Keychain Knives: Unlocking The Secrets To The Convenience Blade

Keychain Knives: Unlocking The Secrets To The Convenience Blade
The Gerber Key Note’s split ring is ample and can hold a bunch of keys, easily twice the number shown. The stubby tanto blade is double ground and only .8 inch long. Weight: 2.25 ounces. Closed length: 2 inches.

Handy keychain knives are pocket pards ready to sever and serve.

As competitive as today’s cutlery market is, it behooves a factory knife company to fill as many categories as it can—including the keychain knife. In fact, keychain knives offer a number of the same utilitarian functions as many contemporary tacticals and EDCs. Whether you need a small knife to handle daily chores or a back-up to your back-up in an emergency, a keychain knife can answer the call.

Keychain Knives
The test bunch, from left with manufacturer’s suggested retail prices in parentheses: Schrade Roadie ($25.99), Smith & Wesson Stonewash ($17.99), Bear & Son 3-inch Keychain Knife ($22.99) and Gerber Keynote ($27). All are made in China.

Bear & Son 3-inch Keychain Knife

Bear & Son 3-inch Keychain Knife
The Bear & Son’s 2-inch drop-point blade of 440 stainless steel in a brushed finish took off slices of 1-inch-diameter smoked sausage with no problem. Note the cap lifter on the rear of the handle spine. Weight: 2.3 ounces. Closed length: 2.8 inches.

The Bear & Son 3-inch Keychain Knife is a study in curves and its all-silver frame and blade add a classy touch. The blade sports a brushed finish and rolls out via a nail nick. Key hauling is handled by a 1-inch flat split ring on the base, very adequate unless you carry a large number of keys. In that case you can always add a larger split ring. A cap lifter is on the lower backside of the handle.

I sliced 1-inch-diameter smoked sausage and the blade performed admirably—not that you’d typically grab your keychain knife to perform such a task but it’s there if you need it. The cap lifter is handy. There is no pocket clip but the Bear & Son is not overburdening for loose pocket carry. This is a stout keychain knife well worth the money.

Schrade Roadie

Schrade Roadie
The Schrade Roadie is a little bulldog. The 1.5-inch blade of black-oxide-coated AUS-10 stainless steel bit through round after round of rappelling rope like a walk in the park. It’s a no-frills cutter meant for cutting. Weight: 2 ounces. Closed length: 3 inches.

The Schrade Roadie is a little bulldog of a keychain knife that doesn’t pretend to be anything else—it’s strictly a knife. In fact, it looks like a squeezed tactical folder. The blade opens via a flipper tab. The handle is black G-10 over black-coated stainless liners, with the rear liner serving as an unusual exposed locking leaf. Keys carry via a 4-inch black ball chain that dangles approximately 2 inches off a hole in the base.

I tested the blade on 3/8-inch synthetic rappelling rope to see how the reverse tanto pattern—a cousin to a modified wharncliffe—performed. It had no problem taking 3/8-to-1/2-inch slices in a single pass. The grip is excellent, aided even more by gimping on the upper rear handle close to the blade spine. This is a heck of a small knife and I only had one beef with it—the ball-chain key dangler. With the weight of keys tugging on the chain both sloshing around inside the pocket and while in use, you are asking for it to break. By the nature of ball-chain construction there are simply too many points along the way it can fail. I’ve got a remedy for that I’ll discuss later.

Smith & Wesson Stonewash Keychain

Smith & Wesson keychain knife
The Smith & Wesson’s 2.1-inch drop-point blade of ti-nitride-coated 8Cr13MoV stainless steel sliced its way through 1/8-inch harness leather, something the author indicated the other knives would have more trouble doing. Weight: 2 ounces. Closed length: 3.2 inches.

The Smith & Wesson Stonewash Keychain is the largest of the test bunch and it, too, resembles a scaled-down tactical folder. There’s a cap-lifter cut-out on the back frame slab. Keys mount at the base using a 3-inch ball-chain loop. This is the first of two review knives with a convenient pocket clip. The keys must be removed before using it because the clip is mounted for tip-up carry only, and if you use the keys they will hang out the top of your pocket. If this is acceptable to you, go for it.

I tested the blade on 2-inch-wide harness leather. Looping the leather strip over I did pull-throughs and found the little cutter more than up to the task. The framelock knife is built like a tank with the exception of a ball-chain key carrier which, as stated, I believe will give you issues down the road. That said, if you’re comfortable with it, go for it. I like this otherwise sturdy knife and it’s worth every penny of the price tag.

Gerber Key Note

Key Note cutting leather
The Key Note’s satin-finished 5Cr stainless blade is too short for slicing but the tip scores quite well.

The Gerber Key Note wins the Keychain Outside The Box Award for its sheer imaginative design. With a stubby tanto blade, this offering radically differs from the pack. Both praised and panned on YouTube, the Key Note’s stubby .8-inch double-ground blade is certainly different. The frame has black-anodized aluminum rails with black stainless steel liners, the front which houses a linerlock. A flipper on the back side of the tang gets the blade rolling but only deploys it halfway, after which you pinch it for full deployment. You can also use the nail nick. Two nice touches are a wide tip-down pocket clip and a healthy 1.25-inch-diameter split ring for holding keys.

The blade is limited by its small size but I found it useful in scoring mode taking off strips of suede leather, and it is a heck of a box cutter. It will also push-cut paracord on a flat surface. The beefy tip-down pocket clip can be used with keys attached. The amply sized split ring is the best of the test knives, providing plenty of room for key-a-holics.

Is the Gerber Key Note different? Yes, but it may do just what you need a keychain knife to do.

Keychain Knife Carry Options

keychain knife carriers
Modifying a keychain knife to suit your preferred carry can be done any number of ways. Examples include, from left: lanyard mini-carabiner for neck carry, a belt clip with split ring, the Roadie with ball chain removed, ready to modify, and a quick-release carrier that allows you to easily separate the knife from the keys.

There are other ways to carry these diminutive cutters than in or on the pocket. Accessories and findings (jewelry making parts) can be had by a various number of sources such as hobby stores, online at eBay and Etsy, or by doing an internet jewelry search such as Rio Grande Jewelry Making Supplies. Neck lanyards, belt clips, split rings large and small, breakaway connectors, small carabiners, and more are all available to modify your keychain carry to suit you. Any one of our candidates may suit your tastes as is, but if you want to mod it to suit your needs, there are plenty of options!

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