If you’re a pocket knife enthusiast or regular reader of KnifeInformer, then the chances are that you’re at least somewhat familiar with the products of WE Knife Co. They’ve been basically inescapable in recent years, whether it’s in the form of one of their three-tiered level brands, or as an OEM for someone else’s knives, WE is one of the broadest and most prolific knife producers in today’s market. We’ll be taking a look at their history as well as some of their best offerings currently.
Best WE Knives: Summary
Unlike a lot of European knife manufacturers, WE Knife’s history is pretty brief. The company itself was founded in 2000, in Yangjiang in the Guangdong Province of China, which is home to the majority of China’s cutlery and small tool manufacturers – sort of like Portland or Seki City or Solingen.
They originally started out as an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) for other brands, up until around 2016 when they started marketing knives under their own name, starting out with high-end production knives (titanium, premium steels, etc.) WE Knife expanded their brand in 2018 with the addition of the Civivi lineup, a set of more affordable tools that don’t skip on quality or fit and finish. They’ve become absolute favorites of the community in the ensuing years.
Two years later, WE added Sencut to the bottom of their lineup, offering an entry-level affordable knife on high-volume distributors like Amazon and AliExpress, so their models run the gamut from the $40 Sencuts on Amazon, through (at time of writing) the $580 Subjugator with a Damasteel blade. Their products have won a fair number of awards too, including Most Innovative Imported Design at BLADE 2019, Best Factory Folding Knife and Best in Show (factory knife) for the 740DS at Blade Show West 2018, and Most Innovative New Knife by KnifeNews in 2018 for the Double Helix.
Here are our recommendations for the best knives from the WE Knife family currently on sale today.
The Banter and Baby Banter is the brainchild of Ben Peterson, who is as close as the knife community gets to an internet celebrity. He used to host BladeHQ’s fun Knife Banter series on YouTube, which is where the name of the knife originates. Ben is, beyond being a lovable internet celebrity, an avid outdoorsman with very specific tastes when it comes to knives. There are certain attributes a knife had to have to get Ben’s mark of approval, and when he set out to design his own knife, he made sure it hit them all.
That includes a deep carry pocket clip with recessed hardware, easy one-handed opening, good simple ergonomics, and able to pass the “finger test” – being able to control the tip of the blade with your index finger along the spine. With an S35VN blade measuring 2.9”, it’s legal in most jurisdictions, and it carries great thanks to that deep carry steel clip and a light 2.61 oz weight – it’s the ideal everyday carry knife for your day-to-day tasks. It’s available in the original colorways- “Ben Blue” with a Satin blade or Black G10 with a black blade, as well as a few new versions: a BladeHQ exclusive in natural jade G10 with 20CV steel, green G10 with a bronze thumb stud, grey G10/satin blade, and finally a nifty marbled carbon fiber handle with black blade. There are also the space kitty scales from Ben’s company Knafs, which are… hilarious. Highly recommended.
After that, Petersen put out the Baby Banter under the Civivi brand – an even smaller reimagining of the original, now with a 2.34” blade (and only 5.46” long when open). While it does have a shorter blade, the Baby Banter adds a useful 50/50 forward choil for a secure choked up grip, and it’s even lighter at 2.0 oz flat. The Baby Banter was designed to be legal in even more jurisdictions with the shorter blade, as well as fit in a fifth pocket in jeans – or, specifically, in the extra-shallow pockets in women’s jeans, which Ben says was one of the driving factors behind its design. More inclusive design in the knife industry is good for everyone! Since the Baby Banter is marketed as a Civivi instead of a WE, it’s more affordable (under $60!) but still uses high quality Nitro-V blade steel. A great design from a great dude, the Banter/Baby Banter are favorites of the knife obsessed, for good reason.
One way that WE and Civivi have started to branch out from a lot of other knife makers (it’s a crowded market these days!) is their increased used of the button lock on new models. Button locks are relatively uncommon on folding knives, normally used as the release/lock on automatics but seldom used on manual folders due to their expense and complication – lots of moving parts and tolerances to worry about. Of course, that’s offset by how much fun they are to fidget with – and the inherent safety bonus of your fingers being out of the path of the blade when you’re unlocking it. The Conspirator is one of these new button lock knives.
All Conspirators feature a large 3.75” drop point blade made from Nitro-V stainless steel, measuring 0.12” thick across the spine. It features a decorative fuller on the flats, and an extensive run of jimping along the spine for grip. You have three options for opening: releasing the button lock and flicking it, using the flipper tab to snap it open, or using the fuller on the blade as a thumb slot to roll the blade out. Either way, the Conspirator opens smoothly thanks to a ball bearing pivot and a strong detent.
All Conspirators are the same size (8.11” long open, 3.7-3.8 ounce weight) but you have options with handle materials and blade finish – black micarta with a stonewashed blade, green micarta with black stonewashed blade, Cuibourtia Wood with a stonewashed blade, or a Damascus blade variant with dark green micarta scales. All of them feature the same deep carry steel pocket clip that’s configured for ambidextrous tip up carry, and they all offer great value for money for a sub-$100 folder.
What can we say about the Elementum that hasn’t already been said before? Or that we haven’t said before, having reviewed the Elementum previously (see link at the bottom of this entry.) The Elementum might be WE’s greatest success, covering a massive range of models including new upscale variants marketed as WE knives – the Elementum was originally a Civivi model. In its basic form, the Elementum was designed to be the goldilocks of pocket knives – not too big, not too small, not too heavy, not too expensive, the “just-right” solution to everyday needs. It’s clean, simple design led to immense popularity in the knife community and has spawned a huge array of variants. The OG Elementum features a 2.9” drop point with a hollow grind and a satin finish in plain D2 tool steel, with steel liners and G10 scales. At a $50 price point it’s probably one of the best affordable folders in the business.
Since the Elementum blew up, they’ve added a lot of fresh takes- there’s a Tanto, a mini Elementum (1.8” blade), different handle materials like Micarta, Copper, Shredded Carbon Fiber and Brass, a larger Elementum Button Lock model (with a 3.5” blade that deploys via the button lock and a flick of the wrist), a fixed blade, and of course the WE Elementum. The upscale version uses solid titanium scales and a CPM 20CV blade to class things up. Yes, there’s an Elementum for everyone!
I love the Civivi Crit, and I tell basically anyone who’ll listen to me how it’s the modern interpretation of the classic Swiss Army Knife. It takes the concept of the multi-function pocket knife and flips it on its head, reimagining some of the basic things that make a classic pocket knife so useful with modern features.
The Crit features two blades, both of which open via front flipper tabs on ball bearings, locking in place with a single shared central liner lock. The blade itself is a 3.18” drop point in stonewashed Nitro-V stainless steel, super thin at 0.10” across, with the classic narrow Swiss Army Knife profile. On the opposite end is a multitool that also opens via front flipper tab, featuring a small and medium straight screw driver, a hook cutter, a bottle opener, and some multi-wrenches in the middle of the tool (hex 4, 5, 6, and 8) along with standard and metric rulers along the spine. Steel on the tool is 9Cr18MoV, another high-quality stainless steel. The Crit offers a two-position stainless deep carry wire clip, and your choice between either natural Jade or Black G10 and my favorite, green linen Micarta. The Crit is an immensely useful thing to slip into your pockets on the weekend, somehow weighing only 3.44 ounces and being only 0.61” wide. Fantastic outside-the-box thinking, highly recommended.
Looking like the protuberance of an H.R. Giger sci-fi monster, the Elijah Isham-designed Arrakis is one of the most outlandish looking production knives ever conceived, to our eyes. The looks are striking, regardless of variant: even just the blade is bizarre, a modified Wharncliffe with a double hump spine, a plunging primary grind, and a series of holes milled into the center of the blade make it look less like a letter opener and more like the gills on an alien – and not a friendly alien.
And that’s before you get to the handle, which is called a sub-integral assembly: the titanium backbone of the knife is carved from a single piece, and then a carbon fiber layer wraps around the sides and over the top near the front. It’s dramatic, but it’s also light: despite the complex looks, this 8” overall folder only weighs 3 ounces. Other versions have two-tone titanium handles, with a separate titanium overlay in place of the carbon fiber, and a slightly higher weight of 3.8 ounces. All of them featuring ceramic ball bearings in the pivot for snappy deployment, as well as an artful 3D-machined titanium pocket clip. This is the knife for you if you’re hoping future civilizations will dig through the ruins of your home and upon coming across it, have more questions than answers.
A classic high end EDC design, the Subjugator skips the nonsense. It ticks all the boxes: for one, a big blade (3.5” long, 0.12” wide, 1.10” tall) in a useful drop point shape, made from premium CPM-20CV powdered metallurgy steel. There’s a super high flat grind for optimal cutting geometry. It gives you options for opening: a standard flipper tab or a pair of titanium thumb studs, the blade riding on caged ceramic ball bearings for the ultimate fidget factor.
Handles are solid titanium, with an integral framelock featuring a hardened steel insert at the contact point for stable action. You have your choice of colors, of course: blue or bronze anodized, as well as grey or black with either black or satin finished blades. There’s also a carbon fiber handled version with a marbled carbon scale on the show side (and the same titanium scale on the lock side) which drops weight down to 3.3 ounces from 4.1 for the full Ti version. Finally, for the fully committed there’s a limited-edition version with a Damasteel blade, pattern anodized clip and contrasting gold hardware for a hefty $580.
If you don’t follow SNECX Tan on Instagram, first of all, you really should. The designer self-describes themselves as “Just a hobbyist working on knives in Malaysia” which definitely is in the running for biggest understatement of the decade. Yes, SNECX is just a hobbyist working on knives, the ’54 Mercedes 300SL was just a car, Michael Jordan was just a guy who played ball, and Five Guys is just a burger joint. Point being, he’s an artist. So, if you are familiar with SNECX Tan, you’re probably also wishing you could win the lottery and be able to get your hands on one of his mind-boggling custom knives.
The chances of that are pretty slim, but thankfully WE’s got your back. They’ve already made the Mini Buster featured here, and they also have a production version of the Vision R coming out as well. The Mini Buster is a recreation of SNECX’s Buster custom, with a lot of the same unique design features but not all of SNECX’s mechanical trickery, to keep the price point down to a reasonable level. While the custom used a super precise pivot bushing to space the handles out exactly, allowing drop-shut action even on phosphor bronze washers with no play – that’s super time consuming for a production knife, so WE adapted the Buster to use a double-row ceramic ball bearing pivot to deliver the same result. There are still solid titanium handles, although the WE version uses plain Torx screws rather than the oversized flathead screws from the original. It does still have the super-precise backspacer that contours around the edge of the blade to cover it in the closed position.
The Mini buster is a good bit smaller than the original custom, having a 3.5” instead of a 4” blade, so it’s lighter at 4.0 ounces. Both versions come with a sculpted titanium pocket clip for right side tip up carry, and you have your choice between antique bronze anodized handles with a black stonewashed blade, or truer to the original the grey titanium with satin finished blade. They’re a cool slice of the custom but with a more affordable price point.
The WE Mini Synergy is the shrunken down version of the Synergy II, a collaboration with Jim O’Young. The Synergy II was a modern interpretation of O’Young’s original Synergy, made with his company SpeedTech, which was the first series production knife to be designed entirely in SolidWorks – meaning, modeled on a computer. The original Synergy was a ground breaking design, with its integral aluminum handle, so when WE brought it back, it was upgraded with a 3D machined Titanium handle.
The Mini has all of the Synergy 2’s mojo in a smaller package – think a 3” blade and 7” overall. There are six variants of the Mini Synergy available – a choice between grey titanium and black titanium with an intricate pattern milled into the handles for grip, or a titanium/marbled carbon fiber combo – all three of which allow the choice between a trailing point and tanto blade shape. All of them use ultra-premium CPM-20CV powdered metallurgy steel, along with a caged ceramic ball bearing pivot for ultra-smooth deployment. It also comes with a unique 3D machined titanium pocket clip for right hand tip-up carry. The striking looks of the Synergy are partly from its unique organic shape, and also from the lack of body hardware keeping the handles totally smooth save for an integrated lanyard pass-thru on the spine. A unique and beautiful knife.
When we reviewed the Civivi Odium recently, we came away impressed with the value for money that the diminutive folder offers – especially for the relatively low price tag. The Odium is a design collaboration with Ferrum Forge Knife Works, a mass production version of the FFKW Mini Archbishop. It’s cheaper and just a hair smaller, but the knives are very similar beyond that.
The Odium gives you excellent ergonomics – contoured scales with raised liners fill the hand remarkably well for the small handle size. The flipping action on the Odium is top-notch as well, thanks to ceramic ball bearings (even at this price point.) It’s a lightweight option too, coming in at only 2.5 ounces thanks to its small 2.6” blade and 6.2” overall length open. The Odium originally launched in only one configuration, but that has now broadened to cover several handle materials beyond the original black G10 (including Natural Jade, Orange, Blue and Grey) as well as dark green micarta and a classy Cuibourtia Wood handle with a Damascus blade. Hard to beat the Odium for an affordable gentleman’s knife, and get a slice of the FFKW character for less money.
A Brad Zinker collab is almost always a must-buy. His collaboration with Boker has been a continued home run (the Urban Trapper and all its variants), as well as his release with DROP called the Dogtooth. He’s also done a collaboration with WE Knives, the high-end Miscreant in Titanium which is awesome. So, a budget-friendly Zinker collab with Civivi has winner written all over it, and the Bo has the makings of a future classic. It has Brad’s classic ultra-slim lines, including the long narrow drop point with a nearly straight spine. It packs a 2.9” blade into a sleek, light package: only 2.1 ounces with G10. Opting for micarta brings the weight down even further to 1.96. You can pick from black, purple, or natural Jade G10, as well as the dark green micarta, all of which have the same Nitro-V stainless steel blade.
There are also carbon fiber variants, which use unique shredded carbon fiber with red or blue accents to make the scales pop. All versions use a stainless deep-carry pocket clip which is configured for tip up right-hand carry.
WE Knife is one of the biggest names in the high-end production knife market right now, with many products in the $250+ range and with quality and craftsmanship to match the hefty price tag. But unlike some other brands that populate the high end, like Chris Reeve Knives out of Idaho, or lionSteel in Italy, WE has a pretty broad vertical spread of the market – everything from the $40 Amazon specials up to nearly $600 high-end Damasteel knives. So realistically, their biggest competitors are Kizer and Reate.
Reate may not be the most direct competitor since they pretty much only make high-end products. They don’t have a value line akin to Civivi, and the least expensive Reate knife on BladeHQ right now is the $310 Reate/Tachi Bharucha T3000 collab. But in terms of an OEM that prides themselves on ultra-high-quality manufacturing and premium products, Reate is arguably one of the best manufacturers in the world. They also do a lot of maker collaboration products like WE does, and have produced knives as an OEM for smaller brands as well. They’re also located in Yangjiang like WE Knife.
Kizer is a much more direct comparison for WE Knife. Kizer hasn’t been around as long as WE, starting in 2012, and they are also located in Yangjiang. Like WE, Kizer has diversified their brand to include the high-end full titanium knives like the Ti Begleiter we reviewed, as well as the mid-priced Vanguard line with more affordable materials and steels, through the budget Tangram line sold on Amazon and AliExpress, like the Vector we reviewed. You could start a pretty solid argument in a knife group over whether WE Knife or Kizer makes higher quality products, but having handled a number of both, I’ll say they’re on pretty even footing in terms of quality – which is to say, top shelf.
Finally, another competitor would be Yangjiang-based (not to sound like a broken record) QSP Knife, a more recent addition to the Chinese production knife scene. QSP stands for Quality, Service, Price – and the one QSP we’ve reviewed so far bears that out. They offer knives from the affordable (like the $20 Parrot liner lock with a D2 blade and G10 scales) up to the $280 Legatus framelock, with carbon-fiber inlayed handles. QSP’s knives show a remarkable amount of finishing detail for a production level product, like the smooth horizontal satin finish on the blade on the Gannet. They’re up-and-comers but are a brand worth watching in the next few years.
WE Knife is a brand that offers something for everyone. From affordable to high-end to OEM production, WE Knife leverages their expertise in machining and design to put out a really mind-boggling selection of knives, all with remarkably good build quality. If you haven’t tried one out yet, now’s the time!