One to Watch: Massdrop x Schwarz Perpetua
Tony Sculimbrene 03.15.18
If you have followed the knife world at all over the last two decades you are familiar with the Axis lock. It was originally developed by Bill McHenry and Jason Williams, the lock was purchased by Benchmade. Thanks to patent protection, the lock wa exclusively featured on Benchmade knives. Other locks have looked similar, but if you wanted a true Axis lock, and didn’t want to delve into the black market, it was Benchmade or bust.
But patents don’t last forever and the Axis lock patent has expired. Without the protection of a patent, anyone can use the lock without paying royalties to Benchmade or McHenry and Williams. This is exactly what TJ Schwarz and Massdrop have done with their new knife aimed directly at the EDC market called the Perpetua. Through clever design, a good choice in steel, and the use of the now freely accessible Axis lock, they have built yet another ultra-competitive knife in the EDC market. If the Massdrop-exclusive Gent is any indication, this is going to be a stellar blade. And unlike a lot of the previous Massdrop exclusives, the Perpetua is made here in the US, a collaboration between Massdrop and Millit Knives. I am going to spoil the end of this One to Watch and just cut to the chase—you should get in on this drop if you like folders.
If you are unfamilar with TJ Schwarz, he is a new knife designer/maker. He caught the knife world’s attention when he designed the Koenig Zenaida, a knife that was assembled without screws, allowing it to taken apart without any tools. The knife was a tremendous success—selling out quickly and winning a Blade Show award. After that Schwarz went on to make the Charbonneau, a fixed blade of his own design (with screwless handle scales—the man must hate screwheads). One of Schwarz’s designs made it into the 2018 CKRT line up, the Caligo (it does have screws, FYI). As far as debuts go, this one has been pretty darn good.
Millit has been making small batch, high end knives for a while now. Composed of folks trained in the Chris Reeve shop, Millit started out as an OEM, producing the original TAD Dauntless production line (in secret!). Now they are making their own designs. Their knives, or at least the ones I have owned and handled, have been superbly built with an obvious eye towards details and finishing. The original production Dauntless still serves as a highwater mark for what production knives can be.
Massdrop, if you don’t know, is a collective buying service driven by enthusiasts. A product is suggested for a group purchase, aka “a drop,” and members hop on to the drop. The more folks that sign up the cheaper the item gets. Previously, they were dropping products made by other companies, but as Massdrop has grown, they now have the capacity to do their own exclusives, like the Perpetua.
The knife itself, runs the amazing Axis lock, prized by knife folks for being easy to use, secure, and 100% ambidexterous. The handles are titanium and sport a nice pocket clip. The knife, thankfully, gives us a reprieve from the endless stream of titanium framelock flippers, deploying via thumb stud and running G10 handles. The steel is a very rare steel Nitro-V. To my knowledge it has never been used in a production knife before, only showing up in a few custom blades like those from Brian Trudeau and RMJ Tactical. The knife is a modification of the already great AEB-L, dropping in nitrogen to provide a bit tougher edge without increasing corrosion issues. It has been very well received by knife makers.
In all, if the Perpetua lives up to its specs, this will be an extraordinary knife. And it should come in around $120. Sign up.
What: Massdrop Perpetua by TJ Schwarz
Cost: Around $120
When: Coming soon
Made in the USA: Yes
Highlight: Axis lock and Nitro-V steel