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Everything You Need to Know About Benchmade

Benchmade might just be the most common name you hear in the knife community. They’ve been making heirloom-quality knives for decades, and innovating all along the way. No knife company is copied, chased, emulated, or knocked off more than Benchmade because Benchmade has figured out how to make knives you can truly count on. Today, I’m going to tell you all about Benchmade Knives – how they got started, what makes them so great, what the future holds, and more! 

How was Benchmade Created? 

Les de Asis, the son of Filipino and Portuguese immigrants, started Bali-Song, Inc. in California in 1979. Les saw the butterfly knife, more properly known as the balisong, as a great tool for self-defense and as a way to connect with his Filipino heritage. He was frustrated with the existing balisong market, as most of its knives were chintzy and unreliable, so he set out to make one that was good enough to last a lifetime. 

That pursuit of quality took Les, his wife Roberta, and their fledgling company from nothing into a cutlery powerhouse. However, no matter how big they became, every single knife the company has made has been assembled and sharpened by hand at a workbench. Along the way, Bali-Song, Inc. was renamed the Pacific Cutlery Corporation.  In 1988, they changed the name one last time, giving it the fitting name we know and love – Benchmade Knife Company.  

What Makes Benchmade Special? 

From the beginning, Benchmade has been fiercely committed to making knives that will do their job without compromise indefinitely. It started with the Bali-Songs, and made its way to folders, fixed blades, autos and more. Now, they make purpose-built knives for everyday carry, combat, rescue, survival, hunting, fishing and more, and each knife is backed by their LifeSharp Guarantee and one of the best warranties in the industry. 

That LifeSharp Guarantee means that when your knife goes dull, and it will, you can just send it to Benchmade, and they will re-sharpen it for free. In addition, they will disassemble the knife, give it a deep clean and relubrication, and put it back together good as new. If your knife was broken through abuse, they will work with you on pricing to replace blades, handle scales, lockbars, etc.  

Benchmade has also remained at the forefront of knife innovation for decades. They collaborate with master knifemakers and designers to create not only designs, but materials and mechanisms that disrupt the industry. For example, in the late 1990’s, the 710 McHenry and Williams was released featuring the brand-new AXIS Lock. That lock, prized for its strength, ease of use, and ambidextrous actuation, was Benchmade’s calling card for twenty years, until the patent expired in 2018. Now, every knife company under the sun has released a crossbar lock in search of that secret Benchmade sauce. 

But even though the AXIS Lock patent is expired, the music still goes on at Benchmade. In recent years, they’ve been granted patents for adjustable weight balisong handles, upgraded spring designs, and double action automatics, just to name a few. Benchmade is and always has been busy moving the needle in the knife industry.   

What knives does Benchmade make? 

This is a simple question with a long answer, so I’ll break it down by class. Benchmade has a total of five active classes of knives: the Blue Class, Black Class, Gold Class, Hunt Class, and Water Class. Each of these classes offers knives for different purposes. I’ll tell you what each class of knives is for, and a couple of knives within each class that are especially popular. Just know that this list isn’t anywhere near exhaustive. Benchmade has a massive catalog, much larger than this article could handle. 

The Blue Class 

The Blue Class is comprised of EDC knives, outdoor knives, and balisongs. The king of the Blue Class is the Bugout, a simple folder that weighs in at less than two ounces. The Bugout might just be the best EDC knife ever made, and as such, it’s extremely popular and we have a ton of media about it. We have an entire Bugout review if you’re interested in learning more. 

The Necron is the newest addition to the Bali-Song family, and it’s quite something. Benchmade made it to get back to their roots of butterfly knives for everyday carry, and in a pinch, self-defense. This knife has a special texture to tell you which handle is safe, an adjustable weight system so you can customize your flipping experience, and a CPM S30V blade featuring Benchmade’s SelectEdge, which we’ll talk about more in the Hunt and Water Classes. It’s an epic knife, and a welcome addition to the Bali-Song family! 

Some other Blue Class knives to check out are the 940 Osborne, Griptilian, Freek, and Bushcrafter

The Black Class 

This is the tactical class. Here, you’ll find knives purpose-built for military and police, self-defense, rescue, and other applications where seconds count and lives are on the line. These take the form of folders, fixed blades, automatics, and OTFs. Right now, the Claymore is a favorite of our military and law enforcement customers because it’s rugged enough for the battlefield, but incredibly light and functional in design. It’s just as at home in a pair of jeans as it is on a tactical vest. 

The Shane Sibert-designed Adamas line is a favorite for hard-users. The folder, the auto, the mini, and the fixed blade variants all use CPM CruWear blade steel, prized for its incredible edge retention and bomb-proof toughness. Combined with Benchmade’s attention to detail and generous warranty, the Adamas family is a force to be reckoned with in the knife world. 

Other Black Class knives to check out are the Bailout, the SOCP, the Immunity, the Shootout, and the iconic Infidel

The Gold Class

If you’re a hard-core knife collector, the Gold Class is for you. Each year, Benchmade will release one or two models from the other classes as Gold Class, featuring rare, exotic, and expensive materials. These knives get expensive, but if you can afford one, pounce on it quick! Gold Class knives are all limited, and when they’re gone, they’re gone for good. 

The Hunt Class 

As its name suggests, the Hunt Class is for hunting knives. And these aren’t your granddad’s hunting knives – these are ultra-modern top-of-the-line hunting knives built with today’s hunters in mind. Take the Taggedout. It uses much the same design language as the tried-and-true hunting folders of the past, but updates it with a CPM-154 blade and an injection-molded handle with a combined weight of less than three ounces. It’s also sharpened with Benchmade’s SelectEdge, a razor-thin edge ground to 14° per side. This edge is so sharp it’s crazy, and it’s just what the doctor ordered for processing game. 

One thing I love about Benchmade is that they think long enough to ask the right questions. We often think of hunting knives like outdoor knives with deep bellies, but Benchmade dared to ask “aren’t most hunting knives basically kitchen knives in disguise?” This genius question led to the Meatcrafter, which is just so wonderful for hunting. It’s kind of like a filet and boning knife, but it comes with a grippy rubberized handle and a Kydex sheath like a hunting knife. If you’re the kind of hunter who likes to bring home restaurant-quality cuts of meat, you’ve got to get a Meatcrafter! 

Other Hunt Class knives to check out are the Crooked River, Saddle Mountain, Steep Country, and North Fork

The Water Class 

New for 2024, the Water Class is for people with hobbies and jobs that take them into and around water. Water makes knives hard to grip and can rust the blades, so Benchmade set out to make a line that would solve the problem once and for all. Each knife in the Water Class uses CPM MagnaCut blade steel, which is known for being tough, holding an edge, and resisting rust better than almost any other steel. The knives run the gamut in size and shape, but the most popular so far has been the Adira. This heavy use folder uses the tried-and-true AXIS Lock and has a grippy handle with a design that keeps it in your hand, even when wet or slippery. It’s like an amphibious EDC knife, and so far, everyone loves it! 

One of the big reasons people find their way to the water is for fishing, so Benchmade took the Meatcrafter design from the Hunt Class and modified it a little to make the Fishcrafter. It uses a MagnaCut blade, a blue rubberized handle, and an injection molded sheath to be perfect for wet environments. They did an especially good job with the heat treatment on this one, as the blade has a lot of flexibility, but still retains its edge darn near forever. 

Other Water Class knives to check out are the Undercurrent and Intersect

The Elephant in the Room: Why So Expensive? 

In recent years, Benchmade has come under scrutiny for pricing. A lot of the community is upset about it, and it’s not our favorite thing either, but it’s necessary. Before you jump through the internet and physically assault me, hear me out.

First of all, making knives in the USA will always be more expensive. American workers need to be paid a livable wage for American communities, and a little digging on Glassdoor shows that Benchmade pays their employees more than many other USA-made companies do. Benchmade also offers a warranty that signs them up for decades of on-call support for knives they may or may not still produce. That costs a lot of money. And, as anyone who tried to build a deck in the last three years knows all too well, raw materials are more expensive now than they ever have been in history. Add all of these factors to Benchmade’s extensive research and development, generous military and police discounts, scrutinous quality control, and the fact that they don’t sell factory seconds, and the price tag goes up. 

While Benchmade’s prices may not be as low as yesteryear, we can still count on Benchmade to make uncompromising cutting tools. To me, they are worth it. And I’m not just saying that because I’m a Blade HQ employee. Even before working here, I have laid down my own hard-earned money and bought several Benchmade knives, and I don’t regret it. They weren’t cheap, but they’ve proven their immense value time and time again. I’d say I’d happily buy another Benchmade, but I have no need to. The ones I have have held up to use, and even some abuse, without any problems. And if problems do arise, I know that Benchmade has my back. If the only knives I had for the rest of my life were my few Benchmade knives, I would be happy. 

Should you buy a Benchmade? 

In my opinion, yes. Benchmade makes some of the best knives in the world, and Benchmade is committed to keeping your knife in top shape for the long haul. I don’t think Benchmade knives are meant to be bought by the dozens and stored in Pelican cases like collectors like to. Benchmade knives are meant to be your everyday companion, something you consider carefully, save up for, buy, and never look back.