Last Updated: February 2, 2017
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.
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
I recommend buying the Sebenza at BladeHQ or KnifeArt. If you purchase anything through any of the links on this website, I earn a small commission (at absolutely no additional cost to you) that helps keep the site running. Any support is greatly appreciated. Thank you very much.