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January 17, 2011 Comments (0) Blades & Tools

Gerber Contrast Folding Knife

           Gerber Contrast Knife The world of compact folding knives is chock full of products in the sub fifty dollar range.  Manufacturers have a difficult time competing for price and maintaining a quality product.  For a number of years now Gerber has been making knives that perform very successfully in the category.  The Gerber contrast is an example of an excellent knife for a budget price.

 

 

 

           Gerber Contrast Knife The Contrast I received for review has a black coated, half serrated blade which is marked “Sample Only”, but otherwise it does not differ from the production version of the knife.  It has some fairly unique, angular styling that presents an attractive look.   The combination of stainless steel and black G10 in a liner lock handle is new for Gerber, and it successfully recreates the look of the titanium and G10 handles that were pioneered by a few well known custom knife makers.  With a blade made of AUS-8 steel, the contrast follows up the good looks of the handle with a very functional edge.  AUS steel as of late has had a bad reputation because of cheap, inconsistent heat treating done by certain manufacturers.  Gerber has not made that mistake.  The blade has a black coating that seems to be similar to a Teflon coating.  It will scratch with use, but is durable and helps to protect the blade from rust in extremely corrosive conditions.  On the blade are dual thumb studs for easy opening in a left or right-handed manner.  The edge is half straight, half serrated.  Amongst edge aficionados the debate between serrations and straight edge only has been going on for ages, and there’s no end in sight.  In the real world, a knife like the Contrast is going to be used hard and most likely not sharpened as often as necessary to keep the edge in tip top shape.  Under those very likely circumstances, the serrations allow for a slightly duller edge to still be used effectively to continue cutting.  

            Gerber Contrast KnifeWhen I opened the shipping box and got a first look at the Contrast I was a bit put off.  The knife seemed a bit too angular, serrated, coated, and overall really not my cup of tea.  I put aside my initial unease and clipped the knife to my pocket.  Over the course of the past 6 weeks I’ve used the knife quite intensely as my every day carry.  With it being the Christmas season, there has been an exceptional need to cut open shipping boxes and plastic packaging.  The factory edge was pretty sharp.  It was a bit rough, but would shave arm hair.  That’s about on par with most factory edges I have encountered, which is surprising.  How often can a thirty dollar knife with an edge that’s as good as a one hundred plus dollar knife be found?  Gerber is definitely doing something right.  The bushings between the blade and handle are made of nylon.  In the past I’ve experienced nylon bushings gall and cause roughness and very heavy opening or closing tension on the blade, but the Contrast does not have any of those problems.  The opening tension is even throughout, and the knife is easy to flick open either with a thumb or a snap of the wrist.  

Gerber Contrast KnifeIn the week that followed receiving the Contrast I cut through sandwiches, at least a dozen cardboard boxes, and made a few fuzz sticks for a fire before the edge degraded to the point where I couldn’t stand it anymore and had to sharpen it.  Even though the AUS-8 blade is pretty wear resistant, it was a quick and easy matter to bring the dulled edge back to a satisfying sharpness. Once the knife was sharpened it went right back into my pocket.  The aforementioned angular nature of the Gerber initially seemed like it may have ended up being rough on pockets and hands.  In both cases that has not been an issue.  In any way that an every day carry type of pocket knife is going to be used the Contrast is quite ergonomic.  The biggest test of the ergonomics was carving wood.  No other activity with a knife requires quite the level of concentrated effort, continuous pressure, and varied grip techniques.  Making fuzz sticks, carving marshmallow sticks, and just sitting making curls were all quite easy.  Going back to the serrations, that section of the edge did not cause any undue stress carving.  Using the knife to notch pieces of wood wasn’t affected negatively either.   

Gerber Contrast KnifeAlong with carving wood, a small knife like the Contrast is also able to serve as a backup and pocket knife while out in the field quite well.  For most circumstances such as backpacking, hunting, or hiking the Contrast isn’t the best choice for a primary knife.  It excels in the secondary, food prep, light duty, and backup roles.  When roaming around the campsite after a day’s hike or hunt it is nice to have a light and compact knife that will fit in the pocket.  The Contrast really doesn’t give up much utility to a larger knife aside from the obvious difference of blade length.  Food prep is quite easy.  I may not have had a chance to do it at a campsite, but I used the Contrast to prepare several meals.  Cubing chicken for stir fry was no problem.  Cutting up veggies was similarly easy.  However, because of the blade and edge profile I did experience minor splitting of the harder veggies such as carrots.  Since the primary task of such a knife isn’t dedicated food prep, the minor inconvenience of slightly imperfect cuts in hard veggies is really a non issue.  My wife certainly didn’t complain about the food!   

Gerber Contrast KnifeIt has been quite a while since I’ve really enjoyed a budget priced knife like I’ve enjoyed the Gerber Contrast.  Despite initial concerns about the ergonomics and cutting ability, the Contrast performed well beyond any expectations I had for it.  At thirty dollars retail it is inexpensive enough to buy in multiples, have extras in packs and vehicles, and give as gifts to friends.  It can be used hard with little concern because of the robust construction.  Between the straight and serrated portions of the edge, just about any reasonable cutting task can be accomplished.  The Gerber Contrast is an excellent knife at an excellent price which is well deserving of a good look.  

 

Gerber Contrast KnifeGerber Contrast Knife

 

 

Find The Contrast at www.gerbergear.com

 

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