Knife Review: CRKT Tuition

CRKT Tuition

Image: Chris Dumm

Columbia River Knife and Tool’s ‘Tuition’ flipper is one of the first knives from young designer Gerry McGinnis. He’s the youngest designer CRKT has ever worked with (he’s still in college) and the Tuition’s name gives you a hint where he spent his contract money.

A Sheepsfoot blade may not fit your needs, but McGinnis’ freshman effort is in every respect a comfortable and well-executed knife as well as a great value.

Overview/Construction

In dry technical terms, the U.S.-made Tuition is a folding liner-lock pocketknife with a modified Sheepsfoot blade, flipper opening, and hand-figured Micarta scales. It weighs 3.4 ounces, and has a removable, right side, tip-down pocket clip.

Tuition_Blade

The Tuition’s 2.88″ blade is made from a thick .12″ slab of 8Cr14MoV with a slightly modified Sheepsfoot profile. The beveled tip, slight belly, and thumb jimping distinguish it from your grandfather’s Sheepsfoot, but it works pretty much the same way when you’re cutting things.

Tuition_long

The stainless-steel liners are treated in a very attractive multi-colored Titanium coating, which sets off well against the dark green and black of the laminated Micarta scales.

The blade tightness is adjusted with a small Allen screw. The blade was a little wobbly from the box, but the flipper worked very smoothly. I had to torque it down about 1/8 turn to eliminate the wobble; this made the blade difficult to open, but a drop of extra-fine gun oil soon had it flipping smoothly again.

Ergonomics

Tuition_Hand

The Tuition is more than 1/2″ thick; this is a bit chunky for an EDC but its rounded corners make it more comfortable than you’d expect. The swell of the Micarta scales gives it a firm, comfortable feel in your hand, and the deep choil and finger guard means you’ll never lose your grip and find yourself holding the naked blade.

Tution_3finger

This comfort and control comes despite the fact that you’ll only be able to fit three average-sized fingers on the short-ish grip. The grip may be stubby, but it’s comfortable.

Opening with the flipper is quick and easy, but I occasionally wished that Gerry McGinnis had added some opening studs on the blade as well. There’s plenty of room for them when the blade is folded into the deep finger choil, and sometimes (depending on your grip) a thumb stud is just easier to use than a flipper. If I had any skill with tools I’d drill and tap the blade and add them myself, but that’s just me. And I don’t have any skill with tools.

The blade is easy to get started opening, but don’t go soft on the flipper lever when you open the Tuition. The heavy blade requires a solid flick to throw it open, and there are no thumb studs to fall back on if you don’t put enough muscle into the flipper.

I usually like tip-up pocket clips, but the Tuition’s large flipper and easy-opening blade would probably open itself if you wore it tip-up.

Blade Testing

I evaluated the Tuition’s sharpness, cutting ability and edge retention using the three-part test suggested by our resident knife maker, Will Woods.

Unsupported Newsprint:
The Tuition ‘s thick, sturdy blade didn’t excel at shaving through the pages of my local Sports section. The knife was reasonably sharp out of the box, but couldn’t cut the newsprint cleanly.

I dulled the blade in the cardboard test, and I touched it up with my Smith’s diamond steel/ceramic sharpener. (I was careful not to re-profile the edge.) After a quick leather stropping, the touched-up edge did much better on the newsprint. It could slice the newsprint edge much of the time, but not as reliably as the sharper Kershaw Skyline.

Grade: B

Rope Cutting:
As before, I laid 3/4″ manila rope on a wooden cutting board and cut through it with a variety of strokes.  No matter how hard I pushed, pulled or chopped, I couldn’t cut through the rope in a single stroke.

Non-serrated blades are rarely great at cutting through rope, and the Tuition’s lack of any kind of belly made it even less great. Clean cuts of any kind were difficult to achieve, and I really had to saw through the 3/4″ manila. It was exhausting.

Grade: C.

(Note: The Tuition is also available with CRKT’s nifty ‘Veff’ serrations, and the half-serrated Tuition would likely have kicked some serious ass in this test.)

Cardboard Boxes:
The Tuition’s thick blade doesn’t cut cardboard terribly easily, but it cuts it cleanly. And it keeps on cutting basically forever without any blade damage. As with other knife tests, I pulled the blade (across the grain) through 20″ strips of corrugated box cardboard until it became noticeably duller and began to tear the cardboard instead of cut it.

The blade felt slightly less sharp after the first 40 linear feet. Although it kept cutting cleanly, it required even more cutting effort than before. My slicing hand didn’t mind too much (because the grips are so comfortable) but my cardboard-holding hand was cramping pretty badly by the time I eventually called it quits.

How long did the Tuition cut cardboard before I gave up? 73 linear feet, before it even started to tear. This is substantially longer than our previous record-holder, the excellent Kershaw Skyline. Even after 73 feet, the Tuition’s blade was only tearing the cardboard a little but, but slicing was taking an awful lot of effort. When I finally said no mas, the cutting friction had made the blade too hot to touch but there was no visible blade damage. It wasn’t turned, notched or rolled; it was just a little dull.

Grade: B+ (A for durability, B- for effort)

Favorite Features

Tuition_scales

My favorite feature is the comfort of the Micarta handle.Although it’s only three fingers long, it gives a firm and very comfortable grip for extended use. They also look absolutely awesome, and they don’t get impossibly slippery when wet.

I also appreciate the Tuition’s solid lockup and good fit and finish.

Least-Favorite Features

I’m just not a Sheepsfoot kind of guy. The Tuition’s blade is fine for many cutting tasks, but the blunt tip doesn’t pierce well and the lack of a belly takes away some of its versatility. It’s purely a matter of personal preference, but if I had a grinder I’d move the edge back at the tip and give it a drop point.

I really wish I’d tested the serrated version, and it would be nice if the pocket clip were reversible for left-side carry.

RATINGS (Out Of Five Stars)

Styling: ****
A very attractive, organic-looking knife. The only flat notes are the dull-finished Allen screws and the black plastic liner spacer.

Blade: ***
It’s reasonably sharp, nearly unbreakable, and holds a half-decent edge basically forever. It’s also easy to sharpen. On the negative side, it pierces poorly and it’s not very good on fibrous cutting tasks like rope. Add half a star for the partially-serrated version.

Ergonomics: ****

Easy opening with a comfortable grip. However, the clip only works for right side tip-down carry.

Ruggedness/Durability *****

One of the strongest folders I’ve seen. You’ll never worry about breaking the blade, even at its tip.

Overall Rating: ***1/2
A very rugged and comfortable knife, but a Sheepsfoot isn’t the best all-purpose blade shape. The serrated version would get four stars for its improved cutting performance. It’s a hell of a deal for less than $30.

BONUS VIDEO

Here’s Gerry McGinnis himself, introducing several of his knives. I think we’ll see a lot more from him in the future.

comments

  1. Aharon says:

    Good work and best wishes to the young knife designer.

    The only knife tightening I would be ok doing is to the handles that attach to the hidden tang with screws that some knives come with. I am not comfortable with a blade that might become loose. I prefer fixed full-tang blades. I’m ok with pocket knives such as the Leatherman multi-tools and Swiss Army knives for really basic quick work. However, sharp edged flip-outs and folding knives with their often smallish grips just don’t do it for me.

    1. Derek says:

      You just need a larger folder. Larger blade means larger grip. Anything under 3.5 in blade feels funny in my hands. Check out the Benchmade Onslaught (It’s a lil pricey but I love it) or something similar.

      http://www.bladehq.com/item–Benchmade-Onslaught–4724

  2. jwm says:

    The sheeps foot blade isn’t multi purpose enough for edc. The old timers that had the most influence on my youth usually carried pocket knives from buck or schrade or boker etc. and most of these were 3 bladed knives. A sabre point, a drop point and a sheeps foot. Most of those old timers could disassemble a deer with just the pocket knife and either a small saw or hatchet.

    You could do it with just the knife, but why work harder than you had too?

    1. Colby says:

      Knife is all I use to disassemble a deer. It’s lots easier than using a saw or hatchet to spit the rib cage and pelvis and saves you from having to carry extra tools. There is no need to split the pelvis. Just make sure you bung-hole the animal really well and detach all the entrails from the pelvic cavity from the rear and it will all come out with the rest of the guts. As for the ribs, instead of trying to split right down the middle of the sternum with a saw, you can just run your blade to the side of the sternum through the cartilidge between the ribs and the sternumm, which is much softer. So no saw needed. Doing that you can easily clean a deer with a small clip point blade like on an Eye Brand Trapper. I have done the same with an elk using a Buck 112, but when it came to bung-holing I would have preferred to have had the extra blade lenght on the buck 110. A blade like on a Buck 112 is really ideal for deer, with Delicas and Mini Griptillians being very servicable in my experience. But when it comes to elk a Buck 110 or larger is optimal. Clip-points and other strong but precise points are ideal for making the circular turns required around the back of the pelvic cavity.

  3. Colby says:

    On Sheep’s Foot Blades: For certain tasks the sheep’s foot is the only blade shape I will us. For example, a sheep’s foot blade is all I’ll use when castrating calves at roundup time. If the man holding the heel should slip while you are in the middle of the job, you may suddenly find yourself in the middle of a large kicking animal while holding a blade in close proximity to your other hand, the animal, or other extremities. A sheep’s foot blade significantly reduces my risk of accidentally stabbing myself or the calf in those situations. Sure I may get a cut, but that is a lot better than running the blade through my other hand completely. I also only use the sheep’s foot blade when I’m mounted on a horse to reduce the risk of poking myself if the horse moves or if I get bucked off. Usually though that means I am using a multi blade knife though since the sheep’s foot blade is less useful than a clip-point blade for many tasks when I’m not near a large animal. As such, a large deticated edc knife with a sheep’s foot blade is not something I’d buy into since the sheep’s foot profile is only of secondary utility to me in most situations. Instead, I usually have a small multi-blade knife deep inside a pocket such as an Eye Brand Trapper, accompanied by something like a Spyderco Delica clipped inside my pocket for quick access if I need cut a rope in a hurry or something. The sheep’s foot profile then is a very useful blade in many situations, and I usually have one on me, but if I was only ever to carry one blade on me, it lacks the versatility to be my pick. So taking up that much space on the rim of my pocket to carry a sheep’s foot blade as an edc is out alltogether.

    1. Pat says:

      A stockman and a one hand opening blade with pocket clip are a great one two punch.

  4. Steve in MA says:

    Bought this one the other day online. It got here yesterday. this knife is freakin’ gorgeous.

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Knife Review: CRKT Tuition

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