Buckle up folks, this one is going to be a bumpy ride. It can be a relatively easy job reviewing pocket knives, especially when one has the opportunity to review a product from a company or maker that consistently produces very good quality, and well thought out offerings. However, this review is not all sunshine and roses.
WE Knife has become widely popular over the last 3 years. This Chinese brand has proven over and over again that they are a major player in the mid to high tier pocket knife arena. Originally creating knives for other designers as a manufacturer, WE Knife has been distributing pocket knives around the world of their own design since about 2017. WE Knife has been a big player in this game in China for many years, and we have now recognized them as a big player in North America as well.
As with other WE Knife products we’ve reviewed in the past, we jumped on the chance to review another knife in the already popularized lineup they offer. Let us start out with some stats.
Key Specs: WE Knife Double Helix
Right out of the box we see a standard issue nylon-style case with a zipper neatly safeguarding the new WE knife Double Helix 815E. Easily removed, we unzipped the case and immediately were impressed by the modern and somewhat industrial style look of this knife. As we are big fans of titanium, the well machined slabs of tumbled titanium mirrored on both sides is a cool sight to behold… made even more impressive by the exposed titanium mechanism that acts as an external spring to engage and disengage the locking mechanism.
WE Knife refers to this as a ‘side lock’. Though different in several ways tp the Axis-Lock, the Side Lock concept is similar to the Benchmade design in concept but not execution. The Side Lock uses titanium instead of steel, and an externally visible larger size bar on both sides of its scales. We will get back to both the mechanism, and feel In hand a bit later in this review.
The takeaway is that we all felt excitement as we looked at the Double Helix. It was when we actually held the WE Knife 815E Double Helix that we started to form a very different opinion from our optimistic initial visual sensation. It is worth mentioning, that the blade, made of S35VN steel is absolutely lovely. Our example was clad with a two-tone finish accentuating the 3.3 inch drop point blade. A very well sharpened (almost mirror polished) edge was clearly visible, further highlighting the hollow grind that may be the strongest feature of the knife. It reminded us a bit of a Chris Reeve Sebenza 21 in overall shape and execution.
The blasted titanium bent style pocket clip was nothing special – neither a positive or negative aesthetically. Anchored by two stand-off/spacer screws, the clip functioned well as we slid the Double Helix in and out of our pocket. Note that the screws may cause some wear to pants when pocket carrying the Double Helix, but we have seen worse implementations. Throughout our three weeks of use with this knife, the pocket clip never failed, and the knife was securely in place with relatively easy removal from the pocket at all times.
The first time we deployed the knife, we were rather impressed. Using the two knobs on either side of the titanium frame, we grabbed them on each side and pull back toward the bottom of the knife, and the blade flipped open with some wrist action required. It is not quite as seamless as the Benchmade Axis-lock. It feels stiffer and larger. We initially felt that this may be a very good thing, as it may provide even more strength and reliability to an already reliable design. We have seen other implementations of the Axis-style lock in the past (SOG, Spyderco, etc.), but this was the first that we have seen with such unique elements – the external titanium springs (which have now been supposedly patented by WE Knife).
A few more openings and closings of the knife helped us begin to formulate a better opinion of the Double Helix. By the way, you close the knife in the same manner that you open it, push back on both sides of the grab knobs and pull downward toward the butt of the handle. It can be a bit awkward, especially if you do not have strong fingers, or have small hands. We had mixed feelings on the action of the knife. As a result, our initial impressions were mixed s well.
Feel in Hand
Let’s start at the beginning. This WE knife Double Helix feels heavy. Sure, we tend not to mind heavy pocket knives if they have a purposeful performance to justify it. But that was just the very first physical impression. At about 4.55 oz, we did not expect the Double Helix to feel so weighty.
We then wrapped our hands around the handle and felt sharp edges on critical areas of the knife scales – though mainly at the end of the pocket clip where the two screw standoffs/spacers securing the clip to the handle were located. This is not a comfortable knife for our hands. The overall shape is timeless much like a Sebenza style straight slab of handle and rounded-off corners and edges. By all accounts, in pictures and on paper this should have been a comfort winner.
We have medium sized hands, and the deployment and disengagement methods did not work well for us in this form factor. These attributes were further aggravated by the sharp edges at the butt area of the knife… the same location we consistently used as leverage to push our right pinky finger down to assist in getting to both the grab knobs needed to access the apparently proprietary mechanism. That was another issue as well. In order to deploy the Double Helix, you are limited to a single deployment method. This “Side Lock” requires that both of the grab knobs be pushed down together and completely to engage or disengage the lock.
As a direct result, opening the knife takes both practice and feel. Closing of the Double Helix blade is even more frustrating with one hand because you need to choke-up on the handle, and snap your wrist downward while holding down both grab knobs on each side of the handle at the same time. If it sounds a bit tricky, it sort of is. It just doesn’t feel natural. Over the course of three weeks we started to become more comfortable with this process, however never got to a point where we felt confident with it.
Perhaps if we only had experience with this one knife, and this one deployment, and only this disengagement method… maybe it would have been easier the more we practiced. However like muscle memory, the many years of using a Benchmade Griptilian as our daily driver, we repeatedly attempted and fumbled when we engaged and disengaged the blade. Usually this was due to just instinctively reaching our pointer or middle finger toward only one grab knob. This proved continually frustrating throughout our time with the Double Helix.
The blade when deployed felt very solid and the edge arrived factory sharpened extremely well. However, we wish the fuller groove on the Double Helix was designed in a manner that allowed us to use it as a secondary deployment method. Instead, it is really just for show in our estimation. Any effort to try and flip the knife open without depressing down the grab knobs resulted in no movement from the blade at all (using one hand, or two hands). We suppose that is also a good thing. No blade play, and no chance to accidentally deploy this knife could possibly occur in this reviewers opinion. It is built strong, and it is built solid. This is obviously the knife designers intent.
We would likely not have much confidence to deploy this knife very quickly on the first try in an emergency situation, but we also would have supreme confidence that it would not deploy by accidental measures in your pocket.
Moving to the scales, the machined and blasted titanium is not particularly sharp, but also not very grippy to our estimation. In wet conditions, this knife can get slippery. From a looks standpoint, it seems futuristic and rather steam punk modern in an almost understated fashion. We like the looks, and though potentially slippery when wet, offers only minor compromise for its unique style.
Okay, so it is a bit heavy and has some sharp edges on the handle, but how does it perform out of the gate? Ummm, well it opens and closes without issue (when you use the side lock mechanism correctly). Yeah, it opens and closes as intended. But again, that is the main issue we had problems with… the mechanism selected to perform this task. The deployment system of the Double Helix is both the draw and the major challenge. We will discuss this mechanism in more practical detail in our real world usage section below.
Real world usage
It goes without saying that when you feel uncomfortable with a knife in your hand, it does not inspire confidence to do much with it, or perhaps even EDC the knife on a regular or even somewhat regular basis. This was our experience during the time we spend with the WE Knife Double Helix.
We spent twenty-one straight days resisting our urge to grab another pocket knife, and carried the Double Helix 815E straight through. Sure we did this for the review, but also because we had high hopes that we would come away thinking that we got used to the quirks this blade seems to have. Sadly, that was not the case. We found the actual carry portion reasonable enough.
The weight in pocket was a bit on the heavy side for a knife blade this size at 4.5 oz, but nothing too drastic. It was never obtrusive or too large in the right side carry pocket of our jeans or dress slacks. However, when seated, we found that once again we had some issue with the stand-offs/spacer screws used to secure the pocket clip. Because the spacers place the top of the clip further outward from the handle scales, we noticed a slight protrusion in our side whenever seated.
Now let’s discuss actually cutting something. As we mentioned earlier, the blade is really the star of the show with this knife. The Double Helix has excellent blade geometry, and a well executed hollow grind that makes the drop point style of this cutter rather useful. The jimping is quite positive and aggressive without being too aggressive. It is very well done. In fact, we wish the Sebenza had such nice jimping. It really locks your hand in place.
Although we performed no unusual performance tests, such as repeated cardboard or rope cuts, we did use the Double Helix for standard pocket knife duties. These included opening what appeared to be daily arrivals of packages from Amazon, as well as menial tasks at the Boy Scouts outings we attended twice weekly. We whittled some wood, cut foam, cut some cloth (cotton) fabric, cut apples, and a few pieces of nylon rope.
All in all, it was the blade that saves this knife from being a non-user for us. However, we still were unable to feel comfortable with the Double Helix after three weeks of exclusive usage.
All these knives available at BladeHQ.
During this review we have mentioned a few other well known knives, and for good reason. We think that at about 285 dollars street value, you may want to compare this knife to some of its direct and indirect competition. These include:
Benchmade Griptilian 550-1 – The originator of the AXIS Lock, executed in an iconic knife clad in Gray/Blue G-10 with a 3.45″ Satin blade is a steal at about 185 dollar street price. It sports CPM-20CV steel and is lighter compared to both the Double Helix and the Sebenza. It is an excellent value proposition, especially if you like the axis-lock ‘style’ for deployment.
Chris Reeve Knives Sebenza 21 – It is larger and more costly when referring to the Sebenza large version. The Grand daddy of all premium pocket knives, the Sebenza 21 Large is actually about the same weight at 4.7 oz, and offers a 3.6 inch blade. Similar S35VN blade and handle profile, the Sebenza is a no nonsense knife that has proven to be a no-brainer option if you can afford the price of admission (around 450 dollars). Small variants are also reasonable considerations at a lower cost.
WE Knife Deacon – WE Knife makes a full range of excellent options to consider at about 250 dollars or less at many well respected resellers online. We like most of them. One that always seems to impress for those who actually are interested in an EDC as well as a cool looking piece in the pocket is the Deacon. Made with Ti and CF, only 2.73 oz, and sports a 3.1 inch M390 steel blade. This is a discrete and attractive offering. It feels comfortable to carry, and comfortable to use, as long as you do not have very large hands. Just one of many excellent options available from WE Knife and the very complete line they produce.
Here’s the deal. Most knives we choose to review are selected because we think we are going to enjoy them in some way that may result in a reasonable and positive review. However, this has been one instance where we did enjoy the aesthetic and the concept, but the feel and real world usage just don’t match our fancy. Though we love the blade and the jimping, it left us wishing we had that great Double Helix blade in a different handle packaging and deployment method entirely.
If you are a really big fan of the Double Helix Side-lock mechanism in concept or reality, or maybe because you are a collector that needs all things different, we can say this is a knife worth investigating further.
However, if you are even partially intending on actual daily using and carrying this pocket knife, a bunch of other options may be worth consideration, many within the WE Knife line-up itself. Regardless of our opinion, the WE Knife Double Helix is a very high quality product with excellent fit and finish based on its intended design. It is a love it or hate it proposition with this one, and sadly for us we are not on the ‘love it’ side of the equation. Your mileage may vary!
- Truly unique design, beautiful high-end blade that cuts well, excellent build quality, formidable jimping
- Feels a bit heavy, somewhat uncomfortable grip, open/close mechanism can become frustrating