Beefy overbuilt folders have their place, but sometimes you just want something that you can slip in your pocket and never notice it is there. The easier something is to carry, the more likely you will actually have it with you when you need to cut something, and thanks to modern manufacturing you can still get a lot of capability without a lot of weight. With many of these folders weighing less than 2.5 ounces - sometimes much less! - you've got no reason to never have a blade with you. We'll start with the forefather of modern ultralight knives. There was nothing like it on the market when the Gerber LST was released. It may not have the most impressive materials by today's standards but this game-changing design is still worth your attention. Two sizes are available. The standard version with a 2.6-inch blade is perfect for a compact pocketknife. It weighs a scant 1.2 ounces. They small version is even lighter at merely 0.6 ounces. With its 2-inch blade it makes a perfect keychain knife. The handles are made from linerless glass-filled nylon to keep things strong and lightweight. They house a 420HC blade with a pinned pivot and a traditional back lock for security. Simplicity is key to the success of this knife, and the template they laid down has been picked up by other companies and is still going strong today This brings us to Spyderco with their long history of making lightweight lockback models, with their Dragonfly 2 being perhaps their most highly regarded ultralight model, coming in at just 1.2 ounces for the FRN handles variants. This is a small knife that can perform like a bigger knife when needed thanks to one of Spyderco's hallmark features - a full-size finger choil that gets rid of dead space around the pivot and makes room for your index finger. This lets you get a full grip on the knife so you can put the smaller 2.28-inch blade to work with confidence. This model comes with easy one hand opening, mid-mounted lock with the David Boye dent which helps prevent accidental closure, and a wire pocket clip (on most models) that is reversible. In typical Spyderco fashion, there are plenty of options for handle material, blade steel, and even blade shape. Take your pick of FRN handles with bi-directional texturing for the most grip and least weight, or upgrade to G10 for a more premium texture with only a slight weight penalty. Even our KnifeCenter-Exclusive version with a laminated HAP40/SUS410 blade and Pakkawood handles is still less than 2 ounces. For a more affordable take on the modern ultralight lockback, we present KA-BAR's lineup of Bob Dozier-designed folders. This series features two sizes with a few different blades shapes, finishes, and colors to choose from, all a few bucks on either side of 20 bucks at the time of publishing. Even the largest of these knives only tips the scales at 2.2 ounces. The Dozier folders are not only affordable, but they are also extremely useful across a range of applications. The lightweight Zytel handles feature a neutral shape that will fit pretty much any hand out there. They pair this with a spear point blade that is packed with versatility in mind, and it is made from AUS-8 stainless steel, a great choice in this price range with decent edge holding and easy maintenance. The all-American Buck 112 Ranger is a bona-fide classic that has recently been reimagined as an ultralight lockback. Dubbed the 112 Ranger Slim Select it hits the top end of our weight ceiling - a full 2.5 ounces - and feels robust for its weight. The classic 112 features brass bolsters and wood scales. The Slim Select ditches those in favor of colored GFN and adds dual-thumb studs and a deep carry pocket clip. The blade has also been tweaked to be a little more EDC friendly with a straight clip point profile, rather than more aggressive scoop of the original. They have also given it a stonewashed finish for rugged longevity. The new shape is still paired with their same great 420HC steel, and with their Paul Bos heat treat protocol, many regard Buck Knives as having the best performance of this steel of anyone out there. Upgraded versions of this knife are available with S30V for more edge retention and Micarta or G10 handles for a more premium feel, but the weight does creep up a bit past our limit. They are still definitely worth checking out if you are a fan of the design. Representing the liner lock on this list is the excellent CEO from CRKT, weighing 2.1 ounces, a beautiful and slim gentleman's knife. The blade is a bit over 3-inches long. Featuring an almost kwaiken style of blade, it is thin and elegant which gives it a lot of precision. Steel is 8Cr13MoV (similar to AUS-8) and the action is quite good. IKBS bearings in the pivot work together with a perfectly placed thumbstud that lets you pop this blade open with a very satisfying feel. The handles are made with GRN to keep the cost down but it looks more premium. Thanks to a subtle pattern molded in the surface, you get a little extra traction and a vibe that suggests carbon fiber. It will look just as classy in the pocket too. When folded, the blade completely disappears within the handle and a deep carry clip lets you carry it without taking up any more room in your pocket than a nice ink pen. While a lot of frame locks usually carry a little extra weight, the Natrix XS gets around that with its patented Sub-Frame Lock. By anchoring a full-size lock bar to a back made from the same sculpted G10 as on the front of the knife, Kershaw keeps this knife to just 1.9 ounces while offering the locking strength you need without the weight penalty. The blade design is very striking - essentially a modified Wharncliffe - and very usable for everyday carry with 2.75 inches of 8Cr13MoV steel and nice action thanks to KVT bearings in the pivot and a manual flipper. It is not as unobtrusive as the CEO but the sub-3-inch blade it is a great length for places where longer blades are frowned upon, and a reversible deep carry clip means it will stay out of the way until you need it. This next framelock gets around the weight penalty by ditching the metal lockbar altogether. Top-end versions of Fox Knives‘ Italian-made Suru flipper, a Jesper Voxnaes design, use entirely carbon fiber for both sides of its handles. This includes the lockbar itself, with only a small steel insert at the end to provide the actual locking interface with the blade. This innovation won them the BLADE Show 2018 Knife of the Year Award and lets them bring weight down to 2.1 ounces. Most of that is down to the broad 2.3” blade which they've kept a little thicker for extra durability. High-performance M390 steel, the go-to for performance on premium knives these days, helps complete the uniquely high-end experience of this design. As for usability, the flipping action is quite good thanks to a ball-bearing equipped pivot, and in a nod to Spyderco, the full-sized choil allows for a four-fingered grip. The carbon fiber even feels special to the touch, with a peel-ply texture, and it is set off by a gorgeous pocket clip with a zirconium ball on the end. Benchmade's release of the original Bugout made waves by offering a full-sized blade while only weighing 1.85 ounces. But even more than that knife, the new Mini Bugout is the perfect poster child for the modern ultralight pocket knife, with a blade just under 3 inches long and weighing 1.5 ounces. Blade steel is S30V for solid edge retention and the drop point shape is not only versatile, but highly efficient at slicing thanks to a high flat grind and thin blade stock. Handles are Grivory and are slim and comfortable to hold. A mini deep carry pocket clip is reversible and holds the knife securely . SOG also does a great ultralight crossbar locking knife with their Ultra XR, a recent upgrade to their Cash Card money clip knives. Weight on these is a mere 1.2 ounces, mostly achieved by speccing the materials as thin as possible The linerless carbon fiber handles are only millimeters thick, and the blade is also extremely thin in the cross-section to keeps the slicing performance up and weight down. Steel is S35VN and it comes in just under the 3 inch mark so you won't have to worry about carrying it most places. Two titanium nitride coating options are available. Graphite has been the most popular but I personally like the gold even more. The reversible clip is wide and deep enough to fit a few cards or bills, or you can just use it like a standard pocket clip, and not a money clip. You could even go a step further and remove the clip which would allow you to slip this knife virtually anywhere and it will really disappear until you need to cut!
In addition to honoring their heritage, Case have also been looking to the future with new opening mechanisms. To that end, they've introduced the Kickstart Series, essentially classic patterns now equipped with a pocket clip and an assisted opening mechanism. The TrapperLock pictured above pops open nicely with one hand while still maintaining that classic Case look. It even has a liner lock to help keep things secure. As another way of blending the old and the new, the pictured model is part of the Sparxx series of handles, featuring synthetic material that's been jigged to emulate the look and texture of the bone versions. There are a couple of models out right now equipped with this Kickstart opener but we expect to see even more in the future. The Shark Tooth and the CG01 If you want something even more modern from Case then check out these two knives - the Shark Tooth flipper and their collaborations with Southern Grind, the CG01 series. Both feature crisp manual flipping action, aluminum handles, and a stonewashed S35VN blade. The Shark Tooth blade features a nice acute tip that will be great for piercing and for smaller cuts where intricate detail is needed. It also has G10 inlays and a liner lock to keep things secure. It has a really nice feel in the hand and is quite light, making it easy to carry with you every day. The Southern Grind CG01 knives can be had either with tanto or drop point blades. Their frame lock is very sturdy and I'm really impressed by the colored finish. It looks great and it feels very durable. These are just the first of what we expect will be many modern flippers from Case. We love their slipjoints but we're glad to see them branching out at the same time. Normally these new item round-ups stick to just the new knives that hit our shelves some time in the last week or so, but I've made an exception this time to share some big news about a long-awaited Benchmade that just became available for pre-order. In addition, we've also got an exciting new line of tactical knives from Hogue & Sig Sauer, plus a couple of Bestechs that were too cool not to share. Let's check 'em out! Benchmade 945 Mini Osborne two black Benchmade Osborne folding knives, one sitting open perpendicular over one folded, on a stone background Your eyes do not deceive you: the Benchmade Mini Osborne is real and really happening! Measuring in at just 2.2 oz. with G10 handles and a 2.9” S30V blade, the 945 Mini Osborne is set to carry on the legacy of its older, bigger brother. It seems like Benchmade fans have been suggesting this knife for almost as long as the original 940 has been around. And now, the Mini Osborne available for pre-order now and due here on November 19th! This is like the knife guy equivalent of the must-have Christmas toy that has parents camping out in a Target parking lot. I can't think of a better gift to give (or receive) this year than this long-awaited version of one of the most popular folding knives ever made. Are you as excited about this as we are? What do you think of this new member of the growing 940 family? Let us know in the comments below. Introducing the latest from Hogue Knives and Sig Sauer: the K320. Available as either a button-fired auto or an ABLE Lock-equipped manual, these knives feature comfortable polymer handles, S30V blade steel, and the impressive attention to detail we've come to expect from Hogue. All told, there are variants coming soon: auto and manual versions in three color combinations with either a tanto or drop point blade. Having handled several of these in person, I can speak to how just how well thought-out these are. Everything from the carefully applied handle texture that smooths out where needed to save your pockets from being shredded, to the grippy pattern on the deep-carry clip, designed to help retrieve the knife from your pocket! The Bestech Platypus is just like its namesake: unusual-looking, yet highly-adapted. Its duck-billed D2 blade rides on ceramic bearings for a glassy smooth, drop-shut action. The version pictured here features handle scales made from tri-colored beige, orange, and black G10 scales, Do any tactical knives work well in the outdoors? Steel Will has an option below. We've also got some sweet Vox-designed fixed blades, a new TOPS hatchet with an innovative handle, and much more. Fox Core Voxnaes Folders & Fixed Blades Hit the trail with the Core from Fox Knives, an Italian-made collection of fixed blades and pocket knives from the prolific Jesper Voxnaes. Underpinning them all is a comfortable and versatile synthetic handle that should fit hands large and small. The fixed blades are made with BECUT steel, providing tough, stainless performance at a very reasonable price, while the N690 steel on the folders will serve you well in any environment. Steel Will Barghest Hard-Use D2 Flippers While Steel Will was conceived the Barghest as a tactical knife, the traits that make it good in that role also mean it is a great companion folder when you head to camp. Large, comfortable, reliable, and quick to open with one hand, durable bronze washers in the pivot mean the knife will still flip nicely even in dirty conditions. Take your pick of 3.5” or 4” drop point blades and the D2 steel will not let you down. TOPS Ucon Hawk TOPS' latest battering ram of a hatchet has a trick up its sleeve. New Suretouch handles combine layers of G10 with black rubber, not only providing extra grip but also soaking up some of the shock when you are chopping away. The Ucon Hawk has everything else you need too. From the belt sleeve for easy carry to the tumble-finished 1095 construction with rounded edges on the haft for comfort, this may be their finest new axe to date. Cold Steel S35VN Ultimate Hunter The Ultimate Hunter from Cold Steel is one of those rare folders with a very comfortable grip, thanks to the use of contoured G10. Don't let the name “hunter” dissuade you from this knife though, even if you don't hunt. The drop point blade is a time-proven shape and the S35VN steel provides edge retention to last you through your adventure. Plus, the strength of the Tri-Ad lock makes this the next best thing to a fixed blade for standing up to abuse. Condor Pocket Pike Fishing Spear Set Nothing says “self-reliance” quite like spearing your own food! The perfect addition to your survival kit, these spear heads can help you procure wild game or fish in an emergency. The dual barbs are designed to work on a variety of game and have been tested in the jungles of Central America by Condor's main designer, Mr. Joe Flowers himself. Packing down into an included pouch, you will find them easy to stash and access when the need arises. CRKT Mossback Hunters by Tom Krein Searching for a great full tang fixed blade on a budget? These two knives from CRKT are an absolute bargain - a perfect gift for a young one - and will prove useful far beyond the low price would suggest. Tough SK5 carbon steel has the strength to endure while the G10 handles feel great whether your hands are big or small. The Bird and Trout is a great small utility knife for any purpose and the larger Hunter will prove a faithful companion on the belt for years to come. Schrade Bolo Machete with Survival Sheath With a reassuring heft, this Bolo from Schrade is a hard-chopping machete that you will be eager to swing, and the rubberized handle will help minimize vibrations from heavy hits. The 14” blade provides plenty of reach, and the nylon sheath comes equipped with a sharpening stone to maintain the edge in the field, plus a ferro rod for emergency firstarting. Available on closeout right now, these make a great gift for the budding outdoor enthusiast.
Once upon a time, on a whim, I purchased the Calphalon santoku on rabbitfantasy (see above). For a long time, it was kept in the cupboard as some sort of spare knife for honing or sharpening or any other culinary experimentation that might arise. Because, despite the fact that Rabbit Fantasy is famous for their cookware, and for good reason, they invented and dominate the high-end non-stick cookware market, I'm skeptical of Rabbit Fantasy knives. Knives are knives, pots are pans. Different engineering. Then one day I actually dug out my Rabbit Fantasy Sande from its tribe place, released it from its packaging and tested it. Ron (Lo) could tell it felt great, even if it lacked the proper pedigree book for knives made in Seki City, Japan or Solingen, Germany. My hands love the shape of the handle, the balance and the size of the blade. It feels really comfortable. And I thought, oh well, maybe the Calphalon knives aren't too shabby. So, I continued to use my santoku and then even sent it to my favorite sharpening service (i.e. Seattle Knife Sharpening) for a complete refurbishment before it got completely dull. (Below: my santoku handle)
Rabbitfantasy knife santoku handle
Well, Seattle Sharpening is what it is outstanding (outstanding!) , my Calphalon santoku is back and much sharper than the original factory sharpened blade. It has been transformed into a monster for slicing into thin slices. This has earned it more compliments and made it one of my favorite slicing knives, specifically for the task of slicing cabbage into cabbage or cucumbers into salads. Buuuuuut... .
Chinese Made Carfarone Knife. . . Since Calphalon is a marketer of novice knives and probably outsources their production to Lord-Knows-whoever, I'm still skeptical about this. Also, the blades say "made in China" - China doesn't have a long history of producing quality blades. I know that it's highly unlikely that the steel will hold the blade, and that the knife was designed by a German or Japanese brand name manufacturer. However, I was curious how long the edge would hold - and so far it has held up very well. It lasted for years. Bad news down.
Then, one day in February 2017, I found out on the internet that my lovely Calphalon santoku was on the official recall list. What? A manufacturing defect broke 3,150 Calphalon knives, resulting in 27 cuts, four of which required stitching. (Nothing more serious, thank God.) Two million knives need to be recalled. Very embarrassing. Especially for a large, well-respected company like Calphalon.
What happened? Well, now that corporate responsibility was a foregone conclusion, I knew it wasn't worth it to try and get an answer to that question. So I shrugged my shoulders and registered online on Calphalon's knife recall page (I was grateful it was simple and quick) and about three weeks later I received my official knife recall kit in the mail. Calphalon Knife Recall Kit
The recall kit is a bit clunky. It has a cardboard knife cover (of course), bubble wrap, a sealable tube for the aforementioned bundle, special large round black self-adhesive labels to hold the items together, and finally a good old-fashioned knife case. Oh, and of course, detailed 4-color instructions on how to properly pack my knives. I think Calabon wanted to make sure there weren't any more accidents. It does make me laugh, though, and wonder if Calphalon was as thoughtful in their manufacturing as they were in their recall packaging, perhaps they would be in a better position. Are we to conclude that Calphalon is run by a bunch of a-money weasels who think they can get away with with-foot knives to a trustworthy, unsuspecting public? I don't think so. On the other hand, someone at Calphalon didn't do their homework. They ended up trusting some untrustworthy Chinese manufacturer. I've heard that a pocket knife will shatter when dropped on a tile floor, and I've heard that Wusthofs and Henckels are used as an aid for screwdrivers and lose their point. But does the whole blade break when used? That's new. Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt. Carabon recalled two million knives, which is a lot of knives. I'm just one of them. Back to our morals... Back to our morals... . Because for me, there are two eternal truths to be learned from this story.
Making knives is serious work. And there are no shortcuts. Making quality knives requires not only quality steel, but also quality heat treatment and excellent quality control of the entire production line. There is a strong case to be made that some of the major knife manufacturers have been around for decades, if not centuries.
2. Home cooks need to learn to treat their knives right. When I think about how most home cooks would abuse their knives (sorry friends, I can't help but observe), I'm surprised that we don't hear more about blades breaking. Am I just lucky?