The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

The James Brand the Chapter Review

Compact, carefully designed knife for the discerning user that seeks uniqueness and can forgive some usability issues.
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Price:  $295 List | $220.00 at Amazon
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Small, excellent materials and construction
Cons:  Short blade, issues with opening the blade, expensive
Manufacturer:   The James Brand
By Jediah Porter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Apr 12, 2019
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75
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#4 of 19
  • Blade and Edge Integrity - 30% 9
  • Ergonomics - 20% 6
  • Portability - 20% 9
  • Construction Quality - 20% 9
  • Other Features - 10% 0

Our Verdict

Excellent materials and construction go a long ways. The Chapter from The James Brand is well made of high-end materials. The price point reflects this. At that lofty price, though, we'd like to see even better blade steel and more carefully considered proportions and ergonomics. We had a few ongoing (but small) issues with the Chapter. Our testers and friends do agree, though, that this is a beautiful knife.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Chapter from "The James Brand" is sort of mouthful to talk about. Otherwise it is a super-simple pocket knife carefully constructed of excellent materials. The end result is a high-quality knife in a fairly compact form factor. It is expensive, and virtually all of our testers had some sort of issue with the dimensions. In use, though, the materials and finish have held up beautifully. The whole knife is really just a handful of excellent parts held together tightly and in a serviceable fashion. The blade has held up to significant abuse.

Performance Comparison


The primary limitation of the Chapter knife is in its size. Overall it is relatively small. Further hamstringing it is the proportion. The blade is quite a bit shorter than the handle. The result is a form that feels small even to those with small hands. Aside from dimensions, the Chapter is largely excellent.

This image shows the Chapter proportions. The blade is quite a bit shorter than the handle.
This image shows the Chapter proportions. The blade is quite a bit shorter than the handle.

Blade and Edge Integrity


The James Brand makes the blade of the Chapter of Crucible S35vn steel. On the whole spectrum of knife blade steels, this is an excellent one. Note, of course, that even the best steel will require maintenance and sharpening. The trick is to make a blade that holds its edge as long as possible and then is readily sharpened at home and by hand. Crucible steel does this well, but there are better options out there. At this lofty price point, it seems that The James Brand could have chosen an even more sophisticated blade material. The truth is though, that you likely won't notice any shortcomings with the Crucible steel and the edge geometry of the Chapter. We got the blade to nick, but this was in heavy use.

Look a the chunk of wood the stout and sharp Chapter blade cuts away here. The short blade and larger handle are actually well suited to whittling.
Look a the chunk of wood the stout and sharp Chapter blade cuts away here. The short blade and larger handle are actually well suited to whittling.

Ergonomics


On the surface, the Chapter seems to almost have it all, in terms of ergonomics. One-handed opening is king. The Chapter has that. A smooth, hand-sized handle is clutch. The Chapter does that too. The handle and open dimensions of the knife are in line with high performers. The handle is just .2 inches shorter than our Editors' Choice Benchmade Mini-Barrage and the overall length is only .4 inches shorter than the same. First, though, note the proportional difference. In comparing these two knives (one of which we've deemed to be nearly ideal), their respective handles are nearly the same length while their blades are quite different. Why The James Brand didn't make the blade closer to the length of the handle is a bit of a mystery. They leave extra distance unused inside the handle. Finally, going back to our comparison of the Benchmade Editors' Choice and The James Brand Chapter, the Benchmade Mini-Barrage has a thicker handle in all directions. These size differences are relatively tiny, but cross important thresholds and tweak crucial proportions. While the Benchmade is nearly ideal in ergonomics, all of our testers (even those with small hands) found the Chapter to feel small in use.

Best Buy Kershaw Chill next to the Chapter. Packed up  they are similar. The blade of the Kershaw is larger by an important amount.
Best Buy Kershaw Chill next to the Chapter. Packed up, they are similar. The blade of the Kershaw is larger by an important amount.

Another ergonomic issue we have to point out is in opening the blade of the Chapter. The blade sticks inside the handle just a little bit. This is good; it won't open inadvertently in your pocket. The issue, though, is that it takes a pretty stout push from your right thumb to get the blade moving out of the handle. Once you overcome this initial friction, the blade moves more easily. It moves easily enough that it swings ahead of your thumb for a little bit. Inevitably, and understandably, it hangs up before reaching full extension. Your thumb continues its trajectory, eventually catching back up to the blade. However, instead of pushing on the thumb stud, the pad of your thumb comes up against the edge of the blade. One tester's thumb has tiny cuts that indicate this issue. Assisted opening knives, like the Editors' Choice Benchmade Mini-Barrage inherently avoid this issue. Even other non-assisted, thumb-stud knives avoid this problem. We had no such problem, for instance, with the thumb stud, non-assisted opening blade of of the Benchmade Griptilian 551.

This tester's thumb shows a slight cut from normal opening of the Chapter knife. Even with a fair amount of practice we found ourselves vulnerable to this.
This tester's thumb shows a slight cut from normal opening of the Chapter knife. Even with a fair amount of practice we found ourselves vulnerable to this.

Portability


The Chapter is small, smooth, and light. Everything it lacks in ergonomics it gains in portability. Interestingly, though, as compared to our Best Buy Kershaw Chill, the Chapter is pretty comparable in portability. In the important portability dimensions and attributes, both of these are similar. However, the Kershaw has a blade that fills the length of the handle while The James Brand leaves some handle length unused in blade protection.

The pocket clip of the Chapter is secure. It is also large  befitting the statement the knife wishes to make. You want others to know you are carrying this unique tool.
The pocket clip of the Chapter is secure. It is also large, befitting the statement the knife wishes to make. You want others to know you are carrying this unique tool.

Other Features


There are no other features on the Chapter. If you seek multi-functionality in your knife, check out the Top Pick Victorinox Classic SD or the more-featured Victorinox Climber.

Construction Quality


The James Brand held nothing back in constructing the Chapter. Our test model has a titanium frame, tight hinge, a brilliant frame lock, and torx head screws that join the entire thing. We have never had to disassemble a pocket knife, but we sure like the idea of being able to do so. Riveted pocket knives work just fine, but The James Brand speaks right to our self-reliant sides with fully user-serviceable construction.

The Chapter knife  ready for action in any daily circumstance. We only wish that the blade were larger.
The Chapter knife, ready for action in any daily circumstance. We only wish that the blade were larger.

Best Applications


This is an interesting knife. The materials and simplicity are brilliant. The aesthetics and initial feel are great. We like the blade and edge integrity. It is portable enough for every day carry in most settings. However, the ergonomics limitations are tough to swallow at the lofty price point.

The Chapter knife comes with this felt pouch. Whether just for shipping or intended to use in every day situations  we don't know. It's nicely made  so we keep it around.
The Chapter knife comes with this felt pouch. Whether just for shipping or intended to use in every day situations, we don't know. It's nicely made, so we keep it around.

Value


You don't buy this knife for its value. In fact, there are countless knives that offer similar or greater performance at a tiny fraction the cost of The Chapter. You choose this knife, at least partially, because of its high price. This is a unique, rare knife that will stand out among the masses.

Conclusion


Our thorough testing and careful consideration shows that there is indeed a place for this knife, but its appeal is not guaranteed. Be sure to carefully consider the limitations before dropping the coin.


Jediah Porter