Andrew Demko, the Head of R&D at Cold Steel and the man behind the Tri-Ad and Scorpion Locks, is well known for making tough-as-nails knives. He pushed production design to the limit with the Cold Steel 4-Max, and recently, in his custom work, he may have produced his strongest folding knife ever. Drawn up for a customer who needed to feed his addiction to tank-like knives, the new Demko 3.5Max reimagines what “overbuilt” means in a folding Tri-Ad Lock knife design.

“He’s always asking for the toughest, most capable, end-of-the-world kind of thing,” Demko says of the repeat customer. “He wanted something even stronger than a [custom] 4Max but didn’t want a huge long blade.” Demko decided to create a hybrid knife, one with a shorter 3.5-inch blade but beefed up in every other way.

When Demko torture tests his knives, the blade is the first part to give out. “You’re always limited by the actual strength of your blade material,” he says. He usually opts for .19-inch blade stock on folding knives, but for the 3.5Max he cranked it up to a whopping 0.27 inches – the same thickness as his BladeSport fixed blade choppers. For steel Demko chose 3V, a semi-stainless steel that maximizes toughness. In a prolonged blade grinding session, he took the edge to nearly a zero bevel to squeeze every last bit of cutting performance out of the 3.5Max.

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