Queen #2 Serpentine Jack (ACSB) Review
By Matt, 27/11/2016
Queen Cutlery holds the mantle as my favourite 'currently operating' knife company (if you were interested, Schrade holds my 'all time' favourite crown).
Now you may ask, why are Queen and Schrade my favourite knife companies when there are so many magnificent knife companies out there? Simple, their products make me feel good. I imagine like many, nothing brings back good childhood memories quite like a Schrade Old Timer or an old winterbottom bone Queen like my Grandpa used to carry.
In recent years Queen has had a bit of a wavy ride, with continuing quality control issues and the 2012 sale of the company to Ken Daniels (of GEC fame). Thankfully through all this they still continued to produce the classic patterns that I grew up with including my all time favourite, the #2.
For years a Queen #2 rode barely noticeable in the watch pocket of my pants wherever I went. Somehow, despite not being a framelock flipper with 5mm thick M390, my humble #2 managed to cut whatever needed to be cut without fuss, never wanting for strength or durability.
Over time the bone scales developed subdued glow garnered from years of sweat, oil and pocket polishing. The blades were slender from years of sharpening and decorated with spots and subtle discoloration from those times when I had neglected to wipe them clean. The edge was thin and keen, long ago having aligned with the angles resulting from my flawed technique on the stones.
Sadly, a couple of years ago I lost my faithful companion. I think I would have rather lost a finger if I'm honest. It actually felt like I had lost a little friend (perhaps I was a little too attached?). Fortunately Queen were still manufacturing the little number #2 and I promptly purchased a replacement from Greg at TSA Knives for around $65 USD.
- Overall Length: 15cm
- Blade Length: Main: 6.7cm, Secondary: 4.2cm
- Closed Length: 8.5cm
- Blade Thickness: Main: 2mm, Secondary: 2mm
- Blade Steel: D2
- Covers: Amber Carved Stag Bone (ACSB)
- Liners: Brass
- Bolsters: Nickel Silver
- Lock: Slipjoint, double spring
- Weight: 46 g (1 5/8 oz)
- Country of origin: USA
"Not nearly as good as the old one..."
After unravelling the little #2 from its tissue paper it was immediately apparent there were a number of fit and finish issues; gaps in the spring, blade grinds a little 'off', the shield was a bit funny and the bone jigging looked flat.
With traditional knives I generally like a two blade configuration, any more (like in a stockman) and the additional blades don't get used much. Depending on the blade shape I typically like to use the one blade for 'dirty' tasks (like opening packaging, sharpening pencils etc.) and the other for 'clean' tasks (like food prep). As such, the #2's combination of clip main blade and secondary pen is pretty much perfection for me (although I wouldn't say no to swapping the pen for a sheepsfoot).
The thin (2mm) full flat ground blades of the #2 finished with a mirror polish are just designed to be great cutters. Unfortunately, while functionally fine both blades have a noticeable recurve where they have been over ground at the factory which is a bit disappointing. Also, the plunges and primary grind on both blades are asymmetrical. Part of me wonders if they are ground this way so they can also be used in other frames (i.e. the small stockman) where the asymmetric grind may be required in order to fit additional blades.
The swedge on both blades has been nicely ground and the spines rounded off. However, the "Queen Cutlery Co #2' etching on the clip blade does overlap onto the swedge which looks untidy.
It is nice being able to get a reasonably priced traditional knife in a higher quality steel like D2. Once sharpened both blades cut like absolute lasers thanks to their thin stock and full flat grinds. In use the D2 holds an edge really nicely and touch ups were required pretty infrequently. The D2 is reasonably stain resistant but will discolour over time or with neglect.
However, like every Queen I've purchased, the #2 came with Queen's infamous 'butter knife edge'. Out of the box the #2 wouldn't even cut copy paper. The unofficial reason for the useless factory edge is that Queen's customers like to set their edge angle themselves. While not opposed to setting my own edge angle, I would kind of like a half decent edge from the factory. In the days before I had diamond stones, putting a nice edge on a D2 Queen was an absolute nightmare.
The serpentine frame is really an elegant design for a small knife. The swells and curves of the handle are just right to accommodate the blades in the slimmest package possible.
The #2's handles are constructed of brass liners, nickel silver bolsters and amber carved stag bone (ACSB) scales all held together with brass pins. Fit and finish is generally pretty good with no gaps between the bone scales, bolsters or liners. There is however, a gap between the main spring and the liner as oddly, the main spring narrows the last 1/2 cm before the blade. There is also some minor chipping of the bone around one of the pins.
The shield sits proud of the handle at a slight angle (it is not flat) and is not aligned correctly. I do wish that Queen would either lose the shield or start pinning them as I have had numerous glued shields fall out of my Queen knives over the years. (EDIT: the shield of my #2 knife fell out hours after I finished this review!)
When compared to my old number #2 the carved grooves in the bone are not very deep or interesting. However, the bone is still very nice with a warm amber glow to it and the carved texture looks OK. With a bit of pocket wear I imagine that it will look great as the the peaks start to get polished and more of the amber colouration shows through.
When using the knife the curve of the frame follows the contours of the hand making it feel very natural. The tang of the blades when open effectively extend the handle and allow a four finger grip. The forefinger and thumb naturally pinch together at the base of the blade which gives exceptional control.
Unlike many multi blade knives, the closed blade on the #2 never feels uncomfortable or awkward in hand. Partly this is because the spine of both blades is rounded and partly because of the design of the blades. The pen blade sits so low in the frame when closed that it is barely noticeable and the clip blade is shaped so my fingers fall naturally either side of the clipped section.
Small, slim and oh so light. In pocket the #2 is unnoticeable, so much so that I really worry about losing the little guy again. In order to avoid another lost #2 I typically I carry it in my watch pocket to keep it secure and separated from the loose change and keys kicking around my other pockets.
If it is to ride in another pocket I will carry it in a leather slip to protect the knife and give it a little more pocket presence. An added bonus of the leather slip is that it also protects your pockets from the exposed blade tang which is quite sharp (I only mention this as my old one wore a hole in the pocket lining of two of my pants!!).
DEPLOYMENT AND LOCK-UP
There are no fancy bearings or washers here, just a simple old pinned pivot and blades rubbing against brass liners. Regardless the #2 has great 'walk and talk' with both blades having a smooth action and strong snap into the open and closed positions. I really like how Queen have included a subtle half stop to add safety but not disrupt the smooth action like a true 'flat backed' half stop would.
Both nail nicks are positioned on the mark side to be both easily accessible and allow enough leverage to open the blades. The nail nick on the main blade is nice, deep and perfectly ground. While the nick on the pen blade is a little shallower but still functional.
Both springs are flush in the closed position but sit a fraction proud when open. The spring has good tension resulting in secure lockup with no play in the clip blade and only some very subtle side to side in the pen.
On the 0 (fall open) to 10 (nail breaker) stiffness scale I would say that the clip blade is a 5 and the pen a solid 6, in other words, Queen got it pretty much spot on.
While being a well built knife my new Queen #2 is just not as good as my old one. Maybe it is just me being sentimental, but the flaws on this knife make me think Queen's quality control has slipped. Hopefully they can learn a few lessons from GEC under the Daniels ownership and get back to putting out the quality of knives I remember.
That being said, the little Queen #2 is still a great knife and is the antithesis of the current trend towards overbuilt knives. If you are a knife guy and are yet to dip your toe into the traditional world I highly recommend giving one a try for a while. They are exceptional cutters and their natural materials give them a charm that is completely different than the sterile perfection of many modern tactical knives.
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