It was fabled that Damascus steel was tough, resilient, shatter-proof, and could take such a fine edge that it could cut a single falling hair. The origins of Damascus steel is argued, but common agreements include the root word “Damas” relating to the water-like pattern on the surface of the steel, and a middle-eastern root. My understanding is that true Damascus steel is merely a legend now, the recipe lost to time. Modern formulations of Damascus steel are said to be attempts at finding the legendary steel, but others argue there’s no possible way modern processes could be outperformed by archaic technology. To me, the best Damascus folding knives can be subjective. Sometimes knives are jewelry. Sometimes they’re tools. Sometimes you can have both.
If you know anything about me, the author, you’ll know that I’m not one to spend multiple hundreds of dollars on a pocket knife – I run a blog. The knives I do buy get used from everyday carry tasks to being used as a socket to make a bow drill fire.
The Best Damascus Knives under $100
The Civivi Elementum II is where I’ll start as a recommended piece. If we’re talking jewelry, this is a tough proposition to beat. It’s sized for EDC with the blade coming in at just under 3-inches (2.96-in), has a beautiful traditional Damascus steel pattern, carbon fiber scales, and a deep-carry clip — aesthetically, very pleasing. The flipper design makes for easy deployment and the button lock makes for easy release and adds to that premium vibe. A+ for design and thoughtfulness.
Because EDC is secondary and cutting sticks is primary around here, I like the Civivi Conspirator a whole lot. The functional features like deep carry, flipper, and button-lock still apply, but this bad boy features less jewelry-grade but grippier micarta scales and comes with a beefier and longer blade at 3.5-inches (3.48-in specifically). It gets my nod for beauty meets beast.
The CJRB Maileah is significantly shorter at a 2.39-in blade length than the previous offerings, but if that’s your thing, it may fit your style. This features a red thumb stud for opening the knife, a traditional liner lock mechanism, and g10 handles. Personally, the Damascus design on this knife isn’t for me, but very subjective.
The big-brother offering is the CJRB Crag. Clever-style, this Damascus folding knife is offered with a 3.5-in (3.43-in) blade, carbon-fiber handle, flipper to deploy, and a liner-lock mechanism.
Only the baddest dudes wear turquoise and this is is that as a pocket knife. I wasn’t going to go too far off of the reservation in terms of obscure no-name picks, but this one catches my eye. Based on the reviews, the newer versions of this Benkley Damascus aren’t so bad. I hope they’re right, because I have a VG-10 offshore special I tried out and while the steel was great, the design was terribly flawed. I’d say the steel was so good that I’d consider using it as an EDC (the knife is gorgeous) if I wasn’t afraid of it tearing my pants or stabbing my hand every time I took it out of my pocket. That said, I’m happy with VG-10-cored steel for Damascus folding knives. I do wish this came in deep-carry, but maybe its meant to be proudly displayed.