Peanut butter and jelly, burgers and fries, and coffee with cream are all ways to collaborate 2 great things together, to make one thing that’s even better. So, Microtech brought their high end production factory to the design table with Anthony Marfione and Borka Blades to make a knife that blends a little of both companies into one product. And it’s really, really good. Borka Blades makes some very high end fixed blade and folding knives, so using a reputable brand like Microtech to get the custom level pricing down to production level pricing makes a lot of sense.
Key Specs: Microtech Stitch
The Microtech Stitch has a blade comprised of Bohler M390 steel, which is arguably one of the best production blade steels used here in 2021. It’s stainless properties are great, it holds an edge for a very respectable amount of time, and it’s toughness properties are good enough for daily use without worry of breaking a blade as easily as something like Maxamet. The wharncliffe style blade shape is very useful, and is done in quite a unique way. With a hollow grind, an extremely broad blade profile, and a 0.19” thick blade stock, this chunk of metal is one to be reckoned with.
With an overall appearance of a spear head, the blade looks menacing. That’s not too surprising, considering Microtech’s design language being of the tactical realm in much of their product lineup. One thing that does continue to surprise me, though, is the ability to produce a blade that’s thick at the spine, yet very thin behind the edge. This aspect of a blade can be very easily overlooked, and many times, a blade with a spine thickness approaching ¼”, many potential buyers and window shoppers may easily mistake this knife for a sharpened pry bar with no cutting ability. That couldn’t be more incorrect. Mircrotech continuously keeps the grind of their blades quite thin at the edge, so that their blades can initiate a cut, separate material easily, sharpen faster, yet retain an extremely stout spine. We’ll get more into the use of the blade in the field test below, but this knife performs well, just as any manual or out the side Microtech I’ve used.
The spine of the blade has a perfectly placed thumb ramp, that allows the choked-up hand position to feel about as good as possible on a folder. The blade does have some jimping both on the spine and forward choil, though it’s been well chamfered down for a smooth feel. The hollow ground blade comes away from the edge nice and thin, and about half way up the broad side, thickens to a saber type grind up to the spine. The belly of the blade meets the spine at a pointed tip just about in the middle of the blade’s profile, for an overall package that can pierce, cut, and stand up to some abuse. Back near the base of the blade is one oddity; the oval hole. It gives the appearance that the blade can be opened using this hole, as you would be able to in the Borka custom, as it is a manual folder.
But the Stitch, being an automatic, that’s not the case. It’s not entirely bad, though, as it helps reduce a little weight off the knife as a whole, and still has great aesthetics. Speaking of aesthetics, Microtech does not hold back one bit when it comes to etching the blade with their brand on the lock side of the knife. Along with the “Microtech” branding, is the manufacture month and date, the serial number, the Borka Blades logo, the model name “Stitch-A”, and the blade steel. That’s a lot of text for the side of the blade, but there is a lot of real estate there, so maybe it isn’t all bad.
Lockup and Deployment
Shaking hands with Clint Eastwood, hi-fiving Shaquille O’Neal, and fist bumping Andre the Giant are all things that can be metaphors for deploying the Stitch. It’s heavy, fast, loud, and strong. If one is to push the deployment button on the Stitch in a limp wristed manner, one should be prepared to boomerang a 6.3 ounce folding spear head across the room. Seriously, hold on to this thing. I knew this ahead of time from watching copious amounts of YouTube videos, but it’s no joke. The blade will slam open like the police ramming the door to a house on a raid. The spring is actually loaded tightly enough that the deployment button requires a lot of thumb pressure to release it’s coiled up, rattlesnake-like energy. It’s not entirely unlike the auto version of the Microtech Socom Elite, but with a blade that’s much heavier that the Socom, it carries that weight during deployment all the way to the locked open position.
Once the Stitch reaches it’s final destination, the solidity in lockup can be compared to a fixed blade. I hear this comparison with a lot of folding knives, but rarely is there absolutely no blade play. The Stitch locks open against a stop pin that’s nearly as big around as a Bic pen, much larger than most any other folder out there. The button that’s used for deployment doubles as the lock for the blade, and has a pin connected to it to stop the blade from closing. It’s designed well, and is much easier to unlock that it is to deploy. There’s another small trick up the Stitch’s sleeve; when unlocking the knife, the spring pressure used to open the knife doesn’t kick in until the blade has partially closed. This gives the side-opening automatic Stitch the ability to be closed one-handed. Admittedly, there’s a bit of acclimation to get to this point of single handed operation, but it’s absolutely possible, and varies from most other side autos.
Features, Fit and Finish
The Stitch carries a level of build quality that strives to justify it’s nearly $400 price tag. The high level of quality machining and execution of design makes for one solid, comfortable knife. The aluminum handle scales are contoured, as well as tapered from top to bottom. Additionally, Microtech went the extra step and milled in the triangle pattern grips into the scales, rather than just adding rubber grip inserts like the Socom. These types of machining nuances add to the overall level of quality to bring the Stitch into the higher tier price category.
Microtech frequently uses proprietary, triangle head hardware on their knives. This can be extremely frustrating, as something as simple as removing a pocket clip to fix a bend can be literally impossible without buying an aftermarket tool. But the Stitch uses standard Torx hardware, and it’s a welcome change. There won’t be too many users who actually need to take a Stitch apart, but it’s nice to know it’s possible without spending money on additional tools to do so. The Stitch uses the bare aluminum inside the handle scales to allow the blade to ride on, forgoing washers of any kind. This has worked for them for many, many years on other models, and makes the simplicity of the tool even more appreciated for ease of maintenance and reliability.
Moving to the back of the handle, you’ll be greeted with the “rug that ties the room together”, the backspacer. Many folders in today’s era strive to have an open-back construction, with stand-offs for keeping the handle scales in place. The Stitch does use these stand-offs as well, along with the enormous stop pin, but the backspacer along the bottom two-thirds of the handle fills the hand, aiding in the grip even further. There is some chamfered jimping cut into the backspacer, continuing the locked-in-hand grip, and terminates at the base of the handle in a lanyard hole. Borka and Marfione did a great job designing this knife, and the manufacturing is impeccable.
Bringing the knife off the exam table and over to the testing grounds, I was able to put some use on the Stitch. First off, carrying a folder with such a broad profile, and over 6 ounce weight, I expected to be preoccupied with the knife in my pocket during my day. I tend to carry some weight in the pockets on a normal basis, but that’s quite a heavy folder. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Stitch seemed to carry similarly to any other large folder I’ve owned. The two-stage double retention pocket clip, found on the Socom as well, is one of my favorites. I’ll admit, I’m a pocket clip connoisseur, and Microtech does a great job with this. It keeps the knife nice and tight in the pocket, but isn’t difficult to extract or put back in the pocket. And, with the tapered, contoured scales, the knife sits in the pocket up against the seams, and somewhat deep for how large the knife is.
Once pulled from the pocket, firmly holding and deploying the blade (while smiling, because that’s the only way to fire an auto with this much brute force), just holding this knife is a joy. It locks into the hand in a way that just doesn’t compare to anything else. It’s so broad, so solid, it feels like the quality you hope to find after buying something based on pictures and videos alone. And it can cut, too.
Of course, any knife, straight out of the box, can cut normal medium like cardboard and rope. But how well it initiates cuts and continues a cut in a long piece of thick cardboard is where the difference between cheaper knives, and one of this caliber can be found. The Stitch, being reasonably thin behind the edge, touting a hollow grind, and a stonewashed blade, can zip through long cuts of cardboard on par with any other mainstream folder. But it’s just so comfortable, it makes the chore of breaking down giant boxes much more enjoyable than your ordinary knife. Piercing into the side of a box to initiate a cut works admirably, too, since the tip of the knife is pointed by means of extreme blade geometry.
Getting under a tightly cinched zip tie is something that’s difficult to do, when using a knife with a thick tip. Yes, a thicker tip will resist breakage more in a light prying test, but we all know that folding knives are very expensive pry bars. For the Stitch, having that pointed tip, allows it to get under a heavy zip tie with ease. Twist the knife and slide it to cut the thick plastic band, and move on to the next one. It’s truly incredible how good this knife feels in the hand, even when pushing hard on materials in awkward positions like this. Getting on to the work bench, and using some sisal rope, the Stitch cuts well here too. There is a bit of the over polished nature on the factory edge that can be found on some other higher end knives, which looks good, and works well when cutting paper or cardboard. But there is a small price to pay when trying to cut material that’s more fibrous like the sisal rope. The Stitch will get through the rope with minimal effort, but could be improved with a more toothy edge in sharpening.
The Stitch is obviously no bushcraft knife, but shaving down a 2×4 gives excellent feedback in terms of ergonomics in use, rather than ergonomics sitting idly in hand. When gripping a folding knife hard, many times the inside edges of the handle scales, and jimping in various places can bite back into the hand of the user. But not with the Stitch. The extra time taken to contour everything, taper all the handle parts, and finish them with high level machining, allows the Stitch to have nearly zero hot spots even in heavy use (meaning hard cutting in a normal matter, not prying apart sections of wood). The pocket clip can create just a small hot spot on occasion, but it was infrequent enough even in heavy use to really complain about. This knife sits beautifully in the hand, and works as hard as you’d expect it to.
All these knives available at BladeHQ.Microtech has long been popular, maybe even famous, for OTF (out-the-front) automatic knives. But their out the side (OTS) autos have become a staple of their lineup as well. The Socom Elite is a knife that compares closely to the Stitch in many ways, allowing it to be a worthy opponent in terms of an alternative. The Socom does come in either a manual or auto variant, so it’s got a portion of the target market covered that the Stitch doesn’t. The Socom has a 4” blade, vs the Stitch’s 3.75”, and they’re both using the same M390 steel (which, by the way, changes from batch to batch, and can vary to other stainless steels like CPM-20CV).
The Socom Elite Auto also uses a plunge button for deployment and lockup, uses the same aluminum milled scales, and has an overall appearance that shouts “Microtech” just as loudly as the Stitch. The biggest difference between these two knives, aside from overall styling and ergonomic idiosyncrasies, is the price. The Stitch retails for about ~$400, and the Socom Auto retails for ~$300. So, these knives have many similar qualities and materials, but vary in price nearly $100. That’s not at all to say that the Stitch is overpriced, but it’s worth noting when comparing these two heavy hitters in Microtech’s lineup.
Switching gears to another maker, Hinderer’s XM18 has some similar qualities to the Stitch. The XM18 comes in many different blade shapes, but they’re all the same length and size when keeping the comparison between the Stitch and the 3.5” XM18. The XM18 is more expensive than the Stitch, with a price tag of $425 for standard models. One attribute of the XM18 that pushes it over the edge in the comparison here, is the Tri Way pivot system. This allows the user to change between phosphor bronze washers, teflon washers (my personal favorite due to smoothness even when dry, and resistance to dirt and debris), or bearings.
Hinderer also makes tons of aftermarket scales and hardware, allowing the user to change things up if the looks get stale. He also makes all hardware in house, so you know the fit and finish will be near perfection on every model. The XM18 has great ergos, but is constructed quite differently than the Stitch. Titanium lock side and liner for the show side, blade stops and a frame lock for lockup, flipper tab or thumb studs for deployment, and a much smaller overall package are some of the differences between these two all star knives. The XM18 has a pocket clip that can change from tip up or tip down, has a blade stock of .17” compared to the Stitch at .19”, and weighs about half an ounce less. These look quite different in pictures, but carry some similarities in style, with the over-built nature of each, and likely looking to fill the same target market for both.
The Microtech Stitch is an incredibly well made knife. It uses high end materials, a design collaboration that’s executed extremely well, and works as a functional tool much better than it may appear to do on paper. A pocket knife with a .19” stock and a weight of over 6 ounces sounds like specs that would add up to a giant, bulky mass of metal. And it does, but somehow Microtech and Borka Blades have designed this knife with so much forethought, that it carries well, has incredible ergos, and works for daily use like a knife of much more utility design. If they could manage to make a manual model along with the auto that’s currently being produced, like they do with the Socom Elite, I think they’d really have a much larger potential audience to sell to. But, for now, the plunge lock auto will suffice, to say the least.
- Incredible ergos, brute styling, high end machining, successful colaboration
- Pricey, heavy for daily carry, no manual version, menacing looks may intimidate bystanders