I still remember the first time I saw an Apple iPod. I was looking for a game for my original XBox at a local electronics store and I stumbled into a display with one. It was a gleaming revelation, the music player I had wanted my entire teenager life. I was no longer a teen by a long shot, but the simple aesthetic, high purity design, and laser sharp branding grabbed my attention. But for that moment, when design and beauty converged for me in a single consumer product, this website would not exist. I still love that old iPod design, and I miss its size and shape, which I vastly perfer to the current and ever growing iPhone form factor.
That laser-clean look and dead on branding is what grabbed my attention with the Civivi Elementum. And aside from the irony of an unnecessarily long and complex name (Civivi, what is wrong with just ‘Element’?), this knife is a perfect entry level knife and an amazing EDC for those that aren’t absolutely hellbent on steel so new that the first batch has yet to cool at the foundry. If D2 is good enough for you, and it probably should be, this knife is a score. Let’s tour around the Elementum and see what it has to offer.
Here is the product page. There are four handle scale materials and, as with most Civivi knives, there is a damascus upgrade version. Here is a video review. There is no written review. Here is a link on Amazon where you can purchase the Elementum and benefit the site. Finally, here my review sample (purchased with my own money and already sold via Instagram):
Twitter Review Summary: Most of the features of a high end production knife for $50.
Think of the Elementum as a fatter Drop x Ferrum Forge Gent or more accurately as one of those IG “fitness models” with an impossibly small waist and impossibly large, um, well you know. Taking a lot of design elements from the Gent is a good idea as that knife is, on a design level, brilliant in its choices and simplicity. But the Elementum’s handle is a bit wider with a much chunkier rounded palm swell-ish feature at the end. It has a blockiness to the jimping that also adds to its “this is so simple” appearance. The jimping and the extra curves also give the knife a pleasing shape and a bit more grip.
The clean, strong lines of the Elementum yield good ratios. The B:W is 1.02. The B:H is .73. Neither are records, but neither are bad.
Fit and Finish: 2
Over the years, Chinese-made knives have garnered more attention from enthusiasts because of the marked improvement in fit and finish (and later improvements in blade steel). They started as ultra budget knives, then some very high end stuff, and now they are coming back to the budget end of things (though this $50 entry is hardly the San Ren Mu 605, which cost $8). In traveling the full knife market spectrum, Chinese knives are now bringing that sterling level of finish to the budget-ish range. The end result is a modestly priced knife with truly astounding fitment. If you can find a $50 knife that is finished this well, tell me because I would love to see it. Honestly, this knife has the fit and finish of a $300 WE Knife with more modest materials. In short, you sacrifice nothing by going the budget route in terms of fit and finish.
With a bit of additional junk in the trunk here, the Elementum is just a phenomenal knife in the hand. I would trade the bubble butt for a better choil (yeah it kinda functions), but in the end, this is pretty decent knife in hand and awfully close to the Gent. The Gent wins because of its choil, but the Elementum is very good here.
With a modest thickness, nice length, and great rounded edges this knife carries like a dream. It is a wonderful companion and a great way to carry without concern. In jeans this thing disappears and in the summer Dad uniform—aka cargo shorts—this knife isn’t bad at all.
D2 is more than fine for everyone. For me, it is the demarcation point between steels not worth buying and steels worth buying. I love some of the more exotic heat treats on D2, but even here the steel is just fine. I wouldn’t call it ideal, its a little harder to sharpen than it is worth and its stainlessness, while not an issue for me, would probably be an issue if you lived in a place with better than average rainfall.
Blade Shape: 2
A drop point is always a good choice for a general utility knife. One note—this is a bit more droppy than most drop points, coming very close to a spear point. It looks great and performs well, so I have no complaints.
With a thin stock to begin with and a nice hollow grind, the Elementum is the best slicer WE has ever made. And while that is clearly damning them with faint praise, the Elementum is actually a good slicer. I wouldn’t stack it up against anything elite, like a Chaparral, but it is definitely well above average.
Of all the nice touches on the knife, the deployment feels the most luxe, as if WE and Civivi somehow made a mistake and sent a premium WE Knife through the Civivi branding and assembly line (that said, most Civivis have fantastic deployment). The knife rockets out of the handle and presents little danger of shaking out—the ideal balance for a flipper. And while it is a smidge behind other knives that deploy well, it is close enough to great to earn a two. For reasons irreducible to language, I like the deployment of the Gent better than this knife, but the Elementum bests any ZT I have owned, all of my Spyderco flippers, and one of the two Reate’s I have reviewed (the Micro Typhoon is insanely great on this account).
Matching the solid, simple design is an excellent pocket clip. The discrete deep carry clip is a marvel in a world full of poorly designed and exceedingly badly placed clips (Spyderco Brouwer I am looking directly at you). It strikes me as odd—why is clip design so difficult when the simplest designs work best? Is it an irresistible desire to add flourish or is it that simple design is difficult? Either way, I don’t get it. This is just super solid.
Lock/Blade Safety: 2
Fidget Factor: Very high
With a snappy action and great flipper tab, its hard to not fidget with the Elementum.
Fett Effect: Low
D2 technically isn’t stainless, but it may as well be. That, coupled with gray G10 means this won’t show a lot of wear, unless you count dirt on the scales. But there is a difference between worn and dirty.
Value: Very high
If you didn’t know the brand and the steel, you’d mistake this for a $100-150 knife. Its that darn good.
Overall Score: 19 out of 20
Every once in a while I will have a product that gets a score that seems out of whack with my impressions of it. The TRM Neutron, for example, is a much better knife than its score, which is already quite good (17/20) would indicate. Having the system set up as I do can make that happen. But, here, I think the score is perfectly reflective of the quality of the product. This is a very, very good a knife, a sign that WE is really stepping up. WE Knives range now has blades for every person and use case and the Elementum is the perfect “first real knife,” an excellent office carry, and darn near the perfect everyday carry. There are knives a like better, but the difference is so slight that the Elementum is an easy and regular recommend.
Wowza is this knife similar to the Gent. And so, its this knife versus the Gent in a midpriced EDC flipper grudge match. Is the Gent worth the upgrade? Is the Elementum missing something essential? Let’s take a look.
If you could buy both and not experience the around the world shipping I did on the Gent, it would be a pretty easy call. With a slimmer profile, a lighter weight, better steel, and a better choil the G10 Gent is clearly worth an additional $30 (though the premium Gent is not). But the Gent isn’t readily available and very few knives hit all of the same high points that the Elementum does. Compared to the Fastball, which is about $50 more, I think the Elementum definitely deserves to be in the conversation. If you hold the Elementum up against the Chaparral, you will see differences that again make the higher priced knife worth the money. But all of these comparisons are telling, even if the Elementum loses a few of them, its in the conversation and that is a conversation of knives that are both twice the price of the Elementum and among the best blades available. This is a damn good knife.