Back in the day there was no such thing as a decent cheap knife. Cheap knives had loose blades, came apart during use, and had no edge out of the box. Surprisingly, I’ve found some really decent knives under $20 in the past few years and wanted to share my findings with my readers. These aren’t for the knife snob or to hand down to posterity. I’m approaching this subject from the perspective of a small game hunter / fisherman / general outdoors forager on a budget.
We’ll start from the left. That is a 4″ fillet knife from Wal-Mart, costing just under $7. Came out of the package shaving sharp and works well for its intended use. The handle has grippy inserts, a very nice feature when cleaning fish. In addition, it works really well for dressing small game. It is my knife of choice for deboning small game. It comes with a blade cover and is a great knife to throw in a backpack. I’ve been using it for a year and have been very happy with it. It holds a decent edge and is pretty easy to resharpen.
The middle knife is a Imperial Trapper I bought from Amazon for $8.29 about 3.5 years ago. These are made in China and have stainless steel blades – a major departure from their origin. In spite of that, it comes in super sharp and has been my favorite small game knife in the time I’ve had it. The blades don’t lock, so keep that in mind while using it. Again, it holds a good edge and resharpens easily.
The last knife I’ll admit seems like a gimmick. I got one as a gift a couple years back and was pleasantly surprised. The blade has a thumb opener, flicks open smoothly, and stays in place with the liner lock. There is no slop or wiggle in the blade. It comes sharp and features a strong pocket clip. The blade is a tad on the heavy side for small game dressing, but still gets the job done. The blade is great for wood carving, mushroom harvesting, and camp chores.
In addition to being a decent knife, it has a bottle opener, a flashlight with a magnet, seatbelt / cord cutter, glass breaker, and firestarter. The firestarter works very well, I use it when starting fires to cook over when camping and hiking. This knife has been an excellent sub $20 EDC knife and like the others, resharpens well. Check it out here.
Just because a knife is cheap doesn’t mean it has to be disposable. I use a Lansky sharpening system to customize and maintain the edge on my blades. I also occasionally build knives for fun, so the above system combined with a 1″x30″ belt grinder comes in handy. You can do fine with just a set of stones, but a guided sharpening system takes the skill out of putting a good edge on a blade. A sharpening system like this pays for itself in 3 or 4 sharpenings, so it is a worthwhile investment. Works well on kitchen knives too!