One to Watch: Lionsteel TM-1
Tony Sculimbrene 05.19.14
In the knife world, awesome, mind-blowing feats of craftsmanship generally trickle down from the custom world to the production world. It is a slow process–that is, unless you happen to own some of the most advanced CNC machines in the world, have the flair of an Italian painter, and the gear design chops of Michael Pensanto (aka Molleta). In that case, you produce three of the finest (if not the first) integral folders in the world–three years in a row.
It all started with the SR-1, a big, bad, honking folder with an abundance of features and one technical feat. Unlike normal folders with lots of parts for the handle all screwed together, the SR-1 is a integral knife, meaning the handle is carved from a single piece of metal, with the blade, pivot, and clip added later. Not only does this simplify the design, it also makes it stronger. Until very recently this was a trick confined to the very finest custom makers, folks like Scott Cook (of Lochsa fame), Michael Raymond (of Estrella fame), or Peter Rassenti (pretty much all of his blades). This was a feat for the best of the best, and Lionsteel was doing it on a production scale.
That wasn’t enough though, because a year later they released the resplendent TiSpine–one of the most beautiful (and most expensive) production knives ever made. It, too, was a wonderful integral design, but this time the blade was a bit more pocket friendly.
Then, more recently they dropped the TM-1. Coming in four variations, the TM-1 is a bruiser at 3.5 inches and weighing in around 4.6 ounces. But all that material is not just slapped into a frame (made either of micarta or carbon fiber with or without a black blade). No, they made the knife a lockback, and then they added IKBS bearings to smooth out the pivot. Above is the micarta version with satin handles:
Overall, this is a knife like no other on the market, production or otherwise. Until now every integral has been a framelock. It’s (relatively) easy to cut a lockbar out of a solid piece of material, but the insertion of a spring and the backlock bar was too difficult. Not anymore. Adding the IKBS to the pivot in an integral is something I can’t even really imagine–the knife equivalent of a model ship in a bottle.
The blade shape is a very useful reverse tanto/sheepsfoot thing, and the steel is a European steel from Uddeholm called Sleipner (data sheet found here) which is very similar chemically to D2 with a bit more toughness for less chipping. It’s not a true stainless steel, but it does seem to be a true workhorse. The knife deploys via a very classy looking thumb disk/plate.
From the specs and the design, the TM-1 looks like an utterly unique and groundbreaking knife, the third in a series from Lionsteel. There is very little not to like, and the idea of a truly smooth lockback holds a lot of promise. The steel seems more than able to do hard work, and the overall appearance is well mannered, but robust. Lionsteel is definitely on a roll.