How Do You Know If A Pocket Knife Is A Good Brand?
There are so many knife brands available to choose from today. With everything from low-end gas station blades to top-shelf knives made out of new super steels and exotic handle materials, how is a new knife user to determine a quality blade from cheap trash?
Over the last 25 years of collecting and carrying knives daily, I have tried and tested more knives than I can count. The best way to avoid wasting your money on an inferior blade is to buy a knife made by one of the best pocket knife brands on the market today.
This guide will exclude the 20 dollar gas station knives that will waste your money and time trying to keep them sharp and will exclude the ultra-premium blades that can cost thousands of dollars. You can be sure that if you buy a quality knife from one of the brands listed below that you are buying a high-quality tool that will last for many years to come.
What Is The Best Brand For Pocket Knives?
The best brand of pocket knife depends a lot on the person and the task it is to be used for. There are many quality knife companies out there but the list below are the top 8 knife brands that make production knives that are high quality, reasonable priced and will last a lifetime if well cared for.
The Spyderco knife company was founded by Sal Glesser in 1978. They currently have their headquarters in Golden, Colorado, and make many of their premium knives at this location. Spyderco has a reputation among knife aficionados as being built for function first, and are some of the most capable knives on the market today.
Sal Glesser has joked about him and his son, Eric, designing knives in the dark. And even though they say the look of the knife takes a backseat to performance, Spyderco knives have taken on a style of their own. With their distinctive “Spydie Hole” opening feature and many of their “Leaf Shaped” blades, even my 4-year-old daughter can tell a Spyderco Knife from the other brands on the market.
Spyderco is proudly American and Sal has a soft spot for serving members of the military, law enforcement, fire rescue, and paramedics. Spyderco has a program called the Op-Focus initiative that gives substantial discounts to members serving in these roles. This is Spyderco’s way of giving back and making sure that military, law enforcement, and first responders have access to the best quality gear to help them do their jobs.
Spyderco has different lines of knives made in different factories all over the world. From knives made right at home in the U.S.A. to more economical lines made in China and everything in between made in Japan, Taiwan, and even Italy. Spyderco is well known to test out many different high-quality blade steels in their knives and having different manufacturing facilities around the world gives them the opportunity to use these different steels in a wide price range of knives.
That said, even their lower cost “Byrd” line of knives are better made than many other knife brands. Their mid-priced knives are some of the best quality production folding knives in the world and their premium lines are sought after by some of the most discerning knife lovers in the world.
One of the more unique lines of knives they offer are part of the Spyderco Mule Team Project. With 35 different versions of the same knife made out of 35 different blade steels, this amazing project has helped get some of the best and newest blade steels into the hands of knife aficionados around the world over the last 14 years.
I have had the opportunity to carry and test many different Spyderco knives over the years. Some of my favorites and some of their most popular models are listed below.
Another well known American company, based out of Oregon City, Oregon is the Benchmade knife company. Originally founded by Les De Asis in 1979 as the Bali-Song company, they have had a very interesting history on their way to ending up in their 144,000 square foot facility in Oregon.
With their trademarked butterfly logo and reputation for making tough, no-nonsense knives they have secured a place amongst the best pocket knife manufacturing brands around. with their patented use us the Mchenry / Williams Axis locking mechanism and combined with premium knife blade steel and handle materials you can be assured that any knife that Benchmade sells will stand up to years of hard use and abuse.
One of the things that has endeared this brand to many knife owners is their lifetime sharpening service for any of their knives. While I tend to sharpen all my own knives, many people don’t want to take the time or learn the skills to keep their knife blade razor-sharp. Benchmade knives “Lifetime Lifesharp Service” will clean, oil, adjust, and of course, sharpen your Benchmade knife as long as you own it.
Often thought of as a premium line of knives, Zero Tolerance is another brand that makes some of the best quality production knives available. Part of the Kai Group of cutlery companies, Zero Tolerance makes premium blades that are often used by the military, law enforcement, and also sought after by collectors.
Based out of Tualatin Oregon, they first started production in 2006 and quickly garnered a reputation among professionals who use knives in their day to day work. Many of the first Zero Tolerance knives were made in conjunction with Ken Onion and Strider Knives. Ken onion is a well-known knife maker and also partnered with Worksharp on their electric knife sharpener line.
Zero Tolerance Pocket Knives are well known around the world. They are manufactured using the best knife steel with premium handle and liner materials to exacting tolerances. They make great folding knives for everyday carry as well as premium fixed blade knives.
Some of the oldest knives in my collection are Kershaw’s, and as you can see from the pic above, I am not gentle on my knives. Kershaw is another knife brand in the Kai Group of companies. After Pete Kershaw left Gerber in 1974 he founded his own company in Portland Oregon and began manufacturing his own style of EDC knives. Mainly known as a sporting line of pocket knives, Kershaw knives produce high-quality knives that offer some of the best value for your dollar.
All Kershaw knives come with a lifetime warranty and are designed to be used. They have a huge range of pocket knives to choose from. With their patented Speedsafe assisted opening system that uses a torsion bar in the handle to provide a bit of a spring assist when opening. They also have fully automatic versions along with ball bearing pivots all the way to manual slip joints without any blade lock.
Kershaw makes knives out of high quality materials including a wide variety of blade steel, handle materials such as carbon fiber, G-10, Copper, and more. If you are looking for an affordable pocket knife that has all the features and designs you need then this may just be the brand for you.
Gerber is one of the older pocket knife brands on this list. They were founded in 1939 in Portland Oregon by Pete Gerber. They now have their headquarters in Tigard, Oregon, and are another proud United States pocket knife brand. Gerber makes a wide range of knives with everything from budget conscious folding knives to premium fixed blades knives fit for military or survival duty.
Gerber is also well known for its line of multi tools as well as their other outdoor products. Many of their pocket knives use stainless steel and are well loved by hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts. Gerber is one of the larger knife brands on this list and had revenue of over $100 million per year in the early 2000’s
Gerber’s reputation had taken a bit of a slide in between 2005 and 2015 as they started making more budget conscious pocket knife lines. However, over the last 5 years, they have returned to much of their past performance, and many of their newer knives are back up to the level of performance they need to be to make it onto our list of the best pocket knife brands.
No list of the best brands of pocket knife brands would be complete without mentioning Buck Knives. For well over 100 years the Buck Knife Company has lived through 5 generations of the Buck family. Their brand recognition is so strong that many old time knife lovers call their pocket knife a “Buck Knife” even if the brand isn’t actually Buck.
Their classic Buck model 110 is so well known amongst the knife world that even a black and white line drawing is enough to recognize this specific blade. The 110 in a classic folding knife with a backlock locking mechanism and traditionally made out of some of the best heat treaded 420HC steel on the market. 420HC is not considered a premium blade material compared to some of the new blade steels available, however, Buck has one of the best heat treats for this specific steel that it is almost legendary in the knife world.
Being well known for one of the most classic folding knife designs around is not their only claim to fame. Buck also makes some very impressive fixed blade hunting knives. All of Buck’s high quality knives come with their Buck 4-Ever warranty so you can always have peace of mind that your knife is backed by one of the best brands of knives on the market.
Columbia River Knife And Tool company was founded in 1994 by two former employees of the Kershaw brand. They are another brand based out of Tualatin Oregon, and make some extremely high quality knives. With a fairly fast rise to success in the late 90’s, CRKT has become well known in the outdoor world and the knife community.
They are a very innovative company and currently hold over 15 patents for new knife features and designs that they incorporate into their current line up. One of their newest and interesting innovations is their tool free strip design which is featured on some of their newer knives. This feature allows you to break down a knife for cleaning and maintenance without the need for special tools.
Columbia River Knife And Tool Company make more than just pocket knives, they also make high quality axes and hatchets too. CRKT is one of the more well known knife brands in the outdoor and hunting world. Many of their knife designs are made with stainless steel blades which provide good corrosion resistance for hard backcountry use.
Cold Steel has developed a big reputation in the knife world when it comes to their excellent tactical knives, axes, and other weaponry such as spears and broadswords. Yes, you read that right, they not only make a great folding knife, they also make some of the best and unique bladed weaponry such as swords and spears.
Cold Steel makes some amazingly large and high quality knives. I have heard various Cold Steel owners refer to their pocket knife as a pocket sword and they can be an amazing site to see. Founded in California in 1980 by Lynn Thompson, this USA company has it’s products made in various locations around the world. Many of their first knives came out of Seki City, Japan and were mainly made with AUS-8 steel.
Many modern Cold steel knives are made with newer high quality knife steel and are some of the best blades money can buy. When you buy a Cold Steel knife you can be assured that it comes with a razor sharp cutting edge, a super tough knife blade, and high quality construction that will last a lifetime.
Some of the best fixed blade knives I have had the pleasure to use were Cold steel and they make the largest folding knife I have ever had the pleasure to carry.
Many people have tried to compare these knife companies against one another for specific traits and features. However, that is outside the scope of this article and you can be assured that if you buy a knife from one of these brands that you are getting the best knife for your uses.
Whether it is for your own edc carry, or a gift for a loved one. You want to make sure you get a quality knife from a well known company and that you are buying a tool that will last a lifetime.
In the last 25 years as a knife aficionado, I have carried a knife from every one of these companies listed above and I am confident that any knife they make will serve you well. There are a ton of other high quality knife manufacturers out there such as SOG, Victorinox, Boker, Opinel, WE knives, Artisan Cutlery, 5.11 Tactical, Off Grid Knives, Emerson Knives, and many more.
If you are like me, then you are always on the quest for the best knives or your next edc knife. While I may be more into custom knife manufacturers these days I still carry my old Swiss Army knife some days and check my knife pocket for my blade before I leave the house.
Whether you are just buying your first knife or looking for something new and different you should check out these top selling knife makers.