Katsu Bamboo Folding Knife Review

It’s a Budget Japanese Gentleman Carry with a Great Blade but a Rough Handle

The Katsu Bamboo folder is, at best, an okay knife, but not the best representative of the folding knives coming out of Japan right now. I picked it up, like so many people have, because I was interested in seeing a modern update on the Higinokami design. I like G10 scales, I like reverse tanto blades, and I especially like D2 steel, so this seemed like a knife that I was guaranteed to love.

I ended up liking the blade very much. But that’s about it. I think my complaints are mostly the same as other people who have reviewed the knife: It’s just not comfortable to hold or to carry. Basically all of its function, after you get past it as an interesting conversation piece, rides entirely on the blade, which is good, but working hard to make up for the failings of the rest of the knife.

I would say this is an okay gentleman carry, and there are better options in the same price range, but maybe not in the same style.

Knife Specifications

Overall Length:7.25″
Blade Length:3.125″
Handle Length:4.125″
Blade Steel:D2
Blade Shape:Reverse Tanto
Blade Grind:Hollow
Handle Material:G-10
Weight:3.185 oz
Manufacture Location:Japan


Budget price
Functional gentleman carry
Sharp edge on good steel


Bulky in the pocket
Awkward ergonomics
Sloppy action

The Ergonomics Problem

The Katsu Bamboo has an ergonomics problem.

Ergonomics is not the strong point of this knife. Lets get that out of the way.

The bamboo styling looks nice, and it creates some grooves for the fingers to rest in as you hold the knife in different positions, but they also create their fair share of hotspots in a full grip. They also make it a rough knife to pull out of the pocket. This thing has a habit of catching onto the top of my pocket, making it that much more awkward for me to get out and deploy.

And to top it off, the aggressive jimping of the liner lock is constantly making itself felt. This is actually the second most irritating thing about the knife for me.

The liner lock works great as a lock. You won’t find a more firm liner lock in the folding knife world than this. But it interferes with the handling of the knife because they didn’t bother to shape it to match the bamboo styling of the handle. So where the patterned grooves of the handle dip down, the liner lock cuts a hard, straight line.

I guess there’s a bright side to that since it is very easy to get hold of the liner and close the knife, and it’s certainly stiff enough that I’m never worried about accidentally disengaging the lock. But my index finger never really gets to rest in the groove the way it should.

On the good side, they did an alright job with the pocket clip. It’s good and stiff, and it’s one of the few added elements of this knife that doesn’t create really bad hotspots (it does create one, it’s just not as bad as what you feel along the rest of the knife). It has just enough of a curve that I can slip it easily over the pocket without creating the danger of getting caught on a cord or something if I’m working outside.

The Tang

One handed open of the Katsu Bamboo folding knife.

You know how humans have a tailbone? Supposedly it’s left over from some distant ancestor that had a tail. Over time we stopped climbing around in trees and didn’t need the extra balance or something. So the tail is gone now, but the bone is still there sticking out just enough to make some of us uncomfortable when we sit down.

That’s how a lot of people view the tang/thumb ramp of the Katsu Bamboo folder.

That tang is in the original Higinokami design because that knife was a friction folder. Since Katsu has updated the design with a liner lock it would follow that they could just take the tang out, since you don’t need it there to keep the blade in place anymore. All it’s doing in this design is getting in the way when you try to treat it like a front flipper.

After looking at other front flippers I realized they all have much shorter tabs. Then I realized the reason I have trouble with the Katsu Bamboo is because the long tab hits my fingers. So I can see why everyone questions why they didn’t cut the thing short, or remove it entirely and use a nice thumbstud like everyone else.

I think the logic behind keeping it was more about aesthetic than function. For one, I think some people actually think it looks better with the tang, but it would also stop looking like the Higinokami design without it.

I would argue it actually does serve a purpose beyond looks, though, as it does create a feeling of a firmer grip for the thumb. Without that tang turning into a thumb ramp, I think the ergonomics would be even worse because then you’re thumb would just rest on the slippery steel lining and G10 scales of the handle.

That’s not to say they couldn’t have done better with the tang. If they had just shifted it in place so that rested more within the handle when it was deployed it would make the grip a little more comfortable. So it’s still not a great aspect of the knife, but it’s not a totally nonfunctional one either.

In the Pocket

This is definitely not a deep-pocket carry knife. It sticks out a good half inch out of my pocket.

This is definitely not a deep-pocket carry knife. It sticks out a good half inch out of my pocket.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It makes it a lot easier to grab, and it can make questions of legality a little easier since it’s a lot harder for that much handle to become concealed. And since this is basically a gentleman carry, it should probably be showing a little bit all the time anyway. So that’s all fine.

It does feel pretty bulky, though. Considering how light the knife feels in hand, the amount of space it seems to take up in the pocket creates an odd contrast. As long as I’m just walking around town, and not doing anything extravagant, that’s not a problem, but I would not want to take this thing on a hike because I would feel it poking my leg the whole time. Then it would only be a matter of time before the constant lunging of my fat legs finally pushes the thing out of my pocket.

I have to say that it hugs the side of the pocket very well and doesn’t poke at my phone, but there’s not forgetting that it’s there.

Nice Blade, though

The Katsu Bamboo has a great blade.

The blade is easily the best part of this knife. It looks nice, it cuts well, it’s sharpened all the way down to the sharpening choil, and the reverse tanto shape gives you a good strong tip to work with.

It was perfectly centered out of the box, and I have yet to see any drifting after a few weeks of testing. And most important, it cuts cardboard like a champ. I’ve mostly used it for opening mail and packages, but even my forays into the woods haven’t done much to the edge yet. I think a lot of the price comes from the D2 steel, and it makes a good argument for itself.

If it were on a better handle I would put this knife alongside, and maybe even above the Gerber Flatiron for hard-use, straight-edge knives. The Flatiron, though, is completely on the other side of the spectrum in terms of comfort.

Loose Action

This is the first front flipper I’ve owned so I had to work through a lot of awkward finger movements before I could really get a proper feel for the action.

In regards to the action, though, it made the learning process pretty forgiving. Almost too forgiving. I got to the point where I could launch the blade out pretty quick so long as I had it in hand, but after a while I noticed that the blade would bounce a bit if I closed it too hard. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of resistance as I’m opening and closing it now, which seems like a dangerous red flag.

To be clear, it hasn’t done anything dangerous yet. I’ve tried shaking the blade out of the closed position, and it seems to have good retention against that. Maybe front flippers are supposed to have actions that are more… free?

It’s just that if you put it up against the Kizer Beglieter, there’s something about it that doesn’t feel quite as fine tuned. I’m nitpicking on this point, but considering the similarity in price and size it seems fair to say that the action is okay, but falls short of the satisfaction you get from flipping out a Kizer knife.

The Presentation

Katsu did a great job with presentation and packaging of the Bamboo by including a pouch and sheath.

Arguably the look is the highlight of this knife. It’s different from the drop-point thumbstud knives basically everyone runs around with these days, it has “bamboo” styling and fancy Japanese lettering etched into the blade. It looks cool and has a modernized Higinokami knife style. It’s fun to show off.

I was even a little impressed with the spectacle fo the whole thing when I opened it. It comes in a nice cloth pouch that clearly has some design thought put into it. It also comes with a pouch for… no reason that I can tell, but we’ll get into that later.

But this is very much the budget version of this design, and frankly it shows. I like G10 scales well enough, and I even like the green color, but even I have to admit that when it’s closed it just looks like an interesting, cheap knife.

That changes once the blade comes out. Katsu has done wonders with this D2 steel, and I can and have spent a lot of time staring at this thing and watching it cut through stuff like a kid at a candy factory. They’ve clearly put a lot of effort into making this blade look and feel nice.

But they didn’t give the handle anywhere near the same love and attention. Once you get over the relative uniqueness of the knife, the handle really starts to look and feel kind of cheap. It’s awkward and light, and the screws and lanyard hole (still can’t figure out why that’s there) detract a lot from the aesthetic.

As a $50-ish knife, maybe that’s not a fair complaint. But if I’m going to review this thing as I gentleman carry I have to say that they could have done something to make the look of the design more cohesive as a whole. Whether that’s change the color of the scales so the screws don’t stand out so much, or use a different kind of steel or finish for the screws, or flatten the handle out some. Anything at all so it doesn’t look so much like a beam of razor-forged light stuck in a brick of G10.

The Pouch

I don’t understand this thing. Nobody does. I’m not complaining, I’m just confused by it. It is far too big to actually be for the knife it comes with. That’s not to say it doesn’t keep the knife contained, but there’s so much room that if this is how you carry the Katsu Bamboo, you will always hear it bouncing around in there.

Down the road I’ll probably use the pouch for something else. It’s nice. It sits on my belt well enough and the snap enclosure is solid, it’s just… Not for the knife it came with.

An Okay Alternative Gentleman Folder, but not the Best

The Katsu Bambboo has a well designed blade, but too many problems to make it recommendable.

If we’re talking “budget gentleman folder” in the spirit of knives like the Kizer Begleiter (which I love and miss dearly), then the Katsu Bamboo folder has a problem. It’s only good for as long as you think it’s interesting. As soon as you get over the shape and the history it’s working off of, the cracks become hard to look past.

It’s just not as comfortable, snappy, or ergonomic as the the Begleiter or the higher end Katsu JT01. So if you’re looking for a good budget gentleman carry with a nice blade, I have to point you toward the Kizer blade. If you just want an interesting knife that you can show off and talk about, and maybe cut some stuff up too, then fine, get the Katsu knife. It works, but it works almost entirely by virtue of the blade alone.

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Andrew has been a commercial writer for about a decade. He escaped from a life of writing mundane product descriptions by running away to the woods and teaching himself how to bake and chop stuff up in the kitchen. He has a background in landscaping, Filipino martial arts, and drinking whiskey.

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