The first time I saw a Cold Steel knife was around 1985. I was killing time after school and walked into a local knife store. There under the glass was a Cold Steel Tanto. The salesman behind the counter proceeded to show it to me and said you could stab it into a 55 gallon drum with no damage to the knife. He stated it was because of the tanto tip and the special Carbon V steel that Cold Steel used. I had no idea why I needed to stab a 55 gallon drum, but I wanted that knife in the worst way. As I walked out of that store, my initial impression of Cold Steel knives was that they were made tough.
That memory of toughness came back when I took the Cold Steel Tuff Lite out of its box. Looking at it made me think of a box-cutter on steroids. The 2.5 inch long wharncliffe blade has an actual cutting edge of 2 inches. Blade steel is AUS-8A with a razor sharp hollow ground edge. The hand-filling handle is made from Griv-Ex, Cold Steels version of a high performance polyamide. From the butt of the handle to the front of the forward choil is around 4 inches. Gripping the knife in either the hammer grip or ice-pick grip is comfortable & very secure due to the 2 choils. Saber grip feels less comfortable to me due to those same choils. Opening the Cold Steel Tuff Lite is easily done by a well placed oval opening hole. And when it locks open you will definitely know it thanks to the loud “Thwack” of Andrew Demko’s Triad Lock. Looking like a typical back-lock, the Triad Lock is very strong & secure with no movement in any direction. Unlocking it requires a bit more effort & proper placement of pressure on the lock. If you are a fan of lanyards, you’ll love the large lanyard hole of the Cold Steel Tuff Lite.
Going with my initial box-cutter idea I decided to test out the Cold Steel Tuff Lite cutting up some cardboard. Luckily (?) for me my wife recycles so the bin in the garage provided ample test material. Cardboard cereal boxes were no challenge as the blade just sliced them into strips with little effort. Grabbing some standard cardboard I proceeded to cut around 20 feet before I noticed any loss of sharpness. After about another 50 feet of cutting the Cold Steel Tuff Lite was requiring more effort and the cuts were not as clean. Not too bad when you consider you only have a 2 inch blade. Using a Spyderco medium grit stone I was easily able to restore the edge back to shaving sharpness.
At first the wharncliffe blade of the Cold Steel Tuff Lite had me stumped how I could use it in the woods. Then I recalled two Case slipjoints I have with wharncliffe main blades. Both of them were made with whittling in mind. Now I’d love to tell you how I carved something fancy, but the reality is that my wood carving skills are pretty crude. Feathersticks, simple trap components, and tent stakes are about the limit of my ability. So while camping out on the shores of Lake Allatoona for a Cub Scout service project I decided to make some new tent stakes. Looking around the woods I found a nice straight stick of sugar maple. First I divided it into four sections of about 8 inches in length. Grabbing one I proceeded to shave a point on it. The thin hollow ground edge of the Cold Steel Tuff Lite took nice curly slices out of the wood. Once I had a good point it was time to carve a notch for the tent corners to catch on. Moving up about 6 inches from the point, I cut straight down into the stick using thumb pressure. Then I cut down diagonally until I hit my downward cut. Some careful sideways torquing and I had the start of my notch. A few more shaving cuts to better define the notch and my first tent stake was done. While my youngest son worked on his first tent stake, I finished up the last two. Dinner for the Cub Scouts that night was chili so I decided to use it for some food prep. The lack of any belly to the blade kept me from trying any slicing tasks. Holding the Cold Steel Tuff Lite like an Ulu, I diced up some onions for the pot. Dinner done and moving onto desert, my boy used the Cold Steel Tuff Lite to open a bag of charcoal for the Dutch oven.
With the close of the weekend, and the Cub Scout campout over, it was time to relax. As a former bartender, I do so appreciate a well made cocktail. One of my favorites is the classic Old Fashioned. In preparing the lemon twist (although I prefer an orange) you want to expose the zest of the rind & not the deeper pith. Peeling thin slices off an orange proved no problem for the Cold Steel Tuff Lite. Special attention to the position of the wharncliffe blade tip is necessary if you are peeling towards yourself.
Over the course of several weeks carrying the Cold Steel Tuff Lite it showed itself able to meet my daily needs – both indoors & out. At whittling it worked very well, and I could see the fine tip being great for detail work if you are a better whittler than me. This was my first time using a folder with the Triad Lock and it impressed the hell out of me. It is hell of stout and I think you’d have to work at making it fail. The trade off for that strength is that it can be difficult for some people to unlock. Both my boys, and my wife, were unable to unlock the blade. My only real gripe is that the inner edges of Griv-Ex along the blade channel were sharp. This really became apparent during heavy pressure cuts on the cardboard and tent stake. A little rounding of these edges with some sandpaper remedied the problem.
Cold Steel shows a suggested MSRP of $48.99 for the Tuff Lite. A couple of quick searches online showed it available from several vendors in the low $30 range.
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