Five Reasons A Chris Reeve Sebenza is NOT Worth the Money

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My large Chris Reeve Sebenza 21 with a snakewood inlays and a Ladder Damascus blade.

I bought a Chris Reeve Sebenza last year.  Yay!  And I was going to review it.  But then I thought, with so many quality reviews already out there, why post another one that says what so many already have? Basically, the knife is exquisite but expensive.

What follows from these reviews is another discussion altogether, which is a question of “worth.”  Is a Sebenza worth the proverbial arm and leg you have to give up to get one?  It’s on this frontier that I decided to not only wade into the fray but to make a clear argument that becoming a CRK owner is NOT worth the price of admission, objectively speaking.

Let me be clear, I’m not telling you not to buy one or that it’s not a super high-quality knife or that the CRK community isn’t filled with awesome people (it is, BTW), I’m simply arguing that in terms of practical value, i.e function weighed against cost, the Sebenza is overpriced.  It’s not worth $400-plus.

I know I’m going to piss off CRK fanboys who collect CRK knives.  What I’d like to say to them is relax, this is just one man’s opinion.  You are free to disagree.  In fact, I encourage you to do so in the comment section.  Tell me why I’m wrong.

Anyways, here are five points to consider:

1. Materials

A plain Jane, large Sebenza 21 starts at $410.  That includes a stonewashed S35VN blade and two pieces of dull titanium (6A14V).  Don’t get me wrong, Crucible CPM S35VN is great stuff.  But it’s not so much better than other steels that are out there where it warrants a $410 price tag.

When one spends almost half a grand on a knife, I think at least cosmetically speaking, one expects a little more flair and ornamentation.  Maybe some unicorn handles and Adamantium steel?

One would hope that this would be the look of the knife you’d get for $410. But it’s not. My Sebenza cost “a bit” more than $410.  

The fact is that there are other knives on the market that offer a similar quality in terms of materials and are considerably cheaper.

Now, fanboys would argue that the money is not in the materials per se, but the way in which they are constructed and machined and hand-fitted.  There is no doubt that a lot of time, care and attention goes into putting CRK knives together — perhaps more so than any other production knife — yet it’s not clear that all that extra TLC makes a real difference when it comes to performance or function.

2. Function

The large Sebenza is actually quite large, with an overall length of 8.335″ and a blade length of 3.625″

As I just mentioned, there are a bunch of you reading this who are dying to say, $400 for a folder is freaking insane!  My $50 folder will do everything an overpriced Sebenza will do!

To that bunch I will say, yes, you are probably right.  And I know of no demonstration or scientific evaluation pitting a CRK knife against a bunch of sub $100 knives saying otherwise.

And this is where the car analogy comes into play.  A Honda Civic will take you anywhere you need to go.  It won’t take you there in style like a 6 Series Beamer, but it’ll get you from point A to point B successfully.  It will serve its primary purpose time and time again.

Same is true for the budget blade.  It will serve its primary purpose.  It will cut. Depending on the edge and the blade geometry, it will cut just as well as a Sebenza. It may require more periodic sharpening than the Sebenza but the budget blade will cut if it is well maintained.

3. Design

Only one thumb stud! C’mon man! Where’s the other!

Many argue that the design of the Sebenza is flawless. They’ll also point out that the tolerances are second to none.  But I can nitpick.

Let me start with the obvious, why is there only one thumb stud on the standard Sebenza?  Shouldn’t there be two?  Yes, a minor complaint, but when we’re talking about a premium price every detail should be accounted for, right?

CRK actually addressed this in their latest model, the Inkosi, which contains a number of upgrades over the Sebenza including another thumb stud, larger washers, a thicker blade, an angled pocket clip, and a new ceramic ball end locking system heat treated to 97 RC.

So, in a way, the Sebenza is an outdated model.  It’s been unseated by its own younger brother the Inkosi.

4. Locking System

The frame lock, pioneered by Chris Reeve is not tougher than a traditional lock back design.

The Sebenza’s proprietary integral lock (or frame lock) was a groundbreaking achievement when it came onto the scene several decades ago.

But in terms of strength and toughness, it’s not as durable as a lock back mechanism.  Testing, empirical and otherwise, suggests that the average lock back system is stronger than the average frame lock.    

Yes, a frame lock has an advantage over a lock back in that it is more suited for one-handed manipulation, but it’s not as strong as the lock back.  If you plan to put your folder through some real hard use, you’re better off with a lock back design.

One that comes to mind is the Steel Will Gekko 1505 that I reviewed.  That was one tough folding knife that featured a very impressive frame lock.  It’s also half the price of a Sebenza.

5. Warranty   

Warranty doesn’t cover wrist-flicking! So don’t do it!

Chris Reeve’s warranty is good, but not great.  One of the biggest concerns for the casual CRK observer is the whole “flicking the knife open” controversy.

As I understand it, Chris Reeve does not warrant against users who wrist-flick the knife open.  You can thumb flick, but not wrist flick as wrist flicking exerts too much force on the pivot joint of the knife.  Over time, this impairs the integrity of the lock up.  If you send in your knife and Chris sees that it’s been opened excessively or with too much force, the repair is on your dime.

As Chris Reeve writes in a post in Bladeforums, “I have no wish to cast aspersions as to any one person’s obsessive behavior that keeps them opening and closing a knife compulsively to the detriment of the knife.”

I don’t have a problem with Chris’ position.  I think it’s very sensible.  But I know that there are compulsive flickers out there who will scoff at this policy.

Conclusion

My landyard is starting to show some wear after about a year or so of pocket carry.

Now here is where I flip the script.  As much as I know a Sebenza is not “worth it,” as much as I can’t really justify the purchase in any utilitarian way, I’m damn glad I bought one and I happily carry my Sebenza daily.  It is my EDC knife.    

That’s right.  I know I overpaid.  I know it’s too much to spend on a knife.  But I love it.

I’ve heard fanboys compare their CRK collection to their wives’ shoe collection.  I think that’s a very insightful way of looking at it.  Jimmy Choos are no different than a Sebenza.  They’re both overpriced. They’re not technically “worth it.”  But, if they bring us a little more joy and happiness then who really cares, right?

If you’re interested in purchasing either a CRK Inkosi or a Sebenza, check out KnifeArt.com.  Now, for the fun part, if you want to yell at me or call me a dumbass for spending hundreds of dollars on a folding knife please have at it in the comment section below 🙂

{ 43 comments… add one }
  • Martin B May 15, 2017, 5:29 pm

    I am pretty much a newcomer to the world of knives, not having been a hunter when younger, at least of deer… These days I do my hunting online, the net result being a large quantity of cartons getting in the way. I did buy a Spyderco a few years ago, but the asshole who sold it to me handed me a serrated blade. I didn’t know any better. And my brother gave me an emergency knife with a part straight, part serrated blade. Neither of these two could cut worth a shit. I ended up trading my Winchester 70 rifle for a Ruger 10/22 and a KaBar Taiwanese knife, which shouldered the burden of ridding me of all those cartons manfully, and is still razor sharp. I then found out about Sanrenmu blades from China, and how they actually make the lower line Spydercos, CRKTs, Ganzos etc, so they know all about steel. I ended up buying five of them in various sizes, due to the low prices. They haven’t arrived yet, but when they do I am sure they will handle all of my knife duties for the rest of my life. I have seen the YouTube videos and read the reviews, and I am sure I will be happy with them. If I could afford a Honda Civic, I am sure I would also be happy with that. A disability pension does not make for fancy choices.

  • Jon Williams April 18, 2017, 1:22 pm

    An item is worth what it’s worth to the buyer. That being said, I just can’t afford those expensive knifes. My EDC folder is a Spyderco Endure and my main EDC is a military issue K-Bar my Dad gave me that was used in Korea. A little blade steel worn off but it’s still very sharp.

  • Dave April 18, 2017, 11:44 am

    Obviously “Worth” is subjective, which is the whole point of this article. Anyone who says it is not worth it is uneducated and missing the point. Go and watch some of the numerous videos on how these knives are made. If you actually have an open mind it will change your opinion. These knives are worth every penny. By the way the one in the photos retails for between 600 and 700, and yes it is also worth every penny. This is about one mans pursuit of perfection and making the best knife he possibly can. People don’t think about what it costs to run a business like this, or fill a room with machines that cost millions of dollars. Once you become a knife collector and enthusiast you will realize $400 is the absolute minimum you can spend on a decent knife. Most semi custom knives like this sell for between $400 and $2000. Most custom knives sell for between $700 and $6000 and much more. Go to a decent knife website and do a search and list them by price starting with the highest and you will begin to understand. Chris Reeve makes an incredible product. He wouldn’t be cranking these out all day everyday if they weren’t considered worth it by most people who begin to educate themselves about nice knives. Whether or not it can cut something better than a 100 knife is not the point. It is about the pride of owning something extremely nice and knowing that you have something that many people put their passion into hand making, and that can last a lifetime. Can my $100 Invicta tell time as well as a $10,000 Rolex. Yep. Not the point. My friend has a $120,000 car. I will get where i’m going too, just not as fast. My other friend has a pair of $20,000 speakers with $4,000 speaker cables. Worth it to him? Yep. I have family that builds 6 million dollar yachts. There is a waiting list. My girlfriend is a hairdresser. I didn’t even know there were scissors that cost over $1500 until we met. Worth it to her? All day. Would I ever insult them by calling them stupid for spending their money on what they are passionate about? No, because I am not a stupid internet troll…

    • Jason Porter April 27, 2017, 10:42 pm

      To be fair, he didn’t call anyone stupid for buying a CRK.

  • Greg Webb April 16, 2017, 5:36 pm

    I’ve collected and used a lot of knives over the last 50 years and my favorite so far is a Spyderco Military that did pretty much everything I needed it to do. I quit carrying it because it has gotten expensive and I don’t want to lose it. I’ve lost (misplaced?) two other knives so I think I’ll go back to my Buck folder I bought in 1971.
    There are so many good folders for under $60 that work great. If you carry and really use a knife you are going to lose it eventually and minus $400 + hurts a lot more than minus $40 to $60.

  • Edward Sjolin April 16, 2017, 9:36 am

    IMHO anyone who pays $400+ for one of these needs to use it on their wrists. There several superior blades on the market and, perhaps, there is a wait for delivery, at least they are not mass produced.

  • MtnGuy April 16, 2017, 3:40 am

    Quality of articles keep going down, what a worthless read.

    • Todd April 17, 2017, 12:10 pm

      Have to agree, generally, on both counts.

      Todd.

  • Skip Allcorn April 15, 2017, 10:49 pm

    My wife found a Marine Corps issue Kabar with sheaf at a garage sale 27 yrs ago for eight bucks. It is still carving up my deer, and doing yeoman duty daily. I do have a few other knifes including a custom built one that I bought before the Kabar, yet the blade isn’t as useful as the Kabar. Yeah I know what your thinking is and I do have an old shovelhead in the garage that I bought new in 1984 and is running fine. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. P.S. I still have the OLE’ Lady also, she’s a real keeper.

  • Mike The Knife April 15, 2017, 5:35 pm

    The knife is really sweet. It has a beautiful tight construction. and a swell ladder pattern.
    But I’d be afraid to take it out of the house and lose it.
    I’d also be afraid to put it through some of the rigorous use that I put my every day carry knife through.
    $ 400 is way too steep for me ,but would be perfect for someone who has that much money just burning a hole through his pocket.
    If I had the extra $400 to spend , I’d most likely spend it on a new Sig Pistol that I’ve been slobbering over, not a beautiful knife like this one!

  • loupgarous April 15, 2017, 4:28 pm

    I wouldn’t call you names. You summed it up nicely in the second-to-last paragraph: “Jimmy Choos are no different than a Sebenza. They’re both overpriced. They’re not technically “worth it.” But, if they bring us a little more joy and happiness then who really cares, right?”
    Spend your money on what you need and want. And thanks for an objective, “warts and all” review of a knife you clearly like. Based on the review, in the unlikely case I have $400 to drop on non-necessities, this knife won’t be on my shopping list. A nice used XD40, most likely.

  • fritz bousigschouer April 15, 2017, 2:28 pm

    its sure overpriced, like most brand name items, i would not buy that. a friend has one, used it a lot and needed a new blade and chris reeve offered one for a high price. he then made his own new blade since he is knifemaker.

    look at the deals from ganzo knives. compare that with the c reeve “deals” for edc carry and actually using. ganzo wins hand down, 440C blade, axis or linerlock, bladestuds on both sides and most models are under 20 dollar shipped!

  • Bob April 15, 2017, 12:20 am

    Knives are like women….logic and cost have nothing to do with it…maybe more so than guns, as they get more use daily. You can justify anything in the moment….the smile you get when you pull a nice handmade blade from its sheath…the attraction of younger women, older cars…hard to explain (well, not the women part…) but I say go with the flow and judge not….

    • loupgarous April 15, 2017, 4:28 pm

      Which reminds me some fatherly advice P.J. O’Rourke once shared: “If it flies, fucks or floats – rent it!”

  • Dave Emery April 14, 2017, 7:54 pm

    I once saw a guy kind of sharpen a long rectangular piece of metal and then cut a 55 gallon drum almost in half with it. That being said, my daily carry is a Benchmade Infidel. It too is over priced. And soooooo cool with it’s loud klack when it deploys. I used a Leatherman multi tool and an Al Mar SERE folder when I was in the Ranger Battalion. Buy the best knife you can reasonably afford for the task required and remember it doesn’t have to be expensive to be good. It all depends on your perspective and values: I’d rather be skilled with a bad knife than be unskilled with a good one. That and know how to sharpen it!

  • Todd April 14, 2017, 6:06 pm

    Well, I guess that makes the writer a bit of a fool for buying it then. By now, EVERY aspect of the CRS is known and to be surprised by any of it smacks of, well, let’s say – disingenuousness.

    I’ve had mine going on 20 years now and it has never failed me. I don’t need to wrist snap it and wouldn’t if it were allowed.
    The non-starter of a warranty on other, cheaper, knives is moot. If it fails to warranty level replacement – I’m likely in a position to NEED the knife NOW. Though the Reeves warranty and customer service are outstanding, I’d rather have an un-warranted knife that doesn’t fail than a rock solid warranty on a throw-away.

    I certainly understand being dismayed by the price of the knives, I certainly understand prioritizing elsewhere, what I don’t understand is to say that the knife is “… not worth the money.”

    Of course, the proof of the incorrectness of the title is that they are still building and shipping as many as they can.

    So, for some folks, a Porsche, BMW or Lexus is just a car… Fine, help keep Kia in business.

    Todd.

  • John April 14, 2017, 5:53 pm

    I had a 21 for a while and agree with you review completely, I traded it and don’t miss it and would never invest in another, there are just too many good knives available in that price range that are every bit as good and some better.

  • Bill the Cat April 14, 2017, 2:30 pm

    I am currently carrying 4 knives. A CFK custom Damascus skinner (fixed blade), a CRK neck knife, a folder made of D2 steel with a G10 handle, and a folder made of stainless steel 420 with a titanium handle, and the total I paid for all of them is 100 dollars.

    • RayJN April 14, 2017, 4:02 pm

      My EDC is a CRKT M16-14ZSF 440C steel, Carson design double blade lock, and guard which will open the knife (point up, clip mounted point down from factory) as you pull it out of your pocket. Retail $89 when I bought it 3 years ago ($36 BX military clothing store) which is now available on Amazon for $33.70. From experience the liner lock is safer. I have had a Buck and a Gerber fold because you can press the release when gripping the handle tightly.

  • Bimmer April 14, 2017, 2:02 pm

    Since I completely agree with you here, I’ll just nitpick and point out that there’s no such thing as a 6 Series Beamer. There is, however, a 6 Series Bimmer.

    Beamer = BMW Motorcycle
    Bimmer = BMW Automobile

    Cheers!

  • Brian Ross April 14, 2017, 1:38 pm

    I’ve owned an original, hand built Sebenza since 1991. I bought it directly from Chris at the NY knife show. It is no longer my EDC – that roll filled by a Spyderco Poliwog. The CR is in my grab and go now. I’ve never regreted the buy – only that I didn’t buy two.

  • jim April 14, 2017, 12:28 pm

    I’ll be polite and say it this way: One can attract more *women in a Series 6 Beemer that by carrying a Sbenza

  • Norm Fishler April 14, 2017, 11:30 am

    I too am a sucker for expensive, ‘too pretty to use’, knives. Never owned, or even held a Sebenza, but I’ll be on the lookout for one now. My current EDC knife is a Cold Steel Scimitar that I have carried for close to 15 years. Although I’ve tried a number of others over the years, I always end back up with the Scimitar. Not so long ago, when I had more money than sense, I probably would have sprung for one, but now, being, older, wiser & considerably poorer, I’ll just be content with my Cold Steel Scimitar.

  • David April 14, 2017, 11:24 am

    Hey if you like it then it is worth it. Love my little blue scallion.

  • bobtheaxolotl April 14, 2017, 10:58 am

    Here’s the thing. This article is arguing that having them hand fitted, the materials, etc, are some sort of intangible benefits that can’t be measured. But, they pretty much can. And, by the way, you can get knives with *identical* materials and *better* features for half the price. In my pocket is clipped a blade with an s35vn blade, titanium handles, and an intregral framelock, just like a Sebenza. But, unlike a Sebenza, it has an overtravel stop and a replaceable steel insert, so it’s not titanium being worn away by the tang of the blade. These two things are now very basic features of most premium knives. Also, the fittings are countersunk, meaning they don’t bulge out in an unsightly fashion, as they do on a Sebenza.

    In the end, the Sebenza is just a production knife. For $400, you should just expect more. Sebenzas lack standard features, and don’t perform any better than other cheaper knives made of the same materials. They’re the Macs of the knife world, except that Macs generally at least look good, despite costing more and doing less.

  • Steven April 14, 2017, 10:24 am

    I’d rather buy a gun, fuck that overpriced knife!

  • Ron H April 14, 2017, 10:09 am

    Be careful, sebenza clones are made in China and can be purchased at alibaba and dhgate sites for $50-80 . I have several and can tell you they are great! Real Chris Reeve knives has had model changes e.g. M21 and M25 that were offered with single and dual thumb studs. Chris Reeve has commented on these fakes in several articles. I suggest you buy and compare for yourself. You may be presently surprised.

  • Michael Keim April 14, 2017, 9:56 am

    $400+for the knife but don’t wrist flick it or the warranty is off. Give me a break!

  • Dexter April 14, 2017, 9:56 am

    They are worth every penny. Fact! Ownership is the only way to understand.

    • bison1913 April 14, 2017, 12:03 pm

      Five Reasons A Chris Reeve Sebenza is NOT Worth the Money
      by S.H. Blannelberry on April 12, 2017
      Dexter… You are correct. “Fact! Ownership is the only way to understand”.
      So, the Author himself just gave you the “Fact” it’s not worth the money. As a matter of fact, he gave you/us five reasons its not worth the money. And my favorite… a knife that cost over $400 and you are not allowed to wrist flick it because it will void the warranty. Now That’s Absurd!! I can wrist flick my Craftsman for the life ownership of the knife and it will get replaced by warranty. And no… I did not pay over $400 and it works just as good and has the same features. That’s right… Craftsman!
      $410 dollars… that’s a new M&P with goodies.

  • Christian kendall April 14, 2017, 9:55 am

    If you want a better knife , make your own. No disrespect to consumer grade customs on the market, if your willing to pay for it you liked it no matter the buyers remorse. Try building one at a fraction of the price. You’ll be out some time,some sand paper, and have something that will bring you an experience that will not end in disappointment.

  • Alan April 14, 2017, 9:33 am

    Knife guys are actually worse than gun guys in some respects, so here goes.
    A Frame lock or Liner lock is NOT less sturdy than a Back lock, it really depends on how well the knife is made, and the design of the lock system.
    And yes, I’ve had a frame lock mess up, but that’s because it was poorly fitted, NOT because of the design.
    Frame or liner locks require a little more finesse in manufacturing, but are just as good for locking, and far more convenient, IMHO!
    When I fixed the defect, it was very tight, and couldn’t be levered or jimmied or made to let go.
    I won’t own a back lock anymore, it’s NOT functional in my world.
    Just my opinion, based on my world experience, but there it is.

  • Jim April 14, 2017, 7:52 am

    Egad, what profligacy!! BUT, I’m guilty too. I carry my Sebenza a lot, and it makes me smile. My Ed Brown doesn’t function much better than my old Para P14. But My Goodness! What a lovely work of mechanical art! If you can afford to satisfy the soul while not denying the body, go for it! No one has the right to tell you what’s not correct for you.

  • Vince April 14, 2017, 7:39 am

    My brother and I both bought a large and small Sebenza many years ago .
    The large one was around 200.00 and the small one came with a leather pouch was 150.00. Both are awesome knives , both are still as sharpe as the day we got them. I have never sharpened mine.
    I don’t use them to open boxes or whittle sticks . Some will say well than why carry one, well it’s like owing a corvette, you don’t drive it in the rain or snow, you just own it because it’s cool.
    If I need a knife as a tool , you use a buck ,same as if I have to pick up couch or a bunch of 2×4’s I’ll take the truck then come home an wash the Vett even though I didn’t use it. Do you get it yet?

    • Randy April 14, 2017, 8:30 am

      Vince I think I get it. Since you have no practical use for the knives (like the Vett) other than looking at them. I guess you must be one with more money than brains?? I have not as of yet obtained that status. I tend to be more practical in my life.

  • Link Lackluster April 14, 2017, 7:29 am

    Dumb.

  • Randy April 14, 2017, 7:29 am

    I have a folding Buck knife (no thumb button) with plain rosewood handle. I have carried and used my buck daily at my job sites (31 years same knife) digging in dirt, prying off valve covers, cutting wire, anything that I expect my Buck to do it dose. Over the years my Buck has been repeatedly sharpened and will shaves hair off my arm. The blade in about a little more than half the height it was when new, but it makes for a sharper point, I got a new Buck (same model ) for Christmas 5 years ago , should my old one fail, I have back up. I’m 65 now guess ill have to pass that new Buck down to one of my sons, I don’t think ill have time to ware that new blade out. Oh Yah $29.99 new back then, $50.00 for the new one. P.S. I carry my Buck on Sundays to, no telling what I might run into , might need to gut and skin a deer. Some people just have more money than brains.

    • Steve April 14, 2017, 8:39 am

      I assume you know you can send it in to Buck and they will rebuild your knife(new blade) and what other parts needed.
      I have sent mine in a couple of times since I bought it in1977, came back like new at no charge.

    • Dash April 14, 2017, 11:15 am

      I’d rather have your old 31 year old Buck.. the new one is only worth its current purchase price, the old one is worth 30+ years.
      I have a little Boker pen knife that my dad gave my grandpa (mom’s dad) shortly after I was born, he carried it ~35 years and gave the beat up little thing to me before he died. I have several small pen knives, never carry any of them, but the ground-down broken-scale 35+ year old Boker is by far my “most valuable”, even more than my Sebenza. Give the new Buck to your least favorite son 🙂 lol

  • Paul Ruffle April 14, 2017, 7:29 am

    You say your Sebenza cost “a bit” more than $410. So, how much did it cost? It’s a very nice looking knife.

  • Mcyclonegt April 14, 2017, 2:54 am

    Anyone that pays anywhere near that for a knife is a fucking moron. It’s a knife!! It doesn’t do the job any better than any other knife. It’s a mans equivalent to a woman’s 500 dollar shoes or purse. Don’t act like it’s worth any more than say 50 bucks. But it is your money. Spend it on what you want. Just don’t try to justify it. Unlike guns, were typically the more you pay the better they work.

    • Josh April 14, 2017, 8:35 am

      Have you not taken economics? It is worth what people are willing and able to pay for it. You are not their target market.

  • Chris April 13, 2017, 2:44 pm

    I would have to agree but my Sebenzas find themselves in my pocket much more than the rest of my knives for some odd reason.

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