- Buyer's Guide
Drive By :: DPx Gear Aculus 3D
When you hear the phrases “hard use folding knife” and “classic gent’s pocket knife,” you probably picture two completely different knives. That’s because with modern EDC knives, options relegated for the heaviest duty often use premium, high tech materials and boast advanced features. On the other end of the spectrum, “gentleman’s” knives take a much less tactical approach. Their designs are rooted in history, more organic materials and traditional styling. Think something your grandpa might’ve carried that’ll look great in a suit pocket.
“Given its price and the higher-end features this mid-tech production folder offers along with, this is not a beginner knife”
That’s why the DPx Gear Aculus 3D is so compelling. It’s an ambitious attempt at a gentleman’s folder design with the performance you’d expect from a modern, hard-use knife. And that’s not all—there’s plenty more this knife has going for it, but how does well does this beauty hold up off the shelf and on the job?
Who It Suits
The knife enthusiast with a taste for titanium and a relatively bigger budget after an affordable integral knife or a less tactical yet aggressively-styled EDC option.
Who It Doesn’t
Given its price and the higher-end features this mid-tech production folder offers along with, this is not a beginner knife. Many of these features can be difficult to appreciate and justify for the occasional carry or someone just testing out whether a knife would benefit their EDC. For some, they can be flat-out overkill.
On paper, this knife’s got an impressive spec sheet. One of the main features that stood out to me was everything about its handle. The Aculus 3D is what’s referred to as an “integral” knife, meaning its handle is one solid piece of material for extreme durability. The material of choice? None other than the beloved anti-bling metal of EDC circles: titanium.
“It’s visually striking, adds some grip, but doesn’t feel uncomfortable or rough at all”
Now, titanium is not an easy metal to work with. It’s so strong for its weight that it makes up some of the best gear you can buy, but it also means manufacturing with it can get expensive. Still impressive, though, is how well-crafted this knife is in spite of all of this. DPx Gear’s Robert Young Pelton tapped Italian knife manufacturers, Lionsteel, to build his design. They were able to not just make this integral titanium handle, but they also textured it with the Aculus 3D’s namesake three-dimensional diamond grip pattern. It’s visually striking, adds some grip, but doesn’t feel uncomfortable or rough at all.
On the flip side, you’ll find the handle features an integral, or frame lock mechanism for securing the blade when deployed. It’s a strong lock mechanism to have for a hard use knife, although not the strongest (to its credit, this is still positioned in the “gent’s” category).
The blade itself does a good job of balancing that hard use performance and sleek styling for a gent’s knife. It comes in at 3.26” long with a versatile drop point shape and a plain edge, making it very capable for most people’s EDC uses. DPx and Lionsteel went with a less common Niolox steel for the Aculus 3D, which is known for its toughness. The blade is more than enough for most people’s daily cutting tasks.
“The blade itself does a good job of balancing that hard use performance and sleek styling for a gent’s knife”
One last feature to note is its deep carry pocket clip. It also comes with a tungsten carbide glass breaker for emergency situations (although I think that detracts from its gentleman’s carry styling, personally).
The Not So Good
What’s surprising, if not confusing to me, about the Aculus 3D is its deployment and operation. Given how immaculate the fit, finish, and machining the rest of the blade is, I was frustrated to find the knife difficult to open and close.
Now, I know knives might need some breaking in, maybe a little lubing up, or just some practice with the blade to get the balance right. But the Aculus 3D felt like it had such a stiff detent to overcome to get the knife to start swinging open. On top of that, the thumb hole for the blade isn’t as forgiving as say, a protruding thumb stud or a larger, rounder hole. Even with some lubrication on the pivot, I couldn’t get it to open smoothly, much less flick open. This might have been just an issue with me as I have smaller hands. I’ve seen a few people who own this knife (and by a few, I mean maybe one or two others. This is an extremely limited knife, at only 100 units available per year) and they were able to flick it open just fine.
“Given how immaculate the fit, finish, and machining the rest of the blade is, I was frustrated to find the knife difficult to open and close”
I would often end up using two hands to open the knife just so I wouldn’t take a chunk out of thumb with all the pressure I’d have to apply to open it one-handed. Once open, it feels great in hand. I did notice the jimping on the spine of the blade is not aggressive enough for its intended practical purpose, though. The handles actually protrude further out than the jimping, so my thumb didn’t get as much contact for that extra grippy texture.
Closing the knife by disengaging the lock bar was also sticky in my experience. There’s a gritty feeling that takes a lot of pressure from my thumb to disengage the lock, so much so that when it finally releases I hear a loud “thud” or dull click from all the friction.
That combination of a sticky blade on its way out and a sticky lock were the biggest letdowns of this knife for me. I’m optimistic that with much more breaking in and perhaps bigger hands, this won’t be as much of a problem for others as it was for me.
“Lastly, it’s worth noting once again the price and availability of the Aculus 3D…”
The Not Necessarily Good or Not Good
One thing I’d want to point out is that the deep carry clip might not ride as low as you’d like in your jeans pockets. Because of the angle to it, the knife doesn’t sit flush in two ways. If you carry your knife on the furthest edge of your front right pocket like I do, the angle of the handle and the clip make it so the butt of the handle (and the glass breaker) poke out. If you re-position the clip to sit flush to the lip of your pocket to truly ride deep, the angle of the handle pushes the knife into the middle of your pocket and gets in the way. It isn’t an issue if you carry in your back right pocket (though I wouldn’t recommend sitting on your gear). Remember, this is sort of a gent’s knife after all, and the clip rides perfectly deep on slanted pockets like you’d have in your chinos or slacks.
Lastly, it’s worth noting once again the price and availability of the Aculus 3D. If you’re not into collecting knives, the $400 retail price might shock you. But given the materials and engineering that go into this (titanium integral!), it’s a reasonable value at the production level. But even if that’s something you’re willing to pay, you’ll have to hunt down one of the 100 units released per year to add it to your EDC. For $400, I’m not sure I’d say this is the best buy for most people, but for the enthusiast and collector who knows what they like, the Aculus 3D is one compelling knife. This sample was provided to me by Carryology and DPx Gear for this review at no charge, but I’ve given my honest and fair opinion of the knife in this review.
If you raised your brow at the idea of a hard-use gent’s knife, I don’t blame you. It’s confusing in the sense that those things naturally don’t really go together, and unfortunately, the Aculus 3D does little to change that. It tries its best to dabble in both worlds but instead hits an awkward middle ground. It’s like seeing a full tuxedo at a construction site or a hard hat and dusty work boots at the club.
However, if you judge the knife as “just” a knife, you’re getting some fine engineering. But to unlock its true potential, you need to ask yourself if you can commit to wearing it in and learning the blade so it operates smoothly. If you don’t have that kind of patience, you might end up with one expensive shelf queen.
Bernard Capulong is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of EverydayCarry.com