In comparing piles of knives, we become a bit jaded. All are well made, the differences are subtle and debatable, and the price differences are huge. What makes a $180 knife twice as good as one that costs $90? In short, it is smoothness. The North Fork knife is super smooth. It opens smoothly, locks smoothly, and cuts smoothly. It will cut well for years and years, and Benchmade will sharpen it in a process that is also, well, smooth. Our only wish with the North Fork knife is that it was assisted opening. We've come to appreciate this function, and when the competition is so good, we can't award our top honor to a knife that isn't assisted opening. For that reason, the otherwise similar Benchmade Mini Barrage 585 earns our Editors' Choice award. If the assisted opening function isn't necessary to you, the North Fork could be just the ticket.
Benchmade 15031-2 North Fork Review
Cons: Expensive, no assisted opening function
#3 of 14
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Benchmade North Fork knife can be thought of like a special edition of the Editors' Choice Mini-Barrage. Notable differences include fewer customizable options, the wooden handle, and the lack of assisted opening. If you are ok with the blade steel of the North Fork (the Mini Barrage offers choices, the North Fork does not) and do not want the assisted opening function of the Barrage, the wooden handle of the North Fork may appeal to you. All others will prefer the Mini-Barrage.
Benchmade stacks the deck with their products. They make immaculate pocket knives with mass distribution. It is no secret that they are going to top lists like ours. Our top three performing products are Benchmade knives.
Blade and Edge Integrity
All you might think you care about, as it pertains to a knife's edge, is "is it sharp?" Now, that is a simple question, with a complicated answer. First, even right out of the box, there are different definitions of sharp. Sure, sharp is sharp; the blade has a pointed edge, or it doesn't. However, that is not the whole story. The angle(s) at which the faces of the blade meet determines the function of that edge. A steeper angle may very well be sharp, but it doesn't cut very well because the faces must force the material apart further after making the initial cut.
A smaller angle cuts very well but won't last very long. Which brings us to the other part of blade and edge integrity. Your blade must be sharp and stay that way. Also, because every knife requires ongoing sharpening (despite what certain budget knife manufacturers claim), it must be easy to resurface. All these attributes are difficult to balance and tune. Additionally, the variables are many. A blade's sharpness and integrity is a function of materials, heat treatment, and geometry. In the end, after tuning all of these, Benchmade does a dang fine job with the blade of the North Fork. The blade is carefully tuned and consists of excellent materials. The other Benchmade blades are similar and provide good quality as well. In term of blade performance, the Kershaw Blur and Best Buy Kershaw Leek come close to comparing to the Benchmade knives.
Aside from one major variable, the ergonomics of the North Fork knife are virtually identical to those of the Editors Choice Benchmade Mini Barrage 585. And it is ergonomics that set the Mini Barrage apart from other high-end knives we tested. These two are both just the right size, with smooth hinges, easy one-handed operation, and locks that work easier and more reliably than any other in the test. Larger knives are better in bigger than average hands and for bigger than average tasks, but the size of the North Fork and Mini Barrage are just right for most people in most applications.
The one way in which these two are different is in the assisted opening function. On the Mini-Barrage (and on the Best Buy Kershaw Leek, Top Pick SOG Trident Elite, and Kershaw Blur, among others) the blade is spring loaded in such a way that the user just needs to start the process of opening it, and the spring pulls it the rest of the way. Our test team (and likely you) like this feature. It is this that mainly sets the Mini-Barrage ahead of the North Fork.
Portability is a function of size, weight, pocket clip utility, and other carry options. Portability, regarding size, is also at direct odds with ergonomics. Larger knives (to a point) are easier to use. Smaller knives (with no limit, really) are more portable. On the entire continuum of pocket knife size, the North Fork is near the top. However, it is not at the very top. It is this size that seems to offer the best compromise of ergonomics and portability. The size is such that it clips relatively unobtrusively to your pants pocket. The pocket clip is secure and can be switched from one side to the other, depending on your hand preference.
The Top Pick Victorinox Classic is our features and portability leader. It is just a tiny fraction of the size of the North Fork. The portability of the Benchmade North Fork is the same as that of the Editors' Choice Mini Barrage. The North Fork is far more portable than the full size Spyderco Tenacious, Benchmade Griptillian 551, and Top Pick SOG Trident Elite.
There are no other features on the Benchmade North Fork. It is just a simple blade in a handle.
The North Fork from Benchmade is well made. In fact, all the knives we tested are well made. We only review top scoring products, and top performing pocket knives are all well made of excellent materials. What sets the best of the best apart is their weight for the construction quality. It is easy to make a heavy, sturdy knife. Benchmade makes sturdy knives that are lightweight. This is a greater feat.
The bombproof Buck Famous Folder is sturdy, but twice the weight of the North Fork. The construction quality of all the Benchmade knives is excellent. Both Best Buy knives (Kershaw Leek and Opinel No 08) are sturdy and made of exceptional materials, with smooth hinges. The CRKT Squid, though small, accomplishes its construction quality with heft. It is quite a bit smaller than the North Fork but weighs about the same.
Benchmade markets the North Fork knives to hunters. For this, it is great. The blade will hold an edge through an entire large game field dressing, while the simple construction can be easily cleaned out afterward. For more pedestrian "everyday carry," these same attributes will be appreciated.
This contender is not an inexpensive knife. For that, you get great quality and lasting design. However, we cannot call it a great value. It is a boutique piece of equipment for discerning users.
For those discerning users, the quality of the Benchmade is self-evident and will be well worth it. Just be sure you can keep track of such an expensive piece of small equipment. It would be a tragedy to lose the North Fork knife.
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Most recent review: August 21, 2017
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