Our recent review of the Kizer Splinter generated quite a bit of interest so we’re following up with a closer look at another titanium folder from Kizer – the Kizer Gemini (Ki3471). Designed by custom knife maker Ray Laconico and based on his popular Jasmine model, this is a daily carry you’ll love to fondle, flip, and show off.
People can debate the virtue of purchasing a product made overseas, spending your dollars where they won’t help local business. What can’t be debated, however, is the quality of the knives being produced out of the Chinese factory of Kizer Knives. Their machining processes are top notch, and now that they are partnering with some of the best custom knife makers in the world, those machines are pumping out some absolutely fantastic products.
The Gemini is equal parts beauty and beast, with artfully shaped titanium handles, blue anodized hardware that pops, and a gorgeous blade that flips like a dream. Kizer has reached the next level with their newest offerings, and you’ll agree when you hold the Gemini in your hand.
- Blade length: 3.125 inches
- Overall length: 7.25 inches
- Closed length: 4.125 inches
- Weight: 3.65 ounces
- Blade material: CPM-S35VN
- Handle material: Titanium
- Locking mechanism: Frame Lock
- County of origin: China
- Price range: About $170
What a beauty. Ray designed the drop point blade of the Gemini to serve as a perfect EDC cutting tool, but he did it with an eye for aesthetics as well. The blade has an almost teardrop shape, with a slow, gentle curve in the spine that drops to the tip, and an almost symmetrical cutting side.
A full flat grind compliments this blade shape perfectly, adding to both the utility cutting power and the simple beauty that the design achieves. The only design “flourish” Ray included for the blade is a very subtle swedge on the spine towards the tip of the knife.
Unlike the Splinter, Kizer kept the logos to an absolute minimum for the Gemini, just their new tasteful brand etched at the base of the blade on the spine side, the model number on the flipper side, and the steel designation right above the handle on the blade stock before the grind. Ray Laconico’s name is also etched into the spine.
Like the Splinter, Kizer is once again using the formidable CPM-S35VN steel which continues to grow in in popularity. Outside the laboratory, S35VN is virtually identical to the massively popular S30V in almost every conceivable way. For the knifemaker, S35VN is easier to machine but both steels are essentially indistinguishable in real world usage. What you get is arguably the ultimate dollar-for-dollar balance of edge retention, toughness and corrosion resistance on the market today.
A polished stonewash treatment does wonders to hide any kind of light scratching you’ll get from using the knife for EDC tasks, and continues the trend of muted beauty Ray intended from a design standpoint.
Overall, the Kizer Gemini has one of the most understated yet beautiful blades I’ve seen from Kizer to date, and I hope they keep up the amazing work.
Handle and Ergonomics
Much like the rest of the knife, the Gemini’s handle is simplistic beauty itself. Laconico is well known for his perfectly sculpted handles, and Kizer enacted his vision with precision. The Gemini has 6AL4V titanium handle slabs that have been rounded completely to the edges and chamfered to prevent hot spots. There is a natural swell in the middle of the handle that tapers off towards the edges, so when you’re holding the knife it fills your palm properly.
The top of the handle slabs are shaped like the top of a circle, and towards the front they cut back very slightly to form a partial finger choil, which keeps your fingers safe from sliding forward during use. The choil area isn’t nearly as pronounced as many knives in this category, and I find that this gives my hand a bit more freedom and comfort when using the blade for an extended task.
After the finger choil the handle swells in the middle slightly before tapering to the butt of the handle. The back of the handle is fairly straight from the top until the middle, where again there is a slight swelling and then a drop off to the bottom.
The handle has been stonewashed to a dark gray, quite a bit darker than the blade color, which does a good job of hiding marks and fingerprints, and creating a cool color scheme with the blade.
On the locking side of the handle, the lockbar cutout is extremely precise and thin, giving it a stout look and pleasing aesthetic. This handle may look simple, and it is, but it is fantastically comfortable to hold and use, without the need for an extreme finger choil or sharp gimping to hold your hand in place.
Deployment and Lockup
There’s another new trend taking place at Kizer’s factories that is improving on some issues they’ve had in the past with detents. The detent is a small design element that holds the blade closed, usually on the lockbar. The Gemini has an excellent detent, it’s strong enough to ensure fast deployment with just about any touch on the flipper, without being so strong that your finger gets sore from using it. As you’ll see below, the lockbar, however, is less forgiving.
Even when it’s brand spanking new, a time when most knives need to break in for a while, the Gemini is smooth and strong when you press the flipper tab. I was really impressed with Kizer’s other new offering, the Splinter, and I’m equally as happy with the Gemini. I mean it’s incredibly smooth. The flipper tab is fairly small compared to other knives of this size, and it is located just above the pivot instead of parallel or below, which increases the amount of force applied to the blade and makes for a faster, stronger action.
When the blade flies out and reaches the external stop pin on the Gemini, the lockbar squeezes shut and the steel lockbar insert makes contact with the blade. Without doubt, the lockup on this knife is strong, so strong in fact that I got a sore thumb from repeatedly opening and closing the knife. With such a strong lockup you can pretty much forget about having any kind of blade play, and that’s a point in the Gemini’s favor, but the discomfort your thumb will feel when you are closing the blade might argue with that.
Features, Fit & Finish
If you were to remove all of the logos from the blade and hand this knife to a serious collector, I’m willing to wager that they’d have trouble telling you that this isn’t a custom or mid-tech. That is largely due to Kizer’s quality control, because they seem to be doing a bang-up job making sure that nothing leaves their shop without a thorough inspection. The China stamp is no longer a guarantee of poor quality.
Centering on my Gemini was dead on, the stonewash on the blade and handle was immaculate and all of the hardware and the backspacer were seamless and well done. I really can’t think of a serious problem I have with the Fit and Finish here, really impressive stuff.
In terms of features, I’ll list a few of the things that make the Gemini stand out from the crowd: beautiful custom titanium pivot and hardware that has been anodized a striking blue color, caged ceramic bearings, ceramic detent ball, adjustable stainless steel lock bar insert and over-travel stop, anodized titanium pocket clip, and a titanium partial backspacer.
The anodized titanium hardware gives an otherwise fairly plain knife an eye-popping splash of color and the pivot design draws the eye. The ceramic bearings and detent ball are the pinnacle of flipping smoothness, paired with the stainless lockbar insert to ensure sturdy security during use, and the overtravel stop keeps the lockbar from bending too far out.
The pocket clip is a lighter blue than the hardware, which creates a cool difference in blues much like the handle and blade color pattern, and it rides really well in the pocket.
Finally we have a partial titanium backspacer, and this is my new favorite way of incorporating a backspacer. It’s small enough that you can easily clean your knife of dust or dirt with a paper towel or compressed air, but it’s large enough to add some sturdiness to the knife.
Overall, Ray really packed the Gemini to the gills full of cool little features that would normally only be found on much more expensive stuff.
The full flat grind on the Gemini is impressive. I found myself carrying this guy to the kitchen with me every day just to use it, and making excuses why I had to chop another onion or peel another potato. When I do these field tests, I ask myself to honestly assess what I think the knife is best suited for, and even though the lockup is super stout, the ergonomics are very comfortable, and the blade is sharp, I just don’t see this knife as a hard user or a “tactical” tool.
The lack of a deep finger choil and serious traction on the handle means it could get slippery if wet, so in my mind the Gemini falls squarely into the EDC and Gentleman’s knife categories. So, for testing, I limited myself to rope and paracord cuts, kitchen tasks, and of course package and cardboard cutting.
Like I mentioned earlier, this knife shines in the kitchen, and because it’s all titanium and highly stainless steel, don’t worry about getting rust spots or discoloration anywhere, and feel free to wash it however you want. The blade also cruised through paracord with ease, and did a fairly good job on 1/4″ hemp rope.
Packages and cardboard may as well be butter for the drop point Gemini, but when it came to opening mail it felt a little clunky, because the blade may only be 3.125″ long, but it’s actually quite broad for its size and therefore will excel more at slicing than it will at piercing.
Immediately on thinking about alternatives, my mind leapt to one of ZT’s new offerings this year, the ZT 0808. Both of these knives are titanium framelocks, both are excellent flippers with steel lockbar inserts, both have CPM-S35VN blades that excel at slicing, and both are based off of custom designer’s popular models.
The 0808 is based off of a Todd Rexford design, which is instantly recognizable when you see the hourglass shaped handle. Instead of a graceful teardrop type drop point like the Gemini, the 0808 has a modified drop point that is actually a bit better at piercing, though not up to the full flat grind Gemini in slicing. The 0808 also sports a partial titanium backspacer, though it’s bigger and more intrusive than the Gemini, and while the Gemini pops with the blue hardware and clip, the 0808 is a fairly blank canvas.
Neither of these knives have insane finger choils or crazy gimping, so they are both in that same EDC category. The Gemini pulls ahead when it comes to its ceramic bearings and detent, versus the steel bearings and detent on the 0808, and the 0808 is actually about $30 more expensive, coming in around $200 brand new.
Did I mention the Gemini is also a full ounce lighter than the 0808 as well? Both of these are great values and fantastic knives, and if for whatever reason the Gemini doesn’t do it for you, take a look at the 0808.
Once again we have a homerun from the new contender, Kizer. Ray Laconico has done a fantastic job translating his custom $700+ Jasmine into a fully production knife that hits all the right notes without breaking the bank. You get the chance to own a knife with features that are typically only available above the $400 range, with fit and finish that could make most American companies hang their heads in shame.
The China stamp is no longer a guarantee of poor quality.
Oh and by the way: Kizer now has an American warranty presence! That’s right, folks, you can send in your Kizer for warranty repair or replacement to an American address, without having to worry about if or when your knife will get there and be handled. Kizer is clearly a company trying to do well in the US market and so far so good in my book. Kizer may have still some way to go in posing any serious widespread threat to established outfits like Benchmade or Spyderco but quality competition like this is great for us consumers so let the good times roll!
The Good: Excellent build quality, smooth deployment, S35VN is remarkable
The Bad: Lockup is stiff to disengage, not US made (if that bothers you)
Bottom Line: Another superb, clean looking gentleman’s folder that represents great value