Schrade SCH401L Ceramic Blade Folding Knife
By Chuck Hawks
Illustration courttesy of Taylor Brands, LLC.
The Schrade SCH401L is one of Taylor Brands' (http://taylorbrandsllc.com) most expensive folding knives. The 2014 MSRP is $69.33. It is a large, high tech folder with a ceramic blade and carbon fiber handle scales. The blade length is 3.2" and folded the knife measures 4.6" long, but it weighs only 2.1 ounces. Open, the knife measures 7.8" long.
The single blade is opened by means of ambidextrous thumb knobs and locks open with a liner lock. The blade's husky hinge pin is stainless steel. A removable belt/pocket clip is provided for secure carrying and there is a lanyard hole in the end of the handle. This certainly sounds like a premium folding knife, so I was eager to review one. The good people at Taylor Brands promptly provided a new SCH401L at my request.
Taylor Brands acquired the Schrade, Uncle Henry, Old Timer and Imperial knife brands after the Imperial Schrade Corporation folded in 2004. Imperial Schrade had been the largest knife manufacturer in the U.S., but the travel restrictions following the 9/11/2001 World Trade Center terrorist attack, coupled with a flood of low priced knives imported from Red China and other third world countries, forced Imperial Schrade into bankruptcy.
Taylor Brands, LLC has resurrected many of the historically popular Uncle Henry and Old Timer knife models (see our review of the Uncle Henry LB7 Bear Paw) and introduced many new Schrade designs. The SCH401L that is the subject of this review is one of the latter. Like most Taylor Brands Schrade knives, the SCH401L is made in China; ironically, the very country that played a significant role in bankrupting the old Imperial Schrade Corporation. (They came, they saw and they conquered.)
According to Taylor Brands, the SCH401L is intended to be a general purpose folding knife, suitable for daily carry. It weighs less than half what a similar knife with a steel blade would weigh, but it is too long for comfortable carry (loose) in a front pants pocket. I recommend using the pocket clip, or clipping the knife inside the waistband.
There isn't much spring tension holding the blade closed, which makes it easy to open the knife one-handed. However, when using the pocket clip, make sure that the thumb studs do not catch on your clothes and inadvertently open the blade part way.
I find that the knife's extreme light weight and thinness make it practically disappear when carried clipped inside the waistband of my jeans. It is easy to forget it's there. The handle shape, with two wide finger notches, allows a firm, non-slip grip. The steel liner lock is positive and easy to release. Everything about this knife seems to be user friendly.
I always find thumb studs rather awkward to use, as they are located close to the blade hinge and therefore provide little opening leverage. I prefer to open the SCH401L's blade with two hands, as I would open an ordinary pocket knife. There is no nail notch to facilitate opening, but plenty of blade is exposed by the handle's two large finger notches to allow an adequate finger grip.
I only own one other knife with a ceramic blade, a somewhat smaller (2-5/8" blade, 4" long closed) Stone River Gear Premium Ceramic Folder with bone handle scales that was given to me by Jim Clary after his Guns and Shooting Online review of these knives. The blade pattern of the Stone River knife is virtually identical to that of the Schrade. Even though it is longer, the flat carbon fiber handle of the Schrade makes it lighter than the Stone River knife. The construction and operation of the two knives is apparently identical and I would be surprised if they were not sourced from the same factory.
A ceramic blade is ideal for cutting relatively soft items, such as fruit, vegetables, skin, boneless meat and similar materials, which is why they are popular for kitchen knives. A ceramic blade will not corrode in water and neither will the SCH401L's carbon fiber handle. However, the knife's stainless steel parts are susceptible to corrosion, particularly in salt water.
The SCH401L appears, as advertised, to be a premium quality folding knife. With its charcoal-black blade and handle, it certainly looks like an ultra modern, cutting edge (no pun intended) knife. Even the steel liner lock, pins and pocket clip are blackened. The blade is razor sharp out of the box. It will easily shave hair from my arm.
The harder the material, the more difficult a knife blade is to sharpen and the more brittle it becomes. Ceramic knife blades are very hard and hold an edge extremely well (some manufacturers advertise 8-10 times longer than a steel blade), but they are also brittle. Be careful not to flex or twist the blade when cutting and do not attempt to pry with the blade, or it is liable to snap. Avoid cutting on hard surfaces, such as tile, glass, stone or marble. These admonitions apply to all zirconium oxide (zirconia) ceramic knife blades.
Ceramic blades are too hard to sharpen on a normal steel or whet stone. To touch-up the cutting edge, use a diamond-dust-coated sharpening steel or wheel. The Schrade Compact Pocket Carry Diamond Dust Tapered Sharpening Rod costs $8.43 (2014 MSRP) and should be suitable for use in the field.
It is impractical to use a high quality ceramic knife like the Schrade SCH401L enough to dull it in the course of a review of this type. (In any case, I don't ever want to dull a ceramic blade!) All I can say is that the SCH401L arrived sharp and stayed that way. It cuts paper, flesh, cleans fish and opens cardboard shipping boxes with ease. Used normally, it should remain sharp for a long time. Frequent light sharpenings are much better than letting the blade get dull. If you are foolish enough to let it get totally dull, it will take a lot of work to resharpen.
The SCH401L is covered by Taylor Brands Limited Lifetime Warranty for cutting tools. This warranty applies only to the original purchaser and covers defects in materials, manufacture or assembly. Taylor Brands, LLC will repair or replace the knife free of charge if it fails. Note that this warranty does not cover damage caused by abuse, misuse, improper handling, etc. Take proper care of your Schrade SCH401L and it should provide a lifetime of use.
Copyright 2014, 2015 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.