Sobata 398 by Vargo Titanium
Editor: Johnny LeMaster
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Just the Facts:
This simple, yet classy design serves as the ultimate every-day carry knife. The combination of the satin finished sintered titanium blade, and the blasted titanium handle creates a classic looking knife that will feel practically weightless in the hand. The single position titanium clip allows the knife to be conveniently attached to a belt loop or pocket for easy access. The modified sheepsfoot blade, along with the superb edge retention of the sintered titanium, has an excellent balance of form and function. The Sobata-398 is the perfect knife to take on long backpacking expeditions, to include in a tackle box for weekend fishing trips, or even just to be a centerpiece to an amazing collection!
- Titanium blade and handle are rust and corrosion resistant even in harsh environments
- Flipper tab and thumb slot allows quick one-handed opening
- Lightweight design for comfortable everyday carrying and use
- Integrated pocket clip
- Blade Material: sintered titanium ceramic silver alloy
- Handle Material: 6AL4V titanium
- Hardware: stainless steel fasteners, ceramic detent ball
- Lock Type: frame lock
- Openers: flipper tab and thumb slot
- Total Length: 180mm/7.1in
- Closed Length: 100mm/3.9in
- Blade Length: 80mm/3.2in
- Blade Thickness: 3mm/0.12in
- Blade Type: modified sheepsfoot
- Weight: 2.3oz/65g
If you are a knife nut, like the latest and greatest gear, or love being intrigued by something that challenges the norms, then you need to check out the new Sobata 398 knife by Vargo Outdoors. Vargo makes a very bold claim that the ceramic sintered titanium blade will stay sharper 5 times longer than a typical hardened steel blade. I can not say whether it actually does stay sharp 5 times longer, but I can tell you that without a doubt it absolutely stays sharp many times longer than any steel blade I have had the pleasure to test out. This is the perfect knife for anyone who can appreciate a quality knife from the everyday carrier to the ultralight backpacker.
When I first was introduced to the Sobata 398 I was excited. I had held one and looked it over for a few minutes and talked to a rep from Vargo about what made this knife special prior to getting a hold of one for my own personal usage. After talking to the rep, I was filled with a mixture of excitement, and skepticism. Here was a company known for making lightweight titanium cookware, backpack frames, tents and other camping gear but not knives. They were incredibly excited and proud of their newest product to their lineup, the Sobata 398. I inspected the knife up close, taking a close look at it’s make up and design as I listened to the rep tell me about how this knife was going to stay sharp 5 times longer than the typical hardened steel blade. I thought it was definitely a cool knife that I needed to check out just based on the design and make up, but I was skeptical of his claim. Sure, I thought. Probably just a bit of exaggeration by another person proud and excited about their product. I was wrong! The Sobata 398 stayed sharp for an incredibly long time under constant use and abuse. Every time I thought the blade was going to be dull for sure this time it would cut right through like it was fresh out of the box. This knife is absolutely incredible and has stymied me at every turn.
When the knife showed up in the mail, I immediately pulled it out of the package and did what most people would when they get a hold of a new blade. I flipped it open, turned it over in my hands a few times and then tried to test out the factory edge. I first ran my thumb across the blade in both directions. It didn’t feel particularly sharp along my callouses. I then tried to shave a little arm hair, as this is a simple yet effective way to see if a blade has a decent edge. It wouldn’t shave any hair. At this point I am starting to wonder if Vargo just doesn’t put a good factory edge on their knives, or did I just get a lemon. I went on to the next test of an edge, cutting paper. I ran the blade through and sheet of paper, it cut it but not cleanly like you would expect from a sharp blade. Now I was concerned. I immediately got a hold of Vargo and asked what was going on, why was my knife dull. I was quickly assured that it was not dull, it did not need sharpened, and it was supposed to be like that. I was told “just use it”. Great, not off to a very bright start. At least the knife looked good, the corrosion resistant blasted titanium handle/frame with integrated pocket clip, and modified sheep’s foot blade. The knife is very easy to operate one handed with the flipper tab rotating the blade on a ceramic detent ball and frame lock systems. The titanium makes this knife incredibly light, weighing in at just 2.3 oz it nearly disappears in your hand our pocket. I had to see how it would actually cut.
I am a person who loves spending as much time in the outdoors as much as possible, and I always have a knife on me. My plan was to abuse this knife in about every way I possibly could. I made the Sobata my EDC and started using it every chance I could. I started out using it to just cut some common items plastic containers and packaging, rope, zip ties, cardboard, and food. For as dull as this knife felt it cut through everything with ease. Being the middle of hunting season, I used it to clean and breast out numerous birds at the end of a day’s hunt. Every time I hit bone, I would cringe a little. This is going to be it I was sure. That will definitely dull the knife this time. The very next cut sliced through with ease. You would never know I had done anything other than cut through jello. I used the blade countless times each time expecting the knife to have finally dulled, but it kept going like I had never used it. This knife was a puzzle covered in a mystery wrapped in an enigma to me. How could this blade truly stay sharp this long?!
Vargo used a sintered titanium ceramic silver alloy for the blade. They took two materials, that although have impressive characteristics, each have huge drawback when used for blades. They combined them and created an alloy that in many ways is superior to the typical hardened steel alloys that dominate the knife market. Titanium is a very lightweight, strong material that is also very ductile (soft) when used as a blade it loses its edge very quickly and is prone to the metal dinging and folding. Ceramic on the other hand is an incredibly brittle (hard) material. It can hold an edge for a long time but is a nightmare to sharpen, very difficult to sharpen and is prone to nicks and chips. By sintering these two materials through lower than melting point heat and immense pressure Vargo created the perfect monster. They complement each other perfectly completely offsetting the others weakness. A blade that is lightweight, very strong, stays sharp for and incredibly long time, and is easy to put an edge back on when needed. This knife stays sharp long beyond what you would ever expect from a pocketknife. Not sharp in the traditional way you would expect. It doesn’t feel particularly sharp to the touch but slices through everyday items with easy.
Finally, the day came where I didn’t feel that the Sobata 398 was cutting as well as it had for so long. I pulled out my sharpening kit and expected to be in for a marathon to hone and edge back on to the blade. I was surprised at how quickly I was able to clean up the edge and returned it to ‘sharp’ condition. It took me less time actually to put and edge back on the Sobata than my other EDC knives. Since then I have continued to carry the Sobata daily and use it for everything. As of yet, I have not had to pull the sharpener back out for another touch up. I love the toughness and lack of maintenance this knife provides. This knife is full of pleasant surprises.
The Sobata 398 has far exceeded my expectations at every turn. Vargo Outdoors knocked this one out of the park, taking the knife industry by storm with their ingenious design. I am absolutely in love with my Sobata 398 knife. Vargo created a truly impressive knife at a reasonable cost coming in right at the price point I would expect for a quality knife. Anyone who spends any amount of time outdoors, likes having low maintenance quality gear, or just a knife that they can depend on when they need it to count should own the Sobata 398.
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What Could be Done Better:
Absolutely nothing! I wouldn’t change a thing about this knife.