In the old days—say, 10 years ago—you had your choice of working knives or art knives. Working knives were plain, functional, and inexpensive. Art knives were exotic, beautiful, and expensive…and you’d never use one for actual work. That’s not true anymore. Back in the old days, high-end CNC machining and quality materials were expensive, too. That’s not true anymore, either, and it’s one of the reasons that very well-made, high-quality, inexpensive working knives with good steels are now available with looks and visual appeal that’ll knock your socks off. Today, if you want a working knife with bling, the cool factor, or sex appeal, you have a wide choice. And probably no company leads in this segment of the market like Columbia River Knife & Tool.
The other main reason that that knife you’d expect to pay many hundreds of dollars for a decade ago (and in 10-year-old dollars) is now available for less than $100, is the explosion of creativity within the ranks of the custom knife makers who design these working art pieces. Not just any custom maker can succeed in these collaborations, though. In addition to creating practical designs with high visual appeal, they have to be willing to tweak the design and its look so that it’s manufacturable; they have to be able to work with the manufacturer’s engineering staff productively (most knife makers, by contrast, tend to be lone rangers), and they have to know enough about manufacturing to do all of this intelligently. One of the few custom makers who is able to do this repeatedly is Allen Elishewitz. His partnership with CRKT over the years has produced many exciting high-function, high-appeal, and high-value knives.
Striking Good Looks
Most of the Elishewitz/CRKT collaborations are so visually stunning—and I’m talking about the blade forms as well as the handle designs—that you have to really work with them to appreciate that you have a real, functional knife in your hand. Anyone (well, lots of people) can design a pretty knife—all they need are artistic skills. Likewise, making a good utility knife is a pretty straightforward thing to do. It takes a rare combination of skills to do both. In addition to his obvious metal-working skills, Allen was a team leader in a Marine platoon, he has an extensive martial arts background, and he holds a degree in fine arts.
Two New Gems
The two newest Elishewitz/CRKT collaborations are the Horus and the Montu. In Ancient Egyptian religion, Montu was a falcon-god, of war. In art, he was often pictured as a falcon-headed man who wore the sun-disc. Here and now, the Montu is an “OutBurst” assisted-opening folder featuring a 3.25-inch blade of bead-blasted AUS 8. A half-open back brings the weight in at 4.9 ounces. The Montu frame is a stainless steel CRKT InterFrame with locking liner. Its black-textured Zytel scales are inlaid with a tough, hard composite like that used in modern bowling balls, which features blue/gray swirls. Each inlay has a unique pattern. A LAWKS safety (which must be manually applied) locks the knife open so that it can’t be inadvertently closed during hard use. The blade is a unique drop/spear point with a mid-high flat primary grind and swedge. That’s it—there are only two grinds on this blade, although it looks much more complex. The look of the Montu is enhanced by the ever-so-slight recurve of the blade and its six decorative holes. Also adding to the look is the inlaid gold Elishewitz escutcheon and inscribed Elishewitz logo and the knife’s name (I wish all knives had both their name and blade steel inscribed on the blade!). Finishing off the blade is a distinctive Elishewitz “stepped” opening stud.
OutBurst Spring Assisted Opening
The OutBurst spring takes over when the blade is opened about 30-degrees and snaps it into place with just the right amount of force. The unique opening stud fulfills its function well in that it is hard to miss and “gloms” onto your thumb nicely. The scales are hard, but the shape of the handle does a good job of preventing the knife from slipping around. (A personal story here. Years ago I showed Allen a knife handle that I’d designed. He picked it up and immediately recognized an ergonomic flaw in it, one that had eluded me for many months. Allen knows ergonomic design!) The handle is a little bulkier or thicker than you’d expect from seeing the knife in profile, thus making it a true hand filler. My just about dead-average size hand completely fills the 4.25-inch handle’s finger recesses. In the hand, the Montu is well balanced with the balance point at the index finger. I like the fact that the standard LAWKS safety has to be manually applied. The earliest use of this safety by CRKT came this way (manual application), then later some models came configured so that the safety was automatically engaged as the blade opened. The latter is definitely safer, but makes the knife somewhat tedious to close, which can be frustrating when you open and close it a lot during the day.
The geometry of the blade—the mid-high flat primary grind, the spear point, the nearly straight edge—and the 3.25-inch blade length, suggest that all-round utility work is what this knife is designed for. Like most knives these days, the Montu sliced ribbons of free-hanging paper easily. Also like most knives these days, it came from the factory with a very smooth edge. A very smooth edge isn’t the best for all-round utility work, although it’s perfect for slicing paper and shaving hair. Putting a new edge on the knife with a rough diamond hone produced an edge right for manila rope. I also used this same edge on standard test mediums of cardboard, carpet and hard red oak. The result was that I got very good—B to B+—cutting results; the difference between an A and B performance being that instead of slicing through these mediums, I had to use a slight sawing motion. Similar results were obtained on items like green wood (the maple trees sprout up around here like weeds, and every year I have to cut down dozens of three-foot saplings) and denim. AUS 8 isn’t S30V, after all, and the half-high primary grind on a .14-inch thick blade is meant to be a tradeoff between cutting efficiency and strength. The blade exhibited toughness: Whacking the edge at a slight angle against the right angle edge of a block of steel didn’t cause any chips.
The CRKT Horus
The Montu’s smaller cousin is the Horus. It has all the same features and materials of the Montu, except with a 3.125-inch blade, more of a pistol-grip shape to the handle, honey-gold swirl scale inserts, and a tanto-type blade. The majority of the blade has a mid-high flat primary grind, while the 3/4-inch secondary edge of the front tanto-style point has a wider flat primary grind, making the point stronger than it would have otherwise been. A scallop is ground from about halfway out on the spine, which mates with a swedge above the point. This is a complex blade grind with a strong tip, but given the overall geometry and blade length, the intended purpose is still general utility work—only with style!
Full retail on both knives is an amazing $79.99. Considering all the features you get with these knives, adding the great looks, and including the distinctive Elishewitz style, that’s a great deal.
Oh—and they cut well, too!
Blackhawk continues to expand its product line with the following knives for 2009.
by Terrill Hoffman / Mar 20, 2009