Knives featured in the article:
Schrade/Uncle Henry “Rancher”
We are lucky enough to have readers and contributors from all over the world. While we aim to keep the flavour of our articles international there are some such as this one that could leave non English residents scratching their heads in confusion..
For many readers outside the UK the legality aspect of a knife is not a consideration. Knives have been used by humans for thousands of years as a day to day tool. Pretty much every human being on this planet owns or has use of a knife or similar tool (a sharp cutting edge). Knives are used for food prep, wood work, unpacking, rope cutting, gardening, fishing, camping, the list goes on and on.. In many countries the law recognises the “tool” part of the knife. Sadly in the U.K. and now Europe and even in some U.S. states the law prohibits certain types of knife.
To me the idea that one type of knife is somehow more dangerous to the public than another is quite ludicrous. For many years the “Flick knife” or “Switchblade” has been banned from sale/import in the UK – yet you can buy a razor sharp chefs knife with no issue on the high street. Which represents the most danger to the public? Well they are equally dangerous. They both work in exactly the same fashion (cutting or stabbing). The danger really lies in the intention of the wielder of a knife. If someone has bad intentions then all knives, heavy objects, pointy things, and even vehicles represent danger to the public. You cannot ensure peoples safety by criminalising certain features of a knife such as its blade length or opening mechanism.
What is a UK legal knife?
Despite my protestations the law exists and must be adhered to. So just what does the law say about knives in the UK?
The first thing I should mention is that no knife is legal to carry in the UK without good intention regarding its use. If you were to be stopped and searched by Police who find you carrying a knife then the first thing they will ask is “what is this for?”. If you do not have a credible answer which they can check into then you will probably end up in court facing criminal charges.
I take a knife with me to work which is a valid reason to carry IF your work requires such a knife. You may have to convince a court of its suitability so a large fixed blade for box cutting is not going to fly!
The Schrade “Leroy” not the most suitable box cutting blade for the office.. Great knife though (review to follow).
Now many of you will say “What about general use? EDC or everyday carry? Surely that is a legit reason?”
Yes it is and the law recognises that use specifically in the UK by drawing a number of acceptable limits on what constitutes a general use knife for EDC.
Blade length. – Max 3″
Mechanism. – Non Locking. Not a “gravity”, “Auto” or fixed blade knife.
In general terms this is what most of us would refer to as a small, non locking, folding blade pocket knife.
Even when carrying such a knife one must be careful. The law does not offer you carte blanche to carry where you please. Schools, nightclubs, bars and concerts are just some of the venues which the law takes a dim view on regarding knives of any type. Whichever Country you are in I would advise going to the Governments website which details the law. Gain a full understanding of your own before you carry anything knife like for any reason.
Knives suitable for UK carry.
All the knives we are looking at in this article fit the criteria discussed above. They are sub 3″ non locking folders. I will review two of the knives in some depth as I have been able to use and test them.. Fantonis wonderful Dweller and the Rancher from Schrades “Uncle Henry” line. The Spyderco and the Byrd are both owned by people whom I trust and were kind enough to offer their opinions and allow me to take some pictures (thanks Andy, Nick and Jon!).
Schrade/Uncle Henry – Rancher.
Schrade knives (a Taylorbrand company) have a line of knives called “Uncle Henry”. We have reviewed a couple of them here before in the “Gentlemans folders” article a few weeks ago. I am rapidly becoming a fan of Schrade knives after testing several of their blades against much more expensive competition. They have been superb especially considering the amazing price points.
The Rancher is the only multiblade knife of the four we are looking at. It has a main Bowie style blade and two smaller blades – described as sheepsfoot and clip pen blades. The sheepsfoot lacks a point and has a rounded dull back making it ideal for delicate tasks..
The clip pen is just the opposite – it has a sharp but sturdy point suiting it to carving or digging into wood to make a hole or indents.
The blades are all non locking and each snicks happily into place very securely. The handles are “Staglon” which is Schrades synthetic antler. It has a pleasing touch and of course a classic look. Little touches such as the brass pins really add to the heritage concept.
The blades are made from Carbon steel (7Cr17) which may not be considered high end but is more than adequate for small pocket knives. It can hold a very sharp edge and retention is reasonable – daily use would see me sharpen this weekly. Not a big deal to me.
The main blade is 2.5″ long keeping it below the legal 3″ maximum but retaining enough length to remain useful for daily tasks. The tip is quite long and narrow which make it suitable for tasks such as food and small game prep.
I have been taking the Rancher to work as a secondary knife. I usually use a CRKT Hammond cruiser for box cutting, carpet cutting and so on. Sometimes I need to inlet wooden frames and the long blade of the CRKT is not particuarly effective. The two short blades on the Rancher really came into their own. They are tough and sturdy and offer a good combination of cutting and digging.
Being small and light the Rancher can sit in your pocket until needed without weighing your pants down like a bigger multi tool would.
The Rancher like all small pocket knives has its limitations. None of these knives are going to chop firewood but that is not their purpose.. They are general use pocket knives. As such the Rancher proved robust and very capable.
The Rancher has a pleasant appearance and lacks any “tactical” cosmetics which tend to be prevalent now. I have nothing against a tactical looking pocket knife but we must consider context. Sometimes I perform maintenance tasks with the knife in a setting where I am visible to the public. In those circumstances I would rather have a knife looking traditional.
As expected the Rancher is an absolute bargain. Prices range from 20-30USD and the same in GBP. Schrades pricing is a refreshing change to an industry where some prices have become quite ridiculous.
I reviewed Fantonis Hide folder recently and the cosmetics and craftsmanship were simply amazing. I am glad to say the Dweller follows in its bigger cousins footsteps.. Fantoni are an Italian company and I have to say the Italians are really leading the way when it comes to elegant and beautiful field cutlery. Fantoni knives don’t just look beautiful though.. they also perform very well.
The Dweller has solid wooden scales and they are stunning. This particular model has pale olive wood scales but several other types are available. The Dweller can also be found with Micarta scales for those who want a less traditional look.
The attention to detail and craftsmanship are immediately obvious as you turn the knife in your hand and take in the simple yet elegant design.
The small handle is shaped nicely to fit the hand with a curvature near to the base of the blade which gives the front finger a safe gripping point when in use.
The Dweller comes with a classy looking rustic leather pouch. The knife is a tight fit at first but as is usual with leather it loosens up after a couple of weeks and provides the perfect protection from other abrasive items in the pocket. These wooden scales are far too pretty to scratch up with keys and loose change.
The blade is made from Sandvik 19C27 steel. Sandvik created the steel for tools which would be used to cut cardboard and fibrous materials. Cardboard is notorious for blunting blades quickly but is also a material that many of us cut often both at home and work. Using a steel specifically designed for the task is a sensible choice for a pocket knife. The blade is just over 2.5″ and has an elegant shape ending in a very sharp tip. In terms of sharpness this is one of the most insanely sharp knives I have ever tested out of the box. You could easily use it as a straight edge razor if the need arose!
The Dweller lends itself to box cutting and food preparation due to the blade shape. It does not suit digging or prying. The razor edge makes short work of taking down boxes for recycling and has remained sharp enough to slice even the softest tomato. Considering it has despatched about 20 large boxes I would say that is pretty impressive.
It makes a fantastic food prep knife. It is a great shape for cutting up meat/veg and would make an excellent skinning or filleting blade due to its sharpness and slim profile.
Weight wise the Dweller comes in at 1.8oz which is light enough to be virtually unnoticeable for pocket carry.
Fantoni knives tend to be priced in the mid range. I actually found the Dwellers price to be pretty good considering the materials used. In the UK I would pay between 70-80GBP and in the States around 100USD. For those that like something really eye catching I think it is well worth it.
I was able to have a good look over a couple of friends UKPKs and get a couple of photos. They also gave me their honest feedback after using them for a couple of years. I wanted to include this knife as it has become incredibly popular in the UK. It is of course named as a knife which is specifically made to adhere to UK knife laws.
Spyderco have their own style which many absolutely love. They have a look in both body and blade which is immediately recognised by knife fans. The UKPK does look a bit more “tactical” than our first two knives. This deserves a mention in regards the law. While it is true that all the knives in this article conform to the laws stipulations regarding features, the people who uphold said laws are going to be using their perception. If you get stopped by a police officer you must remember they are going to be making a judgement call based mostly on how things appear to them. If they pulled a guy with an Uncle Henry Rancher and a guy with a Spyderco UKPK I would guess the Spyderco would generate more interest from them as it looks pretty badass! Yes it shouldn’t matter and in the end the court would treat both knives in the same regard but it maybe worth considering depending on your environment.
The features which immediately stood out to me were the one handed opening and the addition of a pocket clip. Both previous knives require holding in one hand while pulling the blade out with the other finger and thumb. The UKPKs blade has a hole which is now a Spyderco icon, allowing the user to open the blade with the thumb of the hand they are holding the knife in. This is an excellent feature at work if you are holding something in one hand and need to open and use your knife with the other.
I love pocket clips for knives as it keeps them stowed in easy reach and free from pocket tangles. The Spyderco clips are particuarly cool as they allow deep carry while keeping weight minimal.
The blade is the fattest on test and feels a little better for tough tasks where you need a little more belly. It has recesses for the thumb and finger at the base with jimping in the thumb area. The finger recess acts as a choil which prevents the blade closing on you and allows you to “choke up” and control your cutting nicely. The blade is made of CTS-BD1 steel from U.S company Carpenter Technology. I have yet to use any but the impressions I have had from those I trust suggest it to be an excellent EDC knife steel which retains a good edge and offers resistance to rusting.
I should mention that there seem to be several varieties of UKPK blade types available in drop point or leaf and with serrations. The models owned by my friends were leaf blade non serrated.
The guys informed me that they have both been immensely happy with their Spydercos. In fact they both own several Spyderco knives as they were so impressed with the function and quality. They both use the knives at home and work. Neither has experienced any problems when using the UKPK.
The build and materials allow for rugged use yet remain lightweight (1.8oz). This is in part due to the scales being made of Fibreglass reinforced Nylon. FRN is very strong and does not require steel liners which keeps overall weight down despite this being the largest blade on test at 2.9″ long. The FRN is also resistant to extremes of temperature and chemical abrasion making it ideal for industrial application.
For once Spyderco are really competitive on price point. I was expecting to see them priced at around 80GBP but in fact they are priced around 55GBP. At that price it is only a matter of time before I buy one and update this review with my findings during use. In the States these retail at about $50.
Byrd are a branch of Spyderco. In essence they are Spyderco designs which are produced in China using cheaper materials. This is great news for most of us who are on a budget. I am very wary of hard using expensive knives at work. That is why I carry a £20 CRKT.. I can just use it without fear or guilt when damage occurs which it will.. For those of us who do not want to risk a £50 UKPK the Byrd Tern is an excellent alternative.
My friend Jon tells me he has owned several over the years and has been very pleased with them. Jon is a Gunsmith and knows a thing or two about about metal so I take what he says on the Tern seriously.
I have heard the Tern referred to as the UKPKs “cheap brother”. I do not think that is meant as an insult because the two knives bear many similarities in size, shape and good quality. The main differences are blade material and cost. The blade is made from 8Cr13Mov a Chinese stainless tool steel. It is not the greatest steel in the universe but it is more than adequate for general use. I have used plenty of 8Cr13Mov steel blades and have had no issues. They sharpen well and hold a good edge.
The Tern can be found for £25 to £30 in the UK. That is great value on par with the Schrade Rancher (Also produced in China). The die hard collectors may snort in disgust at Chinese made blades. I prefer to judge on how I find them and over the last 5 years I have found the Chinese blades I used to be excellent for the price.
Once again I have tried to outline options for different Environments rather than pit the knives against one another.
The Rancher is an excellent general carry and lends itself to wood working. That stubby pointed secondary blade is just super for digging in or cutting into awkward angles.
The Fantoni is more suited to personal carry as a food knife or unpacking boxes. It is a little too nice for the building site.. In fact it is so nice many will buy it just to appreciate the looks and quality..
The Spyderco UKPK is arguably the most rugged and technically advanced knife out of the four. The cutting edge materials and large blade make it ideal for industrial use but be aware its looks may cause you an issue if you are in the public or getting searched by a policeman.
The Byrd offers to do exactly what the UKPK can at half the price. Many people report buying a UKPK to keep at home and the Tern for hard use at work. Excellent idea!!
The law is unlikely to change for the better anytime soon regarding knife carry. It is likely that more European countries will bring in similar laws restricting blade length and mechanism. If that is the case we will be seeing more of these non locking folders produced by other companies. As they do I will revisit the subject and update our recommendations..
Schrade/Uncle Henry – http://taylorbrandsllc.com/collections/uncle-henry
Fantoni – http://www.fantoniknife.com/products
Spyderco/Byrd – http://m.spyderco.com/