To embrace the American dream, many people take the bull by the horns, and simultaneously take a big risk in their everyday lives to start a journey with a passion to start a business. And Brian Brown is the epitome of this description. A knife maker coming from a retail background, with a family to support, began making knives only a few years ago. Starting with handmade knives is always quite the undertaking, but he gained traction quickly. Winning the 2021 Blade Show West “Best Tactical Folder” award for his Warthog design, he was able to level up and begin working with production companies to have his designs put into the hands of the masses for far lower pricing.
WE Knife Company makes tons of knives. Like, literal tons. They put out knives of their own, as well as collaborating with knife makers who bring designs to them, such as Brian Brown. In a world filled with folding knife choices from many different manufacturers, it can be difficult to narrow down the list to find something that fits the list of features or size requirements you may be shopping for. But the WE Trogon, designed by Mr. Brown, is a great choice in this segment. It combines many desired features, such as a titanium frame lock, bearing pivot, CPM-20CV blade steel, and anodization. But this one does it with a little more flash, while maintaining a subtle style that ticks a few uncommon boxes for those who know the difference.
Key Specs: We Knife Trogon
Oh man, this is one outstanding blade. Compound grinds, like the blade on the Trogon, are so interesting to the eye, while bringing some strengths along with them from many other different blade styles. The Trogon official blade shape is a spear point, by its definition on retail descriptions, but it has more of a tanto style overall profile. So, to put all this together, we have a blade with a secondary tip, two flat sections of edge, a hollow ground belly, and tanto tip. Yes, it’s quite the mouthful, but it’s quite well done. Along with the compound grind on the blade, it’s also finished in a less common way; with a bead blast. This gives the blade a satin sheen to it, that hides wear, looks high-end, and aids in cutting performance, albeit marginal in improvement.
At 3.2” in length, with a stock thickness of .16”, this is one stout little blade. It’s also 1.19” in height, giving it some room to taper from the thick stock to the thin edge. But, all this is done while still maintaining a thick tip, again utilizing the benefits of the compound grind. Another feature, or lack thereof, that I personally appreciate with the Trogon is the lack of text on the blade. Many manufacturers put large lettering, branding, steel type, country of origin, and other distracting text on their blades.
The Trogon simply has the Brian Brown logo on one side, and nothing more. It’s a nice way to allow the blade to keep some class, and show off its finish and grind without pulling the eyes away to read 4 or 5 different bits of information.
Deployment / Lockup
Deployment of the Trogon is, in one word, great. The dual thumb studs are easy to find with the thumb or middle finger (for reverse flick opening), they’re large, stepped, and flat on the ends. No pointy studs to find here. The detent on the Trogon is dialed in just right, where the blade won’t pop open with a little shake when the knife is closed, but shoots out with that classic “shhh-click” of the frame lock. The lockup is as good as it gets with a bearing pivot folder; it’s solid, no blade play side to side, and the frame lock is engineered just right, with no back to front flex or play at all.
But it’s not all slick and smooth with the Trogon, in the deployment and unlocking. I was surprised to find that the bearing system is in fact the ceramic caged variant, because the bearings feel a bit scratchy. This is not due to dirt or debris, as this knife has felt this way since it was new. Not to bring a huge negative to the deployment or action, but it’s just not anywhere near the smoothness I expect to find in ceramic bearing knives. Maybe I’m spoiled by having carried and used the likes of the Grimsmo brothers, but it could be better here. And the unlocking again, isn’t bad, per se, but the lock bar access is much more limited than I’d prefer on a knife with this kind of heft. At 4.5 ounces, and a hefty blade, it would be nice to have a little easier time reaching the lock bar. I do feel like I have to juggle the knife in hand a bit, to get a good bite on the lock bar. But, all being said, the blade drops free once the lock is disengaged, and the blade can be shaken to the closed position with minimal effort.
Features, Fit, and Finish
We’ve already discussed the titanium frame lock, bead blasted, compound ground blade, and a few other features of the Trogon, but lets get into the long list of other bells and whistles. Starting with the contoured scales, they have been micro-milled in a diagonal fashion, anodized blue, and then stonewashed. This gives the knife a high end feel, without being slippery, and keeps some aesthetic pleasure with some wear built in. But they didn’t stop there, did they? No, they did not (insert Morgan Freeman monologue here…).
Next, the scales were drilled with five speed holes on each side of the scales, then said speed holes were chamfered and polished, so each one has a little flash to it. The show side remains simple, with only the “WE Knives” logo on the pivot, the five speed holes, and a single standoff screw. But the lock side has more to show. The pivot uses an anodized collar around the blue anodized screw, the lock bar has a steel insert (which doubles as a lock bar overtravel stop), screwed in from the outside, the pocket clip is titanium and milled and anodized to match the scales, and the bottom of the handle has a matching standoff screw to mate up to the show side.
Then (oh that’s right, we’re not done yet), we find two more features on the bottom of the handle. A titanium, stonewashed, anodized backspacer, and a small mini-standoff for a lanyard. Ok, that’s the end of the features list. Well, the end of the features you can see from the outside, that is. Under the hood, we have more magic to discuss. Like many titanium frame locks made by large, overseas manufacturers, the Trogon utilizes a hidden blade stop construction. The blade stop is actually a cross bar in the blade, and the handle scales are milled out for that stop pin to ride on. As previously mentioned, the ceramic caged bearings complete the list of the features on this flashy pocket tool.
As for fit and finish, it’s exactly as expected. Which is to say, I can’t find a single flaw. All the seams and edges are smooth, chamfered, fit perfectly, and have no movement or ratting in any way. It’s quite impressive to have a feature set this long, done this well, and to have no blemishes or fitment issues. All hardware is anodized to match, all the screws are anodized, and the knife is put together in a high end manner.
Wait, I have to use this thing? I mean, it’s not the most expensive knife out there by any means, but it sure feels too nice to use. Until you use it. Then you realize, it’s just as nice to use, as it is to look at. The ergonomics may be questionable to the eyes when viewing our pictures of the Trogon, but Brian Brown knows what he’s doing with handle designs. It’s fairly slim throughout the length of the handle, until you get up to the pivot that contains the hidden blade stop, but it still fits the hand quite well. I’ll admit I wish there was a spot to choke up on, to get closer to the blade, but for 95% of normal use, the forced ergos on this knife are just fine. Even with the chamfered scales, I expected them to feel too thin around the edges, but they don’t. The chamfering is just heavy enough to use the knife without much thought of hot spots.
Gliding through sections of cardboard using the longer belly of the edge is a breeze. The front section of the blade is a little thick, but pierces cardboard fine. Bearing down on some pine allows the ergos to talk back to the hand, and again shows no issues in my use. If you’re one to use your pocket knife for minor food prep, I’d have to steer you away from this knife, as it’s a bit thick for most food and will split it better than it will cut. Getting into some rope cuts, the Trogon will suffice, but if I’m being honest, it’s not suited well for this type of use.
I do realize the type of knife we’re testing here, being a higher-end style, flashy, snappy action folder. But, I do expect any knife built today to have the capability to cut rope without an issue, and I can’t say that’s doable with the Trogon. The factory edge is very well done, nice and shiny, shaves with ease, cuts paper and boxes with no problem. But, as with most thicker-bladed folders, especially with stainless steel blades, we do run into a bit of a slippery feel to the edge when cutting more fibrous materials.
Maybe this will subside with a sharpening, but it’s worth mentioning. The Trogon does carry well in the pocket, though, with a narrow handle end, and a fancy pocket clip without too much weight in the knife overall.
All these knives available at BladeHQ.Reate is another Chinese knife manufacturer that rivals WE Knife Company in many ways. They also have provided Brian Brown with putting a design of his on the streets, with the Raptor model. This model is a production version of his Warthog knife, as described in the intro to our review here. The V2 (the current generation) is quite comparable to the Trogon, and although it’s not in the same price league ($375 for the Raptor, and ~$300 for the Trogon), it has dual thumb stud deployment on a titanium frame lock, and has an overall similar aesthetic in the handle style to the Trogon. The V2 Raptor, just like the Trogon, has many variants and pricing can vary depending on materials and blade composition.
The WE Thug XL is another knife made by WE Knife, designed by a knife maker (Matthew Christiansen, in this case). It’s nearly identical to the Trogon in all dimensions, only .25 ounces heavier, and has a compound tanto-esque style blade. It’s also ~$300, comparing very closely to the Trogon’s price tag, made with a titanium frame lock, likely uses all the same hardware, but looks quite a bit different with the scales having more of a hand-rubbed look to them. It’s quite the contender to the Trogon, but with a slightly different appeal.
The WE Knife Trogon is a classy, usable, semi-flashy pocket jewelry inspired folding pocket knife, made by a large production company, but designed by an American knife maker. Although that particular descriptive phrase can be used to describe tons of pocket knives available today, the Trogon seems to have many of them beat with its feature set.
From the contoured, micro milled, anodized, stonewashed handle scales, to the bead blasted finish on the compound ground blade, it’s a truly well-done snappy folder with plenty to offer. And to support an American knife maker in a way that may be a bit roundabout, is still a plus in our book.
- Huge feature set, impeccable fit/finish, comfortable to use, intriguing design and blade style
- Action could be smoother, lock bar can be hard to reach, no “choke up” handle position