Many old-school, out-the-side automatic knives relied on a button lock. The problem was that machining a button lock design proved very challenging.
The button lock has been around for a long, long time. Most knives do better with a detent (a mechanical bias toward closure that prevents a blade from opening when the knife is in your pocket), but tuning the button lock design just right without the aid of spring-loaded deployment is a minor marvel of engineering.
Matt Conable at William Henry tuned the design in the late ’90s to early 2000s, but for a long time, high-quality button locks were the territory of expensive knives only.
The cost of high-end machining tools has come down considerably and as a result, button locks can now be made effectively and inexpensively. So how does a good, inexpensive button lock folder stack up? Let’s see.
In short: These knives are for general utility and EDC. The budget version is among the best values on the market, and the high-end Pyrite is a knife that (shockingly) competes with market segment stalwarts, like the Chris Reeve Sebenza and the best from WE and Reate.
CJRB Pyrite Review
- Steel: AR-RPM9 or S35VN
- Grind: Partial flat grind
- Lock: Button lock
- Blade length: 3.11″
- Handle length: 4.20″
- OAL: 7.3″
- Weight: 3.7 oz. or 3.35 oz.
- Price: Starting at $50
- Country of origin: China
CJRB is a budget label that is part of the Artisan Cutlery brand. The Pyrite is a button lock folder with three basic designs: a budget version with steel handles of different colors for $50, a bolstered version for $73, and the high-end version with S35VN steel and a Micarta inlay for $267.
I received both the budget version and the high-end version for review. AR-RPM9 is a powder steel developed by Artisan for use on its knives. It has all of the advantages of powder metallurgy with an eye toward the budget. It is unquestionably my favorite budget steel.
It is, not coincidentally, the only budget PM steel.
The knives have drop point blades, bearing pivots, a full forward finger choil, and deep-carry, over-the-top clips (although the high-end version’s clip is sculpted titanium).
They deploy via a thumb stud. The high-end version’s inlay provides grip and the blade is sand polished, resulting in a very attractive near-mirror finish (think of it as a very high-polish satin finish).
The steel version has pockets in the steel handle to lighten the weight. They lock up via a stunningly well-executed button lock.
CJRB Pyrite Folding Knife in Use
Both versions are exceptionally nice knives for the price. The advantages of the button lock are numerous, not the least of which is that your fingers never pass into the blade path when closing.
This particular button lock also has an excellent detent, allowing the user to pop open the knife with just a bit of intentional force, while never accidentally deploying.
The blade shape is a standard drop point that provides ample utility. The forward choil allows you to choke up on the blade for excellent control.
The budget version has nicely buttered edges for a good in-hand feel, while the high-end version sports sculpted titanium handles. Both perform well in general utility cutting — food prep, recycling chores, and starting fires.
While I like the weight, the blade finishes, and the clip on the high-end version better, I think if I were spending my own money, the budget version would be more interesting.
There is no knife I know of that is better for less than $50.
The drawbacks here are limited only to the high-end model.
While it is an exceedingly well-made knife, there are a lot of similarly nice blades for the price. I like it quite a bit, and I would probably opt for it over an equally expensive WE, Reate, or Spyderco because of its simple design and excellent execution.
But this would be a real competitor for the best knife in the production world at $200. Then it would approach the value proposition that the TRM Neutron 2 represents.
The Pyrite is unquestionably the best sub-$50 knife in the world right now, and the high-end version is quite good as a high-end carry.