The Importance of Being Tough

The Importance of Being Tough

September 17, 2019

The Importance of Being Tough

by Robert Young Pelton

Tough is a flexible adjective. Not just in people but in products. Start with the definition; “Strong enough to withstand adverse conditions or rough or careless handling” and multiply that by “able to endure hardship or pain” and you hit the sweet spot of DPx Gear knives and design ethos.

Oh wait, this is about knives being tough? Yes, because we can safely assume that if you have gone through other products in your career and personal life to arrive at being a DPx Gear customer you are in good company.

The folding knives I design for DPx Gear all carry a similar look; beefy, utilitarian and thick. Not for show but for work. A number of customers that are used to more traditional knives are surprised when at the heft and feel of their first DPx Gear product; Imposingly well-built and yet balanced when used. A design and manufacturing philosophy that is not by accident.

I began my career working in remote areas doing manual labor in unforgiving places. Relying on the right tools to get the job done was a lesson that never work off.

“Hard use” or “tough” is not a marketing slogan it is the only way I design knives for DPx Gear and other manufacturers. It’s the only way I use products and the only products worth keeping for a lifetime.

The Origins of Hard Use Knives
My first experience with knives was through hard labor in the wilderness. I was a lumberjack in the Yukon, a blaster’s assistant in Ontario and a driller in Northern B.C., Canada.  Isolated in the bush, a knife was just another tool like the giant 36" pipe wrenches we called “Mankillers" to break steel, or the hammers used to build razor sharp tunnels underground. I worked outside in the rain, snow, dirt and mud where tools were used, abused and chosen for their ability to do the job. There was no servicing, lubrication or repair centers up high in the mountains where we were dropped off by helicopter and picked up weeks later.

The first knife I owned – still working great. The 8” Buck 120 was discontinued but now available as a collector’s edition from Buck

If I had to use my fixed blade to free a chainsaw or pry a frozen door open, I didn’t hesitate. That’s why today a hard use knife must do far more than just cut.

The DPX HEST Original  -  Three days of mountainous hiking to get behind enemy lines in Burma.



The Very First RYP Design - The HEST Original 

When I did my first survival design for Jeff Randal, ESEE customers were surprised at how small yet thick the HEST Original was. You could skin a bear or pound it like a chisel. When that knife evolved into the HEST folder, very little of the dimensions changed. What was important was the choice of steel and the heat treatment that kept the edge sharp and allowed it to hold that edge. The HEST Original was a Shon Rowen made 1095 spring steel that could be stropped to a razor sharp edge.


The award winning HEST/F folder is made in Northern Italy using D2 and other hard working steels.

The DPX HEST Original; Made in America with pride.  


The Thinnest Blade - The Aculus
Today the thinnest blade I design is the Aculus.  A design I did for Gianni Pauletta and his award winning company, LionSTEEL while driving in a car through the Alps. 

The DPx Aculus Flipper. Blending function and form in a close protection knife. A gentleman’s knife designed to extract you from ungentlemanly events. 

DPx Gear’s version is called the Aculus and available as LionSTEEL's Ti Spine, which features a thin but rock solid frame of solid titanium alloy.  Designed for minimal imprint during formal close protection work The newest limited edition Aculus features a hollow ground blade in M390 and wicked profile for penetration and cutting. Bohler-Uddeholm M390 is a very hard steel that maintains a crisp fine edge with the addition of rare earth elements.


The Thickest Blade - the DPx HEFT 12 CHOP
 Every curve and angle of the DPx HEFT 12 CHOP Blade is thought through.

DPx Gear’s thickest blade is the CHOP. A brutal but elegant survival tool created for rapidly making wilderness camps or expedition work. It is thick enough to be used as a hammer, thin and sharp enough to slice tomatoes yet versatile to replace the hatchet

How did I come up with the thickness of a quarter inch of solid steel? I went for balance and ergonomics, carving away massive amounts of expensive tool steel to lighten and balance the blade yet maintaining the heft required for rough outdoors work. By putting the weight forward, customers are surprised at how light it feels the massive 12” CHOP feels.

What is remarkable is that the CHOP also has a grind that thins towards the rear for fine slicing and carving work and increases in angle where the chopping is done. The tip increases in strength dramatically and even the spine is designed for reverse hammering and batoning firewood or used as a fine tool.

DPx HEFT 12 CHOP OD in D2 Blade Steel

After the first Sleipner editions sold out, DPx Gear is soon releasing the latest versions of the CHOP.  One of which is in Bohler-Uddeholm D2, a hard working tool steel with 15% chromium that is milspec coated with Olive Drab hollow scales. Fans of the classic DPx Gear HEST/F 2.0 will love the exact linkage.

DPx HEFT 12 CHOP Milspec in Niolox Blade Steel

The second version is the now classic, high polish Niolox with black G10 hollow scales, the European martensitic version of S30V with a dash of Niobium to keep a razor edge.

The Middle of The Pack - The HEST 6 

The DPX HEST 6 Milspec - photo © IG @Stickman

In the middle ground is the HEST 6, designed to be a SERE (Survive, Evade, Resist, Escape) knife. This balanced beauty does triple duty as military issue knife, close combatives tool and an all-around hunting or outdoor knife. It functions flawlessly in the hard-knock-world of the Special Operations soldier and in the wilderness outfitter.

The HEST 6 comes in Niolox or in a very limited edition numbered M390 version. We just equipped our favorite Special Forces ODA with a customized version of the new HEST 6 Decade. Continuing a long tradition of designing our gear from the front lines of the world’s conflicts and making sure it gets used there.

The Mr. DP Engraved Blade DPx HEST 6 DECADE - Sorry, not for sale.

Thin Blades Often Mean Cheaper, But We Don't Compromise

Will DPx Gear make a thin knife? Of course. I designed the famous patented Danger Tag which is ideal for wallet use. Most knives are as thin as possible to save on weight and manufacturing cost. The downside is that the profile of these knives under any hard use are prone to wear, tip loss breakage and damage. Most customers like a light thin knife with thinner cutting profiles ... until a survival or hard use situation occurs.

In combat conditions, the most common use for a knife is prying, poking, and leverage. Opening cans, checking what is in bags and even using a knife as a screwdriver is common.

The DPx HEST/F 2.0 Triple Black Serrated Edge Dialing in Sights in the Field

DPx Gear selects the exact steel formulation, grind and design to cover the needs of the “hard use” or worst case scenario rather than the minimal or lightest use.

What is my design ethos?  How do I determine blade and material thickness, and how does it pencil out on the balance sheet? I design in the field and go slightly beyond the failure rate, then I pick the perfect steel for the application and go for ergonomics. 

Next, I hollow out and noodle the exact balance so that a well-built thick blade suddenly feels uncharacteristically light and eager to work in the hand. That is balance and good design. Again - all led from the field.

The cost falls where it will, which is why I insisted on making a 6” fixed blade in M390 for the teams we equip. And we made 100 for our customers.  Why? Because they deserve the best, lightest, sharpest and most reliable tools.

The Design Doesn't Stop At The Blade





Designing a knife goes beyond the blade. When you hold a DPx Gear knife even in the closed position, the design makes perfect sense:  A knife can get you out a scrape in non-lethal manner and provide confidence when needed. The handle and frame is just as important. In the real world of first responders, we constantly get kudos for our ergonomic closed design and exceptional glass breaker which features a tungsten carbide insert.

DPx Gear Folders have been used to pry open doors, free trapped occupants and break open windows just as often as they are called upon to function as knives and hex drivers. Again - a customer driven, field-first design philosophy that we follow.

Glassbreaker in use for rescue training - photo © IG @taylorsmith82

Our knives do not flex, they do not shatter, they provide the confidence that they will not fail when needed the most, closed or open. For example on the full sized HEST/F folder, the Rotoblock feature allows the locking open of the HEST/F Folder.  On its smaller brother, the HEST/F Urban, we feature a 440 hardened steel lock bar insert.

Rotoblock feature on a DPx HEST/F 2.0 



In short, the DPx Gear knife you buy will always be the optimal combination of strength, durability and thickness to get the job done. And it will spend a lifetime doing that job to your satisfaction.

And meeting customer satisfaction over the lifetime of a knife is a tough job. 



Knife Model Blade Thickness Blade Length
The Aculus Flipper .14" 3.26"
HEAT Hiker  .16" 2.4"
HEST/F Urban series .16" 2.9"
HEAT/F Series .18" 2.26"
HEAT Fixed and HIT Cutter .19" 2"
HEST Original .19" 3.13"
HEST II/ HEST/F 2.0 Series .19" 3.15"
HEFT 4 Series .19" 3.94"
HEFT/ HEST 6 Series .19 6"
HEFT 12 CHOP .22 12.52"

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