A formula has emerged that’s been driving the market of high end production and mid-tech knives over the last 2 years. This formula really quite simple; Take some titanium, add high quality steel such as S35VN, a 3.5 to 4 inch blade, stonewash everything, use a Reeve Integral Lock (RIL) with stainless steel screws to hold it all together, sprinkle some chamfering around the edges, and bam! A high end knife for the masses is born. We see it all the time. Frankly, it’s starting to get a little old. Thankfully we can rejoice in the fact that every once in a while a different type of knife emerges that gives us hope that this formula can change and that the level of production quality knives can be elevated higher.
A new knife to hit the scene is the Custom Knife Factory (CKF) Tegral, which is a different type of animal altogether. This knife is unbashful in its design.
Before we get into our impressions of this knife, first let’s talk about Custom Knife Factory as a brand.
Based out of Russia, CKF is a relatively new outfit that straddles the line between “production” and “mid-tech” knives. They offer knives in batches as limited offerings per production run, typically farming out much of the machining work to China, and then fit and finish the knives in-house by hand. They employ designers that are often from Russia to create truly inspiring offerings that tend to be constructed with the highest quality fit and finish in the market today. But how does the Tegral stack up? Let’s find out, shall we.
Designed by Anton “Tohus” Malyshev, the CKF Tegral gets its name from the type of design and construction of the knife. It is an integral design. Meaning, the entire handle is constructed out of a single piece of 6AL4V titanium. No screws or press fitting are needed to secure the handle together. Only a few production knives have ever gone to market with such construction (and we will discuss them later on in the Competitive Offerings section lower in this review). Let’s run down the specs for this unique knife offering.
- Blade length: 3.66″ (93mm)
- Overall length: 8.58″ (219mm)
- Closed length: 4.96″ (126mm)
- Weight: 4.94 ounces (140g)
- Blade material: M390
- Handle material: 6AL4V Titanium
- Locking mechanism: Frame Lock
- Country of origin: Russia
- Designer: Anton “Tohus” Malyshev
- Price Range: About $475
Notable takeaways from the specification breakdown are the M390 blade steel, the 3.6 inch hand-rubbed satin blade, weight of 4.9 ounces, and runs on bearings.
Par for the course with Custom Knife Factory, the Tegral came to us well packed direct from Russia. The knife was cocooned in a lovely padded zippered knife pouch that is an upgrade from the previous cases they offered in the past. As we opened the zippered pouch case our eyes immediately gravitated toward the accents on the handle which can be misled for inlays but are actually a milled design and have been anodized perfectly with a light blue tone. Make no mistake, this is a thing of beauty.
We picked up the knife and were surprised to see it was lighter than we expected for an integral construction. The 3D machining was done with near flawless precision, no imperfections in sight. As a collectors piece, the Tegral ticks almost all the boxes one would want. It is well constructed, and looks very appealing.
Perhaps the most controversial element of the entire knife is the blade itself. Sure, it has great steel, using Bohler’s M390, and a stunning hand-rubbed satin blade that is almost hypnotically perfect. However, what really strikes you about this knife is the size and shape of the blade. At first, the 3.66 inch blade sounds pretty standard, until you look at the thing. To say it is a drop point, or a harpoon shape would be misleading. It seems to be a cross between the two, like some type of hybrid that we have never seen before on a production knife.
Do we like the way it looks? Well, sort of. At first we thought it a bit odd, but it started to grow on us. The unique nature of the design is somehow rather charming. The full flat grind on the hand-rubbed blade is a huge plus, and is seldom seen in production or mid-tech offerings.
Did we mention the knife was also ridiculously sharp out of box? It was so sharp that when feeling for the blade sharpness we got bit. The Tegral we received was one of the sharpest production blades we have ever received.
In case you’re unfamiliar with Bohler’s M390 stainless steel, let me assure you that it’s in the very top tier of what’s available today. It’s without doubt in the same league as the other A-list steels of the moment like S90V, Elmax and ZDP-189. At this level it can be tough to objectively differentiate between these upper echelon steels outside of the laboratory. Read more about it in our knife steel guide but rest assured you won’t be disappointed.
The knife in hand feels slick – no two ways about it. The feel of the knife in the open position is comfortable, with contoured and molded edges that make the handle fit nicely. The width is spot on for a comfortable purchase on the handle, but it just feels slick as no jimping or textures provide any traction at all. We would not really call this a negative, but depending on the application of use; this might make for a real issue if you are planning to use in any wet environments or if you are prone to sweaty hands. Also, no jimping on the blade is provided.
Aside from these, the Tegral feels like it belongs in your hands. Because this is an integral construction, the handle feels incredibly solid and strong which instills confidence by whoever holds it.
Now onto the action… Custom Knife Factory created a flipper that really flips like a rocket. It is smooth, feels refined, and fast. The bearings and sloped flipper tab assist in producing excellent engagement every time it is called to open. We did find it a bit odd that a knife of this quality did not include a steel lock bar insert, but at the same time it didn’t seem to need it. It exhibited absolutely no lock stick at all. Personally, while I typically like lock bar inserts on knives, I find it sometimes gimmicky and a way to overcome an otherwise deficient aspect of a poorly executed knife.
As we hold the knife in hand, everything about it feels and looks like a custom. It is incredibly refined and special. Custom Knife Factory is playing on a level very few so-called production companies can dare to dream of. Whatever formula they are using, they should keep it up.
Real World Usage
Unlike some other knives, we chose not to attempt to abuse or put this knife to the test with gratuitous cutting tests that can sometimes seem unnecessary. This knife is really meant for EDC or collectability. As such we treated it in that manner. We carried the knife exclusively as our primary EDC for about 2 weeks and used it as it was needed.
As a performer in that capacity alone, it was wonderful. The knife came sharp and stayed sharp through our carrying of it the entire two weeks. We found the sculpted pocket clip surprisingly easy to assist the Tegral in going in and out of the pocket (whether we had on jeans, slacks, or suit pants). The knife stayed put in our pocket without issue as well. While this is not a large knife, it should be noted that the blade shape can be a bit intimidating to spectators. I would not necessarily recommend just pulling it out and using it at your local Post Office.
One distinct usage of the knife was cutting fruit, and peeling of apples. The blade was actually well suited to this, and even assisted in coring the apple without any issues. Box cutting was also surprisingly easy to do, though we only cut down a few boxes. Package opening with the Tegral was excellent. The unique blade shape is perfect for this type of task.
If your everyday duties require you to open packages on the regular, this knife can handle the job well. Though we did not put the knife through all the paces, we are confident that it can hold up well to any standard EDC task. Caution though, as stated previously this knife has no jimping, and lacks traction on the handle. So if your intention is to use this as a hard use tool, make sure you wear gloves. Moreover, if you are looking for a primary defensive carry blade, you should look elsewhere.
At the end of our carry session, we were left thinking that the Tegral is a blast to carry as an EDC, and that it will certainly go into the rotation, but not on days that require harder use chores.
The CKF Tegral is rather unique. Only a handful of production offerings are available to compare as I describe below.
LionSteel SR1 – This 400 dollar model from LionSteel was the first full production offering we are aware of that featured an integral handle construction in Titanium. Well received, the SR1 has been around for a while, and offers a rather large blade with a bevy of anodized colorations on the handle to choose from.
A D2 blade with conventional thumb-stud is offered for deployment, along with a Reeve Integral Lock (RIL), and proprietary RotoLock mechanism for over-travel and locking of the blade. This is a nice alternative if you are looking for a larger and more traditional knife to add to your collection, and don’t need a stainless steel knife in your pocket.
LionSteel TiSpine – A relatively newer model integral design from LionSteel, the Integral construction TiSpine was released in 2014 with high acclaim and customer satisfaction. This blade is a smaller offering of 3.35” when compared to the Tegral at 3.66”, but offers a very good blade to handle ratio that is enviable by most competition. If you fancy yourself a smaller user or even gentleman’s knife, this may be the one to look at. The price of admission starts at 385 dollars for an Elmax blade and can rise to 450 bucks if you opt for the Damascus blade version.
Spyderco Nirvana – The soon to be released Nirvana will be the first Integral offering by Spyderco. With a comparable blade size to the Tegral at 3.74” and excellent S90V steel, the Nirvana is a collaborative design with Peter Rassenti that is off-the-charts cool. For those who are not aware, Peter is a custom knife maker who offers some very well regarded integral models that often cost well beyond 1,000 smackers, if you can even get on his books. This Nirvana is a really nice alternative to his custom collaborations, and a formidable competitor to CKF Tegral.
If your eyes are set on a new model integral knife, keep a keen eye out for this one. Though we have not had a chance to see the Nirvana in person, at 3.74” inches of S90V super steel, the knife and all its dimensions should offer strong competition. Overall dimensions are likely to be smaller when compared to the Tegral, as the width may be thinner in most areas. Pricing is still up in the air, but some merchants seem to be suggesting a 430 dollar price tag. The Spyderco Nirvana is slated to be released in May of 2016.
Lastly, you may want to check out the Rike 1508s, a relatively new offering from the Chinese company which bears a 3.25 inch blade offered in M390 in a limited production run so you may struggle to find it in stock.
Overall, the Tegral really stands out as being unique with a unique design approach and blade size that are without direct competition based on knives we are currently aware of in the market today. Price is a relative bargain for an integral titanium construction, and fit and finish worthy of a custom knife. We have seen a scant few knives that offer the value that this knife offers.
Word of warning: as always with refined but expensive products like this, you’ll find counterfeit versions out there. Beware the cheaper fakes found on eBay or AliExpress.
So is the Tegral perfect? No, certainly not. No knife is flawless. The Tegral is a bit offbeat, and the style is more love it or hate it. To that statement however, we find ourselves loving it, and it continues to grow on us still.
Something can be said for a knife company that decides to buck convention and create a unique style unto itself. We applaud Custom Knife Factory for this, especially when it’s executed as marvelously as CKF managed to produce the inTegral. At around 475 dollars (or less if purchased on sale directly from CKF), this may perhaps be among the best values on the market for an integral. I know to many of you it sounds expensive, but let me be clear – you’ll pay at least double that for a custom knife with similar features. We like when new knives come around that break the mold, and diverge from a standard formula. The Tegral feels and performs like a custom, and if that’s not an endorsement enough, we don’t know what is.
The Good: Formidable construction, visually stunning, slick action. M390 rocks.
The Bad: Lack of jimping or texturing impacts handle traction
Bottom Line: Possibly the closest you’ll get to custom without being custom