Let’s be candid—Reate has struggled making useful knives and the IKC has given them a pass because of the materials they use, the excellent fit and finish, and their great deployment. Utility and cutting performance are not their strong suit. If you consider “posing for IG photos” a use for knife, then Reate is one of the best companies in the world, but those of us that like to use our knives to cut things, they leave much to be desired. Every new release larded with Damasteel or Moku Ti or both has been an easy pass for me. I’d much rather have a Chaparral in FRN then yet another $600 flipper that cuts with the precision of a shovel. Time and again Reate has released really trendy knives. They just haven’t released a useful one. And this isn’t an issue of price. I have had many knives, custom and production, that are as pricey as a Reate. But if I had a choice between a $600 CRK and a $600 Reate, until now, the choice has been easy. I like knives that cut, so it was a CRK (hence the $500 old nail nick Mnandi I bought a few months ago).
But the T2500 is a sign that things could be changing at the premiere Chinese knife manufacturer.
The Reate T2500 is part of a series of designs by Tashi Bharucha built by Reate. Bharucha’s designs have always been a favorite of mine, clever, interesting and uniquely his. The T2500, despite being one of many Bharucha’s designs made by Reate, is singular in the Reate line up for being a small knife. Until now Reate’s “small” knives were ones with blades well over 3 inches. For a lot of people, those with legal restrictions, small pockets, or no need to compensate, this is the first Reate that might be a practical purchase. It also happens to be the first Reate with a blade stock thinner than a maple cutting board. So how does the T2500 fair, given its uniqueness in the line up? Is this the first easy recommend Reate? Does the sparkling level of handle finishing match the quality of the rest of the knife? Stay tuned.
Normally I would link you the product page, but Reate does not have one for this knife despite it being on the market for three months (note: Reate’s webpage is as good as their cutting edges usually are, which is to say lacking…). Instead, here is the link to the Blade HQ page (who sent me the knife for review). Here is a review from Dan over at Blade Reviews. He is significantly less critical of the knife than I am so take this review with a grain of salt. Whenever I disagree with Dan I am always worried I got it wrong because, well, its Dan.
Twitter Review Summary: A different kind of Reate, but with a few unexpected warts.
Something about the T2500 bothered me. I couldn’t put my finger on it for the first month and half. I’d carry it, I’d like it, but I didn’t love it. Something just seemed off. And then I figured it out. This knife has a lot of useless space. In most knives you have blade then handle. Sometimes there is a funky choil that takes up about 5% of the real estate, but most of the time blade goes right into handle. Think about the Gent or the Dragonfly. On the Gent there is literally no gap between handle and edge. On the DF2 its like 1% of the real estate. Here, because of the quirky flipper tab there is about 15-20% of the knife that is neither handle nor edge. That dead space really kills the knife in many ways. The DF2, for example is a smaller knife when closed but has a much more capacious handle and only slightly less blade length. This strikes me as the perfect example of a pure design flaw on a knife. The blueprint, while strike and unique, just botches the blade’s function.
Fit and Finish: 2
Look at the fit between the titanium handle and the carbon fiber inlay:
It is seamless to the touch all the way around the entire inlay. And that is the just one of the many touches that prove, once again, that Reate’s fit and finish rivals or surpasses every in the production knife game. Blade centering, grind finish, chamfering, everything about this knife is proof that Reate stands behind no one else in terms of precision. This is a glory to behold and if the scale could take a 3, I would award one here. Reate is one of the best production company on the planet in terms of fit and finish and the T2500 is a great example of that. Now if the could just take that acumen and spread it around to other aspects of knife design.
Yikes. Its just too difficult to make out what is going on here. Between the space eating flipper tab and the ultra pokey clip, this is not my favorite knife in hand. Compared to a design like the equally small Dragonfly, this is a huge swing and a miss for Reate. The clip isn’t so much a hotspot as it is a stigmata aid. And this problem is the Reate problem writ small—a gee whiz feat of machining executed perfectly but with no thought to how it will impact the knife’s function.
Something this small, this sculpted and chamfered is always going to carry well. The one theoretical complaint is that the pokey clip could eventually tear up a pair of jeans, but I wouldn’t worry so much about it. Great coin pocket carry.
Nom, nom, nom...M390. There is nothing to complain about with M390 and from my use I can’t see any way that the M390 Reate uses is any different from the M390 others use. I would love to know if Reate does the heat treat internally and therefore has an opportunity to tweak performance, but alas, like with CATRA results, heat treat is one of those things we, as consumers will never get to know more about in the production world. I guess if I were a production company and I could either leave my heat treat protocols behind the curtain or compare them to the only folder company that makes this info public (Buck) I wouldn’t say anything either. After all, what’s the chance that someone has a better heat treat than a Paul Bos heat treat?
Blade Shape: 2
Tashi’s blade shape is a taxonomical hybrid, but a performance dream. I love his blade shapes and this knife is no exception. Even when very small, they work, they provide you with great control, and you never have to wonder where the tip is. This is just an amazing knife on that account.
If this were an audio review this is the part where I would insert the Hallelujah Chorus. Reate did it. They finally got a grind thin and slicey. My previous experience with Reate knives was pretty bad on the slice front, somewhere between brick and travel edition of the OED. Now, for the first time, I can say that Reate CAN grind knives in addition to making stunning handles. It also helps that the initial blade stock wasn’t 1/4”. I wouldn’t call the knife an elite slicer, but it is certainly above average and if I was grading on a curve that was exclusively Reate knives, this thing would be the best ever. Very, very good grind.
Deployment Method: 1
There is a bit of hitch in the giddyup here. As with other small folders, if you place any pressure on the portion of the locking bar close to the pivot the knife is effectively locked shut. Because the handle it so small, avoiding this part of the lock bar is difficult. My first day with the T2500 was a frustrating one and even now that I have a good technique down, on occasion the knife will just taunt my fingers. With a good technique the blade fires open almost every time. Not what I was expecting as my previous experiences with Reate have been very, very good on the deployment front.
Retention Method: 0
To quote Nick Shabazz: “Nope, nope, nopety, nope.” This clip is a travesty. Its not just a pokey mess, but its complexity and machining all indicate that they could have done so much more here. Its like an artist of great skill painting something exceptionally easy and STILL screwing it up. Its not an exaggeration to say that this is the pointiest, most hotspot inducing clip I have ever used or seen. ROUND THAT THING OVER PLEASE.
Lock/Blade Safety: 2
This category is almost always a mimic of the fit and finish category. And so, it goes without saying that the T2500’s lockup is great—no blade play, easy to engage and easy to disengage. Lovely.
Fidget Factor: Low
The klack we all know and love from great folders is missing here, and the finger yoga required to get the knife to fire correctly makes this a less than ideal fidget toy.
Fett Effect: Medium
The handle will wear nicely, but the blade, with is grinder satin bevel and stonewashed flats is impervious to all but the worst battle scars.
At around $192 this is a bargain compared to other Reates. To the knife market it general its a bit steep for the size, but given the fit and finish and materials, nothing is out of line here. Its a Reate cheaper than a Sebenza, be grateful.
Overall Score: 16 out of 20
This is not a bad knife, but it is emblematic of one of the flaws in a scored review system like mine. The system is really a checklist and if you simply check present on each category you get a score of 10 out of 20. But this is a 16 out of 20 that gets a lot of credit because of how the system works as opposed to being a meritorious blade. Honestly there are a lot of knives that score lower than this that I would choose before I’d take a T2500. It is thinly ground, its relatively cheap for a Reate, but the quirky “demiltarized zone” between the edge and the handle, weird deployment, and awful clip make this a knife I liked but didn’t love. As a herald of things to come, there is a lot of good here. Reate proves they can do small knives. They also prove, with the T2500, that they can grind with the best of them. The clip is a forehead-slapping mistake, but in total the T2500 is a good sign. Reate is more than a handle making company. They can make good knives, even if they haven’t put it all together yet on a single design. In other words, the T2500 is good, but I am still waiting for a Reate I love.
If you are going to wade into the little big knife market segment, you better bring it and unfortunately Reate did not quite bring it. The Mnandi bests the Reate in looks and performance. The old nail nick version absolutely crushes this knife. The ZDP-189 Dragonfly II dusts this knife in terms of performance, though is admittedly wanting in the looks department (no one like FRN because of its appearance). Unless you are addicted to flippers or carbon fiber or like pretty but flawed knives, there is no rational reason to choose the T2500 over the DFII. Similarly with the Valet. The little big knife space is tough. Knives there have been rigorously designed, mercilessly pared down, and given some of the best performance features in the folder world. As you can probably guess, I think these knives represent the ideal EDC and given such lofty company the flawed but good T2500 doesn’t quite stand out. It is the most IG-able of these knives (but for the Smoke Valet), but its not the cutter some of these knives are.