Ever since the explosion of the Shirogorov brother’s knives, there has been an increased interest in what is being produced in Russia. This has been pushed further along by a growing amount of breakout designers, most notably Dmitry Sinkevich. Sinkevich, a long time Shirogorov collaborator, has also worked extensively with KAI USA. The outcome was a high end knife in the Limited Edition 0454, mid range knives in the 0452CF and 0450 as well as budget conscious models like the Kershaw Nura.
The KAI collaboration has resulted in wider exposure and greater accessibility to Russian designs outside of Shirogorov, who were previously the go to brand. The issue with enjoying a Shirogorov has always been the initial price point and/or inflated after market cost, partly due to available knives and a near monopoly on their distribution in North America. While somewhat inaccessible, the popularity of Shirogorov has opened up a wider market for other Russian designers and manufacturers. At the same time, the KAI collaboration put similar designs into more peoples hands.
Enter Custom Knife Factory. Custom Knife Factory is a relatively young manufacturer headed by Mikhail “Mike” Kulygin. The aim of the brand is to work with some of the “newer” talent on the Russian Knife scene. I quote ‘newer’ as some of these designer/makers have been around for quite some time. It’s just that they are only coming into our popular North American knife culture as of late. One such designer is Alexey Konygin the creative mind and craftsman behind the knife in this review. I personally have been very interested in Alexey’s designs after seeing a video of a custom Decepticon “1” on YouTube in 2012. Impressively 2011 is when the designer came onto the scene, hitting the ground running with his original offerings. Three years and a new iteration later, I’m very happy to present a review of the Konygin/CKF Decepticon 2.
The Decepticon 2 is a large folder, produced in a limited run of 300 natural-finish titanium handle versions. The over all dimensions are 9.69” with a substantial 4.33” blade and weight of 6.06 oz. It’s difficult to perceive the size of the knife based on the numbers alone, it’s best to hold one to get the idea. The designer has stated a liking for big knives and this certainly fits the bill. Despite its size, it actually feels quite light in hand due to the handle’s structure.
The blade is made from Crucible’s S35VN, a widely used powder metal “super steel”. It is considered an upgrade to S30V through the addition of Niobium and has pretty much taken its predecessors place in mid to high end folders. Overall, this stainless has great edge retention and toughness, yet is still fairly easy to maintain.
The profile is a stylish modified drop point. A high flat grind adequately reduces the .156” stock at which point it receives a secondary edge bevel. The spine has a slight concave curve for thumb placement which changes direction mid-spine, arcing downward to meet the belly at a fine tip. The upper portion of the blade is detailed with a stylized thumb hole that is accented by a deep swedge grind and line milled into the upper corner of the opening. Visually, the line here continues up to a small thumb ramp that has a row of fine jimping. The blade has a light stone wash finish and is kept clean of markings except for text indicating the steel type. To help with sharpening, there is a good sized choil allowing you to work the edge right to the heel.
While there is the thumb hole, the Decepticon 2’s main deployment method is its flipper. As with most details of the knife it is also embellished with a cutout. Functionally it works well, snapping the substantial blade into place with a push or pull, equally well. The lock up is very solid with good tension allowing it to seat and disengage easily. The end of the lock arm has a steel insert with a similar configuration to Zero Tolerance’s knives in that the part also includes the detent. To help comfortably unlock the knife and to provide easier access to the lock arm, the inside of the scales are chamfered. The mechanism travels on thrust bearings for smoothness and lateral stability. Everything is held in place by an over-sized custom pivot.
The handle is constructed of sculpted slabs that stack together integrating to define the Decepticon’s distinct aesthetic. The two inner parts of the frame include all of the key mechanical components, like the lock and a channel for the stop pin. The outer scales add more width for a full feeling grip while their cutouts create counterpoints with the inner, latticed frame. At each end, the layers shear off at contrasting angles adding another interesting aspect to the multi-faceted design. Although the shapes appear to have several hard angles, the overall profile, coupled with some nice chamfering makes for a surprisingly comfortable grip. The only exception to this for me, is the end of the clip which can feel sharp if you hit it the wrong way.
While on the topic of the clip, it works well with a good amount of tension. It blends into the rest of the design and has been nicely machined. As another feature, the partial back-spacer raises away from the frame creating a spot for a lanyard. The back-spacer is marked with the knife’s unique serial number, this one being #67 of 300. The CKF logo also appears etched on one of the exposed surfaces of the liner.
Although individual taste will vary, it is undeniable that the Decepticon designs are unique. If looking at it objectively, all of the key functional components are there. The blade is useful, handle comfortable, lock strong and materials premium. More impressively the design does this while visually setting itself apart from anything else currently out there. I think that the name might be a little confusing when approaching this design because of it’s association to the movie franchise. Michael Bay might narrow the market appeal. As a note, Konygin named the knife after designing it and has stated that it was not inspired by the movies…..
Personally I really enjoy this iteration and production of the Decepticon. It has achieved a delicate balance of generous embellishment without looking gaudy or ostentatious. I would equate this to the approach of creating shapes and lines by removing stock, instead of piling on extra details, like moku-ti or engraving. It clearly shows off a creative, innovative liner lock assembly with an intelligent utilization of modern methods and materials.
I especially appreciate how well thought out the lines and shapes are on this design. Alexey Konygin has paid great attention to the interaction of all the elements when the knife is both open and closed. From a manufacturing perspective the knife is very well made with a top end fit and finish. I’m looking forward to seeing more CKF collaborations and Konygin designs in the future. I’m sure that these collaborations will help quench the healthy thirst for more Russian designs.
If you are interested in purchasing the Custom Knife Factory Decepticon 2 at GP Knives or other CKF models, please consider our affiliate GP Knives. All proceeds from affiliate sales go directly into producing more reviews for the site.