Monterey Bay Knives Sea Otter Voted Best High-End Folder 2021

Presented by: Work Sharp Knife & Tool Sharpeners

The Monterey Bay Knives Sea Otter is the KnifeNews Readers’ Choice for Best New High-End Folder 2021! The West Coast workshop’s wonderful working knife won out in a category that also included the Arno Bernard Knives iMamba, Fox Knives Yaru, James Brand Barnes, and the Zero Tolerance 0990.

It’s always cool when a custom maker collaborates with a manufacturer on a production model, but it’s even cooler when they establish their own production label. In 2017, we saw two makers, Sanford Owen and Ray Laconico, team up to found Monterey Bay Knives, a passion project that would function as an outlet for small-run production designs from these two pros. From the beginning the enterprise was done strictly for fun, with new designs appearing only when they were 100% ready. Every MBK knife was well-received, but the dynamic duo elevated things this year with the Sea Otter.

Talking to us in 2020 about their Old Guard model, MBK told us they weren’t interested in chasing knife trends, and wanted to focus instead on time-tested, work-ready principles. They carried that philosophy forward to the Sea Otter. Its simple, handsome drop point blade is a knife lover’s knife blade, the kind of shape that can do just about anything in the right hands. The thumb studs and bronze washer pivot hearken to the days before ball bearing pivots and flipper tabs. But of course MBK lavished appropriately cool, modern steels on this one: we appreciate the appearance of MagnaCut in particular. This work-ready blade is paired to a handle that also manages to be incredibly simple and quite beautiful. Every element on the Sea Otter seeks to please rather than surprise, and the result is a high-end knife that you’ll actually want to use.

However, perhaps the most important element of the Sea Otter has nothing to do with its design, but its origin. This was the very first MBK knife manufactured domestically – a milestone for any small maker and something that Owen and Laconico have been aiming for since day one. It was a goal – and a knife – that clearly resonated with our audience, too. “Ray and I are ecstatic that the Sea Otter is getting a few eyes on it, as it is a passion project for us,” Owen says. “The results of the KnifeNews Readers’ Choice Award for Best New High-End Knife blew our mind as the other choices were very solid. We were honored to even be considered among them. The award really validates our feeling that we have created something cool and that people want. Thank you!”

Tomorrow we’ll be looking at the other side of the coin with the announcement for Best New Value Folder – see you then!


Monday, January 3rdBest New Tactical Fixed Blade (WINNER: Benchmade 375 Adamas)

Tuesday, January 4thBest New EDC Fixed Blade (WINNER: LionSteel H2)

Wednesday, January 5thBest New Outdoors Fixed Blade (WINNER: TOPS Bestia)

Thursday, January 6thBest New Kitchen/Culinary Knife (WINNER: Benchmade Station Knife)

Friday, January 7th: Best New Slipjoint/Non-Locking Knife (WINNER: Tactile Knife Co. Bexar)

Monday, January 10thBest New High-End Knife (MSRP of $300 or more) (WINNER: Monterey Bay Knives Sea Otter)

Tuesday, January 11thBest New Value Folder (MSRP of $100 or less) (WINNER: Civivi Lumi)

Wednesday, January 12thBest New Folder (WINNER: Demko Knives AD20.5)

Thursday, January 13th: Best Knife Upgrade (WINNER: Benchmade 275 Adamas)

Friday, January 14thBest Overall Lineup (WINNER: We Knife Co. + Civivi)

Knife in Featured Image: Monterey Bay Knives Sea Otter