Kunwu Knives is currently crowdfunding the latest version of their Tao folder, the X-Tao. The X-Tao evolves the original design with a new lock, new opening method, and new material options.
The original Tao isn’t even a year old. Kunwu brought it out through Kickstarter back in February. It was a titanium frame lock knife with both a front and back flipper, available in two different sizes. The team returned to the Tao because it has good bones for innovation. “[It] seems like a solid platform to experiment with and have iterations of it made using different kinds of materials, steels, and finishes,” says Kunwu’s Sergio Badric. “Different lock types included.”
The X-Tao is the debut platform for the XT Lock, the latest in an ongoing trend of Axis Lock-like mechanisms that manufacturers have been experimenting with since the patent on that venerable design expired. And if you’ve ever used an Axis Lock or similar, you’ll immediately grok the XT Lock, too. When the knife is opened, the sliding tab moves a lock bar up into a notch on the blade; pulling down on the tab releases the blade again. But Badric says just iterating on the Axis Lock wasn’t good enough for the team at Kunwu. “We have the tolerances that allow us to use this ambidextrous lock to the fullest,” he explains. “That means no wobble and blade play, which is difficult to pull off on this type of lock, so we modified things here and there to get the best results attainable.”
He also tells us that Kunwu is considering Nitinol, a nickel/titanium alloy, for the spring material. “Other than that, the pure fidget factor and the core simplicity of the system itself is something that we’re drawn to.” And if fans cotton to it, Badric says you can expect to see a lot of more of the mechanism. “If the people want it, we will have it available as an option on each model we make.”
The X-Tao, for now, is only available in a full size version, with the same 3.54-inch drop point blade, made here from Elmax as opposed to the M390 on the first Tao. Kunwu also changed up the opening method. Gone is the pair of flipper tabs; in their place are thumb wedges, one on each side of the blade. The flipper tabs on the original Tao models were about as low-profile as could be, but their complete absence here further streamlines the X-Tao’s already svelte profile.
Finally, users can choose between full titanium or carbon fiber scales; the CF model doesn’t take the weight down as much as you might think, weighing 4.51 oz. compared to the Ti model’s 4.58; so the choice between the two materials will come down to personal taste (Kunwu has also hinted at a possible Micarta model as an add-on, depending on how the campaign goes). Finally, the clip has been changed to a wire-style one, that is reversible and maintains the loop-over, deep carry characteristics of the standard Tao’s stamped steel clip.
The X-Tao has already soundly passed its funding goal. The knives are expected to start shipping in March 2022, with funding open through December 24th. As for other Kunwu projects, Badric tells us to expect some fresh compact models in the near future, but he’s also frank about the struggles most manufacturers are facing right now in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its disruptions. “Sourcing almost everything is very difficult as the prices for raw materials skyrocketed. Times are tricky for everyone. Hopefully the world kicks down into a lower gear and supply chains get back on track.”
Knife in Featured Image: Kunwu X-Tao