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Last Updated: September 9, 2019
When I think of Emerson Knives, I think of purpose built tactical knives. Models like the CQC-7, the Commander, and the CQC-15. These stout utility/”tactical” knives epitomize the company. But Emerson has released a few designs over the years that have strayed off the beaten path and caught my eye. The Gypsy Jack always intrigued me, but it may have been too far out there. This could explain why it is now discontinued.
Buy the Emerson Gentleman Jim at BladeHQ
The Gentleman Jim is another model that diverges from the hard nosed Emerson lineup. To try and argue that it is a gentleman’s folder is a stretch considering the near 4″ blade, but this knife has always struck me as a strong departure from the rest of the line. And perhaps the Gentleman Jim is that elusive daily carry Emerson that I have always wanted to have, but have yet to find.
Also, before I get started I need to acknowledge that this knife was provided free of charge by the guys at the now defunct BladeFlick.com. In no way did that impact my review. I don’t care if you end up buying a particular knife. My goal is always to try and help you find the best knife for you. That is why I have reviewed hundreds of knives. If I wanted to sell you a knife I would have gotten a job at Cutco. But I do appreciate BladeFlick providing this Gentleman Jim for review. Thank you.
General Dimensions and Blade Details
The Gentleman Jim has an overall length of 8.55″, a 3.75″ blade, and a weight of 4.6 ounces. This knife is made in the USA. The Gentleman Jim feels a little smaller than its dimensions suggest thanks to the slim profile. Whether it will serve as an every day carry piece for you will depend greatly on your preferences.
Personally, the Gentleman Jim is more of a weekend carry for when I can dress more casually and pocket a bigger knife. Despite it being a smaller Emerson, it’s still quite large. Some might consider this a purpose built self defense tool, for me it rides the line between a utility knife and a collectible. The unique design is what drew me to the knife, not so much any thoughts of it being the ultimate utility blade.
The Gentleman Jim features a slim clip point blade that comes to a fine and pronounced tip. The tip is needle like, and you will need to be careful with it, much like a Kershaw Leek. The partial flat grind meets a shallow swedge about half an inch from the tip.
The grinds have all been perfectly executed. I opted for an uncoated blade and mine has come with belt finished satin grinds and stonewashed flats. I have always loved how Emerson grinds and finishes their blades, and this Gentleman Jim is no different. It’s crisp and perfectly rendered.
Like many modern Emerson knives, the blade is V ground, but the edge bevel is “chisel ground”. This means the edge bevel is only applied to the show side of the knife. All things equal I prefer a V edge because that is consistent with all my other knives and is what I am used to working with, but the Gentleman Jim cuts cleanly and is capable of getting razor sharp.
The Gentleman Jim comes in 154CM stainless steel. This is the exact same steel found on every other knife in the Emerson lineup. I have always enjoyed 154CM, but it makes for a predictable review.
If you are new to the site and this is the first Emerson review of mine that you have read, then let me assure you that 154CM is a good steel. It takes a nice edge and is easy to maintain. It has decent rust resistance, and good edge holding characteristics, although edge retention will be outshined by newer high end steels like S35VN, M390, Elmax, or CTS-XHP to name a few. I invite you to check out the steel section for a deeper dive into blade steel. I like the choice of 154CM here even if it’s predictable.
Handle, Ergonomics, and Pocket Clip
The handle is your standard black peel-ply G10 scales over a titanium locking liner, and a stainless steel non-locking liner. One little update is the use of black steel standoffs instead of a partial G-10 backspacer like the older Emersons.
The fit of this handle is excellent, and the finish is pretty darn good. The liners and blade have the tell-tale machining marks on the back of them like many of the other Emersons I have handled, but beyond that this knife is dialed in. The G-10 has been neatly chamferred, the holes for the hardware are perfectly countersunk, the screws are the correct length so they don’t poke out from the inside of the liners, and the jimping on the thumb ramp of the blade and the back of the handle match up perfectly. This is simple slab construction, but it has been done purposefully. The whole knife seems to be built a little tighter than the earlier Emersons I have owned, and suggests a refinement of their manufacturing process.
While this design might be a slight departure from the typical Emerson lineup, the ergonomics feel exactly like an Emerson knife. That is to say, they feel great. It’s clear to me that the size of the blade was based on the handle. If you tried to shrink this down to a 3.5″ or 3.25″ blade, the knife may not feel as good in the hand. As it stands the shape feels perfect. On top of that you have good jimping on the thumb ramp and where your pinky rests. You also have the signature aggressive G10. This stuff is almost like an emery board, and out of the box the knife almost sticks to your hand. It will soften slightly with use, but this is pant shredding high traction G10. Perfect for those who value a “traction plan” when picking out a pocket knife.
While the ergonomics are great, it comes at the expense of ease of carry. The Gentleman Jim is not overwieght, but at .54″ thick it does not exactly disappear into the pocket. That’s the trade off you have to make for a knife like this. I am fine with this compromise, but caveat emptor if you are a fan of thin knives.
The pocket clip is the same black parkerized clip found on every other Emerson, and it is similar to Benchmade‘s standard clip. I have always liked this simple clip design, and here the clip has been situated high on the handle, so only a small part of the pommel is exposed. That said, this isn’t a deep carry clip and it’s only drilled and tapped for right side tip up carry.
It won’t be for everyone, but this simple and practical clip does a good job keeping the knife in your pocket.
Deployment and Lockup
The Gentleman Jim utilizes a thumb disk or the wave feature to open up the knife. I reach for the thumb disk most times, and I can flick the blade open with my thumb if I use a lot of force, but I find the pivot to be gritty thanks to the Nylatron washers. Try as I might I still haven’t come around to Nylatron washers, and think that phosphor bronze are much better for their increased durability and smoothness. The wave works great. Just like any other Emerson.
For lockup we have a titanium liner lock. My lock engages fully and securely and there is no side to side or up and down blade play. The lock sticks quite a bit though, and makes an audible “pop” upon disengagement whether I uses the thumb disk or the wave. The lock is sticky because the titanium liner lock is softer than the hardened steel it interfaces with.
I’m sure Emerson has their reason for using a titanium linerlock and Nylatron washers, but these are 2 eccentricities that I still haven’t been able to accept.
Some might argue my points on the washers and liner lock, and my response lies in my trusty Sage 1. This is a perfectly executed stainless steel liner lock with phosphor bronze washers. I’ve owned, carried, and used this Sage 1 for the better part of 5 years. The action is still smooth as glass and the lockup is excellent with zero blade stick. It’s a superior liner lock and it has superior action, and I think 90% of that simply has to do with the choice of materials.
I have handled other titanium liner locks, and I have experienced the same problems with lock stick. I have handled other nylon washer knives and have never cared for them as much as phosphor bronze. So for these reasons I feel justified in my criticism of the titanium liner lock and Nylatron washers.
Blade centering is perfect on my knife.
Emerson Gentleman Jim Review – Final Thoughts
Emersons are something of an acquired taste. They are peculiar and polarizing, but I always enjoy the designs. In fact, the designs are what compel me to review what is essentially the exact knife every year or so. The build quality has improved over the years, but at the end of the day my very first review of the CQC-7, will read similarly to the review of this Gentleman Jim. I hope the writing is at least a little better.
In some ways the quirky consistency of an Emerson is a good thing. I like variety, and I like character. Emerson knives offer plenty of both. But there are some aspects of the knife that are just a turn off. Specifically the washers and lock. The titanium liner lock takes the cake for me. I have a hard time looking past that when a steel liner lock is so much better. A sticky lock is one thing that tends to sour a knife for me, and I’m having a hard time looking past it on this Gentleman Jim.
Still I think the Gentleman Jim is worth exploring. It’s a nice little design. While I can’t call this a true EDC, this is about the closest I have come to a legitimate EDC from Emerson. Much like the Roadhouse, the Gentleman Jim has a lot of character and it feels great in the hand. I am guessing that the knife makes sense from the martial arts / tactical knife intended use, but I confess that I have no experience with the Gentleman Jim in that regard.
The Gentleman Jim will not be for everyone, but if you know what you are getting into then I think that this model has its perks. The combination of the distinct blade and comfortable handle hit the spot. I’m glad the company has made some refinements over the years. I hope they continue to evolve their knives and one day offer something without nylatron washers and a titanium liner lock.
I recommend purchasing the Emerson Gentleman Jim at Amazon, or BladeHQ. Thanks for reading.
In an alternate universe I would maintain a collection consisting only of Emerson knives. There is something about them that I love that I can’t quite put my finger on.
That being said, they are also probably the most frustrating knives I have ever owned from a usability standpoint mostly due to their grinds and bulk and I have a tough time giving them a general recommendation.
Love the reviews as always Dan!
I think we are on the same page here. I always love the idea of owning and using an Emerson, and there are parts of these knives that I love, but in practice there is just something about them that is mildly grating.
I like them for what they are, but my regular stable of EDC knives (classics like the Sage 1, Mini Grip, Dragonfly 2, Mnandi, Fantoni Dweller, etc.) won’t be leaving my pocket any time soon.
Your review of the Gentleman Jim is spot on.
The knife has been around for years. It definitely is not petit. You quite correct in pointing out that the Emerson knife grips have always been top rate.
I concede that Emerson blades are or can be a bit difficult to sharpen. Conversely, you won’t have to be sharpening them as frequently as other EDC knives.
If a person were able to find an early Emerson like the CQC6 from when he did design work for Benchmade or the first CQC7s he made on his own, one would have near perfection in a solid EDC knife.
Thanks, BDC. I occasionally see CQC6’s for sale on the forums. They usually aren’t that expensive (under $200). I should pick one up to own a piece of knife history. They are cool, and you are right in that they don’t seem to share many of the quirks of the knives manufactured by him.
You did a good job keeping the review interesting despite the overlap (naturally) with the other Emersons reviewed here.
I think this broad feature set — a relatively slim, modern folder with a 3.75″ to 4″ blade — is becoming more popular. (I hope you and your readers won’t mind if I riff briefly.)
The market tells us that there’s definitely an upward creep of median EDC blade lengths among US knife enthusiasts. As I commented once before, 3.25″ is now the new 2.75″.
Now this is partly marketing driven: a $100+ knife is easier to sell when the maker can advertise a >3″ blade length in the specs, I guess because it avoids the “small knife” scarcity feeling. (Recent opening-up of knife laws in many parts of the US has helped enable this shift. Some of the 3″ and 3.5″ city/state blade limits are now in the dustbin where they belong.)
Well, if 3.25″ is the new medium, then it makes sense 3.75″ – 4″ is becoming the new large. Both are useful blade sizes, especially if you like to picnic. If someone wants to primary a Dragonfly it’s no skin off my nose; however, many seem to be realizing that they’d prefer to EDC at least the equivalent of a kitchen paring knife (3.25″), or a typical dinner/steak knife (4″-ish). View it that way and it’s hardly a shock.
By the same token, though, the paring and steak knives most of us have at home are thinner and lighter than a typical “tactical” folder of similar blade length; even the Gentleman Jim here would seem pretty portly compared to a 3.75″ kitchen knife.
Enter the “big-blade slim EDC category.” I am spending a lot of time carrying the Al Mar Eagle Ultralight and the Cold Steel Broken Skull, which both have blades around the 4″ mark , are very slim in the pocket, and weigh around three ounces. Both are wonderful tools! I have also been playing with the mega-pointy Spyderco Pattada, a slightly weird Italian entry in the same vein that comes in at 4 oz.
Dan, when you carry the Emerson, do you use the waved deployment when taking out the knife for utility tasks?
Cheers and happy holidays to all!
Grayson Parker says
I’d actually argue the opposite: 3.25 is the new medium, not the new small. I don’t know where you’re getting information that suggests the market is trending large, unless you’re giving more weight to companies that already focus on big knives. That said, if you have said data I’ll gladly eat crow.
On a related note: I do agree that long, chunky blades are on the decline. The Pattada (like most traditional European knives) is pretty long, and really just a folding steak knife at heart. Given the right design, these long blades can be more people friendly than a small, aggressive blade. Plus, ya know, context.
I hope you’re right, in that long blades become slimmer and more practical. I also hope these knives are made by a company that doesn’t have the baggage CS does.
Always nice to see you comment,
I am glad you found the review entertaining. That’s excellent. I am a little out of touch with the market, so I can’t really comment on whether consumers are gravitating towards bigger or smaller knives. I do like a good 3.5″ folder. I like this Gentleman Jim as well, but it’s what I would consider a bigger knife. I’m not opposed to carrying a bigger knife, but I’d like for it to be slim. That seems to be what you are gravitating towards as well.
The Broken Skull is an interesting knife. I think I’ll pick one up.
I typically don’t use the wave – I’m not a huge fan of them in general.