I am Star Wars fan through and through. I still have my original 1980 AT-AT. My sons play with it to this day. I went to see the Phantom Menace the night it opened, as it was the final exam for college. I suffered through Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith with its terrible dialog. The movies I knew and loved seemed lost in awful acting, amazing vehicle designs, and trudgey plots. When the Force Awakens came out I was hopeful and it was good, but it was really just a rehash of A New Hope--bigger Death Star, faster X-wings, and more emo Vader. I had kind of lost hope that Star Wars would ever be new again (the Clone Wars and Rebels are excellent, I was more losing hope for the movies). Then Rogue One came out and it was pretty darn good. But when I saw the Last Jedi for the first time I knew that my faith was being rewarded--this was a Star Wars tale through and through, but it was something new, something different. It wasn't a rehash. It was so good, in fact, that it made me rethink Force Awakens. That movie wasn't a rehash, it was part of a swerve. Finally, after all these years, there was fresh new ideas in Star Wars. Love it or hate it, at least the Last Jedi was something new. For me, it was both new and good.
In many ways that is how I viewed SOG--a long lost brand wading through clam shells of $30 knives destined for a Big Box. Their best years were behind them and they were running fumes and retreads. But then they showed off the Pillar at the 2017 SHOT Show. This was a real knife. A good knife. With lots of promise.
The SOG Pillar has been the most surprising piece of kit I have reviewed in years. The specs make it appealing--S35VN, micarta, Made in the USA--but getting the knife in hand and using it have proven to me that this is probably the best production all-around fixed blade available.
Here is my review sample:
Twitter Review Summary: Great knife, even better sheath
The Pillar has styling that makes more like SOG’s lesser fixed blades, something almost weapon-y about it, but then it has smart touches that make me think that it is REALLY intended as an outdoor tool—the pass through full tang design, the choil, the micarta handles. In reality, this is a SOG fixed blade that they wisely bent towards the outdoor fixed blade design pole and away from SEAL Team 6. I am sure it could flex into a weapon role, but I have no knowledge of that part of the knife world, so I am going to just pass by.
The design is really excellent. Like Bark River, SOG takes advantage of the higher end powder steel (here S35VN) and slims down the blade stock. This leveraging of high end steel is a good thing—it makes the knife slimmer without a sacrificing a smidge of toughness. I wish more makers did this. I have had my fill of knives with great steels that perform poorly because of bad design. I also really like the choice of handle material. There is nothing that really hits the same spot in the brain as micarta. Its a great material that ages and wears in over time. Its the wabi-sabi handle material. Finally, I like the fact that SOG instilled some of their soul into this knife. Its not another bland drop point outdoor knife. The peak on the spine and the geared pattern on the pass through tell you this is a SOG. I like simple and basic knives, but I also appreciate blades with identity and there is no mistaking this knife’s identity.
Fit and Finish: 2
The fit and finish is spectacular here. The handles are smooth and there are no gaps between the handle and the tang. The wordmarks are crisp, the grips are even, the sheath is immaculate. In short, after months of use I could not find a single thing to complain about on the Pillar. All of this has led me on a slightly obsessive hunt to figure out who SOG’s domestic OEM is on this knife. If you know comment below because they make great stuff. Could it be Millett? Maybe one of the midtech makers? I just have to know.
Handle Design: 2
The Pillar handle is very good. It does LOOK a bit busy with the five lines, the squared off choil, and the geared pommel. But if you ignore that stuff and put the knife in your hand and use it, you will understand that it works well.
In fact, the silhouette here is quite simple—an index notch and a curved pistol grip. Its not the best handle in the business—there is no palm swell or Coke bottling—but it is quite good aside from those things.
S35VN is a very good all around steel. In a folder, I have no complaints. In a fixed blade it is still quite good. One minor drawback, and not enough to cost the Pillar any points, is the fact that S35VN, like its older brother S30V, does tend to get chippy and can be hard to sharpen. I did develop chips on the edge of this knife and it more effort than expected to get rid of them, but it was not a huge hassle. The edge, even before the resharpening, was still very sharp. Again, like with the handle, not the very best choice, but still well above average.
Blade Shape: 2
Whoa is this blade shape sexy. I know that lots of lesser SOGs run this shape but I tend to gloss over them, bored by their steel choice and turned off by their rubberized handles. Its not that this super glorious clip point is new, its just the first time I noticed it.
The pointed clip is really visually appealing and while the end result is a clip point like your used to, the visual impact is high.
Ah, grinds—SOGs forte. From the very beginning of this site and ever since I have been conviced that no one in the production game does grinds as nicely or as consistently as SOG. The Pillar’s blade is a perfect example. This not the simplest grind either, with a few different facets. As is expected with the SOG they all come together nicely and are perfectly symetrical from side to side. Also nice is the fact that the grind here is really thin. I love thinly ground knives and while it might be an issue on a fixed blade, the extra hardness and toughness of S35VN makes it work. This is a very well ground blade in every aspect.
Sheath Carry: 2
If the grind is the source of expected excellence, the sheath is a sort of surprise excellence. While it is a pancake, as opposed to a taco-style sheath, this is a tight fitting, slim number that rides exceptionally well on the hip. There is no bouncing around, no sliding, and it just locks in thanks to the best-I-have-ever-seen mounting clip.
If anyone knows of a source for these clips, post in the comments. This is leagues better than the best Tek Loks, which, in reality, aren’t that bad. I am not sure this sheath is kydex, it seems a bit less snappy, but whatever it is, it works great.
Sheath Accessibility: 2
This sheath provides a blind removal, but not quite a blind return. I am sure, over time, I could learn the proper spacing to make it happen, but as it is, from a major production company, this sheath is an epiphany moment. Sheath design is exceptionally hard, hard enough to make Michael Walker go into folders instead of fixed blades all those years ago, so its not surprising that sheathes are the weak point in production fixed blades. This sheath, however, functions like the best custom versions I have had made for my knives. It is damn near perfect in terms of accessibility. Bark River, are you paying attention?
Over a few weekends of yardwork, clearing brush and processing wood, the Pillar did quite well. There were no real hotspots and the handle never abraded my hand. The flare of the handle just beyond the index notch was a bit too long, long enough to occasionally make a cut challenging, but it was nothing too bad. The excellent sheath made the entire knife that much better to use. I loved using this knife.
The only real ding here is the chippiness of S35VN and it wasn’t that bad. I got one major chip that required some grinding out, but the rest were just stropped away. The handle, because it is micarta, looks cooler now than when I got it out of the box, and the sheath held up quite well. In short, if you are cognizant of the steel, this knife will handle most whatever you throw at it. It batonned nicely (thin blade) and still swung in to do food prep quite easily (again, thin blade).
Overall Score: 20 out of 20
Its not a perfect knife. I am not 100% sold on S35VN on a fixed blade and the handle could use a bit more attention, but the Pillar is still one of the best fixed blades available. It easily sits with some of the nicer Bark Rivers, which is a huge complement. The grind is stunning and the sheath is probably the best out of the box sheath I have ever used, with its mounting clip giving it a leg up over the Survive Knives’ excellent sheath.
As a portent of SOG’s future, this is incredibly exciting. I want more stuff from SOG just like this—domestically made, good material choices, and excellent design. Unfortunately, as I write this review the SHOT 2018 line up from SOG was announced and there is nothing like the Pillar in there. It is a shame because this is an amazing knife, one of the best things SOG has made in years, maybe ever. If you are looking for a jack of all trades fixed blade, the Pillar should be on your short list.
SOG leapfrogged from competing with Schrade and CRKT to being in the big league with Fallkniven, Bark River, and Survive Knives. The F1 is a bit smaller but similar in use. The Bravo 1 LT in 3V has a better steel and a better handle, but a significantly worse sheath. It is also more money. The Survive Knives GSO 4.7 is about the same price and has a similarly good sheath. Between those two, it would be a tough call. That is a testament to how good this knife is.