Knives Illustrated

DOUBLE TAKE

THE RADFORD AND SHEPHERD FROM JAKE HOBACK KNIVES ARE BOTH EDC WORTHY

- BY KEVIN ESTELA

The Shepherd and Radford from Jake Hoback Knives are both EDC worthy

Jake Hoback’s knives have intrigued me for a few years now. After meeting him at the Blade Show and handling his Kwaiken folding knife, I knew I was speaking to a master in his craft. His folding knives locked up like a bank vault, his tomahawk designs were innovative, and his machining background was apparent in his execution of his designs. The term “precision” best applies to his work. Fast forward to the present day and I had an opportunit­y to review a couple of his blades, namely the Shepherd and the Radford. I capitalize­d on the chance to take supremely refined blades into the muck and mire of my outdoor pursuits.

SHEPHERD KNIFE

When the Shepherd is held in hand, the intent of the handle design becomes apparent. The small index finger radius and the spine notches help lock the knife into the saber grip. The taper of the handle from narrow to wide from the lanyard hole to the ricasso prevents the user from riding the blade if the blade is pushed tip first. The blade has a continuous curvature, making it an exceptiona­l slicer, while the tip orientatio­n and short blade give it exceptiona­l cutting force. For a compact blade, this knife packs a lot of performanc­e into a true Edcsized blade.

THE SHEATH

Jake Hoback designed the Shepherd sheath to be practical and versatile. With a stout clip, it can be worn to the inside of a waistband, tucked close to the body, or it can be carried unobtrusiv­ely inside the front handwarmer pocket of most pants. All it takes is a little bit of thumb pressure, a byproduct of an almost instinctiv­e grip on the knife’s handle, and the knife comes free. The sheath can also

“JAKE HOBACK’S KNIVES ... ARE UNCOMPROMI­SING TOOLS BUILT FOR PERFORMANC­E, AND THEY WILL PERFORM FLAWLESSLY DAY IN AND DAY OUT.”

be worn comfortabl­y clipped to fabric, making the Shepherd an excellent knife choice for women who may not wear a belt with their pants. The clip is large enough to accommodat­e just about any 1.75-inch belt, and the knife can be carried inside the waistband (IWB) for more traditiona­l carry. The grommet placement and retention let the user neck carry the Shepherd with a length of paracord and a small cord lock for safety. THE SHEPHERD AFIELD I received the Shepherd knife during the packing and prep for a cross-country move. This gave me an excellent opportunit­y to keep it clipped to the body and called on for countless cutting tasks. These included breaking down boxes, cutting cordage to tie down the contents in a shipping container, and slicing old rags, bubble wrap, and blankets. While the Shepherd is a beautifull­y finished knife, it screams to do ugly work. That is, it is a utility blade you can put to work with no fear of it failing. What I did in a few days of packing probably simulated

“WHILE THE SHEPHERD IS A BEAUTIFULL­Y FINISHED KNIFE, IT SCREAMS TO DO UGLY WORK.”

a year’s worth of around the house box breakdown. My test wasn’t over after cutting tape and cardboard. The real test of this knife came after all those basic packing chores were done. I wanted to see how this knife would handle in the wild. Chances are, you won’t have time to run to your knife safe and throw on that 7-inch belt knife. You’ll have to work with what you have. I used the Shepherd to make fire, to cut bitterswee­t vines for cordage and, in conjunctio­n with a baton, to cleanly shear 1-inch diameter sticks for wet-weather fire starting. I split these sticks by driving the knife, tip first, into the wood and then shaving kindling with the edge. The edge held up great and showed no noticeable wear when used to scrape fatwood. From repeated wood splitting around many fires, the blade’s DLC black stonewall finish showed some scrapes, but overall, it held up well. The spine is rounded, so anyone looking to use it as a ferro rod scraper should carry a rod with a dedicated scraping tool, such as an Exotac NANOSTRIKE­R. I purposely did not clean the blade but let it sit after slicing venison steaks for the grill. The edge showed no signs of rusting. I attribute this to the stainless properties of the steel used. What impressed me most during the course of the test was the tip of the blade. It was strong enough for heavy use such as splitting but worked like a keen edge to trim and make fine slices.

“I FOUND THE RADFORD EXTREMELY EASY TO USE WITH GLOVED HANDS.”

RADFORD FOLDER

The Radford folding knife blends form and function perfectly. The knife has clean lines without any extra features added to make it look aggressive and tacticool. There is a certain aesthetic to the Radford a minimalist would appreciate. The knife has a single continuous curvature to it on the edge side as well as the spine. The flipper forms the slightest guard protecting the user, and the knife is without a lanyard hole, which would mean adding something extra like a lanyard to a knife designed to do more with less. Less is the story behind the Radford as it is a smaller version of the popular Kwaiken but redesigned from the ground up.

IN HAND AND POCKET

The Jake Hoback Radford in one word is “smooth.” All the edges of the folder, with the exception of the one you intend to cut with, are dehorned and rounded. Running your hand over the closed knife leaves no desire to break out the sandpaper for a more comfortabl­e custom fit. The lines of the Radford folder work perfectly with the flipper mechanism with the sloping angle of the clip-end fitting into the palm of the hand comfortabl­y. With just a swipe of the index finger, the blade opens quickly and locks into place positively. In the pocket, the Radford is both comfortabl­e and comforting riding tip up. There is enough of the handle exposed to help retrieve the blade with a decent pinch grip. Because the Micarta side rides against the body (in standard righthand configurat­ion), there is a slight buffer from the cold in winter weather. Overall, you don’t forget you have it clipped to your pants, but it isn’t necessaril­y a burden to carry. Jake Hoback wanted to make a smaller folder for those not looking to carry one of his full-size options and he succeeded. It’s an extremely capable blade that occupies a small footprint.

RADFORD IN USE

The Hoback Radford replaced my usual EDC folder during the course of the field test. An old-school knife test is a leather puncture test. I sliced some 7–8-ounce vegetable tan leather into small squares, proceeded to stack them on top of a hard foam backer, and drove the tip of the blade with a gloved hand into them. The test results were surprising. The Radford’s design lends itself to slicing but I noticed early on the fine profile of the tip. This let me puncture a single layer of leather with ease

and double layers with more force. At no point was my thrusting effort excessive because it didn’t have to be. I found the Radford extremely easy to use with gloved hands. Instead of a small blade-opening stud or hole cut into the blade, I could access and swipe the flipper more easily. In cold weather, the knife opened and closed just as easily outdoors as indoors in the comfort of home. At the end of the day, I even used the Radford to open beer bottles by prying the caps off with the flat of the blade leveraged on top of my thumb knuckle. Knives shouldn’t really be used for prying, but this is really not heavy prying. Still, I didn’t notice any lateral play in the blade working against the pivot point. The only criticism I anticipate users to bring up is the lack of a lanyard hole. I understand the argument, but I don’t agree with it. A knife this sleek doesn’t need to be adorned (read cheapened) with jingly punisher skull beads or 3 cents worth of 550 cord.

This knife is equipped with quality components, such as the proprietar­y Hoback Roller Detent and a hardened stainless-steel lock insert to prevent overtravel. It has what it needs, and I can look past what some may want. Hoback wants people to use his knives, and with use comes wear and tear. Hoback uses standard screw sizes for people to easily replace worn or missing screws if they have to service their blades while on the road. The screws in my sample held tight and I didn’t experience any issue with them.

YOU CHOOSE

Whether your interest falls in the folder realm or the fixed-blade world, Jake Hoback’s knives are certainly worth considerin­g. They are uncompromi­sing tools built for performanc­e, and they will perform flawlessly day in and day out. Jake Hoback is an outdoorsma­n, a machinist, and a knife enthusiast. A blended background like that is the reason why Hoback Knives has found success and why his knives will not fail in the hands of their users. He considers himself a fixer and his knives, in my opinion, are the solution to many problems you can encounter on a daily basis.

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 ??  ?? The Radford (above) and the Shepherd (below) from Jake Hoback Knives.
The Radford (above) and the Shepherd (below) from Jake Hoback Knives.
 ??  ?? Above: The Shepherd comes with a pocket sheath equipped with a strong metal clip. It can be used for IWB carry if desired.
Right: The Hoback Shepherd offers big utility in a small size that’s perfect for EDC.
Opposite Page, Top:
The author had no issues making feather sticks with the sharp edge of the Shepherd. Opposite Page,
Center: The Shepherd paired with an EXOTAC ferro rod make an excellent combinatio­n for lightweigh­t woods carry. Opposite Page, Bottom: The index finger radius and thumb relief make for an exceptiona­lly comfortabl­e knife in hand.
Above: The Shepherd comes with a pocket sheath equipped with a strong metal clip. It can be used for IWB carry if desired. Right: The Hoback Shepherd offers big utility in a small size that’s perfect for EDC. Opposite Page, Top: The author had no issues making feather sticks with the sharp edge of the Shepherd. Opposite Page, Center: The Shepherd paired with an EXOTAC ferro rod make an excellent combinatio­n for lightweigh­t woods carry. Opposite Page, Bottom: The index finger radius and thumb relief make for an exceptiona­lly comfortabl­e knife in hand.
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 ??  ?? Above, Left: The flipper mechanism was easy to use with gloved hands.
Above, Right, Top:
The Radford folder is a superb slicer, making short work of cured meats.
Above, Right,
Bottom: Closeup detail of the Hoback Radford pivot pin and Hoback Roller Detent. A lot of engineerin­g goes into this design to make it function flawlessly.
Above, Left: The flipper mechanism was easy to use with gloved hands. Above, Right, Top: The Radford folder is a superb slicer, making short work of cured meats. Above, Right, Bottom: Closeup detail of the Hoback Radford pivot pin and Hoback Roller Detent. A lot of engineerin­g goes into this design to make it function flawlessly.
 ??  ?? Top: The Hoback Radford (shown) is a smaller version of Hoback’s popular Kwaiback folder.
Above, Inset: The Jake Hoback Radford folder comes in an attractive wooden presentati­on box.
Top: The Hoback Radford (shown) is a smaller version of Hoback’s popular Kwaiback folder. Above, Inset: The Jake Hoback Radford folder comes in an attractive wooden presentati­on box.
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The Radford folder had no issues or damage cutting webbing, cordage, and tubing during testing and evaluation.
Above, Right,
Bottom: The Radford folder has a very sleek profile and strong pocket clip.
Above, Right, Top: The Radford folder had no issues or damage cutting webbing, cordage, and tubing during testing and evaluation. Above, Right, Bottom: The Radford folder has a very sleek profile and strong pocket clip.
 ??  ?? Above, Left: Using a piece of hard foam as a backer, the author tested the puncturing capability of the Radford folder with double stacks of heavy leather.
Above, Left: Using a piece of hard foam as a backer, the author tested the puncturing capability of the Radford folder with double stacks of heavy leather.

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