The ESEE 3 resembles a fine time piece in that its function is matched by its beauty. The ESEE is manufactured in the USA by the group ROWEN Manufacturing. ROWEN is well known for producing some of the most high quality 1095 steel.
The knife also is equipped with micarta scales, which if you have never felt before, feel similar to a hardened cast. It provides the knife with a wonderful fullness in hand, as well as a very solid grip that is not going to slip. It is often said that micarta becomes more grippy when wet.
Despite the ESEE 3's delicate attention to detail it is ultimately a tremendous tool. The knife comes extremely sharp out of the box, and is a snap to resharpen should it need it. The knife is fairly hard to dull and takes pretty much any amount of abuse you can put it through. Have I mentioned that ESEE stands by their products with a transferable lifetime warranty? If you somehow find a way to break or damage one of their knives they will replace them free of charge.
The ESEE 3 is a fairly large knife, but it feels very capable of performing very intricate work. The finger choil on the knife provides an easy way to choke up on the knife and get a little bit more dexterity. When you are not used to working with a knife this large it is very encouraging to not feel like the knife is awkward in hand. Many people when initially holding the knife comment on the knife's comfort.
One downside of the most of the ESEE knives is the steel that they use is a high-carbon steel which is not as resistant to corrosion as a stainless steel. Some people are scared off by this fact and assume the knives are going to crumble after a few days of use, but I have found that unless you are particularly careless with how much moisture you allow to linger on your knife you should be fine. The upside of the 1095 steel (and ROWEN's 1095 in particular) is that it is good at retaining an edge, but also very easy to sharpen in the field. I am not a metallurgist or an expert in steel but I have owned my fair share of knives and the steel on my ESEE knives is quite impressive.
ESEE 3 vs. ESEE 4
When buying your first ESEE knife people frequently get hung up deciding between the ESEE 3 or the ESEE 4. The two most important differences are the width of the blade as well as the length. The ESEE 4 has about a half an inch of extra cutting edge as well as posessing a thicker blade. Which is right for you depends on your use. The ESEE 3 is a more appropriate EDC blade coming in 3 ounces lighter as well as being a more manageable size to keep in your pocket or clipped to your belt. The slightly thinner blade also is more appropriate for everyday tasks and makes slicing up tomatoes more fun than it should be. The ESEE 4 is right for you if you're interested in a bit heavier use, its extra weight and length makes things like batoning wood a bit easier.
An ESEE 3 will run you about $100 which seems rather pricey for a knife most of us will just keep in a drawer, but when you get one of these knives in hand you will immediately feel like it was a steal. If you purchase from a reputable dealer they generally come with an injected molded sheath as well as a boot clip.