For many of you who have zero clue who Ken Onion is regarding knives, don’t be too ashamed. Until a couple years ago, the name would have been completely unknown to the author as well. For now TPF will give some background on one of the most innovative and dedicated knife designers/fabricators that has plied his trade in North America for just over the last three decades.
Born in the early 1960’s, Kenneth J. Onion has stated that he has always being interested in knives, yet it was not until 1991 when under the tutelage of a local knife maker, Stanley Fujisaka, that Ken Onion made and completed his first knife. Since then however, Ken Onion has dove into the knife making world head first. In 1996 Ken Onion designed and created a spring assisted opening mechanism, and by 1998 the “Speed Safe” SAO system had been adopted by Kershaw Knives, and Ken Onion was directly working with Kershaw. Many of Kershaws successful designs were from Mr. Onion’s efforts and for the most part associated Ken Onion with Kershaw as the two were nearly interchangeable. Nearly two decades after his first “custom knife”, Ken Onion left Kershaw and created his own company, and partnered up with CRKT back in 2010. With more than several dozen knife related patents to his name and the knowledge and experience to create new designs, you can be sure that as long as Ken Onion decides to continue designing and making knives, they will always be top notch in effect.
In 2011, CRKT teamed up with Ken Onion to mass produce “THE Skinner”. Not just a common “hunting knife” but one whose design started several years earlier and was the result of numerous revisions and several dozen field trials. Here is the quote from CRKT’s website regarding the Skinner:
Hawaiian knife maker Ken Onion told us he was working on the ultimate hunting knife, but it wasn’t ready yet. We assumed that he meant he was putting the finishing touches on a prototype, and were we wrong!
Instead, Ken was concluding an extensive field testing program spanning more than five years, making dozens of custom skinners and giving them to Alaskan guides, professional hunters, and taxidermists in exchange for their feedback. He kept modifying the design and sending out more knives, which have now been used to skin over 60 Alaskan bears, and have been proven on deer, elk, moose, antelope, hogs, sheep and cattle.
CRKT’s Skinner is designed to be an exceptionally versatile hunter’s tool. The 95mm (3.8″) blade has spine thickness of nearly 3.6mm (0.14″) and is cut from Böhler K110 steel. The blade is a variation of the drop-point profile which really allows for the plain hollow grind edge to be relatively large and flat while seeming to have a large belly (which it does not). Amassing 105 grams (3.7 oz) across it’s 203mm (8.0″) overall length, the Skinner is not a overtly heavy blade for carrying around. The tang of the Sninner is only 3/4 length opposed to a full tang setup. The grip consists of several components which are seamlessly moulded together, primarily the Zytel core and the soft thermoplastic rubber (TPR) outer covering which enhances the “scales” of the grip.
For control-ability a large choil is inset into the grip shape allowing for refined control. In addition, the large blade allows for the user to have ample thumb room for strong and deft manipulation of the cutting edge which is imperative for skinning. With the attached lanyard for retention, the Skinner allows for continuous, at-ready use.
The sheath of Ken Onion’s Skinner blade is remarkable in itself. Manufactured similarly to pancake holsters, the sheath is profiled to carry the Skinner on a forward sweeping angle. Crafted from 6 ounce leather and treated to be black in appearance, the sheath masses roughly one third of the blade itself at 60 grams (3.7 oz). The sheath incorporates a profile contoured shape which results in an exceptionally good securing method for the blade. Designed for ambidextrous wearing, the sheath is equally at home for both right and left handed users and the angled design means a more comfortable fit when the knife is sheathed.
The Ken Onion designed Skinner knife is manufactured by CRKT under the model code K700KXP and has an MSRP of $89.99 USD. It is available for purchase from retailers such as MilArm Co. Ltd. located in Edmonton, Alberta. Is this knife design Tactical, Practical, or Fantastical? That is for you, the reader, to decide.
Everyone most likely knows at least one other person who has the ability to narrate extremely well and has ability to draw a listener completely into a story they retell. How many plant the hook and slowly reel in the listener, who is captivated by the idea, and then surprise them as the entire story was about something completely different from what was originally believed? Here at TPF, we were offered a chance to test out a bigger brother to the M16. That was when TPF was provided an M21 to review. Suffice to say that the excitement level at TPF was excellent and when the M21 finally came from Columbia River Knife and Tool we were extremely pleased. The author wonders if any of our readers was caught in the hook of the title?
Unfortunately this M21 is not the famed military variant of the classic M-14, nor a Norinco clone version of that illustrious firearm. In this installment of TPF, the M21 reviewed is an enhanced cousin to the M16, a folding knife designed by Mr. Kit Carson roughly a decade ago. Using his decades of military experience, personal knife making skills and outdoor knowledge, Mr. Carson designed the M16 to be a true functional knife. In 2003 the M16 was voted one of the top 10 tactical folder knife designs by Blade Magazine. The M16’s legacy has continued to this day as it is still in production and is still used as a benchmark versus other knives. The M21-14G, as stated before, is an enhanced brother to the M16, measuring an impressive 135mm (5.3″) long while closed and massing a fair 167 grams (5.9 oz.). These larger blades of the M21 series have also earned the nickname of ‘Big Dog’ for it’s overall size and sporting a 3.6mm (0.14″) thick blade with a length of 98.4mm (3.87″). The M21-14G version in this TPF installment has a self-described as a deep-bellied spear point profile, measures 235.0mm (9.25″) when fully opened and features a trademarked series of Veff™ serrations.
For those individuals who are unfamiliar with Veff™ serrations, they originated on commercial knives back in 2006 and TPF has quoted from Mr. Veff’s website the following:
Veff™ serrations are unlike traditional serrations which are usually small scallops oriented at 90 degrees to the blade cutting edge. Veff™ Serrations are wide and cut at about 50 degrees to the cutting edge. The resulting cutting points bite instantly and dig deep upon contact while the large surgically sharp valleys slice smoothly and effortlessly. Unlike traditional serrations that tend to snag and stick while cutting rope and similar material, Veff™ Serrations slice through cleanly and easily. This produces dramatically improved cutting ability on rope, webbing, strapping, hoses, leather and vegetation. Veff™ Serrations have been extensively tested and have proven to be the most efficient and effective serrations to date.
CKRT has in fact exclusive manufacturing rights to this design, other than Mr. Tom Veff customizing the serrations onto selected knives. The orientation change creates an effect similar to a series of miniature gut hook style cutting surfaces. The profile increases the cutting surface length of the serration edges, the small ridges between help create the sawing effect and draw the item being cut into the edge.
The blade of the MG21 is manufactured from 8Cr14MoV stainless steel like many CRKT folding knives and is one of the higher quality knife steels available from China. The metallurgical properties place it somewhere between 440B and 440C stainless steel characteristics. With the blade hollow ground and treated with a Titanium Nitride coating, the M21-14G is a very sharp and imposing looking tool. To open the knife, a pair of knurled thumb studs are attached to the blade’s spine for ambidextrous opening, as well as the “Carson Flipper” incorporated in the blade itself. The Carson Flipper was introduced nearly 15 years ago and is a kick incorporated into the actual blade which allows for partial opening of the blade through use of a finger on along the back of the closed knife. Now a very commonly feature on SAO knives, this version of the kick is used in conjunction with a slight wrist movement to obtain blade opening speeds similar to spring assisted knives. When the knife is in open position the ‘Casron Flipper’ tab also serves as a means of preventing the user’s hand from sliding into the cutting edges during usage.
This M21 is a very large and beefy blade which is locked into position via a liner lock, and CRKT also utilizes an AutoLAWKS system on the blade which prevents inadvertent closing of the folder. The AutoLAWKS is a spring actuated lever which interposes itself behind the liner lock once the knife is fully opened. This prevents the liner lock from slipping out and having the blade close at inopportune times. In order to close the blade , the AutoLAWKS. lever must be shifted, which allows the liner lock to be disengaged. This can be done one-handed with practice, but would require time and repetition to make such a smooth manoeuver. The 14G blade version incorporates grips manufactured from black G10 and have a textured surface finish to allow a firm grip regardless of weather conditions and the grip halves are retained by a set of Torx-head screws. While the knife itself comes with a retention clip setup for tip down carry and located on the right side of the knife, there are provisions for mounting the clip on either side and in tip-down carry positions. The clip is also secured by a trio of Torx-head screws.
Designed by Mr. Kit Carson to be a rugged, heavy-duty knife based upon the successful M16 predecessor, the M21-14G has an MSRP of $89.99 USD. Other options for this size M21 include double ‘Carson Flipper’ tabs to create a cross guard, colouration changes, and the option for a plain ‘Razor-Sharp’ cutting edge. TPF Online thanks CRKT for its support in allowing us to continue to review its product lines. The M21-14G which is available at many locations across Canada including Wholesale Sports which has numerous storefronts and an online store as well. The final decision on the knife’s classification of Tactical, Practical or Fantastical is up to you, the reader.
As stated before, TPF has limited experience with blades, and has to rely on online sources and the word of individuals with more knowledge about this subject matter. So when Columbia River Knife and Tool (CRKT) donated some knives to the CSSA for their fund-raising dinners, TPF was able to temporarily acquire the donation to do a small review on it. For most utilitarian people, a knife and/or multi-tool are always a part of their everyday carry gear. Now here at TPF, EDC gear is minimal and more often than not, crude and on the rough side for appearance.
The Centofante Tribute offered by CRKT is anything but crude and rough; in fact it is closer to elegance of design in the author’s opinion. From the company itself, it is known that the blade was part of a collaborative design with a renowned knife making.
Frank Centofante, one of the pioneers in the custom knife making movement, passed away in September of 2009 before he could see this lock back design go into CRKT production. After a few moments of reflection, we decided to name the series the Centofante Tribute.
The Tribute, Frank’s final production collaboration, is a fitting statement of simplicity and craftsmanship. It is a classic drop point lock back folder, with no gimmicks, no frills, no complex mechanisms, not even a clip. His meticulous approach to knife making is detailed in his chapter in the “Bible,” How To Make Folding Knives, published in 1988, and that is exactly how we are making the Tribute.
Honestly, before acquiring the Tribute, TPF had not heard of the now deceased, Mr. Frank Centofante. It is items like this which help expand our knowledge into other areas and gain understanding into some of the history and background for such individuals. Mister Centofante was one of fewer than two hundred custom knife makers in North America in the mid 1970’s, and has always has a penchant for thin, slim folding knives. Now nearly four decades later, this Tribute from CRKT depicts many of the classic elements which are synonymous with Mr. Centofante’s folding knives.
This folding knife features a 79.4mm (3.125″) drop point, plane edged blade and masses only 43 grams (1.5 oz.). As the release by CRKT states, the tribute has no extra features and is very simple in design. With the blade secured open via the spine lock, the Tribute is 181.1mm (7.13″) in length and truly shows off the sleek look of the knife. The overall design shows off the smooth contour of the hand carved and polished Micarta handle and completes the “gentleman’s knife” association with this blade. The flat ground blade is manufactured from 7Cr17MoV stainless steel and features the classic “nail-nick” for opening.
This knife has no sheath, no pocket clip attachments as it is a small, lightweight folder meant to be carried unobtrusively in an individuals pocket, ranging from the inside of a dinner jacket or the back pocket in a pair of blue jeans.
The Tribute has an MSRP of $49,99 USD as listed on the CRKT website, but is available from at various Canadian dealers and retailers across the country such as MilArm Co. Ltd. in Edmonton, Alberta. A smaller version known as the Tribute 2 is also available, but it mounts a slightly smaller blade and appropriately sized handle, but otherwise has all the same features as the larger version.
Columbia River Knife and Tool’s Centofante Tribute folding knife: Tactical, Practical, or Fantastical?