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The James Brand the Chapter Review

Compact, carefully designed knife for the discerning user that seeks uniqueness and can forgive some usability issues
the james brand the chapter pocket knife review
Credit: The James Brand
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Price:  $299 List | $298.95 at Backcountry
Pros:  Small, excellent materials and construction
Cons:  Short blade, issues with opening the blade, expensive
Manufacturer:   The James Brand
By Jediah Porter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Aug 25, 2022
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more
69
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#5 of 18
  • Blade and Edge Integrity - 30% 9.0
  • Ergonomics - 20% 4.0
  • Portability - 20% 8.0
  • Construction Quality - 20% 9.0
  • Other Features - 10% 0.0

Our Verdict

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.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award Best Buy Award 
Price $299 List
$298.95 at Backcountry
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$219.99 at Amazon
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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Small, excellent materials and constructionIncredible blade quality, assisted open, perfect combination of compactness/functionalityLight, simple, well-made, full size blade, full-functionBeautifully constructed, assisted open, good valueSmall, portable, well-constructed
Cons Short blade, issues with opening the blade, expensivePricey, blade lock mechanism not intuitiveExpensive, low profile handle, flexy plastic constructionSlender handle makes it hard to apply even pressure, thin blade is fragileNot made for heavy-duty use
Bottom Line Compact, carefully designed knife for the discerning user that seeks uniqueness and can forgive some usability issuesImmaculately constructed knife in a form-factor that is easy to carry and large enough for virtually every taskFor 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 adventuresA slender, svelte pocket knife with great materials and a reasonable valueA 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%)
9.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
4.0
Ergonomics (20%)
4.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
3.0
Portability (20%)
8.0
7.0
8.0
8.0
9.0
Construction Quality (20%)
9.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
5.0
Other Features (10%)
0
2.0
0
0
6.0
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.

Performance Comparison


the james brand the chapter pocket knife review - this image shows the chapter proportions. the blade is quite a bit...
This image shows the Chapter proportions. The blade is quite a bit shorter than the handle.
Credit: Rosie De Lise

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.

the james brand the chapter pocket knife review - look a the chunk of wood the stout and sharp chapter blade cuts away...
Look a the chunk of wood the stout and sharp Chapter blade cuts away here. The short blade and larger handle are actually well suited to whittling.
Credit: Rosie De Lise

Ergonomics


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.

the james brand the chapter pocket knife review - the chapter knife, ready for action in any daily circumstance. we...
The Chapter knife, ready for action in any daily circumstance. We only wish that the blade were larger.
Credit: Rosie De Lise

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.

the james brand the chapter pocket knife review - kershaw chill next to the chapter. packed up, they are similar. the...
Kershaw Chill next to the Chapter. Packed up, they are similar. The blade of the Kershaw is larger by an important amount.
Credit: Rosie De Lise

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 james brand the chapter pocket knife review - this tester's thumb shows a slight cut from normal opening of the...
This tester's thumb shows a slight cut from normal opening of the Chapter knife. Even with a fair amount of practice we found ourselves vulnerable to this.
Credit: Rosie De Lise

Portability


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 the chapter pocket knife review - the pocket clip of the chapter is secure. it is also large...
The pocket clip of the Chapter is secure. It is also large, befitting the statement the knife wishes to make. You want others to know you are carrying this unique tool.
Credit: Rosie De Lise

Construction Quality


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.

the james brand the chapter pocket knife review - the chapter knife comes with this felt pouch. whether just for...
The Chapter knife comes with this felt pouch. Whether just for shipping or intended to use in every day situations, we don't know. It's nicely made, so we keep it around.
Credit: Rosie De Lise

Other Features


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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