Keep in mind that this is a work in progress, and there are still lots of things missing. There are no pictures because the four pic limit would force me to split this into a gazillion posts.
Affordable EDC knives
There are a lot of people out there who appreciate the importance of a quality knife, but donít want to spend hours sorting through the hundreds of different models or invest a lot of money.
Not everybody cares about the steel of the week, enjoys reading about little tweaks on what were already perfectly good designs and other stuff that can keep a guy like me entertained for hours.
There are also lots of folks on a budget who canít spend $300 on a blade, or those who can but donít think that a simple tool that could be lost or broken should cost that much. Even certified knife knuts love to get a lot of bang for their buck. A teacher at sommelier school used to say that anybody could pick a good $200 bottle of wine, but that it took knowledge to find good $10 bottles of wine. In a way, I feel the same applies to knives.
As a knife dealer (albeit a very humble, part time dealer) and enthusiast, friends and customers usually turn to me for advice on what would make a good EDC knife for them. A general purpose knife that holds up well and doesnít break the bank. I figured Iíd put together a list of my suggestions for anybody who might be interested.
Before you read this please keep these things in mind:
-ďEDC knifeĒ means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. What might work for an accountant living in a big city might not be such a good choice for a cattle rancher. Iíll list a variety of knives (most of them folding pocket knives); each reader will know which might suit their needs or legal limitations. I might do another write up on more specialized knives (hunting, bushcraft, rescue, etc.).
-ďAffordableĒ is also a relative term, so Iím going to set an arbitrary limit at $60. Iím going to use on-line dealers like Shop for case knives, Kershaw and other discount knives at Knifeworks.com
, Knives at Knife Center
and such to get an idea of real street prices instead of going by MSRPs. These prices are of course subject to change. If thereís a knife that I feel offers amazing performance at $63, I might include it just to show that Iím above the law.
FTF supporting members can get even better deals through Promotive and Spydercoís SFO (Spyderco Factory Outlet), thanks to the hard work of our mods and admins.
-These are all knives that Iíve got firsthand experience with. I donít like recommending products based on what I read or heard about them. I havenít included all of the knives I could think of, because the list would have been too long and boring. When several models from the same manufacturer were very similar (like Victorinox SAKs) I just included one or two, or mention them as a group.
When I think about affordable working knives, Case pocket knives are the first to come to mind. They make a lot of really nice patterns, with enough variety to suit anybodyís needs. In the past few years fit and finish has improved a lot, as has their quality control. Customer service is quite good and whatever repairs arenít covered by their warranty arenít too expensive.
There are lots of models, with a seemingly endless selection of handle materials. But out of all their offerings, their line of yellow synthetic handled knives with carbon steel blades are definitely the best bang for your buck. Whether you go with a hand filling trapper or a little peanut, youíll get a lot of cutting performance for around $30.
If the yellow plastic handles turn you off, you can still get almost any Case CV pocket knife for around $40 or less. They are offered in red bone, chesnut bone and amber bone (thereís a new line coming out in stag). There are only a couple of models that cost more, the beautiful swayback jack at around $60 and the trapperlock (basically a single blade trapper with a thumb stud and liner lock) at around $65.
I donít like Caseís stainless steel. They never upgraded to a good modern steel in their regular line (they use some excellent stainless steels in their Tony Bose collaborations). The thin stock and decent edge geometry on their knives helps a bit, but I still find their SS offerings quite lacking when compared to the CV ones.
My personal favourites:
ēSwayback Jack (chesnut bone and CV blades) for those days when I need a light small knife in the city.
ēSodbuster Jr. (yellow synthetic handle, CV blade) for just about everything. Lots of knife in a compact package!
ēStockman (amber bone and CV blades) for playing outdoors and whittling.
Victorinox & Wenger
You all know Swiss army knives (SAKs), but I still felt they needed to be featured here. Iím not a big fan of the bigger models like the SwissChamp or Cybertool because I feel a multitool like the excellent SwissTool Spirit or a Leatherman is better for the bulk and weight. I do love the medium sized ones. Any three or four layer SAK is a great pocket tool, backed by one of the best warranties in the business.
No matter what else I carry Iím never without a SAK. Sure, the steel is not great when it comes to edge holding, but the extra tools make up for it. Youíve got locking models, non locking models, and one hand openers, thereís something for everyone.
Another huge advantage of SAKs is that even mindless hoplophobes understand that they arenít deadly weapons.
ēAny Alox (aluminium) model, from the slim Bantam and Cadet to the fantastic Pioneer (or Wengerís Standard Issue) or Farmer. The 85mm ones make excellent urban EDCs, the 93mm ones are great outdoors knives with their saws and awls (alox awls are different from the ones on cellidor models, they rock!).
ēWenger New Ranger, especially the one hand opening models. They are a bit bigger than Victorinoxís larger locking models and have some features I like more (longer saws, better lock disengagement).
ēVictorinox Huntsman or Wenger Evolution 17 (basically the same knife) for my needs, both urban and outdoors, these models have the best tool combination in a small pocket friendly package.
These guys pioneered many of the features that are now common on modern folding knives. They also have one of the best customer service polices in the business. Add to that their fantastic discount for FTF supporting members and their support for our on-line community and youíve got a winning combination.
ēEndura 4. There are several different variations, all of them very good. My favourite is the new full flat ground model that comes in a variety of colours. VG-10 steel is excellent, the handle is really well thought out, the knife is completely ambidextrous and the handle has nested steel liners for added strength. No wonder this is one of Spydercoís best sellers.
ēDelica 4. Some people say itís just a smaller Endura, but I think that thereís more to it than that. I usually go for big knives, but Iím in love with Delicas. It shares all the great design and material features with the Endura 4. Itís light, barely takes up any pocket space, yet the blade is long enough for most EDC tasks. Michael Janich even made some videos about the Delica as an SD knife, just search on YouTube.
ēSalt 1 and Pacific Salt. The Pacific is a bit over the $60 limit (around $63) but still worth adding. These two are basically rustproof (not rust resistant, but 100% rustproof) versions of the Endura 3 and Delica 3. They are made out of H1 steel which just wonít rust. They are an excellent choice for fishermen, anybody who lives in a very hot and humid climate. I carry them IWB when running.
ēTenacious and Persistence. These knives are the very incarnation of value, they are made in China with a steel thatís not as great as VG-10, but the full flat ground blades take a wicked edge and hold it well enough for most peopleís needs. Iím surprised with how often I carry and use my Tenacious, a lot of knife for around $30. The Persistence is just as good, but smaller.
Byrd knives are Spydercoís cheaper line, made in China. My first impressions werenít very good, I ordered a couple of Crows and the locks were awful. Then I got some of their G-10 handled lockbacks and completely changed my mind about this brand.
Although they are a bit heavier than the FRN ones, they feel so much better that Iím happy to carry the extra weight. Iíve had no issues with any G-10 Cara-Cara, Meadowlark, Crossbill or Flight that Iíve sold (and the Meadowlark is my best selling knife).
I took an emergency course for SAR volunteers a while back, we were told to only bring folding knives on one of the days. I brought a couple of G-10 Cara-Caras because I didnít want to risk trashing any expensive or hard to replace knife, I never needed the spare one!
Theyíve got all the cool useful features from more expensive modern folders: four way clip, nicely textured G-10 on full stainless steel liners (ridiculously strong for a pocket knife), one hand opening blades and your choice of edge type (serrated, combo or plain). Fantastic value at around $25-30 (the FRN ones are cheaper, but the G-10 ones just feel a lot better to me).
The steel is nothing to write home about, but itís not bad. It performs more or less like AUS8 and is easy to sharpen. Unless youíve been spoiled by ZDP189 or similar wonder steels, it should be fine.
Sal Glesser has announced the release of new Cara-Caras and Meadowlarks with full flat ground blades. That will make them even better slicers.
I used to think most of Kershawís knives looked a bit weird, but after trying a couple Iím in love with the brand. They have some very high quality affordable models made in the US and have replaced 420HC with much better Sandvik steels. If you like assisted opening knives but donít want to spend a fortune, youíll love this brand. Kershawís customer service is excellent.
ēStorm and Storm II. An affordable framelock, with great ergonomics. The handle is quite thin, very pocket friendly. The blade design is quite useful, typical of Ken Onionís designs, and the thumb studs are probably amongst the best on any folding knife. My only complaint is the big pocket clip. Made in the US (I know this is important to some folks).
ēSkyline. I canít say enough good things about this knife. Itís right at the top of my favourite lightweight knives with the Delica 4. You forget itís on you until you need it, and the flipper provides hours of entertainment. Made in the US.
ēVapour. I was turned on to this knife by our very own Cpttango, he sent me a combo edge model as a gift (he was my FTF secret Santa). Itís a compact framelock (also a Ken Onion design). Itís one of my very few serrated edge knives, and for some reason itís the one I always take with me when helping friends with some home improvement project or installing stuff at home. Made in China.
ēBlur. My favourite Kershaw assisted opening knife. There are a quite a few Blur variations; the ones with S30V or 154CM steel are more expensive than the regular one. Great all around knife.
ēLeek. A Kershaw classic. Slim, light, sharp and fast (itís an assisted opening knife). Some people complain about the tip being too frail, you can always get a Random Leek with a stouter point if the regular wharncliffe doesnít suit you. Thereís a composite blade Leek, that sells for around $55 and has blade made from 13C26 (spine) and D2 (edge). Thatís a hell of a deal for a wicked looking knife, with a premium steel blade.
An American classic thatís still making excellent knives. Although they use 420HC for most of their products, they have an ace up their sleeve: heat treatment wizard Paul Bos. His talent combined with very good edge geometries gets every possible bit of performance from the steel (at least on their folders, I donít like their hollow ground fixed blades).
The improvements on blade and edge geometry in some models make them perform better than their predecessors in 440C (a better steel than 420HC). Iíve tried modern and old 110s side by side and the newer ones do better. Steel is important, but itís just a part of the equation.
Buckís warranty is excellent; they know how to take care of their customers. I sent a knife in for repair, got it back in perfect shape plus a coupon for a discount on a future purchase. They even called me to ask if I was happy (thatís a long distance international call!).
ē110/112. These are two of the most copied knife designs in history, and for good reason. They are solid, tough and attractive. Sure, they arenít light weight knives, but they ride nicely in a belt sheath (included with each knife, by the way).
ēSlipjoints. Some are made in the US, some are made in China. They are all quite good. They donít come in natural handle materials, Buck uses yellow delrin, black plastic (my least favourite), charcoal dymondwood (actually quite nice) and cherry dymondwood (chairman series) on their US models. The Chinese ones have stabilized wood handles. I like their stockman, a bit broader than Caseís (Buck uses three springs).
ēVantage Pro. Now that Buck fixed a few minor F&F issues, the Vantage Pro is probably one of the biggest bargains in the knife world. S30V blade, G-10 handle and a great deep carry pocket clip, all for $55. I donít like most of Buckís non traditional folders, but this one caught my eye and Iím happy I bought it. Lovely design, very practical. And, again, S30V with Paul Bos heat treatment for $55! This fellow can make 420HC work, imagine what he can do with S30V.
ESEE (RAT Cutlery)
The folks at ESEE know what makes a great fixed blade knife. Underneath the coatings and kydex rigs, their knives are traditional drop points made from excellent materials, paying attention to every small detail and backed by a simple yet outstanding warranty (ďIf you screw it up, break it, or cut it in two with a cutting torch
, send it back and we'll replace it.Ē).
After five years with Ontario Cutlery, the guys from Randall Adventure & Training became fully independent and are having their knives made by Rowen (the same manufacturer TOPS uses for their 1095 products).
Out of their ever growing line up, the Izula (named after a vicious jungle ant) stands out as a great fixed blade EDC choice. You can get just the knife and sheath or a little kit that includes MOLLE attachment clips, a firesteel, whistle, etc. The handle can be cord wrapped and ESEE also sells screw on micarta handle slabs to make it more comfortable. Iíve kept mine bare.
The Izula is light, stronger than any folder, easier to clean than any folder, keeps and edge and is easy to sharpen. And it comes in pink!
Becker Knife & Tool
After Camillus closed its doors Ethan Becker made a deal with Ka-Bar to manufacture his line of survival knives. They are strong tools, designed to be used hard, but still remain affordable. Ever since the Camillus days Beckers have been very popular with outdoorsmen.They never fail to pop up when the topic of low price and high performance is discussed.
The BK11 (aka Becker Necker) is a great EDC fixed blade choice for those who want something a little larger than the ESEE Izula. Mine has become my work knife at my dadís ranch, itís a tough little bugger that gets scary sharp. Factory edge wasnít great, but the steel is easy to work with.
Amazing little knife for $35!
How good are these humble old knives? Good enough that Bill Moran, a man who could have forged himself a dozen or so Excaliburs to EDC, chose to carry one. For those who donít know Mr. Moran, he was the bloke who taught Vulcan the ropes, if he had forged Narsil it wouldnít have broken in the first place.
Besides Mr. Moranís endorsement, Opinels have a lot going for them. A simple design, handles that are comfortable to hold and blades that take a wicked edge. The only complaint Iíve heard from users is that the wooden handle can swell, making them difficult to open in high humidity climates or after they get wet. Thereís a simple solution: a few coats of varnish or linseed oil. It takes under five minutes and solves that issue.
My favourite Opinel size is #8, a good compromise of size and blade length. A basic carbon steel model is the one I use the most, but I also like the stainless steel ones that come with olive or oak handles (thereís nothing wrong with the regular ash ones, but I like olive!).
Iíve snapped a few tips doing things that a knife shouldnít be used for (the sort of thing a ten dollar knife tends to be used for), but I still have to completely wreck one. They arenít bombproof, but they certainly are tougher than they look.
Opinels make great knives to customize. Get one of the larger models, like a #10 and go crazy with your dremel and files.
Not my favourite company. I don't like their advertising and they could have shown some interest when Bening and Dillinger did that awesome Spartan thread that helped them sell quite a few of those knives (hell, it helped me move like half a dozen Spartans!). However, they do make tough knives for a good price. Ever since Andrew Demko came on board with his amazing Tri-Ad lock design Cold Steel's following in knife circles has grown. You just can't argue with performance.
Right now, out of the models with the Tri-Ad lock, the Recon 1, American Lawman and Mini-Lawman and Mini AK-47 are probably the best for EDC. If I had to pick just one it would be the American Lawman, the knife that the lock was originally designed for. But they are all more or less the same: G-10 and coated AUS8A blades, made in Taiwan. I just prefer the Lawman. I know, it's a couple of bucks over my $60 limit, but it's worth it.
I did my own testing on these with some fellow knife lovers who also have way too much free time and I must say that everything CS claimed about lock strength is true. My hat's off to Mr. Demko (and I'm on the waiting list for one of his custom knives!). Go on YouTube and you can see some tests (a guy who goes by Jankerson1 tested a new Recon 1 and a full size Lawman).
Boker makes a ton of different knives under three brands: Boker, Boker Plus and Magnum. I wouldn't recommend their Magnum line at all, but the other two offer some really good products.
- Traditional slipjoints. Boker makes a lot of different patterns in carbon and stainless steel (440C) in different handle materials. Since they have a plant in Argentina, they have access to a lot of red stag (those big boys are almost a plague here!). Most models are priced between $35 and $60 (with some like the sodbuster being even more affordable). My most used Boker slipjoint is a stag handled medium stockman. I carry it when it's too humid for carbon steel, since the 440C steel used is much better than Case's mistery stainless and outperforms Buck's 420HC as well. Minor cosmetic issues are not uncommon in some models (mostly those with hard to work natural handle materials), they are usually hard to notice unless you're looking for them.
- Subcom and variants (Subcom Titan, Wharcom, Subclaw, etc.). This design by Chad Los Banos is probably one of the best thought out small knives out there today. It's one of the few tiny folders that I actually carry often. Any of the different variants is great, my favourite is the Subcom Titan. It has a titanium handle, the blade is polished instead of beadblasted (personal preference) and the big plastic thumbstuds have been replaced with smaller metal ones that I like more. You really can't go wrong with any of these.
- Trance. Another excellent Chad Los Banos design. It's a very good medium size EDC that can perform both SD and utility tasks. It's comfortable to hold and carry, has a secure lock and the flat ground blade takes a keen edge. I modified one of mine a bit to be a better utility knife by grinding the guard off.
- Exskelibur I and II. Both of this have been designed by Mike Skellern (a South African custom knife maker) and are very good EDC choices. They are built on titanium frames which makes them really light weight considering the blade size (the heaviest of the two is around 3.2oz with a 3 1/2" blade). The spearpoint blades are very practical.
Some of you might now this brand because of their handgun holsters, but Tim Wegner also makes some awesome knives (he colaborated with Spyderco on a couple of models, too). They make two versions of most of their knives, a regular G-10 handled version with S30V blade and a more affordable FRN handled version with AUS 8 blade that they call "Lite".
These FRN handled knives are perfect EDC options. While AUS 8 is certainly not up to S30V performance it's more than adequate. The use of FRN and skelletonized liners saves weight, always a plus on a knife that will be carried for long periods of time. I'm partial to the Ganyana Lite and the tiny Ratel, both of which can be had for around 20 bucks! For those who like tantos, check out the Katana Lite.
I can't believe I forgot to list this brand the first time around. Thank the Lord for the "edit" button! Although Benchmade's Red Line (their more affordable knives) has been discontinued, the knives are still being made by Benchmade under a different name. Some of them were moved to the H&K line of knives, other to the Harley Davison line, but they are the same blades that BM used to sell as their red line.
- Benchmade H&K Pika. There are several variants (plain edge, combo edge, black blade, etc.). They are all good. My favourite is the plain edge Mini Pika. At under $30 this knife is quite a bargain.
- Benchmade H&K Monochrome. Again, there are several different models available. I was given one a while ago to review, and it ended up in a tool box that everybody at work used. After a couple of years of abuse, it's still going strong. If you want a strong framelock knife for under $50, this one should be on your short list.
- Benchmade Griptilian and Mini Griptilian. These knives are probably the best selling product in BM's Blue Line. Depending on the model, they might be a bit over our $60 limit (coated and serrated blades are more expensive than plain satin finished ones, for example) but they are worth every single penny. My favourite is the full size 550 Griptilian, it's light, has excellent blade steel and geometry and the AXIS lock is just sweet. I'm also quite fond of the Mini Griptilians with blue or yellow handles.