None of the major production companies has been more addicted to gimmicks than CRKT. If you have a knife design that opens weirdly, looks strange, or, I don’t know, sharpens itself, they are the company to talk to. But since they signed Ken Onion and generally made a shift in the marketplace to higher end designs, the days of the Edgie and Edgie 2 (the aforementioned self sharpening folder) are gone. There are still a few pure gimmick knives left in their line up, but the ones that are there, like the Halligan KISS and Van Hoy Snap Lock, are really interesting production versions of custom strangeness.
A year and a half ago, when they first showed their Field Strip technology, I didn’t know exactly how to process it. Was it Edgie-level silliness or was it something more akin to the Ed Van Hoy Snap Lock? The answer it turns out is neither.
Over the years I have developed a three-part test for evaluating products with a gimmick. In order to pass the test, the product must get a yes to each of the three parts. First, and perhaps most importantly, would I use this product without the gimmick? Second, does the gimmick do what it was intended to do? And third, does the gimmick make the product better? This three-part test is hard to pass for a good reason: most good knives out there don’t rely on gimmicks—they are great because of good solid design, excellent fit and finish, and superior materials. So if a given product want to run with the big dogs, great knife designs like the Mini Grip or the Dragonfly II, it has to not only make sure the gimmick isn’t a negative, but that it is actually adding value.
Very few gimmick products ever pass this test. For example, pretty much all zoomie flashlights fail because that gimmick, compared to a well-designed reflector, is a huge waste of money and introduces a new way for a light to break. This is why I have yet to review a zoomie.
So the compound question for this review is whether the Homefront EDC with its Field Strip technology passes this rigorous test and how well does it score as a result of that pass or failure?
Here is the product page. There are a few variants--the original aluminum scaled Homefront, a hunting blade version, a tanto version, and this version. Additionally there are other knives in the CRKT 2018 line up with Field Strip. It costs around $45 street. Here is a written review. Here is a video review. Here is a link where you can buy the CRKT Homefront EDC:
And here is the review sample:
Here are a series of videos of me showing how good the Field Strip tech really is (bear with me I was switching video set ups and some of the video is a bit grimace-inducing):
Twitter Review Summary: A rarity in the knife world—a knife with a gimmick that is worthwhile.
The sandbox test shown in the videos above proves, at least to me, that Field Strip actually works. Its not just Anakin that hates sand—knives do too. I have had more than one folder fall to the evils of sand exposure. In the end, the moving parts and tight tolerances of most knives cannot handle a full submersion in sand. Even taking apart a few knives, in my case a Spyderco Delica, did not completely alleviate the problem. Here, for the first time ever, I was able to get a knife back to original functioning after full sand submersion. There is a bit of grit behind the lock bar, so that it crunches when I close the knife, but beyond that you’d never know that this knife was tortured by Anakin’s archnemesis. So taking things out of order for purposes of suspense building, the Homefront EDC passes part two of the gimmick test—the gimmick does what it is intended to do. And for the record, it does it quite well.
As for part one and three, those are easy to answer.
Assume that the knife didn’t have Field Strip, would I use it? Probably. It is a bit bigger than I like and it has a recurve blade, which I will get to in a second, but aside from that, it is thin, carries well, flips well, and has a drop point. There is not much to dislike here. I think the GI Joe/Captain America aesthetic is okay, not too much, but in terms of design that would be my only ding and it is certainly not worth a point. I imagine a lot of people like that look. So, yes, the Homefront EDC is a knife I would use even if it didn’t have the gimmick.
The last question in the test, whether the gimmick adds value, is more difficult to answer. Its hard for me to know what you will do with a knife like this. I can say that I have used the Homefront EDC at times when I would not carry a normal folder.
For example, there is a glacial moraine near out house. Its tucked behind some trees and generally hidden because all of the sand for winter is taken from here and the place, sometimes, is filled with big machines. But during the summer, it is a huge abandoned space, an old quarry. This is a great place for a kid to imagine all sorts of things and so I go back there with my two sons. We have even sand sledded down some of the larger and steeper dunes (too steep in fact...we had more than one crash). Most of dunes are the result of quarrying for road sand, but they are all shaped by a scouring wind that comes through the place. As a result, before the Homefront, I would carry my Jarosz JFS when adventuring there with my buddies. Now, because of Field Strip, I carry the Homefront. I am not all that worried if it falls into a dune or gets pummeled by a sandblast of wind after cutting up lunch (up off the floor of the moraine is a great space for a PKL, by the way).
So for me, having an essentially gunk-proof folder, while not a huge plus, is a value added. If you have need for such a thing, the Field Strip is basically a requirement unless you want to drop $550 on a MUDD knife. I am just not sure how many people NEED a gunk-proof folder. Still, even my mudane Dad-life adventures, I found that the Homefront’s Field Strip tech made the knife better than it would have been without it.
Given all of this, the Homefront EDC passes the gimmick test. The Field Strip tech itself, is very easy to use. Point of proof you can disassemble your knife one handed. I found the ring-style flipper tab to be excellent, and the big bawdy blade shape was just right (but for the slight recurve). This is a good knife on paper, made better by the inclusion of Field Strip. Ironically, CRKT introduced a knife that is basically the Homefront EDC without Field Strip in the form of the Prowess (very similar size and shape, with a similar blade, and a flipper with a liner lock). I think this confirmation that the bones of the Homefront are good.
The performance ratios are okay. The blade:handle is .75, right around the middle of the pack. The blade:weight .82, which is also middle of the pack (or maybe a smidge below). Nothing terrible and nothing great.
Fit and Finish: 2
My friend Nick has been pretty adamant, and rightfully so, that CRKT’s fit and finish needs to be improved. I went through four versions of the Batum (two at the store and two after purchase) before basically throwing in the towel and conceding that the Small Batum had inherent problems with its lock. Some of the grinds are silly—stopping before the edge ends. So it was with skepticism that I approached the Homefront. Fortunately, in order to pull off the Field Strip trick, things have to be really squared away with the tolerances and my review sample of the Homefront was impeccably built. Even after the sand burial, it remained, dead centered, and an easy flipper. CRKT CAN do good fit and finish, which makes it all the more frustrating when they don’t.
This is a big wide knife in the hand, but it is thin, and with the FRN material, it is quite pleasing to the touch. The pocket clip stays out of the way, and the demarcated index notch is good. I like this knife in the hand. Even the Field Strip gear in the backspacer stays out of the way.
In the same way that carry is great because of a thin profile, carry is equally good for the same reason. Production companies should take note—if you have to make big folders, they need to be thin, otherwise they are just a mess in the pocket. I would also note that the ring flipper tab is quite nice, not what Shabazz would call a pocket pecker at all.
If CRKT doesn’t want to invest in the machines and time necessary to get consistently great fit and finish, they absolutely should invest in better steel. LA Police Gear released a knife with S35VN steel for $35. There is absolutely no excuse in 2017-2018 for a company like CRKT to be using steel like 1.4116, which is the steel found on Victorinox Swiss Army Knives. The idea that it is a field serviceable steel is true, but in that case, I’d rather have the harder 1095, which is also field serviceable (probably more so). But I could also see a case for D2–a good hard use steel to match the hard use capabilities of a gunk-proof knife. I give the knife a 0 here for two independent reasons—first, the par for the market has radically changed in the last year; second, even if the TBFK wasn’t released, this soft steel is not the best budget steel for the role the knife is designed to play. The steel isn’t terrible in a vacuum, but it is way worse than it should be.
CRKT please use better steel or at least choose the right budget steel.
As a side note, it is weird that the Chinese brands have sort of lapped their US designers. The only companies using 8Cr or less (or steel like 1.4116) are US companies using Chinese OEMs (and a few dredge silt garbage brands like Z-Hunter from Amazon or Ali Express). The Chinese themselves are using great US steel. Its a truly bizarre situation with high end famous brands using Chinese junk and Chinese brands using high end US steel. What a weird world we live in.
Blade Shape: 2
I am not pleased with the recurve here. I debated dropping a point, but in the end I didn’t because it is ever so slight. You can still do an okay job sharpening on crock sticks or the Sharpmaker. The Worksharp’s belts can flex into the curve. It strops okay too. So performance-wise it is not a problem, but theoretically is bothers me a lot. There is NO REASON for the recurve here. On a Karambit or other purpose-driven knife, I get it. Here, it makes no sense to me. It invites difficulty for no reason.
There is a solution to the aggressive cutting angle a recurve provides without the sharpening difficulty or serrations. Custom maker Charles Gedraitis does this pretty regularly—he makes the knife wider, ever so slightly at the belly than at the ricasso. The end result is a knife with an aggressive angle approach to the material, without the challenge of a recurve during maintenance. It is a subtle thing, but when you place a Gedratis against a straight edge you can see it and when you use one of his knives, you can notice the difference. I am sure there are others that do this in both the production and custom world, but his knives were the ones where I first noticed this small, but important touch.
CRKT, if you are going to give a knife a sharpening choil, then please sharpen the knife all the way to the end of the edge. This 1/8’ unsharpened portion is wasteful and it can impact performance. After years of using a combo edge Delica (these were my formative knife use years, not something recently), I have developed a habit if doing pull cuts next to the pivot, using the handle edge to wedge material into this inner portion of the blade. Not sharpening the entire edge makes it difficult to do this. Grrrr...if its an edge and its on a knife, I want it sharp.
Deployment Method: 2
I love the ring flipper tab. Its good on the finger and peaceful in the pocket. CRKT has long dialed in their detents on flippers, having produced a flipper longer than most, if not all production companies (the M16). The Homefront EDC is no different. This knife just snaps open. And that’s AFTER the burial in the sandbox desert. It runs on teflon washers, but they work great, so I am not going to complain. I am not sure a bearing pivot would be a good idea for an easy to disassemble knife.
Retention Method: 2
This is a simple, low profile, deep carry over the top pocket clip, as good as the best clips on the market. Not many people mention this in reviews of the Homefront, but it is unmistakeably great. It also seems odd that some clips just don’t work at all when simple, easy to design clips like this and the Spyderco wire clip work incredibly well.
After the sand burial there is audible grit in the lock bar, but it has zero impact on function and is only noticeable if you are really listening. I found engagement solid and disengagement easy. The lock is just great here.
Overall Score: 17 out of 20
Field Strip is a worthwhile gimmick. There are new knives coming in 2018 that run it and if I was given the choice between a design like the Batum with and without Field Strip, I’d probably take the Field Strip version every time. It is a difference maker and makes a knife better (assuming that it is always as well implemented as it is here).
The Homefront EDC is a very comptent big knife and its ability to shake off gunk is quite nice. If you want a folder that you can do filthy things with, this is it, assuming you don’t want to drop $550 on a MUDD knife.
CRKT should be congratulated here. It takes risks all of the time and the risks sometimes pay off big. The KISS seems to have done okay (historical understatement). The Snap Lock is a beloved weirdo. And the Field Strip is a difference maker for folders. When you regularly roll the dice, sometimes you get the Edgie, but every once in a while you score big and get Field Strip. This is the kind of innovation that makes the knife world fascinating.
One thing that I wonder is whether Field Strip could allow for a subscription service model for CRKT. Imagine if you could pay $200 and once every two months CRKT would drop a new blade with new steel or a different blade shape on you, or maybe they could offer handle scales in different materials. I don’t know if this is technically feasible, but it would be an interesting way to expand the Field Strip platform that engages consumers.
MUDD knife, razor blade holders and that is it. There is not much competition for knives with Field Strip. That is a size of just out innovative the feature is. I assume there are few people that can afford a $550 beater. Maybe they are the same people driving their new Lamborghini Uruses through snow banks and sand dunes. For the rest of us, this is the go-to folder for gunk work.