Custom knives are fantastic. They elevate the knife game to a more personal and exclusive stature beyond what most production knives can provide for collectors and users alike. But custom knives come at a price, literally. They can get really expensive, and they can also be incredibly hard to get with wait times and limited runs as a standard. Enter the mid-tech knife – these are knives that are not quite full-on production, but not really customs either.
Today we see many knife makers and designers putting out mid-tech offerings that often are a representation of a popular custom model. Aegis Knife Works is one of the latest companies to step into the mid-tech arena with the Hoplite mid-tech folding knife, an offering produced by Millet Knives of Idaho, the same company that has been involved with a handful of other successful mid-techs from other popular makers.
Unlike some other makers, Aegis Knife Works is a small outfit that is owned by part-time knife maker Jeff Simmons. Popularity has been gained as a result of his custom Hoplite model to which our mid-tech version resembles and carries the same name. In fact, the resemblance is almost spot-on. I would dare anyone to look at the custom and the mid-tech side by side and be able to properly select the custom version. It’s this type of execution, at least on the surface, that makes mid-techs so appealing.
- Blade length: 3.55″
- Overall length: 8.30″
- Closed length: 4.75″
- Weight: 5.3 oz
- Blade material: CTS-XHP
- Blade style: Sheepsfoot
- Handle material: Titanium
- Locking mechanism: Frame Lock
- Country of origin: USA
- Price range: About $400
The Hoplite mid-tech has a relatively standard shape, but diverges from the pack with a slightly angular handle, and sheepsfoot 3.55” blade (though one could argue more wharncliffe) that has a defined detent ramp to accompany the acid etched stonewashed blade.
Overall, the ergonomic shape with pronounced jimping offers an attractive looking, beefy style knife. The flipper style with frame lock design employed by the Hoplite has become something of a go-to standard among many mid-tech and production knives. A lock-bar stabilizer is employed to guarantee longevity and to poise this knife as a true hard use tool. We noticed BladeHQ now stock the Hoplite in stonewash titanium, black Cerakote and a Bi-Tone mix.
Feel in Hand
Oh-boy how we like this knife and the ergonomics in hand! The design accommodates medium to large hands well, and works nicely in both forward and reverse grips regardless of whether gloves are worn. The Hoplite is a bit handle heavy and has a fairly large proportion and ratio when compared to the blade size of 3.55” with usable cutting edge of about 3.25” after accounting for the finger choil. The milled titanium handle nicely follows the contour of the hand for a confident hold.
The action of the knife is snappy when using the flipper, and opens with authority on command. I will note the dual thumb-studs that also accompany the knife are a bit squared off and sharp, and with our particular piece made for a difficult opening to put it mildly. In fact, the thumb studs were effectively useless as we struggled repeatedly to cleanly open the knife with them. That said, the flipper is really all that one needs to quickly and assertively open the blade from the closed position.
As for closing the Hoplite, access to the frame-lock was comfortable, and allowed for smooth closing of the blade. Our version with stonewashed handles allowed the blade to almost effortlessly close by gravity once we passed the detent. This is likely a result of the caged bearings used that may not be as smooth as those found on some Zero Tolerance models which employ their proprietary KVT bearing system, but nonetheless worked very well.
The 3D sculpted pocket clip, with curved design to match the contour of the handle feels unobtrusive, and make for a rather unique aesthetic. The design sits low to the knife handle, and does not overly distract from the feel in hand.
Sheepsfoot blades like the one found on the Aegis Knife Works Hoplite mid-tech looks particularly cool compared to the abundance of drop-points today. The added finger choil adds to the appearance, though sacrifices about a quarter inch of cutting surface. This is a rather large choil, and we suppose the debate can be made as to whether it needed to be so big, we frankly like it, as it adds to both the comfort of the knife, and overall usability.
The acid edged stonewashed CTS-XHP stainless steel blade is a thing of beauty if you are into that sort of look. Execution was handled flawlessly and provides a theme for this knife which seems to scream that it is a rugged hefty user with a blade to match.
A word on CTS-XHP steel – introduced by US based Carpenter, CTS-XHP is a premium stainless steel created using powder metallurgy similar to Crucible’s CPM process. Consider it a harder version of the popular CPM-S30V steel which has marginally superior edge retention but at at price of more time spent on the sharpening stone.
The knife came to us about as sharp as we would hope any production style knife should. We doubt we could have asked for much sharper without receiving a mirror polished edge.
The profile of the blade shows the purposefully obvious hollow grind which is executed extremely well. The design of the Hoplite is one that just begs to be used in hard and perhaps rough conditions.
Usage and Testing
Often we test knives to determine the performance as an everyday cutting implement in different and varied conditions to see how it may perform. With the Hoplite Mid-tech we wanted to really run it through its paces as a hard user.
With that in mind, we subjected the Hoplite to a series of non-traditional tests that may not be common for standard users. We conducted these tests at the end of our two plus weeks of carrying it as our primary EDC. Tests and results were as follows:
Rope Cutting – Cutting of twine is a sure test of the Hoplites ability to hold an edge, and the overall ability to cut compared to comfort level while performing the task at hand. We took 8 feet of twine rope and started cutting about 1 inch between each cut. We used a BOOS cutting board as our surface as we started to cut repeatedly. Initially, cutting the twine was almost effortless. The sheer weight of the knife assisted as we made clean cuts through the twine.
At about 6 feet we began to feel noticeable resistance but still managed to cut the rope without any additional sawing motion. Before we knew it we were done with our 8 feet of twine and the knife was still sharp enough to cut paper relatively cleanly. Though not the most proficient of all cutters (say compared to a Rockstead), the Hoplite was respectable and performed as it should in this price range and with the CTS-XHP steel used.
We stropped the blade and moved onto our next test of aluminum can cutting.
Aluminum can cutting – A word of caution, unless absolutely needed, don’t cut through aluminum or any other metal unless you want to potentially damage your knife, or at best are rather proficient with sharpening blades. With those words of disclaim, we will now tell you all about out gratuitous efforts to open and mutilate multiple aluminum cans bought from our local supermarket.
Campbell’s soup cans must have been shaking in their boots. Cream of Broccoli soup here we come… It was not pretty, but we started to cut the top of the can off as if we had no can opener. To our surprise, the tip of the knife easily punctured the can as if it was paper. We further forced the blade into the can top and began to slowly turn the can counter-clockwise while cutting through the aluminum. Before we knew it the can top was just about all cut off. We poured the contents of the can into a bowl, and decided to puncture the can in a deliberate stabbing motion. No trouble braking through the aluminum material into the hollow can.
We continued this process until it was essentially shredded and no longer safe to hold. We figured since it was so much easier to cut through one can, why not try it again… so we did. We performed the same test with about the same results. Full disclosure, this time we used a Campbell’s Chicken noodle soup. Either way, the task was just about as easy as the first go.
We examined the blade for any bends or chips but found nothing. We also saw very little visible wear on the acid stone washed finish, proof that it hides wear well. With that in mind we can say that the Hoplite mid-tech passed with flying colors.
We sharpened and stropped the Hoplite on an Apex Edge Pro (a pretty darn good sharpener if you know what you’re doing), and moved onto the next test.
Plastic cutting – Have you ever just wanted to demolish those infuriatingly annoying protective plastic casings found on so many products these days. Hopefully we are not alone, but it seems that they are often a pain to break through to extract your item safely. It just so happens that we received in several flashlights that had this exact plastic casing on each. No worries though, the Aegis Knife Works Hoplite Mid-tech was called to the task of cleanly breaking down these sometimes torturous plastic packaging materials for all seven LED flashlights purchased.
With a newly sharpened blade, the Hoplite made extremely easy work of the plastic. One package by one, each succumbed to the same fate, as the Hoplite cut through them like they were swish cheese. The large finger choil really aided in the deliberate cutting actions for a very sure handling cutting process.
It is worth noting that with a really keen edge like the one we put on, the Hoplite can get dangerously sharp. Proof positive the Hoplite mid-tech can handle all sorts of plastic cutting with ease.
Prying – Another word of advice, it is probably a pretty silly thought experiment to consider prying with your 400 dollar limited edition knife unless you either like to throw away money, or are sadistic, or perhaps unless you are writing a review that includes prying with a 400 dollar mid-tech knife offering. You are all big boys and girls, so I will not mention anything about how prying is not a designated task of knives, especially folding knives, and blah, blah, blah… but really, you hopefully get the point.
We begrudgingly began our test to pry a nail from a 2×4 piece of wood lying as scrap in the garage. We used the tip to bore into thewood, attempting not to make direct contact with the flat headed and slightly rusted nail we were attempting to reclaim. After what felt like several minutes of wood working, we successfully trenched around the nail deep enough to exhume the nail from its wooden prison. Okay, so that worked, and not a scratch or bend on the knife.
The Hoplite made short work of our cutting tests as you’d expect for a $400 knife
We took things further by using the Hoplite mid-tech to pry up nails from our deck, wedging the knife tip between the wood and the nail head. No widdling this time, we made effort to force the nail up using direct contact and completely pry the nails up and outward from the wood. We did this 3 times and we had success each time. We exampled the knife blade and spine and with the exception of some relatively minor scratches, the knife was just fine. The tip held up well, and we were rather impressed.
As for overall EDC use, this knife weighs in at a portly 5.3 ounces, and although not the heaviest of hard users, the 3.25 inch usable cutting edge versus the weight may not always be the most efficient use of weight or pocket space.
However, we found the Hoplite mid-tech to be a perfectly good EDC for just about all tasks that came up during our time with it in pocket. The pocket clip is a bit tight, and makes for a harder time to get in and out of pocket, but for certain is not going to slip out of anyone’s pocket.
Interestingly, not all too many sheepsfoot mid-tech offerings are available today. Even still, take a look at some of the options that might make for good cross shopping if you are interested in the Hoplite mid-tech.
Quartermaster (QTRM5TR ) Mr. Spicoli – Referred to by several different names, the Mr. Spicoli, is also known as the Texas Tea (Model #QSE-7TT) and is a titanium frame-lock with a 3.4” CPM-154 blade and a flow through handle construction weighing in at about 5.75 oz. The hollow grind blade offers a medium size option to those who prefer to sit in the so-called Goldilocks zone of not too big, and not too small. This model offers an acid stonewashed blade finish and a thumb groove at the top of the handle to accompany its flipper style opening design. Lefties rejoice as this model provides a reversible pocket clip option. At about 230 bucks, this minimalist style production knife offers good value for an American made production offering.
Gale Force Customs Hawkeye Mid-tech – This mid-tech offering provides a strikingly unique appearance to accompany the 3.25” sheepsfoot style CPM-S30V blade steel. It uses a compound grind and a triangle type shaped thumb hole to deploy. Clad in a diamond patterned slab of titanium on the font show side of the knife, the Hawkeye has been designed to attract attention. If unique and showy items are your cup of tea, the Hawkeye mid-tech at about 425 dollars might be what the doctor ordered. Throw in that it is made in the USA, and perhaps this is the right fit for you.
Kizer Roach – This Kizer has been designed by Matt Degnan and incorporates a 3.5” CPM-S35VN drop point flat grind, satin finish blade with a large finger choil making for about a 3.125” cutting edge surface to work with. This frame-lock flipper knife is appointed with 6AL4V titanium and on the handle scales for right hand tip-up carry only. Coming in at a rather hefty 7.0 ounces, if you like your knife to have a real solid heavy feel, you may just fall in love with the 225 dollar chinese built knife. BladeHQ carries the Kizer Roach.
If the function of a mid-tech knife offering is to make a productionized spot-on version of the original custom, the Aegis Knife Works Hoplite mid-tech has hit it out of the park. Perhaps they did this so well in fact that we wonder if anyone need purchase the custom version at all, save for the bragging rights that it might command.
At about 400 dollars, the mid-tech Hoplite is not cheap. In fact, it may not carry with it the name recognition that some other brands or makers might. However, in terms of hard use knives/tools at around 400 dollars, the Hoplite mid-tech may be among the most compelling get-it done knives we have seen at this price point. Thumbs up for Millet Knives, and Jeff Simmons of Aegis Knife Works – This is exactly how a mid-tech knife should be executed. Job well done.
The Good: Superb ergos, performance and aesthetics. Perfect homage to the custom version.
The Bad: A little heavy for EDC use; somewhat expensive
Bottom Line: Solid mid-tech offering for those who want a beefy blade that looks and feels like a custom