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Joe Kertzman

Buy the Best EDC Knife for the Money

EDC knife review
The Kershaw Knockout offers a bigger design than most EDC, but it’s still lightweight enough to stick in a pocket. (Kershaw photo)

Quick Tips

  • Choose a knife that isn’t too small for anticipated tasks, but not too large to carry comfortably
  • Buy inexpensive ($25 or less) knives if you don’t care that they get lost or broken
  • Pay at least $75 for an average quality EDC
  • Better performing knives start at $100
  • Handle the knife before buying if possible
  • Avoid gimmicks
  • If you can’t figure out how to open it by looking at it, it’s not the right fit

Top 10 Things to Consider in Buying an EDC Knife

  1. Quality materials
  2. Top blade steel
  3. Maker/manufacturer and customer service
  4. Application or cutting tasks it will perform
  5. Price point
  6. Type of lock or mechanism
  7. Design
  8. Ergonomics
  9. Size and weight
  10. Ease of carry

The Best Everyday Carry Knives for the Money

Best EDC knife for the money
With Old Red Bone handle scales, the W.R. Case & Sons “Peanut” is a handsome EDC knife, a two-blade folder weighing in at a light, easy-to- carry 1.2 ounces.

How do you get the best everyday carry (EDC) knife for your money? Will a $25 knife from a big-box store suffice? Is there such a thing as a quality $25 knife, or will it be necessary to spend $100, $500 or $1,000 for a blade? BLADE went looking for answers.

Buying EDC Knives Is Like Buying Cars

How to buy EDC knives
Chris Reeve folders are considered quality knives, with ergonomic
designs, thick frames, solid locks and easy-opening, high-end
steel blades.

“Directing a customer to an EDC knife is somewhat like pointing them toward an everyday car. Some think a base economy model suits them well, whereas others want a high-end luxury model,” says Mike Dye of New Graham Knives in Bluefield, Virginia.

“Obviously, a good mid- or high-end blade steel is paramount. And the feel of the knife in the hand—it must ‘fit’ the user,” Dye explains. “Different handle materials can make a world of difference in the feel of the knife. Micarta, G-10, smooth or worked titanium, stainless steel, bone and stag—these choices are of a personal nature.”

Not Too Small, Not Too Large

Kershaw EDC knife
Mike Dye of New Graham Knives says Kershaw makes great knives in every price point. The full lengths of the flipper folders are ergonomic and flowing, including the blue anodized handles.

Though Dye says everyone likes something different, there are keys to finding the right everyday carry knife. One tip, he notes, is to choose a knife that is neither too small for the tasks it might encounter on an average day, nor one too large to carry daily.

Matt Salazar, store manager for House of Blades, agrees and even has a suggestion as to blade length, saying a 3- to 3¾-inch blade is ideal for an EDC knife. He mentions modern blade steels such as CPM S35VN or M390, as those that are more than adequate for everyday cutting tasks.

“Stick with a good, quality brand that has a track record of great customer service,” Salazar recommends. “G-10 and aluminum are great options, as far as handle material goes, although titanium and carbon fiber are widely available if you want something a little more high-end.”

When Does $25 Cut It?

Dye says a $25 knife might be the perfect choice for a farmer, miner or auto mechanic who uses the knife for any task that comes up.

“If broken or lost,” he states, “it’s easier to repurchase a $25 knife than it is a more expensive piece. For others who are less likely to overwork or ask a knife to do chores it’s not designed to do, a higher-end model with ‘prestige’ might be in order.

“As for a quality $25 knife,” Dye continues, “yeah, they’re out there. Over 40 years ago, when I started selling pocketknives, the China-made knives were a joke. That is not the case today. Some factories in China are producing amazingly high-quality knives at popular prices.”

Dye says such companies as Kershaw and Spyderco (the latter specifically in its byrd line) market knives manufactured in China with great success.

Ontario and ESEE have great EDCs at a reasonable price,” he notes, “and they offer support for warranty issues.”

Disadvantages of Budget Knives

Salazar poses the question, “How long do you want the knife to last?”

“In my opinion,” he says, “you are going to be really hard-pressed to find a quality knife for $25. I will say that Kershaw makes great knives in every price point, but I’d also say that $75 to $100 would get you an excellent EDC knife that should last you many years with proper use. You can certainly spend more, if your budget will allow.”

Many steels in lower-end knives will not retain a sharpened edge for as long as high-quality blade steels, which means more frequent sharpening and a shorter life expectancy for a knife.

“Steel quality, in general, would be the biggest drop-off in opting for a lower-end knife,” Salazar explains. “Inferior edge retention is likely the most significant downfall, when purchasing a budget knife. After all, it’s a cutting tool.”

Higher Quality Equals Better Performance

Microtech EDC knife
The Microtech LUDT Auto 135-1 has a premium ELMAX or M390 stainless steel blade (depending on the date of manufacture) with a 6061-T6 aircraft aluminum handle. Featuring top-notch automatic action, it measures 4 5/8 inches closed and weighs 3.5 ounces. Its size, blade geometry and design lend themselves well to a comfortable and capable EDC knife for $235.

High-dollar production knives, such as those available from Chris Reeve Knives, Hinderer Knives and Zero Tolerance, exhibit quality craftsmanship, better steel options and stricter quality control.

“Look for solid lockup, if it’s a locking folder, smooth action and overall quality construction,” Salazar remarks.

“Generally, when the customer has tired of the off brands and low-end offerings at the big-box stores, they come to me asking for a quality knife,” Dye relates. “That said, most of our walk-in folks have a ceiling of around $50 to $100, and there are dozens of excellent choices in that range.”

Tangible advantages to higher-end knives include titanium versus pot-metal knife frames, and handle materials such as Micarta, carbon fiber and natural bone versus plastic grips.

Fit and finish on higher-end knives are rightly expected to be superior,” Dye states. “A customer will have a good experience with a knife that sharpens easily, cuts well and retains an edge. With high-end EDCs, you start to get into quality frame materials, better steels with superior heat treating and locking mechanisms that hold greater tolerances.”

Handle the Knife Before You Purchase It

Spyderco EDC knife
The Spyderco Para Military 2 folder has G-10 handle scales and a 3.43-inch CPM S30V blade. It weighs 3.9 ounces.

“If possible, handle the knife before purchasing it,” he suggests. “Look for lack of blade play on folders, both horizontally and vertically, and examine lockup. Look at fit and finish. Well-made knives at any price will show well in those areas.”

Dye says, “I tend to steer customers away from fancy opening mechanisms, unorthodox locking mechanisms and knives that have obvious marketing gimmicks associated with them.”

Materials to Consider

Zero Tolerance EDC knife
The Zero Tolerance 0450CF Sinkevich Frame Lock Flipper boasts a carbon-fiber front handle scale with a titanium rear scale and a 3¼-inch CPM S35-VN blade that opens smoothly on a KVT ballbearing system. The knife weighs 2.7 ounces.

Stainless as opposed to high-carbon blade steel is a consideration for Julie Maguire and Ryan Thompson of Arizona Custom Knives.

“In order to be an EDC candidate, a knife should have a high-quality stainless blade. There are more stainless steels to choose from today than ever before. Do your research and choose the one that fits your cutting needs,” Maguire says.

“Finding a knife with durable handle materials is also important,” Thompson imparts. “Titanium, G-10, Micarta and carbon fiber are all great options that hold up well in various conditions.”


One thing is for certain. As knife designs, blade steels, materials and mechanisms improve, the perfect EDC will always be a moving target.

Keep Reading

Best books about knives

This article is excerpted from KNIVES 2019, the world’s greatest knife book. Pick up a copy of this essential knife collecting book here.

These Daggers Are Dope!

If a guy was going to Tweet about something, “Dope Daggers” would be a good subject, with a hash tag in front, of course, for good measure. Yes, #DopeDaggers is an awesome Twitter message, alongside a .pdf or link to an image of a sweet handmade dagger fresh from the forge. It’s not a bad thing to talk about, bring to the forefront or communicate to a mass audience, and much more interesting than the latest thing Kim Kardashian or Miley Cyrus had to say, neither of whom, I’m quite certain, could come close to building an acceptable dagger.
Tabor 001

Not many folks have the skills to fashion symmetrically accurate daggers, those with edge-holding blades, comfortable, non-slip grips and protective yet non-clunky or hand-pinching guards. The utilitarian pieces are purpose built for piercing and cutting, ground to even edges and stout but pointy tips, easy to slide into custom sheaths. These are not tools to be taken lightly, but lifesaving measures that serve multiple purposes and satisfy many needs.

Knapp_140701CYes, there are worse things to Tweet about than Dope Daggers. One could brag on a hot girlfriend, a great singing voice or the sighting of a movie star on a street corner, you know, such things as those that keep the world spinning on its axis. Or a simple message like “#DopeDaggers” could go out and someone might just contact the Twitter account holder, purchase one of the maker’s pieces and carry the tool for a lifetime. #MostAwesomeDude

The preceding was excerpted from the KNIVES 2016 book. Click here to reserve your copy today and view beautiful, full-color photos of daggers and other works.

“Forged By War” Supports Returning Veterans

In 2013, Ryan Johnson of RMJ Tactical, designer of elite, military, tactical tomahawks, approached CRKT with the news that he had been working with a few combat veterans that had returned from war with varying degrees of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

To help work through their challenges, they had been designing and forging steel into custom tools. Drawing from their experience earned in combat situations, they have been creating tools they wished they had available to them in the battlefield. CRKT saw it as a way to give back to the community, and in 2016 is announcing the launch of the Forged By War program.

The program includes mission-ready tools designed by veterans, with 10 percent of CRKT’s net profits of the program donated to the veterans’ charity of choice. CRKT calls them “Mission ready tools that are … Forged By War.” The first three tools include the new Clever Girl, designed by CRKT Clever Girl jpgAustin McGlaun of Columbus, Georgia. This fixed blade tactical knife features a black powder coated, upswept blade with a tough, injection molded, glass-reinforced nylon handle that sits comfortably in a sheath that’s MOLLE-compatible for multiple carry options. It aligns with Austin’s philosophy that in a fight you want something you can grab quickly, use if necessary, and then go home to your family. Austin’s charity is The Green Beret Foundation.
CRKT Sangrador

The Sangrador—which means “bleeder” in Latin—features a 5.5-inch, dual-edged SK5 steel dagger-style blade with a black powder coat finish, non-slip G-10 handle and MOLLE-compatible sheath. Its designer, Darrin Sirois of Fayetteville, North Carolina, has seen his fair share of combat as a Special Ops soldier, but his best feedback still comes from teammates. Darrin’s charity is Purple Heart Homes.

CRKT BirlerThe Birler tactical pack axe won’t go AWOL on you when you need to break down doors, bust floors or take down trees to rescue a fallen soldier. Designed by Elmer Roush of Brasstown, North Carolina, a blacksmith and Vietnam vet, the blade is forged from 1055 carbon steel and features a hickory handle. It cuts down pack weight and anything in its way.  Elmer’s charity is The Green Beret Foundation.

Build Your Own Knife Online


When it comes to production knives, says Dexter Ewing, BLADE® field editor, as a consumer you are not afforded much say-so in terms of aesthetics or blade and handle materials. The knives are offered as-is. But what if you played an active role in helping create your own distinctive production knife? Well, you can. 110DropPointThere are a few manufacturers offering build-your-own-knife programs online. They enable you to play a pivotal role in selecting the handle color and material, blade material and shape, and even the coating choices. Be aware that these options and their number vary by manufacturer.IMG_0006-6

Nonetheless, the end product is a factory knife influenced by and for you. You can custom tailor it most any way you want based on the options provided.

Benchmade offers such a service on its website in the Custom Knife Builder section. Four models are available: large and small Griptilian AXIS Lock, and large and small Barrage AXIS assist folders.full dominator_steve

“The entire experience is very intuitive and walks the customer through the process of customizing the knife selected,” explains Derrick Lau, Benchmade public relations and communications manager. “Starting with the blade for the Griptilian or the Barrage, customers can select from drop-point or tanto styles …. See the June 2016 issue of BLADE to read the rest of the fascinating feature article. Enjoy!

Forged In Fire at BLADE University

Do you have what it takes to appear on Forged In Fire? Learn if you do from ABS master smith J. Neilson, one of the judges on History channel’s hit TV show, in his BLADE University class on what the program’s officials look for in bladesmithing contestants.

Held in conjunction with the 35th annual BLADE Show at the Cobb Galleria Centre in Atlanta, the third annual BLADE University begins the day before the BLADE Show, June 2, and runs through show Saturday, June 4. The BLADE Show will be June 3-5.BladeU

ABS master smith J. Neilson—here testing a blade on History™ channel’s Forged In Fire—will give tips on how to be chosen to appear on the hit TV show in his special class at BLADE University. (Miller Mobley/HISTORY)

Having begun its second season Feb. 9, Forged In Fire (page 84, December BLADE) pits bladesmiths against each other to see who can make the best knife in a limited  amount of time, with the winner of each episode earning a $10,000 first prize. Last year’s FIF included such well-known forgers as ABS master smiths Murray Carter, Ray Kirk and J.D. Smith, David Goldberg, Peter Martin, ABS journeyman smith Mace Vitale and others, as well as many relatively unknown bladesmiths.

See page 10 of the May 2016 issue of BLADE to find out more.

Knife Trend: Titanium, Tritium and Timascus

Timascus Flip

Lambert_140606Now we all know that knifemakers are innovative, and we’ve seen incredible creativity in design, blade grinding, handle materials, damascus forging, one-hand-opening folder mechanisms, locks and gadgets. Trends don’t just happen without innovation. But using a radioactive isotope of hydrogen on a knife? One called tritium that contains one proton and two neutrons, an isotope that is rare on earth where trace amounts are formed by the interaction of the atmosphere with cosmic rays? Does it sound like science fiction? No, it’s non-fiction, real life, and true that some knifemakers inlay tritium into knife handles because it glows, looks incredibly cool and might actually help a guy stumbling around in the dark find his knife.

That last part might be a stretch, but it’s not the first time knifemakers have looked to the stars to find knife handle and blade material. They’ve been forging meteorite into knife blades and using it in handles for millennia. There’s mystique and legend surrounding ancient Egypt, and Tutankhamun, who had meteorite forged into a blade before the use of iron, of gold/meteorite knives among the Mongols or James Black using meteorite in Col. James Bowie’s blades.


More commonly, knifemakers shape and often anodize titanium, using it for bolsters, liners and handles, or laminate two or more titanium alloys into patterns resembling damascus and resulting in what is known as Timascus. Various alloys color differently by heating or anodizing them, so the color combinations are endless, like the stars in the sky, the cosmos and the galaxies beyond.

This article was excerpted from the Trends section of the KNIVES 2016 annual book. For more incredible knife images and information like it, click here to get your copy of KNIVES 2016, and enjoy!


Do the Straight Razor Strop!


As noted by Pat Covert in the April 2016 issue of BLADE®, there was a time in this great country when all men used straight razors to shave because, well, they had no other choice! Today, though, shaving with a straight razor has been experiencing a revival in an age when five-blade handhelds and multi-head electric shavers are the norm._A PHOTO

Two of the latest straight razors include Boker’s “The Celebrated Ebony” (left) and knifemaker Tom Krein’s model in orange-and-black-layered G-10.

According to Wikipedia, narrow-bladed folding straight razors were listed by a Sheffield, England, manufacturer in 1680. By 1740, Benjamin Huntsman was making straight razors complete with decorated handles and hollow-ground blades made from cast steel, using a process he himself invented. Think about that. Straight razors have been in use, uninterrupted, for nearly 350 years—and no doubt much longer in terms of those who made them earlier.

Larry “The Hammer” Harley forged the wootz damascus blade and handle of his straight razor. A special heat-bluing technique provides the color. A mammoth bone spacer adds the final touch. (SharpByCoop image)

Harley razor

Shaving with a straight razor takes both skill and time when most people get their news lightning-fast off a handheld device—and the rat race shows no sign of waning. So, why would you want to take the time to meticulously shave your face or trim your beard?

To read the rest of the story, see the April 2016 issue of BLADE.


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