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Reviews > Knives > Folding > Benchmade 530 Knife > Test Report by Steven M Kidd

BENCHMADE 530 KNIFE
TEST SERIES BY STEVEN M KIDD
LONG-TERM REPORT

INITIAL REPORT - November 05, 2011
FIELD REPORT - January 08, 2012
LONG TERM REPORT - March 03, 2012

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Steven M Kidd
EMAIL: ftroop94ATgmailDOTcom
AGE: 39
LOCATION: Franklin, Tennessee
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 220 lb (99.80 kg)

Backpacking Background: I've been a backpacker on and off for over 25 years. I backpacked as a Boy Scout, and then again almost every month in my twenties, while packing an average weight of 50+ lbs (23+ kg). In the last several years I have become a hammock camping enthusiast. I generally go on one or two night outings and try to keep my pack under 25 lb (11 kg) even in the winter.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

IMAGE 1
Courtesy Benchmade Knife Company, Inc.

Manufacturer: Benchmade Knife Company, Inc.
Year of Manufacture: 2011
Manufacturer's Website: Benchmade
MSRP: US $105
Dimensions:
Listed--------------------------------------------Measured
Blade Length: 3.25 in (8.26 cm)-------------Blade Length: 3.25 in (8.26 cm)
Blade Thickness: 0.09 in (0.23 cm)---------Blade Thickness: 0.09 in (0.23 cm)
Handle Thickness: 0.37 in (0.94cm)--------Handle Thickness: 0.37 in (0.94cm)
Overall Length: 7.42 in (18.85 cm)---------Overall Length: 7.42 in (18.85 cm)
Closed Length: 4.17 in (10.59)--------------Closed Length: 4.17 in (10.59)
Weight: 1.88 oz (53 g)------------------------Weight: 1.90 oz (54 g)

"Thin is in with this sub two ounce folder". Benchmade 530 is marketed with the following four key features:

AXIS locking mechanism * Modified spear-point blade with ambidextrous dual thumb-stud opener

154CM stainless steel blade (58-61HRC) * Grivory handle scales with 420J stainless steel liners and a reversible steel pocket clip

From the Benchmade website: {A patented Benchmade exclusive, AXIS has been turning heads and winning fans ever since its introduction. A 100-percent ambidextrous design, AXIS gets its function from a small, hardened steel bar which rides forward and back in a slot machined into both steel liners. The bar extends to both sides of the knife, spans the liners, and is positioned over the rear of the blade. It engages a ramped, tang portion of the knife blade when it is opened. Two omega style springs, one on each liner, give the locking bar its inertia to engage the knife tang. As a result, the tang is wedged solidly between a sizable stop pin and the AXIS bar itself. Available in manual, assist or automatic configurations.}

The spear-pointed blade is made with 154CM stainless steel, considered a premium grade American made and designed stainless. The material was originally developed for industrial work and is known for its strength and corrosion resistance. The dual thumb-stud openers are ambidextrous and made opening the knife simple for me with either hand. Grivory is a trade name for Polyphthalamide or PPA, a thermoplastic synthetic resin of the nylon family and 420J stainless is a more malleable stainless steel often used in knife liners.

Finally the 530 is a Mel Pardue designed knife, a senior team member with Benchmade known for grinding and making blades for over a quarter century.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS & INSTRUCTIONS

The Benchmade 530 arrived in a blue box that included a user manual with warranty information. The knife itself was inside a small nylon sack. It is a member of the Blue Class, the main class of blades "representing the heart of Benchmade knives". The company also produces a Gold Class and a Black Class. It formerly made a Red Class that was made outside the United States that was discontinued in 2010.

When the knife arrived I fully expected a lightweight knife, but when I first held it in my hand the lack of 'substance' startled me. I know Benchmade is known for making quality products, but my immediate impression reminded me of Saturday mornings at the local flee market perusing a table full of five dollar monkey metal knives produced in Taiwan. However, please continue reading because as I began to examine the knife my opinion was quickly corrected.

I requested to test the 530 primarily because the purported ambidextrous design of the AXIS locking mechanism and the dual thumb-stud openers. I'm left handed, and growing up and living in a right handed dominant world I can't say I've learned to be ambidextrous, but I can attest that I've learned to adapt. The belt clip on the knife is even reversible.

I immediately began to open the blade using the thumb-stud in my left hand. I quickly found this was a swift and effortless maneuver. I also decided to see how simple it would to be to close the knife with one hand. Retracting the AXIS mechanism and closing the knife was easily achievable. I was cautious the first several times, as the blade is extremely sharp, but it quickly became almost second nature to open or close the blade with my left hand.

The images below show me OPENING the blade with my dominant left hand.

IMAGE 2 IMAGE 3 IMAGE 4 IMAGE 5 IMAGE 6


I obviously wanted to test the ambidextrous claim, so I quickly began to test it in my right hand. Opening it was no problem at all, but I was little concerned with closing it using my weaker hand. I'm certainly clumsier with my weaker hand, but I depressed the AXIS mechanism with my right thumb and gingerly closed the blade with my index finder of the same hand. I can't say opening or closing the Benchmade 530 with my right hand is second nature, but I can do it proficiently if there were a need.

The images below show me CLOSING the blade with my weaker right hand.

IMAGE 7 IMAGE 8 IMAGE 9 IMAGE 10 IMAGE 11

The Grivory material is certainly lightweight in my opinion, but appears durable. There are horizontal grips down either side of the handle and the remainder of the polymer has a slightly abrasive feel to it. I equate it almost to the feel of an ultra fine sand paper. It doesn't seem like it will slip from my hand if wet or cold. There is also a hole at one end of the knife that may be attached to lanyard.

IMAGE 12As mentioned earlier in the report, the belt clip is reversible. After reading the user care manual I decided to change the belt set up for the left side. I did so because the manual stated for safety purposes the clip should be repositioned if the user wished to wear the knife on the left side of a belt. Benchmade uses six point torx screws on all their knives, and they even sell a small kit known as "The Blue Box" with multiple sized screw heads. I moseyed to my toolbox and was fortunate enough to have a size '6' torx driver to perform the task.

Knowing the knife may be marketed to the gram counting backpacker I decided to toss it back on the scales to see how much weight removing the clip would save me if I were to fit into that demographic. The clip weighed 0.14 oz (4 g), so if I were inclined to carry the knife without the clip is come in at a mere 1.76 oz (50 g). I think I'll find somewhere else to save 4 grams!

The company also recommends "the best way to resharpen my Benchmade is to never let it get dull to begin with". They suggest using whatever method an individual is most comfortable with as a means to sharpen the blade, so long as a grinding wheel is not used. The Benchmade LIFESHARP Service also intrigued me. The company will resharpen the blade to a factory edge if the purchaser returns the knife with $5 US to cover the cost of return shipping. I like that benefit.

SUMMARY

I'm quite impressed with the Benchmade 530 at this point and excited to give it a trial in the field. The AXIS locking mechanism and the dual thumb-stud openers, though not new technology to manufacturer, are new and exciting to me. In fact in researching the designs I learned that Benchmade's roots began with high end Balisong (Butterfly) knives. Perhaps this has something to do with the distinctive Butterfly logo each knife? Of course I'm not afforded the opportunity to see it when I unfold the knife with my left hand!

I'll integrate this knife into all my backcountry outings over the coming months, and I've already opened several corrugated boxes over the last twenty-four hours with it. I'm ready to take it on the trail.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

November 18 - 19, 2011: A two day one night jaunt to the Southern Cumberland Plateau. This quick overnight had an average elevation of 1900 ft (579 m) with minimal altitude change. I logged less than 6 miles (9.5 km) on this cool dry trip. Temperatures ranged from 29 to 51 F (-2 to 11 C). I camped in a hammock.

December 30 - 31, 2011: I again hammock camped on this two day one night venture to the same region, but was fortunate enough to hit the trail early on the first day and was able to log close to 12 miles (19 km) in extremely damp conditions. The temperatures were as high as 53 F (12 C) on the first day and dropped to an unexpected 31 F (-1 C) overnight. Elevations ranged from 1200 - 1750 ft (366 - 533 m).

I have also carried the knife nearly every day since arrival save a five day trip that involved a commercial flight.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

IMAGE 1
Benchmade 530
The first real substantial test I had with the Benchmade was on a volunteer day on 7 November, 2011. I was with a team of folks working in a meat locker at Second Harvest Food Bank. We unloaded over 4000 lbs (1800 kg) of frozen meat. All these came in large corrugated cartage boxes that needed to be cut open. My duty was cutting open the boxes due to having the knife. I can't say with certainty how many boxes I opened that day, but I'm sure it was nearly two hundred. The end of the day caused the Benchmade to appear no worse for the wear save some packing tape glue that I was able to clear away that evening with a little Goo Gone.

Since that early day just after receiving it I've carried the knife nearly every day to work. I occasionally use it to open boxes or other items. I occasionally wear the knife on my belt, but as I wear a suit and for professional purposes I typically wear it clipped into my front left trouser pocket. Anytime I needed it I could quickly and effortlessly grab the knife from my pocket and deploy it for use. In fact, it generally always took me more time to clip the knife back into my trouser pocket than to remove, open and cut whatever item needed attending to.

I've carried the Benchmade on two backpacking outings since receiving it, and as one might imagine I actually needed it less on the trail than I have in daily life. I found a nice attachment point to clip it to my backpack on the left shoulder harness. This was nice as the clip was tight enough that the knife was secure, but still easy to access if I needed the blade on the trail. I didn't, but I like quick access for unexpected events. I used it cut some para-cord on a trip and stir some noodles. On one evening I felt compelled to whittle a stick with it.

What I can affirm is that having cut a few things in the woods and plenty of boxes over the last two months the knife appears as sharp as the day I received it. Cardboard boxes and the like are typically horrible for an edge of a knife and to date the Benchmade appears no worse for the wear. I generally would never treat a blade like this, rather use a box cutter instead. I really wanted to test the 'metal' of this knife, and to date I am impressed.


SUMMARY

I'm thoroughly impressed with the Benchmade 530. It is light weight which is ideal for a trail knife, the blade is long enough for most any use I have on the trail and great for day-to-day purposes as well. I currently have nothing but accolades for the knife and no thorns on which to report. I'm excited to get more trail time with it over the next two months of the Long Term Report.




LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

20-22 January 2012: Great Smokey Mountains, (near Clingman's Dome) Tennessee. A three day and two night outing with temperatures ranged from 58 F (14 C) to just at freezing, it was dry with little to no wind. Max elevation was 6643 ft (2025 m). It's been an unusually warm winter in general in Tennessee, even at the top elevations.

17-18 February 2012: South Cumberland Recreation Area, Middle Tennessee, a short overnight outing with my regular backpacking buddy and two "rookies", both in their mid-thirties and had never even car camped! Temperatures started around 50 F (10 C) and were not supposed to drop below 42 F (5.5 C). This perfect inaugural experience for them changed a bit when the cloud cover unexpectedly split late evening and temperatures dropped to as low as 29 F (-2 C). Elevation was a consistent 1800 ft (549 m).


PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

Both of the outings in the Long Term portion of this review tended to be a typical outing where minimal knife use was needed. On one outing I slept in a shelter and on the latter I did use the knife a few times to cut para-cord and tension line for the folks I was camping with. In my opinion the knife is nearly as sharp as the day I acquired it, even with the use of opening cardboard boxes all these months!

On the trail, I typically clip a knife to the shoulder straps of my pack. I've been hesitant to do so with this product due to the original value of the knife. I was terrified it may catch a branch and be gone at that value! I purchased an Osprey Exos 46 for my latest outing, and it happened to have a small mesh-like stretchable pocket on a shoulder strap that perfectly fit the knife! Now the testing is complete the knife will stay right there from here on out.

I've adored using the knife for the work purposes I have mentioned previously in this report, but in the future I intend on using the knife for what in my opinion it was designed for...lightweight backpacking. It is so light, and durable I have nothing but positive things to write about. The blade shape perplexed me a bit in the beginning, but the origins of the company gave me reason to understand the design. I once carried a very heavy multi-tool in the backcountry. I rarely ever used any of the implements on it, and I've found this Benchmade is the perfect blade for my backpacking use.

SUMMARY

I have nothing negative to say about this product.

Although I can tell no difference in the integrity of the blade, I'm certain its sharpness has been degraded by constantly using to open cartage over the last four months. I plan to take advantage of the lifetime sharpening policy Benchmade offers, restore the blade to original factory sharpness and keep it in with my backpacking gear from now on out. I don't see using any other knife on the trail in the immediate future!

I'd like to thank BackpackGearTest and Benchmade Knife Company, Inc. for the opportunity to test the 530.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

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