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Reviews > Knives > Folding > Benchmade 530 Knife > Test Report by David Wilkes

Test series by David Wilkes

Benchmade 530 Pardue

Initial Report - Nov 1 2011
Field Report - Jan 10 2012
Long Term Report - Mar 6 2011

Tester Information

Name: David Wilkes
E-Mail: amatbrewer@yahoo.net
Age: 46
Location: Yakima Washington USA
Gender: M
Height: 5'11" (1.80 m)
Weight: 197 lb (89.40 kg)

Biography:

I started backpacking in 1995 when I moved to Washington State. Since then, I have backpacked in all seasons and conditions.  I prefer trips on rugged trails with plenty of elevation gain. While I continuously strive to lighten my load, comfort and safety are most important to me. I have finally managed to get my basic cold weather pack weight, not including consumables, to under 30 lbs (14 kg).

Product Information

Manufacturer:

Benchmade

Year of Manufacture:

2011

Manufacturer’s Website:

www.benchmade.com

MSRP:

US$105.00

Advertised Dementions: 

Blade Length: 3.25 in (8.26 cm)
Blade Thickness: 0.09 in (0.23 cm)
Handle Thickness; 0.307 in (0.78 cm)
Overall Lenght 7.42 in (18.85 cm)
Closed Lenght 4.17 in (10.59 cm)
Weight: 1.88 oz (53 g)

Measured Weight:

1.95 oz (55 g)

Product image
Image courtesy of Benchmade

Product Description:

The Benchmade 530 Pardue is described by the manufacturer as a “sub two ounce folder”. It is a lightweight folding knife with a modified spear-point blade, and uses a patented AXIS locking mechanism. It has a textured plastic handle over a steel frame. On one side of the blade is the Benchmade logo and on the other is the Mel Pardue Design logo along with the US patent number, and “154CM” (the type of steel the blade is made from).

Initial Report

Nov 1 2012

For full disclosure, in addition to the 530 Pardue that I am reviewing here, I own one other Benchmade knife, a fixed blade 147BK Nim Cub II that I have had for about 2 years, use often, and really like.
Benchmade Logo
Benchmade uses a few categories for their products. This knife comes from their “Blue Class” line which is kind of their core line of knives. Vs. their premium “Gold Class”, extreme “Black Class”, or specialty lines of knives (see the Product Class page of their web site).

The version I received has a plain edge and satin finish. This knife is also offered with a partially serrated edge and/or with a black finish. It arrived in a blue box containing the knife in a small cloth bag and an instruction booklet.

Open Logo sideOne of the things that intrigued me about this knife aside for its weight is the shape of the blade. Normally for my backcountry and utility knives I prefer a shape that is both versatile and strong, allowing for the varied tasks that I could possibly want the knife to perform. The drop point shape being the most common. The spear-point shape that this knife uses is not among the stronger shapes available for blades but it does have an advantage in that it can be easy to control. Add that to the long thin tip and this can make a blade that is good for finer, detail work. In thinking about what I actually end up using my knives for the most on the trail, aside for practicing survival skills where I may need to collect and split wood for a fire, it is the smaller and more detailed tasks that come to mind. Simple tasks such as cutting cord, rope, and tape, whittling wood for tinder, preparing food, etc. are what I end up doing most often so I will be very interested to see how effective this knife is for my normal usage.

On the back of the blade are two rather small thumb studs (one on either side) to allow for one handed opening. In my initial attempts to open the knife one handed I found the studs to be a bit small, but I had no trouble getting the knife open with either hand (I am right handed).

The handle of this knife is a textured plastic (over a steel skeleton) with a flat finish and held together with small (torx head) screws. These screws allow for some adjustment of the knife (should the hinge be too stiff or loose) as well as removing and/or moving the pocket clip to the other side, but I would mention that the warranty information does state that dissemble by anyone except for the manufacturer will void the warranty.

The knife comes with an attached pocket clip installed for right side use. This clip can be removed and/or moved to the other (Benchmade logo) side by way of 3 very small screws. The clip is attached so the knife hangs point down.

Open BeltclipThe handle flairs out front and back on both ends.  On the back, just behind this rise a short section of the internal steel frame is exposed, with groves for grip (AKA jimping - notches that are designed into the back lower part of the blade for better thumb control.).

This knife uses a patented “AXIS” mechanism to lock the blade in place. This design uses a hardened steel bar that is pushed forward by two U shaped (“omega style”) springs to lock the blade in place when opened. To close the knife the locking bar is pulled back in its groves allowing the blade to be folded close. The lock bar is almost flush with the case. I found pulling it back using my thumb and forefinger works well, but I found it rather difficult to do using just my thumb. Something I noticed about the lock design is that when the knife is fully closed the lock mechanism slides fully forward removing the tension from the spring and possibly extending its life. Having had knives close while in use, once resulting in a very deep and rather nasty cut, an effective and strong lock is important to me. Having examined this knife, I am comfortable that the lock in easy to operate, engages securely, appears to be quite strong, and l looks unlikely to fail or accidently release. The spring is firm but not difficult to operate, and I found it just as easy to operate with either hand. One advantage I see of this design over the standard lock back design is that when operating the lock using my thumb and forefinger, my fingers automatically move to the sides of the handle, out of the way of the closing blade. This is not true for other locking folders I have used.

As I would expect, the hinge was a bit stiff at first but loosened up slightly after some repeated opening/closing. After working the hinge a bit, I found I could quickly open the blade by holding the handle with my finger tips clear of the blade and rapidly moving my hand forward then flicking my wrist back. To quickly close the blade, I pull down the lock using my thumb and forefinger, and then flick my wrist (the reverse direction of opening it).

I once had a pocket knife partially open in my pocket resulting in a deep cut when I reached my hand into my pocket. This knife opens smoothly with just enough resistance that I do not worry about it opening accidentally. In this aspect the small thumb studs could be an advantage as they might be less likely to be snagged, pulling the blade out, while in my pocket. The hinge seems very well made with absolutely no play or wiggle.

Likes:
  • Lightweight 
  • Easy to open/close one handed
  • Secure lock
Dislikes:
  • None so far

Field Report

Jan 10 2012
Usage
  • Daily use at home and work
  • Two family day hikes – Snow Mt Ranch (Central Washington)
  • One weekend family camp in the Central Cascades
  • One day urban hike – first 12 miles of the proposed William O Douglas Trail
  • 2 night trip – Umptanum creek (Central Washington)
  • 3 day trip – Umptanum Creek (Central Washington)

Since receiving the knife I have carried it in my pocket on a daily basis and used it for various tasks such as opening/breaking down boxes, cutting cord and rope, opening packages (e.g. those kids Christmas toys whose packaging seem to defy Euclidean geometry), and to cut food (steak, fruit, etc). The weather was rather cold on my backpacking trips with daytime temperatures just below freezing and around 15 F (-9 C) at night with a thin layer of snow and frost. While I normally don’t make camp fires I could not resist the challenge of making a fire (using only found materials and my flint/steel) in these conditions (I ended up needing to use my lighter). I used the knife to collect and prepare tinder and kindling including whittling shavings from a branch and harvesting dry grass. I also used the knife to split some branches that were about twice as thick as my thumb by placing the knife at one end and using another branch as a baton on the end of the blade. I don’t recommend using the knife in this manner, and I am sure neither does the manufacturer.

splitting a branchAside from the typical top of the line quality I expect from a Benchmade product, my favorite feature of this knife is still its weight. Every time I pick it up I am impressed with how little it weighs and I sometimes even forget I have it in my pocket. In addition, everyone I have let use it has remarked on how light it is.

There are a few things about the blade shape that I don’t care for. The modified spear point looks rather formidable. This may or may not be intended, but I find I don’t like to pull out a knife that looks more like a weapon than a tool. Of course this is highly subjective and a matter of personal taste. I have also found the semi-symmetrical blade shape can make it difficult to tell at a glance which is the sharp side, so I worry that one of these times in my haste I will pick the knife up and cut myself when attempting to use the wrong side or close it. A few times now I have set the knife down while using it, then upon picking it up look twice to be sure I am holding it the right way. The same goes for wiping off the blade after using it.
 On the positive side, as expected I have found the blade very easy to control. I have used the blade to shave tinder off of pieces of wood and it has performed well. Basic tasks like cutting cord, paper, etc it handles with ease. And the quick open/close action is very handy. I can pull it out, open it, use it, and put it away in a flash. One particular business trip I ended up using it to cut a particularly tough steak that I was unable to cut with the knife they provided, and it went through the meat like the preverbal hot knife through butter. During my most recent backpacking trip I was wearing a hat that had two annoying tags sewn to it. In my tent by the light of my headlamp I was able to use the tip of the knife to snag and sever each stitch, allowing me to remove tags without damaging the hat (it is my daughter’s hat and she would have killed me if I ruined it).

One final non-hiking relate use of the knife that I want to mention was at a family “camp” (if sleeping in a cabin can be called camping), where we participated in a gingerbread house building competition. Modifying the gingerbread parts provided always proves to be a problem. However I found the Benchmade’s thin blade easily cut through the material, and its sharp edge made trimming edges and doing some detail work quite easy (By the way, we won!).
About the only sign of use I have seen so far is that the pocket clip is slightly looser then it was when I first received it. Where it is right now makes it easier to clip to my pocket and/or pack strap so this can be good, but if it gets much looser it could become a problem and I might have to remove it and try to bend it back. So this is something I will be keeping a close eye on.

I have yet to have to sharpen the knife so can’t comment on that, other than that I am impressed it is still so sharp after all this use.

As I mentioned above, based upon the design I was not sure about the suitability of this knife for backpacking use. However after using it for a while I can say I have been pleasantly surprised.

Long Term Report

Mar 6 2011
Usage:On lanyard
•    Snow shoe day trip (groomed trails)
•    Cross country Ski day trips X 3 Central Cascades
•    2 night solo snowshoe trip Central Cascades

Since receiving this knife I have continued to carry it almost every day. It has become a basic item I put in my pockets along with my wallet and keys. I carried it clipped to my pack strap for our annual White Pass Ski/Snowshoe jamboree, where we (The Cascadians) offer free ski and snowshoe instructions to beginners. I also wore it clipped to my pocket for 3 days of training with the White Pass Nordic Ski Patrol. And finally for a 3 day snow camping trip I attached the knife to the lanyard of my flint/steel fire starter.

The easy one handed open/close of this knife makes it very handy for everyday cutting tasks at home, work, and on the trail. Its small size and light weight allow me to carry it all the time without thought. When assembling my gear for my snow camping trip I realized the size and weight of the knife lends itself quite nicely to being attached to my fire starter flint/steel. I simply threaded the lanyard through the hole in the knives handle, and carried the assembly in my ski pants cargo pocket. It worked nicely. For future trips I am considering using longer lanyard so I can carry it around my neck.

I previously mentioned that the pocket clip had become a bit looser than when it arrived. After continued use and constant clipping/unclipping from my pocket and pack it does not seem to have gotten any looser. However a bit of the paint has rubbed off. In fact aside for the paint rubbed off of the edges of the belt clip, the knife is showing almost no signs of wear. The blade and handle look good as new. The action of the blade has remained consistent, just slightly looser than when I received it making it easy to open/close with a flick of my wrist, but not so loose as to be a problem or indicate any signs of wear. And when open the blade has no play or wiggle at all despite countless opening and closing over the past few months.

Even though I have used this knife a lot on various materials, I have not found it necessary to sharpen the blade. However, being that it had lost some of its edge and to round out the test, I decided to see how well it takes an edge. Using my diamond sharpening system, I spent a few minutes working with the coarse and then fine stones. I had a little difficulty getting the blade securely in the clamp. The tapered back and very smooth finish resulted in the blade slipping out of the clamp the first time I tried. I needed to position the clamp such that the notch in the clamp was positioned over the spine of the blade, the widest part, so that it was contacting both sides of the spine and therefore could not slip out. Getting an edge on the blade was more of a chore then I had anticipated, but I expect this is more due to my being out of practice than anything. After just a bit of work I again had a fine sharp edge.
In clamp for sharpening
As mentioned previously I continue to find the symmetrical shape of the blade to be a small problem [yes I am nitpicking, but I can find nothing else about this knife to complain about]. Recently while attempting to cut away the plastic from a temporary greenhouse I built, I found myself attempting to cut the material with the back of the blade, and it was only by sheer luck that I had not attempted to push on the ‘back’ of the blade with my thumb. I am actually surprised I have not cut myself yet as this has happened a few times. That said, the knife is still very easy to maneuver and control and I continue to be amazed that the blade is much stronger than its delicate appearance would suggest.

In conclusion, as much as I would like to say that such a wimpy looking blade is not up to the task of trail use, I simply cannot. Despite already having high expectations of Benchmade products, this knife still far exceeded my expectations and has quickly become my favorite cutting tool at home, at work, and on the trail. I fully expect to continue to carry it daily and on most of my off road travels.


This concludes my report. I would like to thank the folks at Benchmade and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this knife.

 



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