Sunday, January 18, 2015

CRKT No Time Off Review

What do you do when you get no time off?

You work.  Hence the name.

This is a knife with a clear purpose.  Sure it can be a "tactical" knife (whatever that means).  It can work as an EDC, though it is a bit heavy.  But spending even a few minutes with the No Time Off (NTO henceforth) tells you exactly what this knife is design to do--work.  It is a work knife.  If you are a construction guy, if you work at the docks or lay carpet, this is a great knife for you.  There are a half dozen or so features that make this a superb work knife. And if you really think about it, there aren't a whole lot of pure work knives on the market.  The Leatherman knives obviously fall into this category, but so many of the big overbuilt knives are marketed as tactical or survival knives and include features antithetical to work (such as hard to sharpen multi-faceted grinds).  Instead with the NTO, you get a blade focused on getting shit done.  After spending a month with the NTO and using it outdoors, in the workshop, and during a home improvement project, I can tell you that that focus produces good results.  

We have to skip the normal "here" paragraph as this is a prerelease review sample.  Here is the product page.  The MSRP on the knife is $125, with a street price probably around $80-90.

Here is a picture of the knife:


Here is my video overview:

Twitter Review Summary: New steel, lots of innovation--more of the NEW CRKT

Design: 1

A Flavio Ikoma design, the NTO is yet another good collaboration between CRKT and a renowned custom knife maker.  CRKT's market repositioning has gone flawlessly over the past four years, and the NTO is another example of the fruits of that project.  There are lots and lots of things to like--a wonderful flipper, an ingenious pocket clip, a great blade shape, very good steel (a new steel for CRKT).


There is just one thing I can't ignore.  This knife is fat.  Its 5.9 ounces.  Its a work knife, so I get that it needs to be well built, but this is just a little too much weight for me.  The Cold Steel Mini Recon 1 is PLENTY tough and tipped the scales at a paltry (comparatively) 3.6 ounces.  Its something you have to decide from the beginning.  Personally, it didn't bother me when I was working around the house, cutting drywall, demolishing closet shelves, and installing new ones, but as an EDC knife, it was a bit bothersome.    


As you can imagine the ratios are strongly impacted by the knife's heft.  The knife has a blade just under 3 inches and weighs a chunk 5.9 ounces for a blade:weight of .51.  The blade:handle is much better at .70.  

Fit and Finish: 2

CRKT's game has improved to the point where par for the course is flawless fit and finish.  There are no stray grind lines, no mismatched handle scales or gaps between the liners and the scales.  The blade sits dead center and the flipper tab is comfortable.  If they can nail the fit and finish on the Drifter, a knife like this that will cost at least three times as much, is an easy thing to make look gorgeous.  

Grip: 2

There is a finger choil, a bunch of jimping, including some in almost the middle of the blade, and fantastic curves and cuts in the handle.  Great, really, but there is a trick to the NTO that makes it perhaps the best folding knife in the hand I have used.


What's the trick?  Well Ikoma's design calls for a very low profile clip AND for the clip to be buried in a channel.  Only the tip and a sliver of the top of the clip itself are above the surface of the handle scale.  The end result is a pocket clip with NO impact on grip.  No matter how much force I used or how long I used the NTO, I didn't develop a hot spot.  No other knife with a clip can match that.  I ground down box after box (curse you tiny recycling bin) after Christmas and had no problem.  I pounded through some crappy trim pieces in a closet I was renovating and had no problem.  Simply put, the grip is probably the best I have seen in a folding knife.  Lots of control with a middle of the spine hump and a finger choil for precision work and plenty of real estate to lean back and do some real chopping all the while without having to contend with a pocket clip.  If you want to make a work knife, a knife that will be used a ton, it has to be comfortable in the hand and the NTO has that in spades.  BRILLIANT. 

Carry: 1

The clip is great and only a bit of the knife hangs out:


It is a bit thick and quite wide (this is a tall blade) so it is something of a pocket clogger:

but the real issue is, again, the weight.  In heavy denim or canvas pants the weight is nothing, but in lighter material it is noticeable.  Again, in the role of a work knife I think this is less of an issue, but the weight plus the width does make it a slightly cumbersome pocket companion. 

Steel: 2

When people ask me what the best steel is I usually retort: what's the best medicine.  After all some wonder drug antibiotic won't help set a broken bone or do a thing for pain.  Steel, like medicine, is task dependent.  BD-1 is an inexpensive steel, something in the same class of steels as AUS8 and 440C (and frankly VG-10).  But in that class it is definitely my favorite.  It has superior edge holding to AUS8 and 440C.  Its probably equal to VG-10, but it sharpens much easier.  And in the work knife that's what you need--the ability to get a razor edge quickly.  No steel will hold up forever.  ZDP-189 might chip out or be impossible to sharpen if you cut carpet with it all day, but with BD-1 you can get an edge back quickly and get back to work (after all, you get No Time Off).  It may not have mind bending chemistry (ZDP-189 has 20% chromium and more carbon than so called high carbon steels), but it is the perfect steel for a high use knife.  

Blade Shape: 2

This is a big, wide blade with tons of real estate.  Its vaguely like a drop point, but the reality is that modern designers of Flavio Ikoma's skill, folks like Jens Anso, create blade shapes that have no real category.  Taxonomy is not as important as performance and here the blade shape works.  Its wide and that gives you a thick spine but a fine cutting edge, much like the underrated Spyderco Junior. This blade, this size with this thickness also reminds me of the ZT0350.  Its a good blade shape, whatever its called. 

Grind: 2

Along with their signing of high profile collaborators, CRKT also upped the ante with their grinds.  This knife has an immaculate and somewhat complex grind, thanks to a pronounced swedge and a funky blade shape.  Its an impressive feat to get the thick blade stock down to something as slicey as the NTO's edge and that is a great combination for a work knife--durable but still cutty.  

Deployment Method: 2

CRKT has done flippers better than anyone, especially in the lower and middle price tiers, for a long time.  The CRKT McGinnis Tuition I have is a "mere" bronze washer flipper and it is amazing. When the IKBS pivots were adopted, great got better.  The Swindle was amazing and the NTO is no different.


This might be one place where the mass of the knife is an advantage because the it helps to make the flipping action even better. This is one of the many exhibits in the argument against assisted knives.  This thing fires every time like a rocket.  Doug Flagg mentioned in his GGL interview that Kit Carson, the father of the modern flipper, helped them dial in the flipping action across their entire line and that insight, coupled with Ikoma's invention, puts them at the top of the deployment method heap, circa 2015.  Some are as good on a few knives, but no one is as consistent across the price spectrum as CRKT.

Retention Method: 2

The pocket clip itself is a really great design--compact, over the top, with great tension. Being sunk into a channel like it is, it can be a challenge to clip, sight unseen, on awkwardly cut or very thick fabric.  But even on reinforced seams (like those pictured above) I had no problem, especially if I gave it a little guidance with my fingers.


I was wary that an off centered clip would cause the knife to roll in the pocket, like the Leatherman Skeletool does, but the width of the knife and the design of the pocket clip makes that concern a hypothetical one. 

Lock: 2

The lock is very strong, stable, and easy to engage. Its the extra safety that gives me pause (though after reflection I like it).  Take a look at the photo below and notice the small jimped tab on the outside of the liner lock:


That is the Ikoma Lock Safety (ILS).  I thought about this score for a long time. Initially, like the first week or two, using it is not seamless.  You have the focus on it during the closing process and that is annoying. But around the second or third week of carrying the NTO it became second nature.  I changed my angle of approach to the liner ever so slightly, coming slightly down AND across instead of just across, and suddenly the ILS was automatically disengaged.  Since then, it has worked without a second thought--engaging and disengaging as it if wasn't there.  The other thing is that going back to other folders, my new "disengagement path" has carried over and has had zero impact on how those knives close.  

I am not sure how necessary the ILS is, but I know there is a chorus of non-knife folks that like ideas like this.  In Europe and Britain especially folding knives (and locking folders even more) are villified as dangerous and unsafety (see ridiculous campaign against knives here).  Perhaps something like the ILS will help change minds and if it does that and doesn't bother us, great.  I also feel like an extra safety mechanism is probably not a bad thing on a work knife. When a blade is do more than EDC tasks, it seems like a good idea to make it an extra bit sturdy.  

In the end I am still not convinced of the need for a lock safety, but this one is as flawless an implementation as I have seen.  With only the most minor of adjustments to how I close the knife, the ILS became 100% unnoticeable and that is the ideal mode of operation for one of these mechanisms.

Overall Score: 18 out of 20 

The No Time Off is a well made knife with quite a few innovative touches, from the wonderful recessed pocket clip to the ILS mechanism.  As a more rough and tumble blade, as something that does lots of work, it is superbly designed.  Its a bit chubby for EDC, in my opinion, but I know lots of folks that EDC 6 ounce blades.  If you are one of them, the NTO definitely worth a look.  The flipping action alone merits inspection. 

I know lots of folks will rail against an $80 or so work knife, but in my experience folks that depend on their tools for their paycheck buy good stuff. I get most of my Festool stuff at a real contractor-only store (and yes, I am THAT guy--the weekend warrior with expensive tastes...) that place proves me that  tool guys are willing to spend.  The NTO would make a great job site companion and if you can tolerate the heft a good EDC.  

If your curious, here is a light&saber pairing I think would work very well as a job site EDC:



  1. That recessed pocket clip is so brilliant and simple that I'm shocked I can't think of another knife that has done that. I really like the path crkt is on right now. Improved f&f, better, simpler designs, moving into the mid-range in terms of price... I suspect I'll be buying a couple of their knives in the next year or two.

    Nice review!

    1. One more thing - I hope crkt shrinks that thing down and makes an awesome edc. A "no time off Jr" with a thinner blade, a lighter handle material, milled liners (I'm assuming the liners on this beast are solid if it weighs that much), no safety, the same blade shape, and the same pocket clip design is something I would be very interested in.

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  3. I'd be worried about having a work knife that relies on itsy bitsy bearings for it's deployment method.

    1. that's my thought too. IKBS doesn't run in a built-in race like KVT does, i wonder if you put some torsional load on this thing (prying like you're not supposed to) if some of them will go missing.

    2. I've taken apart some IKBS knives, and while the bearings are "uncaged," they're still in a race. If they're popping out, it means the frame has been bent severely out of shape... and that sort of torsional load will probably break the blade first.

  4. A really cool first look. It looks like it has a jimped forward choil like a lot of Spydercos, but actually a true choil for sharpening, which I wish more knives featured.

    As a pure "work knife," I'd say that the Native5 LW would still probably trump this, at about the same price point, better steel, and about half the weight. The No Time Off offers some niceties, especially the flipper, which you could do without for a work knife. The Manix2 LW in BD-1 also offers some stiff competition. That said, both of those blades are primarily slicers, and if you need something that can really get thumped on, this might be the answer... and having a flipper, while perhaps unnecessary, is hardly a disadvantage.