Blade Show 2014, Overall Knife Of The Year®
As of late CRKT has been ramping up production in most areas for 2014, including a re-brand. From this reviewer’s standpoint, their largest strides are due to a continued commitment to work with talented designers in the knife and tool industry. It always seems like a good idea to step out of the walls of a company once in a while to bring in fresh talent. It’s something that many knife manufacturers are becoming ever more keen to. CRKT has certainly been exploiting this approach for a while now, working with established names such as Brian Tighe, Kit Carson, Ed Halligan and Allen Elishewitz in the past. They are also forging many new relationships with designers like Ryan Johnson, Lucas Burnley and Liong Mah to name a few.
The knife featured here was designed by Ken Onion and is based on his Old Skallywag custom. Ken is a custom knife maker, inventor and designer with years of industry experience under his belt. His work has produced several hit products that have earned numerous awards for both himself and the companies he has collaborated with. He’s also the mind behind a few dozen patents, including the Speed Safe mechanism from his design days at Kershaw (KAI USA).
The CRKT Hi Jinx is the latest collaboration with this designer and a clear departure from the company’s previous offerings. The most marked difference is the generous use of higher end materials and the employment of award winning manufacturer LionSteel. Although LionSteel has their own knife line, they are also a popular OEM for higher end cutlery designed by international brands such as DPX Gear, Bastinelli, Pohl Force, Knife Research and Spyderco.
Total dimensions of the Hi Jinx when open are 8” in length with a maximum width of 1.5” and thickness of .62” (excluding the clip height). This adds up to a stocky build that carries a weight of 6.4 ounces. While the knife has beefy specifications, the design is fluid with a sleek, technical aesthetic.
The Blade is made from Böhler Uddholm’s Sleipner and hardened between 60-61 HRc. Sleipner is a tool steel that was formulated as an alternative to AISI D2 where increased toughness is desired. Its attributes are primarily achieved by raising the percentage of Molybdenum. From testing I find D2 and Sleipner to be similar in performance. I do notice a difference in corrosion resistance where D2 seems to be more stain resistant. This would likely be attributed to D2’s chromium content which is 4% higher.
Böhler Uddholm Sleipner
The pattern is a stout modified drop point that has a discernibly Ken Onion look. While not identical, similarities can be seen in other models like the Onion Skinner, Wrinkle and Foresight. The shape could be described as a wide blade with a substantial belly that eases into a sturdy, but effective point. Blade dimensions are .196” thick with a maximum width of 1.30” and length of 3.32”.
The cutting geometry is composed of a flat grind with a secondary edge bevel. Terminating at around 2/3rds of the width, there is a substantial amount of material behind both the cutting edge and tip. The full thickness is carried down the majority of the blade’s length creating an extremely tough base. A swedge adds to the point’s acuteness for improved penetrating cuts. The result is something that leans toward strength over finer slicing. Regardless, the keen factory edge and effective belly coupled with a robust backbone balances the Hi Jinx for a wide variety of everyday utility and harder tasks alike. There’s a good sized choil for sharpening the full length of the edge.
The blade has an attractive “high” satin finish that shows off Sleipner’s good machine-ability. Because this steel isn’t stainless you should probably keep the surface maintained with something like a Tuf-Cloth to ensure the condition of the beautifully rendered grinds.
CRKT’s new logo (as of late 2013) is etched on one side of the blade and the knife name, details and maker branding are on the other. When looking at the blade markings, I’d prefer simple, matching type faces. Especially for the “Ken Onion Design” logo that’s found on his CRKT designs. Like knife design, typography is a specialized discipline. As such it could be more carefully considered by makers and manufacturers. It’s probably safe to say that the majority of typographers won’t make good knife designers or manufacturers and vice versa.
For deployment the Hi Jinx uses a flipper. The combination of a strong detent and smooth pivot allows for fast, reliable opening. Jimping wraps around the edge and top side of the tab adding grip for people who either pull like a switch or press like a button. Both methods seem to work equally well. While the blade is weighty, I’ve found the flipper to operate effortlessly and as expected. With less steel to load up against, it would likely be well above average.
The pivot mechanism is helped along by the inclusion of a bearing system. Unusually this knife has caged bearings instead of the typical “IKBS” labelled configuration. The Ikoma Korth Bearing System is known to consist of loose bearings housed in a greased ‘race’ (circular slot) that’s milled in the handle tang. Oppositely the Hi Jinx bearings are held equidistantly in a brass casing that mates against raced washers.
This seems like an improvement for a number of reasons. Firstly the washers will provide added integrity since their hardness is more similar to the bearings. If they contacted the titanium handle slabs directly wear would be uneven. They are also replaceable. Secondly the ball bearings aren’t loose so risk of loosing them during maintenance isn’t an issue. Lastly IKBS tends to require more lubricant since the grease is also used to hold the bearings in their race during assembly. In turn this can potentially catch more grit, although it isn’t usually an issue with your typical IKBS knife.
When in the open position the tang is held firmly and without play by a frame lock (Reeve Integral Lock or RIL) and against an internal stop pin. To ensure the spring integrity an over-travel stop has been included in the design. This takes the form of a sleeve around the pivot bolt that effectively blocks the lock arm from hyper-extending. While the feature seamlessly integrates into the design, I would like to see it on both sides because it would add to the knife’s sturdy aesthetic. It may also add more visual balance on the show face since there is much more going on with the lock/clip/over-travel side by default. As far as I know this is the first heavier titanium frame-lock design from CRKT. In the past they put out the Eros, also designed by Ken Onion but the lock geometry is very different. It will be interesting to see how it wears in over time. Companies have often had growing pains when dealing with this kind of build (think of the first HEST by DPX also made by LionSteel or the Boker/Anso Knives). So far so good on this sample which has settled in at around 50%. In the future it might be good to consider a steel insert for the spring-side lock face, a detail that seems to be ever more ubiquitous in frame lock design.
The handle is a flow through (open back), three pillar construction based around thick slabs of 6AL4V titanium. The frame’s assembly uses a total of three handle fasteners plus the pivot. Measurements equal 4.78” in length with a width of 1.53”. Like the blade, it has a distinguishable look. Many of Ken’s knives have a slightly downward sloping grip with a neck near the front and a bulge in the profile toward the pommel. While fairly subtle, the shape results in a secure, comfortable working grip.
There’s a deep finger groove that is extended by the flipper adding security when bearing down on a cut. Scalloped details thin out this cinched-in area further while accentuating the shape. A dip in the blades spine serves to extend the grip for your thumb for controlled cutting. All of the edges are rounded for added comfort.
A unique feature on this knife is the concave machining on the handle. The relief has a good depth made possible by the use of the hefty .16” slabs. The indentation acts as a place for your fingers to nest. Since the cutter paths are left from the machining on these surfaces, there is added grip. The horizontal lines also add a subtle, tasteful contrast to the otherwise matte, bead blasted finish.
For carry there’s a tip up, reversible deep riding clip. This is attached to a unique, bullet shaped stand-off that is designed to receive the clip bolt. Placement is good and it doesn’t feel obtrusive in use. While the retention is secure, the smooth surfaces of the knife won’t destroy your pockets. Additionally, there is also a good sized lanyard hole.
After having a look at the sum of the Hi Jinx’ parts, it’s easy to conclude that CRKT is getting more competitive while widening their scope. This is evident in the materials, price point, designer and OEM choice. Outside of this folder it can also be seen in an increased model diversity that can be attributed to the new designer collaborations they are nurturing. From a market perspective they’ve checked all the boxes as to what is appealing to an ample slice of the collectors out there. The Hi-Jinx is tip-up, low riding carry. The handle is full titanium with a frame-lock and over-travel. They’ve also used a premium steel and OEM regarded as one of the best. Most appealingly they have flipper that’s backed up by a bearing pivot.
Trends aside the Hi Jinx has excellent fit and finish and great ergonomics. It’s a sleek looking knife that functions as well as it looks. While it will undoubtedly make a great working tool, it’s possibly best suited as a collectible. Collect-ability might also be encouraged by the fact that the knife is offered as a limited run.
The Hi Jinx is no longer available but other great Ken Onion designs are available through our affiliate GP Knives
Total Open Length 8.00″ (203 mm)
Closed Length : 4.78″ (121 mm)
Width : 1.53″ (39 mm)
Thickness : 0.62 in (16 mm)
Weight: 6.4 oz (181 g)
Steel: Bohler Udderholm Sleipner 60 – 61 HRC
Length : 3.32 in (84 mm)
Width : 1.30 in (33 mm)
Thickness : 0.196 in (5 mm)
Bead Blasted 6AL4V Titanium
Length : 4.78 in (121 mm)
Width : 1.32in (33 mm)
Thickness : 0.16 in (4 mm) per side
Barrel spacers : 303 Stainless
Clip : 420 SS
Fasteners : 303 SS
Made In Maniago, Italy