Thursday, August 11, 2016

Zero Tolerance ZT0561: The Beauty and the Beast

The Zero Tolerance 0560/0561 is a knife that combines great materials, American craftsmanship and an outstanding esthetical design (fancy words for pretty).
And pretty it sure is. Maybe the prettiest folder ever made. In my opinion even more so than Rick Hinderers Xm-18 which inspired it. People will say they like the Elmax steel (more on that later) or that they appreciate Rick Hinderer’s design, based on his experiences in both rescue and firefighting. As someone with decades of experience with knives, using them, buying them and yes, even making them and reading books specifically about knives I can tell you this: Looks is what catches the attention of 99.9% of buyers when they first see a knife, and this is particularly true about the ZT0560. Very few folders have such eye-pleasing lines, proportions, colours and texture.
Is it all about looks though? Of course not.
The design is sound. The 3D machined titanium scale is very solid and comfortable, providing a good frame lock. By the way, if its not locking solid and disengages when lightly smacking the spine of the blade then send it back for replacement because its not supposed to do that. They need to tighten the locking bar or maybe address the contact surface of the bar. The Lock Bar Stabilizer prevents the accidental over travel of the lock bar during closing of the knife. The steel insert in the lock bar prevents both the sticking of the lock bar due to titanium-steel contact. It also means it wont wear down nearly as much after years of hard use. If it gets used that much, which is unlikely, its just a matter of replacing the insert. Steel is premium Bohler-Uddeholm ELMAX steel with extremely high wear and corrosion resistance. This super steel is stainless but acts like carbon steel allowing relatively easy sharpening in spite of its outstanding edge retention ability, which sometimes comes at the cost of much more work needed for sharpening. The blade geometry is a wide, drop point shape. Thick, but pretty classic. The bevel angle is pretty steep, which makes sense for a work knife although a more narrow bevel should be put in it to take full advantage of the high quality steel. This will come at a cost though, super steel or not, a more narrow angle means less steel behind the edge. Mess with this only if you know very well what you are doing and intent to use the knife for cutting and carving in softer materials. Otherwise, leave it as it is. There nothing wrong with it.
The blade has thumb studs but its clearly intended to be used as a flipper. My knife came with an unusually strong detent. After flipping it about a thousand times its just now starting to let go enough and feeling comfortable to deploy. So yes, a break in period makes it better. The squeaking sound is also gone now. After that, the knife opens smoothly thanks to the KVT ball-bearing opening system. I’m still using the first interphalangeal joint in my index finger rather than the pad for stronger deployment of the flipper.

The ZT0561/0560 has a four position deep pocket carry clip. Scales are machined titanium on one side and G10 on the other.
The design, while pretty, is not perfect. For example the thumb studs are all but useless for opening the knife. ZT says they aren’t intended to be used, rather worth as a blade stop when the knife is opened, the studs resting on the scales. If you still do use it, the studs easily catch the flesh of your finger pad. This also happens with the jimping on the flipper and the web of your hand between the index and thumb(why put jimping there at all?) Clearly, flipping is the intended method of use. The G10 scales have some sharp edges. These can be easily fixed with some sand paper, same thing for the (again) jimping that is a tad too aggressive in the handle. Although its easy enough to fix, you shouldn’t have to do any of this on a +USD200 knife.
Finally, maybe the thing that bothers me the most but doesn’t seem to be bothering others: The KVT ball-bearing opening system. Yes, its supposed to be super smooth but with the strong locking bar that slows it anyway I just don’t see the point vs traditional washers. You don’t really gain anything over correctly worn in phosphor bronze washers, while being less abuse resistant. Don’t get me wrong, it will work for cutting your entire life if you look after it. But washers are stronger if you even need to pry with your ZT. Can you pry with your ZT0560 if you need it? Yes you can, you can pry the hell out of it. If it wasn’t the case I wouldn’t have bought the knife and I wouldn’t be writing this. Its just that with the ball-bearing system you are more likely to deform the titanium contact surface. Washers are simply tougher and I always prefer tougher.
But I read that this knife sucked…
I always do a lot of research before buying anything, especially when I’m spending this kind of money on a knife.
As good as the ZT0560/0561 may be, its not perfect. Many users have reported problems with the steel being too soft, rolling or chipping. After researching some more it seems the problem was with the heat treatment of the earlier version around 2012 or so. In some cases, sharpening the knife fixed the problem (soft metal on the outside, but ok on the inside) in others the heat treatment itself was the problem and the knife needed to be sent back for replacing the blade. Even in the early models, this was very rare and most people were extremely happy with the performance of Elmax steel. These last few years such a problem is unheard of as far as I know.
If you want something similar, a bit smaller, a lot cheaper and without the KVT system, check out the ZT0566.

You have a knife that have the same great built quality, ELMAX steel, but a 3.25 inch blade rather than 3.75 with Speed Safe assisted opening system.
Fernando “FerFAL” Aguirre is the author of “The Modern Survival Manual: Surviving the Economic Collapse” and “Bugging Out and Relocating: When Staying is not an Option”.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If your budget cannot justify the Zero Tolerance line, check out the Kershaw 3880 Thermite, it a Hinderer design with slightly lesser materials. One helluva knife for the price.