This, my friends is ‘the response’. Specifically, it’s ZT’s response to all the new high end production knives that have recently come out of places like China and Russia selling like hotcakes. Thankfully, the response is a good one. The limited edition Zero Tolerance 0606CF is, in our opinion the definitive example of everything that is right with American production knife manufacturing in 2016.
Somehow Zero Tolerance has figured out a way to create ‘production custom’ knives (aka factory-custom) that are both part production, and part custom. Designed by RJ Martin, along with certain parts custom-made by RJ’s son, Matt (specifically the pivot), this knife is the first Zero Tolerance to employ a Martin cartridge pivot ball-bearing opening integrated within its production knives.
Love it or hate it, the ZT 0606CF exemplifies what high quality manufacturing is all about. With the combined collaborative talents of RJ Martin, and son Matt Martin, the Zero Tolerance 0606CF is indeed a true collaboration production-custom work of art. Moreover, this knife is a pocket friendly collector’s piece that truly shows the muscles ZT has when they choose to flex them.
- Blade length: 4.0″
- Overall length: 8.9″
- Closed length: 4.9″
- Weight: 6.5 oz
- Blade material: CTS-XHP
- Handle material: Titanium, Carbon Fiber
- Locking mechanism: Frame Lock
- Deployment mechanism: Flipper
- Country Of Origin: USA
- Price Range: About $500
In 2015 we all got a first glimpse of the ZT 0606CF. But like so many Zero Tolerance special edition and limited (‘production custom’) models, the production and release time to get those products to market appear to be staggeringly long. You do the math, but it certainly seems as though it took about 2 years to get this knife into customers’ hands. That is a really long time to wait for a production, um, I mean ‘production custom’ 0606CF. Not to mention, we were one of the very few lucky ones to actually even get our hands on one.
In standard Zero Tolerance fashion as of recent, they offered the limited edition ZT 0606CF through a very limited number of pre-approved resellers. All of the sales logistics were worked out in advance. The ZT 0606CF was available on November 3rd, 2016 for purchase at 12 noon EST, no earlier and no exceptions. First come, first served and only one per customer (household). From our estimation, each one of the extremely limited knives made available was sold by 12:04pm EST. So after waiting about 2 years to get your very own unicorn-like Zero Tolerance 0606CF, you had less than 5 minutes to snag one. Well, let’s just say that some were really let down when they were unable to grab one. On the other hand, guys like us were indeed among the very few lucky ones. This review is effectively 2 years and 4 minutes in the making. It is something we are both fortunate to be able to write about first hand, and to be able to share with you.
It is also a fun fact to mention that RJ Martin is no stranger to Kershaw and Zero Tolerance collaborations. However, when it comes to limited edition knives, the most definitive popularized collaboration piece previously offered by ZT and designed by RJ has debatably been the ZT 0600. Designed as a very large 4.25” bladed folding knife, the ZT 0600 was a beast of a long and large recurved drop point folder that had an inlayed carbon fiber and titanium scale that was textured in perhaps the most unique ‘stone’ styling we had seen at the time. It was, and still is a very collectible piece, having won the prestigious 2012 Collaboration of the Year award from Blade Magazine. The ZT 0606CF however will likely be even more collectible, and appears to have required significantly more design time, manufacturing effort, and finishing.
One last word before we start to geek out about this amazing knife; this Zero Tolerance 0606CF is already highly sought after and thus extremely collectible. Though we paid 500 dollars (MSRP) for ours directly from one of the authorized resellers, we’ve seen online sites such as eBay list the ZT 0606CF at prices well over $1,000 bucks. That my friends is the definitive difference between Zero Tolerance limited edition products, and any other production knife we can think of (as of this writing). ZT limited edition pieces don’t just hold value; they cause a purchasing demand frenzy that makes the price rise on the secondary market to uncomfortably high levels.
Now let’s talk about how we reacted once we finally got our hands on the ZT 0606CF after all this time.
The Zero Tolerance 0606CF is worth its weight in titanium. At about 6.50 oz. this knife is anything but light, and anything but discrete. We immediately felt the weight of the knife as we started to remove it from the customized package box it was delivered in. Boy, Zero Tolerance has stepped up their game where packaging was concerned. Everything felt and looked premium with this knife… starting with the packaging. As we opened the package we were welcomed by a shrink-wrapped plastic casing that secured the ZT 0606CF limited edition box in place to the customized ’ZT’ branded packaging box. We readied it all up and finally it was time for the big reveal. We opened the box-case and were greeted with an official looking ZT certificate of authenticity. Each package and knife is numbered to identify it as unique and authentic. We moved the certificate out of the way to reveal the big event. There it lay, in all its glory. Blue and gold shining brightly as we removed it from its case.
There is no denying that this is a beautiful looking knife. Granted, the vivid colors may not be for everyone, but the blue anodizing and the gold atop milled titanium was a thing to behold. Next, the inlayed carbon fiber that sits in the middle of the show side scale just because it can. It is some great quality carbon fiber and really helps to ground the piece visually. It all looked good…really good. The other visual eye-candy worthy item without question is the see-through pivotless pivot. This pivot part was custom made on all ZT 0606CF knives by Matthew Martin. Yup, he’s the guy who makes beautiful custom pens, and whose father, the collaborative designer of this knife is debatably one of the top ten custom knife makers alive today. This pivot is uber cool. You can see right through it because of the literal hole bore through the center. It is truly a neat part to behold on a knife.
But wait… there’s more! Look at the 0606CF backside, and you see the carbon fiber back-spacer which is superbly executed. If you can count on one thing, it is that Zero Tolerance pulls out all the stops to make sure that these products go out the door exactly the way they want them to. Perhaps that is why they take so long to get them into the hands of paying customers. Quality assurance is at top notch levels for these limited edition production-custom pieces.
The drop point 4 inch blade is made of CTS-XHP stainless steel. That’s right, it’s NOT the CTS-204P which is displayed on the marketing materials and even the certificate of authenticity. Yes, it’s all a bit weird and I suspect ZT changed their minds at the last minute to use CTS-XHP instead of the Bohler M390 clone in CTS-204P. While we would have liked to see the CTS-204P here it’s not a huge issue because CTS-XHP is also an excellent steel. You can think of CTS-XHP as a powder steel version of D2 with a bit of 440C thrown in as well. It’s a nice, clean high carbon steel with high hardness and decent corrosion resistance. Perhaps lagging behind the edge retention qualities of CTS-204P but an formidable performer nonetheless.
It is an attractive blade that has a black DLC-type coating applied to the flats and the spine of the blade, while the remainder of the blade is satin finished. It’s a truly stunning look, and one that is fitting for this type of product. If we had to be perfectly candid, this knife is perhaps one of the best looking production knives we have ever had the privilege of holding and seeing with our own eyes.
A knife such as the ZT 0606CF, designed by RJ Martin should be about as good a flipper as we can imagine. We will talk more on the flipping mechanism and action of this knife shortly. But first, we want to discuss the feel when we held the knife in our hand for the very first time. In standard position the grip was both ergonomic and extremely comfortable. But two items jumped out at us very quickly as we held it firm in our grasp.
The first was that this knife feels very heavy in the hand. At about 6.50 oz. this is never going to win any ‘lightweight EDC’ competitions. But in this case, it actually felt heavier than the already heavy 6.50 oz. weight on the tin. Secondly, we could not get over how thick the knife felt to us as we continued to hold it with our right hand. This knife felt as thick as some large fixed blade knives we have used. This is not a statement that implies discomfort, rather it is meant to provide some context to the sheer bulk and heft of the 0606CF.
One slightly odd item on the knife, and perhaps the only assertion we can make that may have any negative connotation specifically relates to the jimping on the knife. It does have jimping – sort of. Though we are not sure if they were meant to be purely aesthetic in nature, it is apparent that they have no usable purpose at all. They are so rounded off and far apart that they might as well not be there, but for the fact that they look pretty darn cool. They appear almost as shallow waves, and the black DLC-like coating only seems to further hurt the traction of the so-called jimping in the hand.
It is a design technique we have not seen on any other incarnation of a production knife that we can think of. Let us be clear though, the 0606CF is likely not one to be used for purposes of knife cutting tasks that require usable jimping by those who have purchased one. The Zero Tolerance 0606CF is by most measures a collector’s item, and one that is likely to be highly sought after for some time. It would be unlikely that anyone spending the coin on this collectible type knife would actually be using it for much other than an envelope opener at best.
Real Word Testing
Hmm, sorry to disappoint, but we are reverse practical when it comes to knives that command such a high potential resale value. That is the term we like to use when we try to justify to ourselves that we just shelled out 500 large for a pocket knife, but won’t actually use it for anything other than eye candy and holding on to it for collectible purposes. Kind of like a “safe-queen”… we hate that term and try our best to avoid having many knives in that category. But truth be told, we are collectors, and we are users. Sometimes the two just don’t intertwine. In other words, we really did not do much with this knife beyond hand-grab at it and check the basics while slightly drooling over it in the process.
So to call this a full-on review would be a bit misleading. Let us further clarify that we did not cut much with it, or do anything else for that matter besides fondle and flip it repeatedly. Ah yes the flipping. Over, and over, and over again until other family members in our home revolted and condemned the ZT 0606CF, and us to the den in solitude. While in our designated fortress of solitude (gratuitous superman reference), we fondled and fiddled with every part of the knife.
But after hours and hours of essentially playing with the knife, the most unusual aspect of this ZT 0606CF was by far the pivot. Not the awesome custom laborious job on the actual physical part performed by Matt Martin, which is freakin’ superb by the way, but rather the internals of it that RJ designed. This cartridge pivot ball-bearing opening flipper is unlike any feel we have experienced before. From what we can gather, it is a complete deviation from the KVT system so often employed with great results from Zero Tolerance on other higher end flipper style knives. The 0606CF just felt different from everything else we have come to know about ZT.
We should further mention that we have flipped the RJ Martin Q-36 before, which for those who don’t know is the most commonly regarded model in the RJ Martin line-up of custom knives he has made to date. It is known to be one of the most well designed and best flippers – Ever! Sounds a bit dramatic, but it really is amazing and fast as if it was an automatic. The feel of the Q-36 is iconic and well regarded that one could sort of say that RJ’s detent, pivot, and flipper design were the things that made him one of the top names in the knife industry. It is not the only reason, but it is a very big one. We have not however had a chance to try any of his other flipping systems, such as a pivotless pivot system on his custom knives. We can only speculate that they would be similar (we assume) to the type of pivot on the ZT 0606CF.
It flips pretty well, and as we worked it in over several hours seems to flip better than when we first started using it. But it does not feel like a ZT, and it certainly does not feel like an RJ Martin flipper. It just feels, well… different. It is not particularly fast. The detent is not particularly strong, but it is extremely smooth. Keep in mind that our example is just one in a line of production pieces that were made. Your mileage may vary, as it is unlikely that every single piece will flip exactly the same.
As for lockup, perfect! Everything including centering, lack of blade play, and finish was all just about perfect.
When you start trying to compare knives of this type /category to each other, it is likely to get some people upset. Should we compare it to other knives in the 500 dollar range, or should try to consider a higher price range because of the secondary market value that the ZT 0606CF commands? Hard to say, but we personally think that secondary market tends to make prices rise unconventionally at points, and those prices over time can either keep going up, stay about the same, or perhaps start to fall. So with that in mind, we have assembled a modest list of knives that we feel are competitive to the Zero Tolerance 0606CF when cross-shopping.
Benchmade Gold Class 908-161 – Perhaps you tried to get your grubby hands on a ZT 0606CF and came up a dollar short or a minute late, the Benchmade Gold Class 908-161 Stryker model might be your answer if you like pretty things that are made really well. No it is not a flipper. Nor is it titanium. Nor does not have CTS-XHP stainless steel. What it does have is looks and quality engineering. It also has a darn nice red/black carbon fiber milled set of scales with an AXIS lock pivot opening system, and a seriously nice looking 3.57” Odin Heim Damasteel blade. For those looking for something a bit smaller and a bit lighter at about 4.76 oz. this may be your ticket to high end production salvation. Cost for admission is no higher than 510 smackers, though we have seen it sell in the high 4’s on several occasions.
Custom Knife Factory Muscle (and customized variants) – Something of a contradiction in terms with the name, Custom Knife Factory has made a business out of blurring the line between production manufactured knives, and custom hand finished parts and materials. Often they offer up customized versions of production run models for folks to dream about. For those interested in the ZT 0606CF, you might want to divert your attention to the CKF’s Muscle model. Like the 0606CF, the Muscle is collaboration with another extremely well known knife designer (and occasional maker). With a 3.97 inch M390 blade, Titanium scales, flipper design by the incomparable Tashi Bharusha, the Muscle certainly flexes its name (muscle) in spades. Custom variations with one-off finishes range in price but are often around 800 dollars. For those looking to stay closer to the ZT 0606CF MSRP price tag of 500 dollars, the original Muscle production model should come in well below the ZT 0606CF. It is a nice option for those cross shopping, or for those who just love knives regardless.
Reate Future – Though we have mentioned the Future in the past (LOL), but Reate’s soon to be released (as of this writing) flagship model has been described as a production and manufacturing marvel. Indeed if we were betting men (and we generally are not), we would wage that the future may be the first Reate product that shows a collectible secondary market appreciable increase in value over its already rather lofty MSRP. Though variations on the Future model will be offered, the starting price begins at about $480 and can work its way all the way up to about 780 dollars, sporting some models equipped with Mokuti inlays, and Damasteel on the blade. As for basic specs, well it is an integral (one piece handle titanium construction) designed by Tashi Bharusha (who also designed the Muscle from CKF, and many other well regarded knives), and sports a 3.75 inch M390 blade for standard models with a weight near 5.3 oz. depending on model variant. If you are into production knives, want to get your hands on a very well built product that may have some secondary market appeal to collectors, the Reate Future might be a very intriguing comparative offering. Rumor is that it will become available in limited supply toward the end of November.
Generally we buy and enjoy our pocket knives because we find them to be usable and reliable tools. Our review of the Zero Tolerance 0606CF does not cover any aspect of whether the knife is a capable EDC, or even a reliable one. Though we can speculate based on our observations of the knife that it would be able to perform well as a user, we have no real data points to prove such a claim. So, why did we waste our time on the Zero Tolerance 0606CF at all? The answer is quite simple. We love pocket knives. Many we use, and use often. Some however we use seldom, or in the rarer of circumstances not at all.
After all in addition to active knife users, we are also collectors. It would be silly for us not to call ourselves collectors since we have a pelican case full of knives. We usually tout that ‘knives are meant to be tools’, but they can also be something more. Knives like the ZT 0606CF can be an expression of art, or perhaps an investment (often a bad choice in our experience), or even just a reminder of the progress we as a people have made with regard to machining parts and manufacturing products in general. For us, the ZT 0606CF is a bit of all of these things. For those fortunate ones who were able to nab a ZT 0606CF, congratulations. If any of you out there have the testicular fortitude to actually EDC it, good on you!
Let us conclude with this: The Zero Tolerance 0606CF is a product that ZT had to make to stay relevant in the very quickly changing landscape of high quality production knives (that are now commonly being produced all over the world). The 0606CF is a product that reminds everyone in the industry, those domestic and abroad, to take serious pause. It tells everyone interested in this sort of thing to be on the alert – Zero Tolerance is still a preeminent knife manufacturer consistently on the forefront of quality, and execution. The ZT 0606CF sends a strong statement that Zero Tolerance can make the best production manufactured pocket knives in the world … proudly collaboratively designed and manufactured right here in the USA. This is the Zero Tolerance answer. This, my friends is ‘the response’!
The Good: Superb fit & finish, cool factor is off the charts, super exclusive
The Bad: Could be overly bulky for some. Expensive.
Bottom Line: Outstanding collector’s piece with for those who appreciate the finer things