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Small Folder Recommendations

Jun 7, 2000
Hi All,

I was wondering if you wise folks could give me a recommendation for a small single blade folding knife with the following:

1) Less than $250 retail
2) Blade less than 3"
3) Recurve or drop point blade (no Tanto)
4) Combo blade is nice, but not required
5) Fits easily in pocket (clip not required)

I like the Boker Omega, but really haven't found anything else I really like and would like some recommendations.

Two ways to go in this price range IMO.

William Henry


Both are in your price range, have custom quality, fit the size bill, and are fine knives. WH is liner lock and WW is either slipjoint or lockback. The WW are in CPM3V steel as an added incentive.

Welcome to the forums.

If you want to have some of that $250 left over, you could always get a Benchmade 705. I think they're going for less than $100 by now. Very nice knife, and you'll have some left-over cash for another knife or two. Other than that, as far as folders go, I'd save up for something by Elishewitz ( http://www.elishewitzknives.com/ ) or Darrel Ralph ( http://www.darrelralph.com/ ).

I do have to say that combo-edge should be avioded like the plague. It sometimes looks nice, but is always a 'worst of both worlds' scenario (you don't have enough of either edge, especially on a <3" blade, to be useful). Beware the dark side...


You do have a lot of choices in that price range, and if you are looking for a “Gentleman’s Folder” I would also recommend that you look at William Henry. I haven’t tried Bailey Bradshaws or Whitewing’s work yet, but something in Ivory would be nice…

But there are so many choices, just look at knifeArt for example. Happy Hunting

James Segura
San Francisco, CA
If you are looking for a utilty folder, the Spyderco Wegner Jr. is an excellent choice. They can be hard to find because they were recently discontinued. For a gentlman's folder, the Benchmade Mel Pardue 330 is lightweight and dependable. I haven't seen one yet, but I hear good things about the new Tim Wegner designed Mouse knife. It is manufactured by Spyderco, but sold by Blade-Tech.

As suggested above - if you want to go with something traditional, Whitewing is going to be a very hot name. Buy one now, and you're basically getting a Bailey Bradshaw handmade.

If you want more modern flair, William Henry makes an excellent knife.

Personally, I think you're getting the better value, along with an early sample of what will become a very popular knife with Whitewing.

I know you'll be happy with either.

AKTI Member #A000832

"Sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes, the bear eats you."
If you have time: Wait; untill a small SEBENZA comes up here in the For Sale forum, they seem to go for right around $230-$250..I got a NIB small in that range just last month...
And I am SOoooooo HAPPY!
Mini AFCK. Its under 3 inches and can do or out-do all the knives mentioned prior. The Wegner Jr - I have just aquired... and it is most suitable as well.
Just a note about whitewing, Bailey is currently planning to offer the trappers and the lockblades in a slightly smaller version. One that sounds very interesting is a 3 3/4 inch closed lockblade with a warencliff blade, I am unsure about the handle material though.

Chris http://www.members.tripod.com/ctexknife
Spyderco Calypso J.R.

Drac Noroc
"We dance around in a ring and suppose, while the secret sits in the middle and knows"

Robert Frost

AKTI # BA00013
I bought a lightly used small SEBENZA and am very happy.

RICK - Left Handers Unite
I suspect that you may want a blade of 3" or less to be able to get through airport security should you forget to pack your knife in checked bags. And you don't necessarily need a pocket clip since you want to carry this daily and don't want to look like a redneck while at trade shows & biz presentations, nor screw up the right front pocket of your wool/khacki dress pants?

At the $250 max point, you are just at the very bottom end of true custom folders. There are a few traditional friction folders (no lock, rocker bar spine) and the KnifeArt.com is a good place to peruse, and they offer the "View by Knife Type" and then "Folders under $500" sort which is nice.

Steel: In general, avoid AUS-6, AUS-8, the generically stated "440 stainless" and carbon steels like O1 which show up in custom and traditional friction folders. It is my opinion that you don't want carbon steel for daily carry. You won't like the rust that forms on your knife, especially after you cut your apple and get a streak of color. There are too many outstanding SS alloys to bother with a CS blade for what sounds like one of your first upscale pocketknives.

If you stick to 154CM and the Japanese copy ATS-34 on upward (they are nearly identical), you'll be happier with edge holding IF the company did a good heat treat...I repeat, heat treat. ATS-55 is probably fine, it is a slightly simpler alloy very close to ATS-34, but jury is out as Spyderco has just started offering this steel. 440C (it MUST have the "C" stated) also makes a good if not great knife steel...that would be my true minimum. I say that after wondering why my AUS-8 Spyderco's didn't hold an edge very well...I sold them.

Moving up from ATS-34 you'll find BG-42 and the Crucible Particle Metallurgy steels. In stainless, CPM440V and CPM420V are excellent at holding an edge for slicing and push cutting. There are scattered reports of a bit of brittleness in CPM440V if you cut metal (like cutting a bunch of wires pushcut downward on a wood table top, for a quick H1 segment rewire job) or staples, or sand, something that can chip the edge. Spyderco says they've backed down 1-2 Rockwell points on 440V for this reason. 420V is currently domain of custom makers like Darrel Ralph and others. It'll be the next "hot trend" in production folders. Most people will eventually figure out 420V is a bit tougher and a bit better edge holder than 440V. Stellite/Talonite is not steel, is a Cobalt/Chrome etc. alloy. Not heat-treatable. Rockwells in mid 40's. Corrosion resistance is unparalleled relative to tool steels (knife steels) so salt water king (titanium doesn't hold an edge well but is also essentially corrosion impervious compared with tool steels).

Liner locks are pretty strong for normal folder chores. Arm chair commando's often stab their knives into trees and other things like legs of lamb/bone to train in defensive techniques, and reports of liner failures from mechanical or grip/twisting is probably real, but greatly exaggerated for average Joe. Spyderco and BM liners are good. Other companies seem to finish behind these two, and adequacy of lockup is something you'll have to judge yourself after you own your first Benchmade, and have handled other brands. Find a knife store in Austin, or a gun shop that handles good pocket knives, or maybe police supply house. Go handle 15 different brands before you buy, including BM and Spydie.

Spine or rocker bar locks are 2nd fiddle to liners, but for normal use often pretty good, but depends on maker. You want one that is stiff, and really "snaps" into place authoritatively. No play/wiggle, solid lockup.

If you plan to cut more than fingernails and cheese, do get a locking folder. Boxes, wire, anything where you are at awkward angle or put some force into it, including self defense God forbid, you want a good lock (IMHO). Linerlocks are one-handed with just a tiny bit of practice, spine locks are awkward one handed. Can you tell I like linerlocks yet. (Axis lock is as good or better).

For a true, dressed down utility folder, the two top production companies are Spyderco and Benchmade. I wouldn't say "you can't go wrong", but both offer a number of designs to choose from, many of which are actually well thought out, and both are pretty reliable heat treaters (with great return policies if you get unlucky and figure it out). If you get past how ugly the Spyderco hole and often hump make the knives, there is much to recommend. I happen to like Benchmade a bit better. An opinion. But I own multiple from both. Both have web sites as simple as their company name.com.

We're mostly in black micarta or G-10 handle category here (or metal, or zytel, yech)... not fancy, utilitarian. Favorites here are the AFCK 812 w/o serrations, and the 705/710 Axis lock (the Axis is arguably nicer, stronger than liner lock. Axis is a bit more prone to feeling gritty after riding around in your pocket). Both are clipped points (close to a true dropped point), and the 710 has a slight recurve but it's on a 3" blade. Once you are good at rebeveling and then touching up your knife edge, you won't miss the serrations for the most part. They are nice sometimes... abnormally tough vines in the backyard is where I miss them. Not on rope or boxes or tie wraps or wire. Or meat or veggies. But I keep them sharp.

Favorites (small blade) in Spyderco line are Tim Wegner Jr (discontinued, you'll have to be quick or wait for used) followed by Jess Horn model in micarta (not zytel). The Jess Horn has a very pointy, very delicate tip (3" or a hair under, but alas, it is AUS-8), flat cutting edge and no belly. The Wegner is a slight semi-skinner design 2-5/8" blade (from memory) of ATS-34, so has a strong tip and some belly. It is marred by only the Spydie hump and the pocket clip on wrong side of knife. It is excellent. These are my two favorite airline carry knives. I sold the others I had tried in this duty. (my AFCK is black and serrated). They are inexpensive enough I won't cry if they are lost traveling. Spyderco Calypso is one I sold, the micarta version is decent, but also AUS-8. Gosh, so many knives out there. I'm scratching the top surface. Spyderco Native is 3-1/8" in CPM440V if you can handle the spine lock and spear point. moving on...

Upscale a bit, I think the William Henry stuff has much to recommend, including ATS-34 std. Choice of nice handle materials, some neat blade grinds (like the asymmetrical spear pointed Kestrel or "Spear Point", or the dagger style Lancet). Good quality in a low volume production environment that is one step below true custom. There are more handle materials and other embellishments that what KnifeArt has on their page...find Wm Henry's web page.

I also like Chris Reeve. These are less "elegant" and more of a piece of oustanding, precision CNC machine work. They are tremendously robust for folding knives, with an integral locking handle (you'll just have to see how they divide one side of the handle with a longitudinal groove, and it becomes the lock, in liner lock style). You generally get an all titanium handle and BG-42 blades of outstanding heat treat-quality (and by the way, IMHO a mediocre steel with an optimal heat treat can be superior to a supersteel with a poor heat treat. It does matter. I didn't believe it at first.) You can dress up the Reeve knives with wood inlays (limited edition, low volume) and CNC machines designs w/ anodized titanium coloring, some w/ stone inlays, but you are well past $250 now. Finding one used would probably yield a fine usin' knife.
Umfaan: 2-1/4" blade, "cute little knife"
Small Sebenza: 3" blade, $290 retail.
Large Sebenza: 3-1/2" blade, $325 retail.

Outstanding, durable users, outstanding BG-42 heat treat.

KnifeArt.com has both Wm Henry and Chris Reeve under production knife category.

For airport security, avoid black blade coatings and serrations! Don't ask me why, black and serrated says "aggressive" to airport security, even if you are under FAA's 4" or the concourse-dependent-but-sometimes-enforced 3" limit. They don't necessarily work off common logic. They are inconsistent and do not follow the FAA guidelines necessarily, some concourses are more strict than FAA requires.

You've already figured out that tantos are about self defense and tip strength mostly, and not as overall useful in daily chores (boxes, tie wraps, 16ga wire, insulation) so that tells me you long ago probably figured out your folding knife isn't a pry bar or screw driver either. The multitools are an interesting innovation that took the Swiss Army knife in a different direction (and offer real pliers!). Something to keep in the test lab or checked baggage for a mobile test lab backup tool.

If you get bitten by the knife bug, and find another $200-400 on top of $250, Email me and I'll suggest who some of the better craftsmen are in "gents folders" or in tactical or semi-tactical folders. A quick example: John W Smith does just super work, on KnifeArt.com see his goldlip pearl interframe gents folder. I don't have to handle that specific knife to tell you that it is a gem (I've seen John's work at shows, he does tactical, or art, both well and tastefully).


[This message has been edited by rdangerer (edited 06-08-2000).]

[This message has been edited by rdangerer (edited 06-08-2000).]
Thanks for all the great suggestions!

Rdangerer the following is VERY close!

[I suspect that you may want a blade of 3" or less to be able to get through airport security should you forget to pack your knife in checked bags. And you don't necessarily need a pocket clip since you want to carry this daily and don't want to look like a redneck while at trade shows & biz presentations, nor screw up the right front pocket of your wool/khacki dress pants?]

Except I wear jeans and "Docker" type slacks for everyday clothes. I am an Engineering Manager (I was a Journeyman Electrician in a past life). I travel frequently and do speaking engagements all over the world. A large knife with a pocket clip doesn't fit in.

I currently carry a Solingen Richartz folder, but I want something different. I have been out of the "knife interest" for quite a few years, so I need an education on the new stuff coming out.

I own other small locking folders (a couple of stainless Hoffritz and a Buck), but want to expand my horizons and get something nice. I haven't found a great selection of knives here in Austin (any suggestions?), so I looked to the web.

I use my knives mostly to cut open boxes, strip wire (sharp but not too sharp), cut string, plastic tie wrapes and rope. Normal stuff.

No black blades. You are 100% correct. Black blades tend to send the wrong message to some people.

I think I'll save up a bit more cash and get something nice...

Thanks again, for all the help.


Wow! What a great knife summary. Definitely a keeper. Good advice all around. I appreciate it and I didn't even ask the question. I think that reply is just what Bladeforums is all about.

Sounds like you are on the fast track to a small Sebenza and a calfskin pouch.

Buck has 532s with BG42 and nice wood available this year at real easy prices, for your budget.

Now you have got me thinking. I need another semi-dress-up pocket knife, or two.
Thanks for the suggestions and help!

After handling a small Sebenza yesterday, I ordered one. I would love to have the wood inlay small Sebenza, but I just can't justify the extra $200 right now. I want one BAD though... I mustn't wait too long though...

Thanks again!