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Dexter Ewing

Framelock Folders: Top Picks Built For Hard Use

Today’s framelock folders are built tough, stylish and sharp.

Framelocks are popular with folks who put folding knives to rough use. They are built more robust than linerlocks simply because the lockbar is cut out and bent from the steel or titanium frame of the handle. The lockbar is the exact width of the handle scale, whatever thickness that may be. Consequently, compared to the spring of a standard linerlock, there is significantly more material locking the blade open and, thus, greater lock strength.

Hinderer Knives Halftrack

titanium lockbar of the Hinderer Halftrack
At the end of the titanium lockbar of the Hinderer Halftrack is a bolted-in steel block that contacts the tang and reduces wear on, and thus adds longevity to, the lockbar. 

Named for the specialized military vehicle with a tracked propulsion drive system, the Hinderer Knives Halftrack framelock folder is, like its namesake, practically unstoppable. Despite the knife’s compact size, it has the horsepower to muscle through tasks big and small.

Hinderer Knives is known for high-end folding and fixed-blade knives aimed at the tactical market. The Halftrack is a bulldog of a tactical folder and one of Hinderer’s biggest sellers. A scaled-down tactical folder, it’s easy to carry. One thing’s for sure, the Halftrack is stout, with a handle that’s a little over a half-inch thick. The 2.75-inch blade is high-octane CPM S45VN stainless steel. The classic bowie shape has a defined tip for precise cutting. Other blade pattern options are a Spanto—Hinderer’s in-house design of blade grind that results in a very stout spear point—a tanto, wharncliffe and drop point.

The boxy handle frame is stonewashed titanium and the framelock is one of the strongest on the market. At the end of the titanium lockbar is a bolted-in steel block that contacts the tang and reduces wear on, and thus adds longevity to, the lockbar. Not all knife companies incorporate such a feature on their framelocks. A sturdy titanium pocket clip carries the closed knife blade tip up in the pocket. G-10 inlay in several color options on the presentation side sports a nice 3D milling pattern that aids in traction. At 3.85 inches closed, the Halftrack is robustly built without being too bulky.  

The Halftrack blade has an excellent edge
The Halftrack blade has an excellent edge out of the box and is ready to work. The CPM S45VN stainless steel has staying power and holds an edge exceptionally well. As the author noted, it’s a material that can go the distance. 

The blade has an excellent edge out of the box and is ready to work. The S45VN has staying power and holds an edge exceptionally well. It’s a steel that can go the distance. The handle doesn’t seem that comfortable at first but once you work with it you’ll understand the purpose behind the design. The large finger recess forms an integral lower guard that seats your index finger and prevents forward hand movement, while the angled handle butt fits perfectly in the palm of your hand. The boxy shape helps prevent it from being “lost” in your grip while wearing work gloves, too. 

Expect top notch performance all around. The blade sails through just about anything—cardboard, hose, wire, meat and a lot more. It does it all easily. The MSRP of $425 may be somewhat steep but the knife is well worth every dollar. It’s a tough folder that will take abuse and last for years. Country of origin: USA.

Kershaw Helitack

The 3.25-inch clip-point blade of the Helitack is built to excel at utility tasks
The 3.25-inch clip-point blade of the Helitack is built to excel at utility tasks. Such a pattern not only slices very well but also has a defined tip for precise cutting and scoring. 

Named for the U.S. Forest Service helicopter borne firefighters who are flown to combat remote wildfires, the Helitack from Kershaw exhibits the same toughness and resolve that the special breed of firefighters possesses. Like firefighter gear, the Helitack is built tough and carries easily. The 3.26-inch modified clip-point blade of 8Cr13MoV stainless is razor sharp out of the box. (The 8Cr13MoV is the Chinese equivalent of Japanese AUS-8.) The blade deploys via a flipper tab and SpeedSafe assisted opener, and rides on a pair of caged bearings for the ultimate smoothness in opening and closing.

The handle is a stainless steel framelock and sports a chamfer around the edges to soften the grip and make it more comfortable. A reversible clip carries the knife deep in the pocket. The clip easily reverses to the opposite side using a standard T6 Torx driver. A steel lockbar stabilizer is integrated into the pivot on the lock side of the handle. It prevents the lockbar from traveling too far and thus losing tension when locking the blade open. The handle’s slender nature adds to the comfortable carry experience. The lock engages securely with zero play. The blade and handle sport a gray titanium nitride coating that’s handsome and low glare. The hardware is a contrasting black for an overall eye-catching look.  

Kershaw Helitack’s stainless steel framelock
The Kershaw Helitack’s stainless steel framelock sports a chamfer around the edges to soften the grip and make it more comfortable. A reversible clip carries the knife deep in the pocket. 

The 3.25-inch clip-point blade is built to excel at utility tasks. Such a pattern not only slices very well but also has a defined tip for precise cutting and scoring. The hollow grind allows the blade to be thinned out somewhat, giving the edge great bite without compromising strength. The Helitack tackles tougher materials with ease, something an EDC work knife must do.

The handle seems very comfortable and has no hot spots, though there were times I wished it were a bit wider to help me power through a cut. As slim as the handle is it carries very well. The lock held firmly. At an MSRP of $64.99, the knife is a great value. Country of origin: China.

Bastinelli Knives Bastien Coves

BBR2’s titanium lock side is anodized a bronze color
The BBR2’s titanium lock side is anodized a bronze color. The blade spine thumb rest is at the most forward point of the grip and has traction notches. The pocket clip carries the closed knife blade tip up and is non-reversible.

The knife designs of Bastien Coves of Bastinelli Knives are very progressive and geared toward tactical with an emphasis on high utility. Ergonomics are a priority with Bastinelli’s designs and they are some of the most comfortable tacticals around.

The BBR2 framelock folder showcases Bastien’s fine design talent. Made in Italy by Lionsteel, the knife has a 3.1-inch drop-point blade of D2 tool steel in a stonewash finish for a good visual contrast. The blade is rather interesting as it is a “dropped” design in relation to the handle. This permits Bastinelli to make full use of the ergonomic handle and allows the blade to be used to its full potential by lowering the cutting edge below the handle, reducing interference from the user’s hand and making the blade more useful in various cutting tasks. D2 was chosen for its high performance for the money. Dual thumb studs provide ease of one-hand opening, and the pivot’s Ikoma Korth Bearing System (IKBS) ensures ultra-smooth blade rotation. A fuller milled into the blade reduces weight and provides a nice visual and an aggressive presence.

If you follow Bastinelli’s work, you know the BBR2 is available in a plain edge blade. Starting in 2024, Bastinelli will begin offering the BBR2 in a partly serrated blade as well, and provided an early sample of the semi-serrated iteration to road test for the article.  

A partly serrated blade on the Bastinelli BBR2
A partly serrated blade on the Bastinelli BBR2 is new for 2024.

The handle is a half-and-half construction, with a milled G-10 presentation side and a titanium lock side anodized bronze. The curved handle with prominent index finger groove is one of the best things about the BBR2. It is super comfortable. The handle edges are chamfered as is the grip to remove some material to fit your hand better. The blade spine thumb rest is at the most forward point of the grip and has traction notches. An aluminum spacer protrudes stylistically at the handle butt to form a skull cracker point. The pocket clip carries the closed knife blade tip up and is non-reversible. (Sorry, southpaws.) I also like the rounded G-10, which helps the knife sit better in your hand. At first it did feel a bit weird with the rounded G-10 and the flat titanium lock side, but after working with the knife for a while you get used to it. MSRP: $250.  

CRKT Padawan

For using, the author’s favorite of the two blade patterns of the CRKT Padawan is the wharncliffe.
For using, the author’s favorite of the two blade patterns of the CRKT Padawan is the wharncliffe. The full flat grind gradually tapers down to the edge and makes it an absolute slicer. 

CRKT’s newest folder design, the Padawan is designed by Brazilian knifemaker Pedro Buzetti of Presidential Prudente, Brazil. Buzetti is the protege of Flavio Ikoma (page 36), the Ikoma of the Ikoma Korth Bearing System (IKBS) and a well-known Brazilian knifemaker who also has several collaborations with CRKT. The Padawan is Buzetti’s first collaboration with the company and is a stylish EDC folder. Pretty much a scaled-down tactical folder, the Padawan features a steel handle and framelock construction. It comes in two blade styles—an upswept semi-skinner and a wharncliffe, both 3 inches long. Blade steel is Sandvik 14C28N stainless, comparable to AUS-8.

There are two choices of handle overlays: textured black G-10 for the wharncliffe and brown canvas Micarta® for the semi-skinner. The overlays not only provide enhanced grip and visual styling but also act as a lockbar stabilizer. At 4.1 inches closed, the Padawan rides very well in the pocket, thanks in part to a blade-tip-up, deep-carry clip. Unfortunately, the clip is not reversible. Both knives feature flipper opening and the IKBS to provide easy, fast blade deployment.  

For using, my favorite of the two blade patterns is the wharncliffe. The full flat grind gradually tapers down to the edge and makes it an absolute slicer. The wharncliffe has a more defined tip than the semi-skinner’s drop point. The Sandvik 14C28N steel holds an edge well for the money and is fairly easy to resharpen.

CRKT Padawan offers two choices of handle overlays
The CRKT Padawan offers two choices of handle overlays: textured black G-10 for the wharncliffe and brown canvas Micarta® for the semi-skinner. The overlays not only provide enhanced grip and visual styling but also act as a lockbar stabilizer.

The Padawan is a breeze to carry. It just disappears in your pocket. The handle is slender and comfortable, with the primary finger groove helping your index finger seat itself, with the rest of the fingers falling into place naturally. Chamfers in the grip make the handle feel slimmer than it actually is. Attention to detail is not lost at all, from the stylized tri-wing pivot screws to the mirror-polished, crowned blade spine. Such little touches make a good knife even better and add value. The Padawan is a great EDC framelock built stout that carries well without feeling bulky. MSRP for either version is a very reasonable $99.99. Country of origin: China.

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American Knife Boom: Roundtable With Top Knifemakers

Four U.S. knife manufacturers talk making knives in the USA

Editor’s note: Last time, BLADE® featured four of today’s U.S.-based knife manufacturers ranging from long-time companies to the latest factory operations: Emerson Knives, Inc., White River Knife & Tool, Tactile Knife Co. and Montana Knife Co. (MKC). This time the author asks the respective principals of each company—Ernest Emerson, John Cammenga Sr., Will Hodges and Josh Smith—about their success, the high cost of making knives in America, and the future of the U.S. factory knife industry.

BLADE: What are some of the most difficult things about making knives and staying profitable in today’s market?
CAMMENGA: I’m sure most companies in our industry feel the same. Most challenges are from heavy taxation, excessive regulation, and now, expensive capital.
SMITH: The taxes and regulations we deal with make it difficult to have margins that China-made-knife companies have.
HODGES: Our price points are pretty reasonable compared to other made-in-USA companies, which has been hard.

BLADE: John, you’ve mentioned that finding reliable help is also an issue. Would any of the rest of you like to comment?
HODGES: We’ve been very fortunate to find great employees that are dedicated to the mission.

White River Fillet Knife
White River’s John Cammenga indicated he remains excited about making outdoor knives. Fillet knives are among the company’s specialties, including the Traditional Fillet model, here in a choice of Micarta® and Micarta-with-cork grips. The 6-inch blades are 440C stainless. MSRPs: $140 to $150. (Josh Wayner image)

BLADE: Ernest, you’ve said that the main competition to all USA knife companies is competition from overseas. Please elaborate.
EMERSON: [We are] competing against companies that manufacture or buy their knives for under $20 apiece and then sell them for the same price as we do. As China made considerable inroads in the knife industry, one of their major advantages was labor force, thus being able to produce quality products at reduced prices. This kept the entire industry on its toes and the American companies no doubt started feeling the pinch in a big way.

BLADE: Why is it so much more expensive to make knives in America than overseas?
HODGES: The biggest factor is labor. I’m dedicated to paying my employees well and providing health insurance, paid time off, a 401K and a great working environment. If you want to have good employees, you want to treat them well in hopes that you will retain such help.  Investing in your employees in this way is a bit costly but it’s the price of doing business.
CAMMENGA: It is simply not a level playing field. We are committed to making it work here [in the USA]. We are committed to our employees and customers alike by making our knives in the USA and using USA-sourced materials as well.
SMITH: Employee wages factor into this as well. Our dollar per hour paid is what [Chinese] workers get paid per day. 
EMERSON: [There’s also the] usual regulations and taxes and the cost of setting up shop here in the USA. American wages, American raw materials, American taxes, American restrictions, all of those good things go into it.

Archer framelock
At Tactile Knife Co., Will Hodges said good help is key. “I’m dedicated to paying my employees well and providing health insurance, paid time off, a 401K and a great working environment,” he noted. Tactile’s most recent launch is the Archer framelock folder designed by knifemaker TJ Schwarz.

BLADE: There are some advantages to making knives in the USA that you hold over those who make them overseas.  What are those and how do you try to capitalize on them?
EMERSON: Through the generations my entire family spent time in service to this country, and I never will forget that. I never wanted to do anything but put Americans to work.  I never wanted to be anything except an American-made manufacturer, American-made company.
SMITH: Making knives in the USA has allowed companies like Montana Knife to be more agile as a company. Our knives and materials do not sit in container ships for months. We can ramp up and slow down production in real time, thus allowing us to respond to customer demand.
CAMMENGA: This means not having to be at the mercy of the almighty supply chain. It is very nice not to have supply chain issues, increasingly expensive overseas shipping, and concerns over the geopolitical landscape.

Knife Grinding
Josh Smith said one of the reasons American knives are so expensive to make is differences in employee wages. “Our dollar per hour paid is what [Chinese] workers get paid per day,” he observed. A Montana Knife Co. fixed blade gets an edge touchup.

BLADE: Will, you said that there are advantages to making friends in the knife industry. How so?
HODGES: When we run into an issue, we have plenty of friends to go to for advice. As much as the companies in this industry are in competition with each other, they are also there to help each other out as well.
CAMMENGA: We have benefitted from the current re-shoring trends in our OEM work. [Author’s note: As mentioned last time, White River Knife & Tool also does OEM manufacturing work, making knives for other companies as well as knives under its own brand. So, you may or may not own a White River knife without knowing it!] 

Emerson Knives Kwaiken and Mini Sheepdog
As you might guess and as Ernest Emerson indicated, U.S. regulations and taxes are another cost additive to making knives domestically. Two of the most popular knives in the Emerson line are the Kwaiken (top) and the Mini Sheepdog (bottom), each equipped with the Wave Shaped Feature for fast and easy opening. (Knives from the author’s collection; Marty Stanfield knife image)

BLADE: What can BLADE readers expect in your next big knifemaking project, and when do you expect it to be available for public consumption?
CAMMENGA: We are excited about producing some of the finest outdoor fixed blades and have some folding knives in the works. We hope to have at least one folding model out in 2024 and several more in 2025.
HODGES: We are excited about our most recent launch, the Archer framelock folder designed by knifemaker TJ Schwarz. It’s a heavy-duty design that is a different direction than our current Maverick folder. We do have another fun launch that should happen by the time BLADE readers read this. 
SMITH: Twenty-twenty-four will be the year that Montana Knife Co. will experience more product line diversity. We will shift into the culinary end heavily. Additionally, we are going into the tactical knife space. We estimated that by the mid-third quarter, MKC’s tactical knives will be out on the market. We also have some really cool collaborations coming with well-known people. 

CQC-7 Is25

Sharpening A knife
As John Cammenga observed, another advantage to making knives stateside is not being at the mercy of the supply chain, increasingly expensive overseas shipping, and concerns over the geopolitical landscape. A White River fixed blade gets an edge tune-up.

For Emerson Knives, Inc., 2024 will be the silver anniversary of the CQC-7, so expect some exciting surprises to commemorate the iconic tactical folder. Lucas Emerson, Ernest’s son, has become an accomplished knifemaker and designer in his own right, and the company will debut the first folder designed by the younger Emerson, the MX200. Emerson-made automatic openers will be a reality as Emerson is tooling up to produce the knives in a satellite facility in Colorado. Ernest said he hopes to introduce the prototypes at this year’s BLADE Show. And, finally, a kitchen cutlery line will augment the Emerson tactical knife line, too.

Emerson Knives, Inc., Montana Knife Co., Tactile Knife Co. and White River Knife & Tool—look for these and other outstanding U.S.-based knife companies to expand their knife lines and enlist you in what shapes up to be the Great American Knife Boom.

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Knife Blade Repair: Bringing Old Blades Back To Life

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Practice the proper steps with the proper equipment and, most important, be safe and knife blade repair is a snap.

I have been fortunate enough to make not just one but two side hustles out of my knife hobby. First is the obvious—writing for BLADE® Magazine. Second is running a knife-and-tool sharpening service out of my garage, serving folks in my community and metro area with full-service sharpening on most cutting tools found in the home, workshop and garage. I have always had a strong interest in sharpening in general and have been practicing the skill for about as long as I have been into knives in general.

While I sharpen many knives and scissors, I also repair damaged knife blades. Those repairs include—but are not limited to—straightening bent blade tips, fixing severely damaged cutting edges, and regrinding new blade tips from broken ones. While sharpening is something I still enjoy very much and to a degree it remains fun work for me, it’s these minor repairs at customer request that I love doing. You can too provided you have the proper equipment and the desire to learn.

Knife with sharpening stone
In knife blade repair, carbon steel blades make the steps easy as they sharpen up quicker than stainless blades.

Before we get into the thick of blade repair, let’s discuss equipment. I run four Work Sharp Ken Onion Elite sharpening machines—I keep one as a backup or deploy it as backup should I need to augment what I’m already running—plus a 1×30 single-speed belt sander, a “Harbor Freight special.” I do all my sharpening on this equipment.

I have used the Ken Onion Elite since the start of my sharpening service almost 10 years ago. I started out with just one Work Sharp. I added a second one awhile after that. The 1×30 came about from trying to revive a few totally dull butcher knives. In the process, I realized I needed another machine that would be in charge of hogging off material to get a quick starter edge that the Work Sharp machines could sculpt into a razor-sharp edge.

Profiling the blade
After profiling the basic shape of the new tip, the author uses the X65 belt of the Work Sharp Ken Onion Elite sharpener to further massage and fine tune it, as well as blend in the appearance of the blade spine at the tip to match the rest of the spine. 

Keep in mind that the Ken Onion Elite is not just a sharpener but also a variable-speed miniature belt sander as well, especially when you turn the unit around 180 degrees and work off the platen side. You can easily work on plastic, PVC, metal and wood. This is also how I regrind new blade tips, as well as fixing blade damage caused by hitting something solid and chipping the edge out. We will dive more into specifics in a bit. It’s important to note here that to do blade repairs of any sort successfully, you must have some sort of variable-speed, motorized, belt-sander-type machine.  

DEMO KNIFEThe demo knife is one a coworker on my day job gave me to refurbish. It is a vintage, carbon steel Case jackknife that saw a lot of use in a previous life. The blades were extremely worn down. Both tips were broken off. The main blade was resharpened so much that the cutting edge was a bit on the curved side. Both blades also had some dings in the edge as well. The owner wanted me to rehab the blades by regrinding new tips and sharpening them. I will take you through step by step on what I did and how it was done. WARNING! Please exercise caution when working with power tools such as belt sanders. Should you attempt such a task as outlined in this story, neither I nor BLADE is liable for any injuries that might occur as a result. 

Heat Management

Whenever executing such repairs on a knife blade, remember to not let the blade heat up or you can ruin the steel’s heat treat. Always keep a jar filled with water within arm’s reach of your machine and dunk the blade into the water every few seconds to keep it cool. Doing so will ensure that you will not overheat the steel. If working on a larger blade such as a machete, I recommend using a spray bottle filled with water. The blade is simply too long to dunk into a jar, so spraying it down every so often will help.  Something else that will help is to have a pair of cut-resistant gloves on hand and always wear them when handling the blade. The gloves usually have a textured coating on the gripping surfaces for the fingers and palms. This will help you hold the blade securely as well as keep your hands and fingers safe from accidental cuts. The gloves usually are inexpensive, less than $10, so there’s no excuse to not have a pair.

Where To Start Repairing A Blade

WARNING! Whenever faced with a blade-tip-rehab task, remember to sharpen the blade last. Why? Because you will be holding the blade as you regrind the new tip. This applies even if you’re wearing cut-proof work gloves.

Blade Tip

When regrinding tips, I always start with my 1×30 sander with an 80-grit Norton Blaze SG belt. It is the orange belt specifically engineered for knifemaking and removing steel. The 1×30 hogs off material and rough shapes the new blade tip.

Knife blade repair shaping the blade
The author reshapes the new tip on the pen blade using the 1×30 belt sander with an 80-grit Norton Blaze SG belt. 

I start by visualizing where the new tip is going to lie. I start at the uppermost point of the broken-off tip, usually on the blade spine side. I start grinding at that point and remove material to where eventually a new tip is created. As I grind it down, I also pay attention to the visual “flow” of the new tip and how it transitions to the rest of the blade spine. I may have to round off the harsh angle to blend it back into the spine. A lot of this is done by eye, making everything blend right in. The goal is to make the new blade tip look as though nothing happened.

Blade Shaping

After roughing out the new tip with the 1×30 belt sander, I begin to dial in the final shape of the new tip with the Ken Onion Elite. I have much more control at this juncture due to the less aggressive belt grit and the slower belt speed. I can finesse the new tip on, keeping a close eye on the evenness of the ground-down portion, making it parallel with the rest of the untouched blade spine.

chamfering the edges
The author carefully knocks off the sharp edge at the corner created by rough grinding the new tip.

Finish

After tweaking the new tip to final shape, I concentrate on the finished appearance of the ground portion by holding the knife almost vertical and sanding only on the ground portion, blending it in visually and removing the coarse-grit scratches with the 80-grit belt on the 1×30.

Chamfering And

When everything is blended in visually, the last step is to chamfer the ground portion and remove the crisp corners made by all the sanding. You’ve seen how blade spines have a small, rounded corner on both sides? You are essentially doing that here. Hold the blade at an angle and lightly touch the blade spine to the belt to cut the crisp corner down. Remember: you can always cut more later if needed. The key is to use a light touch and stop only when the corners are smooth to the touch and you don’t detect crisp edges. The result is a new blade tip that is highly functional but doesn’t look “factory,” though it will be awfully close.

Fixing An Uneven Blade

The main blade of the demo knife was worn away unevenly due to years of manual sharpening, so I straightened that out as well. Like the shaping of the new tip, I did the bulk of the straightening of the cutting edge on my 1×30 belt sander. I used a light touch on the belt—I cannot stress enough that it’s easier to grind cautiously—eyeing the straightness of the new cutting edge. Grind a bit then dunk the blade in water to keep it on the cool side.

Straightening the edge
After grinding the new tip on the main blade, the author uses the 1×30 belt sander to straighten the uneven cutting edge by evening it out back to straight. The 80-grit belt eats off material in a hurry. At this juncture the author eyeballs what is to be straight.  

Once I attained an even edge, it was time to grind the new edge. Straightening out the edge will cause a wide flat spot on it, so you have to grind the spot away evenly on both sides. Work diligently and carefully, and don’t forget to dunk the blade in water. With the smaller of the two blades, I repeated the same steps to even out the edge as there were some imperfections I wanted to remove also. As a result, I wound up starting a new edge on the small blade as well.

Once I ground the starter edges, I progressed to the Work Sharp machines to carefully sculpt the new final edges. This is the step where you bring the blades to life. The carbon steel blades make the steps easy as they sharpen up quicker than stainless blades. After the final sharpening of both blades, the result is a vintage pocketknife with a new lease on life sporting new tips and fresh cutting edges. 

Final Cut

Sharpening—transforming a cutting tool from dull to razor sharp in a few minutes—is very therapeutic. Toss in creating new blade tips on top of that and the combination is undeniably very satisfying. If you carefully follow these steps, you too can renew any knife blade with a broken tip. And it doesn’t have to be a pocketknife. I’ve ground new tips on tactical folders and karambits, too. Just follow the same steps outlined here. In fact, larger knives are probably easier because there is more to hold onto while working on them. If you have the equipment and the desire to renew and rehab knife blades, give it a try.

Final repaired knife
The end result is a demo knife with two sharp points and two sharp edges.

It is also possible to use a regular belt sander like mine to do all the shaping steps. Be sure to have an assortment of belts of various grits at your disposal. You will want to change to the finer grits to finesse your work. I recommend using only a 1×30 given the size and width of belt. Again, you can find an inexpensive 1×30 at Harbor Freight Tools for around $50. Who knows, you might even find some other uses for it outside of blade repair.

Knife blade repair can be very satisfying. And because you are working with knives as well as power tools, please exercise the utmost caution and pay attention to what you are doing to prevent serious injury.

Have fun and good luck!

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CRKT Provoke Review: A Different Cut Of Knife

A mechanical wonder with practical functionality, the CRKT Provoke incites wonder.

Karambits are unique knives, originating in southeast Asia as an agricultural tool and later adapted as a weapon. Its signature claw-shaped blade allows effective slashing, and given its cutting edge is always oriented to the target at an angle, it also delivers wicked slices from point to hilt.

Just think about how a cat grabs, holds, punctures and cuts its prey and you have a pretty solid idea about how a karambit operates. The age-old design still inspires and intimidates, and some manufacturers have even figured out how to put a new spin on the longstanding design.

CRKT Provoke
The Provoke offers a wicked chisle grind for maximum slicing, cutting and punturing ability.

Take the CRKT Provoke, for instance.

Knifemaker Joe Caswell took the concept of a folding karambit and made it a bit different. Instead of the blade simply folding into the handle, the Provoke’s steel lunges out and back in with a simple flick of the thumb. In the ancient art of knifemaking it’s difficult to come up with something unique, but Caswell did.

The Provoke not only incites wonder in collectors but also elicits excitement in serious users.

Provoke Blade

The blade of the Provoke (MSRP $200) is 2.4-inches long and is made from D2 steel for superior edge retention. To work properly with the deployment mechanism, the blade is chisel ground. The flat side is faces in toward the handle, laying flush against the frame when closed. This is mainly a safety precaution, protecting the user from cuts or torn clothing when the blade isn’t in use.

Provoke Action

Opening the CRKT Provoke
The mechanical action of the Provoke is one of a kind.

The Provoke’s signature action is what Caswell dubbed “kinematic”. It works thusly, the blade is attached to a pair of movable arms anchored into the handle. To deploy the blade, it is held in reverse grip and the thumb presses on the exposed end of the blade. The arms pivot and the blade leaps forward. Closing is equally as effortless. Just press down on the exposed locking tab just below the finger ring, then the blade is retracted backward until it rests fully against the handle frame. 

Nicely, given it doesn’t take much force to open or close, the blade locks in the open position. Honestly, it’s a really neat, mechanical motion. Fairly self-evident, the movement of the Provoke is unlike anything else available on the market today and has the ability to capture even a jaded knife aficionado’s attention.

Getting Clipped

Provoke clip
As unique as the action is the Provoke’s pocket clip, which lays flat until needed.

Another intriguing aspect of the CRKT offering is its pocket clip. Often used, rarely discussed and poured over, the clip is one of those unsung if not massively simple aspects of the knife. Even here the Provoke takes a different twist in design.

The clip is spring-loaded and rests against the finger ring completely. To open, you simply push down on a notched portion of the clip and it rises up. Some might complain it’s overly complex, but it does fit nicely in a knife defined by its mechanical ingenuity.  Not to mention, in hand, you do not feel the clip at all—a break from nearly every other option with in a standard configuration.

Provoke Variations

Provoke Compact

Provoke Compact and Provoke Grivory
Provoke Compact (top) and Provoke Grivory (bottom) offer two lightweight EDC options.

In addition to the full-size Provoke, there is a scaled-down version in the form of the Provoke Compact (MSRP $150). Essentially, it’s the same knife but with a blade length of 2.2 inches. Where this petite Provoke earns its stripes is ease of carry, as it is much less cumbersome in the pocket than its big brother. And, from my perspective, this smaller version’s action is a bit crisper than the full-sized, perhaps due to the smaller blade.

Provoke Grivory

Again, aiming at EDC, CRKT also offers the lightweight Provoke Grivory (MSRP $100). You guessed it, the handle is made from injection-molded Grivory—a very stiff but lightweight glass-reinforced thermoplastic. Here you have a host of choices in handle colors, including fluorescent green, red, blue, and orange—adding some pop to an already exciting knife. Regardless of the color, the blade’s arms are always black Grivory, providing a nice contrast to the frame and matching the blade’s black stonewash finish. 

It’s also worth noting that the Grivory arms are reinforced with steel to provide strength and rigidity to the material for superb blade action. The lightweight version weighs 4.7 ounces; for comparison, the full-size Provoke weighs 6.1 ounces.  So there is considerable weight savings. 

As for the action on the Grivory, it feels a bit different than the aluminum handle versions—in a good way. For me, it felt a bit lighter and faster in deployment.

Provoke First Responder

For the save and serve professionals, CRKT offers the Provoke First Responder (MSRP $225)—the full-size knife with a 2.4-inch blade. However, it does have some value adds life-saving professionals should appreciate, such as a ceramic glass breaker point inserted into the end of the handle frame.

The Provoke’s curved blade is especially suited for rescue work, particularly cleaving through seatbelts with a single, swift pulling motion. In addition to the standard integrated pocket clip that all Provoke models feature, the First Responder also includes a molded sheath with multiple carry options to offer carry flexibility if desired. 

Provoke EDC

CRKT Provoke EDC
The EDC (bottom) next to the Compact (top). The EDC may prove more practical for some users.

The Provoke EDC (MSRP $175) features a 2.5-inch long drop point blade of D2. This iteration replaces the knife’s standard talon-shaped blade with a blade shape that is more friendly to daily cutting tasks. Honestly, it’s perhaps my favorite out of the entire Provoke family. 

The action is very quick on this one, though once open you have to reorient your grip from a reverse to a forward grip. The blade’s lock release on the EDC version has been reoriented from the position of the other Provoke models, to make one-handed closing of the blade possible.  You can deploy the Provoke EDC one-handed as well as close it one-handed. It does require some practice to close one-handed but once you get it down, you will be able to do that easily.

Provoke Trainer

Provoke Trainer
No need to upgrade your health insurance when practicing with the Provoke Trainer.

For those who might be serious about employing the Provoke for self-defense, or simply like to fiddle with the knife’s action as a fidget toy, CRKT offers a trainer model (MSRP $100). Built exactly like the live-bladed lightweight Provoke, it sports a dulled and blunted blade. In short, there’s no danger of accidental cuts or stabs while working with the knife.

Furthermore, a series of holes drilled into the blade blank subtracts weight so it is the same as the live-bladed version. The trainer is only available in an all-blue handle, signifying its purpose. 

Using The Provoke

When using the regular Provoke, you’re limited to a pulling motion for cutting, though it has a defined blade tip for precise cutting and scoring. If you intend to carry one on an EDC basis then the Provoke EDC is a better candidate because of its double ground drop point blade, which is more conducive to general utility use. 

Due to the more common blade shape along with the short length, this model allows you to get into places where a larger knife blade cannot. This means using the Provoke EDC to open mail, packages, strip wire, cut cardboard, and other general working tasks that a knife of this size would be called upon to do. The D2 steel does an excellent job at holding an edge yet when it comes time to resharpen, it’s still a great steel.

Final Cut

If you like knives that are a step away from ordinary—not to mention are conversation starters—the Provoke series is for you. If you like mechanical things…the Provoke has your name on it. However, I would pick the Provoke EDC as the best of this bunch if you are just going to carry one for daily cutting purposes.

Each model is made with excellent fit, finish, and sharp ess right out of the box, however. I think this design is perhaps one of the most inimitable knives out there right now. It may not be for everybody, though. But if your knife tastes venture into the unique and different, then the CRKT Provoke series has your name on it.  

More On CRKT:

Best Crossbar Lock Knives: Blades & Actions That Holdfast (2024)

The crossbar lock continues to dominate.

One of today’s most popular blade-locking mechanisms for folding knives is the crossbar lock. It’s the most advanced blade lock there is—for now.

The crossbar lock consists of a spring-loaded, hardened-steel bar in the handle that makes constant contact with the tang and springs forward into place once the blade is opened. It wedges itself between the tang and the liner, preventing the blade from rotating shut until it is released manually. The lockbar is ambidextrous. The lock is all smooth action, tight lockup and ease of release. It is safe because it does not require your fingers to be in the path of the closing blade the way a linerlock or framelock does, thereby almost eliminating accidental cuts.

Crossbar Lock Origins

The crossbar lock first appeared in 1999 with Benchmade’s 710 Axis Lock folder, which has since been discontinued. The knife and lock mechanism were designed by knifemakers Bill McHenry and Jason Williams. “Bill McHenry was the primary driver of the mechanism,” says Vance Colver, Benchmade director of product line management. 

Crossbar Lock Inventors
Custom knifemakers Bill McHenry (left) and Jason Williams, designers of the Axis Lock. (Lisa McHenry image)

McHenry was a man of many interests. At one time he was a goldsmith, a watch enthusiast who rebuilt and repaired watches, and he loved restoring vintage Indian motorcycles. “The love for the mechanical gave him a unique perspective to knife lock solutions and led to the Axis Lock,” Colver added.

On June 10, 2003, the patent for the Axis Lock was issued to McHenry and Williams, patent no. US 6,574,689. In addition to the aforementioned features, Colver said the Axis Lock has smooth blade rotation; is reliable with minimal moving parts—just the lockbar moves, and it does so only slightly; and strength, with the Axis Lock outperforming the linerlock in closed failure force.

After the Axis Lock debuted, new Benchmade models with the lock appeared, including the Griptilian designed by BLADE Magazine Cutlery Hall-Of-Fame® member Mel Pardue, the Warren Osborne 940 Axis Lock and the Presidio Axis Lock automatic. The Axis Lock patent expired in 2016, allowing other knife companies to introduce their version and thus broadly open the “new” crossbar lock category.  Today you will see variants across several prominent brands, including the Axis Lock itself.

Top Picks Crossbar Lock Knives

Benchmade Axis Lock

Benchmade crossbar lock
The lock that started it all, the Axis Lock, the original Benchmade McHenry/Williams 710 Axis Lock and Benchmade’s Model 535 Bugout and Mini Adamas. The latter two knives are in production while the 710 has been discontinued.

Benchmade’s Bugout is classic EDC because of its slender form factor, extremely lightweight, and use of premium blade steel. The full-size Model 535 Bugout has a drop point blade of flat ground CPM S30V stainless steel. The 3.2-inch blade is long enough for most cutting tasks but short enough to be compact and carry well. Handle material for the base model is molded Grivory for light weight and strength. Carbon fiber/CPM S90V stainless and machined aluminum/M390 stainless are respective handle/blade material combos available in the high-end models. The manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) for the Bugout starts at $180 and increases depending on handle and blade material options.

The Benchmade Mini Adamas 273-03 Axis Lock is a scaled-down version of the full-size Adamas tactical folder. Designed by knifemaker Shane Sibert, the Mini Adamas has a 3.25-inch drop point blade and closed length of about 4.35 inches. The blade features a milled-in fuller and CPM MagnaCut stainless steel. The regular production versions have CPM CRUWEAR tool steel blades.

The handle is angular and boxy in very good ways. A slight swelling in the middle helps fill your palm. The special edition has marble carbon fiber scales. The standard Mini Adamas offers a choice of black or OD (olive drab) green G-10 handles. The knife’s Axis Lock works beautifully, with a rock-solid lockup and ultra-smooth blade rotation. MSRP: $375. Country of origin for the featured Benchmades: USA.

Microtech Ram Lok

Microtech crossbar lock
Microtech’s RAM LOK takes the crossbar lock to the next level with a rectangular-shaped lockbar that places more mass on the blade tang as opposed to the standard round profile lockbar of other crossbar locks. The RAM LOK is available on several select Microtech models, including the MSI (top) and Amphibian (bottom) folders.

Microtech christened its crossbar lock Ram Lok, and it’s a variation on the theme. Most if not all other crossbar locks employ a round-profile locking bar. The Ram Lok has a rectangular shape, providing more surface space and bulk to the lock, thereby providing more inherent strength. The center post that passes through the rectangular lock has a coil spring that provides the lock’s resistance and is the key to the lockup’s integrity. The Ram Lok follows the contours of the tang and, once the blade rotates fully open, springs forward into place, wedging into the tang, thus preventing the blade from rotating closed. The release buttons are multi-faceted, stepped “X” designs on either side of the handle.

The MSI (Microtech Standard Issue) and Amphibian Ram Lok are but two Microtech manual folders with the Ram Lok. Winner of Best American Made Knife at BLADE Show West 2023 (January BLADE®, page 16), the MSI features a 3.8-inch sheepsfoot blade of Bohler M390MK high-performance stainless. M390MK is manufactured exclusively for Microtech and is similar to M390 though enhanced a bit for added edge holding.

The straight-line cutting edge permits easy sharpening as well as high utility, excelling at pull cuts especially. MSRP: $365.  A black-polymer-molded-handle version lowers the price considerably to $177. It’s the most affordable U.S.-made Microtech folder available.

The Amphibian is the resurrection of an older Microtech tactical design. It sports a recurve clip-point blade in 4 inches of M390MK and a highly ergonomic handle. The signature stepped teardrop-shaped thumb stud is ambidextrous and allows for easy one-hand opening. The handle is available in G-10 or aluminum, with G-10 colors of black, FDE (flat dark earth) or OD green. The aluminum handle is available in black only, though that may change by the time you read this. MSRP: $300. Country of origin for the featured Microtechs; USA.

Hogue ABLE Lock

Hogue crossbar lock
The Hogue Knives Deka has the company’s ABLE Lock. ABLE is an acronym for Advanced Bar Lock Enhanced. The Deka is an EDC friendly folder that comes in clip-point (top) and wharncliffe (bottom) blade shapes and is designed by custom knifemaker Allen Elishewitz.

Hogue Knives calls its crossbar lock the ABLE (Ambidextrous Bar Lock Enhanced) Lock. The Deka is one of the company’s folders that sports the ABLE. Designed by knifemaker Allen Elishewitz, the Deka is stylish, well-configured and slender, great for EDC and makes an awesome work knife. The 3.9-inch blade comes in standard clip point or modified wharncliffe patterns. At press time, Hogue was switching the blade steel to CPM MagnaCut from CPM 20CV.

The handle is offered in standard black and multicolored Gmascus in red, camo, green and blue. The Gmascus replicates a damascus look but in a lightweight phenolic-based resin. As each color alternates with black, the resulting visual is eye catching. The ambidextrous pocket clip carries the knife tip up. MSRP: $194.95. A version with a lightweight, lower-cost polymer handle in a choice of black, blue and FDE and a MagnaCut blade has an MSRP of $159.95. Country of origin: USA.

Gerber Pivot Lock

Gerber Pivot Lock
Gerber’s Sedulo (top) and Assert (bottom) offer the company’s version of the crossbar lock called the Pivot Lock. The Pivot Lock secures solidly and the blade action is ultra-smooth. Dual steel liners reinforce the lock’s strength.

In recent years Gerber has shifted production to the USA, a good lead-in to its new folders with crossbar locks. Among them are the Sedulo and Assert, each of which uses Gerber’s Pivot Lock. The Sedulo’s 3.4-inch drop point blade is fully flat ground CPM S30V stainless. Dual thumb studs provide ambidextrous opening. A stonewashed finish helps seal micro pores in the steel as well as hides most scratches easily.

The handle is gray FRN (fiberglass-reinforced nylon)—black is also available—with chamfering throughout for a secure, comfortable grip. The Pivot Lock locks up very tight and the blade action is ultra-smooth. Dual steel liners reinforce lock strength. Closed length: 4.7 inches. MSRP: $124.99.

Though not as brawny as the Sedulo, the Assert carries easier and more comfortably. The modified clip point blade is 2.9 inches of CPM S30V. Closed length: 4 inches. The oblong blade slot provides attachment points for the adjustable thumb stud, which you can move/position anywhere along the slot. The stud can be removed altogether and the slot used to open the blade instead.

I love how the two standoffs at the handle butt, the lock release buttons and the thumb studs are orange, contrasting nicely with the gray and adding an exciting pop of color. An ambidextrous fold-over clip carries the knife deep in the pocket. The Pivot Lock ensures smooth blade action and rock-solid lockup.

The flat-ground blade slices evenly and cleanly. Out of the box the edge was very sharp and ready to work. It carries well, cuts well and is great looking. MSRP: $174.99. It’s available in three colors: all black with black blade and hardware, gray handle with orange hardware, and green handle with blue hardware. Country of origin for the featured Gerbers: USA.

Kershaw Duralock

Kershaw crossbar lock
The Iridium (top) and Heist (bottom) are two of Kershaw’s newest folders featuring the company’s version of the crossbar lock—the Duralock. It provides a strong, solid lock-up.

Kershaw’s crossbar lock is the Duralock and is offered on a few new models in the company lineup. One is the Iridium, a slender folder designed to carry easily. Packing a 3.4-inch spear point blade of D2 tool steel, the Iridium is made for hard use. The handle is gray-anodized aluminum for light weight and high tensile strength. Mounted on the handle’s reverse side, the clip carries the Iridium deep and tip up. A copper-colored handle spacer adds just the right amount of contrast. The Duralock engages crispy with zero blade play. The Iridium is also available in an all-black-coated handle and blade. MSRP for the standard Iridium is $99.99 and the Iridium Black is $104.99.  

The Heist is another new Kershaw design with the Duralock. Featuring a 3.2-inch clip point blade of D2 tool steel, the Heist has an ergonomic handle with a slim profile for effortless carry. The 3-D grip texturing helps keep your hand in place during extended use. Molded FRN scales conserve on weight. The clip is a fold-over deep-carry style affixed to the handle butt. The Heist is a straightforward working knife for military and law enforcement. The pivot works on a bronze washer. The Duralock locks up strong and solid. The MSRP of $84.99 is very reasonable for a working folder with above average blade steel. Country of origin for both knives: China.

Tactile Knife Co. Tight Lock

Tactile Tight Lock
The Maverick by Tactile Knife Co. pairs the company’s crossbar lock with a knife design by custom maker Richard Rogers. Richard designed the Maverick’s crossbar lock, too. The folder won Best EDC at BLADE Show Texas 2023.

Tactile Knife Co. is a relatively new U.S. knife manufacturer and the Maverick, a collaboration with custom knifemaker Richard Rogers and winner of Best EDC at BLADE Show Texas 2023, features the company’s version of the crossbar lock. The Maverick is a slender folder on the larger side, with a 3.5-inch blade and 4.7-inch closed length. It may be on the longer side but it has a slim profile that carries very well in jeans or a suit. The MagnaCut blade has a flat front with a bit of a swedge. Dual thumb studs promote easy opening with either hand.

The titanium handle’s 3D texture has many ridges to enhance traction. The crossbar lock provides a smooth opening and is very secure. The handle shape is simple but works very well, with an integral single guard to keep your hand in place. 

The clip is an interesting design. Two standoffs attach to the butt end to carry the knife tip up, with the clip affixed atop the standoffs. It’s more involved than a standard or even a milled titanium clip. It looks upscale and different in a very good way. It shows the attention to detail throughout the Maverick, which includes an anodized, triangular-shaped titanium pivot bolt. The folder is also available in black Richlite Micarta®, providing a slightly lower price point ($249 MSRP) and lighter weight. MSRP for the titanium version: $349.

Check Out More Knife Buyer’s Guides:

Kershaw Leek Review: Not Your Garden-Variety EDC Knife

A Ken Onion design, the Kershaw Leek has cut a commanding profile.

It’s no wonder why the Kershaw Leek is such a phenomenal EDC folding knife. It has all the right elements that knife users crave—style, sturdy construction, premium materials, an impressive selection and is priced right.

The Leek is essentially the bigger brother of Kershaw’s Chive, answering the call from knife fanatics for a larger option of this Ken Onion design. And the petite option doesn’t disappoint.

We’ll examine why it’s been a popular seller for Kershaw, explore some popular variants and find out why this isn’t your garden-variety EDC knife.

Kershaw Leek Blade

The Leek’s blade measures 3 inches and is made from Sandvik 14C28N stainless steel, making it great at holding an edge. However, it’s the blade’s profile that demands attention. It’s a modified clip point and the profile tapers down to almost a needle tip. This is both a good and bad thing, which I will go into in depth later.

Kershaw Leek cutting
A born cutter, the Leek’s modified clip point blade made quick work of nearly any task set in front of it. Photos by Marty Stanfield, Marty Stanfield Photography

The hollow grind of the blade thins it down nicely to where the blade takes a smart, sharp edge easily. Dual thumb studs are present, but do not function as traditional thumb studs. Instead, they are used only for a positive stop in the open position.

Kershaw Leek Handle

The handle is a slender, elongated shape that favors daily carry due to its thin profile. The handle itself measures 4 inches, bringing the overall length of the Leek to 7 inches when open.

The handle sports a nice, comfortable chamfer all the way around making gripping it easier and presenting fewer hot spots. A large, steel pocket clip can be affixed to the handle to carry the Leek in the tip-up or tip-down position, whatever you wish to do. The clip holds the Leek securely in your pocket, and it can be removed as well should you desire to carry it in the bottom of your pocket.

Leek clip
A movable clip allows the Leek to be carried tip-up or tip-down. Photos by Marty Stanfield, Marty Stanfield Photography

The base Leek (model 1660) has a handle of bead-blasted stainless steel with a matching bead-blasted blade. The Leek is available with a variety of handle finishes, from several colors of anodized aluminum to black PVD-coated, Blackwash and carbon fiber, to name a few.

As for the lock, it’s a frame lock that engages the blade tang positively, securing it in the open position. Very solid and easy to operate when you’re ready to stash the blade.

Testing The Leek

For this review, Kershaw sent me several of their popular selling Leek models for closer examination. I have the 1660 base model Leek with a bead blast finish on the blade and handle. The 1660OR is a liner lock and has orange-anodized aluminum handles. The Leek is available in an array of anodized aluminum colors. Speaking of colors, there’s also the very unique 1660VIB which is a high polish 1660 with the addition of a rainbow titanium coating. And finally, we have the high-tech 1660CF liner lock which features futuristic carbon fiber handles and upgraded blade steel to CPM154 for higher performance cutting and longer edge retention

My pick of this bunch is the 1660CF, given there’s a lot going on with this particular model. You get the benefit of the unique look and the lightweight of the carbon fiber, combined with the high-end blade steel. The 1660CF carries very well due to the reduced mass compared with the regular 1660 Leek framelock.

Kershaw Leek frame lock
The Leek’s frame lock is sturdy and easy to manipulate. Photos by Marty Stanfield, Marty Stanfield Photography

Structurally speaking, the base model 1660 Leek frame lock has a very rock-solid lockup. It’s very hard to defeat and only closes when you deliberately command it to. It actually makes a good work knife as long as you use it as a cutting tool and nothing else that it wasn’t designed for (more on this in a bit).

Performance-wise, the Leek—across the board regardless of the blade steel or handle configuration—is definitely a slicer. The blade stock is very thin and when it is ground, it is attenuated even more.

Right out of the box, the leek has a lot of bite. It goes through thicker stuff like cardboard very easily. The tip being acute, makes for an excellent scoring tool as well. The Leek excels at being an all-around EDC cutter.

The blade opens fast, with the press of the exposed flipper tab on the blade spine, Kershaw’s Speed Safe assisted opening technology takes over and powers the blade to the fully open and locked position. It’s easy to see why the Leek remains a popular Kershaw model after all these years, it simply works well and is a good-looking design.

Leek Sticky Points

Two of the most common failures I have seen in the Leek are where folks misuse the knife as well as the sliding safety breaking.

Leek blade
While the blade is an accomplished cutter, it’s thin enough the tip is easily damaged when used to pry. Photos by Marty Stanfield, Marty Stanfield Photography

Because the tip of the blade is pointy, it’s a weak spot with the knife. Where you get into trouble is when you use the tip to pry, even lightly. This either results in a bend or break off entirely. This is a cutting tool, not a pry tool or screwdriver.

Each Leek also comes with a sliding safety that, when the blade is closed, you slide over the tip of the blade to physically block it from coming out of the handle. There is a hex screw on the backside you use your thumb to move and this moves the safety. Sometimes the safety can slide on its own while the blade is open; when you go to close the blade it comes down on the safety tab. If done hard enough this will cause the safety to break, as it is plastic. The nice part, the tab is replaceable.

Final Cut

Other than these points, the Leek is a proven EDC knife. It’s rather compact, slender, and doesn’t garner unwanted attention. It’s worth a look if you’re in the market for a blade that balances looks and performance.

As for price, the MSRP for the base 1660 Leek is $115. The 1660OR orange handle Leek is $105. And the Carbon Fiber 1660 CF runs $190. In the scheme of things, not bad pricing for USA-made EDC folding knife—particularly with an Onion pedigree!

Read More About Kershaw:

Benchmade Infidel Review: Breaking The Mold For OTF Autos

Breaking from the boxy OTF autos, the Benchmade Infidel cuts a unique profile that’s made it a hit among high-end knife lovers.

Out-the-front (OTF) automatic knives have long been popular with knife enthusiasts because they are different enough to be unique but not so odd as to be useable. OTF’s main mechanism of action is propelling the blade fore and aft in relation to the handle, as opposed to out the side in a radial fashion as most known automatic folding knives operate. Presently a few knife companies offer OTF automatics but there is one drawback to most designs (if you see it as such)—most have boxy handles.

This is primarily out of necessity. The handle shape in generally needs parallel sides to facilitate the fore and aft motion of the blade as it extends and retracts into the handle. And with the sliding switch actuation located on the spine, there isn’t much that companies can do with handle shape changes.

Enter the Benchmade Infidel, a high-end USA-made OTF with a curvy handle.

Benchmade Infidel Handle
Photo: Marty Stanfield – Marty Stanfield Photography

How did the company accomplish this? By relocating the actuation slide switch from the handle spine to the handle scale. Moving the switch opened up possibilities of experimenting with different handle shapes, even ones that enhance user grip and safety as well. The Infidel’s handle is curvy, yet symmetrical and sports a three-dimensional texturing pattern to boost hand traction.

Infidel Blade

The Infidel’s dagger-shaped blade measures 3.9 inches in length and sports a traditional grind for this style of knife and a symmetrical appearance. This truly is a dagger blade with edges sharpened fully on both sides. Benchmade opted for D2 steel for the blade, selected for its known edge retention and toughness.

Infidel Blade
Photo: Marty Stanfield – Marty Stanfield Photography

A fuller is machined down the centerline of the blade, enhancing the appearance and giving it a bit of an edgy attitude. The blade is finished with a black coating, serving as an additional layer of corrosion resistance, as well as a low profile, non-glare finish. For those who might not be aware, D2 is not stainless steel and requires a little extra care. This coating accomplishes this job.

Infidel Handle

The handle measures 4.8-inches long and it is machined from aircraft-grade aluminum for both strength and weight reduction. The overall handle shape is inviting with its multiple curves that define a forward guard of sorts to park your hand in place. Moving towards the middle, there is a slight contour that helps to fill your grip more, and the expanded section at the rear of the handle aids in preventing rearward sliding.

Like the blade, the handle shape is symmetrical and very pleasing in appearance when you factor the blade’s uniformity. The handle sports bi-directional machining patterns helping to hold your hand in place. If the machining pattern look familiar, it should. It is the same style used on Benchmade’s Presidio automatic folder.

Benchmade Infidel Clip
Photo: Marty Stanfield – Marty Stanfield Photography

To fire the blade, there is a stepped slide switch on the presentation side of the handle. The machining pattern on the switch allows for positive thumb engagement to deploy and retract the blade. The reverse side of the handle is smooth and you find a deep carry, fold-over style pocket clip affixed to the handle to carry the Infidel tip down in the pocket. The clip easily attaches to your pants pocket and holds the knife securely.

Using The Infidel

While it is possible to EDC a dagger blade OTF (though, be sure to check your local laws first on knife carry), I will have to caution against the fact that its use as a working knife is rather limited given the blade design. The dagger grind makes the tip devastatingly sharp and pointy (a good thing), it also leaves the tip more susceptible to damage or even breakage if the knife is used heavily. This is especially true when prying or twisting while cutting actions may be involved.

With certain tasks where puncturing and cutting—such as opening bags of mulch or topsoil—the Infidel definitely excels. Push the blade through the bag and pull it to the side to slice the top open. It all happens effortlessly. Opening mail, opening packages, cutting cardboard, breaking down cardboard boxes, and cutting shrink wrap are some tasks that the Infidel can also handle with aplomb.

Benchmade Infidel In Use
Photo: Marty Stanfield – Marty Stanfield Photography

The ease of extending and retracting the blade simply by moving the slide switch forward or backward makes using the knife easy. One thing to note regarding the handle ergonomics in general, the Infidel is glove-friendly. With some knife handles, the handle feels lost in your gloved hand. You cannot manipulate it easily, it feels too thin. With the Infidel, the handle design translates well to gloves.

The D2 steel is respectable in performance, offering enhanced edge retention and toughness against wear and impact. It’s a well-known steel, especially in the outdoor knife market, where large camp knives and choppers may be made from D2 for these very reasons. While you are certainly not going to do any chopping or batoning with an OTF, it’s nice to know the blade is that tough and can take a fair amount of abuse before it needs to be sharpened.

I have always had good luck with D2 and found it to be a very good-performing steel for its price. Since you’re not going to be engaged in heavy work with the Infidel, D2 is perfect and when it does come time for a resharpening, D2 sharpens up quicker than all your high-performance steels. Another plus!

Infidel Variations

For those of you who wish for a smaller Infidel, there is the Mini Infidel which has a 3.1-inch long dagger blade. All the material specs are the same as the full-size Infidel. The overall length is 7.1 inches, and the Mini Infidel is a very pocket-friendly design. It’s sized right for daily carry and for those with smaller hands. Size wise it’s not as imposing as the full-size Infidel but its smaller size allows it to get in and out of more daily carry tasks like opening packages, mail, and some general cutting tasks as you work around the home, yard, and garage.

Infidel Mini
Photo: Marty Stanfield – Marty Stanfield Photography

Additionally, there is an upgraded model with a few bells and whistles. Benchmade dressed up the Infidel by offering three shades of nature-inspired colors: Crater Blue, Woodland Green, and Flat Dark Earth. These limited edition knives come out in 1,000 batches, and are also equipped with upgraded blade steel to satin-finished, premium CPM S30V. This is a long-time standard steel in the knife industry, known for its toughness and extreme wear resistance.

Final Cut

The Infidel is one of the more interesting OTF automatic knives on the market. It combines style, function and quality materials to equate to a long-lasting tool that will stand the test of time.

The Benchmade 3300BK Infidel has an MSRP of $550.00. The 3350BK Mini Infidel has an MSRP of $500. The Flat Dark Earth, Woodland Green, and Crater Blue full-size Infidel have an MSRP of $650.00 each. The same colors for the Mini Infidel are $600.00 each.

Check Out More On Benchmade:

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