The Sebenza by Chris Reeve is one of the most highly regarded knives amongst bladed tool enthusiasts for nearly 30 years, and is often the benchmark used to compare other folding knives to.
For well over fifteen years, I have been EDC-ing (Everyday Carrying) a Benchmade brand knife of some variation. I have accumulated several Benchmade knives including my 910 Stryker Tanto (which is still my favorite knife) and 470 Emissary, which are two knives I still carry depending on my attire.
But I have been long wanting a Chris Reeve Knives (CRK) Sebenza for several years. I had actually been looking into a Spartan Blades Akribis and was getting close to acquiring one.
After some thought, I decided to get a Sebenza first, and then acquire the Akribis later, and since my birthday had come up last month, I decided to splurge on myself and order a Chris Reeves Knives (CRK) Sebenza 25 with carbon fiber inlays through Blade HQ, a well-respected knife retailer. This specific Sebenza variant set me back $545.
The Sebenza knives currently start at $410 (or $350 for the small 2.94″ blade version), but exceed $500 when you factor in inlays and other decorative options. This is a sticker shock for many and is why Sebenza knives are not all that common in the wild.
For those unfamiliar with the Sebenza, it is a frame lock folding knife with a titanium handle/frame and an S35VN blade made in Idaho, USA.
That in itself sounds bland, but the reason why the Sebenza is so highly regarded is because the design is simply that good, the quality of the materials are top notch, and the fit and finish are excellent.
There are actually two core Sebenza models now: the 21 (original / classic) and the 25 (most recent iteration). I hemmed and hawed between the two and decided to go with the 25. The 25 was released as the update to the Sebenza after 25 years. There are slight differences that people argue are better on one vs the other, but I wanted to go with the 25 for the newer “Large Hollow Grind” which is a blend / hybrid of a hollow grind and flat grind, and redesigned pivot and detent mechanisms which keep the pivot cleaner and the knife positively closed.
Rather than go over the specifications of the knife, which you can simply find on the CRK Sebenza 25 product page, I will quickly go over my observations.
The blade pivot is silky smooth. Granted, any decent knife with have very smooth pivoting, but the Sebenza is perfect in this regard. The action has the same tension throughout the entire rotation.
Due to the 1/8-inch ceramic ball integrated with the lock bar that drops into a blade detent when the knife is closed, there is a definitive “locked closed” effect. The blade will remain closed unless there is enough force on the initial blade opening action to get the ceramic ball to cam over the detent. Thus, there is less chance of the blade accidentally coming open, especially while clipped in the pocket.
This has happened to me a couple times with liner lock knives resulting in me cutting my pants pocket or in one incident my hand.
But this does also mean that the blade won’t flick open as easily by just flicking the thumb stud. It will require more force to start the blade open, as opposed to most other folding knives. You may have to follow the blade the entire way with the thumb on the stud, or add an extra wrist flick to get the blade to ‘fly’ open once you actuate the blade past the ceramic ball + detent position via the thumb stud for that quick open.
This can be viewed as a negative or positive characteristic. From the negative point of view, in a self defense situation, you would prefer a blade that opens as easily as possible.
Of course, the ceramic ball and detent locked closed position is a positive because of added safety. But there is also the positive aspect in that it can precent an over zealous law enforcement officer from trying to use centrifugal force to flick the blade open and arrest you for having a gravity or inertia knife. This is why I actually tighten the pivot screws on my non-assisted folders.
The frame lock on the Sebenza gives an incredibly solid sensation on lockup. The feedback you get from the knife on lock up concrete and distinct, and gives the operator and sense of comfort and security with regards to the lockup of the blade.
There is absolutely no blade play whatsoever in the open position, and when closed there is no lateral blade play, either.
The appearance of the Sebenza 25 is absolutely gorgeous. The satin titanium handles have a fine luster and the handle edges have a nice textured grind. There are various inlay and engraving options, but the carbon fiber sets off the titanium handle quite nicely, and it gives the knife a very modern appearance. Note that I pondered the micarta inlays, but went with the carbon fiber specifically for a more modern look.
The stonewashed finish of the S35VN blade provides an attractive, yet functional finish that will do a good job hiding wear.
The blue anodized titanium thumb stud is a nice signature appearance for the Sebenza. Some people don’t like it, but I find the style agreeable and pleasing.
The Sebenza 25 feels right at home in the hand. The clip doesn’t feel obtrusive when gripping the handle in the standard or reverse grip, and it actually appears to flow naturally with the grip of the hand as far as the indentations in the clip.
The knife clip goes over the lip of a pocket easily and smooth, even suit or dress pants, which are what I wear to the office.
The clip tension is not extremely tight, nor is it too loose/sloppy. Granted, this can wear in over time, especially when I clip to thick denim jean pockets.
The factory installed lanyard is a signature accent to the Sebenza and is quite handy for when you need to quickly grab for the knife.
Now as far as centering, I will say that the blade is just ever so slightly skewed away from the frame lock side. I stared at the knife for a long time, adjusting the angle and the lighting conditions, and paid close attention to how I was looking at the blade and with the right eye, left eye, and both eyes open.
The blade is definitely centered, and the gap between the blade and the frame is evident, but the frame lock pressure is pushing the blade just ever so slightly in the closed position. This is quite acceptable in my opinion, although people will be quick to jump in and say a knife of this price range should be absolutely perfect in centering.
The Sebenza 25 has a great feeling in the hand. The grip is surprisingly tactile, even though the handle and inlays are for all intents and purposes, smooth and not textured (e.g. G10 scales). The jimping is in the middle of the road as far as not being too light or too aggressive.
The handle indent near the pivot point is aggressive enough to provide a positive pocket for the index finger, so slippage of the knife in the hand during use is minimized. Not to mention the knife itself has a great balanced feel to it. Not blade heavy or handle heavy.
Now compared to the two Benchmade Knives in my EDC rotation, the 910 Stryker and 470 Emissary, the Sebenza 25 is substantially heavier. My 470 Emissary is only 59 grams, while my 910 Stryker is 109 grams. The Sebenza 25 on the same scale comes out to 139 grams. Granted, the 470 has a 2.95″ blade (I believe mine is the original version, while the current 470-1 is 3.00″) and has aluminum handles / frame, which accounts for the very light weight. But the extra weight of the Sebenza 25 takes a little getting used to with dress pants, as opposed to the Benchmade 470, yet it is still comfortable.
Of course, there is a lot of contention over the Sebenza with regards to cost to benefit ratio, especially when compared to other more mainstream, less expensive knife brands such as Sypderco, Benchmade, Gerber, SOG, and the like.
I will tell you right now that if you find yourself trying to justify $400+ for a folding knife, the Sebenza is not worth buying. You can easily get multiple knives for the cost of a single Sebenza, all of which will be good enough for the given application. But a Sebenza is basically just like buying a Rolex watch.
The Rolex Submariner is a $7500+ (MSRP) diving watch. It is a tool watch built to go into the ocean, get scratched up, banged around, and used in every day life. Why do people buy a $7500+ mechanical sport watch when a G-Shock can do the same thing for $100? The Rolex Submariner has a renowned mechanical movement with tremendous accuracy (compared to other mechanicals), excellent craftsmanship, beautiful finishing, and quality control.
These same concepts apply to the Sebenza. You are paying for a concise and purpose-driven design, fine craftsmanship, great finishing and quality control, and reliable and durable function.
While it may sound superficial, there is also the sense of pride that also comes with using a Sebenza (and Rolex). It’s not a sense of entitlement or stature, even though people will mistake it for that, but rather a sense of confidence in the tool itself knowing what went into the knife (or watch) is going to translate into whatever you are using it for.
I highly doubt this mini-review of the Chris Reeve Knives Sebenza 25 will sway anyone on the fence of buying a Sebenza to break out their wallet and order one, but hopefully this will give some perspective on this esteemed knife.
There are always going to be detractors who say that the Sebenza is overpriced, but I can easily make the same argument about the custom 1911 pistols like Nighthawk Custom or Wilson Combat. I use Glocks, so I understand what it means to go with the less expensive, yet functional alternative.
There is one last point I wanted to touch upon and that is the fact that the Sebenza is very user serviceable. The Sebenza 25 has only 17 individual components after it is fully diassembled (includes the pocket clip and pocket clip screw). All of the fasters are hex screws, so there are no odd speciality tools required. CRK actually encourages the user maintenance of the Sebenza and it is noted by their inclusion of an Allen key, grease, and Loctite with the knife.
All this said, the Sebenza 25 with carbon fiber inlays is now my EDC knife. It is a fine testament to working knives.
I anticipate I will still carry my Benchmade 910 Stryker tanto to the range because I have a degree of personal attachment to it (I love the design, feel in use, and it was my first Benchmade) and it is a great utility knife. But now that I have a Sebenza, it always wants to find its way into my pocket.
Perhaps I will get that Spartan Blades Akribis next. Although, this Sebenza 25 is now making me lust after a Sebenza 21.
For all those curious, I do have the following Benchmade Knives in my ‘collection’:
- 910 Stryker (Discontinued)
- 470 Emissary (Discontinued, replaced by 470-1 Emissary)
- 916 Triage serrated, blunt tip, black
- 14210 Heckler & Koch Snody (Discontinued)
- 14440 Heckler & Koch Ally
- 14460 Heckler & Koch Nitrous Blitz, serrated, black
I do say ‘collection’ quite loosely because I don’t consider myself a collector. I just like to buy knives on occasion for utility use, and have ended up acquiring more Benchmade Knives than any other brand because I like the company’s offerings over the years.