Phil Wilson CPM 3V Utility Scalpel
Custom Knife Review

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Phil Wilson CPM 3V Utility Scalpel

Knife collecting for me isn't just about accumulating more cool looking knives, although that is also a significant part of the hobby, what can I do, I like my sharp and pointy toys. Another important part is studying knives, their behavior, steels, what makes them cut better and be stronger, etc. Once you start digging into that, it's way more complicated than just a piece of sharp metal that is used to cut stuff. There are so many steels, blade geometries, edge angles, steels performing better for certain types of materials and other steels being better for different materials, and then the heat treatment, edge polish, etc. As you can see factors involved in knife performance are numerous. I'm not a professional metallurgist, nor a knife makers, and my testing/studying abilities are limited, but still, here and there I do few tests I can and I am interested in. This is how the highly experimental, CPM 3V steel utility hunter came to be. After getting number of extremely high alloy, high wear resistance tool steel knives from Phil Wilson, which included Utility hunter in CPM 10V, Meadows Skinner in CPM S110V steel, Meadows Semi-Skinner in CPM S125V, I got more interested in different aspects of edge holding ability for the light cutting type knives. Based on reading and researching edge stability and edge holding aspects, and my personal experience on dulling types of various knives, I've decided to try tougher steel at high hardness, because toughness is also an important part of overall edge holding ability of the knife. Depending on the cutting work it may or may not play as important role as the wear resistance, but overall, tougher is better, as long as you don't have to compromise other properties. Obviously, I am referring to light use and kitchen knives here. Otherwise, for heavy duty choppers it is exatly the opposite, you trade strength and wear resistance for toughness.

I've exchanged several emails with Phil, and we agreed on CPM 3V steel, at 62HRC, which is pretty much its top limit in hardness. I've already had CPM 3V knives from Jerry Hossom, still have my own designed CPM 3V Gator. Well, Jerry had long backlog, besides Phil had another knife for me in the works, so I could sneak in another knife order. I came up with design, and since I was experimenting, I've asked for a quite small, very thin knife. I've sent the specs to Phil and we hashed out remaining details, such as handle material, tang type, etc.

Later on, when and Phil had yet another exchange, Phil expressed his concerns about the knife, which seemed too untraditional, but to his credit he still made it according to my specs. Well, when I got the knife I understood what he meant though :) Unfortunately, I haven't kept my old email with the specs, and apparently there was a mistake, the knife was wider that I had in mind, but nothing too weird or unusable anyway, as you can see on the photo. Phil's main concern was the thin blade, which was really flexible, but once the knife was ready and he checked the knife it was much more stable and resilient than ~1mm thickness would suggest. After all CPM 3V steel is designed to be tough and shock resistant, while having relatively high wear resistance too. About it's performance below, in usage section.


- Well, generally speaking this is an experimental design of mine, because I wanted to test the cutting performance and edge stability and durability of the ultra thin, tough and wear resistant steel, specifically CPM 3V form Crucible. For the reference here - Crucible CPM 3V tool steel composition. The knife is very simplistic, no fancy materials except the 62HRC CPM 3V steel of course :) Because it's so thin and small the weight is also very light, just 61.20g(2.07oz). I wasn't looking for anything special, and I was not very sure the experiment would've been successful either, so the budget was limited. Making the knife that thin posed its own challenges ot Phil, and perhaps it was more troublesome for him to make that many other, more expensive knives, and for that I am glad he didn't abandon the project which was more of a hassle to him. Steel mills don't make strips that thin, so it had to be thinned down considerably. Overall, the knife came out fine for whatever I wanted it. It isn't very pretty, but as far as its performance goes, it's far greater that I have expected. When I first inspected the knife, I was surprised and rather scared it would break during cutting, it is so flexible compares to other knives. But no, nothing like that happened :) Cuts like there is no tomorrow.


- The blade is what was the only special part of this knife and it worked out surprisingly well. Blade length is 120.00mm(4.72"), 40mm wide, and 1.15mm thick at its thickest, although closer to the tip it is less then 1mm thick. The knife is a stick tang design, given its intended use, there was non need for a full tang, besides at that thickness, full tang wasn't gonna add much of the strength anyway. CPM 3V steel was hardened to 62HRC. Even though it is a shock resistant, tough tool steel, its wear resistance is considerably higher compared to other popular tool steels in knifemaking, including A2 steel, mainly thanks to large amount of Vanadium in it - 2.75%, which is ten times more than what A2 has. Besides, Crucible proprietary CPM process has its own benefits such as refined grain, which positively affects steel strength and other properties as well. Still, it wasn't very clear to me how 1mm thick blade with about 30° inclusive angle edge would stand up to light/medium use. After all, I wasn't planning to use this knife in the kitchen, but as an utility knife, which means cardboard, rope, wood, rubber, wiring, whatever else I might have to cut or want to test the knife with.


- handle material is slightly textured micarta. Like I said, I wanted the knife mainly as an experiment, and I went with the simplest and quickest materials. Other times it's ok to wait extra month or two for that select ironwood piece I want for my knife, but this time it didn't matter, besides micarta works fine for a lot of the knives I have, it's not like it is a sub-par handle material. Simple, readily available, secure grip and it can take a lot of abuse too. Given all the things I would have to subject the knife and potential for getting it oily, dirty, etc, I'd rather have more durable material and the one I wouldn't have to worry about, and micarta is a perfect choice for that. Handle slabs are fastened to the blade with three pins, which is plenty. No problems with the handle so far.


- Still pending. Short and incomplete list of the materials cut with this knife includes several types of wiring, from copper to steel, cardboard, lots of it, rubber, different types of plastic and wood. And I can only commend the ease of cutting with this knife, it is a scalpel, a very tough scalpel at that ;) Detailed report in works. Given my backlog with reviews not sure when it will be complete though, and I keep using this knife, i.e. more data to log process.


  • Blade - 120.00mm(4.72")
  • Thickness - 1.15mm
  • Width - 40.11mm
  • OAL - 225.30mm(8.87")
  • Steel - CPM 3V steel at 62HRC
  • Handle - Micarta
  • Weight - 61.20g(2.07oz)
  • Acquired - 10/2009 Price - 200.00$

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Last updated - 05/19/19