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Last Updated: June 2, 2019
I don’t think many people get into the hobby of collecting knives with the idea that one day they will buy a pocket knife that costs hundreds of dollars.
Well, at least I didn’t start out my little edged adventure with the thought of purchasing a $300+ knife. However, as I wandered down the rabbit hole, and became further consumed by my blade obsession, justification for more expensive knives became easier to find. Any reservations I once had about owning a $350 knife soon went out the window.
Buy the CRK Sebenza at BladeHQ
So that takes us here. You and me, about to discuss the Small Sebenza 21 made by Chris Reeve Knives (CRK) which retails for right around $350. In many ways this review is a challenge because for such an expensive knife, a lot of people have already given their opinion on it. It’s a very well known blade with an extremely loyal following.
But hey, it’s just a knife so I’m just going to treat it like I would any other, and try to provide you with a fair and honest review…
General Dimensions and Blade Details
The small Sebenza 21 is the little brother to the large Sebenza 21 (no surprises there, right?). This knife has an overall length of 6.9″ a 2.94″ blade and a weight of exactly 3 ounces. This is a great size for EDC and that is exactly what this knife was designed for – to be a high end edc knife.
The blade is a classic drop point shape. The knife has been given a high hollow grind (a very shallow one) and the spine has been rounded, a very elegant touch. Blade stock is 1/8″ thick, which is nice and stout for a smaller blade like this. The blade manages to maintain this thickness well, eventually tapering down to a sturdy point. Being a classic drop point there is plenty of belly for your EDC tasks, and the entire blade has been given a nice durable stonewashed finish.
Blade steel on my Sebenza is the tried and true S30V. If you are already reading a Sebenza review I think an in-depth discussion of S30V is probably unnecessary, but suffice it to say that this is a very fine steel with excellent all-around properties including good edge retention and corrosion resistance. However, my Sebenza was made in 2009. As of mid-2011 Chris Reeve has started making Sebenzas in S35VN, a slightly upgraded version of S30V. This is certainly a welcomed addition, and it’s great to see how CRK continues to refine and upgrade their knives.
Handle, Ergonomics and Pocket Clip
One of the great draws to this knife is that the handle slabs have been made entirely from titanium. Indeed there are two thick pieces of 6Al4V titanium here and they have been given a nice sandblasted finish. This finish will show wear, and I see some very light scratches on mine, but if you wanted to you could have the handles sandblasted again for a factory fresh finish. As far as construction goes, this is a minimalistic free-flowing design, and everything has been bolted together for easy take down.
That said, if you want to get fancy, CRK can give you fancy, and this knife is available with a lot of interesting hardwood and micarta inlays. CRK also offers these knives with a huge variety of different graphics engraved into the handle. This adds an additional layer of collectability to the knives.
There is nothing too complicated with the ergonomics of this knife either. But again, the handle just works. There is a nice thumb ramp with good functional jimping and a very shallow choil is also present. For a smaller handle it fits me pretty well; I’m able to get a 4 finger grip without any trouble and I can easily control the blade.
The pocket clip is pretty special. First of all, it is made of titanium and secures with a single bolt. It’s a very secure fit so I’m not complaining. More importantly this clip works – and it works very well. It has a kind of double retention system, which in a way acts like two pocket clips at once (a “double-dip” clip? Just came up with that one…). It’s difficult to describe so take a look at the pictures (and video) to get a better idea of what I am talking about, but in short it makes for a very secure fit into your pocket and a nice comfortable carry.
Lockup and Deployment
The Sebenza uses either single or dual thumb studs for deployment. My particular model has a single thumb stud (or thumb “lug” as they like to call them in the Sebenza circles) set up for right hand deployment. CRK does in fact make versions with double thumb studs and they even make an entirely left handed version of the knife. My thumb stud came with blue anodizing, and while the blue anodizing provides a striking contrast, it does wear off with use. Kind of a bummer, but what can you do.
Deployment is slow, smooth and extremely purposeful. This is not a knife that you can flick out easily, nor would you want to for fear of compromising the titanium framelock. The smoothness of the deployment is near legendary, and it’s not uncommon for people to compare the deployment of everything else to the Sebenza.
The Sebenza features a Chris Reeve Integral lock – or a “frame lock” if you prefer. This was the frame lock that started them all, as Chris Reeve designed the lock for this knife. An exercise in absolute minimalism, the lock is part of the handle and it engages with a very satisfying and forceful “click.” To me this kind of lock oozes strength and security and lockup is very strong.
Now, I need to say there have been a report or two that this lock has occasionally failed under spine whacks, but to be honest (and as respectful as I possibly can), I don’t really care. (I was never into “spine whacking” and certainly wouldn’t subject that to a little EDC knife. I think for cutting tasks this lock is going to be plenty strong for pretty much everything you would put it up to.
Chris Reeve Knives Small Sebenza 21: Final Thoughts
The small Sebenza is an excellent all-around edc knife. Hand made in the USA, this is the ultimate combination of an intelligent design, premium materials, and American craftsmanship. The Sebenza oozes quality and is an incredibly simple design done right. It is no wonder that most consider the CRK Sebenza the pinnacle of production pocket knives.
Perhaps the 900 lb gorilla in the room is the question, “is it worth the money?” Well, I think so, but then again I run a website entirely dedicated to cutlery, so perhaps I’m the wrong guy to ask. But really though, I hate answering this question.
Sure, you could just as easily carry a knife for a fraction of the cost. Lets face it, you don’t need a Sebenza to cut up a card board box, just like people don’t need a Ferrari to go from point A to point B, or a Rolex to tell the time – they buy these items because they want the best. In my mind this is a much cheaper thrill than a Rolex or a Ferrari so if you are someone who only wants the best, or someone who appreciates fine craftsmanship, or someone who has simply reached that point in your knife obsession where you have no where else to turn, then I think you will enjoy a small Sebenza.
Chris Reeve Knives Small Sebenza 21 – $350
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Different strokes for different folks. And one’s mind and needs change! Many many years ago, I couldn’t imagine spending $50 on a pocket knife. Later $100. Now, there are several knives in the $150-$200 range that I would love to have. I try to keep to the $40-80 price range for my EDC knives. My first rule of EDC folders is only carry what you can afford to replace.
900lb gorilla asks, is it worth it? Functionally, no. Not when you can get a high end a black class Benchmade or Emerson for half the price. But yet, it is not function we are looking for always. It is the same reason for guys that plop down $4k for a 1911, $20k for an over/under shotgun, or spend $200k on a car. All are available for much less that are just as effective, but none of those have the class, status, and bragging rights that the high end have.
I hear ya man – the numbers only go up and the trend is disturbing. I can’t imagine the next thing to land on my desk… hopefully not a Hinderer.
In the big scheme of things, I don’t think $350 for a knife is really as huge of a deal as people make it out to be. Sure, it’s a good chunk of change, but if a Sebenza holds off that 20k shotgun purchase you could argue it’s a real value. 😉
wow, very simple looking knife, but very elegant at the same time. Beautiful. Another one to save up for.
Thanks for Stopping by Spanky! Yes this is just a beautiful blade – no way around it.
The Edge Observer says
Another knife I’ve been fence sitting on. I’ve always liked the look of the plain Sebenzas, both large and small but the graphic versions leave me scratching my head. At the price point CRK definitely has a lot of competition. Once you get into the $200+ range there are a lot of really solid offerings from many companies with equal fit and finish and material use. That said, it can’t be denied that CRK has had a massive influence on the folding knife world both in the US and internationally. In that respect when you want the original you have to pay for it. As per usual, great review. Thanks!
EO, as always you articulate some very valid points. I’m not sure how I can add to this besides nodding silently in agreement.
This is certainly a knife for any enthusiast to check out – at the very least handle briefly. I’d love to see your take on this one and learn whether it would remain in your collection.
One thing I can’t deny is that CRK’s formula is both potent and addicting… I’ve got another CRK en-route that may pique your interest. Cheers and thanks for stopping by.
Great review and comments. I am in the early stages of collection. I have been looking at Striders as well at the Sebenza. But the price point pushes me back to Sypderco and Benchmade, Kershaw, and CRKT for the time being. I also have a Boye folder made in AZ which I haven’t seen any reviews of. I paid $100 for mine and consider it a great EDC for now. If you get the chance I would enjoy reading your comments on this blade.
Mr Moore – honestly I wouldn’t rush into the CRKs or Striders. Enjoy the ride man, collecting knives is a great hobby and with so much stuff out there at so many price points I see no reason to dive immediately into the deep end.
The Boye folder looks really interesting, I took a look at their site. Since I enjoy being on the water this could be an easy purchase to justify. 😉 Thanks for stopping by and offering your thoughts.
Very honest review and replies. Awesome.
I’m one of those value collectors that finds CRK’s a little overpriced. (And honestly, since I don’t think very highly of Striders, I think Striders are ridiculously overpriced.) Spyderco and Zero Tolerance proof that the best of the best has never have to cost you more than 200/250 USD and ZT offers lifetime warranty with it. (Please mind that Victorinox offers lifetime warranty for 10 USD knives.) But of course that are solely my very subjective personal opinions. A more objective problem I have with CRK’s (and Striders) is that for 500 USD I can’t even carry it tip-down!? Yes, I am one of those rare idiots that carries strictly tip-down, and it blows my mind that this isn’t an option for 400/500 USD. Of course unfortunately there’re also many awesome Spydercos that come only tip-up, but at least they offer also models that you can carry tip-down. That CRK and Strider don’t offer even one single model with a tip-down carry option will certainly prevent me from ever spending 400 USD on one of them.
Kind regards from Amsterdam
Thanks so much for stopping by and offering some thoughts. I can totally see your point – there is nothing wrong with not wanting to spend that kind of cash on a knife. As for the tip down carry, well, you are absolutely right yet again. A lot of people like tip down, and there is nothing wrong with that at all. Just a different style. As a lefty, I can totally relate to wanting to see more options in your method of carry. Thanks again for the nice comment.
Thank you for your very kind words! I didn’t realize you’re a lefty! Damn, then I shouldn’t complain, since you have ten times less options than me lol
My pleasure Jeru! Lol! It’s quite alright, we are all evangelists for our own little causes. 😉 I actually carry my knives w/ the pocket clip on the right side so it rarely bothers me – I just learned to adapt! 😉
Finally pulled the trigger on the Small Sebenza 21. My two cents on the price point is this…very few people who collect “things” get to carry part of their collection around with them everyday. Almost everyday someone asks to see “that really cool knife” you have. I can’t wait to show off this one! Thanks for the great review, as always!
Thanks for stopping by Dale, and congrats! I agree, this is something that is both collectible and practical. I am sure you will get a lot of enjoyment and use out of your Small Sebenza, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts after the knife arrives. All the best,
It should be the 10th time that I read this rewiew… but this time may be the good one. My birthday is coming (one with a round count and a 0 at the end) and I’m considering a present that lasts (from my friends, my family, or from myself if needed…) . Small Sebenza is in the top 3 of my wish list. I like the insigno model (“modified sheepfoot shape”?), maybe more than the original, but the original blade is such a classic… I’ll have to choose. Have you ever handled an Insigno? Thanks for telling me your opinion (At this stage, I’m not ready yet to accept that I’ll probably have both one day… ).
Love your comment man – I can relate to it on so many levels. My advice would be to take the plunge. I have not had any extensive time with an Insingo yet. The blade shape definitely looks interesting (and useful) and I’d like to get my hands on one at some point. Please post an update when you do get your CRK – I look forward to hearing your thoughts! 🙂
The small seb insingo (and not insigno as I previously wrote…) is now mine for a couple of month and I like it very much. I chose the insingo shape and I dont regret it: the cutting length is quite correct for a small knife as this one and the blade tip is right in line with your hand. I appreciate the non threatening aspect of the knife which is a point that may be more important in Europe, where I live, than in US. I remove the lanyard and the blue anodized brace remained in place which seems to be specific to the latest models: it avoids one more hole in the handle. And of course, I like the perfect finish and the simplicity of the design.
I admit even if the price is double it’s not twice as better than a benchmade or a spyderco but this kind of consideration is valid for every expensive items… at least with CRK it seems that you are sure to get what you expect and what you pay for (I never heard about blade play or centering problems with CRK but I have already experiment it with other famous brands…).
The time will tell if it will be able to replace my benchade 940 in the back pocket of my pant as my favorite EDC, but I am already sure that I will keep it for a long time.
Thanks again for your work, it’s always a pleasure to read you.
Thanks for the thoughts, Darkflo. I am very happy to hear you are enjoying your Sebenza. I like the insingo blade shape – nice choice. It’s distinct and adds a little more visual interest to the knife. Carry it in good health my friend, and thank you very much for dropping by.
Recently got a small Sebenza 21 unique graphic and I love it. It needed breaking indeed, and you can feel it moving better each day, now it is smooth as butter. Great piece of art.
I am picky about my stuff. I like simple, classic, well made products. Buy a used Sebenza and use it. When you want something else send it for a spa treatment and sell it for more than you paid. Simple.
I agree – these Sebenzas hold their value very well. They are always in demand. Carry yours in good health!
Get into most anything and you will find a least expensive end and a high end. Nothing wrong with the extremes or the middle. I think it is great that we live in a time of so many choices. There are many things I will never be able to afford, but I can still appreciate craftsmanship, rarity, quality and the wow factor of all kinds of things. That said, I think the Sebenza is a great knife and I get a lot of enjoyment from mine. After all look how much we spend on disposable cell phones….that doesn’t seem to phase many….