How CRKT became and remains one of the top knife companies in the world
This is episode (episode 2) of the Hardest Kit on the Planet Podcast brought to you by Heinnie Haynes. In this podcast we try and extract as much knowledge and idea as possible from some of the hardest people and companies on the planet. Our aim for the podcast is to continually provide you with some great knowledge and information from a wide range of people and companies who are actually out there doing the business.
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The Show Notes
In this episode I (Ben Roberts) talk to Lindsey Phelps, who is the International Sales Manager for CRKT (Columbia River Knife and Tool). In this conversation we talk all things CRKT and the knife industry at large. Some of the topics of conversation include how CRKT works with designers to produce the most innovative of products. We also look at what innovations CRKT has brought the market. Knife safety is another topic of conversation. The conversation is then rounded off with some really nice advice to those of you interested in buying a knife!
Click the link at the top of the page to listen or download. The full transcript as always is below . . .
Who are CRKT and who is Lindsey Phelps?
Lindsey Phelps is the International Sales Manager for CRKT (Columbia River Knife and Tool) and also handles public relations.
CRKT is based out of Oregon in the USA and was founded in 1994. It was founded by Rod Bremer and Paul Gillespie. Both of the actually came from Kershaw.
This is actually CRKT’s 21st year, which is pretty exciting!
There a number a number of products that have helped CRKT get this far and that’s the K.I.S.S. series and the M16 series which are almost seen as CRKT’s bread and butter.
The K.I.S.S. knife was what really put CRKT on the map in 1998. Ed Halligan was the designer of this knife (sadly passed away recently). It’s a really cool design, it’s small, key sized, a frame lock and just really innovative. It’s also at a really good price too!
What other designers do CRKT work with, and why does CRKT work with those people in particular?
CRKT roughly work with about 25+ designers. Past people have included Ed Halligan and Kit Carson (both have unfortunately passed away). But, CRKT do work with new designers such as Lucas Burnley, Liong Mah, Ryan Johnson of RMJ Tactical. These guys are well known for some of their specific items. Ryan Johnson for instance designed the Woods Chogan Tomahawk. Liong Mah has done some great knives that are perfect for the UK market such as the journeyer and the Liong Mah Number 5.
We just keep and eye out for designers with cool ideas and some innovation, which is part of what we are known for here at CRKT.
Is working with designers in this way something that CRKT set out to do?
It was really a natural progression. Started small then just grew from there. There i just so much talent out there, so it just made sense.
How does CRKT choose which designers/knife makers to work with?
CRKT is always on the look out for innovative designs. We also get designers submitted directly to us. We obviously have to also think about whether we have a place in the current product line for that particular knife. We also ask for guidance depending on specific customer requests.
Blade Show is a great place to go to see what talent is out there, we go every year to see whats hot, and who is new on the scene.
What innovations have CRKT helped bring to the market?
We helped bring the the Ron Lake and Michael Walker (Lake and Walker Knife Safety). We’ve also got the outlooks which is an automatic version of that safety. That was brought out in about 2006/2007. We’ve also helped bring out the IKBS (Ikoma Korth Bearing System) which is a ball bearing system which really helps a knife open smoothly when it has a flipper. Fire Safe and Outburst. Outburst is an assisted opening mechanism, but Fire Safe is a thumb stud/disk pin which holds the blade closed until you deploy it. This means if you were to drop the knife it wouldn’t open or wont accidentally open in your pocket.
We’ve also worked with Tom Veff who is actually based just down the road from us. His Veff serrations are awesome. They look cool, they are easy to sharpen, and very functional especially when used on fibrous materials. Functionality is key, and they are very functional!
Secondary locking mechanisms are there as a ‘just in case’, and also can really help if a tool is being abused and put under serious duress. Even if the knife is used properly things can still go wrong.
At CRKT we take out customer safety really seriously so this is something we are really invested in.
What else has CRKT got in the pipeline then?
We’ve just debuted a lot of cool stuff at Shot Show. We’ve got some really cool fixed blades which some military design behind them from some new designers. We’ve also got an awesome collaboration with a gun manufacturer that will be coming our Q1/Q2 of 2016.
We’ve also got some really innovative little multi-tools for the keyring and some educational products.
What sort of informational/educational products do CRKT do?
It’s aimed at the younger audience. Like Nathan’s wooden knife kit which teaches how things work and how to be safe with knives and tools.
Knives are a functional tool, so we want kids to grow up learning that a knife is a functional tool not a weapon.
Do you find knife laws around the world are restricting some of the stuff you can do at CRKT?
A little, but not as much as you think as most laws are aimed at carrying not owning.
Can you talk us through CRKT’s recent rebranding?
We wanted to freshen up the brand in our 20th year. We worked with a great local team. We then came up with a new logo that still retained a lot of our heritage, but it was fresher an more modern.
What does the future hold for CRKT and the knife market?
I don’t think the market will change much. Knives are still some of the most important tools around. As long as there is innovation then knives will always have a place!
Moving off knives for a second. What else does CRKT do?
Our Hoist’N Lok was something that’s pretty cool. It was design with Ruff Kommer. It’s used for things like hoisting up game after hunting. It can also be used to lift equipment such as guns t your tree stand again for hunting.
In terms of multi-tools. The Liong Mah Eat’N Tool is one of our top selling products, which is really interesting seeing as we are a knife company.
We’ve also got some paracord bracelet and accessories which were designed by Tom Stokes. These have a compass, fire starter and bottle opener. Really helpful little tools.
How does CRKT decide which knife steels and other materials to use in a particular knife?
It’s typically to hit a price point. We want to give quality, but also want to make it affordable. We try and use a range of steels so there is something for everyone.
What advice would you give someone about choosing a knife?
Some people just see it and know. I’d say how it feels in hand is really important, but also the price point and what the knife will be used for.
How can the guys at home out more about CRKT?
Twitter: https://twitter.com/CRKTweet @CRKTweet