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.
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||$130.00 at REI|
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|Pros||Small, excellent materials and construction||Incredible blade quality, assisted open, perfect combination of compactness/functionality||Proven and well-respected blade, smooth, comfortable ergonomics||Great blade, classy wooden handle||Immaculate materials, assisted opening, fully symmetrical performance|
|Cons||Short blade, issues with opening the blade, expensive||Pricey, blade lock mechanism not intuitive||Large, no assisted opening||Expensive, no assisted opening function||Large in your pocket, expensive|
|Bottom Line||Compact, carefully designed knife for the discerning user that seeks uniqueness and can forgive some usability issues.||Immaculately constructed knife in a form-factor that is easy to carry and large enough for virtually every task.||Full-size, basic folding pocket knife with immaculate construction.||A solid little knife for all-around “every day carry”. With assisted opening, this model would be similar enough to our Editors' Choice to really complicate our assessment.||The full size version of our Editors' Choice is less portable with minimal but real gains in usability. If you know you need a full size pocket knife, the Barrage 580 is a great choice.|
|Rating Categories||The James Brand the Chapter||Benchmade Mini-Barrage 585||Benchmade Griptilian 551||Benchmade 15031-2 North Fork||Benchmade Barrage 580|
|Blade And Edge Integrity (30%)|
|Construction Quality (20%)|
|Other Features (10%)|
|Specs||The James Brand...||Benchmade...||Benchmade...||Benchmade 15031-2...||Benchmade Barrage...|
|Blade Style||Drop point, straight||Drop point, straight||Drop point, straight||Drop point, straight||Drop point, straight|
|Blade locks closed?||No||Yes||No||Yes||Yes|
|Opening Style||Thumb stud||Assisted, ambidextrous thumb stud||Ambidextrous thumb stud||Ambidextrous thumb-stud||Assisted, ambidextrous thumb stud|
|Lock Mechanism||Frame lock||Proprietary (Axis)||Proprietary (Axis)||Proprietary (Axis)||Proprietary (Axis)|
|Carry Style, in addition to loose in pocket||Pocket Clip||Pocket Clip and lanyard hole||Pocket Clip||Pocket Clip||Pocket Clip, lanyard hole|
|Blade Material||Crucible S35vn stainless steel||154CM Steel||154CM steel||CPM-S30V stainless steel||154 CM stainless steel|
|Handle Material||6al4v titanium||Plastic||Plastic||Stabilized wood||Valox|
|Blade Length (inches)||2.7||2.9||3.5||2.9||3.8|
|Closed Length (inches)||3.8||4||4.6||3.9||4.8|
|Thickness (w/o pocket clip) (inches)||0.3||0.57||0.6||0.53||0.7|
|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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
— Jediah Porter