Every Day Carry Knives: price vs. quality

I recently spent some time looking for a new EDC (every day carry) knife. My criteria is probably the same as yours. I want the highest quality at the lowest price. The quality/price ratio is, in large part, what determined my eventual purchase. I have a list of other criteria: blade less than 3″ to comply with (most) laws restricting knife carry; lightweight; smooth opening; solid lockup; good grip; good knife steel. The problem, as you can see from this list, is the more you expect of a knife, the more it costs.

I have a Griptilian 551 H2O folding knife with a 3.4-inch blade, an overall length of 8-inches, and a weight of 3.8 oz. It is an excellent knife, but also too large for every day carry. Here are the specs at Benchmade.

Butch (co-blogger here at Prep-Blog) has written on Survival Knives before. He carries the Benchmade mini-Griptilian — 2.9 inch blade, 2.56 oz., 6.75 inches overall length. It is a well-made knife that generally meets my above specs. Street price (as of this writing) is about $75.00. I considered the mini-Griptilian, but passed on it for EDC. It was a close second.

I used to own a Spyderco sprint-run knife with ZDP-189 steel, some years ago. I like the opening hole and the handle grip, but ZDP steel is so hard that it is difficult to sharpen. Otherwise, I liked the knife, so I took a close look at different Spyderco models. The problem of price versus quality disqualified many models. The Byrd product line is inexpensive, but uses Chinese steel, which is a step or two below the high end steels (like 154CM or S30V). On the other hand, quite a few of the nicer Spyderco knives are well over $100. Too much for my EDC budget right now.

In-between the high and low ends, there are not so many choices. Two stood out from the crowded Spyderco line. Each is a special version of the Endura4 and Delica4 models. Each is a lightweight flat-ground plain-edge knife. Each is low-priced within its respective model family. Each uses the less-expensive fiber-reinforced nylon handle (FRN) that permits brilliant colors in the design. I chose the brilliant color gray.

The Endura4 lightweight is currently priced around $55 to $65 at Amazon. The Delica4 has a similar price range; I paid about $58. The exact specs are here. You might prefer the Endura4 over the Delica4, if you are looking for a larger knife.

length overall 8.75 ” (222 mm)
blade length 3.75 ” (96 mm)
length closed 5 ” (127 mm)
cutting edge 3.438 ” (88 mm)
weight 3.4 oz. (96 g)

length overall 7.125 ” (181 mm)
blade length 2.875 ” (73 mm)
length closed 4.25 ” (108 mm)
cutting edge 2.563 ” (65 mm)
weight 2.3 oz. (64 g)

But for EDC, I wanted a smaller knife, something larger than the Dragonfly2, yet smaller and lighter than the Endura. The Delica4 met all of my requirements. The size was particularly suitable for EDC. The Spyderco design, across many models, tends to have a flat handle. So it sits unobtrusively in the pocket. The closed length was longer than I thought to be ideal, but now that I have carried it, the 4.25 inch length is no problem.

I prefer a smaller blade for EDC. It is more likely to be deemed a common pocket knife, if some unfortunate situation should bring the attention of law enforcement to your carry knife. For much the same reason, I prefer my EDC knife to look simple and non-threatening: no Zombie theme, no skull and cross-bone insignia, no superficial features to make it look ‘tactical’ to no purpose. I even considered opting for one of the bright and pleasant colors, like blue or green. But the gray color draws less attention to the presence of the knife at the corner of my pocket, so that seemed the greater advantage.

I wanted the “best” steel in my knife, but I have learned that there is no such thing. Different types of steels have different pros and cons. The steel used in the Delica4 and Endura4 is VG-10, which — according to the Steel Knife FAQ — is comparable to other high-end stainless steels:

ATS-34/154CM, VG-10, and S60V
are the next group up. It’s difficult to make generalizations about ATS-34 and 154-CM — they are in such widespread use that heat treat varies widely. These steels provide a high-end performance benchmark for stainless steels, and hold an edge well, and are tough enough for many uses (though not on par with good non-stainlesses). They aren’t very stain resistant, however. VG-10 can be thought of as being like ATS-34 and 154-CM, but doing just about everything a hair better. It’s a little more stain resistant, tougher, holds an edge a little better. And VG-10 has vanadium in it, it’s fine-grained and takes the best edge of this group.

The popular S30V steel, found on many high-end knives, is apparently a step-up from VG-10. But my “cheapest-best” philosophy excludes many knives with this fine steel.

At 2.3 oz, the Delica4 is surprisingly light for its size. There are lighter knives, but they are usually much smaller. The flat handle and light weight allow me to forget that I am carrying it.

As for the overall design of the knife, it is a full-fledged Spyderco. I like the Spyderco opening hole; it allows a firmer purchase when opening the blade, as compared to many thumb-stud designs. The blade is wider than you might expect, so as to accommodate the hole, and also keep it in a location that provides good leverage for opening. Some knives put the thumb stud so close to the handle and the pivot that it is very difficult to open. But the Spyderco design lends itself to smooth opening.

Like most Spyderco knives, the lock is a simple lock-back design. This model has a concave indention that is supposed to lessen the chance of inadvertently disengaging the lock when gripping the knife firmly. However, I like it because the indention accommodates the shape of the thumb, making it easier to press.

One disadvantage to the Spyderco design: the cutting edge is proportionately shorter than knives by other companies with the same closed length. The blade design does not maximize the size of the edge compared to the handle. So you can easily find knives with smaller closed and open lengths, and yet longer blades.

Further discussion on this topic:
EDC: Which knife do you carry and why?

– Thoreau

5 Responses to Every Day Carry Knives: price vs. quality

  1. Everyone has their preferences but I absolutely enjoy my CRKT M21 which has a 4 inch blade… I don’t consider it too large for EDC but, of course, local laws and personal preferences should dictate what you carry. Otherwise, great article!

    • I had a CRKT M16, which is similar, a while back. Nice knife. I like the flipper (opening device). The metal handle was a little slick.

  2. Add me to the CRKT fan club, I’ve got a Desert Cruiser folder with a half serrated edge and love it. Serves me faithfully everyday I go on duty. I especially like it because it has tap holes for attaching the clip in different locations. That means someone can configure it for carry in a “tip up” postition regardless of handedness.

  3. Money and quality are only two aspects of EDC choice, DESIGN must be given great precidence, A well designed knive can be cheap or expensive but if it does what you want it to do thats great.
    EG My EDC blades are normally CS Voyagers or Byrd Tern folders, one locks the other doesnt but both do EDC duty in town or city superbly. YET I also tried the Benchmade Griptilian and hated it, Its crazy locking mechanism is great for city slickers or cops but its useless for a soldier or bushcrafter as the open sided sliding lock mechanism clogs far to easily with fur, tissue, fish scales, rope particles etc when used in the field.
    I love Cold Steel, Spyderco and Byrd the Spyderco subsidiary, but i would not than you for a Gripilian with its easy clog mechanism.

  4. I just started adding various knives to the prepping collection. A few recommended from a friend of mine who knows his stuff.