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Have you ever gotten dressed for a formal event, only to find that your regular knife is just too heavy for your dress slacks? Or the clip is big and gaudy and distracts from the clean lines of your suit pants?

Me too. But I can’t see myself going without a knife, regardless of the occasion or how nicely I need to dress. Pocket knives are an option, but I have grown accustomed to a clip knife that is easily accessible. I guess I am just a creature of habit and a little set in my ways.

For that reason, I always keep my eyes open for knives that are small and classy enough to fit with even the nicest suit, yet are quality enough to handle normal everyday tasks. However, I don’t have the budget to purchase an expensive custom knife just for the rare occasion that I am actually wearing a suit or dress slacks.

It was this unique need that made the Zieba MS3 “Manhattan Special” such a great fit. It has the style and panache to fit into the classiest ensemble while maintaining a quality build that can get real work done — all at a price that’s affordable for a knife in this class.

Initial Thoughts

You might be looking at this knife and thinking to yourself, “I recognize that knife; that was done by Zieba for Shinola.” And you would be correct … to a degree. It is true that Zieba and Shinola put out a version of the MS3 that was titanium and had the blue anodized titanium hardware, but that’s where the similarities end.

While speaking with Michael Zieba, it was very clear that this version of the MS3 was his to do with as he saw fit. This gave him the ability to finally make it his way. Because of this, he could do the things he wanted with it and utilize his choice of steel without worrying about distributor budget concerns. This, along with some other changes, makes it a true Michael Zieba piece.

The MS3 folded

The spacer on the MS3 has light jimping along the spine and butt for added grip and nice aesthetics.

The bead-blasted titanium handle is contoured beautifully into a lightly rounded ergonomic shape that not only feels great in the hand, but also adds to its pleasing aesthetics. The handle contains milled lightening pockets on the inside; these are intended to reduce the weight of the MS3 down to its amazingly light 1.97 ounces. The spacer runs from just past the halfway mark of the handle, all the way around the butt, and contains light jimping along the length of the spacer on the spine and the butt.

The 2.5625-inch, full-flat-ground blade is constructed of Nitro-V (an upgrade from the previous M390 steel of the Shinola) and comes to an aggressive tip that’s perfect for tasks requiring some level of penetration. The very thin 0.117-inch blade combined with the Nitro-V gives the MS3 a keen edge that slices with the efficiency of a kitchen knife while remaining tough enough for opening durable packaging.

Also new for this model is the addition of a sharpening choil, which allows for easier sharpening along the entire length of the edge. When closed, the blade centers beautifully in the handle, demonstrating a very tight fit and finish. The blue slotted anodized titanium hardware really sets off the look of the MS3 and moves it from the “classy user” category to the “functional elegant art” group. The milled, contoured titanium clip is configured for tip-up, right-hand carry and holds the MS3 in the pocket with just enough retention so that it won’t come out unexpectedly while remaining easy to retrieve.

The Zieba MS3 utilizes ceramic bearings, which will provide greater longevity, little to no maintenance, a smoother ride on the bearing system, low friction and lighter weight than stainless steel bearings … not to mention the lightning-fast opening. Because the bearing system is ceramic, Zieba decided to complete the thought by employing ceramic for the detent as well, because it is very resistant to wear and tear — meaning it will not deform — and is very slick, requiring less lube and providing much less drag during operation.

The framelock includes a stainless steel lockbar insert for a steel-on-steel lockup. This will help alleviate the wear on the titanium lockbar, thereby ensuring greater longevity.

I normally do not talk too much about packaging, but I thought it would be worth mentioning that the MS3 comes in a ballistic, waterproof case with foam padding and a nice red microfiber cloth for cleaning. This is a very nice touch and a great way to store your MS3 between uses.

Testing the MS3

Because the MS3 is more of a gentleman’s dress folder, I didn’t do my usual hardcore testing, instead opting for typical light, daily tasks that are commensurate with a knife of this size and style (although I did keep them a bit tough to ensure it can handle serious use).

Knife slicing through phonebook

Although the author didn’t have much leverage, he was able to cleanly slice the corner off this phone book.

For my first test, I performed one of my typical tests: cutting the corner off a phone book. I cut the corner on the binding side because the thick binding and glues used to hold it all together can be tough on a knife. The smaller size of the MS3 did not allow me much leverage during this test, but with a few adjustments to my grip as I cut, I was able to cut the corner off cleanly. The edge on the MS3 is really sharp and held up great through this process.

Next, I cut up some thick leather I have lying around for just this kind of test. The MS3 slid right through the leather like butter. Once I had a nice pile of small leather chunks, I cut some larger chunks and stacked seven pieces on top of each other. I then slowly pushed the tip through the entire stack of leather. There was almost no resistance. This is a very sharp and pointy knife!

Then, I took the cardboard packaging from a new toaster and proceeded to reduce it to a large pile of cardboard pieces. Anybody who cuts cardboard regularly can testify that it is really hard on an edge due to the glues and other materials used in the laminating process to make the cardboard. Every cut was clean and quick.

I then took a hank of paracord and folded it over four times, creating eight loops in total, and cut through the entire mass of paracord. The MS3 still had an amazing edge and glided easily through the paracord.

Knife on paracord

Even after some heavy testing (for a knife this size), the author was able to cleanly cut right through eight pieces of paracord simultaneously.

Finally, to test how well the edge held up to the previous tests, I cut three grapes into thin slices. The edge of the MS3 was still so sharp that I was able to get very clean slices on all three grapes, with no tearing or crushing in any way.

No More Dress Slacks Blues

The Zieba MS3 is a beautiful and elegant dress folder whose pleasing aesthetics are rivaled only by its excellent performance.

It is not for a hardcore user, but it was never intended to be. It is an answer to the dress slacks blues; one that fits into a formal wardrobe without compromising your overall look but will still perform the tasks at hand.

If you are looking for the right knife for the boardroom or ballroom but don’t have a CEO’s budget, the Zieba MS3 is the perfect choice. True, with an MSRP of $325, it is nowhere near a budget knife, but it is still well within the range of affordable when you consider the quality it brings to the table.

Well done, Michael. My formal and dress casual attire is finally … on point!

Text and Photos by Joshua Swanagon