The Chris Reeve Sebenza 31 took the knife world by storm this week. And, looking at this image, we can see why knife knuts want this folder in their pockets.
The annual exhibition of knives has wrapped up, and news was dominated by one knife: the Chris Reeve Sebenza 31. It leaked out a bit before the show on social media, and the knife world went a bit nutty. Here are a few comments on CRK’s Instagram feed once the cat was out of the bag (albeit with just a single picture and a release date):
“Perfection!! Can’t wait to see it in a couple of days!!
“I’ll be adding a Sebenza 31 to my collection…”
“Top spot for BLADESHOW excitement!!!!”
There are 150 other comments and nearly 2,000 likes. And again, this is just a picture — no specs, no price, no nothing. But, then again, this is an update to the Sebenza 21, the knife that all knives are judged by, custom or production, pricey or cheap.
When the gold standard gets updated, everyone pays attention. Unlike the Sebenza 25, the 31 will replace the 21 and bears a much cleaner look than the 25. It also comes in a variety of cool-looking finishes.
Now that the show has ended, we have some more details.
Chris Reeve Sebenza 31 Knife: Details
First, and most importantly, the steel remains the same — S35VN on the base models and various Damascus steels on higher-end models. For steel snobs, this is a bit of a disappointment. But the reality is that S35VN is still an excellent all-around steel. CRK also makes it domestically, which is key for the brand.
CRK ports over the 31’s key upgrade from the Inkosi line. It consists of an excellent upgrade to the framelock (which, of course, Reeve invented). The 21’s lockbar interfaced with the blade tang directly. CRK’s exceptional machining made the fit tight as a drum.
But, in theory, over time the hard blade steel can wear down the comparatively soft titanium. To fix this problem, many makers use a steel insert to cap off the lockbar. Reeve, never content with following the crowd, upgraded beyond steel and added a ceramic ball to the interface between the lock and blade. Even harder than steel, the ceramic ball gives the 31 essentially a lifetime of regular use.
The 31 carries over the 25’s angled pocket clip. In the 21, the clip was straight and did not touch the lockbar. In the 25, it sat at an angle crossing over the handle on to the lockbar, giving a smidge more support for the lockbar and making the knife carry better in the pocket. By using the same setup, the 31 will carry just as nicely as the 25.
The final key part is the new pattern for inlays. Always a source of pride for CRK, the Sebenza is the perfect blank slate for a host of inlays. Since the earliest days, these inlays included Micarta and a host of exotic woods; the normal inlays consisted of two strips of material. And while they looked nice, they were a bit homely compared to the massive inlays of the Annual editions. On the 31, the inlays are positively huge.
All these changes are iterative, but each is a wise one. The 25 was not much of an upgrade, and the extra finger scalloping was both unergonomic and disruptive of the Sebenza’s clean lines.
The 31 is the upgrade the Sebenza deserved. The only real drawback here is that CRK bumped up the price, as the 31 costs $375 (up from $330) for the basic Small, with the basic Large coming in at $450 (up from $400).