One commonly asked question by those looking for a great everyday carry blade is this: “What’s the best pocket knife brand?” This is a difficult question to answer to a certain degree, only because there are dozens of brands and so many factors to consider. A lot of it, too, comes down to personal preference.
Because of this fact, it might be better to shed the label of “best” and simply wonder aloud what the top brands to put on your short like that make pocket knives?
While these two questions are very similar, the second question is much easier to accurately answer for a broad population. If an individual wants to know what the best knife for them would be, that can also be answered fairly accurately but as a general populace question it is near impossible.
Finding the “best knife” or “best brand” requires having knowledge of these 5 questions:
- What does the knife need to do?
- Who is the knife for?
- What type of knife is most desired?
- Are there any mechanical preferences?
- What is the budget?
As this is not about individual knives but rather brands, one has to understand that each company will have their standard line, high-end line and their budget line.
Below, take a look at our interactive table where you can compare some of the more popular knives on the market today:
Pocket Knife Brands: Price and Quality
It is a common refrain is absolutely true: You get what you pay for. This does not mean that all budget knives are created equally nor does it mean that to get a really good knife you have to spend over $500. In general, the price of the knife is determined by their materials and by the work that has gone into manufacturing them.
Brands such as Benchmade and Spyderco rarely have knives under $100 and have earned their spot as some of the best knife makers in the world. They use high quality materials such as the steel in their blades and the mechanisms used to lock and open the knife.
Brands such as Buck, CRKT and Kershaw will try to capture the market of the $50-100 knife and will use the best materials they can to offer you a quality product without a huge price tag.
Below, please take a moment to view some of the best-selling pocket knives currently for sale on Amazon:
|1) Spyderco Tenacious|
|2) Kershaw Cryo II|
|3) Opinel No.7|
|4) Gerber Paraframe|
|5) Kershaw Knockout|
Steel Used and Sharpening
A huge portion of the cost in making a knife is the steel used in the scales and the blade itself. While many brands will stick to a 8Cr13MoV or a AUS-8, which are both good quality steel, it’s not nearly as expensive to make as a S30V or 154CM.
These steels do not have the same quality that the harder steels do and commonly lose their edge faster, yet they are certainly not a cheap steel either and will certainly get the job done.
Sharpening a pocket knife is usually a harder task than sharpening a larger knife, such as a chef’s knife in that you have significantly less blade to work with and usually there is less room to maneuver around the blade. To accomplish this, there are many ways you can sharpen it, such as with a commercial knife sharpener. However, one of the best ways to sharpen the blade is with a whetstone.
To sharpen a knife on a whetstone, you first need to purchase a stone. Some stones are designed to both sharpen and hone a knife. The whetstone will have a coarse grit on one side of the stone and then a finer grit on the other. The important thing to remember when using a whetstone is to keep the stone wet and to always keep your blade on the same angle.
Some of the Leading Knife Brands
Benchmade is a knife company from Oregon City, Oregon and certainly deserve to be on the top 5 brands list. Founded in 1988 in California, they moved to Clackamas, Oregon in 1990 focusing on Bali-Song knives. As they expanded, they continued to keep all work in-house and therefore Stateside. This ensured their exacting standards were constantly met, as inspection was not passed on to a third party.
Since the early years, Benchmade has continued to break tradition by keeping their knives American made and from the same area. Benchmade has worked with some of the best knife designers in the world, such as Bob Lum, Seiichi Nakamura, Greg Thompson and even Bill McHenry & Jason Williams. They have also collaborated with Heckler and Koch (HK Knives) to create a custom line (although this line of products is outsourced and the price does reflect this).
There are three tiers to Benchmade’s in-house knives, and they are as follows:
The Gold class is excellent for collectors and has some beautiful craftsmanship and no expense is spared in the making of these knives. From rare steels such as Damascus steel and M390, to titanium and rare wood scales, these products are limited edition and only sold through select dealers.
The Blue class is the “recreational” class and offers high quality knives that everyone knows and loves. S30V, 154CM and D2 are commonly seen steels in here and very few, if any, of these knives ever drifts below $100.
The Black class is not commonly available, as many of the knives in that line are not offered to the public, as it is their military and Law Enforcement tier. Many of the knives here require special permits only due to federal law, as well.
Earnest Emerson is well known for his tactical folding knife designs. In 1994, in collaboration with Benchmade Knives, he designed the CQC 7, which led the way to him founding Emerson Knives, Inc. with his wife in 1996.
These knives are all made in-house in Los Angeles, CA and are made with 154CM stainless steel, while the handles are made from G10, which is a type of fiberglass laminate. 154CM is one of the best steels out there and is made by the same company which produces S30V–Crucible.
Since then, Emerson Knives has gone on to work with other knife companies to create some stunning designs and limited editions. They have also worked for the NAVY SEALs to design and create knives that are able to withstand heavy use and are truly “MIL-SPEC.”
While Emerson does make custom knives for customers, they come at a price. Some of his custom knives have sold for over $10,000, which is more than most people could or would spend on a knife. Thankfully, standard Emerson pocket knives do not cost that much yet are fairly priced at $150 (and sometimes more).
Spyderco is another well-known brand from Golden, Colorado. These knives are instantly recognizable and were the first to introduce things like one-handed opening and combo blades for folding knives. They are aggressive in their appearance and most have the trademark “Spyderhole” near the spine of nearly all their folding knives which makes this ideal for those who wear gloves as this allows for easy deployment even with the bulkiest of gloves.
What sets Spyderco apart is that while they do have their collectable knives, restricted knives and limited run knives that cost more than the average Spyderco knife, the costs for these knives is not extraordinary. Spyderco focuses on bringing quality knives for a reasonable price and certain models, such as the Endura, have been around almost as long as Spyderco itself.
Spyderco uses quality materials such as S35V, but will also commonly use 8Cr13MoV to save on cost of production and then pass the savings on to their customers. Spyderco also has a series of customized pocket knives where you can choose your steel, the scales and even what is etched on the blade. This personalization of their famous knife designs is a nice addition to an already great product.
Some people are very stuck on knife branding the same way some people are stuck on certain clothing brands. My brother, for instance, will only purchase Benchmade and ESEE knives and has missed out on a lot of good knives which may have been as good, if not better than the knife he ended up getting.
Knife brands are a good starting point for picking a knife and you can tell a lot about the quality of the knife just by seeing certain brands, yet not all knives within a brand are created equal, therefore it is important to do your research, handle any and all potential knives you are looking at and then make an educated purchase based on everything that makes a knife important to you.
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