Fox USA Amico Knife
By Gary Zinn
Fox Cutlery of Maniago, Italy, is a manufacturer of high quality, modern style knives. About a decade ago, Mike Vellekamp, an American knife designer and entrepreneur, approached Fox with a design he thought the company might be interested in producing. The result of subsequent business negotiations was that Fox Cutlery decided to create a U.S. subsidiary, Fox Knives USA, to manufacture the Vellekamp design in Puyallup, Washington and also to distribute other Fox Cutlery products to the U.S. market.
Vellekamp's role in the Fox Knives USA manufacturing venture was as designer, from 2009 until 2015. He left Fox Knives USA to establish an independent knife design and production enterprise, which morphed into V Nives (http://vnives.com).
The Amico knife model is one of four Vellekamp designs in the Fox USA knife family. The four models share the same handle and locking mechanism, but are distinguished by different blade profiles.
Specifications - Fox USA Amico (as reviewed)
I chose the Amico for review, because I judge it to have the most versatile blade design of the four models of Fox USA knives. With a gently curved cutting edge and curved spine with a distinct drop point, the blade profile is suitable for a variety of common cutting tasks. I say this based on experience with knives with similar blade profiles.
The blades of all Fox USA knife models are 154CM stainless steel, one of the family of Crucible CPM steels that have become popular with makers of high quality/high performance knives. (See CPM S30V and CPM S35VN Knives - A Rising Market Force.) The carbon, chromium and molybdenum content of 154CM is virtually identical to that of ATS-34. Therefore, these two steels will generally perform much the same in knife blades.
The blade is hollow ground, with a narrow micro bevel forming the final cutting edge. The factory edge on my review knife was extremely sharp. It sliced effortlessly through coated catalog paper (my standard out of the box sharpness test) and stood up to a variety of initial cutting tests (cardboard, cordage, wood) with no discernible dulling.
This is my first experience with 154CM. Indications are its edge holding capability is comparable with ATS-34, which I judge from experience to be very close to S30V in this regard.
The blade is 3.5" long overall, with a 3.0" sharpened edge length. It is 1" wide at the midpoint and a robust 3.5mm (.138") thick at the spine. A thumb rise on the spine is positioned just right for a thumb-on-top power grip and there are short sections of jimping on the thumb rise and further forward on the spine, to facilitate using a secure thumb or forefinger on spine grip.
The half-inch difference in blade overall and sharpened lengths is accounted for by a finger choil at the base of the blade, plus a short shelf between the tip of the choil and the grind plunge. This is not wasted space, for the choil, in concert with the handle design, has a function when using the knife.
Studs on both sides of the thumb rise allow one-handed deployment of the blade and a solid back lock secures the open blade. There is plenty of exposed blade to grasp for two handed opening (for old school knife users like me). There is no opening assist mechanism.
The cap nut on the pivot pin of my review knife was quite tight, making one-handed blade deployment difficult. I loosened the cap nut slightly (using a T-15 Torx bit), which eased the opening action.
The two parts of the knife handle are molded fiber reinforced nylon (FRN). FRN is a practical handle material for working knives, from the viewpoints of both manufacturing economy and serviceability. All models of the Fox USA knife family share the same handle design. The Amico model is available with black, orange, sage green, or blue (as reviewed) handles. Most of the other models are offered with the same handle color choices.
The handle profile has some good things going for it. It has a generalized pistol grip shape, which puts the handle spine in a comfortable, secure position in the palm of the hand. The bottom of the handle has what I can best describe as 1-1/2 finger grooves. I say this, because the more forward of these is at the front of the handle and flows into the choil on the blade to form an index finger groove for a hand-forward grip.
Alternatively, the knife may be gripped with the index finger in the second groove, which is formed entirely on the handle. Either grip position is secure and the handle is long enough that I can use the rearward grip without the pinkie finger of my medium-large hand losing purchase on the butt of the handle.
As I mentioned earlier, the properly positioned thumb rise and two sections of jimping on the blade facilitate secure thumb or forefinger-on-spine grips. The design allows for several good grip positions, including the two full fist positions just described.
The slab sided handle is just over 3/8" thick along the spine and has a reversible pocket clip for tip up carry. These design features, plus the 2.65 ounce weight of the knife, are great for comfortable carry, but are problematical for anyone who tries to use the knife long or hard. This offsets my enthusiasm for the handle profile and grip positions it facilitates.
One of my test cutting exercises involved using the Amico to break down a heavy cardboard packing box. The task took no more than five minutes, but the lack of handle girth and the position of the clip (which dug into my palm) made my hand sore by the time I finished.
This knife is not recommended for cutting tasks that involve applying a lot of grip pressure for long periods of time. Wearing a glove while doing such work would help a lot.
Flat handled, locking folders with clips are very common among contemporary knife designs, so the Fox USA knives have plenty of company in this regard. Consequently, I cannot condemn the Fox USA design for this, but would caution that knife buyers should be aware of the less than ideal ergonomics of this and similar knife handles. (See Knife Handle Ergonomics for more information.)
The outstanding feature of the Amico is its blade, which has a versatile profile, excellent grind and factory edge, well positioned thumb rise, thumb and finger jimping. The premium 154CM steel blade is another strong positive.
The thumb stud opening feature and back lock (mid lock, to be technically precise) are nothing fancy or unusual, just a conventional, proven design. Anyone who prefers a flipper to initiate opening the blade, or an assist mechanism to accelerate blade deployment, has plenty of other choices.
My enthusiasm for the Amico is dampened by the handle design. The profile shape and length of the handle are positives, but the slab sides, lack of handle girth and obtrusive pocket clip are negatives. The ergonomics of the handle fall short of being ideal.
This Amico knife is a viable option for anyone who wants an easy to stow and carry folding knife that will cut like fury when needed. Conversely, if handle ergonomics when the knife is used long and hard are a significant concern, the Amico and its companion models are not among the best choices available. Ultimately, each knife buyer/user has to make his or her own judgments about such tradeoffs.
Other knife models and additional notes
Fox Knives USA offers three other models of Vallekamp designed knives, which differ from the Amico in blade design. The Forza has a spear point blade, the Drago a straight edged modified Wharncliffe blade profile and the Vitale a partially serrated modified sheepsfoot blade. Other than the blade profiles, the specifications for these knives are virtually identical to those of the Amico.
2018 MSRPs for all four models are $130. Major Internet vendors generally sell them at between $90 and $100, but right now (February, 2018) I have seen some on sale in the $60 to $70 price range.
Finally, I must mention an under the radar knife, the Boker Plus USA Folding Knife, which is also made in Puyallup, WA. (Boker and Fox Cutlery are affiliated in a way that I have not been able to clearly understand.) The Boker Plus USA knife has a 154CM drop point blade, thumb studs and back lock. The FRN handle is very similar, but not identical, to the handle of the Fox Knives USA models. The Boker knife may be considered a close cousin of the Amico, et. al.
Copyright 2018 by Gary Zinn and/or chuckhawks.com. All rights reserved.