Friday, October 5, 2012

CRKT Eraser Review

If the Ripple was CRKT's great herald for a new approach to the growing knife market, the Eraser is the promise of that herald.  It is refined, ergonomic, and attractive.  It has level of fit and finish I have not seen in any CRKT knife ever.  In terms of fit and finish it would be right at home in the higher end of Benchmade's line up.  And its flipper, oh my.  This thing flips like a dolphin at SeaWorld.  It deploys the knife with speed, grace and authority.  This, dear readers, is the new CRKT.

The Eraser is a design by Liong Mah, a custom knife designer.  His work has a distinctive, overbuilt flair stemming from his inspiration, Bob Terzuola's The Tactical Folding Knife.  The design lineage is clear--both men favor large knives, both men like prominent grind lines, and both men seem to gravitate towards the bolstered look.  But the lineage is not a mold for Mah--his designs vary wildly not just from Terzuola's, but from each other.  Mah is more of a designer than a maker, as he usually sends his CAD drawings to custom makers and they work together to produce the final product with Mah offering ideas and the maker doing the actual cutting and grinding.  His portfolio of collaborators reads like the "Name" toolbar on a custom knife website: Allen Elishewitz, Jeremy Marsh, Brad Southard, Sal Marano, Eddie Baca, JW Smith, and others.

The Eraser began its life as a custom knife, found here (eight knives from the top).  Many of his designs breakdown into three major categories: karambits, santukos, and tantos.  The Eraser is from his line of tanto knives, but this particular model features a reverse tanto, giving the knife quite a bit of tip strength while at the same time offering more belly than a traditional tanto grind.  The custom Eraser also featured the bolster look, a design nod to Terzuola's own blades.  Like many of Mah's designs, it looks awkward or at least unusual.  But if the production model is any indication, appearances are deceiving as this is one of the most locked-in, versatile, and comfortable blades I have used in a long time.

Here is the product page.  There are two variations: blacked or regular finish.  Here are both a good written and an EXCELLENT video review (E/O's videos are quite frankly the best I have ever seen, YouTube, TV or otherwise).  Here is a link to Blade HQ, where you can find the Eraser, and all proceeds benefit the site when you purchase things through this link:

Blade HQ

Here is the review sample CRKT sent me (the fully opened knife was too big for my lightbox):

IMG_0023

Design: 2

Mah's design is a very clever thing indeed.  It took me a while to fully appreciate all of the details and that sense of constant surprise is one of the things that makes owning a well-design item more enjoyable.  It came in three stages.

First there was the discovery that despite its unusual and humpy appearance, this is one great knife when opened and in your hand.  The weight is not that bad at all, with the bolster balancing out the blade and putting the center of gravity right over your index finger.  Interesting.

But then there was stage two.  I was horsing around with the knife and holding in reverse grip when I noticed that it was not simply okay in that position, but actually, perhaps, slightly better than the forward position.  It turns out, on close inspection, this knife was ABSOLUTELY designed to be held in the reverse grip.  There are little cut outs in the G10 near the pocket clip that allow for excellent purchase.  Then there is the unusual pommel, which again, facilitates a reverse grip.  My thumb rests on it perfect.  Really, quite nice.

Then there was the third stage.  In researching this review, I visited Liong Mah's website and there I saw is logo, a modified version of the Japanese god of war's symbol.  It was a really cool, slightly S shaped logo.  On closer inspection, the Eraser has that same overall shape, a gentle S curve when the knife is in the open position.  Now that is clever!  Making all of this even better, the S shape is in service to both the form AND the function of the knife.

A useful and clever design on so many levels.

The ratios are not as bad as you'd think for a knife this brawny.  The blade:handle is actually quite impressive at .775 (the current best is the Al Mar Hawk at .84, but the next best is the SOG Flash I at .78, so .775 is not too shabby at all).  The blade:weight is .62, which is not great, but you know going in, that this is a heavy knife, given its size and the metal bolsters.  It is still better than the Steel Turd, the Cryo, at .55  

Fit and Finish: 2

One of the things that CRKT has traditionally been knocked for is their poor fit and finish.  Some of this is deserved and some of it is not, but either way there is no dispute that some knives they have produced in the past seemed to lack that level of polish and finish that the top tier knife companies have.  Some had some really rough pivots, others has some serious blade play.  But the company has really changed the direction they are heading, as I mentioned in the Ripple 2 review.

The Eraser is evidence of that change in direction as well.  There is no knife in the CRKT line up that is nicer in terms of fit and finish than the Eraser.  I have handled almost all of them at knife shows or stores, and nothing quite matches this blade's feel.  The G10 is nicely finished, not rough but still grippy.  The bolster is well shaped.  The entire knife handle is rounded and works well in both grips. The blade itself is a gorgeous satin finish with crisp grind lines. But all of this is merely icing on the cake. 

IMG_0014

The real standout here is the pivot.  It is glass smooth, feeling more like the winding knob on a high end watch than the joint on a tactical blade.  The blade is well centered in the handle thanks again to the pivot.  And most importantly the pivot and detents work together to make the knife deployment speedy, sure, and authoritative.   
  
Grip: 2

No knife I have used as been as versatile in the hand as the Eraser.  The forward grip is, of course, very nice with the flipper serving as an excellent hand guard.  But it is the reverse grip (the ice pick grip) that is so extraordinary on the Eraser.  Here is a shot of the rear of the knife, noting all of the details that go into making this a truly bidirectional handle:

IMG_0021

You finger lays in the groove easily and the ramp and jimping are perfectly placed.  This knife's handle has made me re-examine other blades.  Why is it that they can't match the Eraser in both grips?  Why do we have to compromise when a solution like this is so elegant and useful?  Best grip on any folder I have used thus far, despite my preference for small knives.  This is truly a great design. 

Carry: 1

You'd think with a slab of steel this big and the weighty bolster that the Eraser would be hard to carry.  It is larger than the Paramilitary 2 and twice as heavy.  Yet, for some reason, in the pocket its not that bad at all.  It is certainly better in the pocket than the equally heavy but wider ZT350.  That said, the bolsters are really heavy.  They look nice, of course, but they throw off the balance of the blade in your pocket.  Overall, this knife better than the ZT350, but not in the same league as the PM2.  An all G10 version with light handles would be a pretty cool variation in the event that the Eraser sticks in the CRKT line up (which is absolutely should).

Steel: 1

AUS 8.  What a mystery.  On the Hawk it is phenomenal.  On every other knife it is just blah.  Here it is blah--exactly par.  After some whittling, some paper slicing, breaking down cardboard boxes, and finally cutting up paper bags for my son's art table, the AUS-8 was just done.  The edge on the Buck Vantage Pro Small, a Bos-treated S30V was still going strong.  This offered a nice comparison for me and proved that the Hawk's AUS 8 was a fluke or more rightly an amazing convergence of great thing.  When the AUS 8 is not done perfectly it is not a great steel.  One side note, the finish on the steel, a bright satin finish, is really gorgeous.  

Blade Shape: 2

The blade shape is a very nice reverse tanto, a blade shape I have always wanted to try out.  Here is a shot of the blade in profile:

IMG_0016

The big issue with tanto blades is that they usually have no belly for roll cuts and they are difficult to sharpen because of the multiple cutting bevels.  These drawbacks, however, are usually offset by a very strong piercing tip.  The reverse tanto fixes all of those problems, allowing the knife to have a belly, as you can see above, and an easy to sharpen profile, all the while preserving the tip strength the tanto grind creates.

The blade shape is really nice, rapidly moving up the list of of my favorite blade shapes.  Here there is a large amount of belly and the tip is capable of strong stabs.  I cut furniture boxes with their extra thick cardboard and there was no problem.  I pierced through cardboard at least 1/2" thick, covered with tape and sandwiched around really annoying glue, with no problem.  The belly, likewise, performed well, rolling though rope with ease.  This is great shape for a blade.  

Grind: 2

My mantra of simple is best was put to the test here.  This is a four faceted blade with multiple grinds and the main grind is a hollow grind.  That seems like a recipe for disaster or at least clogging.  That never really happened.  I ripped through sheet upon sheet of cardboard and it never bound up.  The cutting bevel itself is really immaculate, better than the average production model Spyderco and approaching the even perfection of a well-done Benchmade grind.  All around excellent in use.

And then there is how it looks.  I know this should count for very little, but the grind here is just beautiful.  It is especially noticeable when you clean the blade.  Wiped down with some citrus-based cleaner, like Goo-Gone, the knife seems to gleam and reflect light like the curvy chrome of an early Sixties Cadillac.  I really, really liked the presentation of this knife with the multiple crisply cut grinds, the nice G10 handle, and the bolster.  The grinds are the thing that tops everything off aesthetically speaking. 

Deployment Method: 2

You might have heard around the web that the Eraser often seen as the "poor man's Tilt."  The shape is similar, as is the size, but I really think it has to do with the smooth flipper action that both knives have.  I have never handled a knife, custom or otherwise, that has as effortless a pivot as the Eraser.  This, of course, evokes the oft-praised pivot on the Tilt.  Lots of knives have smooth pivots, but the Eraser, once dislodged from the detents, seems to glide, frictionless, from closed to open.  I can move the Eraser's blade with a page of telephone paper or the most minimal amount of gravity.  Nothing really comes close to just how smooth the Eraser is.  I was so sure, so absolutely certain that it had IKBS, that I had to email CKRT just to be sure, assuming it had to have been omitted from the product page on accident. It doesn't, merely a virtually perfect lubrous pivot.

The flipper is also spectacularly well-crafted.  It disengages with authority, producing an audible click, as the blade passes over the detent and then swings into place.  All of this happens with a medium amount of push down and back on the flipper.

So well made is the flipper and pivot on the Eraser that I have finally been proven wrong.  I had originally assumed, after using the ZT350 and other large and heavy tactical blades, that these blades were the last bastion of a necessary assisted opener.  But the Eraser is the exception that destroys the rule.  A well made flipper and pivot, even on a massive knife like the Eraser, obviates the need for any automation whatsoever.      

Retention Method: 2

The Eraser has a very basic and simple clip.  It is four-way positionable, coming tip up.  It is not especially deep carry, but it is unobtrusive and holds the knife in place.  I liked it a little when I saw it, and a lot after I used it.  One thing with big knives is that they require these massive clips to secure the entire blade and some are better at grappling on to things near you than your pocket.  Not so here.  An excellent clip. 

Lock: 2

Its liner lock with a tab that prevents the lock from closing when open.  I think this is the very definition of gliding the lily, but it doesn't hamper functioning at all and it is can be left unegaged if you want.  When it is engaged the knife is harder to close, but there is also a little notch in the front of the handle that might turn into a hotspot under heavy use.  The lock itself is fine and there is no blade play in any direction.  I'd prefer it without the lock stop, but it is not an issue at all.  

Overall Score: 18 out of 20

This is an excellent knife, one of the most comfortable to hold I have seen in a long time.  The truly two way handle is a remarkable design.  The flipper is amazing and the pivot is practically perfect.  I'd like to see better steel, but who wouldn't?  The fit and finish on this knife blows away anything CRKT has done before.  I loved holding this knife, flipping open this knife, and cutting with this knife.  It does everything really, really well and while it has not persuaded me to abandon my small knife EDC preference, it and the Paramilitary 2 are among my first choices for large blades around $100.  I'd give the PM2 the edge because of the steel, but not by much.  Compared to my other large blade reference--the ZT350--again I like the steel on the ZT350 better, but everything else on the Eraser is superior.  This is an excellent blade (and a good prompt for me to do a large blade shoot out). 

The Eraser is a clarion call--CRKT is running with the big boys now.  Let's hope they keep it up.  I'd love to see a premium blade like this in a smaller shape.  I'd also like to see this knife with truly premium blade steel--CTS XHP for example.      

7 comments:

  1. Great review Tony. I agree, this is the nicest CRKT I've handled. Makes me want to check out the Foresight, although I think it's also on the large side for EDC. The Eraser is a great knife though - thanks for sharing.

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    Replies
    1. The Eraser is a design by Liong Mah, a custom knife designer. His work has a distinctive, overbuilt flair stemming from his inspiration, Bob Terzuola's The Tactical Folding Knife.
      Polymer Reinforced Concrete
      Steel Reinforced Concrete Detailing
      Steel Truss Detailing
      Reinforced Concrete Foundation
      Reinforced Concrete Columns

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  2. I thought the clip was positionable on all four corners?

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    Replies
    1. Your right it is four way positionable. Sorry about the mix up.

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    2. Correction made in main article.

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  3. Totally endorse this review -- the Eraser is a knife nerd's and design nerd's knife. How many CRKTs can you say that about? It's big and unusual looking but is surprisingly practical for certain utility tasks. Great for food prep! It's like a tactical santoku -- but even better because there's some belly to the blade.

    The flipper action RULES. Shockingly smooth pivot, as detailed in the review. Detent is graceful but quite strong. It is almost impossible to miss deployment, even pointing the knife up at the ceiling; if the blade leaves the detent, it is going to open fully and lock.

    There is a dealer on Amazon who's been selling the Eraser for less than $50 for several weeks. That deal is so good I fear it might be a closeout. We might be seeing the Eraser join the "In Case You Missed It" category soon?

    I would recommend it to almost any enthusiast at that price. It won't be anyone's only knife, but it makes a kick @ss fourth, ninth, or thirtieth knife.

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  4. For $50 on Amazon I couldn't NOT bu this knife. If I like the first one, I might buy the second finish. Thanks for the review.

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