a classic and chic pocket knife for less than $ 50
While knives were a part of my daily life as a loader in the Air Force, doing everything from screwdriver tasks to opening hydraulic fluid cans or just cutting down or loose threads of a uniform item, I don’t live this life anymore. These days, I go in and out of security several times a day, and wear a costume while I’m there.
I still love knives and find uses for them, and my benchmark for outdoor utility is the Mora Garberg (although mine is stainless steel). I keep this guy in the center console of my truck and several Mora companions stashed in other vehicles, my storage bag and my bug out bag. Seriously, you can never get enough of these things. I can’t wear a Mora in a suit, and that’s where the Gerber Straightlace intensified.
Gerber makes dozens of awesome knives and I loved having a few in my rotation. The company still makes one of my all-time favorite folding knives, the Gerber alligator (still made in America, no less!). It was one of my favorites in the Air Force and I carried one in my flight bag for about five years. I had the opportunity to try out some of Gerber’s new knives and was very happy to take their new men’s pocket knife for a test drive.
Blade length: 2.9 inches
Weight: 3.7 oz
Materials: 7Cr stainless steel (blade), aluminum (handle)
The Gerber Straightlace is about as simple as it gets. It’s a beautiful blade that immediately reminded me of the Boy Scouts. Or the Marine Corps. Polished stainless steel, a light OD green and a red and white stripe on the top of the handle. The first thing I noticed after the color scheme was the weight. The knife is mostly metal and feels like that. It smells of quality in an unexpected and delicious way, considering the cost of Straightlace.
I found the Straightlace felt great in my hands right away. The only sharp detail on the knife is the edge of the blade, and I like that about the Straightlace. No sharp corners or uncomfortable protrusions to interfere with the use of the knife. The pocket clip has an engraved Gerber logo on it and well rounded corners.
The clip is reversible which is good, but I was worried it would interfere with my grip. I had issues with the clips digging into my hands so the clip being reversible was a plus. To my surprise, I found out that I didn’t need to change it after using the Straightlace for a few days.
The blade itself is made from a Chinese equivalent of 440A stainless steel and comes in the classic ‘sheep’s foot’ shape popular in gentleman’s pocket knives for over 100 years now. Hedgehog blades are incredibly useful for slicing and cutting in places where a slip would be disastrous. The hallmark of a sheep’s foot blade is a long, almost straight blade with a deliberately blunt tip to avoid stabbing yourself or the object you are cutting. It is this anti-stab feature that really cements a hoof knife like a gentleman’s tool rather than the rod of a petty criminal.
Other important details for me were the overall size: a blade of just under 3 inches and an open length of almost 7 inches. It’s nice to see a pocket knife of the right size here, a knife that fits my hands and isn’t comically small or uncomfortable to hold.
The Gerber Straightlace is clearly a pocket knife and doesn’t have that “tactical” vibe, which is great for situations where you can’t carry a Gator. It is a knife that gives off a strong aura “success is 90% preparation and 10% perspiration”. I would expect the person using this knife to slice up some expensive niche fruit, like an $ 8 foreign pear from Whole Foods. Let’s put it to work with that same energy.
How we tested the Gerber Straightlace
I’m not a big fan of pears and usually don’t get $ 8 for a piece of fruit. I have a regular and recurring need to slice stuff, from pizza to cans of beer, and I sometimes misuse gentlemen’s knives for camp chores like the peasant that I am.
Much like the Kershaw Shuffle II and Mora Companion I’ve tested before, I’ve done dirty things at this pretty price of a knife. I cut some firewood to see if the steel in the blade was strong enough for manly activities. I have broken down the prodigious amount of cardboard that accumulates during the Amazon crises caused by whiskey.
Living near the Amazon headquarters has its advantages, both in the speed of delivery of said carton and the fact that I have the Cascade mountain range as a backyard to play with. I have a lot of cardboard to cut and a lot of ground to explore with what I was hoping would be a useful knife. My hopes have been fulfilled.
While I used my mate Mora to dig in the rocky ground for tent stake killers, I couldn’t bring myself to do it with the Gerber Straightlace. It’s too good for this kind of work. The polished blade has a small Gerber logo engraved on it and I couldn’t find any of the “made in China” stamps that typically adorn blades in this category. The idea of scratching the serial numbered blade almost made me break out with hives.
Thought I’d torture the Straightlace by crafting a Feather Stick, but it turns out it does well. It was still so crazy afterwards. I legitimately wanted to hate this knife but I couldn’t. The colors reminded me of my nemesis – the Marines – but like a good Marine it was simple, inexpensive, sturdy and polished. It would also take a Marine to break the thing.
What we love about the Gerber Straightlace
The Gerber Straightlace is awesome. It is sober, with classic lines and a subtle but effective color palette. It’s sharp, holds an edge well, and is comfortable to hold and use. I was impressed with the all-metal design (with the exception of the red and white handle trim) and the simplicity.
The Gerber Straightlace is just the right size when it comes to a pocket knife. It is neither obnoxiously large nor comically small in my hands. The knife is solid and I really enjoyed using it. The Straightlace takes away the messy side of modern pocket knife design in the same way that a fountain pen differs from a “tactical” pen. They both write and they both have a purpose, but the fountain pen has a seriousness that begs you to write notes rather than cut seat belts or smash windows. I love that the Straightlace discreetly invites you to use it without shouting over combat scenarios.
What we don’t like about the Gerber Straightlace
I immediately found two things boring about the Gerber. First, you cannot open the knife with one hand. It’s almost a breakup for me, but I’m not a gentleman. I tend to think that if I need a knife to cut something, I’m holding the thing in one of my hands. This would usually mean that I would have one hand to handle another object, such as a pocket knife. If I need both hands to open the thing, then what’s the point? I might as well put it all down and go back to my kitchen for a cleaver. At least that would do me good.
Maybe it’s not fair to harass the Gerber Straightlace for this reason – a good gentleman, like a Boy Scout (or sailor) is always ready. The real gentleman will have thought ahead and opened the knife before picking up that $ 8 pear.
Second, while the slip joint is classic in gentleman’s knives, it’s not something I trust. Gerber did well with a very strong slip joint, but it’s not a lock, and it seems difficult to use in some situations. It might just be me, but I tend to put my thumb on the back of the knife for more control. That, combined with the cutting pressure, meant I had slightly more force on the back of the blade than the actual cutting force. One stab, and there’s a good chance the blade will snap back over my hand. I can’t say I’m a fan of sliding joints, although they do have one arguably brilliant feature – you can close them quickly, easily, and safely with just one hand.
I love this knife. There are a few little things I would change like the slip joint and the lack of a thumb button for one-handed opening, but overall this is a wonderful little knife. The colors are stunning, I love that it’s a solid piece of metal and the hedgehog shape works well in this app. It’s brave and chic, like a rich boy scout, and it’s the type of tool I aspire to use. I’m happy to have it in my stable, and so will you, as long as you make up for the lack of a lock or thumb-assisted opening. For $ 36, you won’t get any better than this all-metal gentleman’s knife.
Gerber Straighlace FAQ
More questions? Here is the additional brief from Task & Purpose.
Q. How much does the Gerber Straightlace cost?
A. The Gerber Straightlace costs approx. $ 36 shipped.
Q. What is a slip joint knife?
A. Slip joint knives like the Gerber Straighlace do not have a mechanism to lock the blade in the “open” position. Slip joint knives are much simpler than lockable knives, and slip joint knives are most often found in non-threatening pocket knife styles. These knives require a little more care in their use because an awkward movement could close the blade on the user’s hand. The main advantage (besides simplicity) of a slip joint knife like the Gerber Straightlace is that they are legal to transport and use in places where lockable knives are not. Keep in mind that it is your responsibility to know the laws of where you live and that this is not legal advice.
A. Sheepsfoot refers to the shape of the blade. Just as a tanto is designed to stab, a sheep’s foot blade is designed specifically for avoid stab while maintaining a long slicing edge. The Gerber Straightlace is a good modern example of this old English blade style.
Q. Where are Gerber knives made?
A. Gerber designs all of its products in Portland, Oregon, and manufactures about one-third of its knives and tools at its Portland plant, with the rest split between Taiwan and China. The Gerber Straightlace is made in China.
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Drew Shapiro served two Air Force enlistments aboard C-17s. Thanks to the GI Bill, he is now setting up an office in the Pacific Northwest. When not wearing a suit, Drew usually goes out and gets his hands dirty. It tests gadgets the hard way so you don’t have to.
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