It’s becoming harder and harder to stand out these days when you’re making titanium framelock flipper knives. They’re the midsize sport utility vehicles of the pocket knife world, with new ones appearing at a dizzying pace in what surely cannot be a sustainable long term market trend. So if you’re going to make one, you should really do something to make it different, make it stand out.
The Bit is a new offering from Factor Equipment, who also made the Absolute that we reviewed previously. That knife came off as a good value in terms of materials for the money but lacking some of the polish and refinement that’s expected for a knife that retails for nearly $200. The Bit, I’m happy to tell you, has fixed a lot of those issues. Its calling card, though, is its size: it may not look it in pictures, but the Bit is absolutely tiny: the blade measures 1.875” long and the whole knife is 4.75” open, and it weighs around 1.5 ounces.
Despite the micro size, it retains all the features and build quality of a modern mid-tier knife. We’re talking coin-pocket small while still being usable day to day. It’s very cool, and I ended up liking the Bit quite a… Bit more than I was expecting to. Let’s take a closer look at this miniature masterpiece.
Key Specs: Factor Bit
Isn’t it adorable? The Bit’s blade measures 1.875” from tip to tang, a traditional drop point that’s flat ground with a very shallow swedge along the spine. The edges of the spine are rounded aft of the swedge and through the jimping to make the back of the blade smooth, which is always a nice touch and makes the Bit more comfortable to use. The plunge grind is diagonal and doesn’t intersect with the swedge, leaving a flat portion near the top where Factor laser etches their logo – a stylized “F” inside a hexagon shape.
Considering the diminutive length, the 0.10” blade thickness is appropriate in proportion. At 0.625” wide the blade is pretty narrow, avoiding a “stubby” look that a lot of mini-knives have. There’s a shallow forward choil ahead of the flipper tab that if the knife were multiplied by 1.5x could probably serve as a finger choil, but is obviously too small here for such a task. It serves as a sharpening choil though, thanks to a perfectly ground blade with no “beard” at the transition – allowing you to sharpen the entire blade.
The Bit’s blade has a very nice vertical satin finish that’s fairly reflective and a bit of a fingerprint magnet. Blade steel is Crucible CPM-S35VN stainless steel, one of the best-rounded modern powdered stainless steels. Compared to 8Cr13MoV, S35VN offers almost double the carbon content (for hardness and edge retention) and a ton more vanadium and molybdenum. Compared with S30V, it trades off vanadium for small amounts of Niobium, increasing toughness. It was designed to offer improved performance over S30V while being easier to machine and sharpen, and short of supersteels like M390 or true exotics like Maxamet it’s at the top of heap for daily use.
It came sharp enough to slice printer paper from the factory, but with a visible “toothy” finish to the edge bevel. Factor hardens their S35VN to between 58-60 HRC, right in the ideal range for a balance between edge retention and being able to actually sharpen it on a normal setup of some sort.
Deployment and Lockup
Boy, who knew that such a small knife could be such a great flipper? Deployment on the Bit is superlative. This is probably owed to Factor using ceramic ball bearings, an unusual luxury at this price point. They offer less friction and greater wear resistance than steel. They’re contained in a bronze race which makes disassembly easier and helps with durability, being less deformable than plastic when the pivot is tightened. The detent is well judged here considering how hard it is to get proper leverage on the knife – provided that you aren’t accidentally pressing the lock bar with your middle finger, which is easy to do considering the miniscule size of the knife.
They’ve done a good job with the design of the flipper tab too, avoiding having it chew your finger up on deployment or landing – a good idea considering this knife will probably be fidgeted with more than it’ll actually be used. Can I tell a difference between a stainless ball bearing pivot and a ceramic one? Hand to God, no. They’re both fast enough to make assisted openers irrelevant, but they feel good here – firing the blade open with great reliability and speed.
Closing isn’t drop-shut smooth like a ZT with KVT or the Buck Marksman, requiring you to shut the blade with your finger. This is due to a lack of a detent ball ramp and the detent ball digging into the tang of the blade – enough to make an arc shaped scratch through the “S35VN” marking, actually. This was also a complaint with the Absolute, being a not particularly smooth closing knife even if it did open well. It has a gritty feeling that is somewhat unpleasant when you’re folding it back up from the detent dragging on the blade, a weird feeling. At least it doesn’t suffer from the overly stiff detent that the Absolute did.
Lockup is perfect, though. Side to side and vertical bladeplay are nonexistent, and lockup is around 20% of the lock face to the blade tang. Lock bar tension is good and there’s no lock stick thanks to the steel insert.
Features, Fit & Finish
The Bit is a well-made knife that packs a ton of features into a tiny footprint, but it’s not perfect. Factor is still working on it – but they’re getting there, especially considering the age of the company.
Features wise, the Bit packs a lot of stuff in that big knives skip. The most noticeable is the handle finish – it has a dual-tone anodization with a purpley-blue color on the flats of the handle and the backspacer, and a matte gold finish on the chamfered edges, the pocket clip, and the pivot collar. This contrast makes for an eye-catching knife, but even if it were just flat grey the handles themselves would draw attention because of how much machining is involved.
The chamfer on the spine side of the scales is actually three separate planes running parallel, a top/side/corner that move and flow around the handle sort of like circuits on a motherboard, with lots of intricate details to pour over. The center plane spreads out and the two outer planes shrink as the machining heads towards the butt of the knife, twisting outward radially to great a smooth transition.
Rounded cutouts on the underside of the handle are hollowed out while the rest of the machining is flat, giving it some depth. The grain structure of the titanium is visible through the blue anodizing but not through the yellow, even creating a contrast in textures. It’s a knife you can stare at for a long time and keep finding new details.
It’s got the whole check list of gadgets, too. A lockbar stabilizer is bolted to the frame to prevent lock stick and galling, but it also serves as an overtravel stop with a protrusion that sticks up behind the pivot on the inside of the frame, out of sight. Rounded pivot collars dress the knife up, and the pivot barrel (a Chicago screw style setup) blends perfectly with the collar on the lock side.
Like a lot of modern high-end knives, the pocket clip is 3D-machined titanium – which is not always a blessing, see the “Field Test” section below. It is configured for tip up right hand carry only. The backspacer is structural, with the body screws on both sides (one each) threading into it – and it also forms the lanyard hole, which protrudes from the butt of the handle.
There’s a short run of jimping on the spine that runs to the end of the plunge grind. Hardware consists of Torx T-6 screws for the body and the pocket clip, and a single straight head screw for the pivot. The pivot barrel is not keyed to the frame, but friction fit, and did not spin when I adjusted it (thankfully!) Unlike the Absolute, the Bit didn’t suffer from excess branding – with the sole logo being the Factor symbol etched onto the blade on the show side, along with “first production” and “S35VN” etched on the lock side.
Fit and finish is OK with a few exceptions. The pivot on the show side stands proud of the pivot collar by enough to make your OCD forehead twitch a bit. The blue anodizing has a bit of color variance that you notice in certain light. The detent ball visibly scratching the tang is annoying, but the uneven edge bevel grind is probably the most annoying factor here, with the angle getting inexplicably wider in a few spots on the belly of the blade and gradually narrowing towards the tip.
It’s worth noting that our review sample is marked with “1st Prod. 004/240” on the lock side of the blade, so these quality issues might be due to the production tolerances still being dialed in. Outside of that, the Bit seems well made – the backspacer fits perfectly flush with the scales, the spine of the blade lines up flush and level with the handle when open, and as mentioned earlier, the machining on the handles is impressively complex and clean.
The Bit is a tiny knife, which somewhat limits its real-world applications, but you can certainly do more with this knife than you might think. I’ve got rather big hands, so the Bit is a 2 ½ finger grip for me. With fingers wrapped around and a thumb on the spine the Bit feels pretty awkward, like a giant trying to use a child’s tea set. It’s better used scalpel-style, pinching the pivot with your thumb and middle finger and using your index finger to press down on the spine. Here, the wide pivot collars make sense: giving you a wider platform to grab makes the knife more stable to use. This grip makes it awkward to cut open envelopes, but gives you great control for slicing open packaging and seals, and other household tasks. This is a knife that would likely benefit greatly from the addition of a lanyard to extend its usable grip length.
S35VN is a not an exotic, unfamiliar steel. It’s used on tons of modern knives, and with good reason: it’s a fantastic steel. The Bit is no exception. It takes a screaming sharp edge fairly easily, the fine grain structure helping out quite a bit, and edge retention is good. It is more prone to rolling than chipping compared with S30V, and it’s great at resisting corrosion. Sharpening the Bit is awkward, though, due to its size.
Carry is a mixed bag. I’m not sold on the concept of 3D machined pocket clips, and the Bit doesn’t help. Sure, the clip looks nice and is an impressive bit of machining work – especially the rounded outer edge. And it is an improvement over the Absolute, which had a sharp cone shaped point on the end of the clip that destroyed denim pockets at an alarming rate, combined with far too thin of a ‘bridge’ for proper spring tension.
By contrast, the contact point on the Bit is rounded and it slides onto a pocket with relative easy – although some fiddling is required, again due to the small size of the knife overall, getting enough lavage to overcome the spring tension is awkward. The issue is how it’s mounted. The clip is held onto the scale with a single screw. It does not sit in a recess in the handle that locates it, rather it just sits flat on the surface of the scale. As a result, it can rotate under normal use, usually onto the lock bar itself. This is irritating as it puts additional tension on the lockbar making it quite hard to open and close the knife before you notice what’s happened. Tightening the screw down further is a risky exercise – as it’s threaded into the titanium handle scales, stretching or even stripping the threads is far too likely of a consequence. But since the Bit weighs only around an ounce and a half, and is less than 3” long closed, it’s perfectly fine to just take the clip off of it and slide it down into your pocket.
The Bit is honestly so small that it’s not something you’re going to carry and use on a daily basis due to the size. That doesn’t mean it isn’t useful around the house for small tasks – opening boxes, mail, cutting strings, that kind of thing – but it’s uses are somewhat limited by its reach – cutting up an apple with the Bit would be an exercise in frustration. As a tool for light duty tasks around the house it’s OK – as a less embarrassing alternative to a fidget spinner it’s even better. It’s not that it lacks in any form of stability, strength or design – it’s just too small to effectively cut a lot of things or to get a solid grip on.
There is not an overabundance of knives in the “sub 2 inch blade, Flipper opening” category when viewing Blade HQ – 37, in fact, with a lot of that inventory actually being one-off customs that have already sold. At $100 retail on Blade HQ the Bit is in a middle ground between a couple of considerably cheaper mass produced knives, and a handful of pricey high-end options.
The Rike Knife Hummingbird makes the Bit look large; while it comes with a pocket clip, Rike is at least realistic about carry options considering they include a Kydex sheath with a ball chain to carry it as a neck knife. The drop point shaped blade is made of Damasteel, and the skeletonized handle is intricately engraved. Like the Bit, the Hummingbird has all the trappings of a high-end knife: bearing pivot, 3D-machined titanium clip, lockbar insert with an overtravel stop, flipper deployment, the works. It even comes in a variety of shocking colors – neon green, bright blue, pink, or silver. Quality on Rike products is typically top notch, but $150 seems like a lot of money for a blade that’s less than 4” long from tip to butt!
On the other side of the price scale, there are two options from CRKT. The Compact Jettison is a neat compact folder by Robert Carter, a 2” wharncliffe blade in 8Cr13MoV with titanium scales incorporating a framelock. $30 seems like a good deal considering the construction. There’s also the Snicker, a chubby little compact EDC from Phillip Booth. The blade shape is a dramatically recurved 1.8” drop point with a flipper, made from stonewashed 420J2. Textured GFN handles are contoured for a solid grip, and the Snicker also has a deep carry clip. Retail is only about $20.
The Stedemon Vouking T03 is a remarkably similar offering to the Bit, with an anodized titanium framelock handle, lockbar stabilizer, machined titanium clip, bearing pivot, and flipper opening. It’s offered in a variety of colors (green, black, blue, silver) and the 1.8” clip point blade is made from ultra high-end Bohler M390 steel. It’s pricier at $150 retail, though.
Another contender is the Tactical Geek Variable X, which is an absolute dice-roll of a knife from a brand with no name recognition. It’s quite pricey at $190 but it’s certainly interesting to look at. The blade is CPM S35VN steel, measuring in at a scant 1.625”. It has a full flat chisel grind with a reverse swedge, a steep tanto blade shape, and an impressive looking skeletonized titanium handle including a steel lockbar insert. It’s a lot of money, but it’s a cool product.
The Factor Bit is a refreshing bit of weirdness in a pretty repetitive market. I wasn’t really expecting to like it as much as I did, my preconceived notion being that it was a well-executed joke instead of a functional piece of high-quality machinery, but here we are. It has everything that makes a high end flipper enjoyable, but it’s the size of a large paperclip. It’s small enough you might accidentally run it through the washer.
As an exercise of “look what we can do!” it’s pretty impressive, and I can confirm after carrying it (and no other knife as a backup!) that you can do 90% of the cutting tasks that you would normally do with a tiny knife like the Bit. They could mount the clip better and do something about the dragging detent ball, but this is not an overly flawed knife by any means. It cuts well, flips well, is well made, and it puts a smile on your face. People ask about it, want to play with it, it generates interest in people that normally don’t care. If you’re just looking for a knife to break down boxes at work this isn’t it; if you already have a lot of knives and want to try something truly different, it’s money well spent. It’s delightful.
- Flips like a rocket, every detail is polished and slick, all the gadgets and features of a high end flipper, excellent coin pocket carry, two tone anodization is an eye-catcher, an ice-breaker even with non-knife-people.
- Clip isn’t securely mounted, detent ball drags creating gritty closing, is really too small to cut some things and too tiny to get a secure grip on