The arms race for high-tech materials and highly engineered mechanisms in knives hasn’t slowed much. But, thankfully, some of those goodies are making their way into models that won’t crush the debit card. And three cheers for the continued collaborations between high-end custom knifemakers and commercial brands. The gulf between off-the-shelf and truly custom knives continues to narrow. That’s good for everyone.

Helle Arv
Helle Arv | BUY IT NOWHelle

I've always loved the lines of the Norwegian knifemaker's inimitable blades, but most Helle knives felt a little fat in my small, weak hands. Enter the Arv, Helle's newest fixed-blade beauty. It has all the hallmarks of a Helle, with a 3½-inch triple-laminated steel blade with a slight drop point, and a handle of stacked bone, leather, and curly maple. But the handle definitely has a slimmer profile, and I think it's the best-looking Helle out there. It comes with a great leather sheath to boot. $169; helle.no

White River Firecraft Series
White River Firecraft SeriesWhite River Knives

This family-operated outfit from Michigan builds a pile of lovely knives—except for the ones built to chop and hack their way out of nasty survival situations. These knives are all brawn. Designed for serious survival situations, the Firecraft Series of full-tang knives is ground from S30V steel with a stonewashed tone. The canvas Micarta handles have plenty of texture for working in wet, slick conditions, unlike many Micarta handles with paper or other laminating components. The Firecraft goes multi-tool with a stainless-steel fire-bow divot set into the handle, and a sharpened ferro-rod striker notch on the top spine. Nice. It comes in three lengths: 4-, 5-, and who-you-calling-boy? 7-inch blades. $240–$320; whiteriverknives.com

Spyderco SpydieChef
Spyderco SpydieChef | BUY IT NOWSpyderco

It's not a cooking knife, although its roots are in the culinary blades of European knifemaker Marcin Slysz. But this is an all-around EDC folder, with the translated lines of a chef's knife and all the high-tech Spyderco could cram into the package. The 3.32-inch blade has a full flat grind, and is built of LC200N steel, the next-step-up from the company's wildly popular Salt series of highly corrosion-resistant nitrogen steels. You can easily hose out innards thanks to two open-back titanium scales, and slash with abandon thanks to a Chris Reeve-designed lock mechanism. If you like to kill stuff and cook stuff, here's your one-stop shop, a wicked celery dicer and backstrap removal tool wrapped in a pocketknife. $330; spyderco.com

Buck 110 Auto

In the "jump back, Jack" category, we have the iconic, stately, brass-bolstered Buck 110 getting the cutlery world's version of a Holley high-rise intake. Yep—the gentlemanly 110 goes push-button automatic. It still carries the same clip-point blade of 420 high-carbon steel that's been a hunt-camp fixture since 1964, along with a Macassar Ebony handle and its beloved parenthesis of high-gloss brass bolsters. But press the handle button and the rabbit jumps out of the hat—3¾ inches of perhaps the most recognizable knife steel in the world flicks out like a rattler's tongue. $200; buckknives.com

CRKT/Ruger Signature Knives Hollow Point
CRKT/Ruger Signature Knives Hollow Point | BUY IT NOWCRKT/Ruger

This collaboration between CRKT, Ruger, and the renowned designer Ken Onion takes the cake in the simple, useful, sweet-little-knife category. The upswept blade isn't overly swoopy, with enough skinning belly and a sharp point that's still strong enough to hold up to serious work. The 8Cr13MoV steel is hardened to Rockwell 58-59, so you don't have to have a metallurgy degree to sharpen it, and the dual opening action, with both a thumb stud and flipper design, is nicely sleek. In two sizes, with a reversible pocket clip. A lot of choices, and not a lot of money. $69 and $79; crkt.com

Zero Tolerance 0460
Zero Tolerance 0460 | BUY IT NOWZero Tolerance

It's never easy to pick one ZT knife, but I just breasted out 10 Canada geese, and I was thinking about this little piece of sweetness the whole time. The 2.3-ounce ergonomic flipper has a nicely curved carbon-fiber and graphite handle, a 3.25-inch blade of S35VN steel, and a high flat grind, with just a smidge of give to the blade. A two-toned satin and stone-washed finish gives the knife a Maserati feel. It might not have been designed as the ultimate bird and trout knife, but it's destined to be just that. $225; kai-usa.com

Benchmade 560 Freek
Benchmade 560 Freek | BUY IT NOWBenchmade

When Benchmade described this knife as part of its customer-value offerings, I wondered how much top-shelf Benchmade quality would filter down. A lot, it turns out. The 3.6-inch blade is made of premium stainless CPM-S30V steel, and the knife locks tight with the proven AXIS lock from the brand's high-end folders. I love the high-bevel grind for great slicing and the jimped thumb ramp for precision cuts. Much of the cost savings comes from choosing a dual-rubberized handle layup instead of materials stolen from NASA. But, honestly, it gives the knife the kind of feel you want when it's dark-thirty and you're elbow-deep in a deer. Winner. $130; benchmade.com

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