Knives and I have not had the greatest running relationship. When I was a kid, my dad presented me with my first pocket knife. It was a cheap little buck folder with what I recall as an inch-long blade. I progressed from there to a neat little gerber folder with a rubber handle that I promptly used (accidentally) to sever the top of my left index finger from the rest of my hand—at the wise age of eleven.
“You’re a dumbass”
— My father
The doctor sewed it back on, and to this day, the only lasting memory of the incident is a badass scar, and the occasional pain on the scar line. Since then knives and I have had a sort of mutual respect, as much mutual as an inanimate object can provide at least. But these knives I’ve owned have become an extension of me, and an always-relied-upon tool in my arsenal. Since that understanding of the capacity of the blade, I have rarely ever walked out the door without a knife in my pocket.
Through the years I have owned these tools through many brands, many big names that create a quality piece, but none have impressed me nor made me fall in love as much as Benchmade’s artistry.
Benchmade started in California in 1979 as Bailsong, changing its name in 1988 to the Pacific Cutlery Corporation. In 1990, the company moved to Clackamas, Oregon, where it followed up its name change to Benchmade. Benchmade is primarily known as the creator of the original Bali-song knife, better known as the butterfly knife. These knives were so synonymous with Benchmade that the company registered the balisong butterfly as the company’s trademark and logo.
The key piece, aside from the artistry and overwhelming industrial-grade quality that goes into these knives, is the locking mechanism. Benchmade employs a unique AXIS Lock, an 100-percent ambidextrous design, AXIS gets its function from a small, hardened steel bar which rides forward and back in a slot machined groove into both steel liners. The bar extends to both sides of the knife, spans the liners, and is positioned over the rear of the blade. It engages a ramped tang portion of the knife blade when it is opened. Two omega style springs, one on each liner, give the locking bar its inertia to engage the knife tang. As a result, the tang is wedged solidly between a sizable stop pin and the AXIS bar itself. Benchmade manufactures this locking system on manual and automatic knives.
There is literally no better knife found out there that I would trust my life and everyday use to. I have many Benchmades, but there is only one of them that I own multiple copies of. I currently own three Model 552 Presidio Ultra knives, two in manual AXIS and the third in automatic. I carried the first of my manual 552’s in my pocket every day for nearly 3 years since my brother gave it to me for being his best man.
The Presidio Ultra 522 features black G10 handles surrounding a 7075-T6 Aluminum skeleton, with an 440C heat-treated stainless blade. It also has an AXIS lock system, stainless steel black-oxide coated hardware, and copper bushings that the tang rides on. Benchmade backs it with an incredible limited lifetime warranty, and their Lifesharp promise on their blades. If your blade should ever become dull, a simple ship to Benchmade and their artisans will craft a new razor-sharp edge onto the blade at no cost to the owner. The 522 is available in two different models: manual and automatic. It is then available in three sub models: raw straight edge, black straight edge, and black 1/4 serrated. It is made, along with the entire Benchmade product line, in Oregon, USA.
My 522 has been wrecked and abused, forced to endure more labors and stressors that a fine piece of cutlery should ever see. I made it do terrible things, all the way up till it finally broke. This knife followed me through everyday military maneuvers, helped build three Jeeps, cut open countless boxes and sandwiches, and the thing that finally killed it after relentless torture was cutting a metal strap in a moment of desperation. It cut the metal strap, but not without taking the first inch of the blade with it.
I sent that 522 off to Benchmade for repair with a letter enclosed depicting its acts of heroism, and promptly put the Auto 522 in its place at my side. Three weeks later, UPS returned my beloved Benchmade to me with a new blade completely rebuilt from tip to tail with a note attached simply saying “Thank You” and a receipt of repair with a balance of $0.00. The price of a good tool is minuscule when it comes from one of the best companies in the world, made in the best country in the world.