(Click on the image for a larger view) The Balisong Collector Reviews The First Gemini Prototype


Gemini is an exciting new custom balisong project by noted custom knife maker Darrel Ralph. For More Information about Gemini, click on this link

As an advisor to the project, I have recently had the privilege of evaluating the first Gemini prototype released from Mr. Ralph's shop. In the first photo above, the Gemini is the balisong on the stand. That's a Benchmade 42 in front for reference. (As with all of the pictures in this article, you can click on the picture to see a larger, more detailed view. The larger files average about 275K.)

The balisong design is deceptively easy-looking design -- a blade, two handles, a couple of pins -- you don't even need a spring. But, remember, I said deceptive. The difficult parts of making balisong are:

the relationships between the kick, the blade shape, and the handle channels

the relationships between the handle channels, and between the tang pin, pockets, and latch

The pivot pins

A properly-designed and well-made balisong should lock shut securely. Inside, the blade should hang suspended between the two handles. The blade should not move or rattle around and the edge must not touch the inside of the handles.

Here's a great example of this:

Thanks to the skeleton handles, with the Gemini tipped up just a bit, you can see that the blade is perfectly suspended between handles. The edge never touches the handle. Perfect!

The latch should be secure, but not so tight that it's impossible to open. You should have to squeeze the handles just a little bit to get the knife open -- not a "death grip" mind you, but just a little squeeze. If a balisong is designed properly and well-made, it won't come open in your pocket, but it will be easy to open when you want to.

Gemini is great. The latch opens easily but not accidentally. The "thumb" part of the latch is just slightly larger than Benchmade's which makes it easier to activate.

The handles should then pivot on their pins smoothly without wobble or play. After I loosened the Torx screws just about 1/8 of a turn and applied some Militec-1, Gemini became very smooth with no wobble or play. I found this prototype very easy to manipulate.

Curiously, it's so smooth and nice that it's quiet. Yes, quiet. Compared to this Gemini, a BM42 sounds like a marching band. I don't know why this is, but the contrast is incredible. I know that this is a silly thing to comment on, but listen for yourself:

First, the Benchmade 42 in a classic double-flip out-to-in opening and then a single-flip-up closing: . Second, the same sequence with the Gemini prototype: . The closing is especially different.

Finally, when open, the two handles should latch together securely leaving the blade absolutely rigid between them. I can't really show you that, but trust me, Gemini locks up solid.

Mr. Ralph has succeeded triumphantly.

Originally, Mr. Ralph had planned to make the blade joints disassemblable. But, after trying various designs, he came to the same conclusion that Benchmade did: it's best to use a press-fit pin. Otherwise, the pin can rotate in the hole as the knife is manipulated. Regardless of what material you make the pin and handle out of, this rotation will lead to wear. So, like the BM42, Gemini's will not be disassemblable. The Torx screws serve to adjust the joint.

The latch will be reversible on production Geminis. This prototype is currently set up with a Manila-style latch. The pin holding the latch on this prototype is a bit tight and I didn't want to risk trying to change it. Mr. Ralph assures me that production Geminis will be easily reversed with just an appropriate Torx driver.

Both the latch and the spine of the blade of this prototype feature some filework. This will be an additional-cost extra on production Geminis. Mr. Ralph is well-known for his unique filework. The filework on this knife is fairly traditional.

I simply can't stop talking about the quality of this balisong (and remember, I've seen a few balisongs in my day). Mr. Ralph is an excellent machinist and has done a first-rate job on every aspect of this prototype. Just look at how prefectly the channels are cut for the handle and for the latch. Look at how nicely the skeleton holes are cut. You can also see some of the optional filework on the latch.

On the other end, notice how perfect the pockets are and how wonderful the finish is on every part. This is first class.


Of course, a common question is, "How does it compare to a Benchmade 42?"

Well, the two are very similar in size. Gemini is just a little bit longer. A BM42 is 5.5" long closed and 9.4" long open. This prototype is 5.7" long closed and 9.9" long open. Some folks feel that the BM42 is just a bit to short for their hand, but I wouldn't want to go a whole lot longer. Gemini is a perfect compromise.

My scale can only resolve to 1/4 ounce. It weighs both this prototype and a BM42 in at 4 1/4 ounces. I can't feel any difference. One friend, though, felt the the handles on the Gemini were lighter. They certainly have larger skeleton holes.

Both blades are approximately .125 inches thick.

You can see that Gemini's tang has rather different horns. These curved horns form more of a hilt or quillion than most balisongs have. This type of quillion is intended to catch an opponent's blade and assist in disarming techniques.

Notice, also, the welcome choil at the base of the blade. A choil makes sharpening much easier.

Speaking of sharpening, the Gemini has a slightly recurved blade (slightly more slight that I might like). That's unusual in balisongs. Recurved blades tend to be wider profiles and the balisong geometry with two handles doesn't accommodate wide blades well. Recurved blades are often difficult to sharpen. But this one should be no problem with most common sharpening techniques.

As it came out of the box, this one didn't need any sharpening. It had no problem shaving the hair off of my arm.

Notice also the difference in the shape of the tang. Gemini's tang is just slightly pointed. It's not enough to snag on clothing or cause other problems. But, it is enough to make a closed Gemini a very good striking weapon.

With the joint adjusted and lubricated, this prototype was wonderful to manipulate. It took me, accustomed to Batangas latches, a moment to adjust to the Manila latch (no, I did not get cut). But, once over that, I found that this balisong moves very smoothly.

Was everything perfect? No. This is a prototype. I found a few minor issues. For example, the spine of the blade will very slightly rub the inside of the handle channel if you push on it a bit. This is easily fixed by just widening the channel a hundredth of an inch or so on both sides and Mr. Ralph has already made that change in the design for production.

My overall impression of Gemini is "smooth and nice." This is a very well-built balisong that feels every bit the first-class custom-made knife that it is.

Remember that I said that the balisong design is deceptively simple looking? The balisong is actually quite complex. Darrel Ralph has mastered it. Production Gemini's are going to be excellent.

I can't wait to get my order filled.

In the mean time, we'll just have to make due with pictures. So, I've added a Gemini picture suitable for use as Windows wallpaper to my Wallpaper page.