Flashy good looks with the heart of a fighter, Urban EDC knifes turn heads without raising eyebrows.
Folding knives are versatile carry pieces. They can be toted daily whether you’re a mechanic, carpenter, plumber, police officer, firefighter, emergency medical technician, hunter, hiker, a member of the military or even an office worker in a corporate setting.
In an office, one needs to be careful with the selection of his or her EDC (everyday carry) knife. It’s best to remain on the conservative side of things, not wanting to whip out a large tactical flipper folder for opening boxes or mail.
A new class of folding knife has emerged over the past few years that addresses environments such as this. The knives borrow traits that made tactical folders popular and distill them down to small and compact forms for easy carry and unobtrusiveness, particularly when blades are opened in public settings.
Urban EDC knives are easy to acquire and use once an enthusiast becomes familiar with the features and quality pieces available on the market. The knives blend in well in the office, but also have substance for tackling tough cutting chores. They’re equally at home in a pair of dress slacks or jeans and can perform most daily cutting tasks.
Quiet Carry Lives Up to Its Name
Quiet Carry is a new knife brand that embodies the urban EDC trend. The company’s IQ frame-lock folder is a slender and compact model that carries so easily, one’s apt to forget it’s there. The blade of the IQ is ground from ELMAX stainless steel and is a user-friendly sheepsfoot shape. Measuring 2.9 inches, the blade is just long enough to be compact and pocket-friendly but sports enough length to get work done.
The IQ puts a unique spin on the tried-and-true sheepsfoot blade shape with the inclusion of a slight belly. Typically, sheepsfoot blades have straight-line edges, making them precise utility cutters. The slight belly of the IQ allows the knife to be an effective slicer even with the handle held at an upward angle when cutting media on a bench or tabletop.
The blade nests fully inside the handle in the closed position and is opened via a flipper. A small flipper tab protrudes from the end of the handle, with the blade riding on ceramic caged bearings to promote ultra-smooth rotation. The handle is 6AL-4V titanium, and the folder includes a travel limiter that prevents the lock bar from being pushed past the blade tang. There’s also a steel wear pad on the end of the bar to provide secure steel-on-steel lockup. All these innovations are common to quality tactical frame-lock folders.
A small but sturdy titanium clip is attached to the handle of the IQ for tip-up pocket carry. Of deep-carry design, no part of the knife handle remains visible above the seam of a pants pocket. The clip is small but thick and sturdy, with no danger of springing through forced outward pressure while securing it to a pants pocket.
The IQ tested for this article sports a black PVD-coated handle, and the non-lock side has a carbon-fiber overlay for a classy touch. Four tiny holes on each side of the handle are aesthetic and serve no functional purpose. Overall, the manufacturing quality of the knife is excellent with fine fit and finish. It’s comfortable, thin and carries well, but those with large hands might consider it a bit awkward to use with little girth to the grip.
Regardless, the unique sheepsfoot blade makes this knife a workhorse. With its low profile, the IQ is a great candidate for an office carry piece and equally comfortable in a pair of jeans. It will slice cardboard, strip wire and cut webbing with ease. Don’t let its slender profile fool you, this knife is built for work. The manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) as of this writing is $198 for the black PVD-coated handle/carbon-fiber overlay version, and $182 for a bead-blasted titanium handle piece.
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Front Flipper Barlow
Enrique Pena from Laredo, Texas, is one of the hottest custom knifemakers working today. Specializing in folding knives of the lock-blade variety, Pena’s style merges the traditional with modern flair. Case in point, his Front Flipper Barlow looks like an average traditional folder, parading a 3-inch, modified clip-point blade and a substantial handle that fills the hand comfortably. Barlows are work knives, ideal for utilitarian knife chores.
Yet Pena’s version showcases top-of-the-line materials all around. The blade is premium CPM-154 stainless steel for edge-holding power. When closed, the tang protrudes slightly and features deep finger notches. The design allows for thumb motion, like that in actuating a BIC lighter, to be used on the exposed tang, rolling it and causing the blade to rotate and snap into the open and locked position. The blade rides smoothly on caged ball bearings in the pivot area. The result is ultra-smooth action that needs to be experienced.
Pena offers the Barlow in an OD green handle with tan Micarta single bolsters. Black titanium liners lend the knife some class and delineate the green and tan Micarta. A propeller shield is a traditional touch on an otherwise modern piece. A LinerLock secures the blade in the open position, and a tan Micarta handle spacer rounds out the handsome good looks.
The Front Flipper Barlow is a hot seller from a popular maker. The piece showcases Pena’s eye for detail and superb craftsmanship. One of the things I liked was the ease of deploying the blade. With the average flipper folder, the opening tab protrudes from the bottom of the tang. Pena’s flipper adopts a low profile with nothing protruding to disrupt the classic lines of the knife. And unlike classic flat-sided Barlows, contoured handle scales are palpably comfortable. A little over a half-inch wide, the knife naturally nestles in the user’s palm.
The contoured handle scales also ride better in a pants pocket, making it feel less bulky and therefore more comfortable to carry. In this modern era of pocket clips, it’s refreshing to see a knife that slides into a pants pocket for traditional carry. I found the front-flipper Barlow to be a pleasing intersection of the old (Barlow pattern) and new (one-hand flipper opening mechanism and LinerLock). Quick to deploy, the clip-point blade is utilitarian with a tip that can be used for cutting or scoring, and a bit of belly for slicing and cutting easily through any material.
Pena’s custom Barlow adds flash and panache to a traditional design, as well as high utility function. So, you might ask, what would it cost you to place one of these Pena Barlows in your pocket? The maker’s list price for one like the test sample, which comes in a variety of Micarta colors, is $850. Contact Pena for specific materials and pricing.
Flash & Panache
The XM-18 has been the signature and best-selling folder line for Rick Hinderer Knives. Knife enthusiasts everywhere have come to describe the XM-18 with adjectives such as “overbuilt,” “rugged,” “built like a tank” and other descriptive terms that denote rock-solid engineering. Offering the XM-18 in several sizes, Hinderer also designed a slip-joint version—the XM Slippy. The XM Slippy takes the concept of a non-locking, slip-joint folder and gives it the same rugged, built-tough treatment that’s a hallmark of the series.
Currently offered in 3-inch CPM-20CV stainless steel sheepsfoot and Spanto (Hinderer’s own reinforced blade shape) versions, the ergonomic handle features 3D-machined G-10 scales for a solid grip. Color choices include black, blue, gray, red and OD green, and Hinderer sent me a gray-handle XM Slippy with a sheepsfoot blade. Getting it in hand, I was immediately impressed by the excellent quality of the build. Everything fits together nicely, and the blade’s action is smooth. A heavy-duty titanium pocket clip is easily mounted to either side of the handle for ambidextrous tip-up or tip-down carry.
For all intents and purposes, the Slippy looks much like the rest of the Rick Hinderer XM-18 models. Two options for blade deployment include pulling it open manually using a long nail nick like other slip-joint folders or via a thumb disc, the latter of which can be attached or detached from the blade spine using an included Allen wrench. Once open, there is more than enough spring pressure on the blade to secure it during use.
Which blade shape is for you? For general, all-around use, it’s hard to beat the Spanto—a shape conducive to many uses with a reinforced tip that adds strength to the blade. The sheepsfoot is more of a working blade shape, something you can use on a jobsite stripping wires, opening packages and for other cutting tasks that come up. Overall, the Rick Hinderer Knives XM Slippy looks like a tactical knife, but upon closer inspection is an urban EDC for folks who will put the knife to work without hesitation about its durability over the long run. Be sure to check out the XM Slippy. Its MSRP: $275.
Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
The Zero Tolerance 0230 is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Slender and lightweight, it sports a 3-inch CPM-20CV stainless steel sheepsfoot blade and an extremely lightweight, durable, all-weather carbon-fiber handle. Best known for high-end tactical folders, Zero Tolerance offers the 0230 slip-joint in high-tech materials and a no-nonsense working knife configuration.
Designed by Jens Anso, a popular custom maker from Denmark, the straight edge of the sheepsfoot blade is easy to sharpen and the blunt nose is non-threatening and eliminates accidental punctures. Instead of a traditional back spring, the 0230 slip-joint folder employs a special double ball-bearing detent system. Much like the ball bearing detents of LinerLock or frame-lock folders, the double detent system not only holds the blade closed, but also secures it in the open position. It doesn’t lock the blade, but rather holds it open.
Cutting force is applied in the opposite direction from which the blade rotates, so regardless how hard you bear down on the blade, it should never accidentally close. Like traditional slip-joint folders, a half-stop pauses the blade when it’s partially open, allowing the user to index and manipulate the blade without necessarily having to look at it.
In use, the 0230 is a capable cutter. The sheepsfoot blade is a great pull-cut tool and wire stripper that would make a fine companion on home improvement projects. It has no bulk in the pocket and carries exceptionally well. The only problem is that you may forget you even have it! The carbon-fiber handle gives it a cool, futuristic look, and a blue anodized aluminum spacer adds a nice touch of color. If you’re a fan of ZT knives, the 0230 will make a great old-school addition to your collection. Certainly, this knife won’t disappoint. Available now through ZT dealers, the MSRP is $180.
Don’t Stop Here
Urban EDC folders pair low-profile characteristics with modern materials and mechanisms, making them the perfect daily companions, particularly in office or corporate environments. Less bulky than tactical folders, urban EDCs are ideal for everyday carry and blend into any scenario. Having proper tools is a must for those who are serious about tackling daily tasks at home or in the office.
Editor's Note: This excerpt is a small taste of the information available in Knives 2021The full-color 41st edition features everything from factory trends to advice on how to make money making knives. Need the book? Find it at: GunDigestStore.com.