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Kizer Gemini, Review/Overview

Discussion in 'Gear Reviews' started by aliaspostmortem, Jan 9, 2016.

  1. aliaspostmortem

    aliaspostmortem Loaded Pockets

    Apr 12, 2015
    Likes Received:
    No better way to kick of a new year than with another knife review. Since i mostly received very positive comments regarding earlier presentations I feel somewhat encouraged to do it again! :)

    But I don't mind critique and feedback as well. There is always room for improvement. So therefore I want to clarify a few things to avoid misunderstandings. For one this knife is bought with my own hard earned money from an online store in Sweden. I'm not sponsored or payed in any way, shape or form, unfortenately.
    And the knife in question is fairly new on the market and this specimen has been in my tender possession since september 2015. So it is properly tested as a pocketknife. However, it is not "hard used" as in used as an axe in the icy wilderness of norhern Sweden or so. I will speak more about that and my approach to "reviews" in general later. That will be subject for a sepate text. Also, the actual photos are taken PRIOR to testing.
    Anyway, here we go!

    Kizer Ki3471 "Gemini"

    Now a days it's quite a common practice for companies in the knifeindustry to cooperate with external custom knifemakers and designers. Spyderco jumped on the bandwagon early but all the major dragons like Benchmade and Kershaw do the same. CRKT as an example have made a name for themselves by in principle base their entire productline on that procedure. Also Boker is famous for their many collaborations.

    Unfortenately the outcome often feels like compromises whether it depends on too simple materials or lack in production skills and qualitycontrol. That is often the case with knives from CRKT according to me. You can rarely feel that enough of the designlanguage and ideas still being present in the production knife to recognize the originals.

    But something is about to change and this knife, the Gemini from Kizer, is one of the knives pointing the way.

    Kizer Ki3471 Gemini

    Kizers "Gemini" is a brilliant example of when almost everything is done right. Actually some say that this knife is very close to it's original, the "Jasmin" by Ray Laconico in many ways. I have not handled that knife so it's not for me to tell but I can say that the result of the collaboration is a knife with the same restrained designlanguage, top notch materials and good function.


    My Twitterversion of this presentation: Gemini - one of the most exclusive knifes in it's priceclass


    One pet subject of mine is that a blade should be kept supersimple if there isn't anything in particular you want to express with them. That rule is applied here. In this case we have a capable droppoint that measures a tad under three and a quarter of an inch. Because of how the grind is made the edge and bladelength are nearly the same. The blade is characterized by a simplicity that is both practical and aesthetical. No ornation or complicated grinds. It gives a sparse appearence that I appreciate and that matches the performance.

    A very fastidious bladedesign makes for excellent base for a pocketknife. Over three inch of FFG droppoint

    The steel choice is a stellar one and the blade is made out of Crucibles powdersteel S35VN. It's not as exotic as it used to be and most knife afficionados agree that it is an excellent allround steel. But it remains to be seen how Kizer manage to use it's properties through proper hardening, choosing correct edgegeomery, grinding et cetera. I have another knife from Kizer, "Sunburst" with the same steel that I touched up the edge on a couple of times and it's not difficult to get back to real high sharpness. The stated hardness on both knives is 59-60 HRC.

    In addition to steel choice and hardening, geometry is of course crucial for how a knife actually performs. Gemini is full flat ground from a thickness of 0.12". Excellent proportions for a theoretical high performance cutter. But I think Kizer have been to covardly in order to sustain higher durability. The knife has a bit to much steel behind the edge for my taste. It is ok but certainly not excellent in that regard. Which reminds me that I should get an micrometer so that I can find out the exact measurements.

    The factoryedge was however well executed. The knife cut paper with ease and it shaved hair with only a slight pressure out of box. The grind is even from tip to heel and and it is rather symmetrical in width.

    Steeltype: CPM S35VN

    The blade have been given a very fine and well made stonewash. The finish is good at hiding scratches at the same times as it gives a certain luster to the blade. Another detail that feels consistent given the knives discrete image is the markings on the blade. Steeltype and the name in small font and Kizers new, tasteful logotype are written on the blade. That's all. I was not a fan of their old logo, too big and too cheap looking. Ray Laconicos name is stylishly etched on the spine of the blade.

    When it comes to "daily chores" the knife excels. Opening packaging, breaking down boxes, cutting tape, soft- and hard plastic and different kinds of rope works just fine. The flat ground blade makes for instance cardboard cutting a breaze. And it cuts decently in cloth as well. A big deal to me personally since I'm a keen Mountainbiker and cleaning bikes requires a big amount of rags, trust me.

    I also tried the Gemini on wood, both fresh and dried. Or more like frozen and dried in this case due to the winterconditions. The blade and the grind works ok. It's not a whittler. The blade has a proper bite to it but the handle isn't up to pair. Not a surprise though since this is a smaller knife.

    I personally almost never uses folding knives in food processing except for camping and hiking trips, for that I have a wide array of kitchen knives. But I test them there. And as expected this knife functions somewhat well as a small pairing knife. The geometry makes for a fairly good slicer. I say "fairly" because compared to proper kitchen knives few folding knives can compete. They are generally to thick as an example.

    So far I found edgeretention pretty good. I haven't resharpened the knife yet but as per usual I use my sharpening rods and a strop to keep the ege in good shape. However when I do sharpen the blade more thoroughly I will reprofile it a bit. I want a thinner edgegeometry,


    Gemini have one of the nicest titaniumhandles I have handled on a smaller knife. What gives that feeling is a combination of good looks and proper ergonomics. At first glance it looks deceptively simple with it's clean lines but at the same time it's shape is rather complex with 3-d sculpted arched titanium scales.

    The handle feels natural in hand and all grip works for me. You can tell that Mr Laconico knows what he's doing when he designs knifehandles. But saying that I would like to stress that I don't think Gemini is suitable for hard work over extended periods of time. It's more of an EDC/pocketknife and the handle is simply too thin to really fill the hand. I have actually whittled some with the knife just to test it but that is not to comfortable after a while.

    A handle as simple and comfortable as it looks

    But the handleshape is one of the areas where the productionknife surpasses the original. This handle is actually more elaborated than the one on "Jasmine" which have straight sides. At least the earlier versions. This very soft shape and rounded corners makes for a knife that really feels good in hand.

    The only splashes of color consists of bluanodized hardware and clip

    The color matches the rest of the schematic. Sober titaniumgrey mixed with a couple of blue notes in the connectionbolts and pivotscrew. The clip is also anodized blue. One thing that is greatly appreciated is that all the hardware have proper Torxheads. That nonsense with proprietary screws is nothing for me.

    The handle has an open construction with a small titanium backspacer

    The construction of the handle is semi-open with two connecting screws in addition to the pivotscrew. At the end of the knife there is a small backspacer that adds a bit of rigidity to the knife.

    The bead blasted surface on the handle is smooth to the touch with a certain chalklike feel. It gives some traction but is relatively sensitive to scratches. When it comes to durability I much prefer stonewashed finishes like on the ZT0450 for instance. But this finish looks just beautiful.

    Noteworthy is the very high finish on the entire handle. There is not a single detail that have been overlooked and I think it rivals other high quality production pieces like the Sage 2.

    By the way the handle is provided with a rather generous lanyard hole. Something I personally think is a bit redundant on this kind of knife but every fan of 550 paracord can relax.

    Deployment and Lockup

    Without a doubt flipperfunction on most knives have been improved of late even if it still exists variants that hardly works at all. This is not one of them. Gemini is close to perfection but not really there. It is a little hard to activate due to a hard detent. But the action doesn't become much faster than this once activated. The shape of the flippertab lends itself for lightswitch action. Pushbutton style doesn't work unless you push diagonally backwards. Some might have wished for some "jimping" on the tab but I don't mind being without it. I seldom do by the way. Generally speaking I'm not a big fan of "tractionplans".

    Gemini and most other knives in Kizers latest productline is provided with something you don't find in most folders in this pricerange - ceramic ball bearings. Also the detentball is made out of ceramic.
    Advanced caged bearings, a well tuned in detent and properly sized flippertab makes for a very good flipper with extrem accuracy. It's hardly possible to missfire the knife, even if you try.

    A distinct but smooth flippertab that harmonizes with the looks and isn't obtrusive in pocket

    Once open the blade is firmly held in place by a framelock. If you scrutinize the angle between the base of the blade and the lockbar steel insert you can see that is made just right. The insert also acts like an overtravel stop.

    The function is just excellent. There is no bladeplay in any direction what so ever. Not even if I grab the blade by the tip and provoke it. Simply put it's a solid knife given the size.

    The framelock works exactly as it should

    The only objection I have against the lock is that it's a bit heavy to release due to the rather stiff lockbar. It's relatively easy to reach since the inside of the frame is chamfered and soft but once there it demands quite a bit of pressure to work. At least according to my fiancee. After a few opening and closings it begin to gnaw on the thumb.

    Another good example of attention to detail is how the bladetang is shaped to fit the stop pin. The rounded shape increases the area of contact which reduces wear on the pin itself and thereby strengthen the construction in the long run. Another common way of doing this is by having rotating stop pins.

    To Carry

    This is another area where this knife really shines. It's not hard to imagine when looking at the knife. Gemini isnt more than 4.125" long folded and weighs 3.65 oz and everything is nicely rounded and contoured. And the knife is also not to wide when folded so it doesn't take up much room in the pocket either.

    Light, thin and smooth in pocket - as a pocketknife should be

    It is also very slim with a thickness of only 0.44", wich is remarkable.

    A good clip in blue anodized titanium

    The clip is decent without being perfect. It is a spring clip in titanium which is anodized blue to match the hardware. Generally I actually prefer a spring clip over a sculpted dito because of function. This one is descreet and good looking with a proper amount of tension. This combined with the chalky beadblasted surface of the handle gives good friction against fabric. The knife stays put and is still possible to draw very easily.

    What I don't like about it is that it in certain angles you can feel the tip against the soft parts of your hand. It's not the worst sinner of them all but not ideal. I'm thinking about doing a little mod to fix that problem.

    To Conclude

    Obviously I like this knife. And altogether Gemini is a really good knife in many ways. But is it "the perfect pocketknife"?

    Well, to be honest the competition in it's pricerange (around the 170$ mark MSRP) is really fierce. Here you find knives like the excellent Benchmade 940/943 which is another slender contender. And if you want a titaniumhandled knife, Spyderco Sage 2 gives it a good run for the money.

    Even more close in appearance is of course ZT 0450 which is another titanium flipper on bearings equipped with a good steel and a not too deterrent pricetag.

    But now there are also cheaper versions of some of the Kizermodels . The "Vanguard series" is linerlock versions of these knives with G10 for scales instead of titaniumhandles and VG10 for bladesteel. Other than being cheaper they also have the advantage that they probably is less prone to scratch for the ones who cares about that and thus being a bit more of a "hard user".

    Otherwise I think the Gemini ticks all the boxes for a good pocketknife. It's easy to carry with low weight and smooth shape and a good clip. It's made out of high end materials and above all it has a well shaped blade in a really good steel.

    A discreet but very competent pocketcompanion

    In additon the Gemini is a very refined and elegant knife whose lines appeal to me. Maybe you can argue that there are one to many mouse-grey titaniumhandled framelock flippers on the market. Especially since the Chinese manufacturers have entered the scene.

    And the big question remains - is this knife even better than the original in some aspects? I can't verify the veracity of that statement since I never handled the original but I can say that the Kizer is a very competent folding knife in most areas.

    Actually I don't have much negative criticism at all. The clip could have been less pointy and the lock a bit easier to release but otherwise not much. Both the choice of materials and execution is extraordinary good. There are no misses to be found when it comes to fit and finish even if scrutinized.

    A knife suitable if you want a "mid-tech" feeling for the prize of a production knife

    This is a most interesting knife since it is one good example of productionknives reaching the levels that is required to compete with their higher priced mid-tech cousins and even the originals in terms of both looks and quality. What is obviously missing is the "personality" and exclusivity that comes with customknives. But for us consumers I can only see benefits in the long run.

    I don't recommend this knife if you're not a friend of this modern take on folders. After all it's beginning to be a bit mainstream now I think. The concept of titaniumhandled framelock flippers is hardly unique anymore. Even less so now with a lot of Chinese brand entering the market. And I can't really recommend this knife if you are searching for a heavy duty companion in the woods. For that the handle is too small and thin, at least for me. For that I want more real estate handlewise, less scratch prone materials and then it's the issue all metal handles have in our climate. They get cold in the winter.

    However this is a knife that is right for the one searching for a EDC-knife that reminds of a mid-tech with a well executed designlanguage but with a more modest pricetag. With that package follows advanced technology with caged ball bearings and detent in ceramic, a really competent steel and a titanium framelock with steel insert and overtravelstop. All modern technique combined in other words.

    But talking about all the technical specifications we must not forget that this is a knife that feels good in hand and that cuts good in most materials.

    Specification Ki3471:

    Overall Length: 7.25"
    Handle Length: 4.125"
    Weight: 3.65 oz
    Blade Length: 3.125"
    Blade Thickness: 0.12"
    Steel: Crucible CPM S35VN, 58-60HRC
    Handle Material : Titanium, 6AL4V
    Lock: Framelock with steel insert

    Produced by: Kizer, made in China

    / John
  2. Ben Rubinstein

    Nov 3, 2014
    Likes Received:
    Great review! This knife is at the very top of my list for 'what I would buy if it were legal to carry here' and is the only Ti framelock flipper (out of so very many on the market at present) which I like aesthetically.
  3. Nighted
    • In Omnia Paratus

    Nighted Loaded Pockets

    Nov 21, 2013
    Likes Received:
    Excellent review. Great pics, beautiful blade.