Schrade SCH401 Ceramic Blade Folding Knife
By Chuck Hawks
Illustration courttesy of Taylor Brands, LLC.
Schrade's SCH401 is a smaller version of the previously reviewed Schrade SCH401L. The whole Guns and Shooting Online staff was so impressed by the SCH401L that we felt we had to review the more pocketable SCH401. The good folks at Taylor Brands kindly provided an SCH401 for this article.
In shape, materials and construction, the two knives are identical; the difference between them being blade length and overall size. The SCH401L has a 3.2" blade and measures 4.6" long when closed. The smaller SCH410 has a 2.7" blade and measures 3.8" long closed; it is also slightly lighter, although both of these ceramic bladed Schrade folders are featherweights. Open, the SCH401 measures 6.5" in overall length.
The business end of the SCH401 is a single ceramic (zirconia) locking blade. It is opened by means of ambidextrous thumb knobs and locks open with a liner lock. While the blade is ceramic, the 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 ergonomic, carbon fiber handle. Like its larger brother, the SCH410 is a premium folding knife and, at $60, one of Taylor Brands / Schrade more expensive offerings.
Taylor Brands, LLC acquired the Schrade, Uncle Henry, Old Timer and Imperial knife brands after the Imperial Schrade Corporation folded in 2004. Taylor Brands has resurrected many of the historically popular Uncle Henry and Old Timer knife models and also introduced many new Schrade designs. (See our review of the Uncle Henry LB7 Bear Paw folding hunter.) The SCH401 reviewed here is one of the new Schrade knives.
The SCH401 is a general purpose folding knife, suitable for daily carry. It weighs less than half what a similar knife with a steel blade would weigh. It will fit in the pocket of your jeans and lays flat, but I prefer to use the pocket/waistband clip for secure, comfortable carrying.
The handle shape, with two wide finger notches, allows a firm, non-slip grip and all four of my medium size fingers will just fit on the handle. The steel liner lock is positive and easy to release. A light spring (the spring is located around the hinge pin, not along the back of the knife) holds the blade closed. Ambidextrous thumb studs make it possible to open the knife one-handed. The knife's extreme light weight and thinness make it practically disappear when carried.
Not being a fan of thumb studs, I prefer to open the SCH401's blade with two hands, as I would open an ordinary pocket knife. There is no nail notch to facilitate opening, but there is sufficient blade surface is exposed by the handle's two large finger notches to allow an adequate grip on the blade.
A ceramic blade is ideal for cutting relatively soft items, such as fruit, vegetables, skin, tissue, meat and so forth. A ceramic blade will not corrode in water and neither will the SCH401's carbon fiber handle. The knife's metal parts are blackened stainless steel to resist corrosion, although even stainless steel will corrode if sufficiently neglected. Regardless, the SCH401 is about as rust resistant as a pocket knife can be.
As advertised, the SCH401 is a premium quality folding knife. With its charcoal-black blade and handle, it certainly looks like an ultra modern knife. Even the steel liner lock, pins and pocket clip are blackened; it is very cool.
The blade is razor sharp right out of the box. It is hard to beat a ceramic blade for sharpness and edge retention. However, 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, 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 Arkansas stone. To touch-up the cutting edge, use a diamond-dust-coated sharpening steel. The Schrade Compact Pocket Carry Diamond Dust Tapered Sharpening Rod carries a reasonable 2014 MSRP of $8.43 and should be suitable for touching-up the SCH401's blade when necessary.
The SCH401L arrived sharp and stayed that way. It cuts the sorts of things for which a pocket knife is typically used with aplomb. It should, for example, open a lifetime worth of Christmas presents, cleanly severing ribbon, paper and cardboard without ever needing to be sharpened; or clean enough trout for a King's banquet. This ability to hold an edge far longer than any steel knife is the great advantage of ceramic blades.
As with any high quality knife, but particularly with ceramic blades, frequent light touch-ups are much easier than restoring the edge once it has gotten dull. Take proper care of your Schrade SCH401L and it should provide a lifetime of good service.
If you are looking for a large ceramic blade folder that you will only carry clipped to your waistband or the edge of your pocket, I suggest the Schrade SCH401L. If, however, you are seeking a knife with a ceramic blade that you can carry in your pocket, as well as by its handy clip, the Schrade SCH401 may be just the ticket. Either way, you'll be getting an impressively modern and very practical knife.
Copyright 2014, 2015 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.