Epic Snuggle Bunny runs one of the best YouTube knife channels around. Its constant stream of new content is a huge boon for the IKC and is obviously a great deal of work. I am constantly impressed both by the quality of his videos and the selection of his subjects. We don't always agree on what we like, but I can immediately respect his tastes.
One major thing Auston did, perhaps more so than anyone else (other than the companies), is that he popularized high end Chinese knives. Before he and Nick launched the excellent Modern Neanderthal podcast, the idea of paying Sebenza money on a Chinese knife was laughable. But Autson found the quality and shouted it from the rooftops. And slowly it became acceptable to drop serious cash on Chinese knives. Now, we are treated to amazing blades for 50% of the cost of equivalent American made knives. We have a buffet of selections all with nice steel, M390 or S35Vn. It is not longer the case that a Chinese knife is automatically a budget blade or a rip off (though those still do exist). Leading the way on these knives Auston brought attention to brand after brand of this new wave of stuff. He was the first person to have a We Knives (or is it WE Knives, the branding and wordmark is inconsistent) on his channel that I know of, and so when he finished up with a lender model from a NS Edgeworks, aka Simon Crafts, the designer of the knife, he asked if I would like to see it so long as I sent it back home.
I have been remiss in covering these blades. Limited funds are one reason, but the other reason is simply the volume to choose from. I felt like Kizer was the most mainstream and aggressively priced Chinese knife, so I started there. Then I felt obligated to cover the Steelcraft stuff because well...Todd Begg...right? But WE Knives seem to be their own thing. The design language is pretty consistent and the materials are nice, so the real question is, how do they stack up to the competition, foreign and domestic. Are they worth their Sebenza-like price tag? Let's see.
Here is the product page. The Cirrus 615 costs $385. Here is my review sample:
Twitter Review Summary: An excellent, straightforward, TFF
There is nothing at all unusual here. Despite some of the other WE Knives blades, the Cirrus is exceptionally straightforward, and, as you can guess, I like it more because of that. There are a number of ultra-premium fixed blades that look more like movie props than they do everyday carry tools. I say that not as a slight--some of these blades are exceptional technical achievements--but they are simply not something I am all that interested in. But if I wanted a premium Bat'Leth I would just buy one (for the record, I don't want one).
Instead, the design of the Cirrus is just one of a big knife. Its a drop point, titanium framelock flipper, and there is not much bad here. If you want a big knife, which, again, is not my preference, this is a very solid design. There are some strange touches, like the external stop pin and the "hidden" channel for the stop pin in the front of the handle, but none of this impacts function, its just a different way to accomplish a mechanically necessary part of the design, sort of like the knife equivalent of a cable stay bridge instead of a traditional suspension bridge. Some commenters on the overview of the knife contend that this design allows for a better blade:handle as it allows the pivot to be closer to the end of the handle. Its clear the design trick worked and it is a sign of how good of a designer Crafts is.
And to that point the performance ratios are quite decent for such a big knife. The blade:weight is a very good .92. The blade:handle is .78. Like I said, this is a great blueprint for a knife. Oh and just in case you look at the specs and think that this isn't a giant knife, look here:
Fit and Finish: 2
This latest wave of ultra-premium Chinese knives has proven two things to me.
First, China can make knives that hang with the best the rest of the world is putting out. Comparing the Cirrus to something like a premium Taichung, Taiwan blade or a Lionsteel produced knife makes this point very, very clear. There should be no stigma associated with the tolerances and finish on Chinese knives anymore. I still prefer a USA Made product, but it is for emotional and political reasons, not performance, materials, or execution.
The second point is a bit more complex. I feel like the scale needs to recalibrated. There are just too many knives that score a 2. I will work on this later, but for now, there are zero complaints with the Cirrus. WE Knives' execution leaves nothing to be desired. It is excellent.
The Cirrus is not a perfect knife and the reason why is a classic stumbling block in folder design--the pocket clip. There is no single design feature more likely to ruin a good design than a pocket clip and here the sculpted clip isn't just a hotspot, it is a piercing point. If this were my knife I would strongly consider grinding down the tip on the knife or finding a replacement. Its really unpleasant. Its a shame because the rest of the knife is excellent in hand, a perfect example of the reason why simplest is best.
The numbers would make this seem like a light knife, but there is simply no way to make a knife this big out of metal and have it feel light in the pocket. Its not an especially thin knife, which is how Cold Steel gets away with gargantuan blades being okay in the pocket, so for its overall feel, despite the claim of around 4 ounces, this is something of a pocket protester.
S35VN is an excellent all around steel. I like it quite a bit, easily in my Top 5 favorites right now. No complaints here.
Blade Shape: 2
Drop points are great, we all know that, but here there are a few touches that make this one especially nice. First, there is the forward finger choil. I am huge fan as it adds a bunch of control. I am also a huge fan of choils that still allow you to sharpen all the way to the end. Here you will find just such a choil. Its not that complicated to get things this right, but it is relatively rare. Good job NS Knifeworks and WE Knives.
As with fit and finish, the grind here is very clean, even, and well done. It is hard to make a big knife easy to carry, but it is easy to make a big knife a slicer. With more "runway" you can get that final edge behind the cutting bevel pretty darn slim.
Deployment Method: 2
So there is a difference between the best customs and the ultra-premium production knives. The Grimsmo Norseman, the Tim Gaylean custom I handled at a local NCCA show, and the Shiros I have handled do flip better than this knife, the Custom Knife Factory knives I have played with, and the Steelcraft Mini Bodega. If you aren't a student of the flipper you wouldn't notice a difference, but if you are, or worse, if you have them next to each other to compare, it is pretty obvious that there is a difference. That doesn't mean that this is a bad flipper. Its actually quite good. But it lacks that close, then open with nothing in between feel. Again, we might have to rejigger the scoring system some time soon.
Retention Method: 2
For as pokey as it was, the clip actually had a bit of spring tension, something almost universally missing from sculpted clips on production knives. It is also close to the end of the handle, making it unlikely to draw a ton of attention.
A lot of knives with "smooth" locks do so by really easing off the tension. It makes them glide into place and disengage with ease, but there is a bit of wiggle when the blade is out. It never means the knife will disengage, but it is something I am not super fond of. Here the lockbar displayed none of those problems despite it being as smooth as Mercedes car door to open and close. It was also just as secure.
Overall Score: 17 out of 20
You have a bevy of options when it comes it high end Chinese made production knives. The WE Knives Cirrus is a darn good choice. Personally, it is too big for me, but if I did like knives this size, I would put this near the top of the list. The clip is a real shame, a glaring mistake on an otherwise beautiful design by Simon Crafts. I love that WE is taking designs from folks in the community and the bone so Crafts' blade are exceptionally thought out. Its not the screamer that the Mini Bodega was in terms of flash, but it is the Mini Bodega's equal in terms of performance.