KnifeNews Staff Picks: 5 Underrated Folding Knives

When knife users start the search for a new purchase, they are absolutely spoiled for choice. Whether they’re in the market for an entry-level beater or the latest and greatest high-end flipper, options are flying in from every direction. Sometimes, great knives get lost in the shuffle and miss out on the widespread acclaim they deserve. These blades are worthy of A-List status, but for one reason or another never take off like they should.

We’ve chosen five folding knives that we think are underrated. Each one of these blades can compete with the latest releases in terms of performance, quality, and fit and finish. They’re a great first stop when you’re thinking about adding another knife to your collection and want something a little different than the standard fare.

EnZo Birk 75
The idea of a puukko-style folder holds a lot of appeal, and the EnZo Birk 75 may be the best take on the concept yet. It translates the full-bodied ergonomics and work-ready blade shape into a portable, attractive package. Even though the puukko heritage is a major part of the appeal, the Birk 75 is not just a curiosity. With a 2.95-inch cutting edge, it manages to be just large enough to handle a gamut of outdoor and indoor cutting chores, aided by good steel (D2 or S30V) and a well-executed Scandi grind.

Even better, EnZo produces the Birk 75 in multiple configurations. In addition to a steel choice, users can opt for a variety of natural or synthetic handle materials, and get the blade in a full flat grind if they prefer it.

Ontario Utilitac II
Ontario Knife Company gets lots of praise for its RAT 1 and 2 budget folders. If you like that series but want something with a little more attitude, the Utilitac II will fit the bill nicely. Designed by Joe Pardue, son of Mel Pardue and father of Robert Carter, the Utilitac II is burly, durable, and just plain useful.

The material choices on the knife are humble but capable: FRN handle scales and AUS-8 blade steel. The strong design and competent execution make this a perfect knife for the toolbox or workdays. Best of all, you can tailor the Utilitac II experience to your tastes with two different handles and two different blade shapes to choose from. There’s even an automatic version available.

Kizer Vanguard Gemini
The Ray Laconico-designed Gemini was the knife that put Kizer on the map. The Vanguard companion piece released sometime later, but shouldn’t be overshadowed by its premium forbearer.

The Vanguard Gemini’s broad, full flat-ground blade powers through day-to-day cutting chores with aplomb, and its flipping action can compete with any production knife out there. The VG-10 steel and G-10 scales are optimized for a fuss-free EDC. This knife shows that Laconico’s minimalist design style can be translated perfectly across build levels. It also proves that Kizer can nail the details at any price point. There have been a lot of Vanguard releases from Kizer since the Gemini, but it’s still one of the best.

Buck Marksman
Buck broke out of its comfort zone and gave a home to the individualistic, Grant and Gavin Hawk-enhanced Marksman. The Marksman is a flipper knife that uses the Hawks’ Strong Locking System mechanism. It’s a metal strap along the spine of the knife that fits around the flipper tab while the knife is closed, but that falls forward into a locking notch when the knife is open. The lock can be disengaged with one hand without putting your fingers in the way of blade as it closes.

The SLS makes the Marksman fast, strong, fun to fiddle with. And on top of the mechanical innovation, Buck outfitted the knife with reliable 154CM steel and all-purpose drop point blade. The Marksman is one of those designs that feels as fresh today as when it came out.

Freeman Outdoor Gear 451 Folder
Jeff Freeman has been producing this large button lock flipper for some years now, making occasional improvements to a winning design. Standing firmly in the ‘large folder’ category, the 451’s striated blade measures 3.7 inches, paired to a slender, unembellished aluminum handle.

There’s no question that when it comes to big cutting chores, the 451 impresses. But the biggest draw here is one of the best button lock mechanisms you can find on the market today. The 451 locks up tight, flips out lightning-fast, and falls shut when disengaged. Freeman has the button lock down to a science and it makes the 451 a pleasure to use. This is a great choice for an outdoors or hard use folder, and will also stick out in any collection of flippers.

Agree with our picks? Disagree? Did we miss something essential? Stay tuned, KnifeNews will be reaching out for to our readers for underrated knife picks in the near future for a companion article!

Knife featured in image: EnZo Knives Birk 75 (Image Credit: Seth Vietti)