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Review Of The Curtiss Knives F3 3.5″ (Medium)

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Well that didn’t take long.  Followers of ThruMyLens will know that when I returned from Blade Show 2014, I brought back a Curtiss F3 Compact.  That model impressed me so much, I ordered another F3 a week later – this time the 3.5″ version:

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While I had a very specific purpose in mind for my F3 Compact (read the review by clicking here), my need for a larger F3 was more along the lines of a general purpose “every day carry” (EDC) knife.  The Curtiss F3 is a true custom knife, and is “available” in a variety of optional configurations in terms of materials and finishes.  I say “available” (in quotes) because as of this writing, Dave Curtiss’s books are closed and he’d not taking new orders.  But as luck would have it, I ran across an F3 in the secondary market  from a seller who had bought it the week before from the fine folks at BladeHQ.  It was still like new, and I was able to obtain it at essentially the same price Dave Curtiss would sell it.  Best of all it was configured the same way I would want one – basic black G10 (goes with everything, light and wear resistant).  Plain stonewashed titanium backside and pocket clip (won’t easily show wear) and light stonewashed blade.  Absolutely perfect set up for a knife I truly intend to use.

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At first glance, one might simply think this example of the F3 is no different the the first one I bought with the notable exception of the size.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  In fact, the blade is the most similar characteristic that both knives share.  Like the F3 Compact, the 3.5″ (or “medium”) model has a blade constructed from N690.  As I stated in my review of the F3 Compact, this is my first experience with N690 and I’ve not yet had to sharpen either of my F3 knives.  So while I can’t comment yet on how well N690 holds and edge or sharpens, I can point to N690, chemically speaking, being like an enhanced VG-10 – which I have had experience with.  I really do like VG-10, so I expect great results from N690.  Like the Compact F3 I own, the factory edge on the 3.5″ model came incredibly sharp.

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Perhaps the biggest difference between the F3 Compact and the 3.5″ is in the flipping action.  The F3 Compact has a weaker detent, which means that less force is needed to get forward motion from the blade.  However, less force needed combined with a relatively light weight blade (due to the 2.75″ size”) means that launching the blade to the point of full lock up will either require “push button” style flipping or a little inertial assist from your wrist when flipping open the knife.  Thanks to the stronger detent used on the 3.5″ F3, the flipping characteristics are entirely reversed.  On the F3 3.5″ model using a light switch/rocker-style flipping motion, the knife blade rockets out with authority,  but requires slightly more effort than one might be accustomed to using on a flipper style knife.  The extra force needed to overcome the stronger detent is mechanically multiplied resulting in a very favorable force to weight ration begin applied to the blade deployment.  The ultra-smooth IKBS bearing system contained in Curtiss’s proprietary S.P.O.T pivot system is like adding grease to lightning for the flipper action – I’ve never used a faster, better flipper knife.  Push button style flipping really doesn’t work for the F3 3.5″ – the detent is too strong.

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One of the big reasons I carry a knife is for defensive purposes – I normally carry a knife on my weak side as an option with my firearm carried on my strong side.  So ambidextrous deployment of a knife is a critical requirement for any knife I carry, which is why I’ve grown to prefer flipper style knives.  In terms of defensive capability, the F3 3.5″ definitely has some capability in this regard.  With a blade length of 3.5″, it’s a size which I consider to be useful in a defensive scenario.  The F3 isn’t specifically designed to be a defensive/fighting knife.  Dave Curtiss’s goal, I believe, for the F3 series is for the knives to be “hardcore EDC” knives – overbuilt, premium quality knives that can be carried and used every day for a variety of tasks.  So while the blade length, grind, and shape could certainly be used in a defensive scenario, the F3 isn’t ideally designed for this purpose, and the ergonomics of the rest of the knife reflect that.  The handle scales aren’t quite as contoured as I’d like for a defensive knife, and the black G10 scale is lacking the sort of aggressive texture I feel is an asset for a defensive use knife.  So while it doesn’t quite provide the purchase of a folding knife designed for defensive use, the beauty of the F3 is that it’s favorable blade to handle scale ration and relatively thin profile make the F3 a joy to carry inside the pocket.  I work in an office environment, and typically wear dress pants/suits.  I’m not going to clip a knife to my pants pocket – any knife I carry during the week has to be contained within my pants pocket without noticeably “printing”.  As an NRA certified instructor, I get a lot of questions from students about which is the best gun to carry, and I often tell them that the best gun is the one you have with you when you need it.   By that I mean forget all the Special-Ops-Ninja Warrior-Cool specifications….can and will you carry the weapon?  If not, go smaller…even if you have to drop from a preferred caliber like a 9mm to a slightly less effective round like.380.  The more comfortable the gun is to carry, the more likely it is you’ll have it with you when you need it.  Much the same applies here with the F3 – the fact that it fits so well in my pocket means I’ll always have it with me, which is FAR more important to me than any ergonomic shortcomings the knife might have if pushed into a defensive role.

The only really negative thing I can say about the Curtiss F3 3.5″ (beyond the fact they’re hard to find) is that in the short time I’ve owned it, it’s made paper weights out of the other knives in my collection.  Carrying such a high-quality custom knife and American made product is a source of both pride and joy.

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In addition to this written photo review, I’ve prepared a video review of the Curtiss F3 3.5″:

About John B. Holbrook, II
John B. Holbrook, II is a freelance writer, photographer, and author of ThruMyLens.org, as well as LuxuryTyme.com and TheSeamasterReferencePage.com. *All text and images contained in this web site are the original work of the author, John B. Holbrook, II and are copyright protected. Use of any of the information or images without the permission of the author is prohibited.

  1. I like to carry a folding knife for the same reasons as you and in the same location as you (again, for the same reason). I usually only buy knives that can be set up for right or left hand carry equally well (not always possible of course). So I am curious how you would catty this knife on your left side and still use the flipper correctly. You mention that a flipper is good for each hand, which is true, but wouldn’t you have to be able to reverse the pocket-clip to use it left handed? With that being said, nice review, thanks for posting it.

  2. I have several flippers that I carry on my left side and I usually don’t bother to change the pocket clip. It’s about how you train and practice your draw.

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