Reviewing a Case product is 100% futile. For some percentage of people there is simply no way they would ever buy a Case. Its the very epitome of a grandpa knife. The steel is boring. It has neither a framelock nor a flipper. Let's call these people "Austons." Then, for another percentage of people, the only knife they will ever consider is a Case. If you watched with baited breath as Bruce Voyles sold a Case Tested for $13,000+, you don't need me to tell you whether or not you should buy this knife. You already have 334 of them. Let's call these people "Butterscotches." Then there is a small percentage of people who are interested in traditionals but are addicted to GECs, largely because they are just straight up better. Let's call them "Graysons." Austons don't need this review because they have no interest. Butterscotches don't need this review because they would buy a Case even if the handle scales were made of depleted uranium. And Graysons don't need this review because the maker has neither a "G," and "E," or a "C" in its name. So, I have no idea who needs this review, but I am writing it anyway.
Here is the product page. There are one million and one variants of all Case knives. That's their shtick--they make a design and then vary the handle material and steel and finish over and over and over again. Some variants have very small runs. Some are actively produced for a few years and then, they go into a vault (which the same vault in which Disney stores its movies they are no longer selling). Apparently this is a good way to generate pent-up demand. I, myself, feel like going into a vault sometimes, but that not for pent-up demand (which would be nice too), but so I can get away from the fog horns that pretend to be my two sons--they have two volumes: loud and hearing loss inducing. This particular sample is a Small Lockback with Red Bone handles and a Pocketworn finish. More on that Pocketworn thing later. The knife, as configured, costs roughly $55. Here is a written review for the same knife with plastic handles. Here is my video overview:
None of the sponsors sell this knife as availability of Case knives is weird. Case apparently hasn't heard that there is a vast community of knife fans on the Internet that like to buy their knives on the internet, and so you have better chance of finding this knife at a local Ace Hardware than you do finding it at one my sponsors (shameless plug: help support the website, especially now that it is more expensive, and go visit one of the sponsors). And finally, here is a shot of the review sample (this was a Christmas gift, so I am not giving it away):
Twitter Review Summary: Just as old fashioned and out of touch as you think.
This is a dead simple design with lots and lots to like. The knife is small, like Spyderco-Roadie small, but there is a great deal of simple beauty here. The double bolsters give it a classy, traditional look. The blade is a nice, small drop point, and the flair at the end of the handle gives you a little extra something to hold on to in use (insert innuendo here). As a blueprint or a CAD file, this is pretty close to the Platonic Ideal of traditional pocket knife.
The performance ratios are surprisingly stinky. The blade:handle (1.875/3) is .62, which is Delica-level bad. The blade:weight (1.875/1.9) is .98, better, but not anything to write home about.
Fit and Finish: 0
A floppy blade, a series of raised screw heads, a shield that is a flush as a flight of stairs, and material transitions that are canyonesque all set this knife in a much lower tier than a similarly priced GEC. My Small Jack #25 retails for $20 more and it is twice or three times the knife in terms of fit and finish. And comparing this to the CSC Boy's Knife is an exercise for your diaphragm--you'll laugh a lot. The fit is terrible, unacceptable in an age of GEC stuff.
But the finish, the so-called Pocketworn finish, is positively entrancing. Its not enough to make up for the fit issues, but on a knife with tighter tolerances, I'd love it. They basically ease all of the edges a bit and rough buff the blade and the bolsters. There are fine hairline scratches that come from wear already on the knife and the pokey parts, such as the exposed rear tang (hate it) is actually not that bad. Its a great idea, the blackwash idea taken to its logical endpoint. I just wish this warmth was like that found on the CSC Boy's Knife--the touch of an old master, experienced enough to know the tricks, but still passionate enough to accept nothing less than perfection.
This kills the knife for all of the Graysons out there.
The red bone is great at holding your fingers in place with enough variation in the surface to give you grip but not anywhere near as offensive as something like Cold Steel's G10. Its easy to see why bone, and especially jigged bone, has been a handle material of choice for thousands of years. If a material has lasted this long in this role, it must be good. And it is.
Carry is exactly what you'd expect for a small traditional knife--wonderful. The Pocketworn finish makes the sometimes-problematic exposed rear tang not an issue, and the overall rounded and polished shape makes it nice to retrieve. It is not so sharp that it plays poorly with pocket companions.
Austons are discomforted by the fact that this knife does not feel like a gold bullion in their pocket. Its a different sensation than they are used to.
INSERT NEEDLE SCRATCH NOISE
What is this? Seriously, this is not so much steel as it is a sneaky plan to sell you a knife sharpener, much in the same way those big monocolored plastic tube "flashlights" were a ploy to sell you batteries by the truckload (their runtimes are measured in seconds). Its likely to be Case's own formulation of 420HC and unlike Buck's 420HC it is left at roughly 54-55HRc, which is basically the steel equivalent of memory foam. I know the guys on the fora like it because it is "user serviceable" and it "takes a great edge" but the problem is so do a lot of other steels and unlike Tru-Sharp they also hold that edge. Cutting cardboard with this knife, a task I do at least weekly, was a chore. Compared to another easy to sharpen steel, like Jesse Jarosz's steel of choice, AEB-L, Tru-Sharp is about as old fashioned as this knife's looks are. Its just dreadful stuff, the very definition of a 0 steel.
Or put more simply--this is my least favorite steel I have reviewed ever.
This kills the knife for all of the Austons out there...and if it doesn't the deployment method sure does.
Blade Shape: 2
Lovely drop point with a nice belly, a good tip, and enough straightaway for you to do some work. Simple, awesome, two points.
For all its foibles and flaws, the grind on this knife, as with all from W.R. Case, is truly and unquestionably superb. This is the reason that these knives are still bought and used by tons of people worldwide. The stock itself is not super chunky, but thanks to an acute hollow grind Case manages to get the blade behind the edge absolutely paper thin. The Lockback cut and cut and cut and cut. It sliced grapes and cut apples with ease and grace. It cut carboard, then needed resharpening, and cut it again. In the end, the Lockback earned its place alongside some of the most elite cutters I have reviewed. Its not the Perceval La Francaise, but it is probably second or third on the list.
Deployment Method: 0
Its a nail nick. Austons don't even recognize this as a feature. They think it is a torture device. And as nail nicks go, its ho hum. Compared a grippy file cut nail nick or a well-executed French cut, its bad. This is even bad compared to the deeper and grippier crescent cuts on GECs I have handled. I am just not impressed. The pivot is about as smooth as a 14 year old boy that can quote Star Trek: The Next Generation lines off the top of his head (yes, that is autobiographical), you know, really NOT smooth.
Retention Method: 2
On a knife this small and this thin, the decision forego a clip is the right one. The knife is just too slender to accommodate anything without rendering the blade horrible in the hand.
Imagine that profile marred by a steel leaf--ugh. Good call on the no clip thing.
It locks, but its not a lock that inspires confidence. There is just too much blade play here for me to think of this knife as a locking blade. I basically treat it like a slipjoint.
Overall Score: 12 out of 20
The Case Lockback is just not a good knife. I like some of the ideas on the knife, but in the end, the steel is dreadful, the fit and finish is poor, and the whole thing feels like a product from a company that has been mailing it in for decades. If the only reason people buy your knives is as collectibles, who cares how they perform, right? In the knife landscape as of 2017 there are just too many traditional knives that are superior. And in the Case line the Tony Bose blades crush this. I have handled a Lanny's Clip in that line and it fixes all of the flaws--great fit and finish, modern steel (CPM154 in that case), smooth pivot, and tight lock. These knives are Made in the USA, so that's something. These are collector's items or knives you buy at a hardware store. And their not bad. They are just not great either. And in this day and age, with a bevy of choices, there is no reason to choose this knife. Unless you are a Butterscotch.