Anyone who has followed my knife articles for the past 23+ years will know that I’m just not a big fan of little folding knives. However, sometimes smaller is better for certain applications. Under other conditions, bigger knives are called for. I remember when I was 11 or 12 years old the local hardware store in my neighborhood had a shipment of pocket knives coming in. To be sure, back in those days, almost every kid carried some kind of pocket knife. Sadly, that’s not true today. If caught with a knife in school, it’s a one year suspension in most schools across the country and a possible criminal charge brought against a kid. What a shame!
Now, you have to understand how the “old” neighborhoods operate in the big cities. Everyone knows everyone else and all their kids. Back then, the hardware store was simply called Simon’s because that was the owner’s name. Simon knew all of the kids in the area and went to school with our parents, as did some of the employees who worked in Simon’s store. I don’t know if this corner hardware store still exists back in Chicago, but I would like to hope so. Many of us kids would oftentimes just spend hours in there, just “hanging” out or studying all the tools, and Simon never once chased any of us out of his store. Go ahead and try that today, if you’re a kid, in any of the big box hardware-type stores; security will be all over you.
Okay, where was I? Oh, yeah. Simon’s hardware store ordered in some pocket knives, and none of us, including Simon himself, knew what the knives even looked like other than knowing he had a good selection coming to choose from. Many of us kids pre-paid for our knives ahead of time, and like some of the other kids in the “hood” we would visit and hang out at the hardware almost daily while waiting for those knives to come in. What seemed like many weeks, was probably only a few days – maybe a week at most – before the knives came in. I spotted the one I wanted; it was the largest (longest blade) of the selection, and several other kids also picked this one. It had a genuine imitation pearl handle. The knife was long; the blade was probably four inches in length and very narrow. It wasn’t until later on that I learned it was called a “fruit knife” because it was used for cutting fruit off of trees. Still, to me, it was a monster of a folding knife and one that could be used to take on the world. It was great back then, letting our imaginations take us to wherever we wanted to go. To be child-like again…
So, since that time, my brain has been etched with wanting big folding knives, and to my way of thinking a perfect folding knife has a blade 3.5–4.0 inches in length. It’s perfect for many chores around the homestead, and the blade is long enough to inflict some damage if forced to use it for self-defense purposes. So, I readily admit to my bias for longer blades on folding knives. That’s just me, I guess.
I’m one of those people who doesn’t especially like surprises, unless Publisher’s Clearing House showed up at my front door with a check for ten million bucks. Those kinds of surprises, I like. However, most surprises aren’t my thing. Long time friend Thomas Welk, who does the PR/marketing for Kershaw Knives and their Zero Tolerance line of knives, sent me the new ZT 0900 folder. Wouldn’t you know it; it’s a small one. The blade is only 2.7 inches long and made out of S35VN steel– one of the newest super-stainless steels.
I have to admit, I was a little disappointed when I opened the box. Well, I thought it was a big folder. It came in a big box, but a smallish folder fell out of the box. Then again, maybe this wasn’t such a “small” folder after all. This little 0900 from Zero Tolerance is one brute; we are talking tank tough. It has titanium handle scales, and this stuff is lighter and stronger than steel. The knife also has a frame lock with a hardened steel insert that helps keep the blade secured in the handle when not in use. It is a manual opening folder; however, it has a “flipper” on the blade, a nice large flipper, that is easy to hit with your index finger. And, to top it all off, it has the KVT ball-bearing system that makes the blade pivot like it’s in butter. We are talking super -smooth. It might be the smoothest opening folder I’ve handled, just might be!
There is also a reversible pocket clip for easy pocket carry, and the knife rides just perfectly in the pocket– not too low and not too high that it sticks out like a sore thumb. The blade is stonewashed for a nice subdued finish. Excellent! Its closed length is 3.9 inches, and opened the knife is 6.6 inches with a weight of 4.3 oz, which is a bit heavier than I thought it was. To be sure, it’s made in the USA!
Overall, the 0900 has a rather “boring” look to it. It’s nothing fancy. The titanium handle scales are dull looking, with a little sculpting to them. Then again, we are talking about a little knife that is build like a tank. It’s not meant to be a work of art for the eye but a work of art for the user to use under any extreme conditions.
Zero Tolerance knives are designed especially for those in the military and law enforcement. They are designed and manufactured for hard use, simple as that. These aren’t knives meant to be held and admired for their beautiful looks. No! They are meant for folks who want hard-working knives that won’t let them down.
If you’ll notice in the pictures with this article, the 0900 isn’t a little folder, in the respect that many think of “little”. It is only “little” by the length of the blade, nothing more. This knife has a wide blade, and the handle actually fits my hand nicely. It surprised me, because it is a smallish folder. The 0900 was designed by custom knife maker Les George, who has worked with ZT on a few other of his designs.
I think what surprised me more than anything on the 0900 is the KVT ball-bearing system that the blade runs on. I actually thought that, when I used the flipper to open the blade, it was an assisted-opening folder. I had to try it several times to realize that this wasn’t an assisted-opening blade. It did take a little bit of effort to press down on the flipper; it’s actually on the bottom rear of the blade. However, when closed, the flipper is on the top rear of the blade, sorta! You simply press down on the flipper with your index finger and the blade just “flies” out of the handle scales. It’s just something you have to experience to really appreciate. It did have me fooled for a little while, thinking it was an assisted-opening folder, but it is NOT! When you push the frame lock out of the way, so you can close the blade, you’ll feel how smoothly the blade runs on those KVT ball-bearings.
The top rear of the blade has what I call “friction” grooves on it, for thumb placement, when holding the knife in the fencing position, which is one of the most common types of grips used for many cutting chores. When the blade is opened, the flipper acts as a guard, so your fingers can’t slip up onto the blade. There is also a groove in the handle scales, where my index finger just naturally laid in.
The ZT 0900 was put to the test around my digs cutting blackberry vines, and it easily sliced right through them, which is something many short blade folders can’t do. The blades are long enough to really slice easily; the 0900 had no problems. Cardboard was cut until I was bored. The same goes for cutting hemp rope, and I’m now out. I have to get a new supply. Poly rope, which is always a tough thing to easily slice through, was no match for the 0900. Some kitchen testing was done by my wife, who used the 0900 as something of a paring knife to slice veggies and the like. She liked it for the most part but thought it was a bit heavy for a paring knife. I reminded her that it wasn’t a paring knife!
Many jurisdictions have restrictions on the length of a knife blade that you can carry in your pocket; many areas only allow you to carry a folding knife in your pocket with a blade three inches in length or shorter. The ZR 0900 fits the bill perfectly. However, you will believe the knife has a bigger blade than it does, because of the width of the blade and the overall appearance of the knife. It looks bigger than it is for the most part, and when you put it to work for your cutting chores you’ll believe you have a folder with a longer blade than it is.
With this “little” ZT 0900 folder, I’m starting to change my thinking on little folders with short blades. Thanks, Zero Tolerance. You are starting to rid me of my bias against folding knives with blades less than 3.5 inches, See, even an old dog can learn new tricks. Check out the 0900. I think you’ll like it. Full retail is $240, but you are getting custom quality knives from Zero Toleranace.
– Senior Product Review Editor, Pat Cascio