A few months back, and I fully admit I’m late to this party, I stumbled across a Youtube interview with self-defense expert, knife designer, and all around “guy who knows his stuff” Michael Janich. I became familiar with Janich years ago because he’d produced quite a bit of content for some of the shooting sports / self-defense print publications I also write for, so as soon as the name crept into my “suggested for you” feed, my eyes widened a bit.
Janich helped provide an answer to a question that had lingering in the back of my mind for some time: what’s the deal with Wharncliffes, and what functional advantage do they offer over something like a tanto or drop point? (They look weird, I often thought to myself.)
To summarize Janich’s thoughts: the blade style makes for an unexpectedly aggressive cutter. In a test of several different types of blades, Janich found that none penetrated as deep or as effortlessly with slashing motions as did the wharncliffe. Theoretically, a knife of this type would have a distinctive advantage in terms of being able to cleave deeply through the muscle groups of a violent aggressor and disable further attacks. As a collaborator-turned-employee of Spyderco, Janich’s insights ultimately culminated in the company’s Ronin and Yojimbo designs, which receive uniformly high praise and I have no doubt are well-equipped to handle the self-defense roles he imagined.
Now, rare is the Blade Reviews reader who isn’t also a Spyderco fan. For that reason, no one would be blamed for listening to Janich and promptly buying one of his designs, as many of his students tend to do after taking one of his self-defense classes. That said, and as good as Spyderco is, I doubted it held a monopoly on the concept of the wharncliffe as a tactical tool. Thus began the hunt for a similar breed of knife suited to a defensive role, but at a more affordable price point.
My search concluded quickly. Within a few days of watching Janich’s video, I discovered the CJRB Talla. While not an absolutely textbook example of a fighting wharncliffe, I think it hews close enough to what he had in mind and I’d also heartily recommend it to anyone just plain looking for “a good knife” large EDC.
General Dimensions and Blade Details
The CJRB Talla is a large knife. Not gargantuan, “Cold Steel” levels of absolute ridiculousness, mind you: it’s just a regular kind of big. With a closed length of nearly 4 and 3/4”, a width of about a half inch (not including the clip), and a weight of 4.43 oz, you’ll feel it in the pocket. But, as some experts say of handguns carried for self defense, “It’s supposed to be comforting, not comfortable.”
The blade itself is an imposing, flat-ground wharncliffe with an overall length of three and a half inches. The spine of the knife narrows into the tip through a series of angles and swedges that are likely more for visual interest than functionality. While not a 100% true Wharncliffe due to just a slight amount of belly, the subtle curve of the knife puts the tip only about ten or fifteen degrees away from where it’d be located if the edge was perfectly linear.
Delivering good value right out of the gate, the CJRB Talla’s blade is D2 steel. While D2 is known to be a little bit of a bear to sharpen in comparison to the other budget steels (to wit: 440, 8Cr13MoV, or AUS-8), the relatively straight blade of the Talla should make restoring a good edge an easier proposition if you’re using the blade enough to dull it.
The drawback of the Wharncliffe is that it has a fairly delicate tip in comparison to other blade types. This is not an ideal blade for chopping wood or penetrating through 55 gallon drums, and it is especially not for prying. Supposing, however, that you snapped off the last half inch of tip, it’s not like the rest of this knife would suddenly burst into flames— you’d still have a good 3” of usable blade left.
That tip, however, allows for remarkably precise work on softer material. Put the tip at whatever you’d like cut, flick your wrist, and thy will be done. The knife is a little on the big side for ultra delicate operations, but in general it’s pretty darn good at getting into tight, small work spaces and that last eighth of an inch of blade can do some impressive things.
Handle, Ergonomics, and Pocket Clip
If there’s a grippier knife, I don’t know of it. The Talla features G10 handles that are scored with a series of parallel striations. These grooves aren’t necessarily sharp, per se, but they really do lock into the skin. With a secure grip, this knife isn’t going anywhere. Additionally, the handles are subtly contoured into an oval-like grip shape, so it sits a little less flat in the hand than most EDC knives.
Additionally, in the deployed position, the flipper forms a very prominent and reassuring finger guard to make sure that there’s no way your hand is ever going to get out in front of the blade. I’ve read that some users initially thought the tab was sharp around the edges, but mine seems adequately rounded. This might be something CJRB addressed in successive iterations and small design fixes.
The Talla comes with a deep-carry pocket clip that only exposes about a sixteenth of an inch of handle. It’s not absolutely flush with the end of the bottom of the knife, but it’s very close. The clip is ambidextrous and only oriented for tip up carry, so those who prefer a tip down style might want to look elsewhere.
Personally, I quite like this clip: it doesn’t provide too much tension (the G10 will provide additional purchase anyway), and doesn’t result in any significant hot spots during use or hard gripping. I tend to instantly excise most pocket clips that provide any ergonomic headache, so the fact that I’ve left mine on is as high of praise as I can provide.
Deployment and Lockup
The CJRB Talla is a non-assisted mechanical flipper that runs on ceramic ball bearings. To me, this passes all of the hallmarks of the “good flipper” test. With a perfectly straight wrist, a normal amount of pressure on the generous flipper tab will cause the blade to kick out and into lockup every time. Additionally, the Talla doesn’t rely on a monstrously, stupid-heavy detent. This may be because the larger blade has a better ability to build up momentum as the flipper is depressed.
The Talla uses a full-profile stainless steel liner for lockup. On a knife of this size, those non-skeletonized liners are probably a contributor to the relatively hefty weight of 4.43 ounces. They are decently beefy, and the entire front edge of the liner nestles into the middle of the blade for a good sixteenth of an inch of contact surface. I couldn’t detect any issues with either blade centering or lateral play.
On the whole, the knife is extremely solid on lockup and idiot-proof to deploy from any position. There are no thumb studs or nail nicks, but admittedly the blade has so much exposed real estate that you can always pinch it and pull it out into deployment if you didn’t want to use the flipper for whatever reason.
CJRB Talla Review – Final thoughts
I’ll admit that I have absolutely no idea if CJRB envisioned the Talla as having a primary application of personal defense. Maybe they did, or maybe they would wince at the suggestion; I really don’t know. What I do know is that considering the qualities I’d want in a carry knife, the Talla has a lot going for it. I’d absolutely trust it if I needed to cut my way out of a problem. In fact, it seems too well-suited to this purpose for me to consider it to have arisen purely by accident.
Note that I don’t mean to be too sanguine or nonchalant about this self-defense business. To paraphrase Masaad Ayoob, expert witness and author of numerous books about lethal force, “Every bullet fired has a lawyer behind it.” The decision to wield any weapon in defense of one’s life or the lives of others is not one to be taken lightly. If rushed or ill-considered, your actions could put you squarely in a jail cell—or worse. All of us who carry a knife should hope to god we never have to draw it in desperation.
With that disclaimer, those specifically looking for a defensive tool should give this a look. The knife offers an imposing blade that is more than up to aggressive slicing, and the D2 steel is hardy and takes a great edge. Naturally, the Talla is just as much capable of opening letters, breaking down boxes, and scoring surfaces. However, if you flick this thing out in the middle of the office, that large, aggressive blade might raise a few eyebrows.
At the end of the day, this is remarkable value for a street price of forty bucks, regardless of whatever you plan to use it for. CJRB (as well as its parent company, Artisan Cutlery) hadn’t been on my radar before, but suffice it to say that they certainly are now.
- Equipped with a flipper opening mechanism to allow you to open the knife with either hand
- The straight edge drop point blade is crafted with durable D2 steel; blade measures 3.5 inches long
- Overall knife length is 8.27 inches; liner lock keeps the blade firmly in place while in use
- Handle material consists of lightly textured G10 to improve grip and prevent slipping
- A steel clip is attached to the handle so you can carry the knife conveniently in your pocket