This is not the most timely review. To be fair I did review the Valet on another website (found here). It was only after a few searches of this site that I realized that I did not have have a review of the Valet here for scoring purposes. That plus the fact that the Valet is an underrated knife prompted me to post this review.
How best to describe this knife? In one sense, this is a knife that I just really, really like. Its not technically perfect, there are parts of it that I am not a huge fan of, but overall this is a knife I can really get behind. Fundamentally, it is a superior blade. Design-wise its like the Benchmade Mini Grip and the Benchmade Aphid had a baby. I really like both of those knives, so it is not much of a surprise that I like the Valet, too. Lastly, it is a knife with cool variants. I have owned all of the non-Gold class Valets, the basic, the Shinola collab, and this one the 485GRY-1801 and each has been a sweet blade. I happen to think that this version the Valet is the best looking Benchmade ever made and so I am going to review this one. If there is a place where the other two would diverge in score, I will note that so this is a three for one review (Base, Shinola, and GRY).
Here is the product page. There are are five variants:
The base model with gray G10 and a satin blade (485) which retails for $180,
The Shinola version with dymondwood handles and a satin blade (485?, if you know this model number, drop it in the comments, I couldn’t find it) which costs $200,
This version with smoke titanium handles and a DLC blade (485GRY-1801) which retails for $361,
The Joker version of the knife—the Gold Class Valet with purple titanium handles and a Damasteel blade (485-171) at $595, and
The very rare (and insanely expensive) Gold Class Monochrome version with damascus handles (485-181) for a staggering $1050.
Personally I love these “almost” Gold Class Benchmades, like this knife and the 940-1—they give you premium features without a lot of the gauche frippery of the Gold Class knives. The review of the Base Valet is above. Here is a video. These have long ago sold out. Here is my review sample (found in a nearby knife store in January of 2019 as “new old stock” and purchased immediately with my own money):
Twitter Review Summary: Maybe the best Benchmade EDC ever.
Design: 2 (all versions)
The bones of this knife are spectacular. The slim profile and spearpoint blade have a visual appeal, a visual tension to borrow a phrase from the Master Jim Loveless, that I can’t really find on many other knives. The size of the blade is just right, around 2.9 inches. The clip is placed well and looks good. All of the Valets I have had just crush the design.
There are some things I don’t like. I am not a fan of how busy the pivot area is on the non-show side, with a standoff, a pivot screw, and the Axis lock. Its a natural side effect of the Axis lock and this knife appears better than most. I am also not a fan of the exposed rear tang although in the Valet it is both small and non-lint trapping in design. Small drawbacks really and definitely not worth a point.
For me the 485GRY-1801 really stands out among the Valets in terms of its look. The smoke titanium is a finish that I have no seen elsewhere and while some days I think it looks a bit smudged the reality is its matte appearance and smooth feel just look cool. It reminds me of the current wave of matte painted supercars. I also really like the bright spark of color that the thumbstud represents. Its not quite orange and not quite red, seemingly shifting depending on the light. But when you combine these two color choices with already spectacular bones of the Valet design, I am irrationally smitten with this limited edition model.
The performance ratios are good, this is a light and compact EDC after all. Here they are for each Valet model (noting that the B/H is the same for all models at .79, an excellent number):
Base Model: B:W: 1.36 (2.96 inch blade/2.18 ounces)
Shinola Model: B:W: 1.36
GRY: B:W: 1.05 (2.96/2.82)
“Joker” Gold Class: B:W: 1.05
“Monochrome” Gold Class: B:W: .85
Fit and Finish: 2 (all versions)
Like many of the newer generation Axis locks, the Valet is bladeplay free. Having the Wilkins Leafstorm 9 has convinced me that despite what some say online, the Axis lock is not a fundamentally flawed design. If done right it can be absolutely rock solid. This is proof it is possible in a production knife. I will admit that I can’t be sure of the lack of bladeplay on my two earlier Valets, but the GRY is a rock. All of the Valets exhibited Benchmade’s typical fastidiousness—even grinds, crisp plunges, nice rounding, and good action on moving parts.
One small point—this is a reduced size Axis lock, about 75% the size of a typical one, and thanks to good texturing around the bar ends, it is just as effective. I’d love to see this smaller lock on other knives as it would allow Benchmade to make knives in the Dragonfly size range. As it is, if you want a small Benchmade, this is pretty much the only game in town other than the visually assaultive Micro Pocket Rocket, which just may be the ugliest knife of the last five years.
Grip: 2 (485GRY-1801 and G10 version); 1 (Shinola version)
Matte finishes are tough on cars. Every bit of dirt and grime shows. The matte finish on the 485GRY-1801 is not that bad. In fact, it is more like a dull finish with a bit of chalk dust over it. It is hard to describe, but the best I can do is this—its smooth and warm, but with a bit of rubbery texture. To my knowledge only Benchmade has done a finish like this. I am not thrilled with how it can get splotchy, but setting that prissy complaint aside, it is really great in the hand. Most of the time these tacky textures (like the much more rubbery finish on the Gen. 1 Preon) are pocket snaggers, but here, as if my some bit of magic, the Valet slides in and out of the pocket.
The rest of the grip is quite good. The small cutout for access to the thumbstud is unoffensive and the overall handle is a classic flattened oval, giving you great grip despite a comparatively small bit of real estate.
The two titanium handled models have some gentle scalloping that make them more interesting in the hand. The base model’s G10 is a bit ho hum but I have no complaint. Its the Shinola version, with its resin wood composite that is notable. I handled three before I bought the one I ultimately took home and all three were a bit sharp. Specifically the large cutout on the bottom of the handle (when in the open position) was almost splinter sharp. It did more than created an instant hotspot (though it did that too)—it was just painful.
If you can set the grim magnet issue aside (and really it is not that bad), the 485GRY is a great knife handle, especially given the size limitations.
Even the beloved Spyderco Dragonfly II in ZDP-189 doesn’t carry as well as this knife. Thanks to its slender shape, snag-free edges, and a great clip, any of the Valets are a delight to carry. They simply disappear in the pocket, perfect for an EDC in the warm months, when most knives become terrible pocket pendulums in the ubiquitous cargo shorts that are all but a uniform for men over 25.
All Valets sport M390. It is one of the best all around steels on the market today. The 485GRY’s smoke DLC is, quite literally, the only DLC blade I have ever liked. One side note, I usually clean my blades with alcohol. Here the matte finish on both the handle and the blade comes off looking sun bleached after that. If that bothers you, a quick shot of WD40 or a drop of Hoppes will instantly bring back of uniform, dark smoke color.
Blade Shape: 2
Like so many blades these days, the Valets possess a blade shape between our taxinomical poles. This could be classified as a shallow drop point or a very slighly asymmetrical spearpoint. Either way, it is an effective cutter, handling slicing and piercing tasks well. Plus it still has enough belly to do some rocking cuts in the kitchen.
Like so many other things on the Valet, this grind is just sexy. Its super thin behind the edge, making it quite effective (especially considering the stock itself is thinner than the Mini Grip stock). That effectiveness is combined with a great looking false swedge for one of the most beguiling blades in the production world. If there is anything that best exhibits the good looks of the Valet, aside from the GRY’s colorway, this is it.
Deployment Method: 2
Thanks to a well-tuned Axis lock and good access to the thumbstuds, the Valet fires open nicely and repeatedly. This isn’t a “nudge open” thumbstud knife like the Ontario Rats (how do they do that at such a low price point?) or like the Tri-way pivot equipped Compact Dauntless, but it is fast and consistent nonetheless.
Retention Method: 2
This is the best clip in the Benchmade line. It is simple. It is easy to remove and switch to other positions. It glides in and out of the pocket. Benchmade, take note—this is the clip, stop messing around with other ones, especially the ribbed penis shaped clip on the Anthem. That is a design travesty. Once seen, it can never be unseen. The over the top, deep carry clip on the Mini Grip 555-1 is okay, but this has all the same benefits of that clip but uses a smaller footprint.
As mentioned above, this is great rendition of the Axis lock. And frankly, I really like the Axis lock. Yes it has had its problems, but tuned well, it is probably the best EDC lock out there—full ambi and never requires fingers in the blade path.
Fidget Factor: Very High
Axis locks are always high fidget factor knives as they can be opened multiple ways and require some finger gymnastics to close. If that is a feature to you, the Valet will delight.
Fett Effect: Very Low (for base model and Shinola model); Very High (for 485GRY-1801)
The GRY is a very cool knife on this front with the base model and the Shinola model being classic modern knives—100% immune to signs of use. As mentioned above the matte finish and DLC do show signs of use. I actually like that look, but thankfully, if you don’t you can restore this knife to its smokey out of the box appearance with a dab of lubricant. And the best part is that all of the surfaces on the knife are quite durable, so you can choose Fett or Stormtrooper (worn or pristine) as it suits you.
Value: Very Low (for the 485GRY-1801 and Shinola model); Medium (for base model)
Let’s be clear—the GRY is a horrible value. The base model, which has the same steel, is $200 cheaper. That Valet is actually a decent value. The 485GRY-1801 left Value Town ages ago and never looked back. At $361 retail, I am basically paying $200 for titanium handles, a crazy bright orange/red thumbstud, and DLC on the blade (not DLC coating, which would be like Billy D. Williams full name William D. Williams—Diamond-like Coating coating). But the combination of those stylistic touches and the Valet’s overall design beauty make this one of the best looking Benchmades, if not THE best looking Benchmade ever. If there was a McLaren knife, with that striking McLaren orange, this would be it and so value is not really a concern here.
Overall Score: 20 out of 20 (base model and the GRY); 19 out 20 (Shinola model)
The base Valet is a superior knife. The Shinola version hits all the points for a hipster, an early 70s Jeep Wagoneer version of the Valet. But if you want the coolest version of an awesome knife, the 485GRY-1801 is it. I tried to buy one when it first came out, going so far as to call a few internet knife retailers. I missed out and consigned myself to never owning one. When I stumbled across a new old stock model recently, I bought it without hesitation. Its expensive. Its exorbitantly priced for what you get. And it is not worth the money, but I really, really, really like the looks of this knife and so, for once, I let go of my impulse to rationally evaluate and purchase gear and dropped dough on this knife. I am happy I did. Its wonderful.
The Valet in any form is not a perfect knife. The exposed rear tang and pivot business is not my favorite thing, but neither of those things are critical flaws. This is just a very solid EDC choice, definitely my favorite knife in the Benchmade line up, and a good all around choice. When you sprinkle the special features of the 485GRY-1801 on top of the already solid formula of the base model, you have a wickedly cool, wickedly good knife.
The base model Valet and the Dragonfly are dead on competitors. The Valet feels more substantial, but it is $100. The GRY’s special feel and features makes it really hard to compare to other knives. It is the same price, generally, as the Sebenza and both are excellent. It is also the same rough size as the recently released Reate T2500, though that knife is cheaper. I think this knife crushes the ZT0450–its smaller, with a better handle, and better steel.
One last thing…I have no desire to hunt down the Gold Class versions…they are outrageously expensive and not better looking than the GRY.