Submitted for consideration, my review of the Condor Tool & Knife Golok Machete.
To start off, my apologies for being so tardy with this review. I know many of you were looking forward to it, so please forgive me for taking so long. I was out of town on a camping trip with my family, then got sick for a week, then got an ear infection... yada, yada, yada... I don't have a lot of pics to include, so the ones I do have will have to do. If I get the opportunity in the near future, I'll update the thread with more pics later.
First off, this thing is awesome... not the biggest machete I've ever handled, and I've never owned anything like an Esee or a Tramontina, but after playing with this thing, and actually using it to do some yard work and light wood processing while camping, I have no doubt it'll compare favorably to either of those brands of tools.
I'm not going to post pics of the basic knife and sheath themselves, there are plenty available on the web, and it'll save MT.O bandwidth to not link them here. The pics I have are of the knife from our last camping trip to Mammoth Lakes.Build and Quality
I'll start with the sheath; I ordered mine with it. I've seen a few YouTube vids of the Golok that say you have to buy the sheath separately, but that's no longer true. Most online sellers give you the option of ordering it with or w/o the sheath. In my opinion, it's well worth it, as you'll pay less in total to order it with it than to buy them separately.
The sheath is exceptionally high quality, made out of thick, sturdy leather, dyed black. It is stitched all along the edges, and riveted at the bottom and top. There is a spacer layer sewn in between the two housing layers, and the knife still fits quite snugly inside. A nitpick about the sheath for me is the cleanness of the cuts of the leather; there are small flashings on the grain that flop around a little bit, which is a bit annoying to me, but that's just my personal peeve. It in no way affects the functionality of the sheath, or its durability. Perhaps the blades they were using during the cutting were due for a sharpening.
There are no snaps or straps on the sheath, which is a plus for me, as I will be mounting this on my hiking pack, and want to be able to pull it out one handed without having to take my pack off. I'm still working on a good system for that, but so far I've found that while I can take it out without also taking off my pack, I cannot resheath it without taking off my pack, or getting assistance.
One significant concern I have about the sheath is the mounting of the belt loop. The leather it's made of is shaved and glued together so the overall thickness of it at the point where it's riveted to the body of the sheath looks a bit weak to me. This is because it looks like one end of the loop was shaved much thinner than the other, and the only thing holding it together is the glue. The belt loop swivels on the body of the sheath, which is a nice touch, but I am concerned about the durability of the attachment of the loop to the body because of the unevenness of the tapering of the leather of the loop.
There is also a smaller piece of leather stitched on at the top of the loop; it's purely aesthetic and seems to have no functional value that I can discern. I suppose it could be pressed into service for carrying, as it's only stitched on the sides, you could pass a strap through if the belt loop were to fail in the field. It would limit you to horizontal carry on the right side in that situation though.
The knife itself is very well designed; I have to hand it to Joe Flowers for his work with this, it's a very well thought out tool. Overall length is 20.5", with a 14" blade with 13" of cutting edge. It's laser engraved with Condor on one side of the blade and on the spine, and El Salvador on the other side of the blade. The box mine came in indicated it was manufactured 2/12. Basic specs are that it's 1075 carbon steel, and is distally tapered in thickness from handle to tip. At the handle end the blade is 1/4" thick, and about 1/8" at the tip. On my sample, the taper is not linear, there are a couple of small 'steps' where it looks like the taper was done via a hand grind, or a hot roll by hand. In the following pic, I've marked where these steps are.
The edge deserves consideration. The knife is advertised as coming with a convex edge, and strictly speaking, it does. However, the convexing of the stock edge is very slight, and I'd argue it's close to a Scandi grind. I did a few practice hacks on some back yard foliage with the stock edge, and while it did work, I wasn't impressed. That said, I'm a bit of a sharpening snob... I learned to sharpen by hand when I was a kitchen worker and cook when I was a teenager and in my early 20's, and I learned to put a wicked edge on just about anything. In recent years my sharpening philosophy has been that I prefer doing convex grinds on everything when I can. I find a convex edge won't get quite as sharp as a flat edge grind, but my experience has shown me convex grinds are a lot more durable, so I'm willing to sacrifice a bit of sharpness for strength in the edges of my blades.
The original grind is also slightly uneven, with the edge being slightly offset to the left side of the blade, as I hold it in my hand edge down. The right side of the blade, edge down, is more deeply ground into the blade, and the left side is shorter with a shallower angle.
For me this isn't a problem as I'm a righty, and that shallower left side is what faces the work when I'm using the knife, and it seems like it'll allow me to make flatter, cleaner cuts when doing something like de-limbing during wood processing.
I used my two sided Smith diamond stone to do a bit of re-profiling on the edge and it's much more of a true convex grind now. After a handful of uses, some on hard wood like coastal live oak tree branches, and lodgepole pine branches in the Sierras, the edge has held up quite well. It won't slice paper, like right after I reprofiled, it, but it's still plenty sharp and has no problem going through small branches. I'd probably touch it up though if I were to use it on softer foliage like grass, weeds, or poison oak, or if I were to use it to process game. Given the blade shape and size, I'd say the only thing this knife couldn't do is gut; there's LOTS of belly on the blade, so it should serve well for skinning, and with its chopping ability, you could easily quarter even large game like pigs or deer.Initial Field Use
My hardest use of the knife so far has been delimbing ponderosa and lodgepole pine for firewood. Here is a fallen ponderosa branch I collected in the back woods at Mammoth Lakes, before processing.
Here is the same branch after 5 min. of work with the Golok. Keep in mind, that I didn't rush to do this; I took my time and made sure my cuts were clean and well placed. Freshly sharpened, the Golok went through this stuff like a hot knife through butter, and ponderosa is pretty hard for pine. (For size reference, that branch is about 7' long, and about 4" in diameter at the bottom end.)
Here's the Golok and the finished branch.
Here's the small wood pile I collected after about 30 min. worth of traipsing through Inyo National Forest. I've had the Sven Saw for about 8 years now, and just replaced the blade prior to this trip. (For a light weight camping and pack saw, it's an excellent tool.)
Here's the Golok itself with the pile I collected; the Golok was the only chopping tool I brought with me, and I used it for de-limbing all of the wood present.
I tried to do some batoning with it, but didn't have much luck, so no pics of that. I had a hard time finding another piece of wood that didn't break in half over the spine of the knife, and the hardness of the ponderosa increased the difficulty of the task. The branches I had that were big enough to need splitting were probably a little too big, considering the conditions and that I couldn't find a suitable hammering stick. If I had been able to find a piece of oak, I probably would've had better luck, but it's hard to find oak trees at 9,500 ft... Fit & Finish
The blade has a very nice black powder coating on it that looks very stylish and nice, but it didn't seem to hold up too well to the use I put it through. Here's a pic of the left side of the blade (edge down) from all of the work I've used the knife for so far. Here, you can see there's been a bit of flaking of the coating after just the minimal work I've done with the knife. I'm not knocking the knife because of this, mind you, and I don't expect the finish on a knife in this price range to be bullet proof either; I'm just trying to be thorough in my review.
I've already commented on the unevenness in the grind and the distal tapering, so I won't repeat that here.
The handle is very sturdy and nicely made. It's also obviously hand done, as there are slight asymmetries in the scales on each side of the tang. The blade if completely full tang, extending all the way through to the very end of the handle. Earlier models had only a 3/4 tang, and I saw a few pics on the web of some breakage of the handle after the end of the tang. No need to worry about that with this one!
The handle also has a very nice ball end to it that greatly facilitates using the knife for chopping. It's nice and thick, and does an excellent job of keeping the knife in your hand during hard use. On the main part of the handle, the scales are quite thick, but that's not a big problem for me. Despite my only being 5' 10", I have big hands for my size, and while the handle does fill my hand completely, I can still control the knife very well. My only gripe is that because of the thickness of the handle, I can't wear my heavier, thicker, Metolius 3/4 finger climbing gloves with it, which I prefer for my outdoor activities when I need gloves. Instead, I had to use my cheaper pair of 1/2 finger utility gloves made of microfiber and synthetic leather.
I don't have a bench grinder or a belt sander, so I can't reprofile the handle, but if I did, I would certainly thin out the scales a bit on each side so I could wear heavier duty gloves when using the knife. One nice thing about the scales, is that they are some sort of central american walnut... they feel kind of slick when they're dry, but get some sweat on them from working, and they get very grippy... a nice touch. Not sure if the wood choice is deliberately made for that property, but even if not, it's a nice thing about the handle.
There is a lanyard hole in the ball end as well, fitted with a very nice brass ferrule, which is also countersunk on both sides. I have yet to fit a lanyard to the knife as this tool requires a different lanyard philosophy than my other knives so far. For all my other knives, I only need a lanyard to keep me from losing the knife if I drop it; with the Golok, I want a lanyard that's going to help keep the knife in my hand, and I haven't figured out how to make such a lanyard yet.
At the bottom of the ball end, the tang extends past the scales by about a half millimeter. You can see it with the naked eye, and it's easily about as thick as a fingernail. Here's a pic of it.Conclusions & Further Comments
This is my first machete, and my first Condor. Overall I am very pleased with "The Knoif", as my wife now insists on calling it. (I guess I deserve it... I've been overdoing it on the channelling of Crocodile Dundee with this thing...
The knife has held up exceptionally well so far to the use I've put it through. It might have a bit better edge retention if it were 1095 instead of 1075, but for this price, it's a perfectly acceptable trade-off. As I mentioned above, it's really only going to be an issue if you have to deal with softer foliage or game after you've been doing wood processing. (I bought a Lansky Puck specifically to use with this thing, though I haven't had a chance to try it out with the Golok yet. I'll give a report in the future on the puck and how well it works for tools like this, and my Fiskars axe.)
I think the issues I've noted with the edge grind and distal taper aren't really any big deal. I mention them mostly because I'm a scientist by training, and have developed an eye for detail that has served me well in the research I've done. That has carried over into my recreational life and helped me to learn the differences between different levels of quality of F&F with knives and tools. Those issues seem to have made no difference in how effective the knife is when I've been using it so far. The offset grind of the blade may even be an advantage for righties such as myself for tasks such as de-limbing firewood.
Overall, the value of this knife is simply outstanding, particularly the sheath it comes with, despite my quibbles with it above. In this day when almost all knife companies are forgoing sheaths for their fixed blades, or resorting to cheap Chinese nylon sheaths, this is a welcome addition to this knife, and is a great value. I'd guesstimate you'd pay at least $40 or more for this sheath by itself if came with an American made Ka-bar or the like. The one weakness of the sheath is the construction of the belt loop where it attaches to the body of the sheath, as I noted above, but this may be particular to my sample alone. The only other thing I would change about the sheath is to include a grommet at the bottom instead of a rivet. This thing is easily long enough that belt carry would be greatly improved by a leg strap, which would also work very well with the pivoting belt loop it has, and take some of the stress off of the single rivet holding the loop to the body of the sheath.
I highly recommend this knife. It's very versatile in that I could see easily using it for everything from wood processing, to shelter building, to game processing. It's also a great value, largely because of the sheath, but the knife itself is very solid and well made, despite small irregularities in the fit and finish. It's a great tool overall. If you are looking for a solid, durable, multipurpose knife, the Condor Golok would be an excellent choice. At the price it is, I think it'll be awfully hard to beat.