Unlocking the potential of a favourite design
Not to sound too much like David Attenborough, but I grabbed my first Penguin a few months ago. All the reviews online were positive, I loved the design and at under $70 it wasn’t exactly a huge financial risk. Best of all, the Penguin isn’t just another ‘cookie cutter’ knife that looks like everything else out there. Just in case you’ve never seen a Penguin up close, this is qsp knives’ very appealing little ‘utility look’ linerlock pocketknife.
The scales are micarta, the liners are polished stainless, the pivot runs copper washers and the D2 blade snaps out using thumb studs. Overall length opened is just 180mm. You can call the 78mm blade shape ‘sheep’s foot’ if you like, but seeing as I can never quite imagine a Penguin with sheep’s feet, I’m sticking with ‘Wharncliffe style’ as my preferred description. It’s a blade designed with utility in mind. With a nice slicey grind in D2 steel, there’s a lot to like.
When the Penguin arrived in the post I have to admit I was really taken with the little feller. The blade was dead centred and the action smooth and slick. The denim micarta struck me as so much cooler than most of the anonymous plastics that usually infest the budget market. The finish impressed me, and little details like the way the deep-carry pocket clip mounts in a slot milled into the scales only added to a great first impression. Right out of the box the blade was nice and sharp. And seeing as the little Penguin is so easy to carry, it instantly became a pocket favourite, popping out regularly to open packages, clip cable ties off various workshop items, carve up some carpet, slice conduit and of course chop up dozens of apples whenever I headed to the kitchen for a snack.
It’s not the perfect blade for every purpose, but it’s a bloody good one for most. And in those draw-cutting tasks you might normally use a ‘Stanley knife’ for, it really shines, while looking a whole lot better and carrying far more easily. Utility knives with disposable blades have their place, but they’re about as cool as your dad’s brown Camry at a hot rod show. Having seen plenty of hard work, the Penguin is holding up beautifully. The action is still buttery smooth, the micarta is aging and taking on a bit of personality and the straight blade is a real beauty. The D2 holds up well, is a snap to sharpen on a stone and takes a really wicked edge on my guided sharpener.
Having spent some serious time now with my Penguin, my overall feelings are very positive. In fact, so positive that I’ve been back online, considering another addition to the flock. And bugger me, qsp have been busy. As it happens, their Penguins are breeding! The good news is that qsp’s original Penguin linerlock design is now available in brass scales, should micarta not float your boat. Oh, and with a blackwash D2 blade if that’s your thing. For under $90. That’s the good news, but the bloody great news is that the Penguin is about to be released here in Australia as a titanium framelock knife with a 154cm blade. At just a sniff under $130. For anyone who’s ever lusted after a titanium framelock pocketknife but lacked the appetite for the messy divorce that might follow spending a big chunk of cash, this is a pretty compelling choice.
It’s great to see that knife manufacturers do occasionally recognise the potential of a solid design enough to take it to the next level with premium materials. It’s even better that in this case, they’ve managed to keep the price down to something far more accessible than what’s often associated with buying into the world of exotic frame materials. What’s the risk? Well, the jump from linerlock to framelock is a departure from the original Penguin, but qsp have proven that they know their way around framelocks with models like the Legatus. So it’s hard to imagine them running off the rails with the framelock adaptation. Most knife nerds will agree that the 154cm blade is also a step up from D2. The original, distinctive Penguin profile is still there, too. So unless you have a grudge against framelocks, it’s hard to see any downsides.
I guess time will tell whether this highly evolved new Penguin turns out to be the best of the breed. Based on my experience with the original, my money’s already down. Looks like I’ll be making room for a new flock member any day now…
Credit to Kym for this artical/review. You will see more of his writing on the Nebo Knives page soon.