By Rick Shandley
This Benchmade 530 Pardue is two ounces of folding razor. It’s just one of many functional folding knives that knife maker Mel Pardue has turned out over the years like musician who prolifically belts out guitar riffs with the bite of a scalpel.
Actually, the 530 Pardue weighs less than two-ounces. It weighs 1.88 ounces. The 154CM stainless steel blade (rated at 58-61HRC hardness) is relatively thin, but stout at 0.090-inch thickness at the hilt and through the center of the 3.25-inch modified spear-point blade. Whether you prefer a plain edge, or combination plain edge with serrations at the back, every Benchmade knife comes to you certified sharp.
We’ve worked with enough Benchmade knives not to question whether the edge is as sharp as possible. So we just don’t go there anymore. Yes, cut. Cut to your heart’s content. If an object can be severed with a steel blade, any Benchmade is capable of doing the slicing long as the application is consistent with design.
Aside from the super lightweight of the 530, the blade is useful. I liked the ambidextrous thumb-studs that facilitate one-handed blade actuation, being left handed. Opening a working knife with one hand is an asset for those times when you need to separate one object from another. This 530 was used primarily for slicing 550 parachute cord, cutting rope to make back country horse halters, and nylon rope. Not to test the edge, but cut the things that needed to be cut on hikes and around the ranch.
Because the 530 is so light and proportional, it is a controllable blade when your cuts need to be precise. The leverage you can apply to the 530 in cutting heavier material, like horse halter rope or lead rope, is something you can have confidence in. Yet, the thinner blade is great for slicing Hickory Farms Summer Sausage and hard cheddar cheese on hikes. The 530 is a blade that compels one to use it.
Contributing to the feather lightness of the 530 are the Grivory handle scales that add to the thin overall appearance of the 530 at 0.370-inch handle thickness. Grivory is essentially a hyper-light combination of fiberglass fused composite material that is used for making plastic knife blades, and therefore also a very hard substance. Grip is good since the Grivory handle shells have a slightly porous and rough finish that works with the ribbed pattern along the center. Additional weight shaving components are the 420J stainless steel blade liners.
So often a knife, whether it be a folding knife or fixed-blade, is judged by the heft as an indicator to determine quality and robust build. Aside from the ability of the blade steel to take and retain a sharp edge, the weight of a knife is a sign of value and strength. The 530 defies this measure of worthiness, and stands separate from the countless pig-stickers sold in blister packs at big box stores and strip mall liquor stores display cases around the country. At such a light weight, the 530 could be misjudged. But that would be a mistake. The design is straight forward, and the weight is negligible, but the cutting power, edge retention, the bank vault AXIS locking mechanism, and ability to take the cutting instrument apart for cleaning all get high marks for the quality built into the 530 Pardue.
In addition to being a folder you can carry every day, the 530 is an ideal knife for backpacking, snowshoeing, mountaineering, and applications where you want to eliminated unnecessary weight and maximum versatility in your gear.
One-handed blade deployment works great with the Benchmade AXIS locking mechanism. For the 530, the
lightness of the blade gives no resistance when opening while locking in to the opened blade position. The blade actuates positively, every time. And, since the 530 is so compact and weightless, you can learn to close this little EDC using one hand…with a bit of practice.
A thoughtful feature that also makes the 530 versatile is the ability to set it up for left-handed carry by reversing the spring-steel pocket clip and using the pre-drilled holes on the opposite side handle shell. Another nice feature is the lanyard hole that is large enough to thread a section of 550 cord through. And if Benchmade wanted to reduce the weight on the 530 even more, perhaps to boast a lead position in the “less than two-ounce knife category,” they could shave a couple thousands of an inch off the carry clip and use titanium screws to reduce weight even more. Ah, but what’s the point?
Aesthetically, the 530 looks like a little switchblade with the scalloped design pattern at each end of the handle shells along with the visible AXIS mechanism and thumb studs combining to appear more complicated and serious than it really is. Looking like an automatic folder is not a bad thing either, in my view, because with just a different application of the AXIS locking mechanism it could be.
In general, the 530 Pardue seems to be less an exercise in creating a piece of functional art, and more an example of a working folder that, even though it is artfully designed, you can’t help but use it often. Sure, the 530 has limitations since it is a rather small knife, but not many. So, the 530 is one you might have to send back to Benchmade now and then to take advantage of their lifetime offer to put the factory edge back on it for the price of postage. Or you’ll just have to get good at putting the edge back on yourself. This is a solid, nice looking, folder that screams: “use me!”
Benchmade Class: Blue
Made in U.S.A.
Overall Length: 7.42 inch
Closed Length: 4.17 inch
Blade Length: 3.25 inch
Blade Thickness: 0.090 inch
Handle Thickness: 0.370 inch
Blade Material: 154CM Stainless Steel
Blade Hardness: 58-60HRC
Blade Style: Modified Spear-Point; Ambidextrous Thumb-Studs
Pocket Clip: Black, Reversible, Tip-Up
Lock Mechanism: AXIS