Steel Will Knives is not yet a household name, that’s because they’ve only been around for about a year now. But in the 12 months or so since their inception under their parent corporation, SMG Inc., they’ve certainly made a splash within the knife world.
How did Steel Will differentiate themselves in a super crowded marketplace? By making kick-ass blades that deliver on all fronts: quality, ergonomics, utility, aesthetics, and price.
I managed to get my paws on a Gekko 1505 for this review. The best way I can describe the knife would be to call it a Hummer in the trappings of a Ferrari, a ruggedly built, heavy-duty behemoth with the contours, cosmetics and class of an Italian-made sports car. It’s both a beauty and a beast!
The first thing you’ll notice when you pick up a Gekko 1505 is the size of the knife. It’s big. At almost 9 inches long when deployed, it’s a big freaking folder! No, this isn’t an accident. It was purpose-built to be a big folding knife that can, as the website says, “go head-to-head with fixed blade outdoor knives.”
That’s quite a statement, and later you can read how I took it to task to test that claim, but the Gekko is categorized under Steel Will’s “Outdoor Series,” and it’s easy to see why. The size, as I said, 9 inches fully deployed, 4-inch blade, the weight, almost 7 ounces, and the solid design make it an ideal blade to take into the great outdoors.
Still Will really thought this design through. The ergonomics are great. The handle is a beautiful maroon-linen micarta that is nicely sculpted to remove any hard angles. The drop point blade is made from easy-to-sharpen D2 steel, and coated with PVD — a process by which materials are vaporized under vacuum coating conditions to produce a wear resistant, friction resistant coating. It has an ambidextrous pocket clip, making it suitable for lefties and righties, a pointed-lanyard hole that also functions as a glass breaker or pressure point tool, satin liners that are nicely rounded, terraced thumb studs, jimping on the spine for improved grip — basically, a bevy of features that underscore the attention to detail that went into making this knife.
While all that is impressive, what really stood out to me was the action — it’s buttery smooth. It’s not something you’d expect on a knife this big. But it pops open with ease and locks firmly into place with the hefty lockback. When it’s deployed, there is absolutely no play or movement on the blade. It is securely in place. It is ready to rock and roll.
- Steel: D2
- Full Length: 8.98 inches
- Blade Length: 3.94 inches
- Blade Thickness: 0.14”
- Folded Length: 5.04 inches
- Blade Finish: PVD
- Blade-HRC: 59-60
- Handle: Micarta
- Weight: 6.8oz
- Lock Type: Lockback
- MSRP: $239.99
The minute I read that this knife was designed to go head-to-head with full-tang fixed blades I accepted this as an open invitation to go medieval on this blade. I wasn’t going to test it to failure — because I think that’s just stupid — but I was certainly going to put it through its paces to determine if the Gekko is really an outdoor knife that can handle the tall tasks one expects from a fixed blade while camping, hiking, hunting, surviving. Note: this testing is purely anecdotal. I didn’t have the setup or measuring tools to do a systematic scientific evaluation of the knife.
Chopping with a folder is a big no, no for obvious reasons. Putting that much stress on the locking mechanism and the pivot point of the knife is only inviting trouble. You’re basically begging for a breakdown in the integrity of the knife.
But I did it anyways. After slicing off the bark on some relatively thick branches (about an inch and half in diameter) I began to chop them up with the knife. Again, it’s not designed to chop. When deployed, the balance of the knife favors the handle making it difficult to get the leverage one would desire for optimal chopping. In terms of performance, though, the Gekko chopped about as well as a folding knife can. It ate up the branches and my hand and arm got tired before the knife showed any sign of fatigue.
Final Ruling: Pass
Like chopping, batoning with a folder is non-optimal. It can seriously damage, probably even ruin, the knife. Yet again, I took the Gekko to task. I batoned it into the joints of some pallets and some branches. I worry when I baton with a fixed blade, so doing this with a premium folder made me sweat.
But the Gekko didn’t just hold up, it excelled. There were zero issues with the knife after striking into the branches, and the pallet. Note, I did this in both a wet part of the wood and a dry part of the pallet you see in the picture. No issues. No wiggle in the blade. No breakdown in the knife. At this point, I was becoming really impressed. Also, the PVD coating held up quite well. You can see how the black color faded a bit around the edge but overall it was still intact.
Final Ruling: Pass.
Well, I wasn’t really whittling so much as spear making. Using the edge of the blade to slice deeply into the tips of the branches I chopped up to form a nice sharp point. After the hard use of the first two phases, the edge had dulled a little. Whittling was, therefore, more strenuous of an activity that it would have been if I would have done this first.
Yet again, the Gekko held up well. I wasn’t going to leave the field to sharpen the knife so I continued to test it.
Final Ruling: Pass.
At the last phase of the testing, I slammed the point of the knife into the pallet and then twisted it around. I did this multiple times. It was the tip prying test. I wanted to see how the tip of the knife would hold up while being corkscrewed into the pressed hardwood of the pallet. This is another rigorous test that puts a lot of undue pressure on a knife. After doing this seven times, I was satisfied. The Gekko survived and was none the worse for it.
Final Ruling: Pass.
Can the Gekko really go head-to-head with a fixed blade?
No. I’m still not convinced that any folder can go head-to-head with a fixed blade for the simple reason that one piece of steel is stronger than two pieces of steel secured by a lock back or liner lock or frame lock. But of all the folders on the market if I had to pick one to come close it would definitely be the Gekko. It is one heck of a tough knife. And I loved stretching the limits of what this knife was made to do.
On a side note, if you’re in the market for a fixed blade, Steel Will makes fixed blade Gekkos! So, if you wanted a Gekko for extra hard use you can easily pick up a fixed blade version.
1. What’s in a name?
I have to be honest, when I hear the name “Gekko,” I think of happy little lizard (Geico’s gecko) attempting to sell me car insurance, I don’t think of a fine-looking, contoured, Italian-made folding knife. I’m sorry. It just doesn’t fit in my opinion. It’s like if instead of Kate Upton being named Kate Upton, she called herself Mildred Zwaladski. So, the Gekko should have a better name. Is it really a drawback? Maybe for the sales and marketing guys at Steel Will, but not for the user.
2. Bigger is Better?
The size of the Gekko will immediately turn some people off. Traditionally speaking, it’s large for an EDC knife. But I got used to it. It didn’t really bother me. Then again, I don’t wear skinny jeans. My jeans have ample pocket room to accompany a knife the size of a Gekko. Plus, I have large hands and have no problem with deploying the knife or using it for extended periods of time.
Yet, I know that a lot of you out there will dismiss it as an EDC knife because of its size. Thankfully, Steel Will has anticipated this criticism and will be releasing a smaller version of the Gekko, one that’s more size appropriate for EDC. I’d love to get my hands on this EDC version.
Steel Will’s warranty is about average in terms of the industry standard. Basically, they’ll cover you if you don’t abuse your knife. Of course, for some of you out there that’s not going to be acceptable as you like to beat up on your blades.
Here is part of what they say with respect to the warranty:
Steel Will knives are intended for use as cutting tools. Using them for their intended purpose will rarely result in failure due to defects. Most damage occurs when Steel Will knives are used for unsuitable tasks like prying, pounding, chiseling, and hammering. The warranty will become void (as determined by SMG, Inc.) if:
- Our knives are used for any purpose other than cutting (improper use).
- The knife is modified in any way.
- There is damage caused by abuse, misuse, loss, improper handling, alterations, accident, neglect, disassembly, or improper sharpening.
- Repairs to your knife are performed by any source other than SMG, Inc.
Like most tools, our knives need to be cared for properly. If your Steel Will knife has been put to demanding use for a long time, it is possible that the knife may need sharpening or maintenance to retain its usefulness. Any and all maintenance is the responsibility of the knife owner and is not covered by this warranty.
What can I say other than I’m thoroughly impressed by the Gekko. It’s a bit large, and a bit heavy but it is a tough-ass knife with real style and class. I wouldn’t hesitate to carry this knife every day or to bring it camping or hiking or hunting or on any other outdoor expedition. It’s the best hard-use folder I’ve tested.
If you’re in the market for a higher-end, premium folder then definitely check out the Steel Will Gekko 1505. For around $200, you can get a large, all-purpose knife that will last you a lifetime (Knifecenter is selling them for $203.99).