Review: the WE Banter folding knife is fun-sized, but is it fun?
Does this knife deserve a place in your kit?
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For a long time, it seemed there were three locales for quality knife manufacturing: Mangiano, Italy, the home of Fox Knives; Seki City, Japan, the city where Japanese swordsmithing developed during the Edo period and current home to the manufacturing center of KAI, Inc., which owns Kershaw and Shun Knives; and Solingen, Germany, home of Böker Knives. Then, towards the end of the 20th century, new brands — like Gerber, Leatherman, and CRKT — brought Oregon on the knife-manufacturing scene while Chinese knife manufacturing was dismissed as “mall ninja” crap, knives made with little quality control from cheap steel alloys. In the last 10 years, though, brands like Kizer, We Knife, and Civivi (a subsidiary of We Knife) have brought new attention to knives made in Shenzhen, China, with cleverly built knives made of more refined steel alloys than in the past.
I decided to look at the Banter by WE Knife Company, as the knife has a unique history that directly relates to the knife aficionado community. Ben Petersen is the designer of the WE Banter. Petersen, the former marketing director for Blade HQ and digital marketing coordinator for CRKT, was known for the company’s “Knife Banter” and ShotShow YouTube videos. In 2019, he left Blade HQ and began his own company, Knafs, and also started designing the Banter for We Knife.
The Banter is intended for suburban or urban everyday carry rather than tactical, bushcraft, or hunting use. While Petersen has talked about using the knife as a striker for ferro rods, I would not look to most folding knives — let alone a folding knife with a 2.9-inch blade — for bushcraft tasks. Additionally, the Banter’s blade does not have the length or sweeping belly needed for a hunting knife. Similarly, it lacks the handle shape to be a successful tactical knife. Using a tactical knife requires the ability to anchor the hand in place when the knife experiences a sudden impact, such as with a well-developed crossguard. However, the Banter is well-adapted to everyday carry utility knife tasks such as cutting open boxes by virtue of its compact design.
Costing $108.80, I would consider the WE Banter to be a high-end knife. With everyday carry pocket knives, I consider those under $50 to be budget knives, those between $50 and $100 to be mid-range knives, and above $100 to be high-end knives (if we start talking about custom and semi-custom knives, such as those by Serge Panchenko and Chris Reeve, the prices will get much, much higher). Despite this relatively high price point, the Banter may actually deserve a place in your kit. Let’s find out why.
The Banter arrived in a white cardboard box that, when opened, revealed a black nylon case inside. Within the nylon case, the Banter was packaged with a cleaning cloth and a few stickers. The nylon case is especially pleasing, as it can store two knives at once and is lined with a synthetic fleece material that protects your blades from damage.
The Banter is a small knife with a blade length of just 2.9 inches. It has a plain-edged, stonewashed spearpoint-style blade made of S35VN steel alloy, with a Rockwell Hardness Rating of 59-61. The blade itself is just 0.1 inches thick, and We Knife utilizes a thumb stud for manual opening. Overall, the Banter is 6.52 inches long with a 3.62-inch handle, which features scales (the materials used to make most of the handle) made from G10 plastic. The Banter is intended for right-handed carry only and comes with a pocket clip for tip-up carry.
How we tested the WE Banter
For knives, I run three tests to determine performance. First, I test a knife’s speed in cutting five segments of paracord. Second, I test a knife’s speed in cutting a snare notch in wood. Lastly, I test a knife’s speed in cutting five segments of cardboard. Short of purchasing ballistic gel to simulate stabbing someone (this dude should switch to decaf), these three tests reflect the different ways most people use knives, i.e., pushing cuts through cloth fibers, controlled carving into wood or other materials, and pulling cuts through materials like cardboard and plastic.
As a comparison to the Banter’s performance, I selected a Spyderco Delica 4 (which has a similar blade length to the Banter) to also participate in the testing. Here is what I found.
Paracord test: With paracord, the Banter performed like a champ. But then again, so did the Delica 4. I was able to cut five lengths of paracord in 27 seconds with both knives. Quantitatively, the Banter and the Delica 4 were a match. Qualitatively, I thought the Banter actually outperformed the Delica 4. Cutting the paracord felt smooth with the Banter.
Snare notch test: When cutting a quarter-inch deep snare notch into dry Aspen, the Banter did not perform as well as the Delica 4, quantitatively or qualitatively. The Banter was able to cut a quarter-inch deep notch in 1:57, while the Delica 4 was able to cut a quarter-inch deep notch in 1:39. The Delica 4 has been put through five years of use and abuse, and has not been sharpened for a while. In other words, this should not have been the outcome.
In terms of the qualitative experience, carving wood with the Banter was discomforting. Repeatedly, my hand slipped in front of the cutting blade, and I felt as though I had less control with the Banter than the Delica 4. I believe this to be a result of what I consider the Banter’s tiny handle.
Box test: The Banter did not outperform the Delica 4 when it came to cardboard. Where the Banter made five cuts of identical length in 1:03, the Delica 4 could do the same in 54 seconds.
Why did the Delica 4 outperform the Banter on these tests? First, I believe that the shorter handle on the Banter not only contributes to less leverage than the longer handle on the Delica 4, but I also think it caused me to handle the Banter more cautiously (additionally, as I am more familiar with the Delica 4, I could be less cautious with it). Second, the Banter struggled compared to the Delica 4 in the woodcarving test. I firmly believe this was due to the handle length, as I found the Banter awkwardly small while carving.
What we like about the WE Banter
The materials and assembly of the Banter are high-quality and elegant. The Banter’s S35VN blade steel is sharp, and because of the strength of S35VN steel alloy, they will likely stay sharp for some time. Additionally, the manufacturing at We Knife has done an excellent job at quality control with the Banter. The blade on the Banter is centered perfectly within the handle and the Banter’s pivot has internal ball bearings that mean the knife opens more smoothly than an Al Green record. This is a well-made knife. It is just not the knife for me.
What we don’t like about the WE Banter
I hate to rag on a knife designed by someone as entertaining and knowledgeable as Ben Petersen, but the Banter calls for it. The Banter is what I would call an “office knife.” It is well-suited to spending its days in khakis, being used to open boxes. Unfortunately, the Banter lacks any sort of meaningful crossguard (or quillon, if you are a knife nerd) on its handle, which means that there is little to protect your fingers if your hand slips forward.
In addition to the lack of crossguard, the Banter’s handle is only 3.62 inches in length. I have large hands (no, this will not turn into a Trumpian discussion of hands), and therefore prefer knives with large handles. My go-to knife is a Spyderco Manix 2 XL, an apparently discontinued limited-run version of the Spyderco Manix 2 with a 5.09-inch handle. When holding the Banter, I found I ran out of handle before getting my pinkie on it. I asked my wife to try out the knife, as her hands are smaller than mine, and she also complained the handle was too small. To some extent, handle length can be a matter of preference. Some prefer smaller knives with smaller handles. For me, I like a knife with a handle that is longer than the span of my metacarpals. A longer handle with a pronounced quillon makes forceful knife use safer (this becomes important if the knife is used tactically, such as with the Special Operations Combatives Program’s weapon transition drill).
Some might argue that a knife with a small blade would not come with larger handles, but this is disproven by other knives made by We and Civivi. For example, the Civivi Elementum has a 4.03-inch handle, and the We Thug comes with a 4.37-inch handle.
Then there’s the issue of carry. The Banter could have been made for ambidextrous carry. Instead, the pocket clip only allows for right-hand carry. Sorry, southpaws (I’m one myself, although I typically carry my knife in my right hand for weapons transition).
That brings us to cost. As of the time of writing, the WE Banter costs $108.80. Similarly sized knives from Civivi, such as the limited edition Elementum ($81.00) and the Pintail ($83.30), come with S35VN steel for substantially less money. The Spyderco Delica 4 used in testing, a proven knife that has been on the market for decades, has a similar blade length to the Banter and a longer, more ergonomic handle (that allows for ambidextrous carry), but costs much less at $82.75. That is a 24 percent discount compared to the price of the Banter.
It comes down to this: the WE Banter is an exceptionally well-made knife that uses high-quality materials. However, the design and size of those materials create safety concerns not only for users like me (big dumb animals) but also for knife users like my wife (females with small hands). Given these safety concerns and the high cost of the Banter, I would not recommend this knife to most users.
FAQs about the WE Banter
More questions? Here’s Task & Purpose’s additional brief:
Q. How much does the WE Banter cost?
A. As of this writing, the We Knife Banter costs $108.80.
Q. What is the best use case scenario for the WE Banter?
A. I would consider the Banter best suited for an office environment. Because of its size, it would not break the lines of suit pants and also doesn’t make your coworkers think you are a psycho with a knife problem. (Hi Dwight.) Basically, the Banter is a knife that could be replaced by the blade on a multi-tool or Swiss Army Knife. Because of its size, I do not think this would be the knife to use outdoors, in a tactical environment, for hunting and fishing, or for bushcraft.
Q. What are some alternatives to the WE Banter?
A. Once we discount using the Banter for more than an “office knife,” the question becomes whether we really need to spend over $100 on a knife that will be used to open boxes, occasionally trim loose threads, and other extremely light-use tasks? I do not think that is the case. An economical alternative to the Banter might be the Kershaw Leek ($40-$60 depending on the model). For a mid-range option, we could turn to another Chinese manufacturer, Kizer, and its Begleiter ($59). For a high-end alternative to the Banter, one perennial favorite is the Spyderco Delica 4 ($82.75) or the Benchmade Mini Bugout ($119, which is a lot, but then again it is only $10.20 more than the Banter).
Q. Are aftermarket customization options available for the WE Banter?
A. Not only are there options available, but Petersen himself has sold a series of absurdly funny scales for the Banter that include kittens in space. These scales are currently sold out, but Petersen may make more scales in the future. Additional options can be found on Etsy from time to time. Users can also dye the G10 scales using clothing dyes. Just remember, modifying the Banter will void the warranty offered by We Knife.
Q. What sort of maintenance should users perform on the WE Banter?
The Banter’s S35VN steel should hold its edge for a very long time, but if not, running the blade through a sharpener will maintain its sharpness (two excellent knife sharpeners are the Spyderco Sharpmaker and the Work Sharp Ken Onion edition Knife and Tool Sharpener). Depending on the use and abuse the Banter goes through, quarterly cleaning and treatment with knife lube will keep the pivot on the blade running as smoothly as it did on the day the Banter first came out of the box.
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Todd Brogowski served in the Army as a human intelligence collector. Originally from New Jersey, he currently works as a freelance photojournalist and crime reporter in Colorado and New Mexico. Previously, he worked in the Pacific Northwest as an investigator and fraud examiner.