EF­FEC­TIVE SIM­PLIC­ITY

THE SPEC AL­PHA PLUS FROM OKC IS A NO-FRILLS WORK­HORSE

Knives Illustrated - - News - STORY BY JIM HOUSE AND PHO­TOS BY KATHY HOUSE

The Spec Al­pha Plus by On­tario Knife Com­pany is a mid-size, no-frills knife that puts the work in work­horse. BY JIM HOUSE

Frills. They do not of­ten en­hance the per­for­mance of tools, so I am a big be­liever in sim­ple tools. More im­por­tant than artis­tic or fancy are char­ac­ter­is­tics such as sturdy, durable, and in­ex­pen­sive.

When it comes to knives, I have a few fancy art ob­jects, but most knives that I use would hardly be de­scribed as el­e­gant. Among my newer edged tools is one that be­longs in the lat­ter cat­e­gory, the Spec Al­pha Plus from On­tario Knife Com­pany.

Tale of the Tape

Hav­ing a fine edge blade that mea­sures 5.0 inches long and 0.190-inch thick, the Spec Al­pha Plus is a knife in the mid-size range. It mea­sures slightly over 10 inches over­all and fea­tures a clip point blade that is beveled at the top of the curved clip sec­tion.

The blade has a hard­ness of 57-59 HRC and has a sur­face that has a durable black coat­ing. Made of car­bon steel, the blade has a flat grind for ap­prox­i­mately one-half of its width and fin­ishes at full thick­ness above the grind sur­face. It is a very sturdy blade that ex­tends the full length of the han­dle. Although it is not a par­tic­u­larly large knife, the Spec Al­pha Plus has a sub­stan­tial feel.

The Spec Al­pha Plus weighs 6.6 ounces alone and the sheath adds only a cou­ple of ad­di­tional ounces. How­ever, the bal­ance point of the knife is at the for­ward end of the han­dle, mak­ing it seem nim­ble in the hand. I don’t mind a knife that has sub­stan­tial weight as long as it is nei­ther blade- or buttheavy. A knife that has the cor­rect bal­ance is much eas­ier to use, es­pe­cially for an ex­tended pe­riod of time.

At the butt of the han­dle, a hole is placed for con­ve­nient at­tach­ment of a lan­yard. If the sit­u­a­tion war­rants it, the knife could also be used to make an ef­fec­tive spear. I al­ways pre­fer this fea­ture on a knife that may be called upon for rough use in un­cer­tain sur­round­ings.

Although the Spec Al­pha Plus does not have a sep­a­rate hand guard, the grip has a deep re­cess at the front end that is ef­fec­tive for that pur­pose. The knife fea­tures a han­dle that is gen­tly rounded in the mid­sec­tion giv­ing it a thick­ness of 0.68 inch and mak­ing it fit the palm very well. The peb­bled sur­face is cov­ered with a molded rub­ber coat­ing, which cre­ates a han­dle that is well-shaped and pro­vides a

“…THE BAL­ANCE POINT OF THE KNIFE IS AT THE FOR­WARD END OF THE HAN­DLE, MAK­ING IT SEEM NIM­BLE IN THE HAND.”

lot of trac­tion in the hand. The re­sult is that the knife is both com­fort­able and easy to use.

Words such as el­e­gant or stylish will not likely be used to de­scribe the Spec Al­pha Plus knife. More­over, they will most cer­tainly not be used to de­scribe the black ny­lon sheath that comes with it. The sheath has a shape that is rec­tan­gu­lar with squared ends. A wide sin­gle loop fits any belt, and in most cases has a lot of room to spare. There are two re­tain­ers that snap around the knife, one at the ri­c­asso and the other about two-thirds of the way up the han­dle. The knife is held se­curely with this ar­range­ment, but one might wish for some­thing more at­trac­tive. How­ever, with the black knife that is de­void of adorn­ment, the sheath could hardly be ex­pected to be made of hand-tooled leather.

A Solid Per­former

Out of the box, the Spec Al­pha was not as sharp as many knives. How­ever, a few strokes on the stone and it was a dif­fer­ent mat­ter. The blade smoothed up nicely and it passed the usual sharp­ness tests of cut­ting strips from a sheet of pa­per. It was cer­tainly as sharp as a knife of this size needs to be to per­form the usual tasks.

Af­ter some light cut­ting and test­ing, it was time to sub­mit the Spec Al­pha Plus to a more rig­or­ous test. A knife of this size would likely be called on to per­form rather rough work in a sur­vival sit­u­a­tion, so it was used to split some seg­ments cut from pine stems mea­sur­ing 2-3 inches in di­am­e­ter. One such piece was used as a ba­ton, and oth­ers were split with­out dif­fi­culty. As long as one does not use a ba­ton on the

“A DURABLE KNIFE OF MODER­ATE SIZE MAY REP­RE­SENT A COM­PRO­MISE BE­TWEEN RUGGED USE AND DE­TAILED WORK.”

thin­ner clip point sec­tion of the blade, the Spec Al­pha Plus is up to the job of split­ting wood for the camp­fire. This is a durable knife.

The Spec Al­pha Plus is la­beled as a sur­vival knife by the man­u­fac­turer, and it could serve well in such use. How­ever, the over­all con­fig­u­ra­tion, size, and weight of the knife would also al­low it to be a good knife for the trail hiker or camper.

Be­ing an afi­cionado of older out­door lit­er­a­ture, it is in­ter­est­ing to read what au­thors wrote long be­fore there were such an enor­mous num­ber of knives avail­able. Chap­ter 7 in the lit­tle book “Camp and Trail Meth­ods” by E. Kreps (A. H. Hard­ing, Columbus, OH, 1950) be­gins, “One of the most use­ful ar­ti­cles in the hunter’s, trap­per’s, camper’s or prospec­tor’s out­fit is the sheath knife …” The au­thor goes on to de­scribe his pre­ferred knife and it was a model hav­ing a 4.5-inch blade and no hand guard, but with a deeply check­ered grip. In sev­eral re­spects, the knife de­scribed by Kreps is not greatly dif­fer­ent from the Spec Al­pha Plus ex­cept for the Spec’s more mod­ern con­struc­tion. Knives of the type de­scribed by Kreps many years ago are just as func­tional to­day. The Spec Al­pha Plus is a mod­ern, gen­eral pur­pose knife.

“ALTHOUGH IT IS NOT A PAR­TIC­U­LARLY LARGE KNIFE, THE SPEC AL­PHA PLUS HAS A SUB­STAN­TIAL FEEL.”

One Size Fits All

A durable knife of moder­ate size may rep­re­sent a com­pro­mise be­tween rugged use and de­tailed work. The Spec Al­pha Plus is a good can­di­date for that one-size-fits-all type of knife. This in­ter­est­ing and ca­pa­ble knife has an MSRP of $42.75, which is very rea­son­able for a knife of this type made in the USA. KI

Out of the box, the edge of the Spec Al­pha Plus needed a lit­tle touch-up work, but a keen edge was eas­ily ob­tained.

This knife ex­cels in the sub­jec­tive area re­ferred to as “feel.”

Top Left: The 5-inch blade fea­tures a clip point de­sign and flat grind for ap­prox­i­mately one-half of the blade width. Top Mid­dle: The dual re­tain­ers hold the Spec Al­pha Plus se­curely in the sheath.

Bot­tom: With its light weight, the Spec Al­pha Plus does not feel heavy when car­ried.

Top: With a weight of only 6.6 ounces, the Spec Al­pha Plus is con­ve­nient to carry and use.

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