The Ocaso Knives story starts with their founder, Ric Valdez. While Ocaso is new on the knife scene, Ric has been around the industry for two decades, until recently as a VP at Cold Steel Knives. When Lynn Thompson sold the company to GSM Outdoors 2020, Vadez, along with notables such as the Demko Brothers, left the company to pursue other projects.
Ric founded Ocaso Knives in 2022. Among his stable of designers are his old friend from Cold Steel Andrew Demko, David Seaton, and Mike Wallace, who designed the Strategy which we are reviewing here today.
Mike is a custom maker, who has been making knives since he was 14. He works for the Demko Knives now, but has his own custom company – Wallace Edged Tools.
The Ocaso Strategy is available in 5 combinations of handle and blade. Black coated w/ smooth aluminum handles, Black G10 w/satin finish, Natural Jade G10 with satin or coated blade, or Carbon Fiber inserts with satin blade.
I chose the CF one for myself, and Katie (KNIFE Graphic Designer) and Vince (Office Manager) each took one, and will be offering thoughts in a pair of “Mini-Reviews” coming up within this post.
The Strategy is a liner lock, and the knives stainless frame is skeletonized in an attempt to limit weight.
Which leads me to my #1 knock on the knife. Ocaso lists it at 4oz for the aluminum handled one, and I got 3 5/8oz on the G10 and CF models. So it is a bit on the heavy side. Or at least to someone whose primary carry is a Bugout (2 1/8oz), which is admittedly meant to be an ultralight knife. It turns out that when I limit it to similarly sized knives from my collection with full liners, it shows in a better light. Here are some examples:
Vero Synapse – Small 3 3/8oz (MSRP $315 China -M390)
Kizer Drop Bear (Anodized Titanium): 4 1/4oz ($218 China – LC200N)
So it really is a matter of perception that it feels slightly heavy, when in fact it is a bit better than average.
A quick note on MSRPs: The Strategy retails for between $149 (G10/satin) to $174 (Aluminum/Coated). This seems right on the mark as it is is made in Taiwan and has a fit and finish of equal quality to the ZT, Kizer, and Vero, yet with less expensive D2 Steel. The cost of the more premium steels is reflected in the relative MSRPs.
A couple of other details that bear mentioning…
The OCASO pivot cap is a company hallmark, and is a classy touch. As is the Ocaso on the deep carry pocket clip.
It adds a touch of panache to what is otherwise a functional but unremarkable clip.
Blade centering is excellent:
It is actually better than this picture captures, since the “false swedge” (is this a thing?) reflects the light unevenly. Here is are some pictures, because words are not quite capturing it for me…
It is not a functional touch, but an aesthetic note that connected with me for some reason.
The blade itself is D2, with a 3.5″ cutting edge. Not all D2 is created equal. I have some d2 knives that can’t be stored in my workshop or they will begin to rust. I have had not yet had this problem with the Strategy. It got plenty damp in my pocket in 90 degree Tennessee heat and humidity this summer, and it held up fine.
I tested the Strategy across a number of tasks to demonstrate both edge retention and slicing performance.
Starting with newsprint:
And the corners of a notebook:
It sliced about halfway through 3/4″ manila rope in one pass, and finished on the 3rd.
Moving on to produce, it diced onions well, tracking fairly straight for a non-purpose designed edge…
But while it made excellent delicate slices in a cherry tomato, its blade geometry is not suited for peeling…
All in all, the Strategy’s edge is not ridiculously slicey, but is more than suitable for a wide range of tasks.
As for edge retention…
I made it through 100 linear feet of crosscut cardboard, with some, but not total degradation of the edge. It could have kept going for at least 30-40 more feet I am sure, but I ran out of cardboard.
This test is as much about geometry as it is about retention, because sometimes exceptionally thin blades will overperform expectations from the steel in question. A Swiss Army Knife is a good example. But this result for the strategy exceeded my expectations, and I have put a lot of knives through this test over the years. I have seldom had one that could still slice newsprint when done. The Strategy did, though it took careful technique at this point and the edge was jagged.
The knife felt good in my hand, even after 100 feet of crosscut cardboard. My hand often gets tired doing this test, and it is a testament to the Strategy’s ergonomics that it didn’t this time.
It only took a minute or two with the Sharpmaker to return the edge to arm-shaving sharpness.
In a nutshell, Mike and Ocaso designed an efficient EDC blade, that should handle anything one is likely to encounter in their daily goings-on.
Katie’s Corner: Our Graphic Artist weighs in…
I was excited to be handed the Ocaso’s Strategy to review. It has become my EDC over the past few weeks. Mine is smooth, black aluminum, but it also comes in G10 and carbon fiber versions. I prefer the look of the sleek aluminum but can see how it may be harder to grip should one find themselves in a sweaty situation.
And on the topic of grip, I very much like the scalloped edges on the scales. My hands are smaller than the average bear’s, but I have no trouble handling the Strategy. It’s also not too bulky in my pocket, which is saying something considering there is still a fight to be won when it comes to pocket sizes for women.
Also, from a graphic design standpoint, I wanted to give Ocaso praise for their logo design. It’s minimal, it’s modern, and to be blunt, I just really like it!
One thing that I found interesting was Katie’s mention of the knife fitting her smaller hand well. Another outside review (NothingButKnives.com) said this:
Wallace seems to have hit on a near-perfect universal shape with the handle. It has a full, comfortable, four-finger grip that nearly feels like it was made for my hand.
I thought I was just lucky, but my wife actually picked this up and asked if it was made for smaller hands because it felt so natural in her grip (which is a pretty rare occurrence with most of the knives I bring home). The shape just works. All that scalloping along the front hits right in the sweet spot of contouring that gives the hand more angles and material to latch onto before it becomes so overworked that it’s just intrusive to the grip. And apparently it feels that way in all kinds of different hand shapes.
WEB Griffin once said, ” the mark of another man’s genius is how much you agree with him”. I certainly agree with both Katie and NBK.
Katie reports that it fits acceptably well in her jeans. It carries nicely in my more functional pockets as well.
Honestly, the Ocaso Strategy looked a little common to me at first. G-10 scales, ball bearings, D2 steel. Seemingly countless similar models in the marketplace. I carried it for a couple of weeks and enjoyed using it. Medium size for the pocket (I usually carry smaller knives in or around the pockets) and relatively light. Finger flipper works as expected with a smoothness characteristic of quality modern flippers. The fold over pocket clip that provides deep carry is nice. It is also easy to insert and retrieve from the chosen pocket. I was impressed with the strength and seeming toughness of the overall knife and the “tightness” of the locking mechanism, having no play while giving a firm sense of confidence for various applications. I used the Strategy for some light to moderate chores – mostly around the Knife Magazine office pertaining to packaging materials, including some cardboard. I was (as always) leary of D2. On paper it is my favorite steel. But in practice I have noticed many irregularities – primarily around the ability for manufacturers to obtain a consistent quality of sharpness. This particular model from Ocaso is top notch. Sharp and just feels tough. Overall an excellent all around knife for EDC in the office or in the woods.
The Mike Wallace designed Ocaso Strategy blurs the line between Gentleman’s Knife and functional EDC. Not as delicate as the Andrew Demko designed Ocaso Solstice, but a true EDC that will stand up to anything non-abusive that an EDC is likely to encounter. Yet it has the classy feel and the premium fit and finish that makes it equally at home in a more formal environment.
The Ocaso Strategy will remain in my rotation, even after I have finished this review. Carrying it because I still want to is the highest endorsement I can give.