Everyone needs a quality knife to round out their EDC essentials, and many people nowadays prefer folding knives (like the Buck Nobleman which is the focus of this post) for no other reason than the fact that they are convenient to carry. No one is going to argue that a fixed blade loses anything in strength to a folder, but most of us choose folders simply because they are easy and convenient to carry.
Knife makers have been quick to exploit this, and today, a vast amount of resources are devoted every year to designing and producing folding knives dedicated to attracting attention from the EDC crowd. That isn’t to say that plenty of resources aren’t devoted to testing and producing new fixed blades, but folders seem to have won the day for EDC.With the profusion of supply, sifting through all of the offerings out there has become laborious. Every big knife producer has keyed in on the folder craze and some of them seem only to produce folders. For many, their main market consists of collectors and others looking for a convenient knife for EDC.
This post might seem slightly controversial because we are going to enter into a vehement defense of a knife that few, if any, would highlight as a top EDC essential: the Buck Nobleman.
So, let’s get into it. What is the Buck Nobleman, and who, if anyone, should specifically choose one?
Buck Nobleman: First Impressions
I personally carried a Buck Nobleman as my EDC go-to for about a year before I got tired of the hollow grind and the fact that I was abusing it to the point that I felt guilty about doing such ill to such a beautiful knife. I’ve been a Buck fan for a long time, and some of my favorite knives are Bucks. I still carry and use Buck knives for plenty of jobs – but I have retired my Nobleman from my EDC rotation in favor of an OKC Rat II – which, itself, is worthy of its own post.
But that in no way diminishes my appreciation for this specific model or for Buck in general. When I first invested in the Buck Nobleman, there was a lot for me to love about it. Let’s start with the specifications.
The Buck Nobleman is available in three different configurations. Buck makes this pretty knife in a brushed stainless steel configuration (probably the most popular) as well as in a titanium coated stainless steel model as well as in a version that has a titanium coated 420 HC stainless steel blade (Buck’s staple) with carbon fiber, rubberized scales.
My Nobleman is the classic brushed stainless steel version, which also has a 420HC blade. As per Buck (and I can corroborate), the knife sports a 2 ⅝” long, .095” wide drop point blade with a hollow grind. Open the knife measures just shy of 6 and a half inches.
The knife tips the scales at 2.6 ounces and has a pocket clip which is not reversible or manipulable in any way. This might frustrate some users but it never bothered me; I carry my EDC knives free in my pocket and rarely if ever bother with the clip but I could understand that this would frustrate some users.
First impressions are that this is a beautiful knife and that it is heavier than you would expect. Some similar knives are made with aluminum scales and are deceptively light. They almost feel tinny. That is not the case with this knife, which actually feels sturdy enough that I would call it heavy. It has a really, really solid feel. It’s very comfortable in the hand, even when closed, and feels very solid.
This knife features a frame lock which I know some users will love, and can be deployed by the thumb stud. It comes from the factory with the thumb stud set on the left side of the blade for right handed users, but I believe that this thumb stud can be reversed, although I will not make any hard claims because I have not tried. You can see in the image below that the thumb stud is milled to accept some sort of bit.
It takes a bit of load on the thumb stud to get this blade to open, and despite the fact that it is not as fluid as some other folders, when loaded properly and deployed skillfully, it flicks open lightning-fast. It just takes a bit of practice to get it right.
The lockup is remarkably solid for a knife of this price. The frame lock engages crisply and there was absolutely no play in my blade when it was new, either forward or backward or side to side. As I broke it in, there was a little bit of side to side play, but tightening the fitting between the blade and the frame seemed to solve that.
I honestly cannot tell and have not been able to determine what sort of washers Buck uses to bear the blade in its housing. (Comments are welcome, if you know something that I don’t know. I’d be more than willing to update this blog with more specifics if one of you knows what kind of washers Buck uses). I would like to give Buck the benefit of the doubt and call them ceramic washers, because they are white, but I have definitely noticed that my Nobleman has become a little less “slick” over time, and I fear the washers may be some sort of polymer or plastic. At any rate, they have held up well, but not as well as the brass washers of some other knives (like the RAT II that I mentioned previously).
This would also be a good time to mention that Buck has imported this knife from overseas. Buck has made its fortune in American-made knives, but presumably due to pressure to continue offering affordable lines has decided to produce some overseas.
The knife has brushed stainless handle scales and a portion of the scales are roughly textured toward the shoulder of the knife. This gives the knife a bit of classy character, through a little bit of interplay between the rough and smooth elements, but it also adds a grippy texture toward the blade, in case you ever choke up on the grip or use a “pinch grip.”
All in all, it is a very handsome knife that is solidly built, feels very heavy in the hand, and deploys and locks smoothly.
Fit and Finish of the Buck Nobleman
The fit and finish of my Buck Nobleman are much better than you would expect from a knife of this price. Buck sells its Nobleman models direct to consumers between $30 and around $40 or so, but you can find it elsewhere on the internet for cheaper. I know that I got mine for about $20 dollars on sale (I think I got it at Midway USA). Actually, I bought two, and for the most part the fit and finish on both was the same except in one respect.
The Buck Nobleman I bought and dedicated as my next-year’s EDC essential was nearly perfect in every respect, including the fact that that factory edge was very sharp. Not shaving sharp, but paper-cutting sharp. I touched it up after receiving it, but it was very sharp. The other one was not that sharp, but not quite dull. There’s probably some variance in quality control in these imported Buck knives.
Every other aspect of fit and finish was not simply good but excellent. The scales were tight, there was not rattling or play in the construction of either knife and both of them had no rough edges or discernible blemishes.
As mentioned, the lockup was reliable and deployment was fluid. There really wasn’t any legitimate room for improvement in the fit and finish of either of my Buck Nobleman knives, except for the fact that the edge could have been improved on one of them. Otherwise everything was even and beautifully finished.
Picking Apart the Features
There are some features of this knife that some users are really going to love but it’s worth mentioning that there are some aspects of its design that some users might not appreciate for EDC.
The first thing that some users will appreciate is the fact that Buck made this knife with a frame lock when it could have “cheaped” out with a liner lock. The only reason I say “cheaped” out (I know some of you probably love liner locks, and I myself am partial to them sometimes) is because they are cheaper to manufacture and are not as structurally sound. I’ve completely broken knives with linerlocks, and surprisingly, I’ve used this little folding knife to baton pieces of white oak (crucify me, I know) and the lock has not failed or flagged in any way. The only thing I’ve noticed is that a little play develops in the blade after using it roughly, but in my experience this can be rectified by tightening the fitting that secures the blade at the pivot point.
In other words, the frame lock makes this knife a lot tougher than it has any right to be. For a 20 dollar folding knife, it punches far, far out of its weight class, especially when it comes to abuse. Not that I’m suggesting you should abuse it. You shouldn’t; it’s a pretty knife and does much better as a gentleman’s knife, at least in my estimation, than it does as a backup blade in the woods.
To another point. This knife features a hollow grind, as nearly all Buck knives do. For better or for worse, the hollow grind has its limitations. I can make this knife ridiculously sharp, but the thing is, that hollow grind just can’t take as much abuse as the frame lock can. I’ve actually noticed that the edge of this knife bent a little, which you can actually see in the light. It probably happened when I was batoning with it, but I can’t say for sure. The takeaway here is that this knife is better suited to opening envelopes, cutting cardboard, dicing fruit, and other genteel tasks, than it is suited to campcraft.
Speaking of the edge, I can get this knife really sharp, but edge retention is only so-so. It does get Buck’s legendary heat treatment, but presumably because it is produced overseas, Buck can’t guarantee the same level of quality control. It seems, at least to me, that the heat treatment of American made Bucks is superior. Even if I make this knife into a razor, after a few days of whittling or cutting through paper or cardboard, it needs to be touched up again – but that’s just my experience. Perhaps someone has something else to say about the Nobleman.
It’s also worth noting that the spine of this knife is squared off and can be used to strike sparks from a ferro rod or to scrape tinder from wood. This is sort of an odd feature as I have also remarked that in other ways this knife is not well suited to hard use, and also for the fact that the square spine makes the knife less comfortable than it could be, but then again, it’s a nice feature to have in other ways. Besides, you can easily soften the edges of a square spine with a file or sandpaper much more easily than you can square a rounded spine with the same tools.
Here’s another nice feature that Buck has built into the Nobleman, although it’s something I didn’t notice for a long while after owning and using the knife. Other knife makers do this too, but it’s worth commending Buck for it – the edges of the scales are beveled, and rounded off.
As you can see, Buck has taken the extra effort to mill the edges of the knife’s handle scales. As a result, there are no sharp edges, and there’s no chance of them either. This makes the knife extremely comfortable to handle and use, even when you are really torqueing or twisting the knife.
Another thing that’s really useful about this knife is the fact that the “butt” of the knife, where the pommel would be if it was a fixed blade, is somewhat pointed. It’s not sharp by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s attenuated to the point that you could use it as a glass breaker if you need to. Also, given the fact that there’s a hollow space between the scales means that you can use this knife’s handle as a prying tool. Let’s put it this way: when this knife was in service as my EDC-mainstay, I used it to open beer bottles, cans of paint, and plenty of other things in between. I doubt that Buck purposefully engineered the knife this way, but it’s a hit, all the way around.
All in all, this is a great knife, if only for the fact that it’s so affordable. Is it the best knife in its price range, especially for what you would call an EDC essential? Honestly, no, it isn’t, and given the frequency with which I use my EDC knives and the levels of daily abuse to which I suggest them, it’s fitting that I retired the Nobleman from everyday service. But does it have a place in a lineup of EDC knives? Absolutely – here’s who could use one.
Who Should Get a Buck Nobleman
The Buck Nobleman is not a good choice for anyone who wants a place knife that can be thrown, batoned, hammered, beaten, twisted, and otherwise abused. There are far better, and much tougher, EDC essentials for that.
However, the Buck Nobleman really shines in the pockets of those that are looking for something that is tough – enough – and visually show stopping. There are few other if any folding knives in this price class that are as attractive as the Buck Nobleman. Some Rough Ryders and Case knives come to mind, but these are totally different beasts. A comparable knife, in aesthetics and price, is the Gerber Pocket Square. I hope I don’t ruffle too many feathers saying so, but I consider the Nobleman superior in every way. It is both more artistically attractive, more ergonomic in the hand, easier to deploy, and as far as I’m concerned, just as tough if not tougher. That gives the Pocket Square no advantage over the Buck, and – this is important – I have a Pocket Square, and I like it. The Buck is just better.
In short, if you need an attractive, shiny knife to make a staple of your EDC rotation and aesthetics matter to you, I feel it would be hard to beat a Buck Nobleman. It looks right at home clipped into the pocket of a vest, or pulled from the recess of a jacket. I personally feel it is the ideal EDC companion for both semi-formal and formal dress. Other knives I have, use, and appreciate simply don’t look as nice with formal clothing. Couple up the fact that the Nobleman is nearly as tough and practical as they are, and you have quite the formula.
In short, if you need a knife to carry for formal occasions, or to pair with a suit for black tie events, you really can’t go wrong with this one. It’s a wonderfully handsome knife, peerless, even, and you don’t need to tell anyone about the price you paid for it. That can be our secret. To be fair, I sort of regret that fact that I beat mine up so hard when it was my main EDC essential. Then again, it is a Buck, and I’m proud to say it could hang with the punches.
Granted, I did retire my Nobleman from EDC service in favor of tougher (and much less attractive) knives, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still use it and carry it periodically. Like all my Buck knives, it has a special place in the annals of my appreciation, and I am confident that for you, it will too. Especially for $20, give or take.
~The Eclectic Outfitter