EverydayCommentary: ZT 0545 Review

Franz Shubert’s Winterreise is a work of profound sadness. Based on a poem by Wilhelm Muller, the piece details a winter journey by a man struggling with grief from the end of a relationship. As he plunges in to deeper levels of despair, his sadness transmutes into existential dread. Hope is obliterated by the unrelenting Prussian winter. Add to that the fact that Shubert was starting to feel the mental and physical effects of syphillis that would ultimately kill him and Winterreise is one of the darkest and bleakest pieces of symphonic music ever written. It is literally and metaphorically about being lost and directionless in the wilderness.

And so you can probably guess where this intro segues to knives. Zero Tolerance shot on to the scene in the early 2000s as a brand focused on high end tactical production knives. And they were pretty good at it, though in retrospect tactical knives at the time tended to be pretty crude by nature and so making good ones was really just not making bad ones. After that period, Zero Tolerance shifted and became a brand that made really high quality production knives, though still with a tactical bent. They did collaborations with hot custom makers and their knives gave the masses the ability to own something similar to a sought after custom.

But two things happened that resulted in ZT being on their own Winterreise for most of the last decade.

First, the slabby, bulky designs that ZT specialized in fell out of popularity on the heels of the Benchmade Bugout and, for enthusiasts, the TRM Neutron. Knife buyers, both in the general public and the IKC, were looking for slim folders that carried and cut well. The use of high end PM steels made it such that these thinner folders basically had no toughness penalty for being slim—chemistry overcame geometry to deliver thinner blades that were equally tough (compare how the A2 Bravo 1 and 3V Bravo 1 LT from Bark River were designed) ZT’s formula of thick titanium framelock flippers with equally thick blade stock didn’t follow this trend.

Second, the overseas brands caught up to and then surpassed ZT in terms of execution and design. Reate and WE were among the first high end Chinese brands and when they first came out people scoffed at the idea of paying $300 for an overseas made knife, especially when ZT was making good stuff in America. But then Reate and WE started making stuff that was just better. Line up the ZT0055 to the WE Knives GTC Solid SLT. The WE Knives version has everything the ZT has, plus it is a full integral AND has complex machining on the handle and a true duplex grind on the blade. ZT kept cranking out one new slabby framelock after another while the enthusiast knife market moved on to Reate/WE and self-published blades and everyone was obsessed with the Bugout.

I previewed more of Sculimbrene’s text than I usually do. His description of ZT in the past few years is spot on. I have had many conversations with knife folks about “what happened to ZT?”. Anthony nails it in the above passage.

You can read the whole thing at EverydayCommentary.com…