One of the most prolific knife designers that I’m aware of is Ken Onion, who resides in Hawaii. Ken actually got started designing and making knives as a result of working on a motorcycle. He knew there was “something” there that he could use. It’s been many years since I interviewed Onion for an article I was doing for Knives Illustrated magazine, back when I was the West Coast Field Editor. Ken and I spoke for more than an hour via phone, and he is an absolute wildman, to put it lightly. It was great fun interviewing him about a new collaboration he was doing with a major knife company.
It seems like every time I turn around, there is a new collaboration between Ken Onion and a knife company. To be sure, when you look at an Onion-designed knife, you know that it was unmistakably designed by Onion. There is a certain flair, style, to all his folding knives. It just continues to amaze me that Onion keeps coming up with more and more new designs that are all different yet all “alike” in some manner; they all scream of the Onion style!
Ken Onion’s custom-made folding knives demand a great deal of money. We are talking thousands of dollars for one knife. Some years back, Onion was going to attend a knife show, and some of his knives were stolen, if I recall correctly, from an airline. I don’t remember the amount, but we are talking something in the neighborhood of $50,000-60,000 worth of knives. Now, one would think that would be quite a few knives. Nope! We are talking only about half a dozen knives. Does that tell you how valuable his custom-made folders are?
I’ve had a very long relationship with the nice folks at CRKT (Columbia River Knife & Tool) and have been testing and writing about their knives almost from the start of their company. CRKT was actually started by two former executives from another major knife company. At present, the company is solely owned by Rod Bremer. Rod and I go way back, and if you ever heard us talk to one another or read our e-mail exchanges, you would actually believe we are bitter enemies. Nothing could be further from the truth. We’re good friends; just don’t tell Bremer I said that, though. BTW, in the 2016 CRKT line-up, they will be featuring a fixed blade, double-edge fighting knife designed by myself and brought to fruition by custom knife maker Brian Wagner. He refined my design and made the prototype that CRKT is working from.
To clear matters, I wanted to mention that the CRKT Hootenanny is manufactured in Taiwan. Some readers take exception to anything made in Taiwan for some reason. However, you get as good as you want. If you want a 50-cent knife, you’ll get one. If you want a thousand dollar knife, you can have one. CRKT has someone from their corporate headquarters visiting the two plants that manufacture their knives in Taiwan every six weeks. Additionally, last I heard, CRKT actually owns one of the plants where many of their knives are made. It’s to their advantage to keep a watchful eye on how their knives are being made, and this– a very watchful eye– they do keep!
On to the Ken Onion, “Hootenanny” folder that CRKT is now producing. The Hootenanny is one of those folders that is hard to fit into one specific category. It’s an everyday carry folder, to be sure. However, one can easily mistake it for a gentleman’s folder, too. Quite honestly, the Hootenanny, can also be used in the field to dress game, too. A close look at the Hootenanny will find a 3.34-inch long blade made out of 8Cr13MoV stainless steel, and this is a blade material CRKT has been using for a while with great success. I like it! The overall length of the knife is 7.94 inches open and 4.59 inches closed, and it weighs 4.8 oz. Rockwell hardness of the steel is 58-60, and that makes it easy to re-sharpen. The blade has a nice satin finish and is described as a Drop Point; however, I’m not sure if I agree with that description or not, but it works if you want to call it that. The edge is a plain edge; it has no serrations. The handle material is glass reinforced nylon, and the lock is a liner-lock. We have a one position pocket/clothing clip, too, for easy carry in your right front pocket of your pants.
Fit and finish on the Hootenanny was perfect. I couldn’t find a single flaw. If one didn’t see the “CRKT” on the blade, one could be led to believe it was a custom-made folder; it’s “that” nicely made. There is no thumb studs for opening the blade. Instead there is a “Flipper” that rapidly deploys the blade, with the help of the IKBS ball bearing system, which makes the blade effortlessly open with no friction to speak of. We are talking butter smooth! There are friction grooves on the top, middle of the blade, and this comes in handy when doing close-up cutting. It gives you a lot more control over the blade. The entire knife design simply “flows” from the tip of the blade to the butt of the handle, and it fits the hand perfectly, and I don’t make that claim lightly. Everyone who held the knife, loved the way it felt in their hands…everyone!
For close to a month, I used the Hootenanny for many chores around the house. One of those chores was opening packages from UPS or FedEx that arrive almost daily. The Hootenanny had no problems slitting the boxes open and, in some cases, cut the strapping on cases of ammo sent for use in firearms testing. The wife used the Hootenanny for some kitchen chores, and she really loved the way it fit her hand. She is very hard to please. If a knife or firearm doesn’t feel right to her hand, she has no use for it. At the end of my testing, the Hootenanny was still sharp but not hair-popping sharp; it was hair-scraping sharp. I touched it up on a pair of croc stix, and it only took a minute to bring the edge back to hair-popping sharp, too. Nice!
I have one very hard to please knife critic. He’s a fellow who works at the local gun shop I haunt, and he can always find something to fault with just about any knife I show him. He had nothing bad to say about the Hootenanny, which said volumes to me.
I note on the CRKT website that it states the Hootenanny will also make a good bird and fish knife. While I didn’t put it to that sort of testing, I guess I could see it being used in that regard. Where the Hootenanny shines is as an everyday carry knife, as one that can handle most of the daily chores you apply it to. Also, the knife can be used as a weapon for self-defense. The way the knife fits the hand, it could make a bad buy wish he were some place else. As an outdoor folder for survival purposes, well, yeah, it could be useful to a certain extent. This isn’t a hard-core, long-term folder designed for hard survival use though. It’s a city knife, one any Gent would be more than pleased to pull out of his pocket for daily cutting chores. Everyone will believe you paid a lot for it, though full bolt retail is only $69.99, and with all CRKT products, you get a LOT for your money. If you shop around, you can find the Hootenanny deeply discounted off the retail price.
I honestly wish I could have found something to fault about the Hootenanny, but try as I could, I loved the folder, that is, until I lost it. It must have fallen out of my pocket somewhere along the line, or maybe I didn’t have it properly clipped to the inside of my cargo pants pocket and it slipped out. This is one folder I plain on replacing.
CRKT and Ken Onion have hit another home run with all bases loaded this time around. I can’t wait to see what sort of collaboration CRKT and Onion come out with next time, but it’s going to be hard to beat the Hootenanny, in my humble opinion!
– Senior Product Review Editor, Pat Cascio