This is the first part of my ‘Three XYZ Collection: Budget to Luxury’ series of posts. The idea is simple: building a three item collection, for a given category, which should cover almost anyone — and doing it in three price brackets.
Let’s get started with knives.
A good three knife collection is going to need to contain a fixed blade knife, a folding knife with locking mechanism, and a slipjoint knife which is rather non-threatening in appearance. With those three types of knives, you should be able to cover any need, or requirement, that you have. Let’s dive in.
Budget (Sub-$30 each)
The goal of any good budget category is not to try and get as close to the top of the upper limit as you can, but rather to stay as low as possible while not buying utter shit. I am setting the cap at $30, as I had a hard time staying strictly lower than that given taxes and such.
- Fixed Blade: The only option here is a Mora, for about $15 it’s all the knife most people need. People take these on survival shows. Don’t over think it, when on a budget and needing a fixed blade, Mora. Some people will contend that you should never spend more than Mora money on a fixed blade, but I don’t count myself among those. It’s a good knife, but it’s still a $15 knife.
- Locking Blade: this was the single hardest knife to identify in this entire guide. People are going to scream ‘Opinel’ for this pick but there two things to know about an Opinel: the locking mechanism is for shit; and the knife blade is for shit too. Instead, get yourself a Gerber LST, it’s a classic and surprisingly good for $25, I carried one of these for years as a kid.
- Slipjoint: For $21, go get the Victorinox Bantam. If someone is threatened by that, then they are just threatened in general. Damned good knife too, I have a couple or three. I love them.
With those three knives, you are off to the races…
Mid Tier (Sub-$150 each)
I selected the $150 bracket primarily because of how fast the pricing climbs once you get above it, and how little the quality changes above $150. That’s not to say no quality changes, but that is to say that a wisely spent $150 towards a knife, is likely to net you as much as hundreds more would when it comes to actual use and durability. The goal is to spend as close to $150 now, without going over, while selecting items which are objectively better than those in the budget category.
Ok, on with it…
- Fixed Blade: Ugh, I hate this pick more than any others on this list, but you have to go with ESEE here — either the 3P (my pick) or the 4. I have a love/hate relationship with these. They are beastly, and probably as close to ’indestructible’ as a knife can get, but they are also heavy and kind of a not great steel given the price. But, if that’s your budget, it is clearly better than the Mora. So there’s that. I used them for years, and yeah — they are good shit. They almost dare you to try and break the blade.
- Locking Blade: This one is easy, you’ll want the Hogue Deka with Magnacut Steel and the Polymer scales. I have my issues with the polymer scales, but that knife, and that steel is epic. That you can get it at a sub-150 price is phenomenal. It’s really good shit.
- Slipjoint: For this, you’ll want to look at LionSteel’s offerings, they make some extremely nice slipjoints in this price point with a nice M390 steel as well. There’s plenty of color options, and my pick is this one a I reviewed a while back. All around great stuff here.
Yeah, I know, you scrolled by this anyways just to see the ridiculous side of things…
Luxury (Sky’s the Limit)
The goal here is to select things that are no doubt, very good and maybe the best you can buy, but kind of absurd when you compare the price to the last category for what you are actually getting. I don’t know, something like that…
- Fixed Blade: Winkler Belt Knife for $350 is my pick here. I have a smaller variant and there’s actually a lot more expensive selections out there. But I think what Winkler is offering is unique and feels quite special in hand — certainly feels like a luxury fixed blade, while still being one you can get down and do serious work with. And yet at the same time, of dubious added utility over the ESEE.
- Locking Blade: Without a doubt, Small Sebenza — might as well grab some nice inlays, and find a unicorn Magnacut variant out there since we aren’t worried about price. That’s probably somewhere around $550 or something — they are decently hard to find as of this writing. They will quite literally cut boxes as well as the Deka does — but you’ll know you paid a lot more to do it, luxury.
- Slipjoint: Tactile Knife Co Bexar, like without a doubt, and since we are not worried about price — that Bronze edition for $349 looks killer. Could fall back on the easier to procure DLC black model for $299 I guess. The blade is technically better than the other slipjoint picks, but in a lot of ways the $21 budget pick does this category better. So there’s that.
I am a fan of everything in the Luxury category, but I fully admit that the value add in moving from Mid Tier knives to Luxury is not as big a change as from Budget to Mid Tier.