2013 and 2014 marked pretty quiet years for Benchmade. Not a whole lot of interesting stuff rolled off their shelves. The Volli was my favorite and has proven itself to be an excellent knife. Beyond that there wasn’t a whole lot to report.
Benchmade’s 2015 SHOT Show releases actually looked pretty strong. The 485 Valet was one model that caught my eye. Perhaps most surprising was that the knives became available about a week after the show. Gone are the days of lusting over pre-production tools at SHOT only to find them released sometimes years later. Initially I was going to hold off on acquiring a Valet, but all it took were a couple positive affirmations from Tony regarding his knife and I had a Valet en-route to my office.
General Dimensions and Blade Details
The Valet has an overall length of 6.69″, a 2.96″ blade, and it weighs 2.18 ounces. The knife compares favorably to the Benchmade Mini Griptilian although it’s much sleeker. The low profile handle and spear point blade were innately appealing. This is a slim every day carry (EDC) piece that easily doubles as a gentleman’s folder with a more modern flair.
The Valet’s packs plenty of cutting edge, a high flat grind, and a sturdy tip all into a sub 3″ blade. The blade is ground thin and it almost cuts like classic slip joint (not a bad thing). I had no trouble zipping through boxes, bags, and all the little stuff that comes across my path. Everything from sliding between the folds of an envelope free a cable bill to de-boning chicken thighs for a stir fry.
Benchmade went with Bohler M390 stainless steel for the Valet. I have been putting M390 through its paces between this Valet and my ZT 0620. Heat treated to 60-62HRc, M390 is a super steel with superior edge holding abilities, yet it is still easy to maintain. I have been putting the Valet through it’s paces, and I’ve been happy with the results. I sliced up a big stack of cardboard in an informal “cut test” and managed to wear the edge down a bit after a while. I ended up sharpening the knife on the fine stones of my Sharpmaker. After just a few passes I could tell the edge was coming back, and I was able to quickly restore the edge to hair shaving, paper slicing performance. M390 is also very corrosion resistant.
M390 is apparently very expensive (on a podcast Tony and I determined that it appears to sell for 3x as much as a more normal steel). Given the option I would have selected a S30V or 154CM version if it meant a substantial reduction in purchase price, but I appreciate that Benchmade is interested in offering a premium product.
Handle, Ergonomics, and Pocket Clip
The Valet has a sleek gray handle with smooth G10 over milled out stainless steel liners, and a gray G10 backspacer. Handle construction is typical Benchmade quality. The G10 is contoured (3D machined) has been nicely finished. The steel liners are flush, and the backspacer sits solidly in the middle. I like the gray. It’s different, but nothing crazy. This isn’t a big handle, but it’s well made.
The Valet is a small knife and it feels like a small knife. I’m able to get a full grip on it, but there isn’t much room beyond that. It’s perfectly fine for little EDC tasks. There is no jimping, or much in the way of notable ergonomic features. The little knife sits in your hand well enough, and is more than adequate for normal use. I did not find the smooth G10 to be “slippery” and did not have any issues using the knife normally.
The pocket clip is a nice stainless steel deep carry clip. It buries almost completely into the pocket and is discrete. The handle is drilled and tapped for ambidextrous tip up carry. I like this clip and I think it works well.
The Valet also carries really well. At under 3 ounces and you quickly forget the knife is in your pocket. Perfect as either a discrete primary EDC or a lightweight backup knife.
Deployment and Lockup
This is an axis lock knife, with thumb studs. Usually, that would be all I need to hear, but I am concerned that this time Benchmade may have tried to do too much with too little. The positioning of the thumb studs and axis lock feels cramped. The axis lock is smaller than on other axis lock knives, and the thumb studs sit very close to the handle. The knife looks cool, and it certainly works, but it isn’t the most comfortable knife to open and close repeatedly. I’ll be curious to see if anyone shares that opinion with me.
Lockup on my knife is good. Out of the box there was a tiny bit of horizontal blade play, and a little more developed after a month of use. Pretty much all of my axis lock knives have a little play in them unless I tear them down and loctite the pivot. I know some people aren’t fans of the axis lock (too many moving parts and small springs to break), but I have always liked them. This one is smaller than I’m used to, but it still works.
Benchmade Valet – Final Thoughts
I am a little divided on the Valet. On one hand, it is a really slick little folder. I have been getting more and more into gents folders for daily carry, and visually this one ticks a lot of boxes for me. I like the smooth G10 handles, and the thin flat grind and spearpoint blade are excellent. My knife came well finished, and I didn’t run into any major QC issues that some folks have reported on first run Benchmades.
But a couple things turn me off on the Valet. The fiddly “landing gear” (small thumb studs placed very close to the knife and small axis lock) is my biggest concern. I would not recommend this knife for people with larger hands. I’m not Andre the Giant, but the position of the lock and thumb studs seems too tight for repeated use (or the mindless flicking open and closed of pocket knives while watching TV). Certainly this could be a “Your Mileage May Vary” thing. This is a beautiful knife, but I think BM leaned a little into far into “form over function” territory on this one.
I also think the price is also worth mentioning. $170 is a large sum for a small knife. I would have loved to see the Valet on the tail end of $150, and not on the tail end of $200. I realize that M390 is expensive material, and I think that folks who really appreciate a premium steel will have an easier time justifying the cost. Personally, I am not convinced this steel is worth the extra money.
But I don’t mean to end this review on a down note. The Valet potentially has a lot to offer. If it fits your hand well then there is little left to complain about. The Mini Griptilian is still my go to small Benchmade, but the Valet could be a worthy upgrade if it fits your hand and budget.
I recommend purchasing the Valet at Amazon and BladeHQ. Please consider that purchasing anything through any of the links on this website helps support BladeReviews.com, and keeps the site going. As always, any and all support is greatly appreciated. Thank you very much.