Ken Onion is one of the most famous knife designers on the planet. I’ve never met him face to face, but I’ve spoken with him a few times on the phone and discussed his knife designs, as I was preparing articles about them. He is a wild man, to be sure! But he knows everything he needs to know about making some of the most in-demand knives in the world – both for collectors and practical users alike. To be sure, original Onion handmade knives don’t come cheap, so we have CRKT (Columbia River Knife & Tool) to thank for bringing some of Onion’s knives to the market in larger numbers, so that we all can afford them. I’m not sure if CRKT was the first knife company to do collaborations with custom knife makers, but they are at the forefront these days. Many of their knives are designed from collaboration with some of the best-known knife makers in the world.
I’ve probably written more articles about CRKT knives than any other writer out there. I’ve been covering their knives since about the first year they came on the scene. And, I haven’t come close to covering all the newest designs they introduce each year, if I did, I’d be writing about their knives all day long, for weeks on end – that’s how many new designs they come out with each year. I try to find the cutlery and tools from CRKT, that I believe will be of the most interest to SurvivalBlog.com readers. Our reader’s taste run the full gamut – from small EDC folders, to big fixed blades, to all manner of survival knives and tools.
I’ve witnessed many changes at CRKT over the years, and all for the good if you ask me. To be sure, many of their knives are made in Taiwan – and there are a couple reasons for this. They can bring some outstanding knife designs to fruition, for a lot less money, than if they were made here in the USA. And, CRKT also has some of their executives going to the plants in Taiwan on a regular basis to make sure things are running smoothly, and the knives are made to their strict specifications, too. Their knives are NOT made in the slave labor factories of Mainland China, instead, they are manufactured in state of the art factories in Taiwan. That is Free China.
Today we’re looking at a Ken Onion designed folder that is called “Panache” – and if you don’t know the meaning of that term, then look it up. Plus, this is a limited edition and only 550 of these knives will be produced – making them instantly collectible. I don’t collect knives, and I certainly don’t collect firearms, either. Most readers would be surprised at how few knives and firearms I actually have on-hand, at any given time. Many firearms I review are on-loan from gun makers – I’ve love to purchase all the gun samples I get, but that’s impossible. Like most folks, my wife and I live paycheck to paycheck most months – some months we make ends meet, some months, we do – and do whatever it takes to get the bills paid.
A close look at the CRKT Ken Onion Panache is in order. And, when I say a close look, I mean just that. I keep a pair of magnifying goggles on my gun cleaning table, right next to my desk, and these lighted goggles fit over my head. They can go from four power, with a flip I can lower an added power rating and bring them up to eight power. I used these all the time for working on firearms, and for inspecting those things that need to be closely inspected. In this case, I took a really close look at the Panache sample sent my way. And, I could NOT find a single flaw at all – and believe me, I really looked, when we’re talking about a folding knife that costs $295 – I want to make sure everything is as advertised – in this case, it was.
The blade on the Panache is 3.68-inches long, and is made out of premium CTS XHP blade steel – and this steel isn’t cheap, either. The edge is plain – no serrations – and it is only offered with a plain edge. The blade finish is satin – very nicely done. The flipper used for flipping the blade out of the Titanium handle scales, with the carbon fiber inlays, is as smooth, as smooth can be because of the IKBS ball bearings…it doesn’t take much effort to apply some pressure to the flipper, and the blade opens with ease. The Titanium handle scales aare 6AIV4 Ti, and the inlays are black carbon fiber – expertly fitted into the handle scales – I couldn’t find any type of seam – they are incredibly well-fitted. The knife is 8.75-inches long when opened, and 5.05-inches closed. And it only weighs in at a mere 5.80-ounces. There is a sturdy pocket clip that will keep this folder secured in your pants pocket, too.
If you look at most Ken Onion designed knives, you will recognize the flowing lines of the blade as well as the handle. The Panache has what CRKT calls “stealth lines” and that’s a great description, and with precise grind lines – that are expertly executed as well. To be sure, the Panache is an absolutely work of art, and it would look great displayed on a desk or on the wall of your office – it is that beautiful. However, it was designed and meant to be an EDC (Every Day Carry) folder, but I don’t think I could bring myself to use and abuse it every day.
Now, with that said, I do test each and every knife I get for review, and the Panache was no exception. I carried it for more than two weeks in my right front cargo pants pocket. And, living on a very small, rural homestead, there are always things that call for the use of a knife. I carry a multi-tool on my belt and it gets a fair amount of work on various projects. I don’t like to have to run back to the house for a screwdriver or other tools, when I have the multi-tool on my belt. However, when testing knives, I leave the multi-tool in the sheath, and use the test knife for all manner of cutting chores. As regular readers are no doubt about, and probably sick and tired about hearing, how I use knives on blackberry vines – if you have never experienced the toughness of these vines, you don’t fully appreciate how rugged they are to cut – and I try to make a cut with one swipe of a knife’s blade – it’s an outstanding test of how sharp a blade is, and the grind lines on the blade. The Panache had zero problems cleaning – and I mean, cleanly slicing through some thick blackberry vines. Now, to be sure, the dead vines are even tougher to slice through than the live vines are. I recently sprayed a bunch of blackberry vines and I cut through the dead and dried out vines without any problems.
I also cut through tough hemp rope, as well as yellow poly rope. This poly rope is one of the hardest things to cut – it is slick, very slick, and if a knife’s blade isn’t as sharp as it needs to be, it will slide right off the poly rope without cutting it. Cutting open cardboard boxes is almost a daily chore – FedEx, UPS and USPS are always bringing us packages, and I carefully cut these boxes open – making sure to not cut too deeply, and damaging the products inside. I also just cut cardboard boxes with a test knife – if you want to dull a knife – fast – then use it on cardboard. The Panache had no problem keeping up with my cardboard cutting test. I even used the Panache in the kitchen, as well.
A Work of Art
The flowing lines on the blade, as well as the handle on the Panache are sincerely a work of art in my opinion. This knife truly has panache. If you were to have this knife produced by a custom knifemaker, I could easily see it costing several thousands of dollars – it is “that” nice. Keep in mind that, there is a limited lifetime warranty on all CRKT knives – and that’s something to ponder in itself – a nice touch if you ask me.
The Panache comes in a nice presentation case, and as I stated, it would look great sitting on your desk, and to be sure, those who see it, will want to handle it themselves. Just be sure to keep a watchful eye on the knife – so it doesn’t walk off or just magically disappear off your desk…LOL! For $295 and considering that this is a very limited edition folder, it is worth every cent, be sure to check it out on the CRKT website, and hopefully, they’ll still have a few in-stock so you won’t be disappointed. It’s a lot of knife. I know that $295 really is a lot of money for us blue-collar workers, but it’s worth it.