Benchmade uses CPM S30V steel for the North Fork, which is regarded as one of the best steels available for edge retention and corrosion resistance. You’ll notice the quality — no matter how much cardboard we hacked through in testing, the North Fork felt just as sharp as when we got it.
The North Fork’s handsome dark wood handle won us over immediately (it’s also available with a G10 handle, a high-pressure fiberglass laminate); it’s a nice reprieve from the sea of tactical black and cold steel that dominate pocket knife design.
This knife has the most enjoyable opening and closing mechanisms of any knife we tested. The thumb stud pulls the blade open with almost no effort; but it also has a spring biasing it to the closed position, so you never have to worry about it coming open accidentally.
We love Benchmade’s proprietary Axis lock, too. It just takes a quick pull down on the locking stud to release the blade. Benchmades were by far the easiest knives to close that we tested, and they also felt the safest — you never have to put your fingers in the path of the knife to close it.
At 3.9 inches, the North Fork’s overall length is right in the middle of all the knives we tested. No matter the size of our testers’ hands, they all reported the same thing: this was a smooth and comfortable knife that didn’t sacrifice any grip.
Lifetime warranty and sharpening service
Benchmade covers each of their knives with a lifetime warranty and sharpening service — just ship it back to them and they’ll tune it up and get it back to factory sharpness. Meaning the North Fork could be the only pocket knife you’ll ever need.
Points to consider
Hard to sharpen yourself
With high-end steel like this, there is a bit of a trade-off: In general, the more a blade keeps its edge, the harder it is to sharpen. But since it’s covered with a lifetime warranty and sharpening service, Benchmade will take care of that for you if you ship it in.
High-quality materials often lead to a higher price, as is the case with the North Fork. But since it may just be the only knife you ever need to buy (and we think it’s the best pocket knife on the market), we’re convinced its $140 price tag is worth it.
Chris Reeve Small Sebenza 21
Chris Reeve Small Sebenza 21
A classic high-end knife with a minimalist design
Harder to open and close
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Why we chose it
A Chris Reeve knife is like any other luxury product: you’re buying high production standards and better materials, which lead to improved durability and performance. The blade is made from CPM S35VN steel — regarded as one of the best knife steels available — and comes sharper than anything else we tested, slicing through sheets of paper easily from every angle. It made quick work of the cardboard and rope, too (although this felt a little like asking a renowned chef to make grilled cheese).