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Africa’s Toughest Knife Comes to America: Honey Badger Wharncleaver Review

American-made knife purists will miss out if they overlook the African-designed Honey Badger Wharncleaver, simply one of the best values in EDC knives today.

Honey Badger Wharncleaver knife(Photo/Nick LeFort)
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One night, while in the thrall of Instagram before drifting to sleep, an image of a knife scrolled into view that I had never seen before. It bore a unique, striking honeycomb handle.

Propped upright and leaning against a soda bottle, the electric blue honeycomb scales popped out of the picture and eventually led down to a swooping Wharncliffe-style blade. I was hooked and knew I needed to figure out just what I was looking at.

After a little digging, and with the help of Google Lens, I figured out the knife I was looking at was known as Honey Badger Knives’ “Wharncleaver” — and it came in 25 combinations.

Honey Badger Knives, designed in South Africa and distributed through Western Active here in the U.S., makes some real bangers for under $100. In fact, it makes seven different knives in three different sizes — with two different blade steels — and a multitude of handle scale colors.

Yes, all for under $100.

In short: Honey Badger has set a goal for itself: to design, produce, and sell durable everyday carry knives at a fraction of the cost of the competition. And with the Wharncleaver, it meets that goal, tenfold.

Honey Badger Knives Large Wharncleaver Knife

Specs

  • OAL 8.25”
  • Blade length 3.63”
  • Blade steel 8Cr13MoV
  • Blade shape Wharncliffe
  • Grind Flat
  • Hardness 60-62 HRC
  • Lock type Frame
  • Carry Right or left, deep carry
  • Weight 7 oz.

Pros

  • Flipping action
  • Honeycomb scales add to both form and function
  • Blade slices through sinuous materials with ease
  • $50 shipped

Cons

  • The pivot screw needs tightening from time to time
  • The thumb hole isn’t necessary
  • “Coming 2 America” wasn’t a great sequel

Honey Badger Knives Wharncleaver Review

(Photo/Nick LeFort)

Design & Features

This version of the Honey Badger Wharncleaver comprises FRN (Fiber Reinforced Nylon) handle scales with a steel frame for rigidity, a Wharncliffe-style, 8Cr13MoV stainless steel blade for corrosion and abrasion resistance, and two opposing roller bearings to aid in frictionless flipper action opening.

Additionally, the honeycomb pattern on the Wharncleaver scales benefits both grip and ergonomics. Meanwhile, a jimping on the liner lock, flipper, spine, and choil further helps the Wharncleaver perform comfortably in both wet and dry conditions.

Where’s the Grind Line?!

The Wharncleaver doesn’t have a visible grind line. Historically, that’s something for which Spyderco is known — like its Manix 2 and Para Military knives, and the gone-but-not-forgotten Rock Lobster. Generally, however, you’ll notice this on chef’s knives.

So, why no grind line on a pocket knife? Ease of use is my best answer — not that a grind line will hold up slicing and cutting tasks. But the absence here just makes the action smoother and more fluid.

First Impressions

Go big or go home, right? So I did.

The Wharncleaver, like all of the blade styles in the Honey Badger lineup, comes in three sizes: small, medium, and large.

And to that end, at 8.25 inches long (OAL), it lands on the large end of the folding pocket knife spectrum. Additionally, the large size has a choil, which adds to what the Wharncleaver can do.

Honey Badger Wharncleaver knife
(Photo/Nick LeFort)

I also had the choice of two knife steels — 8Cr13MoV or D2. I am a big fan of D2, but I don’t test a lot of knives with 8Cr13MoV. Many consider the latter a value steel that offers high corrosion resistance, good edge retention, and abrasion resistance.

So, I went with the 8Cr13MoV, which put the knife at $40 (around $50 shipped).

Sadly, the electric blue variant was out of stock when I made my order, so I went with green — and I am glad I did! The green is muted and gives a bit of a soft, toy-like appearance to the knife.

With the honeycomb pattern juxtaposed against the 3.63-inch blade, stainless steel hardware, and pocket clip, the Wharncleaver makes for a very good-looking and comfortable-to-use knife. That balance isn’t something I seek out — but if I do get it in a knife, it’s worth noting.

I also want to note the Wharncleaver’s flipper action. It’s smooth and lands with a significant click when it engages with the liner lock. This owes to the 18 ball bearings that live inside the pivot.

It also begs the question: When did value-priced knives like this start to include premium features like ball bearings?

Field Test: Honey Badger Wharncleaver

Honey Badger Wharncleaver in green
(Photo/Nick LeFort)

The Wharncleaver comes with an angled Torx tool that has a T8 and T6 Torx bit. This allows you to change the pocket clip from right to left (T6) and tighten the pivot (T8).

Just to get this out of the way, because it has to be said and I don’t want it taking away from the knife: You’ll want to keep an eye on that pivot screw because it tends to come loose after some long-term use and abuse. If it gets loose enough, it can cause the lock to fail and the blade could close in on you. Thankfully, blade wobble will provide a clear indication that you’re coming to that point.

So, make sure to check in on that pivot screw from time to time.

Otherwise, the Wharncleaver was a real treat, both in the wilderness and as an everyday carry option. The knife feels and acts like knives two to three times the cost of the Wharncleaver. I even opted to use it for a nice piece of prime rib instead of the steak knife that came with the meal.

It’s not the first time I’ve done something like that (and won’t be the last), but when you’re in a fancy joint having a fancy meal, and you decide to use your own knife, make sure it’s up for the task. The Honey Badger Wharncleaver was.

Drawbacks

My one gripe about the knife is the addition of an oversize thumb hole. It’s not specific to the Honey Badger line; it’s rampant in the knife world and makes no sense to me.

Yes, it adds a second opening option for the user. But 10 out of 10 times, someone who buys a flipper-style knife will use the flipper. That’s not an opinion, it’s a fact. Why else would one buy a flipper?

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Wharncleaver: Overall Impressions

There will always be a place for premium-priced knives made by American knife manufacturers. But the growing selection of affordable, imported knives made with premium, if not desirable, materials has grown out of demand. Arguably, it spawned from necessity as well.

If the time we spent during the pandemic dealing with supply-chain shortages taught us anything, it’s that there’s a lot of great stuff out there if we’re willing to look past name brands. In fact, there are plenty of viable brands out there that could usurp some of our favorite brands, piecemeal or entirely. They just need a way in.

Honey Badger knives are designed in South Africa and made in China. The brand is not trying to hide that, and there’s no reason it should. The Honey Badger Wharncleaver is one of a handful of value-priced knives on the market today that offers some of the smoothest flipping action I’ve enjoyed, as well as a durable build made from quality materials.

Don’t get hung up on this knife not being made in America. The Honey Badger flipper carries and performs just as well as knives made right here in the States, if not better, and at a much more desirable price for everyday use.

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