Seiichi Nakamura is a retired engineer with a passion for custom knifemaking. He turned this passion into a line of high-end knives through Portland’s Benchmade Knife Company. The fourth in the series of his 400 knives, Nakamura matched his panache for quality materials with the Axis lock to forge a tool that reaches high art: the 484.
The Gear: Benchmade 484 ($225); serrated or straight-edge (reviewed)
Where To Test It: It’s at home dressed up at the office, pocketed in weekend jeans, or hard at work deep in the woods.
Who’s It For: Knife aficionados looking for superior steel and design (with a pocketbook to match).
Materials: Dubbed as “supersteel,” the M390 steel 3” blade is excellent in every way. M390 stainless steel has high chromium (20%) and fine carbide structure that is “austenitized,” or induction-heat-treated, in a vacuum at high temperatures, then it is hardened in a deep freeze. The final blade has a Rockwell hardness rating of 60-62 HRC.
In short, it’s a surgical-quality blade on a 0.114” thick shank. It won’t rust and it won’t dull (at least without a very good fight).
Locking and action: The 484 is the first Nakamura to use Benchmade’s proprietary Axis locking mechanism. A hardened steel bar sits behind the head of blade’s articulating pivot to both secure the knife closed and lock it into extension.
To engage the blade, you simply flip the thumb-pin on the blade or pull back on the Axis pin and flip the wrist. To close the knife, you pull back the Axis pin with your thumb and index finger and flip the blade back into the handle.
The thumb-pins sit on both sides of the blade and the split-arrow pocket clip is reversible, making the knife fully ambidextrous. That said, it’s offered as a tip-up blade only.
Handle: Unlike the G10 found on many knives, the fiberglass grip is polished instead of scaled. It feels smooth to the touch, but the contoured and milled side gives you a confident grip. The back of the handle fluidly runs up a jimped thumb-ramp, enabling you to lock in your grip for heavy tasks.
Thick solid steel liners support the extended 3” modified drop-point blade. All the upgrades bring the knife to 3.5 oz, which feels about perfect in the hand and helps it cut above its weight class.
Made In: USA
Awesome! The polished G10 handle and M390 steel all tooled with precision make this a handsome EDC that will last a long time. You might as well list the sharpening stone on eBay — this knife does not easily dull. But if you find that it eventually needs sharpening, you can take advantage of Benchmade’s Lifesharp service for a mere $5 plus shipping to Portland.
Flaw: All this super goodness brings its high price. There are a lot of great knives, even at Benchmade, that fall well under the $200 mark. Is it worth it? If you want M390 steel, then yes.
Though my medium-size hands fit it oh-so-fine, the contoured grip and milled grooves may not accommodate larger hands.
The blade’s thumb-pins can get caught on jeans coin pockets, inadvertently cracking open the tip-up blade when pulling it out.
First Impressions: If form follows function, Nakamura might be leaving his nice-guy dandy knives in the history books. The brass-knuckle-like grip and thumb-ramp jimping tied with the blade lock gives the 484 a subtle ‘tactical’ appearance.
It feels great in the hand and softly speaks ‘put me to use.’ And so I did. I cut down my recycling then brought it downstairs to strip caulk out of my shower. I closed out the day cutting volunteer saplings out of my backyard. Come Monday, I brought it to work to show off its paper shaving skills.
Who Should Buy It: Those willing to shell out serious bucks for a high quality tool that will hold an edge and be a faithful outdoors companion.
Contact Brand/More Beta: Benchmade 484
—Steve Graepel is a contributor. Our “First Look” column highlights new gear arrivals at GearJunkie.com. Photos © Monopoint Media LLC