Zero Tolerance has been doing an excellent job filling out their line with models produced along side their growing stable of renown designers. While the 0350 is still listed as “one of the most popular ZT’s” on their site and has seen some updates, long gone are the days of the Ken Onion/Strider knives that started the brand. In fact, the 0300, ZT’s legacy flagship, is listed as discontinued at the time of this review, likely foreshadowing the future of the 0350.
Logically with Ken Onion leaving the company and migrating to CRKT some years ago, the newer collaborations have been reshaping the brand’s look and feel. Designers like Rick Hinderer, Ernest Emerson, Dmitry Sinkevich, Les George, RJ Martin and Todd Rexford have been adding a fresh diversity to the Zero Tolerance design language. The company has also been putting out some groundbreaking in-house designs like the award winning ZT 0777.
Along with aesthetic shifts, the latest models have also progressed to show a functional commitment towards a more “every day carry” centric weight and sizing. This is apparent with the release of much smaller knives than previously seen in the Zero Tolerance line up, a KAI subsidiary known to produce large and often heavy knives.
This knife, the 0808 embodies both a high profile designer collaboration in Todd Rexford and a smaller, lighter, easy to carry form factor. The overall dimensions are 7.6” with a blade length of 3.25” and a weight of 4.3 oz.
The blade has a pattern that has similarities to a wharncliffe but due to its slight yet discernible belly, I would tend to classify it as a modified clip point instead. The steel used is S35VN, a stainless which is listed as the popular S30V alloy’s successor. The difference in the two lies with the addition of Niobium. Niobium serves to refine the grain structure resulting in improved toughness while negligibly affecting the ease of maintenance. I’ve extensively used and sharpened both S30V and S35VN and they do in fact, act similar. I would agree that S35VN is much less prone to chipping than S30V which would be in line with the goals of the update. Admittedly this isn’t a scientific conclusion but rather a circumstantial, “in the field” type observation. Regardless, my experience with this steel would have me easily recommend it, minutiae aside. Back to maintainability, there’s a deep choil to allow the full edge to be sharpened.
The primary bevel is a flat grind. This travels fairly high to help reduce the .156” stock. Since the blade is narrow and the grind flat, there is a fair amount of stock behind the edge. Despite this, the 0808 is still a competent slicer, thanks to a keen secondary edge bevel. Where this pattern really excels however, is in its ability to perform penetrating cuts. The belly and clipped point meet at an acute tip that pushes into materials effortlessly. The spine of the blade has a swedge that travels across the majority of its length but does not continue onto the clipped portion, likely to preserve tip strength. The bevels have a machine-satin finish with subtly contrasting stonewashed flats. On the lock side the knife’s info appears etched on the primary bevel. The show side is kept clean.
The deployment method is a flipper tab. Unsurprisingly, ZT has perfectly dialed in the action. The detent is crisp and provides enough resistance for a reliable deployment without being excessively tough to overcome. There is jimping around the flipper tab’s edges to help with traction. While practical enough, I would like to see more aggressive texture here, due to the tab’s diminutive size. A detail that would just help to ensure a secure purchase on it. Either way, slipping off the tab when you pull at it like a switch can be avoided if you “push button” it; the 0808 opens with authority, either way. The pivot is smooth thanks to the use of thrust bearings. In KAI knives, this is called KVT or Kershaw Velocity Technology. Similar setups appear in other knives and are often credited IKBS (Ikoma Korth Bearing System) which was the configuration that originally popularized the use of bearings in production folders.
When deployed, the blade is held firmly by the titanium frame lock and external stop pin. The mechanical properties here are also well implemented. As with all of the new ZT’s, there’s a lock bar insert to better match the wear of the tang and lock arm interface. This component also has an elegantly designed over-travel stop integrated into it, as well as the ball detent. Aside from working well, this is also a clever integration. By putting all of the handle-critical parts of the mechanism on a removable piece, servicing it can be handled much easier and more cheaply. Rather than having to replace the considerably more expensive titanium frame if there is a problem with the detent or lock face, in this setup only the insert would need to be swapped out. A win win on both sides of customer service.
The 0808’s ergonomics are straight forward and effective. The back side of the handle slightly slopes and rests against your palm comfortably. This is complimented by a sweeping inner edge that helps to lock your hand in placed. Toward the blade, the inner radius is extended by the flipper which serves to form a front guard that prevents slipping forward in use. To avoid hot spots, all the edges have been chamfered.
The sculpted edges also add nice detailing and have been rendered with exacting care, amplifying the resolved appearance of the grip. Also embellishing the aesthetics, ZT’s newer word-mark has been machined into the show scale and bracketed by fine, U shaped pin striping. Everything has been finished with a stone wash that is accented by a polished pivot and back spacer. The only detail here that I’m not fond of is the use of the old ZT logo on the clip. While not a huge issue, I think that show scale logo is enough branding.
For carry the knife has a reversible tip up pocket clip. Since there is a good, strong detent and the blade’s tip is away from the outer edge in the closed position, it is a safe knife to carry in this orientation. Size wise the clip is a bit large but it works well. There’s also a lanyard hole.
Overall the Zero Tolerance 0808 is a well built folder. From a mechanical perspective the knife works flawlessly and is executed with a manufacturing finesse that ZT has been constantly improving upon. Functionally the knife is quite good, perhaps shining slightly more in the ergonomic department than the versatility of the blade profile. That being said, the blade will perform everyday tasks easily and do so with a stylish appearance unique to this model. The fit and finish is excellent at this price point, as are the premium materials. As a complete piece, the company has done a great job rendering Rexford’s tastefully understated design. With the 0808, Zero Tolerance hits all the right buttons, putting forward a distinct, desirable and competitive folder.
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