The last time I heard the name Shango it was from a believer. I have never met a follower of his since then but she left her impression of him quite clearly. He was a powerful and respected deity in her religion. Shango represented fire, lightning, and thunder. Dramatic change forward. When she called on him, which was rare, she did so very carefully and with much forethought.
I asked why, as she seemed very casual in her devotions to others in her beliefs. She told me when you called for help from Shango things would move, results would happen, and things would progress for you fast. You had to respect him like fire.
When I tried out the new Shango XL form TOPS knives I could tell it shared similar qualities to its namesake. The build was strong and you would never go around a problem with this knife. I had used the first model of the knife that TOPS had produced form Joe Flowers’ design and I liked it. To me all the qualities of the original were amplified in this new version the Shango XL.
The Shango Xl’s slightly over 1/8 inch thick blade is 4 inches long compared to the originals 2 ¾ inch. With 440C steel (which Rockwell’s out to around 58-60) and a gray powder coat finish the XL is well on its way to being a great bushcraft blade. Its flat grind is sharpened at a more acute angle as needed for good wood carving and slicing actions. Its handle is two slabs of micarta secured by removable brass screws. The grip is very long at around 5 inches and with a wide pommel end. This is key in my opinion to the utility, control and comfort of the knife. Also located on the end is the trademark Shango Notch machined into the steel at the pommel. You use this as a striking surface for a ferro rod such as the Combo Ferro/Magnesium rod the knife comes with. The whole thing measures out to around 9 ¼ inches overall.
The nylon Cordura sheath included with the Shango XL has a hard liner and multiple lashing points. The removable flap has the dual purpose of completely covering the knife and securing the opening of the auxiliary pouch on the front. The flap seals with a Fastex buckle and the knife is also secured by a Velcro closure that wraps around the handle. This Velcro band is an issue. It keeps the knife from falling out of the sheath but when secured it does allow about a half inch of the blade to be exposed when secured solely by the Velcro keeper IF the rig is inverted. With the flap this is not an issue but should be mentioned for completeness. The sheath’s auxiliary pouch can fit the smaller original Shango, a multi-tool, or other gear. TOPS’ special combination 3 barrel magnesium/ferrocerium rod is included with the sheath.
For my test and evaluation I wore the knife during some camping and hiking time I had on vacation. The whole package was very light and wore well on the belt.
When out traveling with my wife we happened upon a patch of wild carrots. She wanted to harvest them. Rather than dig them out with the knife (a task I am sure it could do) I decided to use the Shango XL to procure and shape a ‘digging stick’ and save the edge. The knife bit well and in no time I had a wedge shaped tool we used to work the roots out of the ground.
The large pommel end allows for more grip when you need to get that extra power during light chopping. Removable screws give the end user the option of placing a small ferrocerium rod or a sail needle inside a secret slot without completely removing the scales. There is really a lot to like here.
After a bit of rain (this will be a factor later!) I decided to use the knife for its intended special purpose of fire making. Processing bark and old cedar was quickly done. I rubbed out the cedar bark fibers as best I could, but felt they might be rather damp. I really could not find any other natural fine fiber for catching the sparks until I hit on the idea of using a few tufts from the family dog’s hair to get the fine fiber nest. Never tried it before but figured I would give it a go. With the Shango XL staying in its sheath for safety I had to detach the cover flap to make the Notch easier to use. Many sparks, a lot of tries later, I had no fire. I even tried the frowned upon blade edge strike which threw many sparks. Note that the Shango XL did its job. The odds against dry tinder were just stacked too high out of favor. I guess Shango needs me to put in more practice with spark based starting before he smiles on me. If so this is a great blade to do it with. You can find the Shango XL for around $150 on the web or from TOPS themselves for a bit less.
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