ESEE Expat Medellin final review
Well it's safe to say I know this knife very well by now! I had the first lot shipped over from the States to the UK, no-one else stocked them when they were first released nor were they in any rush to do so.
I was familiar with Expat, a knife designer and friend of the ESEE team, through bits of the Internet and word of mouth. Through the release of their cleaver the Expat CL1 I could see that there was a real leaning towards filling very specific gaps in the market, with function foremost, no gimmicks. The cleaver is a cracking bit of kit, it's been well received and looks the part too!
ESEE have 'made' folders for a long time. I say 'made' in such a way as they are often made in different places by different manufacturers. This is common in a lot of knife makers these days, especially where cost is an issue and more robust steels are used.
I always strayed away from exotic folders, knives are tools first and foremost to me, with the folder being the most disposable of all sharp things I own. I have friends who spend small fortunes on folders, locking or otherwise, more often than not they are made of expensive steels and spend their lives sat in drawers or peli cases. Of course I owned and carried folders, lower end of the market ones, never costing more than £30/40 or $40/50, they were a tool. Gerber, CRKT, Boker, Opinel and even the odd Spiderco, they all did a job but never filled me with confidence, even if they locked. Looking back now it may have been the shape, maybe even the fact that I had such a good range of fixed blades at my disposal, that meant I never grew too attached to anything I carried about in my pocket.
For context my fixed blades at this time were ESEE's and Ontario's with the ESEE Izula my 'go to' fixed blade. Perhaps it's size and shape undid my need for a reliable folder, I could carry my Izula scout carry on my belt too, hardly noticeable, when some would reach for a folder I'd grab the Izzy!
It was when I sat down reading a post by Expat, talking about his wanderings into the world of folders that I started thinking about all this with a certain degree of context, here's what he wrote:
There was a lot there that resonated with me, a value folder to do a job, that looked the part and that came with the ESEE warranty that I'd become so accustomed to. I'd also spoken with a few people in the know, people who's opinions I valued and they told me to get a few and find out for myself.
Anyway, a week or so passed and a box turned up. You've read the initial review of this thing (if you haven't then you should) so I won't get bogged down with the basics.
Fast forwards 6 months and we've been through an awful lot me and this knife, well to be honest, me and a couple of them!
The first one I opened up served me well, it was a fantastic looking bit of kit. It kept an edge and sharpened up a treat. I didn't hammer it, I used it for the tasks you'd use a folder for when you have a selection of quality fixed blades to do the heavy and dirty work. It opened things, cut the end off cigars, helped with food prep, did those odd little jobs in the house, at work or the range, simple things but done very well.
The more I used this thing the more I really liked two things about it. The solid lock was bomb-proof, no movement and reassuring to the fullest! Combined with the shape and size of it, the lock made it feel like an ESEE 3, which is a GREAT knife!
I found slight issue with the closure or more specifically the slight difficulty with clearance when deactivating the lock one-handed. A buddy of mine has cut away a small section of the opposite scale (below), allowing a more positive action with the thumb (or whatever you chose to close it with). The standard configuration works fine, it takes some getting used to but is perfectly serviceable.
My 1st Medellin went everywhere with me, I've never felt more confident in a folder but at the same time I accepted its workman like simplicity and 'relative' value.
On these points, the blade is Aus8 steel. I've no intention of making this article a debate on steel but some 'steel snobs' will immediately turn their noses up at this blade purely because of that fact! I like Aus8, I like D2 as well, they are 'tool-steel' quality and sharpen up a treat, holding their edge in-keeping with their purpose. And they don't cost the earth!
That's how you make a knife that holds this place in the universe, you think about the cost and practicalities.
On cost, if you are in the US then this thing is great value, no question about it! But when you start to ship it across the pond the price creeps up ever so slightly. This is something we are used to over here in the UK, a trauma we often accept for fixed blades but with folders it's a much harder sell.
I like to think that I've priced these well, other guys in the UK charge more, in fact I think I'm the best value but have a look around for yourself.
I think this is what put companies off stocking them originally, if you are in the UK and in the business of making money from people then charging £65 for an Aus8 folder is far from appealing.
Anyway, in the true spirit of Expat I traded my first one away int he bush. I was in the middle of nowhere with a buddy when I needed a saw, a deal was on the table and I didn't think twice, trading it away for a Bahco folder. It's a great saw!
Now you could say that I had a cupboard full at home so this was an easy decision but buying one would have been just as easy on me both logistically and on the pocket!
My buddy Joe from Midland Bushcraft (give him a follow) has it now, I asked him to pull me a few lines together and this is what he came up with:
For quite some time now, I haven't been carrying and using folding knives like I previously had, mainly I think because I prefer a fixed blade for safety, durability and practicality in the tasks I need it for, instead favouring a small fixed blade like the izula 2 or CR2.5. However the medellìn has changed that completely, it's reliable and solid enough to not worry about the lock failing, and while the material and build quality is great, it's slim and light enough to be carried in a pocket, easily forgotten but always there when you need it. I mainly carry it at work, and it gets a good beating, cutting rope, branches and cable ties etc, cleaning out chainsaws, and even loosening the odd screw. The coating holds up nicely, and the blade is easily maintained and holds a good edge for all the tasks I've put it through, the handle has been comfortable, which I was surprised at considering the profile. Overall I would say it's a great piece of kit, worth well more than the price point but inexpensive enough not to worry about losing or breaking it, so while not replacing my small fixed blades in some tasks, I'm carrying it most of the time now and it's always there to get the job done
It's nice to have another perspective and especially when it's from someone who knows his stuff!
I mentioned previously that a buddy of mine has modded his, shaving some off the grip opposite the lock. Zed is a real character, a maker of all things wonderful, he knows his kit and his folders. He's knocked this thing about, hammering it and testing it to his limits, here's what he had to say on it!
I've been using the Medellin for about 3wks now, I'm pretty hard on kit so I don't bubble wrap my knives, they are just a tool to me. At first glance I liked the blade shape as it felt familiar, the blade shape is a good all purpose shape, good for wood and food prep. The Aus8 steel is a good choice as easy to sharpen and holds an edge well. OK to the handle, at first I thought it could do with beefing up a bit as very slim, but after some use it actually felt ok, I would prefer it a bit wider, possibly a SS liner on the FRN side and slightly thicker frame lock side but saying this it still feels good in the hand ,almost like a fixed blade. My other problem was pushing the lock as the FRN material is level with lock, this makes it more comfortable but very difficult to unlock! I removed some material on the FRN to make this easier. The deep carry clip is also a big bonus on this knife. The overall construction is very solid and comes very sharp out of the box. This is a good work knife and a great alternative to a fixed blade if you dont have one.
I think it's safe to say that I'm a fan of this knife! It's marked on one side as 'first production run' so I do not doubt for one second that further runs and /or evolutions will follow!
All I ask of ESEE/Expat is that they keep making this knife, maybe trim the scales to allow finger clearance but other than don't mess with it! Keep it true to its nature, effective, value and good looking!
The colour options are fine, black and silver, but who needs a knife in any other colour, come on who really does?
Thumbs up from me folks, keep em coming!