The James Brand the Chapter Review
Cons: Short blade, issues with opening the blade, expensive
Manufacturer: The James Brand
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The James Brand the Chapter
|Price||$294.95 at Backcountry||$160.00 at REI||$130.00 at REI|
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|$68.14 at Amazon||$84.00 at Amazon|
|Pros||Small, excellent materials and construction||Great blade, classy wooden handle||Incredible blade quality, assisted open, perfect combination of compactness/functionality||Beautifully constructed, assisted open, good value||Big blade, excellent steel, four pocket clip positions|
|Cons||Short blade, issues with opening the blade, expensive||Expensive, no assisted opening function||Pricey, blade lock mechanism not intuitive||Slender handle makes it hard to apply even pressure, thin blade is fragile||Bulky pocket carry, slim handle in use|
|Bottom Line||This high-priced knife makes a statement when you purchase and carry it||A compact yet "full size” pocket knife for day to day use and all but the heaviest of tasks||A high end construction of a knife carefully tuned to optimize portability and function||This thin knife disappears in your pocket, tackles most tasks, and is easy on your wallet||A long-time classic, enduring for its solid design, significant customization options, and continuous improvements|
|Rating Categories||The James Brand the Chapter||Benchmade 15031-2 North Fork||Benchmade Mini-Barrage 585||Kershaw Leek||Spyderco Delica 4|
|Blade And Edge Integrity (30%)|
|Construction Quality (20%)|
|Other Features (10%)|
|Specs||The James Brand...||Benchmade 15031-2...||Benchmade...||Kershaw Leek||Spyderco Delica 4|
|Weight (ounces)||2.8 oz||3.2 oz||3.4 oz||3.1 oz||2.3 oz|
|Blade Style||Drop point, straight||Drop point, straight||Drop point, straight||Drop point, straight||Clip point, straight|
|Blade locks closed?||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|Opening Style||Thumb stud||Ambidextrous thumb-stud||Assisted, ambidextrous thumb stud||Assisted, ambidextrous thumb stud. And back-of-knife finger tab.||Ambidextrous Thumb hole|
|Lock Mechanism||Frame lock||Proprietary (Axis)||Proprietary (Axis)||Frame lock||Lock back|
|Carry Style, in addition to loose in pocket||Pocket Clip||Pocket Clip||Pocket Clip and lanyard hole||Pocket Clip||Pocket Clip and lanyard hole|
|Blade Material||Crucible S35vn stainless steel||CPM-S30V stainless steel||154CM Steel||Sandvik 14C28N||VG-10 Stainless Steel|
|Handle Material||6al4v titanium||Stabilized wood||Plastic||410 stainless steel||Plastic|
|Blade Length (inches)||2.7 in||2.9 in||2.9 in||2.9 in||2.5 in|
|Closed Length (inches)||3.8 in||3.9 in||4.0 in||4.0 in||4.1 in|
|Overall Length||6.5 in||6.9 in||6.9 in||7.0 in||7.0 in|
|Thickness (w/o pocket clip) (inches)||.3 in||.5 in||.6 in||.3 in||.4 in|
|Other Features or Functions||None||None||None||None||None|
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.
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.
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 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.
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 inherently avoid this issue. Even other non-assisted, thumb-stud knives avoid this problem.
The Chapter is small, smooth, and light. Everything it lacks in ergonomics it gains in portability. In the important portability dimensions and attributes our tested compact knives, including the Chapter, are pretty comparable. For the closed dimensions, we only wish the blade of The Chapter were longer.
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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
— Jediah Porter