mention the great action? Perfect! The crisp fisheye push-button; the positive snap; the tight lockup of both the blade and the guard; the smooth feel of the lock-bar on release, and the firm, solid click as the blade retaining pin snaps home on closing are all first-rate. This action is easily as good as any custom auto I’ve fired, regardless of price.
Nitpicks and suggestions:
I’m not all that impressed with the execution of the hand-ground blade. A dagger grind is a real challenge, as any deviation in straightness and symmetry is easily recognized, in spite of the eye’s tendency to “correct” irregularities. I've had quite a few custom autos from guys like Harkins, Corbit, Dake, Steigerwalt, Minnick, etc., as well as a few dozen Microtechs, and the Phantom grinds wander more than most. The Dealer who sold me the knife wasn’t even sure that it was really intended to be a symmetrical dagger-grind, but it’s obvious that this is the case; in fact, he hand-picked this one as being a particularly good example. It’s not seriously flawed, but it’s not particularly even or straight either. Any double-edged production UT-6 will happily show it the door. My feeling is that a premium hand-grind should be at least as good as a typical machine-grind; these aren’t, and I’ve seen close to a dozen examples of the Phantom; none of which was any better. I think this knife would actually look a lot nicer with a hand-finished CNC’d blade like the production Microtechs.
Please keep in mind that these grind irregularities are relatively subtle. I’ve seen a few posts in the various knife boards wherein an ecstatic new Phantom owner happily proclaimed that the grind was “perfect,” and more power to em, but if you’ve been around customs and high end production knives for a while, you probably know how to appraise a blade grind. If so, you might not let DKD off so easily…then again, maybe it’s just me.
The secondary bevel on my sample begins almost ½” beyond the onset of the primary bevel at the tang. This further disturbs the blade’s apparent symmetry and visual balance. The primary and secondary bevels should coincide along their entire length, even if the onset of the secondary bevel is “false” for the first ½” or so. Another false secondary bevel on the opposite edge would go a long way toward adding visual balance, and wouldn’t be all that labor intensive. The cutting edge is reasonably sharp, and the ultra-fine point is well shaped and extremely keen.
I’ve cycled the knife perhaps fifty times and the blade lock-up has developed a small amount of front-to-back play; enough that the blade will rattle ever-so-slightly if the handle is given a shake. There’s almost a 1/16” of slop developing in the swing-guard as well. This small amount of blade and guard play isn’t too objectionable, but it’s worth noting, particularly if it continues to loosen over time. Tightening the pivot screw would probably take care of the blade play, but it appears to be loctited in place, and I’m loath to force it. For comparison’s sake, I’ve never had any noticeable blade play in a MT side-opener, even after several hundred cycles. Then again, I’ve handled a bazillion dollar Tony Marfione OTF swing-guard that made the Phantom’s guard seem welded in place.
While the finish on the bolsters is intact, there are two small, bright patches on the underside of the black-anodized guard where the finish has been completely worn away by the harder anodizing on the bolsters. These are clearly visible when the knife is open and certainly don’t add to the overall esthetics.
The knife’s center of gravity is located slightly behind the firing button. This isn’t necessarily a problem, but the knife is definitely ass-heavy, particularly if gripped anywhere near the hand-guard. I don’t own any 11” OAL stilettos for comparison, but my guess is that this slightly awkward balance is endemic to the breed. Perhaps machining away a small amount of material inside the sizable rear bolster would help improve the balance without compromising its strength. Despite the traditionally big-assed handle profile dwarfing the slim stiletto blade, the handle-to-blade length ratio is average for a modern folder.
The Phantom is a concept knife that’s long overdue, and fills a gaping hole in production/semi-custom auto design. It’s good looking, beautifully engineered, and has the best action I’ve ever felt, not only in its class, but anywhere in my experience, and I’ve been collecting serious custom autos for many years.
It has a few small bugs here and there, and the blade grind is only adequate, but overall, it represents a great value, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it becomes a true collectable and kick-starts DKD into a serious up-and-coming force in the production knife world.