Top 10 Knives you can buy now Part 2 –

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by Anthony Sculimbrene

Top 10 Knives you can buy now Part 2 –

Well, we are entering hallowed ground here.  The under $100 market is and always will be the most crowded part of the knife market and so the knives that have floated to the top here have done so dodging hundreds of competitors.  These are the best of the best and many represent among the best values of any kind of EDC gear.  There are incredibly knives out there for more (the Caly3 and the Chapparal are very good), but if you have a hard ceiling of $100, these are it…

5. SOG Mini Aegis (purchase)


SOG has so many knives in and around this price point, blades like the much ballyhooed Flash 1 (which I think is a dud) and the Twitch and the Slimjim and the…well…you get the point.  After disappointing experienced with the Flash I and the Twitch I had basically written off the low-middle priced SOG knives.  I had a chance to get a review sample of the Mini Aegis and boy am I glad I went back into the SOG waters because this is an outstanding blade.  There are a lot of things on this knife that I am not a huge fan of—a thumb stud and an assisted opener to name two, but the overall package is really quite good.  The blade shape is simple and useful.  The grinds, like all SOG grinds, are amazing.  The pocket clip is a good but not great over the top design for deep carry.  So far it is a ledger of features that results in a decent knife, but there is a little secret to the Mini Aegis—its three inch blade is housed in a knife that weighs two ounces.  Read that again.  It is really stunning to see a knife of this size with all of these bells and whistles that weighs virtually nothing.  A standard deck of Bicycle Brand playing cards weighs 3.4 ounces.  This gem weighs 2.  The AUS-8 steel is not anyone’s idea of advanced technology but it is plenty adequate.  If you have sharpening skills is probably better than that.  All of this for around $45 is a true bargain.  It may not be anyone’s darling—lots prefer the Delica or the Flash 1—but as a package the Mini Aegis beats them both in my opinion.  

4. Spyderco Manix 2 Lightweight (purchase)


Its awfully tough to find a legitimate reason to carry a folding knife bigger than 3 inches.  Setting aside their use as a defensive weapon, big knives cannot make the utility calculus work in their favor.  They are big.  They are tough to carry.  They are more expensive.  They startle people.  They are wide and heavy in the pocket.  They can get you tangled up in legal troubles.  And yet for all of those disadvantages, they don’t really DO all that much more work, compared to their 3 inch or less brothers and sisters.  As I think you can tell—I have a bias against big knives.  But oh man does the Manix 2 Lightweight stand out.  This is a very slim knife. Its wide, as all Spydercos are, but it is a true featherweight.  At 3 ounces with a 3.37 blade, the Manix 2 weighs just a bit more than the significantly smaller Delica.  It has a blade of BD-1 steel, an American made Carpenter steel I found to be quite good, similar in use to AUS-8.  Its also relatively inexpensive, coming in around $70.  The one thing that really stuck with me about the Manix 2 Lightweight was just how good it was in the hand.  The finger choil and slim, curved profile worked very, very well.   

3. Kershaw Skyline (purchase)


Reaching the Top 3 is a big deal.  All of the knives on this list are excellent, but these three really stand out over and above the competition.  They are all superior blades in their own right and I would not disagree with anyone rearranging the order of them.  I strongly prefer the Dragonfly, but I can see the reasonableness in making an argument for the other two.  For me, the Skyline represents one of the best values of any single one EDC item (probably tied with the Zebra F-701 pen with the Space Pen mod).  The Skyline works a number of different angles to reach this rarified position—it is very light, the flipper is quite nice and thankfully unassisted, and the overall shape of both the knife and the handle is quite good.  The steel, Sandvik’s 14C28N is easily one of my favorites on the market, performing as good as steels that are much more expensive.  The clip, borrowed from Strider during the KAI USA/Strider collab period when ZT started, is a work of simple brilliance.  The Skyline is the knife that Kershaw made when it really questioned everything.  Do you REALLY need an assist?  Nope.  Gone.  Do you REALLY need two metal liners? Nope.  Gone.  Do you REALLY need jimping on the spine?  Nope. Gone.  That process of reduction, like in French cooking, leaves behind a knife with such concentrated quality that it is better than many blades two or three times its meager $41 price tag.  Oh, and it is made in the USA.  

2. Benchmade Mini Griptillian 555hg (purchase)


The Benchmade Mini Griptillian is a special knife.  Its very good.  But thumb studs aren’t my favorite thing in the world.  But the Mini Grip 555hg actually has a thumb hole, making it significantly better than its studded brethren.  In many ways the Mini Grip 555hg is like the New York Yankees of EDC knives—it takes the best from all over the knife world and puts it in one awesome package.  It has the opening hole of a Spyderco, a lock, the Axis lock, invented by a man and his stepson, then bought by Benchmade.  It has a nice simple pocket clip that reminds me of the simple greatness of an Emerson.  It has excellent jimping all around the knife.  The steel, 154CM, is pretty darn good too.  All of these things, borrowed from other sources, are tweaked just a bit and the end result is one of the best knives in the world, regardless of price.  Yes, I mean that.  You can spend thousands of dollars on a blade and it might have fancier material and nicer fit and finish, but it won’t perform as a knife much better than the Mini Grip.  The entire knife, is ambidextrous, a huge achievement.  You can close the knife without putting your fingers in the blade path, another great design feature.  And the blade shape, a nice modified sheepsfoot, is really really useful.  Finally, Benchmade wisely made the blade just under 3 inches, a magic number as many jurisdictions ban blades any bigger.  Finally, the “hg” has a purpose here, designating this knife as a hollow ground blade, which I strongly prefer for EDC (especially compared to the regular Mini Grip’s flat grind).  There is simply nothing bad about this knife.  Well, okay, that is a bit of an exaggeration.  There is one thing—the pocket clip is placed on top of some really coarse material that eats away at your pocket fabric.  But that is such a small point for such a great knife. 

1.  Spyderco Dragonfly II in ZDP-189 and FRN handles (purchase)


This is the perfect EDC knife.  I have customs in my collection.  I have an XM-18, a Strider PT, and I have owned a Sebenza.  They are all great knives. 

This knife is better. 

I know that sounds like heresy, but it is true.  This knife is a rare combination of performance and price.  Its size is perfect for me.  There is really no reason to carry a knife bigger than this, especially if defensive issues aren’t a concern.  The Dragonfly II can accomplish probably 99% of your daily cutting tasks and it does it with splendid design grace.  The blade shape, the classic Spyderco leaf shape, is wonderful.  The flat grind here is amazingly thin.  The handle is shaped nicely and the choil gives you a full four finger grip on a blade that is slightly smaller (when closed) than half a US dollar.  The blade is well under 2 ounces.  The wire clip is great, a thicker more rigid version of the wire clip found on the Caly3 and other knives.  There is even a swedge, bringing the knife to a needle like tip without making it flimsy.  

But all of the Dragonfly II are this good.  The ZDP-189 FRN version is a step above the others.  First, the steel is truly insane.  With 3% carbon and 20% chromium, this is a knife that can take and hold an edge like nothing I have ever seen.  It can get a little stained, but that is rare in my experience.  I have cut wood, rope, cardboard, linoleum tile, insulation, roof shingles (not recommended), paper, plastic, tape, fabric, rubber, and just about any other material you can think of with a ZDP-189 blade and it stays sharp forever.  That combination of edge holding and corrosion resistance makes this a truly perfect EDC steel—you can just use it without having to be vexed by maintenance.  But be kind to the steel and strop it.  A full resharpen on a steel this hard is a task even Hercules is upset to undertake.  And be sure to skip the fancied up Nishijin handled version—it adds weight and no utility.  Plus it is ugly.  

You can spend more on a knife, certainly, but you probably can’t buy one that is noticeably better in the EDC role than the Spyderco Dragonfly II in ZDP-189 with FRN scales.  Its amazing.   

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