Benchmark Knife? Chris Reeve ‘Sebenza’

Filed under: Knives 

Few folding knives are as famous (or controversial) as the Chris Reeve Sebenza. Here’s my take on the $330 blade.

sebenza 1

For some, the Sebenza is a pinnacle of production. For others it is a sign of gear-buying excess, with a price tag that’s a multiple of that seen on other top-end folders.

Having owned and used hundreds of folders over the years, including many that are more expensive than the Sebenza, I can tell you that this is not a knife marked by irrational excess.

Simply put, it is a knife with the quality of a handmade blade and the price (and availability) of a production knife. It is an excellent knife, but is it a benchmark?

Sebenza21

Exceptional Blade Grind

The Sebenza rises above many knives in two respects — the quality of its grind and the smooth action.

The stock on the Sebenza is thicker than people think, but Reeve does an expert job getting it thin quick, making it an excellent slicer with enough heft to handle more robust tasks.

It cuts like a paring knife in the kitchen, but can make feather sticks in oak like it is separating the pages of a book. The grind is really amazing with few rivals in the knife world — the Paramilitary 2 is the only one that springs to mind.

Framelock

When the Sebenza debuted all of those years ago (26 years, to be exact) it was something of a rookie sensation. The knife was the first major release to use a framelock, where by the locking leaf is actually part of the handle instead of a liner underneath the handle scale.

The action, the combination of an amazing phosphor bronze washer pivot, and the airtight framelock, give the Sebenza a heft in hand that can’t be discounted. Few knives, if any, lock up as smoothly and as solidly as the Sebenza.

sebenza 3

Quality Knife Metals

It also used an all-titanium handle for strength, weight reduction, and for titanium’s amazing capacity to retain its shape.

The original Sebenza used an off-the-shelf steel, but since then Crucible, one of the major steel makers in the world, has collaborated with Chris Reeve to make cutlery-specific steel. The first of these collaborations was S30V. The second is S35VN, which is featured on the current Sebenza knife.

When all of these elements combine — innovation, precision, and task-specific steel — you get a siren’s song for knife geeks. You also get a blueprint for many high-end knife releases of the last few years.

Sebenza 2

Small, Simple Knife

A warning: For all its hype, opening up the Sebenza can be an underwhelming experience the first time, especially in today’s blinged-out market.

It is a small, simple knife. But looks aren’t why you bought the knife. Using the Sebenza is where you learn why it is so good and what cutlery can really do. The small Sebenza is a knife you could be happy with for the rest of your life.

A Safe Bet

The glow that accompanies the Sebenza stems largely from the fact that it is often the first uber-pricey knife that folks buy. Part of it is post-purchase rationalization, but part of it is the fact that the Sebenza is usually the first very nice knife people handle.

Its reputation is so good that often people view it as the “safe bet” in the high-end knife market. If they could handle other knives of the same quality at the same time as the Sebenza, I am not sure it would have the glow it does.

I am not a Sebenza apologist. There are knives that are its equal, and some that are better. I found the fit and finish on the Triple Aught Design Dauntless to be better, for example, and virtually every Al Mar I have touched is more polished (literally and figuratively). My Spyderco Techno was better, never developing the loose pivot screw that my small Sebenza did.

Sebenzas are so well-known and nice that they are essentially commodities–if you have one and don’t want it anymore you can basically count on getting back about $200 – 250 on the used market. That level of price security when you are spending this much money is something people don’t really talk about, but I know it influences decisions.

The Sebenza is a great knife, and it is worth the money. For me it is not the benchmark knife some folks think it is, but it is a now-timeless design and a worthy choice for anyone looking at the next level in the everyday-carry category.

Specs

  • Price: $330 stock; more for special editions
  • Steel: S35VN
  • Blade Length: 2.94 inches
  • Overall Length: 6.875 inches
  • Weight: 3.0 ounces
  • Product Page / Review

 

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