After years of same-ness across the knife industry, 2023 is off to an interesting start. Knifemakers are tiptoeing back toward new ground, from CRKT to (just barely) Spyderco. Even Ontario, long known for its RAT lineup of folders, seems to be entering a new, well, Epoch.
Per the site’s description, this term is defined as “a particular period of time marked by distinctive features, events, etc. This folder has the look of something from a bygone age and the feel of something modern! The talon-like, curved blade coated in a sandy-tan is made from D2 steel while the front scale is an earthy green G10 and the frame-lock scale is a stainless steel.”
Hear that? Sounds like a time-traveling adventure to me. And when the chance to get my hands on a pre-production sample popped up, how’s a nerd to say no?
In short: The Ontario Epoch is an early “must-have” for pocket knife enthusiasts in 2023. With its comfy grip, purposeful blade shape, and solid action, it’s an affordable, well-designed knife that will stand up to the rigors of actual work. The price isn’t bad, and the materials are solid, even if it’s more at home on the factory floor than the break room kitchen. Keep an eye out for a tentative March release date.
Ontario Epoch Knife
- Blade Length 2.4" (14 cm)
- Blade Steel D2
- Overall Length 6.65" (30.7 cm)
- Handle Material G10/Stainless steel
- Lock Type Frame lock
- Opening Mechanism Ball-bearing flipper
- Country of Origin China
- Thin profile
- Deep carry
- Great value
- Unique, labor-friendly blade shape
- Not the greatest for food prep
- Thin handle may not fit all hands
Ontario Epoch Knife Review
Five seconds after it came out of the package, I looked down at the Epoch and said, “This is brilliant.” From its thin, well-ground blade to its flat profile and deep-carry clip, this knife is the definition of a factory-floor EDC.
Deep breaths — I’m getting ahead of myself. Here’s what produced that strong first impression.
The blade of the Epoch is tall. While Ontario doesn’t list an official measurement, my ruler indicated a height of around 1.06 inches. The shoulders are fairly broad, spanning about 0.13 inches. These measurements, combined with the downward sweep of its tip, make for a shape that’s as effective as it is visually appealing.
There’s also the action. Given a chance to warm up from the mailbox, the Epoch’s flipper tab produced a satisfying, confident snap. The frame lock is solid and secure, and the blade swings closed with a shake of the wrist.
At the same time, the detent on my unbranded tester was very strong. It’s one of the few knives I’ve been unable to open with a firm, downward jerk of my arm.
The handle provided the biggest surprise — I wasn’t expecting it to be so darned thin. Channeling the boxcutter aesthetic, the Epoch’s handle is only about 0.31 inches while being almost 1.25 inches tall. And while slim handles are generally the enemy of good grip, somehow, the proportions work here.
The G10 scales rest naturally in hand, with a nice finger cutout in the lock bar.
Angle of Attack
Let’s move on to cutting performance. From my first glimpse of the Epoch’s angled tanto shape, I was in love with the practical approach. This type of pointed, low-tip design is perfect for everyday cutting tasks, from slicing packaging tape to nosing through blister cases.
And the knife genuinely shines against cardboard. The angle of the blade (sweeping up toward the handle) makes for long, natural strokes, and its thin D2 steel holds a nice edge.
This does, however, make kitchen tasks more of a challenge. The blade is thin enough to create narrow slices, but because of that pronounced forward tooth, it tends to spike itself against the cutting board.
This issue is exacerbated by the handle layout, which positions your knuckles well below the sharpened edge.
Apart from its food prep performance, my issues with the Epoch are relatively few. There’s a bit of a hump in the clip-side grind of the blade, but this is a pre-production model, and it didn’t affect the overall performance.
Speaking of opening, my biggest complaint with the Epoch has actually been addressed already. Can you guess what it is? Here’s a big, fat hint.
That’s right — the thumb studs. Not only are they huge, but they’re also more or less inoperable. The amount of pressure required to open the blade with your thumb is worrisome, and the meat of your finger trails immediately behind the edge.
But the folks at Ontario were smart. Production models of the Epoch ditch the studs and rely solely on the flipper tab. Here’s what the production version looks like.
Ontario Epoch Knife: Conclusion
We’re only a few weeks into the year, and the Ontario Epoch has positioned itself as a potential best “Budget” or “Utility” knife of the year.
The cutting performance, grip, and thoughtful design of the blade make this one of the more purpose-built folders that I’ve come across since the capable (but flawed) CRKT Razelcliffe Compact.
Kudos to Ontario, which for years has largely been known for its RATs. While the Epoch is less of an all-arounder, it has a specialized angle all its own. It’s refreshing to see the company stepping out of the box.
Stay tuned for a possible March release date, and get in on this screaming deal.