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:
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?
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 🙂