Sunday, August 7, 2016

Chris Reeve Knives Insingo Sebenza Review

Chris Reeve Knives Insingo Sebenza Review

When we start talking about the best pocket knives on earth we have to talk about the Chris Reeve Knives Sebenza. From my perspective the Reeve Sebenza is without question the finest hard use folding knife on earth. Sure there are more expensive folders out there in the custom market and high end sharpened pry bars marketed as knives, however if you want and honest to goodness cutting tool, I have yet to find another production folding knife of its equal. After picking up a standard 3.6-inch Sebenza last year, I was lusting over the adapted Wharncliffe style Insingo Sebenza blade. A few months later, my wait was over and I opened my Chris Reeve Knives shipment bounding with excitement. This style of blade has become a favorite of mine for all purpose utility cutting chores.

If I could take one folding knife anywhere or even into space it would be a large Sebenza. The starting price for a large 3.6” bladed Sebenza 21 is $410. It is far from the $40 clam packed Buck knives at bulk retailers and is for the person who wants or needs the absolute best heavy duty folding knife money can buy. Chris Reeve Knives offers the basic/plain model all the way to specialty, computer generated anodized designs, to your own custom CNC graphics with prices that quickly jump to $800 or more depending on blade steels and the level of handle customization. If you can imagine a design on a Sebenza handle, they can likely make it. Whether you choose the Plain or the Custom Sebenza this classic knife delivers a stronger and more secure locking mechanism & handle, top tier crucible steel blade and quality, fit & finish which is only equaled on meticulously custom knives. The Sebenza pretty much defined the term "custom-production knives".

Chris Reeve Knives is one of the preeminent legends of the knife industry, however like many of us, Chris had to find his way to becoming one of the most celebrated knife makers in the world.  Chris Reeve was actually a Grand Prix motorcycle racer in the 1970s, however his original background goes all the way back to machining, tool, and die manufacturing. Chris began his knife making business in Southern Africa where he enjoyed quite a bit of attention. When he and his wife Anne moved to the US, they vowed to make the knife business a success and the rest is not just history, but a legacy of cutlery greatness.

Let’s look how well respected he is in the industry:
1987 Knifemaker’s Guild of Southern Africa "Best Folding Knife"
2000-2013, 2015 - 2016 for "Manufacturing Quality Award"
2003 "Collaboration Knife of the Year"
2005 "Collector Knife of the Year"
2006 Grays Sporting Journal "Gray's Best" Award
2007 "American Made Knife of the Year"
2008 "Overall Knife of the Year"
2008 Field and Stream "Best of the Best"
2010 "Overall Knife of the Year"

This is not just another liner lock. The Walker liner lock has proven to be reliable and strong and is used everywhere in the knife industry, however if you want to step up in strength, most do not know that another popular and heavily imitated frame lock design was actually invented by Chris Reeve Knives as the Reeve Integral Lock - RIL. The RIL increases reliability and strength of the Walker lock design mainly because the RIL designs are built around thick high strength metal handles which also form the liner lock versus just a thin liner. Reeves uses .150” thick 6Al4V Titanium for his handles, so the resulting lock is about as strong as you can possibly make a locking mechanism without increases bulk and weight substantially.

Just like my other drop point Sebenza, this Insingo Blade Sebenza shares all the same fit, finish, feel and features but just with a bit different blade. There are really only four materials represented in the final Sebenza which include CPM S35VN stainless steel, 6Al4V titanium, 303 stainless steel, and phosphor bronze.  The CPM S35VN stainless steel is used to form the precision concave precision ground modified Insingo blade which pivots on a phosphor bronze bushing for extremely smooth operation.

Everything from the S35VN steel to the hollow grind has been tuned and optimized over the years to deliver the best folding cutting tool on the market. Use the Sebenza and the is immediately noticeable.

The Chris Reeve knives have an understated level of class that is conveyed in the raw 6Al4V titanium handles assembled with 303 stainless steel screws and 6Al4V titanium fittings. Its an elegant look all wrapped up in a stunning level of precision tolerances that most German sports cars would be envious of.  

Having seen well worn Sebenza's before, I can tell you that the titanium handles wear just like that perfect pair of jeans and develop a patina. I am not sure if it's the titanium being affected by the elements, or the titanium itself wearing, however it's a beautiful effect. It takes years, however the look makes you love the knife even more.

From a handle strength perspective, there really is no equal. I mean come on, the Sebenza features two titanium handles which together add up to over 1/4". There is nothing in my life I would ever use a cutting tool for which would break these handles.  

When you actually start cutting something instead of just parading around with it, the Sebenza design delivers everything you would expect in a design refined for over twenty years. The CPM S35VN stainless steel takes a razor sharp cutting edge and holds it for a very very long time even when cutting very tough materials. There are many great steels available, however S35VN delivers corrosion, toughness, and wear resistance balance at a higher level than other steels.  Part of that performance is due to Reeve's blade design and grind refined over the years and the steel used for the blade.

Reeve modified the original Wharncliffe style blade to have a bit more belly and tune it for his Sebenza Insingo blade design. The result is an amazing cutting blade that provides a more precise straight cut through the draw stroke than drop point blades. What you will find with the Reeve’s knives are that the blades cut extremely aggressively. I have a lot of sharp knives, however the Sebenza’s are hard use knives with a razor edge that stays sharp for an extremely long time.

Without placing a Chris Reeve Knives Sebenza in hand, it is literally impossible to convey the beauty, feel, and quality of a Sebenza just through words and pictures.  I loved my first drop point Sebenza so much I ordered a second with the Insingo blade. The next time you have $100 burning a hole in your pocket, I challenge you to save $300 more and buy that "just one great knife"... buy a Chris Reeve Knives Sebenza. The only regret you will have is not doing it sooner.

Tested - Chris Reeve Knives Sebenza 21 Insingo

Large Sebenza 21 MSRP $410
Small Sebenza 21 MSRP $350

Blade Material: CPM S35VN Stainless Steel
Blade Hardness: 58-59 RC
Blade Length:  Large - 3.625" (92 mm), Small - 2.94" (75 mm)
Blade Thickness:  0.125" (3.175 mm)
Overall Length: Large - 8.335" (212 mm), Small - 6.875" (175 mm)
Handle Material: 6Al4V Titanium
Handle Thickness: Large - 0.150" (3.81 mm), Small - 0.125" (3.175 mm)
Weight: Large - 4.7 oz. (133 g), Small - 3.0 oz. (85 g)
Fittings: 303 Stainless Steel
Thumblug: 6Al4V Titanium
Pocket Clip: 6Al4V Titanium

Chris Reeve Knives -

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