Chris Reeve Knives (CRK) is a maker of high end cutlery based out of Boise Idaho. Chris Reeve and his team of craftsmen have been perfecting the art of the knife for over 20 years and are widely regarded as makers of some of the best pocket and survival knives available on the market. CRK uses only the finest materials and builds blades to incredible tolerances following designs that have been tweaked for years and years.
Chris Reeve Knife Reviews:
Here is a list of all the Chris Reeve Knives we have reviewed to date:
- Chris Reeve Knives Small Sebenza 21 vs. Strider PT CC - Knife Showdown
Five years ago the $300+ production knife market was a frontier town, with just a few big names able to operate successfully at these empyrean price points. Two of the biggest were Chris Reeve Knives and Strider. For ... continue reading
- Chris Reeve Knives Sebenza 25 Review
How do you improve on perfection? That may have been a question asked by the engineers at Chris Reeve when they approached the Sebenza 25. I wasn't in the room, so I really have no idea. The Sebenza has received incre ... continue reading
- Chris Reeve Mnandi Review
When I think Chris Reeve Knives, I first think of the Sebenza, their flagship blade. Then my mind wanders to the Umnunzaan, their amped up tacticalicious offering. Only after sampling both of those knives did I ever t ... continue reading
- Chris Reeve Large Sebenza 21 Review
For many the Sebenza 21 is a knife obtained on the steep ascent to the upper echelons of production knife collecting. It's not a starter knife. It is something to be gradually aspired to, pined over, and then climatic ... continue reading
- Chris Reeve Knives Umnumzaan Review
The ink had barely dried on my Sebenza review. I was sitting peaceably at my desk and distinctly remember saying how it would be a good while before I got my hands on another Chris Reeve knife. Shockingly enough it wa ... continue reading
- Chris Reeve Knives Small Sebenza 21 Review
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 sta ... continue reading
Chris Reeve Knives – Company History
Chris Reeve began making and selling knives out of his garage in Durban, South Africa back in 1984. This was the very beginning of what would become one of the most influential knife manufacturing companies in the history of the cutlery industry.
In the beginning, Chris was selling his knives locally in South Africa. However, it wasn’t long until his work began to draw interest from the larger global market. Enter Moteng International, a cutlery distribution company based out of Southern California. Moteng began ordering knives from Chris in 1985 and distributing them within the United States. This consistent flow of orders and income was the catalyst for Chris to begin to expand his operation.
It wasn’t until the next year in 1986 that Chris was finally able to get an idea of where he was fitting into the global landscape of knifemaking and see how his products measured up against what else was available. He attended the New York Custom Knife Show (NYCKS) where he was able to show his work next to the best in the world. This allowed him the great opportunity to network with other key players in the cutlery industry. Over the next few years demand for Chris Reeve knives only increased. Not only were more US importers ordering his knives but the international export lines were also opening up.
In 1989 Chris Reeve and his wife Anne moved to the United States to continue production of Chris’ knives domestically. They chose Boise, Idaho as their center of operation. According to Chris’ website, “Boise, Idaho was chosen for a number of reasons, the most important of which was that the city is large enough to provide the services required for the business yet small enough to allow newcomers to find their feet.”
The next couple years were big for Chris, since moving to the US he had spent his time making and promoting his knives. He travelled to knife shows and tried to get his name out as much as he could. In 1991 he debuted the production Sebenza knife, which became and has remained the flagship model of Chris Reeve Knives. Just a few years later in 1993, Chris and Anne incorporated their company as their success continued to increase.
In 2000, after the release of the Classic Sebenza, which resembled the original 1991 profile of the knife, Chris exhibited his knives as a production knife company and was allowed to be judged accordingly. That year they took home the Manufacturing Quality Award, and since then have brought that award home to Boise 14 times.
The journey of Chris, and his knives, has been exciting and a case study for unprecedented success within the knife making industry. He started in his garage in South Africa, and has become one of the most influential American knife makers that has ever lived. His products are examples of what quality should be, and what other manufacturers should be striving for.
- Sebenza – CRK’s flagship folding knife model. Introduced in 1989 as the Sebenza H (Handmade), the released as a production model in 1991 as the “P.” In 1993 the Small Sebenza P was released with a 2.94” blade vs the “large” Sebenza blade at 3.62”. This particular knife model has gone through a series of evolutions, the Original, Regular, Classic, 21, and finally the 25 which has been discontinued. The word Sebenza means, “Work,” in Zulu.
- Mnandi – The Mnandi was released in 2001 as a more gentleman’s folder than the larger Sebenzas. Mnandi handles typically have wood inlays, and a 2.75” blade. Mnandi means, “Very Nice,” in Zulu.
- Umnumzaan – The Umnumzaan was Chris’ pitch for some of the tactical folding knife market, a larger folder with a more aggressive grind, utilizing a ceramic ball as both the detent and the lock face. The Umnum has a 3.675” blade, and a textured Ti handle with an overtravel stop on the lockside. Umnumzaan means “The Boss,” in Zulu.
- Ti-Lock – In 2011 CRK partnered up with custom knife makers Grant and Gavin Hawk to make the Ti-Lock utilizing the Hawk’s lock design and CRK’s manufacturing prowess they created a folder unlike anything else out there. The Ti-Lock has a 3.25” blade, and textured/ventilated titanium handles.
- Inkosi – The small Inkosi released in 2015 followed by it’s big brother the large in 2016. These are largely thought of as updated versions of the Sebenza. With ceramic ball lock faces and detents. In a way I think the Inkosi perfected what the Umnumzaan and Sebenza 25 attempted in terms of the lock and detent. These knives have slightly different dimensions and grinds from the traditional Sebenza as well making them totally separate options. The small Inkosi has a 2.8” blade, and the large 3.6”. Inkosi translates to “The Chief,” in Zulu.
- Green Beret – A design collaboration with William Harsey for a tactical fighting fixed blade. These come in two sizes 5.5” and 7”.
- Pacific – The Pacific was another collaboration with Harsey with a more clip point 6” blade. The two Harsey models represent an interest design departure for CRK in that these knives are clearly fighting knife designs honoring military traditions that Harsey’s designs have so greatly influenced.
- Professional Soldier – Another Harsey design with a scale free handle design made slim so that it can always be available when needed. The PS has a 3.375” blade and weighs 3oz, it’s a fixed blade that you could always have with you.
- Nyala – The Nyala is a canvas micarta handled fixed blade with a 3.75” blade. The idea behind this blade was a general use utility blade. Something that could be used as a hunting knife, or a general use utility blade.
During the design of the Sebenza Chris was impressed by Walker liner lock but ultimately wanted to improve on the design. This birthed the frame lock or Reeve Integral Lock. Most knife enthusiasts are familiar with the frame-lock but aren’t familiar with there the idea came from. The locking is achieved by a portion of the frame being cut free from the handle scale, and a relief being milled out towards the butt end of that lock bar allowing a spring memory to be bent into the bar itself. When the blade is opened the lock bar moves inward between the two handle scales and holds the blade open. When you close the knife you use your thumb to press the lock bar out of the path of the blade allowing the knife to close. Reeve preferred this method as it allowed more surface area to act as the locking mechanism against the blade.
The first knives Chris made were all out of D2 steel, eventually Chris switched to A2 tool steel for his early fixed blades. Once he started developing folding knives he switched to using stainless steel. First was ATS-34 which isn’t that different from modern 154CM. He then switched again to BG42 in 1996. BG42 is a high speed martensitic stainless steel manufactured by Latrobe, it was originally used by the aerospace industry but performed well in cutlery as well. The BG42 Sebenza’s are extremely desirable to collectors (this author included) and command a high price as a result. In 2002 Chris Reeve partnered with Crucible Industries’ Dick Barber to develop CPM S30V. This steel was one of the first ever designed to be specifically a cutlery steel. Chris and Crucible again partnered together in 2009 to release an update to S30V, S35VN. The improvements were designed to increase the toughness of the steel and reduce chipping that would occur in a S30V resulting in a more easily maintained edge.
Chris Reeve Knives – Final Thoughts
To conclude, it’s worth saying that Chris Reeve Knives can function largely as a case study for the cutlery industry on what can happen when you strive to make the best product that you can, and don’t settle for less than that. Chris’ knives are generally the standard by which high-end cutlery can be measured. The profess to achieve tolerances that rival the aerospace industry, and use materials that don’t compromise in strength and quality. They achieved something that was remarkable, when the Sebenza debuted the thought of purchasing a $300 pocket knife was largely laughable, but CRK was able to justify that cost by quality firstly, but also by their brand ethos. As a result, a Sebenza now is a recognizable symbol of quality and status in the EDC/gear community.