The LionSteel TiSpine is a collaboration with Robert Young Pelton. Pelton is a journalist, author and owner of DPX Gear which offers several models of knives also manufactured by LionSteel in Maniago, Italy. Gianni Pauletta, the owner of LionSteel recounts that the TiSpine was conceived by Pelton while the two were driving back from the IWA exhibition in Germany.
The Ti-Spine is the second “monolithic” frame-lock produced by the company, the first being the SR-1 designed by Molletta. The term monolithic refers to the handle which is milled from a single piece of titanium. This contrasts a more typical closed back or pillar construction which is usually made from numerous parts.
This unique handle is produced using a four axis CNC machine. These travel on the standard X, Y and Z axis but have the additional ability to turn the work piece 360º. This added flexibility makes the deep, continuous texture on the handle’s surface feasible. It reduces machine setups saving production time and in some cases improves tolerances. Consequently this process is more involved requiring an expert knowledge of the machinery and the material being cut, in this case titanium. Titanium can be temperamental if the machine speed, feed and cutter paths are not properly orchestrated. This is largely due to a tendancy to deflect and low heat conduction that results in work hardening and excessive tool wear. Despite the complexity of the process, the finished part is elegant, strong and lightweight. The remaining parts responsible for the hinge and handle integrity only consist of the ball detent, two fasteners, the pivot and stop pin.
As with the base models of the original titanium SR1 the handle can be had in a Natural Titanium, Bronze or a Violet Blue anodized color. This run also adds a high polish or matte finish option.
The ergonomic design is straight forward. The 4.33″ arcing rectangular shape fills the hand nicely supplying a full four finger grip. The texture created through the milling process adds traction and leaves soft corners that have a smooth feel. A stylish cut-out in the handle echoes the thumb hole allowing it to be fully accessed. This works as a partial finger groove for right handed users as well. As an interesting detail, the pocket clip rests on the lock arm. When the knife is in the open position, the clip lays a bit lower than when closed, keeping it unobtrusive when cutting.
For carry there is a deep riding, right hand pocket clip and lanyard hole. The clip works very well and hides the handle from sight. Because it’s set flush to the pommel in a recess, it is not reversible.
The 3.35″ blade on the TiSpine is made of Böhler Uddeholm’s Elmax. Created using a powder metallurgy process, this is considered a “super steel”. Super steels typically combine high amounts of alloy materials that are difficult to stabilize using traditional processes. The result is the ability to combine, in extremes, properties that were previously contradictory. In this case exceptional corrosion and wear resistance through high amounts of chromium, molybdenum and vanadium. Hardened between 59-60 Hrc there will be great edge retention. On the other hand Elmax will require some experience to sharpen. Thankfully a proper choil and the bellied edge will help with this.
The profile is a lean, modified drop point. Cut and ground from .137″ stock. The primary bevel is a high flat grind. This takes the material down to a great thickness to receive its secondary bevel. Combined with a gentle belly, the TiSPine is a great slicer. The spine has a swedge that produces a narrow tip for effortless penetrating cuts. Where the back edge returns to full thickness, there is a slight “capping” or rounding of its edge followed by a run of fine, effective jimping for feedback and traction. The LionSteel logo along with the steel type is discreetly laser etched onto the flat.
For deployment there is a rectangular hole in the blade. Although one handed opening is possible with a bit of practice, the location makes it a little tricky to get at with your thumb so this may be largely considered a two-handed opening knife. Personally this isn’t an issue as I would consider the TiSpine to fall under the category of a gentleman’s folder, regardless of the potentially intimidating appearance. When closed the blade is held firmly by a strong detent. This allows for safe tip up carry.
On opening, the pivot is secured without play or rock by the TiSpine’s integral frame lock. Riding on teflon washers the action is very smooth. Lock up is at about 90% (lock arm) and resting at about 50% on the tang. The lock faces are well aligned but do have a very slight amount of stickiness. I found it interesting that the cutout that forms the lock arm is quite wide making the spring seem delicate. I’m curious if it would be beneficial to have an over-travel stop to protect the lock integrity. Something similar to the Spyderco, Brad Southard flipper might be nice without detracting from the clean, aerodynamic look.
In closing, the TiSpine is another unique, innovative product from LionSteel. The lines of this knife are expertly rendered in their over-all fit, finish, form and function. I personally appreciate the use of process here to effectively add the handle texture through the creative use of the cutter paths. While this could be considered exclusively a design object, the TiSpine is also a performer with sensible ergonomics, premium materials and great cutting geometry. I could easily recommend this knife to those looking for an easy to carry, sophisticated tool for everyday use. Color and texture options combined with the slick appearance will surely appeal to collectors as well.
The TiSpine ships in a plexiglass tube with friction fit end-caps.
Total Length 7.67″ (195mm)
Total Weight 3.6 oz (82g)
Length 3.35″ (85mm)
Thickness 3.35″ (3.5mm)
Böhler Uddholm Elmax, 59-60 Rockwell
Length 4.33″ (110mm)
6AL4V Titanium, “monolithic” Available in Matte or High Polish in Natural Titanium, Bronze or Violet-Blue anodized
Right hand, Tip up, deep riding pocket clip and lanyard hole
Integral Frame Lock
Made in Maniago, Italy