Overhauling a brand’s image isn’t an easy task. Sometimes when a namesake is damaged enough, you just pick a new one. Gerber has spent a long time disappointing knife consumers, with some notable exceptions. What used to be the gold standard of knives gradually slid into decay with plastic handled piles of sadness endorsed by Bear Grylls, bubble packaged and sold at Wal-Mart. It was kind of a bummer, to be honest.
But Gerber has been on an uphill trajectory here lately. Maybe it’s optimistic to say so, but a decent amount of their recent products have been appealing to people that care about knives, even if they haven’t been perfect. There’s still a lot of cheap steel and sometimes iffy build quality, but a lot of new designs speak to the core of what people want in knives these days. The Fastball we reviewed in 2019 was a step in the right direction, sort of a modern reinterpretation of the Kershaw Leek – slim, sleek, and useful. It had its issues, but overall it was an impressive knife.
So when Gerber launched the Reserve program late last year, I was interested. Reserve products are only sold on Gerber’s website – and they’re all small batch domestic produced products from Gerber’s Oregon facility. The line launched with the Terracraft, a real pretty full-tang fixed blade, followed shortly by the Sedulo, the subject of today’s review.
If the Sedulo seems familiar, it’s because when Gerber decided to go up-market they don’t bother trying to reinvent the wheel. This is a product aimed squarely at the Benchmade Griptilian, in function, materials, and price. If this sounds far-fetched, it’s not – they have a lot more in common than you’d think. For the brand’s first serious foray into a premium EDC knife, there’s a lot more to like and a lot less to complain about than you might assume.
Key Specs: Gerber Sedulo
The Sedulo’s blade shape is designed for all-around utility, with a traditional drop point pattern and a continuously curving spine all the way to the tip. It’s relatively narrow – 1.25” tall at the widest point – and doesn’t have much in the way of belly for roll cuts, being mostly a straight edge until it curves up towards the tip. Dimensions of the Sedulo’s blade put it in the mid-size range and are nearly identical to a full size Griptilian – 3.4” long with a 3.31” cutting edge, cut from 0.125” wide blade stock. The blade is full flat ground, with an artful curved plunge line that terminates behind the sharpening choil. The blade has a deep stonewashed finish to hide any wear and scratches that the blade may collect over time.
For the Sedulo, Gerber went with CPM S30V steel – like they used on the Fastball. In the past few years, S30V has received a reputation – at least among the enthusiast community, a phrase which should always be taken with a grain of salt – as an old, out of date, sub-par steel. This is, to put it bluntly, completely absurd. S30V has been around for a long time now, but that doesn’t magically make it bad. It still offers a sensible blend of different performance attributes: long edge retention, small carbide size to form a fine edge, supreme corrosion resistance, and high toughness. No, it won’t hold an edge as long as newer ‘super steels’ like CPM 20CV or CTS 204p.
It’s also not as hard to sharpen or as expensive to buy or manufacture knives with. S30V’s unique calling card is its high concentration of vanadium (4%) which gives it the super-fine grain structure as well as the uniquely tough edge, both traits being aided as well by the molybdenum content. The two steels which have “superseded” S30V now (S35VN, and now S45VN) tweak the formula slightly – S35VN dropped a little carbon and vanadium, and added a bit of Niobium for strength to balance. S45VN added more carbon and chromium (corrosion resistance) as well as trace amounts of Nitrogen to boost edge retention. All perform similarly, with the newer steels being slightly easier to sharpen (in theory) but none offering any wild variations in function. S30V is still, in my eyes, a premium steel that balances all of the needs of an EDC knife very well. It’s a virtue, not a vice here.
Deployment and Lockup
Hmm. This looks familiar, doesn’t it? Gerber refers to this lock as the Pivot Lock Mechanism. SOG calls it the XR-Lock, Hogue calls it the ABLE lock, and you probably know that Benchmade calls it the AXIS Lock. If you want to know why other companies are suddenly starting to make AXIS-style locks after years of Benchmade having a monopoly on this type of mechanism, this Reddit thread does a good job of explaining it – basically, the functional patent for the lock expired in 2016, making this type of lock available for anyone to make – but the trademark on the name is a totally separate issue, which is why we’re seeing similarly designed locks with different monikers.
Gerber’s Pivot Lock is closer in design to the AXIS lock than the more creatively reimagined XR-lock, using dual omega-shaped springs (one per side) to provide tension to the lock bar in the closed and open positions. Gerber uses an external stop pin anchored to the liners to locate the blade in the open and closed positions, and deployment is via ambidextrous thumb studs. When the Sedulo arrived, I wasn’t initially impressed by the action – it was very stiff, not being able to drop shut at all and being difficult to open smoothly. A few drops of Blue Lube didn’t help either, so I went about fiddling with pivot tension – to my satisfaction, backing the pivot screw off about 1/8th of a turn got the action dialed in just right without introducing any discernible blade play.
Closed detent strength on this knife is fairly strong for a bar style lock, giving the Sedulo a satisfying “snap” when you pop it open. With the pivot adjusted, it’s probably not as smooth closing as newer high-end Benchmades, but opening is equal, and it’s never a struggle to close the knife one-handed. You can also open the knife by pulling the lock back and flicking the blade out with your wrist. Lockup is perfect, with no vertical or horizontal blade play at all, and no lock stick after several months of daily use either. Just like I said with the Fastball- Gerber’s first bearing pivot/flipper knife – Gerber has nailed the action and lockup on their very first bar style lock knife as well.
Features, Fit & Finish
In terms of features, let’s talk first about how the Sedulo is built, because it’s interesting and impressive. Most knives of this type use a pair of thin phosphor-bronze washers on either side of the blade to separate it from the metal liners and provide a smooth opening and closing action. SOG uses caged ball bearings in their XR knives, and Benchmade does the same with the high-end integral Anthem. But the Sedulo is different – Instead of a flat, solid blade with separate washers, the Sedulo has a brass bushing that’s wider than the blade press-fit into a large hole in the blade tang. Why does this matter? For assembly and disassembly, mostly – the action on this blade is great, and if you never took it apart you’d never know. But it makes servicing the Sedulo the easiest thing this side of a CRKT Homefront. Since the bushing is part of the blade, if you want to clean the pivot out, you just remove the male side of the pivot screw, push the female side out, and pull the blade out.
The handle stays together. Then you can clean the blade/bushing off, clean any gunk out of inside the handle, then just slide the blade back in, and pop the pivot back through. Taco Bell would call this “thinking outside the box”, and it’s a sign Gerber really thought about how these knives will be used. The rest of the construction is equally impressive: while the outside of the handle is a pair of textured plastic scales, inside the knife has full stainless liners supporting all the hardware. The Sedulo uses a pair of hourglass shaped standoffs – only one of which is actually visible, oddly enough – through which screws mount from both sides, tightening the whole handle down evenly. They evidently learned from the issues with the Fastball’s clip screws, as the clip mounting screws have much more thread to engage with as well. All body screws are standard Torx T6 and T8 fittings for ease of maintenance. I really like the way the Sedulo is built: it’s solid, and easy to work on.
As far as features go, the knife is fully ambidextrous – it has mirrored thumb studs, an ambidextrous lock, and the pocket clip can be configured for left or right hand tip up carry. A stamped steel deep carry pocket clip is anchored by two screws. The handles have a diamond shaped texture pattern milled into the surface, and the point where the clip contacts the scale is smoothed out so it doesn’t tear up your pocket – if you have it set up for right hand carry, that is. The scales are cut away from the liners towards the pivot, allowing the user to get a grip on the jimping in the metal for traction.
Fit and finish has traditionally been where Gerber knives have fallen down, in my experience. But after looking this knife over real thoroughly – probably more thoroughly than some other knives, given my prejudice – the only fit and finish issue I can even point to here is the blade grind. Mind you, it came sharp from the factory – if a knife can slice through the long side of a piece of printer paper diagonally, it’s sharp enough – it’s just somewhat uneven and looks like it was done on a medium grit belt. The edge bevel dips down noticeably on the back side of the blade (the one with the ‘made in usa’ and model designation markings) where the edge curves up to the tip, but flares upwards towards the base. The front side of the blade is evenly ground all the way across. Does this affect performance? No, the knife still came sharp and it cuts things. Should the knife have a clean, even grind at a $100 price point? I think so.
The Sedulo was my daily carry for more than a month while I evaluated it. Some of the knives I review I have to remind myself to carry since it’s pretty disingenuous to write an article about something you’ve hardly used; I find myself carrying a Spyderco Para3 Lightweight in lieu of what I’m supposed to be writing about sometimes. That wasn’t an issue at all with the Sedulo, which after a few weeks I’ve decided is going firmly into my regular rotation of EDC knives. It does everything well, nothing poorly, and I also enjoy going through the “can you believe this thing is a Gerber?” discussion with people who borrow it.
For one thing, it carries great. The Sedulo is pretty light for a big knife – 3.6 ounces for a knife that’s 8.1” long when open and has a 4.56” handle. The handle itself is 0.64” wide, so not the thinnest thing out there, but the bent steel deep carry clip just nails it in terms of function. The smooth contact patch on the scale makes sliding the knife in and out of pocket a cinch, and they got the angle of the tip just right so it doesn’t fight going in but it’s not so wide it scrapes car doors. It’s deep carry, but not so deep you have to fish it out of your pocket with tweezers. Very much like the Griptilian.
In use, there are few surprises- the Sedulo has a very useful blade shape and a comfortable handle that’s not overly sculpted to force how you hold it. A full flat ground drop point is arguably the most well-balanced blade shape for day to day use, being well suited to piercing materials and slicing, if not proficient at the rolls cuts that are used in food prep. But in terms of a pocket knife to have around for cutting open packaging and breaking down cardboard, the Sedulo is beyond reproach. I found the knife stayed sharp longer than I expected it to for S30V, perhaps a sign that Gerber has the heat treat dialed in for this steel. The overall impression I was left with was that this is like the Subaru Outback of knives – it’s good at a little bit of everything, not really the master of anything, but it never annoys you in how it goes about doing what it does – which is the point of an EDC knife. It’s very satisfying to carry and use, never feeling over the top or inadequate.
All these knives available at BladeHQ.Well, obviously, the primary competition for this knife is the full-sized Benchmade Griptilian (the version with the drop point and thumb stud, not the sheepsfoot with thumb hole.) The specs are pretty much identical between the two knives: both have 3.4” blades, around 8.1” overall, the Sedulo is a hair lighter at 3.6 ounces to the Griptilian’s 3.8, both have S30V blades and textured plastic handles over stainless liners, both have bar-style locks actuated by Omega springs, both are made in Oregon, both are supremely satisfying tools to stick in your pocket. The only major differences: the Sedulo comes standard with a deep-carry pocket clip (although Benchmade will usually mail you one if you ask nicely, as it comes on the upgraded 20CV models) and the Sedulo has a full flat ground blade versus the Griptilian’s partial flat grind. Also, the Sedulo is about $20 cheaper. Neither is a bad choice at this price, which I still think is a crazy thing to say about a Gerber product, but hey – nice.
Stretching the budget to $140 brings you to the Hogue Knives Deka, with the ABLE lock – Hogue’s take on a bar-style lock. It features a 3.25” flat ground drop point in premium CPM-20CV steel, and textured G10 handle scales to justify the higher price tag. There’s a stamped steel pocket clip and a matching steel block-off plate for whichever side you’re not using. Hogue build quality is second to none in my experience, and the ABLE lock was impressively smooth on the Hogue-built Doug Ritter RSK G2 we tested last year.
SOG’s new XR series of knives – also with a bar-style lock – are impressive tools as well, with a lot of variety to choose from now. The Vision XR is tempting at $150, offering a 3.4” tanto blade in hard-wearing CTS-XHP tool steel and a high flat grind, textured G10 handle scales, and a deep carry pocket clip. The XR lock differentiates itself from the Gerber, Hogue and Benchmade by offering caged ball bearings in the pivot for faster deployment, as well as a choice between a flipper and a pair of thumb studs for opening. If Tantos aren’t your thing, there’s also the Pentagon XR with its 3.5” single-edged dagger blade in XHP for $175.
Spyderco’s Manix 2 line predates the expiration of the AXIS lock patent by quite a few years, but Spyderco has never been one to follow others anyway – so the Manix achieves the same function through quite different means. The caged ball bearing lock in the Manix 2 Lightweight uses a coil spring to drive a stainless steel ball bearing on top of the blade tang, holding it in place. It’s tough and ambidextrous just like the bar locks. The Manix 2 LW is available in a variety of handle colors and blade steels, ranging from the translucent blue/CTS BD1N model at $105 up to the grey handled Maxamet Micro-Melt supersteel model at $210. They all have the Spyderco wire clip and are opened via thumb holes, and true to the name they’re quite light at 3.0 ounces. The 3.4” blade has less usable cutting edge than the Sedulo – 2.88” – due to the pronounced forward finger choil.
I really like the Sedulo, full-stop. This probably isn’t the kind of knife that knife nerds like ourselves are jumping out of our seats to add to our over-burdened collection of sharp things – it doesn’t have the crazy exotic looks or materials. What the Sedulo is, is a great “only knife.” It’s the kind of knife I’d recommend to a friend who wants to get a good everyday carry knife for around $100 to actually use daily. They’re not looking to fall down a rabbit hole, they just want a good knife. This is definitely on that short list, along with perennial favorites like the Spyderco Para 3 Lightweight – or the Griptilian. It’s not exciting, but it’s beyond reproach – like the aforementioned Subaru Outback. It does everything well, it’s properly made, it doesn’t take up a lot of pocket real estate, it holds an edge, and it’s a useful tool.
Suggestions for Gerber? I have a few. One – why is this only available through Gerber’s website? I don’t have a problem with Gerber’s website or customer service (they’re very nice!) but this SHOULD BE a mainstream product. It’s exactly what Gerber should be selling boatloads of – reasonably priced, well made knives that appeal to everyone. Why restrict that appeal by limiting where you can find and buy one? I get that this is the high end of Gerber’s brand and it’s just happening to intersect with the bread and butter of Benchmade’s line, but this isn’t a niche product that needs to be “small batch limited run” – they should make a lot of these. They should try to get one into the pocket of every knife enthusiast out there.
The other suggestion is, of course, making an upgraded version. If this knife is aimed at the Griptilian, it would make sense to produce an upgraded Sedulo with CPM-20CV steel (which Gerber already uses on the Fastball cleaver) and some G10 scales on top of those stainless liners. Especially if it came in around $150 – it could undercut the 20CV grip by about $40. Neither of these suggestions affect my opinion on the Sedulo as it is now – this is a great knife for everyday carry and use. And it’s a bit of a redemption for a tarnished brand. More like this please, Gerber!
- High quality construction and build, practical blade shape, faultless bar-lock action, good looks, solid blade steel, great pocket clip/carry, good value for money
- Derivative design, uneven blade grind, limited distribution.