The Tangent from Burchtree Bladeworks
Aaron Shapiro 10.07.13
Michael Burch is a knife maker based in Missouri. His knives are some of the most sought after by collectors these days, primarily due to Michael’s fanatical eye for perfection. He generally uses premium materials to make some of the most mechanically sound bladed instruments in the knife world. One of the things that Burch is most known for is his Hamon work. I don’t have any examples of this personally, but above you can see one from Michael’s website.
The Hamon is caused by differences in hardness in the steel, and is attained by coating the blade with clay before being heat treated. It’s something Michael is really known for, and it is very beautiful. My particular Burchtree is a Tangent Flipper made out of Chad Nichols Stainless Damascus:
- OAL: 8.5″
- Blade Length: 3.75″
- Width: .807″ (including clip)
- Steel: Chad Nichols Stainless Damascus
- Handle Material: Ironwood Handle Material
- Weight: 9.7oz
The Tangent’s ergos are simplistic. There is a forward choil formed by the flipper tab in the open position, pretty standard on a flipper, and there is another subtle upsweep in the handle for your middle finger.
Something that I think is important to recognize with one of these “heirloom” grade folders is that it’s not really intended for hard “beater” use. Now, don’t mistake what I am saying. I carry and frequently use my Burch. However, I do keep in mind what exactly I am doing when I use the knife. You don’t wanna accidentally slam blade into concrete when cutting through cardboard. There are things knives are supposed to do, and things knives are not supposed to do. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that the grip on the Burch doesn’t offer a lot of traction, and the Ironwood handle and Damascus bolster are fairly smooth. I highly doubt that, doing what the knife is intended to do, you’d lose your grip on it.
The pocket clip functions exactly how you’d want it to. It carries nice and deeply in the pocket, which I feel is important with a blade like this. I think if I could reconsider my clip material, I would have stayed away from steel since it doesn’t have the same spring qualities as titanium.
Deployment and Lockup
Burch makes liner locks and frame locks (with the occasional slipjoint tossed in for good measure), they function about as you’d expect from a high-end custom knife maker. They lock up around 25%, and, until you disengage the lock, the knife is a bank vault. Where the tangent gets really interesting is in the deployment. Michael incorporates IKBS into all his knives, which is a loose ball bearing pivot system, and that really helps with the deployment of such a hefty blade. IKBS is also extremely tolerant of debris and use — over time it just gets smoother and smoother. You can read a lot more about it here.
Blade Shape & Materials
The Burchtree tangent’s blade is an exaggerated harpoon blade. I also opted for a “compound” grind, which essentially means that the main bevel is hollow ground, while the front edge is flat ground. This will effectively give the knife a razor like edge along the primary bevel, but leave more steel behind the point to give it a little extra strength. As you can see by the “in hand” picture, this knife is a beast to carry — it’s big, and heavy, and beautiful. In terms of practical use the knife cuts very well, however the damascus etch has a bit of texture and doesn’t give that “gliding through material” feel like other steels have. In terms of edge retention, I’m still doing some “technical” research on that. I will say that from a practical point of view, I’ve used this knife a decent amount on food and cardboard and it’s still nice and sharp. Besides, it looks pretty cool eh?
Burchtree knives are load bearing pillars of any knife collector’s collection. They are expensive (even from the maker) and very hard to come by. Michael Burch takes orders in batches of 200, the most recent opening was on Dec 24, 2012, which is when I was able to order the knife above. His current order list will likely last him 3-4 years. On the secondary market, expect to pay at least $1500, and it goes up very quickly from there.
At any rate you should check out Michael’s website. He’s one of the most highly respected knife makers out there these days. If you get the chance to handle, much less own, a Burch, don’t hesitate to do so.