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Benchmade 765 Mini Ti Monolock REVIEW

By Matt, 18/12/2017

 

INTRODUCTION

Back in the mid-2000s the Chris Reeve Sebenza was arguably the most desirable and sort after knife on the market.  Unlike the smorgasbord of options available today, in those days a titanium framelock was a rare bird indeed.  However, like most knives which get on the bubble, demand for the Sebenza far outstripped supply.  It was in this environment of high demand that, unsurprisingly, other manufacturers sought to jump on the bandwagon and get their own slice of the Sebenza sales pie.  Such knives were affectionately known by the moniker ‘Sebenza killers’.

At the forefront of these ‘Sebenza killers’ was the Bradley Alias, built by Benchmade, it offered the same materials and construction as the Sebenza in a more streamlined shape for less dollars.  All in all, it was a great knife, well built and attractive, however, sadly it was discontinued a few years ago.

Well after a few years hiatus, Benchmade jumped back into the ‘Sebenza killer’ game with the release of the spiritual successor to the Bradley Alias, the 761 Titanium Monolock in 2014.  The subject of this review is the 761’s little brother, the 765, which was released in 2016.  On paper the Monolock family looks like a winner with m390 steel, attractive looks, contoured ti handles, bearing pivot, innovative Monolock, and a circa $300USD price tag.  Perhaps after all these years, Benchmade has finally done enough to give the old Sebenza something to think about.

 

GENERAL DETAILS

Overall Length: 18.8cm (7.4”)

Blade Length: 8.1cm (3.2”)

Closed Length: 10.7cm (4.2”)

Blade Thickness: 3mm

Blade Steel: M390, 60-62 HRC

Handle: Titanium

Lock: Monolock framelock

Weight: 93g (3 1/8oz)

Country of origin: Oregon, USA

Use Category: Everyday Carry

 

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

As is to be expected, the 765 comes packaged in the standard Benchmade blue class box along with a felt pouch.  On un-packing the knife the DNA of the old alias design is apparent with the 765 striking an eerily similar silhouette.  To my eye it is a very classically attractive little blade. 

On first handling of the knife it just feels like a well-built precision instrument.  The action is satisfyingly glass smooth opening with a well-oiled, authoritative ‘click’.  The handle machining is impressive with the contours really adding to the visual appeal and feel of the knife.

The one thing which did concern me was the late lock engagement, however, at this point I remembered the reason for the ‘monolock’ designation (i.e. the adjustable blade stop), so I stopped worrying!


BLADE

In my experience Benchmade normally get their grinds bang on and, no surprises, this is the case here.  Well nearly…

The sweeping drop point is sabre ground from 3mm M390 and topped with a swedge which extends ¾ the way along the blade.  A 2cm run of jimping is cut into the base of the spine proving good purchase when pressed without being overly sharp.  The blade is finished with a light, fine stonewash which displays the grind lines in the right light.  The blade to handle ratio is 0.76, bang on average for a modern folder.  The grind is nice and thin behind the edge coming in at 0.7mm according to my Vernier callipers (for reference my Japanese kitchen knives are 0.4mm behind the edge).

However, while the main grinds are nice and even, I did find it a bit strange that the line of the swedge extends a mm or so below the top of the sabre grind.  It just looks jarring to me.  Also, I did note that the mark side grind has a 1cm section at the base of the swedge which runs straight, rather than following the curve of the sabre grind.  In the scheme of things these are minor, but they did catch my eye.

In use I found that the sabre grind provided a great balance of toughness and slicing ability with the sweeping belly being spot on for EDC tasks.  The blade ate up just about every task I through up it with easy, including slicing up some thick, dirty-ass rubber which was being thrown out.  I was really blown away with just how well the steel performed as it held its nice keen edge much longer than it had any right to.  I also liked that when I got a bit careless, hitting the blade on a stone or brick, it exhibited edge rolling rather than chipping (that is if it showed any damage at all).

In terms of sharpening, I must admit after seeing 62HRC M390 on the stats sheet I was dreading hitting the stones with the mono.  However, after foregoing my natural stones in lieu of some diamonds and Spyderco stones, I was pleasantly surprised at how easily it took a nice keen edge.

HANDLE

Finished with a snail trail prone sandblast the Mono’s contoured ti handles are strikingly reminiscent of a CRK.   Interestingly the lanyard hole is finished with a polished radius which is a nice touch.

Construction wise, the handle slabs are held together with a pair of T6 screws threaded through standoffs into steel sleeves with a beefy T8 pivot screw.  The lock-bar cut-out is impressively thin at less than half a mm wide.

The matching clean hardware on the presentation side really makes the knife look schmick.  However, it would have been nice if they could have also used flat top body screws on the pile side so all the hardware would be of the same style.  I do like how the notches in the thumbstud, handle spacers and jimping are all cut in the same scalloped style and it really adds a cohesiveness to the knife.  As a minor quibble I will note that the male side of the pivot does appear to be slightly off-centre within its milled recess. 

Once inside, there are caged bearings running on bare titanium.  Interestingly the bearing recess for the mark side is milled into the ti while on the pile side the recess is milled into the blade.  The patented monolock bladestop is fixed to the pile side only meaning you don’t need to adjust it every time you disassemble the knife.  The regular bladestop is press fit into the handle.  These small details mean that reassembling the knife is a breeze, one simply lays the Mono mark side down and builds it up layer by layer.  Good job Benchmade!

Note Benchmade's innovative concealed secondary cutting edge.

Now, in hand the simple, elegant handle works great in a multitude of grips.  When held sabre style, the forefinger falls in the cut out with the pinky naturally siting on the angled section near the butt.  The balance point falls bang in the middle of the forefinger resulting in a knife which feels nimble and well balanced.   The sandblasted finish provides some tackiness, but it is a relatively slick handle especially when wet.

Here is where I would love to say that there are no hot spots, and there isn’t… EXCEPT for one little bugger which nearly ruins everything…

For some reason, even with all their machining prowess, BM have cut a little razor blade into the handle right where the forefinger joint curls.  If it was meant to be this way I can only assume that BM have a couple of sadomasochists working in the design department (not that there is anything wrong with that), however, from its placement I assume that it is a by-product of the technique used to cut the over-engagement stop into the lockface.  Unfortunately, this little cut-out is thin, it is pointy, it is sharp, and it is f**king uncomfortable when your hand slides up onto it.

Now I hear you smart-types out there saying ‘just round it off you punce’!  My response to that would be that, because the cut-out is so thin, too much rounding off would noticeably expose the blade tang underneath and frankly look crap. That being said, I did round it off just a little with a Spyderco fine rod, which marginally improved things.

Note the slightly misaligned handle slabs.

So, on that positive note I thought I was all done writing this ‘handle’ section of the review.  That was until, on one fine Summer’s day while fondling the mono, I noticed that the handle slabs were out of alignment (see pic).  After a quick discussion with Jimmy, the resident BM rep on bladeforums.com, the mono was jet-setting its way back to Oregon.  A few weeks later a little package was dropped off by Fedex and all was right with the mono.  From the paperwork everything except the blade and the clip were replaced.  There was no out of pocket to me other than return shipping.  All in all, big props to BM for their exceptional customer service.

 

POCKET CLIP

If my memory (and Google skillzzzzzz) serve me correctly, the biggest gripe that people had with the 761 was the tip-down only configuration.  Well BM have given people what they want and provided the option for tip-up carry on the 765.  Thankfully they didn’t also listen to those pesky left-handed folks and made sure to keep any ugly holes off that sexy presentation side!

Now despite being a stiff little bugger, surprisingly the mono’s milled titanium clip slides into the pocket easily leaving a good chunk of the handle exposed.  In pocket the mono’s thinness and lightweight make it disappear and the clip provides good retention.  I will note that on looser, casual type pants the clip does have a tendency to get hung up when withdrawing the knife and sometimes takes a chunk of fabric with it (or that might just be because of my shabby pants… DON’T JUDGE ME!!!).

In hand, like most milled clips, the flat profile results in a great feel with no hot spots.  Overall a very nice little clip.

However, if I was in a nit-picky mood I might mention that I do think that the clip could be more cohesive with the rest of the knife if BM ditched the milled indent and radiused the edges to match the handle contouring.  I also might question why BM have decided not to make the 765’s clip interchangeable with any of their other classic three-hole clips.  I can only assume that it is to stop the proletariat, with their lowly griptilians, from getting their grubby mitts on the bourgeoisie’s nice premium milled clips.  Thankfully I am not in one of those not-picky moods right now.

LOCK

When a knife is named for its locking mechanism one would hope that it is something special.  For those that aren’t in the know, the Monolock ™ is Benchmade’s attempt to improve on the humble titanium framelock.  They have attempted to do so by adding an ingenious octagonal bladestop which has each face set at a slightly different radial distance.  This means that in theory the bladestop can be adjusted to meet the blade tang at alternate points in space and thus adjust the lock engagement.  Sure does sound fancy!

Well I am pleased to report that this new-fangled Monolock ™ isn’t too bad at all.  In practise, while I never had need to adjust the lockup, the bladestop can be rotated (with reference to an indent on one of the faces) while the knife is assembled in order to make adjustments before disassembling the knife to set the position. 

In terms of basic execution the mono’s framelock is very well done.  While there is no steel lock insert, the lock face does appear to be carburised and has stayed tight as a button with no noticeable wear.

Disengagement is easy due to a subtle cut out on the mark side handle scale and jimping on the inside face of the lock bar.  The clip is positioned to function as an overtravel stop, however, it sits a mm or so off the lockbar which may limit its effectiveness.  Also, as previously mentioned, there is a milled cut in the lock bar which acts as an over-engagement stop.

Now pertaining to this over-engagement stop, I have come across these previously on my Shiros, however, I am still at a loss as to what useful purpose they serve, especially in a knife with an adjustable lock-up.  In my opinion the lock would work just fine without this ‘feature’ and deleting it would solve the handle hot-spot issue previously discussed.  Hopefully someone can fill me in as to their usefulness as I am most likely missing something.

 

DEPLOYMENT 

When it comes to classically styled knives like the mono, I must admit that I’m firmly in the ‘washers are best’ camp.  But, to be honest, the caged bearings on the 765 have gone some ways to convincing me I may be wrong.  The deployment on this little mono is really something else.  Centering is perfect out of the box and remains so after much use and multiple disassemblies.

Initially I was a bit concerned about the bearings running straight onto the inside of the titanium handles with nary a steel washer to protect them.  I conjured up various scenarios where in mere days deep grooves would be worn into the handles resulting in a sloppy action, or, even worse, indenting the soft as butter titanium from an errant tightening of the pivot.  Well I’m happy to say that in reality the action has just gotten sweeter and more buttery with use.  This thing really does now rival my worn in Sebenzas for smoothness.

Either via a quick flick or a drawn out slow deployment the thumb stud provides good traction and the clip is positioned to provide a traction point and prevent you pressing down on the lock bar.  The detent is dialled in perfectly for both methods and regardless of your preference opening is sapphire smooth. 

The only real item of concern has been the propensity of the action to get gritty when dirty.  However, as per most bearing knives, this is solved quickly with a rinse under the kitchen tap.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Overall the 765 is an attractive, well designed knife, which is perfect as an EDC.  When one weighs up the materials used, the fact it is USA made, and the top-flight warranty on paper it is hard to go past in terms of value.  Or at least it should be…

This knife is so close to perfect it makes its fatal flaw i.e. that little razor blade machined in the handle, all the more frustrating.  Perhaps I am making too much of it, but Benchmade came so close to having a bonafide ‘Sebenza killer’ on their hands just to stumble on something so silly!  Why Benchmade!! Why!!!!!! 

Hopefully we will see a revamped version in 2018.  I know I'll be first in line.

As a side note, the mono really makes me wish that CRK would offer a similarly contoured version of the Sebenza…

A boy can dream.

 

 

Male pivot screw is slightly off centre.

Pocket fluff frequently gets caught under the base of the clip.

Indent on the bladestop helps you remember where it was set.

BM's warranty service replaced just about everything except the pocket clip and the blade.

 

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