A good knife is more than a tool; it’s an extension of your hand. When the Benchmade set arrived, I immediately grabbed the utility knife (which is what I would call a petty knife), and about 10 minutes later I forgot I was holding it (in a good way). The blade was thin and slid under the flashing on a skirt steak I was cleaning without my having to plan it. My fingers moved and the knife obeyed. A good tool allows you to operate on instinct and experience that way.
The handles are comfortable and well-balanced against the blade, although I question the wisdom of having pivot ring holes in a chef’s knife, as they’re more likely to collect food and grime than they would in a folding knife. Otherwise, these are good-looking, light, highly responsive knives. After several months of using them, I find that about 80 percent of the time, I still reach for the 6-inch utility knife.
They hold an edge remarkably well, which means less time spent sharpening. I have only sharpened them twice since I got them, which is far less than I sharpened my own knives in the same time period. These seem to hold an edge better than my Benchmade folding knife. That may be due to Benchmade’s proprietary SelectEdge technology, which uses a 14-degree angle. That can be tricky to maintain, but I used a Work Sharp field sharpener ($30 at Amazon, $34 at Work Sharp), which has 20-degree guides, and then just brought it down to 14 from there.
It’s worth noting that, more than a knife for the fanatic, these are great knives for the newcomer. They are somehow more approachable and easier to work with than many of the knives in our knife guide. I can’t pin down exactly why that is, but I have observed it in the rest of my family.
Thanks to that knife guide, I test dozens of knives every year. All of them live in the kitchen drawer (I know, the horror, but it’s a good stress test). The Benchmade knives are the first test knives my wife has ever used regularly. My kids also use these knives without hesitation.
I don’t have a logical explanation for my family’s willingness to grab these knives. Some of it might be that they’re less exotic-looking than many knives I test. They look like most people’s idea of chef’s knives. They don’t have a crazy swirling pattern in the steel, and they don’t look like they need hours of care when you’re done with them (because they don’t). But more than that, there’s just something intangible about them that makes you want to pick them up and use them. Good tools tend to call out to you.
Knife fanatics might roll their eyes at this sort of thing, but these knives won’t make them happy anyway. They will rightly point out that there are harder steels out there. That’s true, though there are two options for the Benchmade set, either CPM-154 or 440c, the former being what I tested.
The other big question is whether they are a good value for the money. A good knife doesn’t have to be expensive; my favorite knife has no markings on it, and I can’t recall where it came from or how much it cost. For this price, you could order custom knives, like my fellow chefs did years ago.
If you know enough about your personal taste in knives and have the money to order a custom knife, then that is what you should do. But for everyone else, these Benchmade knives are a great choice. They’re approachable, they’re thin and light, they hold an edge remarkably well, they sharpen easily, and they come with a lifetime warranty.