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Here at Knife Informer, WE Knife Co. needs no introduction. Our previous reviews of the 608 and 610 models left us with a positive impression of the brand with full marks in the looks and value departments. No knife is without faults, however, and today’s focus on the WE Knife model 604 is another great example of what China’s burgeoning brand can offer, and where they can improve.
Key Specs: WE Knife 604
Consistent with other WE Knife series, the 604 comes in several flavors. There are two blade shapes, drop point and tanto, and a variety of handle color schemes. In fact, we counted no fewer than 19 variants on the company website. Kudos to WE Knife for supporting this kind of variety. The subject of this review is the model 604D, with tanto blade and blue/purple “dragon scale” handle colors.
Just like the 608 and 610 models we evaluated, the 604 came with the same pouch lined with a soft, fur-like material packed with the proprietary pivot tool, a “certificate of authenticity” which is actually just a business card, and a microfiber cloth that’s so nice I’ve opted to never use it; instead, I’ll keep it in the event I ever need to present my 604’s blade to a knife-god. Opening the pouch for the first time is a great experience. The first thing you see is the knife because everything else is tucked in the side pouches, and then you get to discover all the goodies once you’ve soaked in the glory.
Once the knife slips out of the plastic and into your hand, there’s a brief moment of deep majesty and awe. Our 604D version is a full-on blue/purple styling, but the knife comes in an almost-but-sort-of-not-tumbled jet black variant, and in a plain titanium variant, so you’re covered if you’re not into knives that remind you of cotton candy. I, for one, like my cotton candy, and therefore the ‘D’ (I went there) was right up my alley, and being a bit of a big nerd, the dragon scale theme caught my eye immediately. It’s certainly a knife that commands attention, and asks that it’s owner has a specific taste. If the looks don’t suit your fancy, then neither will the knife, because aesthetics are a big part of what makes this knife worthwhile compared to all the other great options on the market.
Okay, now that the two guys on Earth who don’t like dragons have stopped reading, we can dive into the good stuff. The knife is in the hand, and the first thing you notice is the weight. At 4.2 ounces this knife is smack in the sweet spot range for most knife enthusiasts, and can be a little deceiving considering the size of the thing. This is thanks to the extensive skeletonizing on the interior of the titanium frame, a good first sign of serious knife making.
Turning the knife over in the hand a few times, it begins to become clear that your excited and sweaty palms are causing the sky blue dragon scales to change over to a deep, grape-like purple. What is this wizardry? I have literally no idea, so let’s just be stoked about it and move on, shall we? After the fifth or so turn-over in the hand, the attempt to conceal the seam along the spine of the knife is revealed. From the clearing for the tang, all the way down through the lanyard hole, and up to where the handle protects you from the blade tip, there is a seam joining the two sides of the handle. This is more obvious on other WE Knife designs, but at least on the 604 they did their best to use smoke and mirrors to throw off the scent.
Turn-over time is over baby, it’s time to flip this knife! A reasonable tug on the flipper tab and THWACK! The sound of this knife’s blade coming to a halt triggers memories of watching Superman stop a train for the first time. Give it a tiny bit of wrist-flick, if you dare, and experience an unreasonably satisfying bang that sort of makes you gawk and think, ‘really?’ Maybe it’s just me here, I know there’s lots of great knives, and there are knives with better actions and sounds, of course, but man, it’s got a crispness comparable to a frozen lake’s surface. Needless to say, this knife checks a lot of boxes for me, but it’s not all perfect, so let’s get to the nitty gritty.
Feel in Hand
The 604 has almost a Kwaiken shape to it, with a very mild curvature that gives way to an area for your index finger, but for all intents and purposes is basically a straight knife. This means that despite its handle length of exactly 5 inches, it feels good in any sized hand, because it doesn’t matter where the palm of your hand is resting, the whole spine of the handle is equally as inviting. There’s no major curve to hinder a bigger hand, like, say, on an Olamic 247 or a Steelcraft Bodega, though that’s a bit of an unfair comparison. This is great news for people like me who have smaller hands but like bigger knives, it’s one size fits all!
It’s also good news for people with bigger hands who perhaps have to typically look to even larger handles due to wild handle shapes. At just over a half an inch thick, but with a rounded shape, it fills the hand very well too, but is not so big in a small hand as to cause lack of grip. Speaking of grip, the dragon scales do a fantastic job of executing function from form, as their friction provides plenty of purchase. That said, under hard use, such as trying to cut through something thick, with a back and forth motion, it can be a bit hot. Though I don’t expect many people to be hard using the 604 as it just doesn’t lend itself to the task, in form or function.
If we’re going to talk ‘feel-in-hand,’ we have to get serious about something which I get the sense is lacking in the folder world. Apart from the aesthetics, my absolute favorite thing about the 604 is it’s balance. I can’t help but feel like balance just isn’t a consideration anymore in the overall flipper/folder world like it used to be. I’m sure there are hundreds of examples where I’m wrong on this, but nonetheless, my anecdotal experience suggests to me that it is a rare consideration among knife designs. No more, with the 604. Balancing the knife on your index finger, where you naturally hold the handle, the 604 will sit vertically, perfectly still, with no signs of wavering, uneasiness, or miscalculation. The result is astounding and causes what, when closed, feels accurately like a 4.2 ounce knife; but when open and held appropriately, melts away in your hand, giving way to the notion that it weighs far less. I can’t say enough about this feature, and I assure you it’s quite impressive.
A tanto true and true, the 604’s blade is no boy scout’s pocket tool. With a thick grind to boot, this knife is a horrible slicer and isn’t a particularly useful tool in general either. Crafted from the first rate CPM-S35VN steel, there’s little concern in regards to corrosion and edge retention, but steel doesn’t make a blade great on its own. WE offers their knives, the 604 being no exception, in various combinations of blade coatings/grinds, usually with a blackwash on the flats or the grind, and satin/blasted/mirror/whatever on the reverse.
The model ‘D’ has blackwash on the flats and a vertical satin polish finish on the grind. It’s really pretty, but ultra-prone to nicks and trails. It’ll make quick work of some packages and your lunch if you have to, but this thing is generally barred to the ‘light EDC’ crowd. I know that’s a deal breaker for many, but let’s face it, this design was aimed at the ‘man-jewelry’ crowd anyway, I’m not upset about it. The profile this knife has thanks to its blade is superb, and I wouldn’t trade it for any other edge.
The final piece to the puzzle of ‘what makes the 604 so great, Knife Informer?’ is the action. This is one area in which I’m glad I’ve owned the knife for a while instead of just getting it this week. The 604 needs to be broken in, and not just a little bit. It took weeks of flipping to get the bearings to the point they are now, and I fondled the heck out of this thing. This isn’t to say that it’s not amazing out of the box, because it is, but it doesn’t get to it’s grasping-at-Shirogorov-smoothness until you’ve put it through its paces. Have you ever taken two pieces of glass and put a bit of water between them, and then rubbed them together? You have, in spirit, if you’ve flipped the 604. If you shake the blade tang past the detent, the blade will drop shut. If you use the flipper tab in reverse to gently ramp the detent up onto the tang, and then move your finger, you can make the slightest motion and it will fall shut. It’s just fantastic. At $300, it’s almost unheard of. Not necessarily just falling shut, but falling shut like this.
The deployment is just as spectacular. The use of ceramic ball bearings has something to do with it sure, but this kind of action does not come without significant effort on the part of the manufacturer. WE Knife continues to excel in this regard. The flipper tab has a bit of light, ‘soft’ jimping on the contact side, and provides enough leverage that you won’t ever slip unless you somewhat miss it and only catch the edge. The great thing about this flipper, and something that marks a true great flipper mechanism, is being able to use the tab however you like, at whatever pressure you like, and always getting a full lockup. Lightswitch, push button, hard tug, light swipe, it doesn’t matter, this action is trustworthy and satisfying. The combination of leverage-to-detent is superb; if I try really hard and hold the knife perfectly vertically, sometimes it will stop just before the lockup, but who does that? Virtually, then, it’s guaranteed to reliably lockup on every single deployment.
Some final loose ends include the clip, which has strong tension, and is a tiny bit of a fight every time you put it on your pocket, but is otherwise great; and the pivot tool / pivots. It’s one tool for three different sizes of screw. This means the big screws are no problem, but the little ones get pretty risky, especially because of how impossible it is to hold the tool due to its size. This can be dealt with by some clever use of a rod through the keychain hole to provide leverage and give surface area to offer more downward pressure, but I nearly stripped a screw on my old 605F (it’s the same tool and screws on all WE’s). Big props for including the tool, but I’d rather pay another 10 bucks for the thing and get a bigger handle to hold onto.
With an overall length of 8.75 inches, an aggressive tanto blade, a grind so thick you’d smush a tomato (not really), and a design appealing only to those who are Dragonborn, the 604 isn’t the ‘every-home’ kind of knife. That said, it’s clear that for those who want something a little different for their carry-of-choice, the WE Knife 604 stands tall as an exquisite example of what can happen when a growing company decides to really strut their stuff. I would have appreciated a thinner grind, which could have made the blade shape itself less of a problem, but then, many of the blades in WE’s lineup are more fancifully focused. Check out the WE 612 and you’ll see what I mean.
Alas, I come full circle to the repeatedly resounding achievement of WE Knife’s offerings, which is value. For this CNC work, I’m expecting to be at $250-$350, but for this action, I’m expecting to be at $400-$550+. You’ll know when you see it if it’s a knife you think you can enjoy, but let me be the wind beneath your wings if you’re undecided because you weren’t sure about the design, the origin of manufacture, or otherwise. The WE Knife 604 is the best pocket-dragon on the market, period.
- Excellent feel-in-hand for all sizes, tremendous action, mesmerizing looks
- It fails to keep up in the actual knife-y-ness department, namely poor blade for use
Review by Knife Informer contributor, Tyler Solley