Knife MEGA Review: SOG Knives Bladelights - Fixed and Folders (AA, AAA, CR2032)

subwoofer

Flashlight Enthusiast
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May 5, 2010
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Hove, UK
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Author's Statement for Transparency and Disclosure
The test sample/s featured in this article have been provided for technical testing and review by the manufacturer. Test samples are retained by the reviewer following publication of the completed review for the purposes of long term testing and product comparisons.

All output figures and test results published in this review are the sole work of the reviewer, and are carried out independently and without bias. Test results are reported as found, with no embellishments or alteration. Though best endeavours are made to maintain the accuracy of test equipment, the accuracy of these results is not guaranteed and is subject to the test equipment functioning correctly.
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SOG’s vision of an illuminated cutting tool is delivered by the Bladelight Range. In this MEGA review I’m looking at the old and new versions of the fixed blade and folding knives so you can see where they started and where the concept is going.

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Before diving into the detailed look here are the Bladelights on test. There are two fixed blades and two folders.

Starting top right and working down to bottom left are the original Bladelight Fixed, the new Bladelight Camp, then the original Bladelight Folder and the latest Bladelight Folder Mini.

Bladelight%20group01%20P1130328.jpg



And now with the blades revealed. You will also notice that each blade has been personalised with an engraving. SOG offer customers the option to have their knife/light engraved with their name, logo etc. and this has been very nicely executed on each Bladelight.

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Taking a more detailed look at the Bladelight fixed blades:

Both fixed Bladelights come in SOGs standard packaging.

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This was the first fixed Bladelight SOG produced. It has a rigid plastic (almost dive style) sheath with small pouch.

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The butt of the knife has a screw-cap with click switch (just like a flashlight’s tailcap switch) for operating the light and accessing the battery.

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The 5mm LEDs used protrude from the clear plastic guard.

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SOG’s laser engraving is crisp and in this case was produced from a mono image I supplied to SOG.

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Removing the tail-cap switch opens the battery tube.

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Supplied with the Bladelight in the pouch are two alkaline AA batteries. Only one is needed at a time, so you have a spare.

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The sheath has holes to allow the LEDs to shine through when the knife is sheathed.

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There is a sprung retaining clip to hold the knife in place in the sheath.

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On the back of the sheath is the steel belt clip, and the Velcro strap of the pouch which allows it to be removed or repositioned.

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The knife ‘clicks’ into the sheath.

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You can see the LEDs through the light holes built into the sheath.

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The clear guard also acts as a diffuser giving a wider spread of light.

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Those light holes in the sheath mean you don’t have to wave a sharp blade around to use the Bladelight Fixed when you just need light.

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The blade spine has some jimping for added control.

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So that was the old, and here is the new; the Bladelight Camp.

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As with all the review samples the blade has been engraved. The look of this version of Bladelight is more refined and modern than its predecessor.

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As with the older Bladelight Fixed, the Camp uses 6 LEDs, 3 each side of the blade, set into the guard.

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The Camp comes with an AAA battery already in place, but a small red disc prevents it being turned on accidentally before you buy it.

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The red insulator is discarded, and the battery reinserted ready to go.

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On the Camp, the jimping is closer to the handle and is much shorter so doesn’t really add anything to the control of the knife. Personally I’d have preferred a few more cuts to extend this jimping and make it more useful.

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A closer view of the tail-cap switch.

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In the Camp, the guard is not clear and does not diffuse the light sideways. This helps reduce glare so is probably better for most users.

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Blade retention in the Camp’s sheath is provided by four plastic arms pressing against the guard. There is no lever to push, the Camp is simply pulled through these retainers to draw it.

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The sheath has several features built in.

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A basic carbide sharpener for coarse sharpening (in my opinion a great last resort, but not a first or even second choice)

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A cut out in the sheath makes the sheathed Camp a belt cutter. This feature always has me a little concerned as I grip the sheath to pull out the knife that I’ll have a finger push far enough into the slot to cut myself.

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The sheath has a steel belt clip and Velcro strap to fix the Camp to a suitable part of a bag or vehicle interior.

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Just as with the older Bladelight Fixed, the Camp has light holes in the sheath allowing the light to be used with the knife sheathed.

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Comparing old and new.

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For scale, the two fixed blade Bladelights are shown next to each other and a Spyderco UKPK.

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Not having an x-ray machine I asked SOG about the blade tang. This is a CAD drawing of the Camp’s blade showing the tang. This is not a full tang, extreme use knife that will survive being used for batoning wood. This is a cutting tool with built in illumination suitable for normal hand pressure use only.

SOG%20BladeLight%20Tang.jpg




Taking a more detailed look at the Bladelight folders:

As these Bladelights are the kind of useful tool you would want to EDC, the folding versions may be just the ticket for many users.

The new Bladelight Folder Mini uses the SOG packaging whereas the older folder comes in a plain cardboard box.

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Inside the Bladelight Folder’s box is the holstered knife.

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The sturdy holster has a belt clip and hanging loop on the back.

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The elasticated sides each have a pocket to keep spare batteries in.

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The holster flap is secured with Velcro.

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The Bladelight Folder out of its holster.

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Like the fixed blade Bladelights, the Folder has six LEDs.

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The switch is in the knurled tail-cap.

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Having a liner lock and thumb stud, the Folder is easy to open one handed.

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The lock bar engages well in this sample.

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A good section of jimping gives the user fine control for certain tasks.

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The batteries are already fitted when it arrives, but there is a plastic insulator which need to be discarded.

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The Folder runs on 2xAAA.

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A view inside the battery tube.

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The Bladelight’s light can be used with the blade folded. (but not when in the holster).

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And with the blade open.

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After listening to customer feedback, SOG reworked the Bladelight folder into a more EDC-friendly ‘Mini’ version.

The Mini comes with a small hex screwdriver to match the hex headed screws used to hold the sides on that contain the four CR2032 button cells (two on each side).

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Breaking from the use of six LEDs, the Mini has four LEDs with two each side of the blade.

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As with the older Folder, the Mini uses a liner lock. Engagement in the example I have is not as good, but so far in normal use there has been no failure of the lock.

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The Mini has a layered construction.

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Attention has been payed to the details that this layered construction allows.

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The Mini also has a pocket clip. There is no holster and the Mini is designed for pocket carry rather than belt carry.

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Lurking under the pierced pocket clip is the MACV SOG skull logo.

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The power switch is a small unassuming grey rubber button.

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On the same side as the switch the MACV SOG skull logo is stamped into the battery cover.

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The Mini’s blade centring.

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Just as before, the light can be used with the blade folded.

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And the light can also be used with the blade open.

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Removing one side panel to show the sealing gasket and two CR2032 cells on this side.

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With the cells removed you can see the contacts and insulator disc used to prevent short circuits.

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Despite not looking that much smaller, in the hand the Mini does feel like a much more compact knife.

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For scale the Folder and Folder Mini are shown next to the Spyderco UKPK.

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The Beam

Please be careful not to judge tint based on images you see on a computer screen. Unless properly calibrated, the screen itself will change the perceived tint.
The indoor beamshot is intended to give an idea of the beam shape/quality rather than tint. All beamshots are taken using daylight white balance. The woodwork (stairs and skirting) are painted Farrow & Ball "Off-White", and the walls are a light sandy colour called 'String' again by Farrow & Ball. I don't actually have a 'white wall' in the house to use for this, and the wife won't have one!


Taking a look at the four Bladelights’ beams in the same order we looked at them previously, so first up is the Bladelight Fixed. There are three aspects to be considered for the fixed blades, the beam as a flashlight, the beam during cutting, and the beam when using the point to pierce.

As mentioned above, the absolute tint should not be taken from these photos, but the same white balance settings were used (set to daylight) to allow comparison. The Fixed’s beam shows a band running the same way as the blade and is due to the blade being in the beam. This knife has the whitest light.

Bladelight%20Fixed%20Beam%20P1160222.jpg



When cutting with the Bladelight Fixed, the light falls onto the surface nearest to the guard, leaving the material on the far side unlit. Also notice the glare from the lit guard and protruding LEDs.

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At the very tip of the knife (if you look carefully) there is a small black shadow when pushing it onto a surface.

NOTE FOR ALL Bladelights – there is a shadow when putting the tip of the knife on a surface for a piercing cut, and this is much more apparent on a white surface like paper and on flat surfaces. On darker/coloured, textured or curved surfaces, the shadow becomes less noticeable but is still there.

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Changing over to the newer Bladelight Camp, the beam is very similar to the Fixed, but critically lacks the glare from the Fixed’s lit guard.

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The much reduced glare (there is still some from the slightly protruding LEDs) makes the workpiece much easier to see than with the older Fixed Bladelight but there is still high contrast between the lit and unlit sides of the object being cut.

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The Camp’s stockier blade however does have a larger shadowed area at the tip of the blade.

Bladelight%20Hunter%20Point%20Beam%20P1160240.jpg



Now we are looking at the folders, we need to consider the beam when the blade is folded and when open.

Starting with the Folder the beam is noticeably ‘warm’ in colour and is a very usable flashlight beam.

Bladelight%20Folder%20Beam%20P1160206.jpg



Opening the blade does have a big impact on the beam. Due to the clamp being used to hold the knife, the blade is not vertical in this and the previous photo, instead its angle can be seen in the alignment of the band going through the middle of the beam. (This was to allow me to open the blade without remounting the knife.)

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Being a pretty bright beam, the closest side of the object being cut is well lit, but the contrast with the dark side is significant.

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As the brightest of the Bladelights, due to the exposure used, there is no visible shadowing from the blade at the point, however this is deceptive as there is a shadow (as mentioned in the earlier NOTE).

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Compared to the other Bladelights, the Folder Mini has the most focussed beam.

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Opening the blade has a noticeable effect on the beam as you would expect, but the effect of the blade is the least of all the Bladelights

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The cutting illumination is like the other Bladelights with a high contrast between the lit and unlit sides of the object.

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As with the other Bladelights, there is a small shadow at the blade tip for a piercing cut.

Bladelight%20Mini%20Point%20Beam2%20P1160254.jpg




Modes and User Interface:

For a flashlight review this section would have more to say. For these Bladelights, there is only one mode ‘ON’ and this is operated by a single switch on each Bladelight.

The Fixed, Camp and Folder, all use a forward clicky allowing momentary use of the light.


The Blade and Handle Geometry:

Most knives specifications have a basic description of the blade geometry, but in this section I will be taking a more detailed look at geometry and balance.

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Using a set of gauges and precision measuring equipment including a Vernier protractor, callipers, fixed radius gauges and the unique Arc Master adjustable radius gauge (the one that looks like a crossbow).

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Key aspects such as the primary bevel angle, grind type, blade depth, blade thickness, length, weight are detailed, along with balance information.

The 'Balance relative to the front of the handle' tells you if the knife will feel front heavy, or if the weight is in your hand (a positive value means the weight is forward of the front of the handle). The 'Balance relative to the centre of the handle' indicates how close to a 'neutral balance' the knife has in the hand.

In the case of full convex grinds the approximate centre of the grind is used for the primary bevel angle estimate..

Bladelight%20Parameters%20full.jpg




Batteries and output:

Each of the Bladelights on test uses a different power source. These are:

Bladelight Fixed – 1xAA
Bladelight Camp – 1xAAA
Bladelight Folder – 2xAAA
Bladelight Folder Mini – 4xCR2032

To measure actual output, I built an integrating sphere. See here for more detail. The sensor registers visible light only (so Infra-Red and Ultra-Violet will not be measured).

Please note, all quoted lumen figures are from a DIY integrating sphere, and according to ANSI standards. Although every effort is made to give as accurate a result as possible, they should be taken as an estimate only. The results can be used to compare outputs in this review and others I have published.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________
ModelI.S. measured ANSI output LumensPWM frequency or Strobe frequency (Hz)
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Bladelight Fixed190
Bladelight Camp240
Bladelight Folder330
Bladelight Folder Blade Open240
Bladelight Folder Mini210
Bladelight Folder Mini Blade Open140

* Beacon and Strobe output measurements are only estimates as the brief flashes make it difficult to capture the actual output value.

There is no parasitic drain in the Bladelight Fixed, Bladelight Camp or Bladelight Folder as they have mechanical make/break switches, but the Bladelight Folder Mini has an electronic switch so does have parasitic drain. CR2032 cells have a typical capacity of 225mAh and the Mini appears to use 2S2P configuration for the 4 x CR2032 cells it uses. Drain measures a negligible 1.1uA meaning it would take nearly 47 years for this parasitic drain to deplete the cells.

The runtime graph looks a bit rough. This is due to the outputs being quite low and the smallest measurement interval becoming visible. The parts of the graph lines that look thick are where the output flips between the two adjacent intervals (1.7lm apart).

With its two AAA cells the Folder has the longest runtime followed by the Mini. The Bladelight Camp (incorrectly named Hunter on the graph) has the shortest runtime.

SOG%20Bladelights%20runtime.jpg




Troubleshooting

This is a new section I am adding to mention any minor niggles I came across during testing, in case the information helps anyone else.

No issues were encountered during testing.

As per the description of this section, this information is provided in case anyone else finds a similar 'issue' that might be fixed in the same way.



The SOG Bladelights in use

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Firstly a few comments on the different grips these Bladelights have.

For those with larger hands, the Fixed is the most comfortable, but being a smooth finish the handle will lack grip in wet conditions (which has been addressed in the Bladelight Camp).

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Smaller than the older Fixed Bladelight, the Camp is a great size for good control and the rubber inserts in the handle provide much better grip.

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As the battery tube is added onto the width of the handle, the Folder is quite a handful and will feel ungainly to those with smaller hands.

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Though not that much smaller in overall length the Mini feels much more compact in the hand thanks mainly due to the use of coin cells for power. Changing these cells is a bit of a palaver and not something you can do in the field.

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The more I use these Bladelights the more ‘handy’ I find them. None of the Bladelights are great flashlights, nor are they great knives, but they are perfectly serviceable knives with useful built in illumination.

Even if you were to consider that the built-in light acts only as a locator if you put the knife down or drop it, that alone is helpful. Although you will most likely be using another light, perhaps a headlamp, the extra directed light from the Bladelight’s LEDs adds another dimension.

One unique ability is in situations where you are reaching inside something to cut, such as a game carcass, where external lighting would not reach, you now have light exactly where you are working.

As shown in the ‘Beam’ section, there is the issue of light only striking one side of the object you are cutting. This is not ideal, and a headlamp provides better lighting, but using a Bladelight means you always have a light with you, even if only as a backup.

Both fixed blade knives have ‘click-on’ sheaths. This is a feature I really appreciate when sheathing and unsheathing a knife regularly, as there is no fiddling with straps and no forgetting to secure the knife. This is one of the reasons Kydex sheaths are so popular.

Having looked at the original Fixed and Folding Bladelights and then the current versions, the Camp and Mini Folder, the product progression is clear. Although I like them all, the newer versions have been improved. I’m hoping SOG will keep working on this very useful concept and we will see future generations of bladelights with even better performance (such as lower glare, elimination of blade shadows at the point and cutting edge and a full tang).

Being a UK resident, the only reason I won’t EDC the Bladelight Mini is due to it being a lock knife. If you don’t have this restriction, the Mini makes a great little every day backup knife and light.



Review Summary

______________________________________________________________________________________________
Things I likeWhat doesn't work so well for me
______________________________________________________________________________________________
Very ‘Handy’ and ‘Useful’Shadows are cast where the cutting edge contacts an object
Fixed blades ‘click’ into the sheathsFixed blades have a short tang
Provides light when cutting ‘inside’ an objectHigh contrast between lit and unlit sides of the object being cut
Great as a dual purpose backup knife and lightFiddly to replace batteries in the Mini
Quality engraving to personalise your knife
Did I mention they are really ‘Handy’?

Bladelight%20group04%20P1160323.jpg



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