With a rich history dating back over 30 years, Benchmade is the product of many dedicated employees, a never-quit demand for excellence and the de Asis family’s vision and total commitment to culture, service and innovation. This is the story of Benchmade.
The Benchmade adventure began when Les de Asis wanted a knife that reflected the latest in materials and manufacturing technology to replace the cheap butterfly knives, known as Bali-Songs, he played with as a kid. Using his high-school shop skills, he blueprinted his dream knife before eventually meeting Victor Anselmo, who helped to grind the first ever pre-Benchmade Bali-Song® prototype. Paired with handles that Les sourced from a small machine shop in California, he assembled and finished his first Bali-Song® in his own garage. Proud of his creation, he took this first Bali-Song® into a local gun store and the owner asked, “Could you build 100 more?”
Les incorporated as Bali-Song®, Inc. and rented a small shop in a second story mezzanine in California. The original equipment was purchased from the owner of a manufacturing operation who was looking to retire. Utilizing the rudimentary technology available to him at the time, Les began building handmade custom Bali-Songs, along with Jody Sampson, who ground all the blades. The success of these custom Balis spurred the creation of the first production Bali-Song®: The model 68.
Over the next seven years, the company expanded its product offerings into fixed blades and conventional folding knives, and evolving its name from Bali-song®, Inc. to Pacific Cutlery Corp.
In 1987, the company filed for bankruptcy. In 1988, Les reintroduced a new company and new version of the Model 68. This time, with a drive to produce product in the US and an even stronger commitment to product availability, quality, and customer relationships. The company was going to need a new name.
While there was “handmade” and “factory-made,” it was “Benchmade” that described the quality of Les’ product. He was building an operation that made precision parts, but with hand assembly on the finished products. This was a “bench” operation and Les wanted the name to reflect the marriage of manufactured and custom. In short, it describes Benchmade’s position in the market- even to this day.
To this day Benchmade continues to focus on innovation, customer needs, responsible business ethics and operations to bring the highest quality products to the world’s elite.
Today we will be discussing the Benchmade Nakamura.
This knife was designed by Seiichi Nakamura. Engineering was his life’s work until he retired to focus his efforts on a passion for custom knife work. He specializes in small Japanese style folders, gentlemen’s carry and jewelry knives. His eye for artistry and mechanical engineering make him a perfect fit for the innovative Benchmade team.
The blade on this knife is made out of CPM S90V steel. This is an ultra-premium steel that is made by Crucible Industries. This is a US based steel company that is known for their high end steels. Crucible’s CPM S90V steel approaches the utmost levels of wear resistance and edge retention. In this steel, the carbon content is very high, but Crucible has also added extreme quantities of vanadium. The levels of vanadium in this steel are almost here times the levels that can be found in Elmax or S30V. This steel is extremely expensive, but worth every penny that you spend on it. This steel is also a total pain to sharpen but it holds an edge for so much longer than any other steel that you are going to come across. And, it withstands abrasion better than almost any other steel on the market. This steel is expensive and it is hard to sharpen, but all of the other extreme positive aspects of this steel outweigh the negatives. If you buy a knife with this steel, such as the Nakamura, you know that you are going to have a great blade that can take on almost any challenge.
The blade has been finished with a satin finish. While the satin finish is the most common blade finish you are going to find in the industry today, there is good reason for the wide use of it. The finish is traditional, classic, and helps to cut down on glares, reflections, and even corrosion. Satin finishes are created by repeatedly sanding the steel in one direction with an increasing level of an abrasive. The abrasive that is most generally used is a sandpaper. As a key, the finer the sandpaper and the more even the lines, the cleaner the steel is going to look. Because this is a Benchmade knife, you can expect the utmost level of quality of their satin finish; it is going to look very clean.
The blade has been carved into a drop point blade style, which is one of the two most common blade styles used in the industry today. This is for good reason as well; it is an all-purpose blade shape and it is also very tough. The blade is formed by having the spine of the blade curve slowly from the handle all the way to the point. This creates a lowered point, which is going to give you good control over your cuts. In fact, the drop point blade is commonly found on hunting knives because of how easy it is to control. Because of the control, you will easily be able to perform fine detail work with the Nakamura. The tip on the drop point style blade is also pretty broad, which is where the blade gets its renowned strength from. The drop point blade is popular on all styles of knives including tactical and survival because of how tough the tip is. The drop point also sports a very large belly, which is what helps to make this knife such an all-purpose knife. The larger the belly, the easier it will be to slice. And because the Nakamura has been designed as an everyday knife, slicing is going to be the thing you will be doing the most. The drop point blade style really only has one major disadvantage, which is that because of the broad tip, the knife is less capable of piercing or stabbing like a clip point knife would be able to.
The handle on this knife is made out of contoured carbon fiber. Carbon fiber is actually a pretty generic term that refers to a material made out of thin strands of carbon that have been tightly woven together and then set in a resin. This material is extremely strong, but also lightweight, so you can take on any task without feeling like you are weighed down by a bulky knife. Unfortunately, because of the manual labor that has to be put into making a carbon fiber handle, it is an expensive material to have, which means it is going to raise the cost of the knife considerably.
While this material is a strong one, it is far from being indestructible and does suffer from being brittle. This is because of the way that the fibers have been woven together. All of the fibers in the handle are woven in one direction, so when it is stressed in that particular direction, it is almost impossible to break. But as soon as it is stressed in any of the other directions, it is going to start to break apart or chip. And because it is brittle, it will break if it is subjected to sharp or hard impacts. The overall advantages of a carbon fiber handle are that it is going to be strong, lightweight, and eye-catching. The overall disadvantages of a carbon fiber handle are that it is going to raise the cost of the knife considerably and it is still going to be brittle.
The handle on this knife is one of the more unique aspects about it. The spine of the knife bulges outward to create a comfortable grip on the handle. The belly of the handle is where it gets funky. There are four finger grooves going down the length of the belly. Each of these grooves is pretty deep. However, these create a secure and comfortable grip on the knife.
The Pocket Clip:
The pocket clip on this knife is not a deep carry clip, which is a drawback to the knife. While you can only attach the clip for tip up carry, the pocket clip is reversible for either left or right handed carry. This is a major advantage because it does make the knife more fully ambidextrous. The clip matches the handle in color.
This is a manual opening knife, which means that it is going to be legal in more areas than your assisted opening and automatic knives would be. In terms of efficiency, the knife is not going to be as smooth or as quick as an automatic or assisted opening knife would be. However, manual knives are a little bit easier to maintain because there is no spring that can rust out and ruin the opening mechanism. That doesn’t mean that maintenance is easy, because there is still plenty of hardware on the inside that needs care—just easier than an automatic knife.
The knife uses a thumb stud to help the user open the knife. This is a small barrel that sticks off of the knife. This barrel is positioned on the spine of the knife close to where the handle begins. This is a very simple mechanism to get the hang of—all you do is grasp the knife, and push on the stud with your flexed finger. The blade should swing open and lock into place after you do this. This is a very simple mechanism to get the hang of. There are a couple of complaints to this opening mechanism though. The first one is that the barrel is always going to come off of the knife. When the knife is closed, that shouldn’t be a big deal, but when the knife is opened and you are trying to use it, it sometimes does get in the way. The next complaint when it comes to this opening mechanism is that it is not as safe as a flipper mechanism would be. When you are opening this knife, it does put your fingers in the direct line of the blade. This means that you are going to have to be extra careful when you are opening the knife. There have been plenty of reports of people slicing their fingers while trying to open a knife with the thumb stud.
The Nakamura has been equipped with an AXIS lock. A patented Benchmade exclusive, AXIS® has been turning heads and winning fans ever since its introduction. A 100 percent ambidextrous design, AXIS® gets its function from a small, hardened steel bar that rides forward and back in a slot machined into both steel liners. The bar extends to both sides of the knife, spans the liners and is positioned over the rear of the blade. It engages a ramped tang portion of the knife blade when it is opened. Two omega-style springs, one on each liner, give the locking bar its inertia to engage the knife tang. As a result, the tang is wedged solidly between a sizable stop pin and the AXIS® bar itself.
The blade on this knife measures in at 3.08 inches long with a thickness of 0.114 inches. The handle measures in at 3.95 inches long with a thickness of 0.57 inches. The overall length of this opened knife measures in at 7.03 inches. This knife weighs in at 3.28 ounces. This knife was made in the United States of America, so you can feel proud to own, carry, and use it.
When Benchmade is discussing this knife, they say, “The first Nakamura AXIS® brings the best of both worlds: detailed design and functional strength.” You can pick up this knife today at BladeOps.