Cold Steel Pocket Bushman
By Gary Zinn
Cold Steel is known for building tough knives and one of its interesting offerings, the Pocket Bushman, will not damage that reputation. In fact, this knife may set a new standard for rugged simplicity in lock blade folding knives.
Starting with overall impressions, there is nothing subtle or delicate about the Pocket Bushman (PB for short). It is a large knife, 5-3/4 inches closed with a 4-1/2 inch blade, six ounces in weight and is all stainless steel. Just holding it gives one the impression that here is a tool that can do serious work.
The design of the knife is almost too simple to be believed. It has only six essential working parts. First is the handle, which is simply a 1.25 mm thick sheet of bead blasted 420 stainless steel, formed into an open-bottomed, U-shaped configuration. The Cold Steel folks frankly acknowledge that this is taken from the venerable French Douk-Douk design. However, while the Douk-Douk is a conventional slip joint folder (non-locking), the PB uses a sliding locking bar.
The lock bar is a steel finger almost as long as the knife handle. The back end is flared, effectively forming a rear bolster for the knife. There is a slot in the flared part that holds a coil spring, which puts constant forward pressure on the bar. A cross pin through the back of the handle holds both the spring and the back of the lock bar in place. Meanwhile, the front of the bar is held against the inside top of the handle by tension against the radiused edge of the blade tang when the knife is closed. The tang radius is eccentric, so that as the blade is opened the lock bar is pushed backward a few millimeters. Then, when the blade is opened fully, the bar snaps forward and wedges between a ďshelfĒ on top of the blade tang and the inside top of the handle. There is absolutely no play in the blade when it is locked open. Since the lock bar is under forward pressure, there is tension that holds the folded blade closed, as well as the wedge lock that holds it open.
A thumb stud is mounted on the blade, which suggests one-handed opening. However, this didnít work for me, because the pressure of the lock bar against the blade tang makes opening the blade with the thumb stud difficult. I found it quicker, easier and safer to simply grasp the blade between the thumb and one or two fingers of the off hand to open it. Iím used to opening knives this way, since I grew up using conventional slip joint folders.
Cold Steel added a thoughtful touch to assist unlocking the blade. A short loop of paracord is threaded through a hole in the butt of the lock bar. After some experimentation, I think that the safest and most efficient way to unlock and close the blade is as follows:
Cradle the back (closed) edge of the handle in the palm of the hand. Rest the index finger on the blade spine, forward of the handle. Grip the sides of the handle between the thumb and the other finger tips (keep the thumb and fingers clear of the slot in the handle). Pull on the cord loop with the other hand and as the lock bar disengages, start rotating the blade closed with the index finger. Release the cord loop and finish closing the blade with the off hand. The blade can be unlocked by pulling directly on the back of the lock bar, but using the cord loop is easier.
Note that there is no need to employ the cord loop when opening the blade; just rotate it open with the off hand or use the thumb stud, if it works for you. I mention this because some cowboy tried yanking back on the cord loop and then flicking the blade open. This maneuver disengaged the front of the lock bar and both it and the coil spring popped out of the handle; this also kinked the coil spring (more about that below). Then he posted a YouTube video ranting about Cold Steelís ďbroken design,Ē never admitting that he had manipulated the knife in a manner not envisioned or intended by its designer.
The blade is 4116 stainless steel. It is a conventional clip point pattern, subtly hollow ground from spine to edge, 3.5 mm thick at the spine and an inch wide at the belly. Itís anchored to the handle via a hefty pivot pin and itís very sharp.
How does the PB perform? I havenít had it long enough to subject it to a range of tests, but itís death on corrugated cardboard. I just helped my daughter clear out her storage area and when we were through there was a big pile of boxes that needed to be broken down for recycling. I deployed the PB and can report that the knife went through single-ply cardboard like it was nothing and cleanly cut double-ply with only moderate effort on my part. There was a large triple-ply furniture box that was more of a challenge, but I was able to break it down easily by using back-and-forth strokes. After breaking down over a dozen boxes, the edge seemed just as sharp as it was originally. Iíve also used it to baton kindling sticks for our fireplace. No problem.
However, the packing box episode exposed one drawback of the handle design: gripping and working the knife hard makes for finger discomfort. The problem is the narrow edges on the open bottom of the handle; they dig into the fingers when the knife is gripped hard. I figured this would be an issue before I ever used the knife, so I wasnít surprised when it happened. The solution? Wear a work glove when using the knife long or hard (a good idea generally when one is using a large knife). Other than that, I found the handle geometry fine for giving a secure and natural grip.
Earlier on, there was a rightly criticized flaw in the milling of the spring slot in the lock bar; it was cut with a dip in the bottom side. This meant that a portion of the coil spring was not tightly contained on all sides and, of course, some abusive testers managed to jerk back the lock bar hard and far enough to kink the spring and compromise its function. Cold Steel has corrected this milling error in current production of the knife, eliminating the dip so that the spring is fully contained and wonít kink.
I have a simple way of classifying knives: worker bees, queens, or drones. Worker bees are knives that are effective and dependable general or special purpose tools. Queens are high end or collector knives, examples of the best of the knife makerís craft. Drones are knives that, for whatever reason, donít cut it (pun intended).
The PB is definitely a general purpose worker bee. Itís a rugged no-frills tool with a blade of proven knife steel and other parts that are tough and low maintenance. It is not a ďone-handedĒ knife. Itís difficult to open one-handed (at least for me) and it cannot be closed with one hand. However, Iím good with that, although others may not be. Here may be the best part: the 2013 MSRP is $42.99 and current street price for the PB is in the $25 to $30 range. How can one go wrong at this price for a large lock blade work knife from a reputable maker? I donít know if this is in the works, but if Cold Steel would bring out a scaled-down version of the PB, say with a 3-inch blade, I would get in line to buy one.
Copyright 2013, 2016 by Gary Zinn and/or chuckhawks.com. All rights reserved.