The James Brand Chapter Knife v2 Review


The original Chapter knife is one of my most frequently viewed pages on the site.  Knife knuts may not like the idea of a hipster brand knife, but the mainstream and hipsters REALLY like what The James Brand is putting out.  And truth be told, it was not a bad knife.  In fact, it was a pretty darn good knife.  Not perfect, but quite good, especially for a first try. 

The Gen 2 Chapter knife is an exceptionally refined blade.  It takes the look and feel of the original and improves on the few shortcomings it had.  Simply put, if you sat the last one out because it was a hipster knife that made a few headslapping gaffs (coating the rear tang where it interfaces with the lockbar being one), the time has come to get off the sidelines.  The Chapter knife is a really great piece of cutlery now.  Its still a hipster blade, but it is one that knife knuts can no longer ignore.   

Here is the product page.  The MSRP is $295 but usually retails for less.  There are no video or written review of the Gen 2 version.  No buy link yet either, aside from the product page (all retailers still have the D2 version up).

And here is the review sample:


Twitter Review Summary: Thoughtful upgrades reverse the pitch—this is now a Knife Guy’s knife that hipsters can love instead of the other way around.

Design: 2


With its boxy handle and fully buried blade when closed, the original Chapter knife was a striking design.  Those points were carried over directly to the new version of the knife.  In fact, if you couldn’t handle the two models and they were laying on a table in front of you you couldn’t tell the difference from appearance alone.  And that is not a bad thing in my estimation.  This is a simple, striking, and unique design.  Those three things are very hard to pull of all at the same time as “simple” and “unique” are two things that tend not to go together.  

The upgrades in the Gen 2 version of the knife are all internal stuff but the knife is substantially better for it.  The inclusion of a bearing pivot matched with a great detent tension makes the deployment as nice as the looks.  The blade steel upgrade is equally positive.  S35VN may be commonplace now but that doesn’t detract from its performance.  These two upgrades addressed two of the three drawbacks of the original and make the Gen 2 Chapter Knife substantially better. 

The performance ratios are weird.  In the original version, the companies measurements were off (and off in a way that made the product look worse), but they have been fixed.  Thanks to a weird standoff at the tail end of the handle, the knife’s b:h is thrown off.  It is .78 (2.75 inches/3.5 inches), which is quite good, but could be even better.  The b:w is .90 (2.75 inches/3.06 ounces).  

Fit and Finish: 2

There were no sloppy machining errors on the original but there were a few gaffs.  Coating the lockbar interface on the rear tang of the blade was the most obvious one and it appears that has been fixed, though my review sample was a completely uncoated blade so I wouldn’t know for sure (it should go without saying, but it doesn’t—go uncoated).  Everything else is as spot on as the original, no stray machining marks, not wiggle or wobble anywhere.  The bead blasted handles are a bit of a fingerprint magnet, but its not a big deal.

Grip: 2


It looks like a bar of soap, but despite that, its not all that slick in the hand.  The clip position actually helps with deployment and the rest of the knife is decent.  I wouldn’t skin a deer with this, but then again, I have never skinned a deer regardless of my knife choice.  Wet and slippery hands will find no safe harbor on this knife, but this is really designed as a convenience cutter and an EDC, not a hard use knife so I am not going to ding it a full point.  Still this is probably my single biggest area of concern on the new Chapter Knife and its not a serious one.   

Carry: 2

The knife, in the pocket, is a great knife.  It hides well and thanks to generously rounded handles, it is excellent when stored with stuff in the pocket.  Its also not too bulky.  I wouldn’t call the Chapter Knife thin, but compared to some truly elite thin knives, like the TRM Neutron, it might be fair to call the Chapter Knife chubby.  However, the rounded handles go a long way in making the knife pocketable.  

Steel: 2

D2 is a good steel (and if you listen to Mark of the Makers you might think it is a bit better than that).  But S35VN is better.  There is no real metric in which D2 out performs S35VN.  Maybe there is some exotic heat treat out there that can push D2 to higher hardnesses, but most D2 is just a smidge worse than S35VN in pretty much every way.  I also happen to like S35VN.  It is quite common now, but just like a Honda Accord—common doesn’t mean bad.  And yes, S35VN is now the Honda Accord of blade steels.  That would make D2 something like the Toyota Tacoma of blade steels, a bit long in the tooth but still serviceable for its intended use (I am toying with writing an article that is nothing but steel to car analogies).  

Side Note: I recently test drove a Tacoma and I get why people like it, but it rode like the shocks were replaced with cinder blocks and the most high tech thing in the cabin were the powered windows.  Yes, you can mod and upgrade the snot out of it, but I am not sure I get why people would do that to a Tacoma when they can get a Wrangler, which is even more moddable and frankly much more capable off road and far better looking.  Taco fans, I direct you to the comments section below.  

Blade Shape: 2

Perfect drop point blade.  Move on.  

Grind: 2

The original grind wasn’t bad and I don’t think this is much different, but it seems slicier.  Perhaps that is because the blade is uncoated or perhaps the grind is different.  Whatever it is, this is a very good grind, slicing and not popping apples, shearing off paper in to nice wavy ribbons, and separating cardboard like a lightsaber.  I probably couldn’t fillet a grape like I could with something like a Chaparral or a Neutron, but this is definitely passable.  

Deployment Method: 2  HUGE friggin’ upgrade here with a bearing pivot and insanely well-tuned detent.  The combination of these two things with the excellent thumb stud makes for a knife that snaps open with authority and speed.  The deployment is so addictive I think I might have to go to therapy to help with the urge to open and close the knife.  My wife is not so grateful when I am popping open the knife over and over again as we are trying to watch a movie after the kids go down. 

Retention Method: 2


Now that the clip is uncoated, I think the overall impression of the clip is a positive one.  Coated clips are as bad an idea as a boat with a hull made from sponges, and while there were Gen 1 versions with uncoated clips, that seems like a huge mistake.  Go uncoated for all clips ever.  

Lock/Safety: 2

Thanks to a lockbar insert (which, in theory is replaceable), the interaction between the lock and the rear tang of the knife is great.  It could be that or the fact that there is no longer paint on this part of the blade.  No blade play, up and down or side to side.   

Other Considerations:

Fidget Factor: Very High

See “Deployment Method” above or my wife’s face when I break the silence of a nice evening reading books with “Pop, pop, pop” over and over again.   

Fett Effect: High

Thanks to a nice satin blade and a bead blasted handle the Chapter Knife will patina nicely.  That is a bulletpoint feature for the hipsters out there.  

Value: Medium

Better than before, with a true high performance steel, the Chapter Knife has better materials and basically the same price.  While that upgrade is happening the knife market has gone nutz and most companies—from Spyderco to CR—friggin—KT have shattered the Sebenza barrier.  XOC anyone? 


Overall Score: 20 out of 20

The Gen 2 is an unalloyed success.  It took solid bones and improved upon them in every way.  Sure, some tacticool folks will not like the tip down clip, but it is a small detail that actually works out quite well here.  This is a striking knife, a knife that even non-knife folks will like, and one that knife knuts should appreciate.  Only the most ardent, crusty knife guys will hate this knife.  Its just very good.  As the folder that matches your iPhone, this is a cool knife.  As a folder independent of whether it matches your iPhone the Chapter knife is a very good knife.  That said, its not an elite performer in any one category, its above average in everything, for sure, but it lacks that jaw dropping characteristic that a 20/20 Perfect knife has.  I am also not terribly thrilled with the weird extra length because of the standoff.  Make stuff with as small a footprint as possible. 

The Competition

There is a lot of competition in the framelock market, the EDC market, and now, even the Hipster market is a bit crowded. Despite the bustling niches in the knife world right now, the Gen 2 Chapter Knife stacks up nicely, settling into the top tier of blades. Its not quite the splendor that the Gent, 20CV Mini Grip, FRN Chaparral, or the TRM Neutron are, but it is not far behind at all. In a slower market, this iteration of the Chapter Knife would be a herald’s trumpet of a blade. Right now, when the embarrassment of riches has reach OVERLOAD levels, the Chapter Knife if still worth a look. That’s a testament to just how good this blade is.