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Modern Shilin Cutter: Fox Knives ‘Chilin’ Review

Sometimes you need to step outside the norm to discover things better suited to your needs. The Shilin Cutter-inspired Fox Knives Chilin is a prime example.

the fox knives chillin folding blade(Photo/Nick LeFort)
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I have phases where I become laser-focused on a particular style of knife, knife steel, or handle material. Right now, I am down a rabbit hole with Micarta (green canvas, to be exact). It’s not just the way it looks; it’s also the way it feels and performs in all conditions.

In my obsession with this material, I happily stumbled upon a knife steel and blade shape with which I was unfamiliar: an M398 Shilin Cutter. Manufactured by Fox Knives and designed by VoxKnives’ Jesper Voxnaes, the Chilin carries the unique, big-bellied modification of the ever-adaptable drop point blade shape.

Legend has it that for nearly 150 years, one family has been making this blade shape in Taiwan. It was originally called the Pachihlan but in 1945, when Japanese colonial rule ended in Taiwan, it was changed to Shilin. Popular among gardeners and arborists for its pruning and slicing abilities, the Shilin Cutter was also carried by factory workers, fishermen, and businessmen alike.

But could a modern-day iteration with M398 — a stainless steel with a high edge retention but less toughness than its M390 sibling — be tough enough for an EDC knife?

In short: The Fox Knives Chilin is a departure in design for the folding knives we’ve all become accustomed to. But its unique design, premium materials, and near-perfect build line it up to become your next favorite EDC knife.

Fox Knives Chilin


  • OAL 7.63”
  • Blade length 3.15”
  • Blade steel M398
  • Blade shape Shilin
  • Grind Flat
  • Hardness 60-62 HRC
  • Lock type Liner lock
  • Carry Left or right hand, tip-up
  • Weight 3.89 oz.
  • Price $190


  • Overall shape and profile
  • Balance
  • Micarta scales
  • M398 steel


  • It could be even more effective as a flipper
  • Fox Knives doesn’t have full distribution in the United States

Fox Knives Chilin Review

Design & Features

Close up of details on fox knives chilin
Details on Fox Knives Chilin; (photo/Nick LeFort)

The Chilin has the oversized thumb hole and wire pocket clip that is synonymous with both Vox Knives and GiantMouse knives (Voxnaes is a co-owner of GiantMouse), along with some other form features.

Built off of a skeletonized stainless steel frame and canvas Micarta scales, the Chilin carries a stone-washed M398 drop point blade and matching hardware. Like M398, M390 is a stainless steel that excels in corrosion and abrasion resistance.

But some industry enthusiasts say it’s not nearly as tough as M390. If you buy into the online hype about this steel, this is a major negative — so much so that some people believe a knife with M398 could eventually fail on you. However, I would note that high edge-retention stainless steels rarely rank high in toughness.

What does all this mean? Don’t pry up old deck boards with this knife and you’ll be just fine. Put this foxy lady in your pocket and you can enjoy years of EDC excellence.

Regarding edge retention, M398 is comparable to S90V and holds an incredible edge. Where S90V can be a real bear to sharpen, M398 (like M390) is much easier to hone. In my book, that’s a home run — a knife that’ll hold an edge for a prolonged period of time and won’t take much time to restore a factory edge.

man pruning with fox knives chilin
Pruning with Fox Knives Chilin; (photo/Nick LeFort)

First Impressions

Aside from the green Micarta, the Chilin is a remarkable knife. Profile-wise, it’s a continuous arc from tip to tail. It also has an ample two-finger choil that provides a secure and comfortable grip. The overall shape of the knife, when held in this grip, puts the tip of the blade in line with the extension of your arm.

It’s similar to what Gerber has done with its Center-Drive multitools to aid in ergonomics and ease of use.

The cutout for the choil provides a large relief. This gives you better access to the oversized thumb hole. That said, I think it would be interesting to see how the Chilin operates as a flipper-style knife. That’s not a complaint — it’s just my imagination wandering around. The knife already benefits from a ball-bearing-aided pivot, and flippers and ball bearings go together like peanut butter and jelly.

man holding fox knives chilin knife balanced on his finger
Balanced knife = Versatile tool; (photo/Nick LeFort)

At 7.63 inches, the Chilin finds itself in the sweet spot in regard to the overall length for EDC pocket knives. With 4.5 inches of that being the handle, this knife is incredibly balanced.

Balance makes a knife easy to use for a variety of tasks for prolonged periods without inducing fatigue. When you have a fat belly on a blade like this, balance can pay off in terms of the overall user experience for decades.

In the Field

I met the mailman at the mailbox while I was lacing up my hiking boots, getting ready to take the Chilin on its first hike. It had been raining for a couple of days and was still raining when he passed the package to me.

Minutes later, I was in the back of the 4Runner, adding the prerequisite paracord lanyard and PDW Memento Mori GID bead to the knife. Then it was off to the trailhead, all alone and excited.

Micarta performs exceptionally well when it’s wet. The particular Micarta used on the Chilin had been sanded smooth and revealed streaks of blue when wet. It looked great and kept an excellent grip.

The shape of the blade, particularly its big belly, proved excellent for whittling while wandering. Based on the stainless properties of the steel, and the stainless frame and hardware, I didn’t mind getting the Chilin wet and dirty.

using the fox knives chilin to trim hoop plants
Using the Fox Knives Chilin to trim hoop plants; (photo/Nick LeFort)

Back at home, I’m headlong into pruning. That means trimming up my hop plants and apple trees in the yard. Pruning is usually done with two hands, but when you’re moving fast, it can be done with one.

It’s essentially the same grip you would use when slicing an apple with a knife, using the front of your thumb as a stop while your fingers draw the knife toward you. It’s even faster and more efficient with a Shilin Cutter-style blade. You want to make clean, angled cuts, and the Chilin did so effectively.

Sliced chicken breast on the board next to the Chilin knife
Effortlessly slicing chicken breasts with the Chilin knife; (photo/Nick LeFort)

Like the Nessmuk-style blade on the GiantMouse Jagt, the Shilin-style blade on the Chilin is also adept at food prep. I have a stellar set of kitchen knives, but the Chilin sliced up three grilled chicken breasts with ease.

If you put the tip of the knife down into whatever you’re cutting and draw it back to you, you get some incredibly clean slices. The Chilin was perfect for grilled chicken salad for two amazing little girls and their “old man” (whom they just want to “be normal” and “stop playing with knives all the time”).

In Conclusion

In my line of work, most companies send me knives to test. But I bought the Chilin outright from Blade HQ. I wanted to experience the Shinlin Cutter blade shape and I didn’t want to pass up testing another Voxnaes-designed knife. But, I also wanted to see what M398 steel was all about. As it stands, along with the GiantMouse Jagt and Knafs Lander 2, the Chilin rounds out the top three knives I’ve tested (and loved) this year.

That said, the knife may look a little out of sorts from what we’re all used to seeing in the market, but the benefits of the flowing profile and premium materials are nearly beyond compare. That includes the M398 steel, which I found no issues with.

I even went as far as to read Dr. Larrin Thomas’s test and review of this steel. Dr. Thomas developed MagnaCut and has an extensive knowledge of knife and tool steels. In his report, I couldn’t find anything damning that would dissuade me from using this knife, or any knife with M398 steel as my EDC.

The Chilin started off as a passion project and turned into a reliable EDC knife that I could see myself carrying for years to come. Design can only take a knife so far. Materials and manufacturing are really what prove a knife’s worth.

In the case of the Chilin, the pairing of M398 and Micarta has proven a great choice. However, a round of applause goes to Fox Knives. If the Chilin represents how it manufactures and builds a knife — all for $190 — then we all should consider carrying one of the brand’s many stabby things in our pockets.

The FX-530 Line

Fox Knives offers a total of seven different Chilin knives in the FX-530 lineup. Six of those, including the Micarta variant featured in this article, use M398 steel and a variety of handle materials. The seventh variant has N690Co steel. Find more information on the Chilin FX- 530 lineup.

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