Ironside Edgeworks Mestiso - Custom Karambit-Pikal Hybrid Combative Knife and Buyer’s Review

rudukai13

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#1
I’ve decided to take this out of the Karambit Discussion thread and start a new dedicated project thread. I’ll be posting updates on the progress of the knife as I get them, with the intention to turn the posts in this thread into a coherent article once it’s finished. Word of caution to those with shorter attention spans, the following is word-heavy. With that said, let’s begin...

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Mestiso (adjective): Filipino word roughly translating to “mongrel”, “crossbreed”.

- Background;

I’ve been a diehard Karambit fan for many years now, having been absolutely obsessed with the fierce claw-like fighting knife ever since I first laid eyes on one in a YouTube video discussing the history and use of the distinctive weapon in Filipino Martial Arts (FMA).

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A traditional Karambit design, made by Traditional Filipino Weapons

In the prevailing years since my personal collection of various traditional and non-traditional folding and fixed-blade ring-handled knives has expanded to include over a dozen examples, including production pieces from Fox Knives Italy, CRKT, Cold Steel, Ontario Knife Company, Emerson Knives, and more. A folding Karambit of one type or another has been my EDC pocket companion as a dedicated defensive knife for years now, and my love of the design grows stronger with each passing day.

In recent years however spurred on by the efforts of well known edged weapon practitioners such as Craig Douglas, Ed Calderon, and others, another distinctive combative blade type with roots in the Filipino art of Kali has enjoyed explosive growth in popularity - That of the Pikal knife. Similar to the beloved Karambit, traditional Pikal knives are purpose-driven, no-nonsense “Get off me or get sliced” blades, identified primarily by the somewhat unorthodox construction of a primary edge intended to be utilized with reverse-grip-edge-in (RGEI) methodology and tactics.

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ShivWorks Clinch Pick (and trainer) designed by Craig Douglas, one of the most popular production Pikal knives currently available on the market

In much the same path that I took with my discovery of the Karambit blade design, I’ve spent the last few years reading and researching this peculiar type of blade; combing through every blog post, forum thread, YouTube video, and magazine article that I could find on the subject. The straight-forward utilization and devastating potential of Pikal RGEI methodology was undeniably alluring, and started me on the path to the resulting custom blade that is the subject of this text.

It was one lazy weekday night a while back that I was reading through a review article on the ubiquitous ShivWorks Clinch Pick (for what must have been the tenth time), absent-mindedly flicking my Fox Knives DART XT trainer open and closed when an idea struck; What if someone designed a knife that combines everything I love about the ring-handled Karambit with the deceptively simple and gruesomely effective RGEI methodology of the reverse-edge Pikal? I fired up the Google machine and began scouring the internet for various offerings of Karambit/Pikal hybrid blades. While I was able to find a few examples of the general concept - ergonomically designed ring-handled blades with the sharpened portion of the piece on the reverse edge for use with decidedly Pikal-like intended utilization - I just didn’t find any that truly grabbed my attention or inspired my hand to reach for my wallet. It wasn’t until later on that I began to entertain the notion that if I was going to acquire a blade with the features and profile that I wanted, I was going to have to find a custom knife maker who could create a design from scratch. Enter Ironside Edgeworks.

- Gavin Coleman and Ironside Edgeworks;

https://ironsideedgeworks.com

I first inadvertently stumbled across Gavin’s work while perusing the myriad posts filed under the Pikal hashtag of Instagram. A bladesmith based in South Africa, Gavin has only been making knives under the Ironside Edgeworks moniker for a scant few years. In that relatively short timeframe though he has established himself as one of the true standouts in the upper echelons of combative knife producers. Specializing in readily EDC-able Pikal-style combative fixed blades, his portfolio of work quickly distinguishes itself from the litany of “me too” reverse-edge blade makers in displaying an innate understanding of the mechanics and engineering necessary to elevate his designs beyond that of a simple hardened and sharpened slab of steel and into the realm of masterfully executed tools of self-preservation.

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Ironside Edgeworks Sin Eater, one of Gavin’s staple Pikal-style blades

The truly breathtaking examples of Gavin’s talent and dedication to his craft materialize in the form of his Masterworks series of knives, a collection of limited-run pieces that consist of exotic materials, one-off inspirations, and high-end versions of his base design portfolio finished with a combination of traditional Japanese Tsukamaki handle wraps and carbon fiber fixtures that result in knives that are as visually stunning as they are deadly effective.

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Ironside Edgeworks Masterworks Requiem, one of Gavin’s high-end limited edition blades

I began researching Gavin’s work and could not find a single customer that was at all displeased with his knives. Even more intriguing, I learned that Gavin had been contracted to create a custom piece by none other than Craig Douglas himself. With this realization I came to the firm conclusion that I had found the best bladesmith to craft my Karambit/Pikal hybrid concept - After all, any maker who has the reputation and clout to make a blade for SouthNarc is more than qualified to produce a knife for a mere mortal such as myself.

- The Karambit-Pikal Hybrid Concept;

The knife that I had been meticulously constructing in my mind for some time would be to a casual observer an odd amalgamation of features, the resulting combination of which had exactly one purpose; to be the most broadly capable combative self-defense knife I’d ever own. The handle was to be distinctly that of a Karambit - ergonomically curved to fill the palm, with a finger ring that would serve to index the blade in the hand upon drawing it from the sheath as well as to aid in retention of the knife during use, and lastly as a blunt-impact surface. This would be grafted to a relatively short (approximately 3.5”) modified Persian-dagger style double-edged blade. The double-edged nature of the blade shape would allow the knife to be utilized simultaneously with reverse-grip-edge-out as well as reverse-grip-edge-in methodology and tactics. My theory (which will be tested and vetted through training with an accompanying dull trainer blade) was that the distance of engagement would dictate which edge and tactics would be emphasized at any given time. At arm’s-length distance (what many would consider traditional “knife dueling” range), the outside edge and Karambit-style techniques would be emphasized, utilizing slashing and stabbing as well as creating the protective “fence” around the user with an edge always between you and your attacker. As distance closes between the user and attacker to grappling range (“the clinch”, as those familiar with Craig Douglas’ curriculum will recognize), emphasis would shift to the reverse edge and Pikal-style tactics - Jabbing and shearing. It should be noted that while this philosophy of use could extend to just about any small double-edged blade, the intended profile and features of my conceptual design would lend itself particularly well to this style of use.

- The Mestiso;

I contacted Gavin through his Ironside Edgeworks Instagram page and asked if he would be interested in working on the hybridized blade concept. Gavin had previously commented publicly on one of his other Instagram posts that he dislikes ring-handled knives for his own personal use, so I had an inkling of apprehension that he might dismiss my request as I sent my first message. Much to my pleasant surprise, he promptly replied to my correspondence and accepted the opportunity to work on the project without hesitation. I sent him a description of the general concept that I was seeking, with a few exacting specifications regarding necessary features and overall dimensions of the knife I had in mind, then encouraged him to run with the parameters and create his own artistic interpretation. A short time later he sent an initial concept sketch, to which I replied with a few requests for tweaks and changes. Within a few days he had a second sketch in my inbox, and it was at this moment that I knew my bank account would shortly be relieved of whatever sum was requested - The design could not have looked more like the concept I had been picturing had someone plugged my imagination into a printer.

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Final approved concept sketch for the Mestiso

With the overall design approved and the deposit made, I set about anxiously awaiting the extremely reasonable two month estimated lead time for my truly one-off custom Ironside Edgeworks blade.

I’ve been told the next step will be a mock-up to make sure the ergonomics and proportions are correct. More to come...
 

rudukai13

Too Established
Network Support III
#2
I thought waiting on shipments for handgun parts was difficult, but man I’m already getting angsty to get this knife in my hand and it’s not going to be here until close to the end of August :oops:
 

rudukai13

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#3
Still waiting on Gavin to get to my blade in his queue, sounds like some administrative delays got him a bit backed up over the last few weeks. Should have more to post here soon though!

While I wait on the Ironside Edgeworks interpretation of this design, I’ve reached out to a few other custom bladesmiths who have experience with both Karambit and Pikal designs and asked if they’d be interested in making their own versions of the concept as well - The response has been overwhelmingly positive. I’m beginning to think that Gavin’s blade will be the first in a series of different makers takes on the hybridized Karambit/Pikal combative knife concept dubbed the Mestiso...I’m getting very excited about the possibilities :cool:
 

rudukai13

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#4
Got an update from Gavin on this project. He’s close to finished work on the live blade, just working on the sheath. The duplicate trainer is after that. I’ve requested pics of progress, will post them as soon as he sends them!
 

rudukai13

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#5
I’m speechless;

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This is the live blade version, Gavin sent the pictures late last night. It looks even better than I expected and I can’t wait to get my hands on it!

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The handle is made with carbon fiber fittings on either end of black rayskin samigawa and black resin-coated silk ito wrapping, with copper liners
 

rudukai13

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#6
Forgot to mention - The blade itself is Bohler K460 high carbon steel, which is Gavin’s standard. He also offers models made with Elmax steel and is starting to work in some more exotic metals like Hitachi Blue Paper steel and titanium
 

rudukai13

Too Established
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#7
Heard from Gavin, evidently he’s been seeing an increase in traffic to his website that he’s been able to trace back to this thread on the forums that I’ve posted it to. If anyone’s considering purchasing a blade from him, I highly recommend it - It will absolutely be money well spent!

He also said he’s wrapping up work on the trainer and will have the pair of blades ready to ship out this week! As soon as I get my hands on them, the real fun and lots of content will be added to this thread. Exciting things happening soon!
 

rudukai13

Too Established
Network Support III
#10
Gavin's a good dude generous with communication and information. Which is in short supply in the custom knife world.
Absolutely! Every message that I sent him from the initial inquiry on was promptly returned with a thorough and thoughtful response within 24 hours, most much quicker than that. He also handled my few requests for some post-initial order tweaks and additions with enthusiasm and zero hesitation. As far as the ordering process and correspondence goes, Gavin lived up to his reputation that I found during my research and earned a solid five stars.

While I’m sure the blades themselves will be equally as impressive, I’ll reserve final review on that matter until I have them in-hand