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History of the Chris Reeve Sebenza Folding Knife.

History of the Chris Reeve Sebenza Folding Knife.

by Larry Connelley

The Sebenza, the Zulu word for "work", by Chris Reeve knives is a model renowned for its tactical performance and features, but can also be embellished to feature one-of-a-kind graphics, premium hardwood and carbon fiber. It is an original and innovative design created by Chris Reeve. Though it has seen various modifications over the years, it continues to be a choice model for on-the-field use and collections.

Handmade Models & the "Original"

The first Sebenza was created in 1987, entirely handmade in South Africa. The “Original” model made available more widely to the public was introduced in 1991, and featured a sand blasted titanium handle and a satin finish for the blade, made up of ATS-34 steel.

The "Regular" & the "Classic"

The Regular model came out in 1996, made with BG-42 steel blade. Around 1999, a limited edition wood inlay model was made on the regular sebenza - each was limited to sixty knives. The wood inlay on the regular was a single piece of wood inlay on the face side.

The Sebenza Classic introduced in 2000 was available alongside the Regular Sebenza until 2008. A wood inlay classic sebenza was released in 2002, with two sections of wood inlay on the face side of the handle. The blade steel for both models updated to CPM S30V in 2002; the steel is a result of a collaboration between Chris Reeve and Crucible Steel.

The "Sebenza 21"

2008 saw the release of the Sebenza 21 for the 21st anniversary of the knife. The Sebenza 21 can come as either large (overall length 8.335 inches and a blade measuring 3.625 inches) or small (total length of 6.875 inches and blade length of 2.94 inches), and has since replaced the earlier models.

The "Sebenza 25"

Then, in 2012, the Sebenza 25 came out for the 25th anniversary. This model includes a blade made of CPM S35VN stainless steel, with a thickness measuring .14 inches. The new concepts that came with the 25 includes a large hollow grind, a shaped phosphor bronze washer on the lock side for improved stability, a one-eighth inch ceramic ball that acts as the interface between the lock bar and the back of the blade, larger perforations in the washers to prevent stickiness in the blade action, a stop pin made of 416 heat-treated stainless steel, and an asymmetrical-pattern thumb serrations on the thumb ramp for better purchase. With a total length of 8.335 inches (the blade measuring 3.625 inches), the Sebenza 25 is well-suited for increased utility and durability for constant work.

All CPM S35VN Sebenza blades have a Rockwell Hardness of 59-60 RC, and the knives feature the famous Sebenza Integral Lock© (known affectionately by fans as the Reeve Integral Lock or R.I.L). This locking mechanism is sometimes known as the framelock and many knives use a similar mechanism. Today, Sebenza knives are now made of CPM S35VN steel with a blade thickness of .125 inches (excluding the Sebenza 25), and some have the option of customizing with Damascus steel, or the option of various inlays and graphics on the 6Al4V Titanium handles for embellishment. Overall, each knife and its upgrades have shown a determined effort to provide strong, high-performing knives for work.


Sebenzas have batch markings on the inside of the handles. These markings are a letter plus the last two digits of the year. An example would be B14, would indicate that the handle was of the second batch of that style of handle profiled in 2014.

- Special Thanks to Anne Reeve for contributing to this article. To see a full selection of Chris Reeve Knives.

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