Author Topic: LT Wright Illuminous 5  (Read 1808 times)

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Offline theJman

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LT Wright Illuminous 5
« on: November 21, 2020, 07:12:07 PM »
Genesis.  If you're reading this you know what that is.  I don't have to say "knife" or "LT Wright" because the name Genesis is synonymous with the quintessential bushcraft blade.  You might own one - I certainly do - and it's because of that knife I'm doing this review.  But this is not an article about the Genesis, it's the Illuminous 5 I'm writing about.

Allow me to explain.

Like so many others, I bought a Genesis.  For what it is the knife works great; lightweight, nimble, easy to hold, cuts wood like a chain saw, it pretty much does anything you would want from a bushcraft knife.  But for me there was always one problem, it was on the small side.  Not the handle mind you - that always fit my XL paws rather well - it was the blade I felt was lacking.  Size matters, right?  I longed for a beefier version, a Genesis on steroids if you will.

LT Wright makes the Gen 5 version, which has a blade almost an inch longer, but I couldn't fall in love with it for some reason.  There's also the Gen 6 with its...  you guessed it, 6" blade...  but that just looks kind of awkward to me.  What I wanted was something longer than the Genesis 4.25" blade but also something taller as well.  To my eyes the Gen 5 and 6 don't have the right proportions.  Enter the Illuminous.

At 5.5" long the blade is now getting into my wheelhouse (5.5" - 6.5" is what I'm most comfortable with).  It's also taller from edge-to-spine so it looks more balanced.  And the pi?ce de r??sis?tance?  It's 5/32" instead of 1/8".  Longer, taller, thicker.  Insert your own joke here.

Before going any further let me give you the specs:
  • Overall Length: 10"
    Sharpened Edge: 5.5"
    Steel: 5/32" CPM-3V
    Grind: Scandi ground to 0? then hard micro buffed edge
    Handle Length: 4.5"
    Handle Material: Micarta
"hard micro buffed edge"?  Sounds like marketing mumbo-jumbo to me.  I'll explain why it isn't in a minute because I want to talk about the handle first.  The handle?  Yes, the handle.

As mentioned previously, I wear XL gloves.  That's a problem when it comes to most knives because designers tend to forget people like me exist.  I have to pay very close attention to the handle size and shape when buying a knife as far too often they simply won't work for me.  Now to be fair my hands aren't the size of Andre the Giant's...

I actually met the man many years ago - and yes his hands were really that big - but regardless I do have issues with a lot of knives.

When I first saw the Illuminous 5 I thought "saaaaay, that could work" but then I looked at the spec's; handle length is 4.5".  Sigh.  The Genesis is 4.75", and when using a hammer grip the handle is almost completely invisible to me, so how is something 4.5" going to work?  Especially when there is a parrots beak on both the front and back?  I do have knives with a 4.5" handle, and I can get some of them to work, but they don't have the parrots beak.  Despite my trepidation I decided to give it a shot.  Boy am I glad I did.

Here is what my meathook looks like holding the knife...

Despite the fact you can't see the butt of the handle it's amazing, the thing simply melts into your hand.  It's thick and beefy with perfectly sculpted contours.  My fingers are not squeezed together like I feared they might be, they're held firmly in place which creates a very secure grip.  The micarta on my particular knife isn't polished smooth - thankfully! - so even when working hard or sweating I didn't feel like it would slip out of my hand.  Pinch grip is very comfortable even though there are no thumb scallops like on the Genesis.  If you're the type that uses a chest lever grip than this is your knife.  The webbing between my index finger and thumb nested up against the front parrots beak perfectly, creating a secure and comfortable resting place.  The rounded butt end rolls across your chest effortlessly and doesn't dig in anywhere.  There isn't a single hotspot no matter what type of grip you use.  The transition between micarta handle scales and blade tang was seamless, completely imperceptible.  Close your eyes and run a fingernail over the two surfaces and it feels like one solid piece.  Handle comfort and feel are often terribly overlooked in knife reviews and I can't understand why as it's such a critical component.  No matter how good the edge or blade steel it's all pointless unless the handle is usable.  The Illuminous gets 5 stars in that regard.

So the handle passes with flying colors, but does the blade as well?  For me the answer is a resounding "yes".  Right off the bat I was happy as it came surgically sharp, and I do mean surgically sharp.  OK so it's not a scalpel, but what it did to phonebook paper should be illegal.  It shaved off slices smoothly and cleanly, without even a hint of drag.  It just had that sound, and you know what sound I'm referring to.  It's that "sshhhfffftt" noise from a wickedly sharp edge sailing through very thin paper.  Cuts of 45 degrees, 80 degrees, front of the blade, back by the handle, swirls, it just didn't matter; everything was like the proverbial hot knife through butter.  But a scandi grind isn't there to make little slivers from phonebook paper, it's designed for wood processing.  What I found was the Illuminous loves to chew through wood.

You want to hog off huge chunks of the stuff?  This is your knife.  I always setup a couple of skills challenges whenever I go into the woods - trying to improve my knowledge - but when I'm testing a knife those challenges are heavy on cutting tasks.  One of those are try sticks, something I do for every knife review...

Another is to process firewood.  One of the other things I added that day was making a new walking stick.  Not too far from where my camp is there's a small stand of thin, surprisingly straight little trees.  Most of them have only a few branches within 20 feet of the ground - they seem to be concentrated toward the top - so they're perfect for making a walking stick.  I selected my victim, which was about 2" in diameter (remember, XL hands), and then used the Illuminous to beaver chew around the base.  Angled in at 45 degrees I was easily able to use my weight and push cut very deep.  Walking around the entire thing I did that several times and within about 30 seconds I could easily push the sapling over.

After dragging it back to camp it was time to get busy.  First order of business was to delimb it.  If branches aren't much ticker than a pencil would they still be called "limbs"?  If not, are they twigs instead?  Was I detwiging then?  Either way the Illuminous laughed at this task.  We all know a scandi expertly does wood - that's its main goal - but I was a little surprised with how easy it sliced off some of those limbs/branches/twigs.  With a simple flick of the wrist it amputated them from the trunk, even ones thicker than a pencil.  My Genesis would have struggled to do that.  The Illuminous has more weight and heft of course, which proved very beneficial here.  Where that also helped was with the nubs all over the trunk that I also sliced off.  There was at least 20 of them but all were gone in short order.  Obviously that was using the edge of the knife, but having done that it was now time to flip it over and use the spine.

Most people think a sharpened spine is only for striking a ferro rod - and they would be partially correct because it does do that - but for me it has other purposes.  I also use it to process material for fire starting, like scraping cedar bark into wispy fibers that take a spark very well.  But there's one other thing I use a sharpened spine for; sandpaper.  Yes, sandpaper.  Once the branches and nubs were removed from the tree trunk I was left with some high spots and potential for future splinters.  Despite how innocuous splinters may seem they can get infected rather quickly and become quite burdensome in the woods (don't ask me how I know that).  Because of past circumstances I always try to smooth off any area that might produce them, and wherever possible that's done with the spine and not the blade.  An acute edge on the spine is an LT Wright hallmark and the Illuminous is certainly no exception.  I spent several minutes using that hard edge and systematically smoothed over every area that might create a hot spot or splinter.  Going back to the handle for a second...  no matter how I positioned my hand I was able to find a comfortable grip as I rotated the walking stick and went about my business.  For me that proved cathartic, sitting by myself in the woods doing a project like that.  Once it was smooth I cut a pointed tip - because all my walking sticks have one - and then I fire hardened it.  Since that process requires periods of time where you're waiting for the wood to heat up I started reflecting on the sheath as the fire hypnotized me.

Made by JRE Industries, a leader in the category, it's what you would expect it to be, with two minor exceptions.  I can say it's a high quality piece made from leather that smells like a horses saddle.  I'm not sure if that's good or bad - I'm not a leather expert - but I'm guessing it's good.  Double stitched and reinforced by grommets in all the key locations it's likely going to last for a long time, save for the belt loop perhaps; minor exception number one.  JRE uses one solid hunk of leather which means the loop is actually part of the sheath itself and not a separate piece, thereby eliminating one point of failure.  I really like that idea.  Where it attaches to the back of the sheath there's just a lone rivet, and that is a single point of failure.  Why go through the hassle of making the entire sheath from one piece of leather but then stop short and not sew it on or at least use two rivets?  Attached to the belt loop is a D ring that secures the dangler.  The strap can be removed with a simple flathead screwdriver so you can easily choose whichever carry option works best for you.

As is the case with most bushcraft knives, the sheath is a pouch style.  There's also a 3/8" ferro rod loop on the trailing side.  There's no drain hole to be found, which seemed a bit odd.  The knife sits deep enough so only about half the handle is exposed (which is a good thing) but not so deep that you can only use two fingers to get it out (which would be a bad thing).  What's not so good - and the second minor exception - is retention, or more specifically a lack thereof.  The knife is not loose fitting per se, but it's also not very tight either.  Turn it over, give one medium intensity shake and out it plops on the floor.  Or onto your foot, depending upon where you are at that moment.  And before anyone says it...  yes, I know it can be wet formed - I've done that with several of my sheaths in the past - but for something that costs $260 you shouldn't have to.  At that price I'm looking for plug-and-play.

It's late November now, which means the days are getting shorter, but I was able to sneak out about 7 hours doing a field test of the LT Wright Illuminous 5 so I did get quite familiar with it.  That wasn't the full extent of my time with this knife however as I always use my test subject to make a meal as well.  Remember when I said that "hard micro buffed edge" blurb in LT Wright's specifications sounded like a bunch of salesmen malarkey?  Well, it ain't.  I used this thing extensively for an entire day yet it was still extremely sharp when I got home.  2-3 minutes with a strop was all I needed to get it back to surgical.  Nonetheless, a great edge doesn't overcome everything I'm afraid.

Food prep is one area where a scandi grind knife typically falls short - game processing is another - especially if it's thicker than an 1/8".  I could tell pretty quickly the Illuminous didn't want any part of my kitchen chores, but I forged ahead nevertheless.  I guess the best word to describe the experience would be "cumbersome".  In a pinch it could be used to make yourself something to eat, but it would much rather be gnawing on wood instead.

So what's the bottom line on the LT Wright Illuminous 5?  That answer is easy, this ones a keeper.  If you like the Genesis but want something a bit more robust look no further.  I'll be honest, my preferred grind is saber because it works better for the type of things I do, but if I was going to pick a scandi this knife would be it.  Hands down.  The blade stock is thick enough to handle anything you need to do, yet not so thick as to be clumsy.  Unlike the Genesis, it can feel a bit heavy at times though.  Speaking of the Genesis, here's what the two knives look like together...

The Illuminous handle is a dream for those of us with larger mitts, the build quality is every bit an LT Wright knife and the sheath is close to perfect.  It's not inexpensive, but if you want the archetypal bushcraft knife that will last all but indefinitely take a look at the Illuminous 5.  You can thank me later.

Anyone want to buy a slightly used Genesis?  Seriously, PM me.  When I reach for a scandi in the future it will be the Illuminous.

Offline boomer

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Re: LT Wright Illuminous 5
« Reply #1 on: November 22, 2020, 07:03:12 AM »
Good review and pics. Thanks, enjoyed reading it.

Offline wolfy

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Re: LT Wright Illuminous 5
« Reply #2 on: November 22, 2020, 11:17:20 AM »
I can see why YOU love that knife, fits you & does the jobs it was designed to do.  It's a great looking knife, but not for me.  As you are undoubtedly aware, all knives are a compromise of design and do some jobs way better than others.  Thanks for your honesty in describing its shortfalls.  Since I rarely process firewood or carve much more than a weenie stick anymore, this knife would not be my choice.  Just as you pointed out, I find the scandi grind to be nearly useless in the camp kitchen.  It doesn't matter what foodstuff I try to separate into pieces, the scandi grind sucks at it.  It's pure and simply a woodcarving tool that shines for what it was designed to do. 

Perhaps you are already know, but in case you don't, I'm a convexed Kephart fan.  It carves wood acceptably for the amount of carving that I do....which ain't much anymore, but I do, like ol' Horace, use my knife a lot more in the food prep area.  That's where the design shines & I guess that's why he designed it that way in the first place. :shrug:

Great review, BTW.....I enjoyed it! :thumbsup: :popcorn:
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Offline wsdstan

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Re: LT Wright Illuminous 5
« Reply #3 on: November 22, 2020, 06:28:15 PM »
That is a good review JMan.  While the knife is too large for my tastes LT Wright and his crew make good knives and it is probably perfect for someone with large hands and difficult cutting tasks.  Over the last few years I have come to love the Mike McCarter Kephart knife for food prep and some tasks on deer.  My Kephart is a 5"  blade and for food prep that is a good thing.  It is also a fairly thin blade, convex, and it cuts well.  The hunting use is minimal compared to the food prep use as you can imagine.  I have several bushcraft knives and the one that gets the most use is a Bernie Garland.  It is similar in size to the Genesis I think.  It is really good on dressing out a deer and on cutting off parts and pieces that are waste.  I looked the Illuminous up and it seems to be priced right for the quality.
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Offline woodsrunner

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Re: LT Wright Illuminous 5
« Reply #4 on: December 03, 2020, 08:14:14 AM »
That is one sweet looking package JMan :)....i reckon you found your knife in that one :thumbsup:
Well done review, a good read...atvb...woods
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