Reate Hills REVIEW
By Matt, 13/2/2017
First Kizer, now Reate.... I am starting to feel like I have subconsciously enrolled myself in a program to get over my prejudice against Chinese knives. Rewind a couple of years and I would never have considered parting with my hard earned for any knife made in the middle kingdom. However, with the recent rise of 'high-end' Chinese knife manufacturing I am actually interested to see what the likes of Kizer, WE, Stedmon and Reate are coming out with (although I must admit I still have some hesitation when laying down my cash for one... old habits die hard as they say).
Reate has arguably positioned themselves at the top of the proverbial 'high-end' Chinese knife pile. This is in no small part due to their reputation for cutting edge manufacturing processes and meticulous quality which has seen them produce mid-tech lines for industry heavy-weights Todd Begg and Long Mah.
The subject of this review, the Hills, is Reate's entry level model. I purchased the knife for $280 AUD from Australian Blade Forums' resident Reate & Kizer dealer True Talon Knives. Tony was a gentleman to deal with as always.
- Overall Length: 21.3 cm (8.375")
- Blade Length: 9.1 cm (3,6")
- Closed Length: 12.2 cm (4.8")
- Blade Thickness: 3mm
- Blade Steel: CPM S35VN
- Handle: 6AL4V Titanium
- Lock: Titanium frame lock with steel insert
- Pivot hardware: Single row bearings
- Weight: 160g (5 5/8 oz)
- Country of origin: China
The Hills comes packaged in a plain white box which houses a plush zippered pouch containing a string lock bag, microfiber cloth, some extra washers & screws and the knife of course.
Initial reactions were very good. Fit and finish was seemingly flawless and the machining was very impressive. The flipping action was tight and smooth, bearing more than a passing resemblance to the action of my Shirogorov Hati (that's the Shiro with phosphor bronze washers not the cool multi row bearings).
Subjectively, I must say that the design didn't really speak to me with something about it feeling just a bit generic. It feels almost like the designers just mixed the current crop of popular flippers in a blender together with a sprinkling of Hinderer and out popped the Hills.
Aesthetically I'm not a huge fan of the Hills' upswept blade (I think a straight spine would look better), however, functionally it has performed every task asked of it without issue. Also, I must admit that the upswept portion of the blade does make a good spot to rest your forefinger when trying to get some extra leverage or dexterity behind a cut. The blade to handle ratio is 0.745, which is pretty much bang on average.
The 3mm stock is full flat ground and gets nice and thin at the edge while retaining some meat behind the tip. This results in a blade which slices well, gliding through sheets of cardboard and only minimally binding on thicker materials like rubber sheet. The stonewashed finish is very fine, evenly applied and so far has hidden scratches and wear well.
There is a very short run of jimping along the base of the spine which is sharp enough to provide traction when you really press your thumb into it, but not so sharp as to be uncomfortable. I would have liked if they could have extended the run of jimping a bit further toward the base of the spine just to give a bit more leeway in thumb positioning.
Reate imports their steel from the States, which means that the Hills uses good old S35VN. In use it held a great edge and I didn't have any chipping or rolling issues despite not babying the blade. From the factory the edge was perfectly even which was a bonus when sharpening. On the stones S35VN is typically one of my favourites and this was no different, taking a fine edge without issue.
Reate have put their machining prowess on display with the Hills, and it elevates what would otherwise be a fairly generic handle. On the surface, every edge is rounded and contoured to ensure a comfortable grip. The vertical ridges along the spine give visual interest and provide some traction to what would otherwise be a fairly slick affair. On the inside, we find milled channels which conceal the stop pins through the base of the blade. All in all, very impressive stuff.
In terms of ergonomics, there are no complaints from me. In a sabre grip your fingers locate naturally in the finger grooves, locking in behind the flipper tab/guard which prevents you sliding forward. The curvature of the handle conforms nicely to the palm of your hand and the blade feels quite nimble owing to the balance point sitting to the rear of the forward finger groove.
Choking up and laying your fore-finger across the spine of the blade works well and affords a better level of control.
The reverse grip is comfortable with your pinky and ring fingers locating in the finger grooves while the thumb rests on the butt.
Construction wise, the titanium slabs are held together with T6 screws threaded thorough steel standoffs and an oversized pivot screw. The titanium has a sandblasted blasted finish which proves to be quite slick (especially when wet) and shows snail trails and wear readily (although not as bad as a sebenza). The only misstep I could find was the visible back end of the lock-bar insert screw, which, sticks out like a sore thumb on an otherwise meticulously finished handle.
Not being a big fan of weird curvy clips unsurprisingly the Hills' clip doesn't really do it for me. I will give them props at least for aligning the flowing curve of the clip with the the contours of the handle (which is more than can be said for a lot of the weird clips we see these days).
Tapped for right hand tip up carry only, the titanium clip sits securely in a machined recess and is held in place by a single screw. Visually it does look quite thin toward the top of the clip, however, functionally it has worked fine sliding into and out of the pocket without issue.
In the pocket you definitely notice the Hills due to its weight, however, the clip provides good retention and I had no issues with the Hills moving around or slipping out. When drawing the knife, the Short run of jimping at base of handle gives some traction and the smooth handle scales means there is little resistance.
In hand the clip works well, although the angled end of the clip can dig in slightly when gripping the knife hard. Generally I prefer clips with an extra bend to flatten the tip as they are better in hand and less likely to scratch things (like my cars) when in the pocket. I do think that the additional of a milled clip would really elevate the Hills, however, I would imagine that it would also add cost.
Reate have done a superb job executing the Hills' frame lock. Fitted with a steel lock bar insert (which also doubles as an over-travel stop), from day one lock-up has been solid at around 30-40% (depending on how hard it is flipped) and has not moved in a couple of months of carry and use.
Unlocking has always been smooth, and light with no trace of stickiness. Access to the lock-bar easy thanks to a subtly deeper cut out on the mark side handle slab.
Not really much more to say here other than... well done Reate!
From day dot, the real star of the Hills for me has been the deployment. Out of the box, the action was tight, clinical and glass smooth. Just the lightest of flicks on flipper tab rocketed the blade out like no ones business. Unfortunately, over time (and a couple of drops on the concrete floor) everything started to wear in and the action lost that clinical tightness I loved so much. Don't get me wrong, the action is sill great, but, there is a fraction more sloppiness now which can't be dialled out by tightening things up.
I like how the flipper tab is jimped just right so as not to wear a hole in your finger but still provide good purchase.
Going the other way the blade will fall closed under its own weight, which makes me giddy with pleasure each time.
Reate have done a good job engineering the pivot assembly, with oversized screws tapped for torx on both sides (I wish guys like Kizer and Shirogorov would follow suit) and steel thrust washers to prevent wear from the caged bearings.
Surprisingly the only downside has come from those neatly milled blade stop channels which initially impressed me so much. In practice when the Hills gets a bit grubby these channels fill up with dirt and prevent the blade locking open correctly. Easily solved by rinsing the knife out, but annoying none the less.
Well the Reate Hills has most certainly helped me on the way to getting over my prejudiced anti-China knife ways. While aesthetically I must admit I find the Hills boring, there is no question that it is an exceptionally well built knife. Judging from my tiny sample size of one, I would certainly say that the Reate is on par with an equivalently priced offering from the likes of ZT.
If a Reate knife catches your eye (and you can afford it) I would not hesitate in recommending you try one out. Personally I hope that they bring out a few more offerings at the Hills' price point.
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