KEEPING YOUR EDGE IN THE FIELD
There are two schools of thought when it comes to selecting a blade for the backcountry. Some choose steels that hold their edge for a very long time and that, theoretically, will require little field maintenance. Others prefer steels that are easy to maintain while still having a reasonable level of edge-holding ability. The high-end super-steels are excellent, but their downside is that they often need very specific tools to maintain, restore or repair their edges. Additionally, the time and effort needed to work on these steels are greatly increased. Steel Will has chosen 9CR18MOV for the Roamer R315. This is a high-carbon stainless steel that was developed for use in machine bearings. The steel has a reputation for being tough and for taking, and holding, a good edge while still being easy to sharpen. Steel Will claims that these properties are enhanced by their advanced heat-treat and cryo-quench processes. My testing for the Roamer R315 was meant to stress the steel as much as realistically possible in a short period of time. I have performed these same tests on other knives and know what kind of damage to expect. When I began my testing, the Roamer R315 had a factory edge I had touched up very slightly to make it hair-poppingly sharp. I examined the edge continuously throughout the test and never found any damage. Considering what I did to the knife, I was both surprised and impressed. I brought two tools with me to make whatever edge repairs might need to be done. The Eze-lap CD4 is a pocket stone that includes a fine diamond plate and a super-fine ceramic stone. It was my intention to use the CD4 to repair any nicks or dings the edge might receive and to bring the edge back to a level of “working” sharpness. The second tool was a pocket strop that was made for me by my good friend, Kevin Estela. The strop consists of a simple strip of leather that has been impregnated with different grades of polishing compound. Because the Roamer R315 suffered no edge damage and still had a working edge, the only tool I needed was the strop. Stropping is my preferred method for maintaining an undamaged edge. It removes very little material from the blade and works by realigning and refining the existing edge. The Roamer R315 responded well to the strop and was back to popping hairs off my arm within a few minutes. While the Roamer R315 might be considered a budget-friendly knife that is made with a budget-friendly steel, it stood up to a lot of abuse, held its edge well and was easy to maintain. That’s a win-win in my book!