On some level, large folding knives are dumb. After all, who really needs a pocket sword like the Cold Steel Espada XL, or a monster like the CRKT Ritual? Yet, when it comes to affordable tools, there’s a certain charm to getting as much steel as possible for the price.
Such is the case with the new Artisan Cutlery Xcellerator ($118).
“This knife cuts an imposing figure while still feeling light and fluid in the hand,” Artisan Cutlery claims. “The Xcellerator is sure to turn some heads with its combination of good looks and raw power!”
Now, I’ve been aware of Artisan’s presence for some time. Much like WE Knives and Civivi, this US-based company puts out several new models each quarter, all with respectable pricing, fit, and finish courtesy of its manufacturing facility in YangJiang, China.
Until now, however, the catalog hasn’t particularly grabbed me. But when Artisan reached out to offer up a review sample of the Xcellerator, I figured it was time to give this budget-friendly brand a chance.
“Coming in as our first design with custom knife maker Mike Snody, the Xcellerator makes a big impression,” the brand told me.
It sure does! Nearly 4 inches of blade, a handle that’s as thick as a slice from Pizza Hut, and a whopping 6 ounces of mass — heck, the silhouette alone probably weighs a few grams.
And yet, despite its apparent heft, there’s a wealth of production niceties and in-hand comforts that are a little surprising for a value-themed knife. Add in a rugged, easy-sharpening budget steel, and the value case is compelling.
But there’s only one way to test one of these monsters, and that’s to tote it around in your pocket. Here’s how the Xcellerator fared after a week of continuous testing.
In short: While its large size may not be suited for all pockets and hands, the Artisan Cutlery Xcellerator chalks up one hell of a resume. Its excellent blade, outstanding comfort, and so-good-it’s-funny slicing performance made this an instant hit in my house. And despite its significant footprint, it rides easier than knives such as the Spyderco PM2. Plus, with a price of just under $120, the value per ounce and inch is incredible.
Artisan Cutlery Xcellerator Folding Knife
- Blade length 3.86" (98mm)
- Blade thickness 0.15" (3.7mm)
- Blade material AR-RPM9 powdered steel
- Overall length 8.86" (225mm)
- Locking mechanism Liner lock
- Handle material Micarta
- Overall weight 6 oz. (170 g)
- Country of origin China
- Outstanding cutting performance
- Solid lockup
- Attractive styling
- May be large for some
- Deployment learning curve
- Attention needed when closing
Artisan Cutlery Xcellerator: Review
I’m not going to keep you waiting here. The Xcellerator is a spectacular pocket knife.
As someone who usually carries a Spyderco Dragonfly in his downtime, this massive, ridiculous blade was an absolute joy. Just look at it — a scalloped Micarta handle, generous jimping along the blade spine, and a swedged harpoon tip that would make Ahab himself jealous.
“Sure,” you might say. “It looks neat, but knives with this kind of size tend to split better than they slice.”
And you, my friend, would be right. Except in the case of the Xcellerator.
Due to the generous, gentle sloping of its blade, I was able to shave thin cuts of onions, potatoes, cardboard, and branches with laughable ease. As in, I literally stood at my kitchen counter, chuckling as I prepared dinner.
Short of a few classic designs, I can’t think of a pocket knife that’s felt more at home in my hand. The fore and aft finger cutouts are perfect, and the overall curvature allows you to keep your knuckles nearly on the same plane as the blade.
Even the clip is a functional work of art. Its right-side, tip-down setup (sorry, lefties) is more or less flawless, without a single hot spot. Some knives of this size sport massive clips, as though to remind you of their heavy-duty ethos.
Not so with the Xcellerator; designer Mike Snody went with a simple, functional piece of titanium, which managed to keep the knife secure in the pockets of my jeans and cargo shorts.
Plus, I’m a fan of the designer’s dollar-sign signature at the very end of the clip. And speaking of dollars and metallurgy …
Pedal to the (Powdered) Metal
Say, what the heck is AR-RPM9, anyway? In short, it’s a powdered steel that Artisan utilizes throughout its budget range. According to the company, this material “stands toe-to-toe with several premium steel varieties and surpasses many of them in overall durability and corrosion resistance.”
But per Artisan, the calling card for this particular steel is actually more of a calling coin. Heads, you get the edge retention common to powdered steels, and tails, it’s a metal that’s “exceptionally sharpenable.”
Several reputable YouTube channels have put this steel through its paces, and the results have been generally positive.
You’re not going to get the same results as some of the other powder stars like M390 or CPM-S110V, but for budgetary applications, AR-RPM9 is an excellent choice.
Open and Shut Cases
My sole issue with the Xcellerator is more “advisory” than “flaw.” Because of the size and weight of its blade, a strong detent is required to hold that big slab of steel in place. For the most part, Artisan nailed it.
But every now and then, the knife requires a bit of extra thumb force to break free from the closed position. And yes, if you’re one of those folks that insists on showing off with the “Spydie-Flick,” this knife will serve your purpose. Most of the time, however, I’d recommend a gentle or two-handed opening. I’m more than willing to live with this, since the addition of thumb studs would get in the way of that gorgeous slicing surface.
Likewise, closure requires a bit of attention. The liner lock itself is excellent — solid, satisfying, and easy to release. But again, due to the mass of the blade and the smoothness of the ceramic ball bearings, that edge can swing down in a hurry.
With some knives, you can hold them upright, unlock them, and let the flipper tab or blade heel fall against your thumbnail. I wouldn’t recommend that here, due to the velocity of its drop-shut action. Begin the closing process while holding it sideways, and keep your fingers out of the way.
Artisan Cutlery Xcellerator: Conclusion
The Xcellerator feels like a perfect introduction to Artisan Cutlery. The knife has the kind of go-anywhere, do-anything chops I expect from a large folder, with a comfortable grip and solid lockup to boot.
The experience with AR-RPM9 steel is another first. From its stainless qualities to its edge-holding ways, this powdered metal may be joining the shortlist of my favorite budget-level steels. Only time will tell.
What’s apparent right now is this: I don’t just like this knife a just little, but a lot. The Xcellerator did everything asked of it and more, while managing to look and feel good in the hand.
Once 2023 winds down and I look back across my year-in-review for folding knives, I wouldn’t be surprised to find this harpoon-tipped titan at the peak.