Sunday, March 25, 2007

Just what do you get for all that money?

Just purchased a Chris Reeves small Sebenza so I can now speak to the difference between a $159 knife and a $380 knife.
  • Is it sharper? Not really but it is a much more polished edge that makes it feel sharper.
  • Is it bigger? Actually, the small Sebenza is about 1/8" smaller than an Emerson Mini CQC-7A.
  • Is it better made? Oh yes, this is a Porsche among knives. Fit and finish are flawless and to obviously tight tolerances.
  • But, is it a better knife? See below
Let me put it this way. If I plan to be somewhere I might need to pry or dig with a knife, I'll carry one of my Emersons, otherwise I'll carry a Sebenza or perhaps the smaller, dressier Mnandi for dress wear.

A Sebenza is not a better knife than a CQC-7A but it is a more refined, minimalist knife. Chris Reeves has simply removed everything from the blade and handles that isn't absolutely necessary then assembled the rest to 0.002" tolerances (or so it is claimed).

Spend the extra time and your Emerson can have an edge like a CRK blade but you'll have to pay to buy it from Ernie like that. I would imagine you could also lap the liners, washers and blade to achieve a CRK-like fit but again, you'll have to pay Ernie for it.

That extra cash is what makes the difference between the two blades. Both knives use CNC machinery but Emerson accepts other technologies to reduce costs while Chris Reeves accepts lower production volumes to be able to work to tighter tolerances.

Emerson liners are stamped from sheet titanium and the edges still show stamp marks. They are precision stamped to thousandths of an inch tolerances and are free of sharp edges. Emerson handles are G-10, cut from flat stock or molded.

Chris Reeves frames are completely CNC machined to ten-thousandths of an inch tolerances. There are little touches like the two-step bevel on the frame edges and the dogleg exceptions around holes near the edges. At these tolerances, there simply are no misalignments whatsoever. There is a solidity in such tight tolerances and you feel it when you open or close a Sebenza.

Ernest Emersom builds what I consider one of the finest hard use knives in the world. He made a decision to go for mass production and makes well designed products at a reasonable price. There is nothing wrong with his knives whatsoever. I own and use them in preference to others in their price range.

Chris Reeves also makes "production" knives but he keeps his quality at the same level as the better custom knives and all the extra hand fitting work is reflected in the price.

At some point soon my new Sebenza will suffer it's first scratch. After that calamity strikes, I will be able to just drop it in my pocket along with my change without wincing. This is a finely crafted tool that I intend to carry for many years on a daily basis and I expect that it will gain character as it chronicles my pocket contents over time.

No comments: