Bill Koenig has one of the true American dream stories, come true. At a young age, he had the intrigue and desire to buy and sell knives, go to trade shows, and clean and sharpen his own knives. While still in his teenage years, he asked his dad, who was always supportive of his knife hobby, if he would quit his day job to help Bill make and sell his own knives. His dad excitedly agreed, but sadly died the next day. Bill’s following years were spent working a day job in oil fields, and long distance commuting back to his shop to continue to develop and make his own knives.
USA made knife with all the classy touches you’d expect.
Key Specs: Koenig Arius
Using the gold standard in today’s available stainless steel choices, the M390 drop point blade is one that doesn’t disappoint. The drop point blade shape comes in at a very capable 3.5”, and looks like James Bond in a piece of steel. It’s difficult to describe such a blade in words alone, but we’ll give it a shot. The primary grind being hollow, has a nice satin finish to it, without leaving a hint of the machine ground lines to it. The saber portion of the blade maintains more of a lighter, machine ground stonewashed look, giving a nice contrast to the primary grind. The spine of the blade does not have any jimping to it, leaving a very clean look and feel to it. The spine also has a swedge that begins just after the thumb ramp on the blade, and continues out to the tip, giving yet another dimension of appeal to the aesthetic of the blade.
The blade has a large opening hole in it, along with a flipper tab. The oblong opening hole makes for a great means of a secondary option in deployment, and somehow maintains the design queues of the knife as a whole. It’s edges are well chamfered, smooth, but with a perfect amount of purchase in use. Working down from the spine, and past the opening hole, begins the hollow grind. With a hollow grind on a blade, with one as tall as the Arius, cutting performance is maximized quite efficiently. The field test section of the review will give more insight to this aspect of the knife, but in short, it cuts very well in just about any cutting medium.
Near the heel of the blade is a generous, yet subtle sharpening choil, to help the handle and blade from hitting the stone, should you choose to sharpen your own Arius. The edge put on the knife from the factory is quite small in appearance, usually alluding to a thin dimension behind the edge, once again aiding in cutting performance. This blade is made to work, and look good while doing it.
Deployment / Lockup
The flipper on the Arius blade, which protrudes out from the back of the handle, has a touch of jimping on it, just enough to give the index finger a spot of purchase when deploying. It works really well, and I never had any failed deployments in my time in carrying and using this knife. Titanium frame lock flipper knives are typically those that aim for an extremely smooth deployment. And the Arius is no exception. The detent is set absolutely perfectly, for my tastes, to ensure a proper deployment, resulting in a consistent lockup every time. Utilizing bearings for the pivot system, there’s no denying that the frictionless feel to this knife’s deployment is top-notch, nearly pulling on the coattails of the Grimsmo Norseman and the Holt Specter.
And that’s quite significant, considering the reputation of the other two knives. Often times, when using the opening hole or thumb stud on a flipper knife, like on a Hinderer XM-18, the detent can be too stiff to have the option to utilize these potential secondary methods. But not so much with the Arius. I found it quite easy to flick the knife open using the opening hole, either with the thumb or with the middle finger, just as reliably as with the flipper tab. And with an action like this, it’s undeniably fun to have multiple deployment options to fidget with your flipper.
Disengaging the lock bar on the Arius is even easier than I had hoped for, with a feel of precision and quality that flows through every part of the knife. The subtle jimping on the lock bar gives no negative feedback to the thumb, but just enough purchase to reliably push it out of the way. And once the lock bar is out of the way of the blade, it’s a race to get that thumb out of the blade path before it comes flying down to it’s closed position. I’m personally not one for an action that drops shut this fast, but there’s no denying it’s beauty in machining with frictionless feel. Actually, it drops fast enough, that unless you’re good at manipulating the blade closed, it will bounce off the detent and pop back out a touch. Again, not a problem, but something that contributes to the feel of the bearings being as slick as oil on glass.
The lockup on the Arius is unequivocally solid. There is absolutely no manipulating any play in the blade in any direction when it’s lock arm is in place. Using a clean look with minimalist styling, the blade uses an internal stop pin for locating the blade into it’s open position. With a steel lock bar insert, the lockup on the blade tang is quite early, around the 15% mark. Again something that I personally don’t like as much as a medium (30-50% ) lockup, it doesn’t seem to be a problem in any way in use. Except for one… When flipping and handling the Arius, the lockup is consistent (always in the same spot), no matter how hard or softly the blade is deployed. But, once the knife is being used, I found that the lock bar could easily be pushed much further along the blade tang without too much effort. I’ll give an example of this in more detail in the field test portion, but I will say that the lockup is still done well in terms of safety and consistency, with no lock stick when simply handling the knife or using it very lightly.
Features, Fit and Finish
The Arius, being a USA made, high end production knife, has impeccable fit and finish. The blade, as previously discussed, has no sharp corners or edges, being well chamfered and comfortable all around, save for the edge of the blade. The handle, with it’s smooth milled titanium, is contoured, finished, and chamfered to the max. All the parts that make up the knife fit together with German automotive precision. The feel of the knife in-hand is as solid as can be, with just enough weight (5 oz) to maintain a felt perception of high end consumables. The distance between the lock bar and it’s perspective handle scale is incredibly small; maybe half the gap found on Chris Reeve’s Knives. Not only is this something that points to tight tolerances and well executed design implementation, but also helps to limit back-to-front blade play when the knife is open. I greatly appreciate these small details, in knives in this price range ($500-800 depending on options).
A “D” shaped pivot is another feature of the Arius that I greatly appreciate. There’s nothing like owning and caring for your own tools, and a pivot like the Arius’s helps ensure that the pivot will come apart without spinning freely on the alternate side. Down near the bottom of the handle, is the lanyard hole, which is integrated into the backspacer. On our example of the Arius, we have blue hardware, and the backspacer and lanyard attachment are the same bright blue found in the knife’s screws. It’s a well done design, and keeps things simple and clean, with a pop of color.
The milled pocket clip, also made of milled titanium, sits on the handle, keeping pressure off the lock bar. The angular design of the clip is again synonymous with the design language of the rest of the knife, and has an oblong hole cut into it. This hole, not likely to save a lot of weight, has the same shape to it as the blade opening hole. This is not a mistake or a random happening. It’s just another aspect of having attention to detail that justifies high priced knives like the Arius, and sparks joy in the eyes of the lovers of quality items.
For the majority of my testing, I enjoyed the Arius. It doesn’t scream “work” like a Chris Reeve knife, but also doesn’t fall short in moderate cutting tests. As we’ve already discussed, the knife has great deployment in multiple choice offerings. Retrieving the knife from the pocket is no problem; it slides in and out of the pocket easily without much resistance. The pocket clip could have a little more tension to it, but it kept the knife in the pocket securely enough for normal use.
Once removed from the pocket and secured in a normal grip, the Arius fills the hand well with it’s contours and chamfering, akin to an old baseball glove. It’s comfortable, and locks into the hand well. Cutting some sisal rope on the work bench required moderate pressure, admittedly a bit more than I expected with this blade grind. I attribute part of this excessive force to the M390 blade steel, which tends to take a nice polish to the edge, but can lose a little bite to it. The second potential reason for the additional added force needed to cut is the slippery nature to smooth titanium. It feels great in hand, but sometimes could be a little lackluster when doing more utilitarian cutting tasks.
Cutting up some cardboard boxes was as expected, no binding in the material, but again a little more force needed than with many other knives. After the cardboard cutting, as well as the rope cutting, I went to disengage the lock to put the knife back in the pocket. It was here when I noticed the lock bar had over-engaged. With a design like a frame lock, it’s always possible for the lock bar to over travel a little. But with my testing, the lock bar had moved over enough that it was stuck. I didn’t need to retrieve a tool to pry it loose, but did have to use two hands with quite a bit of effort to get it out of position. There was a heavy amount of lock stick in this situation, which did happen a few different times. Luckily, the knife is made with tight enough tolerances, and quality materials, that the lockup returned to it’s normal position after these over travel instances.
Food prep is done with ease with the Arius. Not that many of us need to utilize our pocket knives for making dinner on any kind of regular basis, but it’s always nice to know you can. And for the testing of a blade’s geometry, it’s a telltale sign of a grind that’s well suited to cutting tasks. That may sound obvious, but there are many knives with a grind that’s so thick, it really doesn’t cut well at all. Not the case here; the thin hollow ground blade with it’s tall height does well with moderate food prep work.
All these knives available at BladeHQ.As with many folders in this niche of the market, it’s difficult to quantify an alternative, because we’re coming close to the line of customs. So, with this in mind, Koenig Knives’ second model, the Mini Goblin, is the closest available alternative to the Arius. Using all the same build materials, including the M390 blade steel composition, milled titanium parts, and bearing pivot, it’s a 3” knife with a wharncliffe blade. I truly hope to handle one of these some day soon. I’ll admit, it sort of has a “Batwing” look to it, with it’s angular handle shape and straight-razor like blade shape. The Mini Goblin cuts down on the weight, too, coming in at a modest 3.72 oz, while the Arius is just over the 5 oz mark. Another titanium frame lock flipper, the Mini Goblin is one that can be difficult to come by, as these knives are made in batches, sold through retailers, and typically sell out as fast as you can enter your payment information. Both of these models, while having many variants on the Arius affecting pricing, have base prices around $550.
Something like a Grimsmo Norseman, or Holt Specter would be a fun comparison or alternative to the Arius. But they’re both well out of the price range of the Arius by multiple hundreds of dollars. Chris Reeve Knives, say, a Micarta Inlay Inkosi, would compare to the Arius in pricing, but not at all in design, action, or philosophy of use. So, where does that leave us? I dare to compare the Arius, although a somewhat different playing field, to the Reate K-4. Comparing a Chinese made knife to an American made knife may scream blasphemy to some knife lovers, but it is undoubtedly a comparable knife in many other ways. With many available variants, from Damascus to M390 blade steels, and different types of titanium / Damascus inlaid handles, a frame lock flipper running on bearings with a superb action makes this knife one that has a chance to go head to head with Bill Koenig’s knives. At least in terms of a quantifiable comparison. The K-4 is about one ounce heavier than the Arius, at a tick over 6 oz, has a 3.75” blade rather than the 3.5” Arius blade, and has a hollow ground blade. If you’re open to the idea of a Chinese made knife with very similar attributes to the Arius, the K-4 is one that you may want to take a look at.
The Koenig Arius is a nice knife. A very nice knife. It rivals the action of the most highly praised knives around, the Norseman and the Specter. It has the ergonomics similar to a Spyderco Shaman, but with the most premium build materials around. It’s a USA made knife, from a small company with a heartfelt back story. It’s a knife that’s made to be appreciated as much as it’s made to be used, but maybe not used hard. The lockup moving too deep along the blade tang and requiring a bit of force to unlock was the only issue I found in carrying and using the Arius, alluding to the medium-duty use philosophy that it’s intended for. This is a knife that will not disappoint, in fidget factor, fit and finish, action, usability, and longevity of life, with a great warranty available from Koenig Knives. If your fingers are fast enough, or you have the chance to pick up a lightly used Arius, don’t hesitate. It lives up to the hype.
- Superb action, incredible ergonomics, impeccable fit and finish, priced well for it’s summation of parts.
- Lockup can over-travel with hard grips, handle can be slippery, difficult to find for purchase.
Quality/Performance - 90%
Value for Money - 83%
The Koenig Arius is a beautiful knife which commands a high price tag but worth every penny.