Sometimes, it’s nice to be proven wrong. Such has been the case with the new CJRB Ekko ($57), the second entry in a review package sent to me by Artisan Cutlery. After the shocking success of the Artisan Xcellerator (which I hailed as a candidate for the best pocket knife of 2023), my expectations for the Ekko were muted. Sure, its design comes from Ray Laconico, but lightning rarely strikes twice in succession. And how good can a sub-$60 knife be, especially one with such a basic shape?
The answer, to my joy and surprise, is “really, really good.” In fact, if you’re in the market for a new all-purpose EDC, stop reading now and get yourself on the pre-order list for the Ekko. And if you need a bit more convincing, stick around for a breakdown of what might be the best budget-friendly flipper since … ever?
In Short: When it comes to affordable, modern pocket knife design, the CJRB Ekko is near perfection. Its super-slicey blade can be deployed in myriad ways, with an addictive and reliable action. Its all-belly edge makes for outstanding kitchen performance, and the grip is solid and organic. From its materials to its performance, the CJRB Ekko is a home run by Laconico and Artisan.
- Blade Length 3.23"(82mm)
- Blade Thickness 0.13"(3.2mm)
- Blade Material AR-RPM9
- Overall Length 7.48"(190mm)
- Handle Material Carbon Fiber (Micarta and steel available)
- Lock Type Button Lock
- Weight 3.7 oz
- Versatile blade
- Strong cutting performance
- Multiple opening methods
- Outstanding value
- Alphabet-soup brand name
- Un-recessed pocket clip
Artisan Cutlery CJRB Ekko Review
What’s in a Name?
First things first — who is CJRB? In short, it’s the budget-friendly wing of Artisan. That sounds a bit perplexing, as the companies share a fair amount of crossover in pricing. Heck, according to Artisan, the lineups share the same machining and assembly teams, and most of the materials (such as the AR-RPM9 steel) are similar or identical in quality.
But the name that matters most here is “Laconico.” It’s the knifemaker’s first collaboration with CJRB and, per the company’s website, “the Ekko takes its inspiration from one of Ray’s newest custom designs. With Laconico’s signature clean form factor and EDC-friendly profile, the Ekko delivers the perfect blend of rugged functionality and gentlemanly class … with an unbeatable sense of style that we are excited to get into your hands and put to work!”
Design Meets Performance
And put it to work, I did. Only hours after pulling the knife from the package, the Ekko served as my one and only cutting tool while prepping a delicious stew. From potatoes, onions, and garlic, to peppers, bacon, and herbs, at no point did I feel the need to reach for my chef’s knife.
The Ekko simply did it all. And the feel-good nature didn’t fade with the first impression. Over the next several days, I used the Ekko to break down all manner of household items and even performed some light carving in the woods.
The blade itself is a thing of beauty. Sheepsfoot-style edges are unsung heroes among the EDC community, with looks and versatility to spare. The gentle curve of the Ekko’s belly makes it a natural at broad, thorough cuts, and the protruding forward tip makes for a perfect package opener. Heck, you could even perform scraping tasks with the last inch or so of steel.
And speaking of steel, Artisan/CJRB’s AR-RPM9 is just as impressive in its second showing as it was with the Xcellerator. It tackled harsh, acidic foodstuffs with zero staining and held up respectively throughout the testing period.
Someday, I’d be curious to see how it squares off against higher-end powdered steels. But for now, let’s pencil this in as my new favorite budget-friendly metal.
But as fun as it is for cutting tasks, I also found a great deal of joy in its mechanism. On paper, the opening methods appear fairly simple: There’s a front flipper, a finger hole, and a button lock.
But when you combine these traits with its ceramic ball-bearing pivot, you’ll be hardpressed to find an opening method that won’t work. Swing the blade free with the button, rotate it with your thumb, or give it a flick with your middle finger — the Ekko is a fidget-friendly blast.
And if you’re not a fan of the whole button-lock setup, the Ekko does come in a liner lock variant. Cutting performance, carry-ability, and in-hand ergonomics are more or less the same, though this version loses a bit of the fidget fun.
But hey, that might be a good thing for some of us, who get distracted by the whole clink-click-snap aspect and forget that pocket knives are tools, not toys.
Negatives? What Negatives?
After a week’s worth of use, my complaints with the Ekko are few. In fact, as far as carriage and usability go, the only nitpick I’ve found involves the pocket clip.
The ride afforded by its deep-carry setup is nice, and it’s swappable from right to left side. Yet, it would have been nice to see a recessed space in the scales, allowing the screws to sit flush with the carbon fiber. This is a very minor complaint, and at no point did the clip get hung up in my pocket.
The only other issue lies in the moniker. Ekko — fine, that sounds good. But CJRB isn’t much of a brand name.
Apparently, its letters form an acronym that doesn’t exactly translate into English. So, we’re left with a bit of an alphabet-soup mouthful when discussing the maker of this (otherwise excellent) blade. Though, when the product itself is this good, I’m inclined to give its branding a pass.
Conclusion: CJRB Ekko Pocket Knife Review
The CJRB Ekko is a truly wonderful pocket knife. In fact, it may be one of the best sub-$60 EDC items I’ve tested maybe ever. From the understated Laconico design to the outstanding manufacturing by Artisan, this is a truly impressive piece.
And if the whole carbon fiber look isn’t your thing, the knife is also available in Micarta or black/stonewashed steel. I’m floored by the quiet capability and sheer fun factor of this blade, and a little stunned at the price point.
Sure, there’s a pre-sale discount going on, but even at its projected full-retail cost, the Ekko makes a strong value case. My advice, grab one now, while it’s still cheaper than a tank and a half of gas.