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Ever been accused of going about something bass-ackwards? Behold the Civivi Mckenna: one of the new breed of “front flippers” that has quietly been developing a following of… well, I wouldn’t say devotees, but definitely a contingent of pleasantly bemused knife flippers who will always give a quirky design a day in court.
Buy the Civivi Mckenna at BladeHQ
Buy on Amazon
If you’re not familiar with Civivi, it’s a brand extension of the We Knife Company, a Chinese firm founded back in 2000 with a mission of competing on the same quality level with American knife stalwarts like Spyderco and Benchmade (instead of, say, the kind of knives you’d find at a gas station). Civivi specializes in striking a balance of fit, finish, and respectable materials with the intent of higher-volume production.
Note that most people describe Civivi as the “budget” wing of We Knife. I think that’s stretching it a bit, as a shipped price of about seventy bucks here isn’t really “budget” in my book. It’s also questionable to use that term given that this wouldn’t really be anyone’s choice for a rough-and-tumble, tackle the weekend chore list, bet your life on it if you had to kind of knife. The Mckenna is an indulgence through and through, but that’s hardly a bad thing.
General Dimensions and Blade Details
The Mckenna is an Elijah Isham design. If you’re not familiar with his work, it exists in a continuum ranging from angular to extremely angular. Isham’s Arrakis design for We Knife looks essentially like the kind of knife you’d find in the medical wing of a UFO. His Eschaton (also for We Knife) looks like a bunch of scalpel blades fused together to make a larger knife. I think they’re neat, but they’re not for everyone.
You can find that design lineage here on the Mckenna if you go looking for it, but thankfully Isham has dialed it back. The Mckenna has an intriguing combination of curves and geometric lines, and when deployed the knife has an subtle, angular “S” shape that’s somewhat reminiscent of a lightning bolt.
First and foremost: the Mckenna is not a large knife by any stretch of the imagination. At just under 3 and 7/8” closed and about four tenths of an inch wide, the knife edges pretty close to “pack of gum” sizing. This will absolutely disappear in a pocket and you’ll be hard-pressed to notice the length, but size-wise it may feel more toy than tool.
The near 3” knife blade can best be described somewhere between a wharncliffe, sheepsfoot, and a reverse tanto. Functionally, I think it’s more wharncliffe than anything, with the spine of the blade breaking at a sharper arc in the last inch or so to meet the tip of a mostly straight blade. There is just a very, very small amount of upswell from the sharpening choil to the end of the blade. Put all of these qualities together, and you get a little more tip strength than you might with a typical wharncliffe, but tends to be a better poker than a traditional sheepsfoot.
Like a lot of Civivi knives over the $50 price point, the blade steel is D2. This is a nice upgrade over the typical 8Cr13MoV / AUS 8 normally used within this quality tier thanks to better edge retention, but it does come with the drawbacks of being harder to sharpen and having a little more tendency to rust. Those in wetter and more humid climates might want to keep a bottle of gun or knife oil handy and reapply it every now and again.
As it came from the factory, the blade sharpness was only middling. However, about ten minutes on a Work Sharp Angle Set sharpener and the knife had a razor edge that was surprisingly resilient. The spine of the blade is only about a tenth of an inch wide, which means that the Mckenna is a great slicer. With a pinch grip allowing the index finger to sit halfway up the spine of the blade, the knife allows for extremely precise cuts and excels at scoring. Anyone looking for a classier replacement for an X-acto knife would be well served with this knife.
Handle, Ergonomics, and Pocket Clip
The Mckenna features G10 construction with stainless steel liners. This surprised me; from handling alone I would have sworn it was nylon. This is all to say that the G10 on the Mckenna is not going to be as grippy as you’re probably used to, but it’s well-textured and not slippery by any means. There’s about a quarter inch of jimping on the top and rear of the flipper that allows for a good purchase, and the liner lock is nicely scalloped and only slightly proud of the scales. No complaints here. This isn’t a knife you’re going to need to bear down on.
The pocket clip is fine, if underwhelming. The Mckenna has a provision for left or right tip-up carry, but no holes are drilled near the pivot of the knife. That makes tip-down carry is a no-go if that’s your preference. The clip is not deep carry, but there’s only about a half-inch triangle of handle that protrudes from the pocket.
Frankly, I ditched my clip. The detent is strong enough to give me confidence that the blade will stay closed in a pocket, and the small dimensions ensure that I’m not going to be constantly preoccupied about how this sits loose. Additionally, the action of the knife seems to work best pressed flat between the meat of the thumb and tips of the fingers. For that reason, nixing the pocket clip gives me a substantial real estate upgrade when it comes to getting a comfortable purchase.
Onward to what I’d say is the clearest flaw of the knife (or at least in my hands and given the usage I subject it to): the hot spots. The top rear corners of the Mckenna meet at a near 90-degree angle and aren’t particularly rounded. Given the small dimensions of the knife, almost invariably those corners are going to rub against the tenderest part of the palm along the center-line of the hand during use. Note that this isn’t a dealbreaker by any means, but given the knife’s positioning as being a fidget-friendly knife par excellence, these corners become all the more conspicuous.
Deployment and Lockup
If the ergos and size were a bit of a downside, we’re getting to the “good news” part of the review. As expected, the Mckenna is a whole lot of goofy, stupid fun to play with.
If you’ve never used a front flipper, you basically want to cradle the thing in your hand like a bic lighter, only imagine that you’re flicking the exposed nub backwards as opposed to downwards. With a quick snap of the thumb, you should be able to get your digit out of the path of the blade’s spine, and momentum will carry the blade into full lockup. It is weird, but gratifying.
Hard-nosed, serious business types will ask, “Is there any benefit to this over a tried-and-true flipper tab, or a good thumb stud?” The answer to this is an unqualified “no.” Front flippers, in my opinion, are attempting to reinvent the wheel. In direct comparison to deployment methods that are now the industry standard, I don’t envision any serious context where they become a superior choice.
But is it fun? Oh, you betcha. There’s certainly a learning curve to the front flipping function, and even though I think I’ve gotten the hang of it there’s still a 5% chance I screw something up. However, the knife is just as easily deployed using what I’d call a “three point turn” approach, where you use the thumb to present the blade 90 degrees to the handle, then push down on the jimping on the flipper with the index finger to reach full lock-up. This is also a good deployment method if you’re not looking to spook your co-workers.
The pivot is running on stainless bearings and everything clicks open and shut with quiet authority. Build quality is excellent here: the blade is nicely centered, there’s no squeaking or rattling, and the liner finds the center of the blade with the measliest amount of pressure. There are no hitches in the action, and the blade moves smoothly and evenly. It is extremely, extremely satisfying to work.
Civivi Mckenna Review – Final Thoughts
As a knife, the Civivi Mckenna is a lot like a good bottle of scotch: hardly essential, pricey enough that it’s outside the realm of an impulse purchase, but a great way to treat yourself if you’re feeling a little indulgent.
Again, I don’t think front flippers are going to become a new paradigm in the world of knives anytime soon. Pair that action with the small size, and the Mckenna feels even more like a novelty. But in the same breath: let’s be honest with ourselves: 95% of people could buy a Benchmade Griptilian or Spyderco Paramilitary 2 and not need to own another knife for the rest of their lives. Considering you’re spending your free time reading a review on a knife website, that probably doesn’t describe you.
- ✅【Designed by Elijah Isham and Precision Engineered by We Knife】Folding knife with unique shape features a razor sharp well-built centered D2 2.92” blade,smooth action and nice edge retention pocket knife
- ✅【Slim Build and Solid G-10Handle】Knife with G10 scales make this folding hunting knife comfortable enough that brings you a nice camping and outdoor knife used experience
- ✅【Lightweight Carry Knife】Weight 1.76oz with ease carry in your pocket,ideal knife for men and women,a pocket clip for easy and safe carry
- ✅【Always Ready Utility Knife】Ball bearing pivot offers quick blade deployment, knife art to your collection or as a gift to husband,dad or friends
- ✅【Civivi Care】Civivi is a subset brand of We Knife Co.,Ltd,limited lifetime warranty covers any defects in materials or workmanship, see official site for details
Editor: I recommend purchasing the Civivi Mckenna at BladeHQ or Amazon. Thank you for reading.
Also, please join me in welcoming Clayton Walker to the website. Clayton some good stuff in the pipeline so stay tuned for more from him.
Excellent review of a weird and interesting knife. Looking forward to more articles from Clayton.
Dan Jackson says
Thank you, Ben!
Nice review! The McKenna is my favorite knife. I like small knives and this one really appeals to me. My favorite variant is the model with brass scales and 154CM blade steel. The additional weight and rigidity feels great in hand. It is a light duty knife but one that never leaves my pocket .