SOG Pillar Review
Tony Sculimbrene 12.25.17
The premium SOG folders are some of the most unsung knives on the market. They have truly elite grinds, nice handles, and okay prices. These are fine blades made by some of the best Japanese OEMs out there. Their mid priced and budget lines, conversely, have received a heaping helping of praise, sometimes earned, like the case of the Mini Aegis, and sometimes not, like in the case of the SOG Flash I.
Gradually over the past decade, SOG has moved away from the Japanese-made blades in its line up towards cheaper stuff. This move has been painful for knife knuts, as year after year SOG released stuff that made no one really jump up and cheer. There is only so far you can go down on the CR scale before you scare away the knife enthusiast market. But SOG is and always will be a mainstream knife company. There is nothing wrong with that, but there is also nothing wrong with competing in every market segment. With the release of the Pillar, SOG is making it clear to competitors–they can make high end stuff too.
The SOG Pillar is a premium fixed blade with a great steel, fabulous design, and a higher than normal price tag for a SOG. All of that is a formula to make knife enthusiasts smitten again.
The SOG Pillar is a medium sized fixed blade knife.
It has a blade of around 5 inches and an overall length of 10 inches, this blade sits squarely in the center of the fixed blade size spectrum. It has micarta handles and is built with a full, pass-through tang construction. The knife also comes with a kydex-type sheath and a very high end belt attachment point. The blade is a flat ground, clip point made from S35VN. The flats have a bright stonewash and the grinds are grinder satin. There is generous sized lanyard hole at the end of the blade. The blade stock is just under 3/16″ thick.
I received this knife in the fall–the perfect time for testing fixed blades. The knife was used for my annual firewood processing–delimbing, chopping, batonning, and lots and lots of fire prep. Also, because I am lazy, I cleaned it off and used it for food prep outdoors as well. It cut up hot dogs, steak, and other meat or tubed meat. It also spread peanut butter, butter, and tomato sauce for camp pies and camp pizzas made in a camp iron. On occasion I used the knife in my workshop to score and mark cuts, but it was too big to do this regularly. I also used it to process recycling.
The SOG Pillar is remarkable in the SOG line up for its plainness–there is no sawtooth spine, aggro persian clip point, no black ops blade coating and no stacked leather handle. This is a straight foward design, one that echoes Bark River much more than it does the other SOG fixed blades. And this, in my mind is a good thing.
The choice of micarta for the handle material is just wonderful. I like micarta so much more than other materials–it adds grip and gives you plenty of tactile feedback. The full, pass-through tang construction allows you to beat on the knife with little fear of breaking and lets you use the knife as a chisel. Finally, the sheath design and belt attachment are the best I have seen on a production knife.
In addition to smart design choices and premium materials, the SOG Pillar is expertly finished right here in the USA. I have been trying as hard as I can to figure out the OEM, but thus far I have struck out. Whoever is building SOG’s stuff here in the America is doing a killer job. The micarta is excellent, the knife’s two-tone finish is gleaming and eye catching, and the sheath fits like a racing glove. There is simply no detail overlooked here. Even the screws are countersunk and tight.
One small ding is that S35VN can bit a bit chippy at higher hardnesses. This is why Chris Reeve purposely leaves his a bit below the max HRc. I love the steel, especially here, but it did chip in one place. It wasn’t a bit deal, but it was noticeable. SOG could back of the hardness a bit and still get all of the advantages of S35VN without the chips.
But the true star of implementation here is the sheath.
The sheath is just all kinds of amazing. I like how compact it is, even though it is a pancake and not taco style sheath. It holds the knife tight to the body, has not jiggle, and is high enough that you can walk and bend without problems. I accidentally drove to the hardware store with the Pillar on one weekend. That’s a good set up. The belt attachment is equally good–sturdy, easy to use, and quick release.
In all, this is pretty easily the best sheath on the market. It absolutely destroys the leather number that came with the Bark River Bravo 1 LT and the nylon junk that comes with a lot of other knives. Sheathes are hard. I get that. But manufacturers take note–this is how it is done.
To see SOG, a mainstay of the knife industry for more than twenty years, fade into irrelevance with ever cheaper overseas made knives was a bit disappointing. At their best, they source blades from some of the best OEMs in the world. But Big Box could give a crap about grindlines. They monitor two things–sales and price. And so SOG and a number of other companies cater to volume. It’s good business sense, but it doesn’t get the knife knut in me the least bit excited.
The Pillar is a corner turning product for SOG. This looks like it is the start of something new–SOG competing at all parts of the price spectrum. The Pillar shows they know how to spend pennies when they have more to play with than in budget offerings. The handle materials, the blade steel, and the sheath package all prove that SOG gets what makes great knives great. The Pillar is one of the most exciting products of the year, one of the coolest surprises, and one hell of a fixed blade.