(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
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
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
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
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
Both blades are approximately .125
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
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
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
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.