Excellent materials and construction go a long way. The Chapter from The James Brand is well made of high-end materials, and the price point reflects this, especially compared to others in our search for the best pocket knife. At that high 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. It is portable enough for outdoor adventure, and utilitarian enough for every day carry in most settings. For those wishing to make a statement with their knife and dollars to spare, the Chapter is worth considering. For ambitious users, ergonomic limitations are tough to swallow at this price point.Editor's Note: We updated this review for The James Brand the Chapter on August 25, 2022, with an uncompromising assessment of value and suggestions for other products that may better suit your needs or budget.
The James Brand the Chapter Review
Cons: Short blade, issues with opening the blade, expensive
Manufacturer: The James Brand
Compare to Similar Products
The James Brand the Chapter
$298.95 at Backcountry
$219.99 at Amazon
$162.00 at REI
$54.94 at Amazon
|$19.99 at Amazon|
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|Pros||Small, excellent materials and construction||Incredible blade quality, assisted open, perfect combination of compactness/functionality||Light, simple, well-made, full size blade, full-function||Beautifully constructed, assisted open, good value||Small, portable, well-constructed|
|Cons||Short blade, issues with opening the blade, expensive||Pricey, blade lock mechanism not intuitive||Expensive, low profile handle, flexy plastic construction||Slender handle makes it hard to apply even pressure, thin blade is fragile||Not made for heavy-duty use|
|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||For a full-function, full-size pocket knife, this is as light as it gets, and is the premier option for all sorts of human-powered adventures||A slender, svelte pocket knife with great materials and a reasonable value||A tiny, multi-function pocket knife|
|Rating Categories||The James Brand the...||Benchmade Mini-Barr...||Benchmade 535 Bugout||Kershaw Leek||Victorinox Classic...|
|Blade and Edge Integrity (30%)|
|Construction Quality (20%)|
|Other Features (10%)|
|Specs||The James Brand the...||Benchmade Mini-Barr...||Benchmade 535 Bugout||Kershaw Leek||Victorinox Classic...|
|Weight||2.8 oz||3.4 oz||1.9 oz||3.1 oz||0.8 oz|
|Blade Length||2.7 in||2.8 in||3.0 in||2.9 in||1.4 in|
|Blade Material||S35vn stainless steel||154CM stainless steel||S30V stainless steel||Sandvik 14C28N stainless steel||Proprietary Stainless (between 440A and 420)|
|Handle Material||6al4v titanium||Plastic||Grivory||410 stainless steel||Plastic|
|Blade Style||Drop point, straight||Drop point, straight||Drop point, straight||Drop point, straight||Drop point, straight|
|Blade locks closed?||No||Yes||No||Yes||No|
|Opening Style||Thumb stud||Assisted, ambidextrous thumb stud||Ambidextrous thumb stud||Assisted, ambidextrous thumb stud; back-of-knife finger tab||Fingernail|
|Lock Mechanism||Frame lock||Proprietary (Axis)||Proprietary (Axis)||Frame lock||None|
|Carry Style||Pocket clip||Pocket clip and lanyard hole||Pocket clip and lanyard hole||Pocket clip and lanyard hole||Keyring|
|Closed Length||3.8 in||4.0 in||4.2 in||4.0 in||2.3 in|
|Overall Length||6.5 in||6.9 in||7.4 in||7.0 in||3.8 in|
|Thickness (w/o pocket clip)||0.3 in||0.6 in||0.4 in||0.3 in||0.4 in|
|Other Features or Functions||None||Lanyard hole, modular clip||None||None||Scissors, nail file, small screwdriver, tweezers, toothpick, key ring|
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 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 just a handful of excellent parts held together tightly and in a serviceable fashion. The blade, in particular, has held up to significant abuse.
Blade and Edge Integrity
The James Brand makes the blade of the Chapter of Crucible S35vn steel. Across the spectrum of knife blade steels this is an excellent one. Of course, 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 high price point, The James Brand could have chosen an even more sophisticated blade material. The truth is, 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, and 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 Editor's 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 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 our testers (even those with small hands) found the Chapter to feel small in use.
Another ergonomic issue we have to point out is 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 to swing 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 terms of the important portability dimensions and attributes, our tested compact knives, including the Chapter, are comparable in the important portability dimensions and attributes. 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 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, consider looking at a multi-tool instead.
Should You Buy The James Brand the Chapter?
Our thorough testing and careful consideration show that there is indeed a place for this knife, but its appeal is not guaranteed. Be sure to consider the limitations before dropping the coin. Overall, the Chapter is relatively small, and this is its primary limitation. Further hamstringing it are the proportions: 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 is a unique knife that will stand out among the masses.
What Other Pocket Knives Should You Consider?
You don't buy this knife for its value. Countless knives offer similar or greater performance at a tiny fraction of the cost of the Chapter. Even our top-performing models, like the Benchmade Mini-Barrage 585, cost significantly less than this knife. For those looking for more significant savings, it is worthwhile to consider the Kershaw Leek.
— Jediah Porter
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