A knifemaker and OEM from Maniago, Italy named LionSteel (stylized as lionSTEEL) produces a wide range of knives both under their own brand and as the OEM for other manufacturers and partners. Its dramatic, artistic designs that are a good blend of exotic construction and old-world materials—very Italian in concept and execution—are well known for their integrated folders, one piece handles carved from a block of material.
They produce a wide range of knives, including conventional, fixed-blade, and ultra-modern models. Several prizes have been given to Best LionSteel Knives in recent years, including the Blade Show’s Overall Knife of the Year in 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2014. (counting the CRKT Hi Jinx since it was made by LionSteel.)
Also, they were recognized with the Manufacturing Quality Award in 2018, 2017, 2014, and 2010 for the most innovative design. The firm is therefore capable of both manufacturing and design. When and from where did they originate?
Gino Pauletta founded LionSteel in 1969 in Maniago, Italy. Since 1957, Pauletta had been employed at FARM (FabricaArticoliReclame di Maniago). During this time, he had become familiar with working equipment like corkscrews and tin punches and had created his first knife out of scrap metal.
Using the moniker “P.G.,” Pauletta first created his first knives in his family’s outhouse, which had been turned into a metalworking shed. A stone lion monument in Venice served as the inspiration for LionSteel, which is unquestionably a more intriguing name than two letters. The early knives were far more conventional than the cutting-edge lockbacks with flowing lines and olive wood and brass handles that are sold today.
Over the 1970s and 1980s, business improved, and in 1982 the company hired its first employee (after 13 years of only Gino and his wife Cesarina)! and ultimately relocating to a business that used to be a butcher knife maker in 1988, after spending over 20 years in the outhouse-turned-workshop.
The firm secured a production contract for Pattada knives with the David company in the 1980s, which led to steady expansion in the 1990s. The firm experienced severe financial hardship in the 1990s as a result of some of these unpaid orders.
They bounced back, and the contemporary LionSteel period that we are all familiar with began in the early 2000s with the Dart model, which was created by Gino’s son Gianni.
The business increased its investments in cutting-edge production methods and machinery, and it hired Michele Pensato, also known as “Molletta,” as a partner on their knife designs. The SR-1’s instantly recognized shape was created by Molletta, who combined a wide drop point blade with an integrated grip machined from a single piece of titanium.
With the SR-1, the firm really took off, creating a number of highly regarded products, including the classy TiSpine, T.R.E, ROK, and many more. In 2017, they relocated once more, this time to a bigger manufacturing facility in Maniago, where they are still located today.
This is a list of some of our top 5 best LionSteel knives.
1. LionSTEEL Jack Folder CF LSTJK1CF
The Jack is one of LionSteel’s Traditional line models, which combines traditional design with contemporary materials and features for a desirable balance of use and utility. The Jack is a range of knives with a variety of alternatives, not just one particular knife. Then, you may decide whether you want one, two, or three functionalities.
The entry-level version has a 3.03″ clip point blade that is 0.10″ broad and built of high-performance Bohler-Uddeholm M390, a premium stainless steel produced using powder metallurgy. The two-function variant also includes a straight screwdriver/caplifter that opens parallel to the blade and is similarly made of M390. Along the spine, the three-function model also has a corkscrew.
The Jack employs titanium for its bolsters and liners, and you may pick from a variety of scale materials, including black G10, green canvas Micarta, carbon fiber composite, light tan olive wood, and dark reddish Santos wood. Additionally, you can check our review on Tactical Knife For Plate Carrier.
It is lightweight regardless of the combination you choose: the single blade weighs just 1.87 ounces, the blade and screwdriver weigh 2.36, and the corkscrew weighs another 2.79 ounces. The LionSteel Jack is a tempting alternative to other Traditionals in a world full of plastic handled SAKs and carelessly put together Case knives. That looks extremely nice, too.
2. Lion Steel Thrill Slip-Joint TL GY Thrill Knife
The design of The Thrill is cutting edge in so many ways. That won’t even begin to explain the complete narrative with a cursory glance. The handle is machined from a single piece of metal because it is an integral.
The spring bar is a part of the handle since it is a slipjoint as well. If that wasn’t outrageous enough, LionSteel’s outrageous HWAY.L system, which stands for “Hide What Annoys You” (they love acronyms), is also included in the Package.
This indicates that the Thrill features a spring-loaded deployable pocket clip that emerges when you press on the tab on the opposite side (which has a LionSteel logo laser engraved onto it). Of course, that pocket clip was 3D-printed.
The Thrill’s blade is a 3.15″ flat ground drop point with a satin finish made of high-performance M390 powdered steel. Chad Nichols Damascus is also an option, but only on LionSteel’s website.
Both move smoothly thanks to IKBS caged ball bearings, which is unusual for a slipjoint. You may choose between titanium handles, which cost $199 and weigh 3.2 ounces, or aluminum handles, which weigh 2.35 ounces at that price range. Checking the Survival Bows for Long Shot will be helpful as well.
While the aluminum Thrill is available in some stronger colors including black, green, bright red, and brilliant orange, the titanium Thrill’s color options are more muted and include light blue, bronze, and grey. This slipjoint is truly cutting edge.
2. LionSTEEL M5 Fixed Blade Outdoor and Camp Knife
The SR-11, an improved version of the SR-1 with a flipper, is the older brother of the SR-22. Therefore the family tree shows that SR-1 gave birth to the small-sized SR-2 and the flipper SR-11. We chose the SR-22 over the larger SR-11 because of its more manageable size: the SR-22 has a blade that is 3.125″ long and measures 7.09″ overall when it is open, whereas the SR-11 has a blade that is 3.70″ long and 8.31″ overall.
For everyday carry, a tool that is roughly 3″ length will often be sufficient to meet your needs without getting in the way. The blade is composed of Bohler-UddeholmSleipner steel, a development of D2 tool steel with more silicon, molybdenum, and manganese and less carbon and chromium, making it a stronger and more evenly balanced steel.
According to Uddeholm, while it has less wear resistance than D2, it has a stronger resistance to chipping and a significantly higher resistance to cracking. In actual use, it will perform similarly to D2 while being less prone to edge damage and simpler to sharpen.
Whether you go for the Titanium or Aluminum SR-22 handle (both of which come in a variety of vibrant colors), it is a true work of art (grey and bronze.) While it has a separate hardened steel lockbar interface, the handles feature machined texturing that makes them easier to grasp.
The handle is an integrated design, like many of LionSteel’s other folders, and is one piece, including the lock bar. Moreover, it has the MollettaRotoblock secondary safety mechanism, which rotates into position while the blade is open to stop the lockbar from inadvertently shutting. In all variants, deployment is accomplished using a flipper tab and caged IKBS bearings.
The titanium version weighs 4.5 ounces, whereas the aluminum version weighs 5.15 ounces. This knife is for you if you prefer the original SR-1/SR-2 but wish it had a flipper with bearings.
4. CJRB CUTLERY Folding Knife Crag
With the great return of traditionals and the introduction of the contemporary traditional concept into the market, the Barlow series has been something of a huge deal for LionSteel. Due to the Euro Barlow being a joint project with CollectorKnives.net, which is laser engraved on each blade, these knives are only offered through LionSteel’s website or CollectorKnives.net.
The Barlow pattern offers an astounding variety of possible permutations, which gives them a genuine “collect them all” sense similar to GECs or Pokémon. There are two types of Barlow scales for the body: the standard Barlow and the Barlow Slim with low profile scales.
You also have a plethora of blade options, like the Warhorse, Dom, Roundhead, and Shuffler (all of which have 2.95″ clip points) (a two-blade combo of the clip point and a Wharncliffe.) The Beerlow, which has a fantastic name, is also available with a Roundhead blade and a screwdriver/bottle opener combination.
Ebony wood, natural canvas micarta, stag or ram horn, carbon fiber, white carbon fiber, shredded carbon fiber, and others are just a few of the many handle materials that are readily accessible. The Slim Barlow features a one-piece handle with a fake bolster and is available in titanium, carbon fiber, copper, and micarta as opposed to the normal Barlow’s two-piece handle with a bolster and scale.
The materials and design of the Barlow set it different from many other conventional folding knives: It’s still a slipjoint, but it’s built with serviceable Torx screws, has a security stop pin, titanium liners and bolsters (like the Jack), and uses Bohler M390 powdered metallurgy steel for the blades, which offers significantly better levels of edge retention and corrosion resistance than the high-carbon steels typically used in traditional knives. At 3.1 ounces, the Barlow is hardly a pocket-stretcher either.
5. Lion Steel LIONSTEEL T5 Fixed Blade
Because the TiDust is no longer being produced, even though it is still listed on LionSteel’s website, there is no indication that more will be produced. However, the TiDust appears to be more out of a science fiction novel than a knife.
Because to the inventive manner the handles are created, it earned the Manufacturing Quality Award at Blade Show in 2014. The handles are made using a form of 3D printing called DMLS (Direct Metal Laser Sintering), which employs a laser to fuse titanium dust one layer at a time. Very cool and labor-intensive, thus the expensive cost when new.
The goal is to reduce weight, however the use of a 3.5″ long by 0.18″ broad slab of Sleipner steel, which increases the weight to 5.64 ounces, partly defeats that goal. It employs a thumb disc to pivot on a caged IKBS bearing, and a lockback to keep the blade open.
The pocket clip features a glass breaking stud as the screw and is reversible for tip-up carrying (like the LionSpy did). It’s worth snagging one when you do locate one because they only produced 100 of these and are hard to come by.
Given that Maniago has been established for 50 years, LionSteel has plenty of competition and opportunities for cooperation with the illustrious cutlery company. Fox Knives, Viper, and Mercury represent rivalry, while Mikita represents teamwork.
Gianni Pauletta from LionSteel is the leader of the Mikita alliance, which consists of the other three brands. Using the resources, capacity, and experience of all 4 businesses, they work together to create knives under the MKM (Maniago Knife Manufacturers) brand.
See the devilishly brilliant MKM Isonzo series created by Voxnaes, a contemporary interpretation of the folding utility knife, or the MKM Clap folder created by Terzuola. All 4 brands are able to take use of each other’s strengths thanks to Mikita and MKM. Imagine if Benchmade, Gerber, Spyderco, and Kershaw all contributed to a joint brand!
Even though they work together, it’s safe to say that Fox Knives remains a significant rival to LionSteel. In 2018, when the Suru compact folder won the Blade Show Knife of the Year award, Fox Knives broke LionSteel’s three-year winning streak. With the help of well-known designers (Bastinelli, Tomaso Rummici, Jesper Voxnaes, Jens Anso, TashiBarucha, Doug Marcaida, Darrel Ralph, and more), Fox produces a ton of innovative, unusual knives. Fox not only manufactures knives in the same region, but several of them compete in the same market in terms of cost and utility.
The king of high-end Chinese cutlery, WE Knives, together with its subsidiary brands Civivi and Sencut, are another brand that competes with LionSteel. Sencut to WE spans a huge range of prices, however WE’s premium goods are on par with LionSteel’s in terms of manufacturing quality and machining prowess.
Although their product list may be overwhelming to keep up with and they don’t have the same level of mechanical innovation as LionSteel, WE still creates a ton of wonderful knives. In fact, it’s possible that some of the production knives you love from other manufacturers are also manufactured by WE.
Lastly, many LionSteel knives have the appearance of Italian Zero Tolerance knives due to their wide blades and thick spines. These knives have the same overbuilt, rock-solid construction, but they have a more European flare.
Both firms work in comparable high-end production scales and utilize a lot of premium materials (titanium, powdered metallurgy alloy steels, carbon fiber), but it is true that many LionSteel knives are more artistic than ZT’s products.
You may get a better idea of how forward-thinking LionSteel is by looking at their history and catalog in further detail. It’s difficult to believe they all came from one firm because they have so many creative, original answers to problems (often ones we weren’t even aware we had). Keep a watch on the items coming out of Best LionSteel Knives in Maniago if you’re trying to predict what the next big thing will be or where the knife market could be going in the upcoming years.