One of our stops at the Specialty Tools and Fasteners Distributors Association (STAFDA) in Phoenix last year was the Benchmade knife booth. If you’re not familiar with Benchmade, they are an innovative knife company that was founded in California in 1988 and then made its way to Oregon in 1990. Benchmade has set itself apart by using non traditional material, innovative manufacturing processes (lasers!), and even input from well respected custom knife designers. I was impressed by what I saw at Benchmade’s booth. Their knives seemed much more solid than any folding knife I had used before. Bear with me here as I use a car analogy to try to explain the feel of a Benchmade knife. You know that clunky effect you get when slamming the door on a cheap econo-car vs. that satisfying precision thud you get with a high-end luxury performance car? Most other knives = econo car, Benchmade = luxury performance car.
Testing out the Mini-Griptilian which Benchmade graciously provided is part of my ongoing quest to find the ideal folding knife for everyday use. We recently tested the SOG Flash II folding knife and while it’s a very respectable knife, I found it to be a bit too big and bulky for everyday carry. Did you ever see Crocodile Dundee? Remember that scene where a guy tries to mug Dundee at knife point?:
The “Now THAT’s a knife”-effect is not what I’m going for, at least not in terms of size. Brandishing the Mini Griptilian (something we’d generally not recommend by the way), is not likely to shock and awe spectators. And I like it that way. More importantly, the knife is unobtrusive and I don’t feel like I’m being impaled by the handle anytime I squat down, sit or bend over to pick something up. Not being impaled is nice. Sorry Dundee, you can keep your machete.
I found the folding action of the Benchmade Mini Griptilian a little stiff initially. Either my fingers are getting stronger or the knife has a break-in period. . . it now has very smooth action; not too loose, not too tight. The knife feels very secure when deployed. They don’t call these the Griptilian for nothing. You’ll find grippy ridges and nubs just about anywhere on the knife you might be inclined to grip. The ergonomics are great, with a solid thumb rest on the top for applying more cutting pressure when needed, and a nice curve in the handle to help you maintain a secure grip.
The Mini-Griptilian uses one of about a dozen different blade steels Benchmade deploys on their knifes. This particular knife also uses a black blade coating:
154CM: An American made premium grade stainless steel originally developed for tough industrial applications. Known for its best all-around qualities, it offers great corrosion resistance with good toughness and edge quality.
BK1 ® COATING: BK1 coating is a matte black coating that provides excellent corrosion protection, which exceeds the ASTM-117 spec for saltwater while possessing higher scratch resistance.
In addition to corrosion resistance, I think the black coating also looks pretty cool. Here’s a look at the knife in both black and silver blade colors for comparison. So, is this the perfect high quality, durable, versatile, unobtrusive everyday carry folding knife I’ve been searching for? Almost. My only dislike (which is also somewhat of a feature depending on your perspective) is that the clip area is a bit too “griptilian.” The end of the pocket clip comes down right on the very grippy side surface of the knife handle. The result is a super intense grip of the pocket clip on your jeans. This intense grip makes it harder to deploy smoothly and quickly, and over time, I suspect it will wear down the clothing it’s clipped to. On the bright side, it makes the chances of the knife coming loose and falling out of your pocket close to zero. In a perfect world, I’d like to see a slightly less griptilian clip, but it’s also reassuring to know I’m not likely to lose the knife from it coming unclipped.
The extra-grippy-clippy issue aside, the Benchmade Mini-Griptilian is a fantastic knife. It’s razor sharp to start with, cuts extremely well, and has held it’s sharp edge through a variety of cutting tasks. I also like the tanto style blade for it’s chisel-like front edge and thick, durable blade. It even comes with a silky storage pouch in case you’re into that kind of thing. If you’re considering a new knife purchase and don’t mind spending a little extra for quality, I highly recommend a look at Benchmade. Another standout selling point for Benchmade is their very cool LifeSharp service:
We will gladly re-sharpen your Benchmade knife to a factory razor sharp edge (service does not apply to any serrated portion of the blade). If you prefer us to sharpen your blade, or if you may have neglected to maintain your edge for a while, simply ship your knife to us. We’ll not only sharpen it, but we will also inspect the knife for any warranted repairs and “tune” the knife for optimum performance. Simply ship the knife to the Benchmade address, postage paid and insured. Please enclose your return shipping address with $5.00 for first knife and $2.50 for each additional knife, to cover handling and return shipping charges.
More details on their LifeSharp service here.
As the “mini” name implies, you can also get the full size Griptilian if you’re going for more of the Crocodile Dundee effect. You can find the Benchmade Pardue Design Mini-Griptillian Combo Edge Knife for about $80 on Amazon or through Benchmade’s online dealer locator. Now that’s a knife!