The Leading Edge

crkt forges forward with innovative designs!
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As Columbia River Knife & Tool (CRKT) celebrates its 25th anniversary in the cutlery business, it still seems like they’re a relatively new business. While there are older knife companies in the U.S. to be sure, much of what makes CRKT young is the very thing that put them on the map in the first place. They keep it fresh. While many start-up companies go through lean times in their early years trying to carve their niche in the market, CRKT never did. Their first knives were innovative and exciting — and they are to this day. Recently we had a chance to catch up with CRKT marketing guru Doug Flagg to bring us up to speed on the company’s latest happenings in the cutlery market.

First a little background. “Rod Bremer started CRKT in 1994. He based the business on working with custom knife makers to bring the best designs to market at an affordable price. Custom knife makers like Jim Hammond, Ed Haligan and Kit Carson brought the KISS and the M16 products that have become iconic in the knife industry,” Doug informs. “I started with CRKT in 2004 as Vice President of Sales and Marketing. My position has evolved into more of the product side of the business, and today I serve as VP of Marketing and Innovation. I spend a large amount of my time working with custom knife makers like Ken Onion and Lucas Burnley to develop incredible designs and innovative mechanisms.”

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Collaborators

As Flagg noted, CRKT hit the door running with collaborations and they’ve never looked back. It’s been a winning strategy, keeping their knives on the leading edge of the market. “We rely on our outside designers for great designs and new mechanisms,” Doug notes. “Our collaborations with these artists have given CRKT one of the most diverse product lines in the industry. You will see innovations like Field Strip for folding knives and Russ Kommer’s incredible game hoist. All these unique designs are what makes CRKT stand out.”

One of their top collaborators is highly regarded Hawaiian custom knifemaker Ken Onion. Ken is recognized as the guy who, in the late 1990s, brought the assisted-opening folder to the forefront of the cutlery world en masse. We asked Flagg about the importance of having Onion on board.

“I met Ken over 20 years ago when he invented assisted opening,” says Doug. “We work together really well. Ken is the dreamer, the artist with incredible ideas that I do my best to bring to market. It has been incredible. Ken continues to innovate and refine his skills and has been instrumental in helping CRKT move to the next level. His ability to recognize trends and push the limits of his designs makes CRKT one of the most contemporary knife companies in the industry.”

Onion’s breakout Field Strip technology offers users the ability to disassemble a folding knife, clean it, and put it back together in mere minutes — and it’s taken off like wildfire. The first Field Strip model was the Homefront, which has now been offered in several variations.

According to Doug, “Ken had the idea for Field Strip years ago. As a hunter he was frustrated he could not clean his folding knife after a hunt and the idea of gunk wadding up his folding knife annoyed him. He needed to be able to clean his knife. As a concept it sounds simple, but it isn’t. We worked on it for years before we developed a method that is easy, and you only have three parts, the blade and two handles. Once we got the mechanism right Ken did something I don’t think has been done before. A true partner, Ken also allowed us to use Field Strip on other designer’s knives which allowed us to launch James William’s Goken, Dew Hara’s Raikiri, Jesper Voxnaes’ HVAS, and Matthew Lerch’s RTD. We plan on incorporating Field Strip in many of our products for years to come.”

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At Every Turn

CRKT has hot models throughout the line everywhere you turn. Doug confirms to American Handgunner the Field Strip is a hot ticket. “All the Field Strip models are selling well. People are starting to understand how great it is to be able to get the gunk out of your folding knife. In addition to this the M16 series continues to be a strong performer.”

But we’ve just scratched the surface. “Our new Frame Lock folders are doing really well,” Flagg adds. He further noted, “We have also had great success with small EDC knives like Jesper Voxnaes’ Pilar and Lucas Burnley’s Squid. A couple new designers we’ve had great results from are Jeff Park and his Crossbones design along with the young TJ Schwarz and his model named ‘Caligo’.”

CRKT fans can expect to see even more innovation and variety down the road. Doug gives us a glimpse: “In the future, you will see some high-end, limited-edition Ken Onion designs. We are also working on one of the most innovative knives ever seen for a SHOT Show 2019 debut. This knife will blow you away. We will continue to support the Forged By War military series of knives and expand the Field Strip mechanism.”

CRKT’s approach to delivering fresh and innovative designs over the last quarter century has worked like a charm and they stand today as one of the cutlery industry’s true leaders. Their selection is staggering, and as witness to how well their designs hold up the 1998 Kit Carson M16 model is still a rock-solid seller in the line. If you want the latest in style and innovation — from folders to fixed-blades to tools — Columbia River Knife & Tool deserves your undivided attention.

For more info: www.americanhandgunner.com/index, CRKT, Ph: (800) 891-3100

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