Knife Review: CRKT / Ken Onion Hootenanny

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The CRKT Hootenanny is a nice blend of a game knife and an EDC folder.

When I first caught a glimpse of the Ken Onion designed CRKT Hootenanny, I knew it was one that I wanted to get my hands on. First and foremost, Ken designed it to be a folding fish and bird knife. It is also a flipper, albeit unassisted, which I have been developing a fondness for. And finally, I was looking forward to trying out another folder as I have been reviewing mostly fixed blades of late.

It had been the better part of a year since I had reviewed the CRKT Halfachance (also a Ken Onion), and it seemed like a good time to try to get another CRKT product in the queue. I called up my contacts in Oregon and soon a Hootenanny arrived, gratis, at my door.

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The Hoot features an IKBS bearing and a drop point, high-hollow ground 8Cr13MoV blade.

Construction:

The Hootenanny is a medium duty, framelock, unassisted flipper. The foundation for the knife is the IKBS bearing, which after a short break-in period achieves a buttery smoothness. If my Leek opens with a satisfying “Snick!”, the larger Hootenanny opens with an audible “Snack!”

The knife has very good lateral stability. I can flex it sideways at the pivot, but it requires more effort than it takes for most folders. Front to back stability is excellent, with no deflection or wiggle noticeable either upon examination or use.

The handle scales are glass-reinforced nylon, with 2Cr13 liners. The “scale” pattern of the scales is aesthetic more than a grip checkering, with most of the Hoot’s grip coming from its hand-hugging serpentine shape and generous jimping.

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The jimping on the spine is meant for a choked up grip.

There is jimping in the traditional location above the pivot, but there is also additional jimping on the spine of the blade. This is about an inch back from the tip, allowing for choked up control. It is a feature I first noticed on the Benchmade Steep Country, and I have come to appreciate it when gutting slimy trout.

The flipper tab is also jimped, and when the knife opens forms a very large choil. In fact, it is one of the few choils large enough for me to confidently place my finger upon it in use.

The blade itself is 8Cr13MoV, which seems to be the go-to steel for all quality Chinese imports. It is the staple for most CRKT knives, and has always performed reliably for me.

While the blade can undoubtedly be referred to as a drop point, that really oversimplifies the unique shape to this knife. While Ken Onion denied it when I asked him at Blade, I see the influence of a Canadian Belt Knife in the Hootenanny. There is a serpentine sweep to the whole knife, with a large belly and upswept edge. Ken writes it off to “If you are going to make an all around skinning and game blade, this is the shape you would want” (paraphrased). Let me know what you think in the Comments.

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While Ken Onion denies it, I see a bit of Canadian Belt Knife DNA in the Hootenanny.

The drop point converges to an aesthetically pleasing point and the whole thing feels balanced in the hand.

There is an extremely high and hollow grind to the blade.  This makes it a delight to slice with, especially in food-prep tasks. I was concerned that the relative thinness of the blade cheeks (the spine is a robust .13″ thick and is therefor not a concern) would make it weak if pressed into emergency firewood prep (more on that later) but the knife stood up fine to light batoning.

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The pocket clip is irritating when your hand brushes against it.

My biggest knock on the Hoot’s construction is the pocket clip. It is very small for the overall size of the knife. It does a good enough job at holding the knife in place in my pocket, but the tip comes to a narrow enough point that it hurts your hand if you brush or press against it.

It notably is not a problem when using the knife. Its small size gets lost in my medium sized palm.

I might not have said anything, but the person speaking with Ken before me actually brought it up, to which Ken responded that CRKT designers put that particular finishing touch on the knife.

I do like how the clip’s curve matches the sweep of the handle however.

Ergonomics:

In a word, great. The serpentine sweep of the handle meshes quite well with my hand, and the knife is consequently very comfortable to hold and use.   The balance point sits between the flipper/choil and the “sub-hilt-ish” bump on the handle.

The jimping seems to hit the right places for my fingers and the flipper tab is naturally easy to find. Other than the pocket clips pointiness, it is a very comfortable knife.

Testing:

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It will slice.

TTAK Protocol:

The Hoot comes very sharp from CRKT, but before the tests I touched it up with my Spyderco Sharpmaker. It was a snap putting a paper slicing and arm shaving edge on the knife.

The cardboard test was a joy. The hollow grind offered little friction against the corrugated, and the knife zipped through slice after slice. I continued the test through 200 linear-feet of cross sliced corrugated, before both my cardboard supply and hand gave out.

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No longer razor-sharp, but more than acceptable after 200 linear feet.

Various ropes parted with the expected amount of work. Not many plain-edged blades excell at rope cutting, but the Hoot performed acceptably.

Culinary:

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The hoot will peel the skin from a pineapple with almost Zen like ease.

As I have mentioned, the Hootenanny’s high and hollow grind give the knife wonderful culinary manners.

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If a recipe ever calls for julienned pineapple skin, the Hoot has you covered.

I used the Hootenanny on a wide variety of meat and produce. Some of the highlights include slicing ribs and processing a pineapple. In general I did less organized culinary testing on the Hoot than I sometimes do, instead simply using for everything I could in the course of using it as a primary EDC. Consequently, I have fewer pictures than I have in reviews past. Or maybe I lost a bunch. I’m not sure. Moving onto the fish…

Wild trout:

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The belly of the knife effortlessly parted the belly of the fish

The Hoot is meant to be a fish and game knife. It does a good job. Fins and head sliced off clean, the knife remained safely held despite a coating of slime, and the sharp edge laid the trout open with lightening efficiency.

The Hoot in its natural habitat

 

Batoning/Bushcraft:

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The Hoot makes a mean fuzz stick

While I absolutely believe that batoning with fixed blades is entirely appropriate, I concede that for folders it might constitute abuse. It is here where I go back to the Hootenanny’s purported role.

From CRKT:

“Ken Onion’s latest design gives you the best of both worlds in an everyday carry knife. A classy folder with an IKBS™ ball bearing pivot system and oversized pivot, it performs well on everyday carry city streets. A drop point blade works hard on duck and catfish. In between, it cleans up well…

…If you’re looking for a knife that gives you the best of both worlds in hunting and everyday carry tasks, the Hootenanny™ is the one to grab.”

If I am going to carry this knife when I am fishing, especially if it is my primary blade, it needs to be able to handle being pressed into emergency use. To that end, I put the Hoot through the preparation of wood and scraping a ferro-rod to build a small fire.

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I kept my batoning stock on the lighter side.

Before beginning the test, I decided to only use wood that was small enough to be broken over my knee. No batonning saplings this time. Even with smaller wood, I was concerned that the thin, hollow portion of the blade might become damaged.

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Kindling prep went well enough, shoulda made more tinder.

I also worried about the framelock. That was the failure point when I damaged my Leek. I definitely did not subject the Hootenanny to the same level of batoning, but I feel comfortable enough with the notion that should I need to I could prep enough wood to start a fire.

As it turns out, it was a lack of tinder prep that proved to be my undoing fire-wise. The Hoot did a great job making the fuzz stick, I just was cocky and should have taken the time to make several. You can never have too much small stuff when making a fire, and the Hootenanny excelled at shaving wood, so it was impatience on my part that led me to need 3 cotton balls to get it started. Unfortunately, the waterproof, hollow handle of my ferro-rod only holds 1.

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Note to self, SLOOOWWW DOOOWWWNNN….

In fairness, had this been an actual emergency, I would not have been trying to get my fire started with a deadline to pick my son up from Pre-K. This does remind me to slow down though. I have gotten spoiled with Orvis Fatwood, newspaper, and a wood stove.

EDC Observations:

Overall, this knife logged about 30 days of EDC use. It does not carry well in nylon/quick-dry type shorts. It is a bit heavy and the clip does not hold well on thin, slippery fabric. Not a good combination. My typical Mountain Khaki canvas shorts do an excellent job holding up the Hoot.

The smoother scales are also pocket friendly. I understand knives will wear out a pocket seam, I just don’t like it when it is a cheese-shredder.

Conclusion:

I like the Hootenanny. It is a solid knife. It met every challenge I put in front of it, both EDC and Testing and came out performing great.

I have been struggling with how to say this, and I hope you bear with me. I have no problem recommending the Hootenanny to anyone. That being said, I don’t know to whom exactly I would recommend it.

The Hoot fills an odd niche. It isn’t that a folding knife makes a bad game knife, in my opinion, a Buck 110 is the singular best tool in existence to breast-out a dove. While I have never dressed a deer with one, plenty of people have and do. Just look on YouTube. It would be an interesting exercise to do a shoot-out between the Buck and the Hoot on some larger game.  I just don’t have a groundhog to shoot at the moment.

When I am guiding or hunting I personally prefer a fixed blade. The only situation I have experienced in my life where I think that the Hoot would be a close to perfect knife is the summer I worked at Blackberry Farm as a guide. I didn’t need a heavy-duty knife. Most of the fishing was on a 2 mile section of stocked, private stream. There were plenty of EDC tasks that one would face, plus the vocation-specific task of dressing-out the occasional fish to send up to the kitchen.  If I wanted one knife to carry to and from “The Farm”, use all day at a job that did hits the knife’s sweet spot, the Hoot would be great. It is just a very specific niche.

For anyone else, if you like the look of the knife, have a chance to feel one in your hand, and think you might like to own one, I can’t imagine you will be disappointed with it. I think the $69 MSRP is fair, though it isn’t going to make my top 10 dollar-for-dollar list. However, if you can ever pick it up on sale in the mid-$40’s I would consider it a steal.


Price: $69.99 MSRP

Origin: China

Ratings (out of five stars):

Styling: * * *

I like the shape, but the look is a little conflicted between futuristic and traditional.

Blade: * * * *

Takes a great edge and preforms well.

Ergonomics: * * * *

Fits my medium sized hand well, Intuitive jimping placement.

Ruggedness/Durability * * * .5

Framelocks and hollow grinds just aren’t features of overly robust knives. Perfectly suitable for moderate use.

Overall Rating: * * *  .75

Bottom line is it is a good knife. If you like it, you will like it.

 

comments

  1. sean says:

    great review, i’ve been looking at the hootenanny for a while now. Sounds like it is a pretty robust knife for the price.

  2. Sounds like it would be a good option for folks that use their EDC for a lot of food prep too, whether at home or at camp 🙂

  3. stuartb says:

    “One, two! One, two! And through and through      
    The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!”
    The Jabbawock – Lewis Carroll

    1. He left it dead, and with its head, he went galloomphing back.

  4. Bolt says:

    Enough with all this jimping. It’s getting out of hand.

    1. Sam L. says:

      Are you saying it’s jimped the shark?

        1. Sam L. says:

          My resistance meter read -30; could NOT stop myself.

  5. Jon M. says:

    Picked a used one up for cheap on a random IG sale, I agree with much of the review except I’ll go a step further and say I strongly dislike the clip – not quite hate, but close. Custom deep carry clips have absolutely ruined me, but aside from that picky preference, the upswept tip of the clip jabs the hell out of your hand alright and bangs into keys (or in my case) my pocket-carried LCP. Also it is small and can be difficult clipping onto thick cloth.

    If you set that aside, however, I would recommend it as terrific all-around EDC knife for the budget despite it’s attempts to specifically impersonate a bird and trout knife. I’ve never had a knife with a hollow grind before and lordy it just cuts and cuts and cuts with ease, gliding through cardboard and veg and other daily tasks, which is in all honesty is what most people need a pocket knife for. Goes to show you what a good grind with average steel can do!

    Great review, been knocking it out of the park lately in the short moments I get to browse TTAK.

    1. It is obviously subjective as to the degree of dislike for the clip but I am glad that is now a second person who confirms my impression of the clip

      1. Jon M. says:

        Yeah, everyone else I’ve shown it to just kept commenting on the ergos and aesthetics and never said anything about the clip. I too wondered the same thing, like ” Is my singular preference the outlier here?” hah.

      2. Sam L. says:

        Haven’t ever held one, but I’d guess a little work with a diamond file would round it right off.

  6. Grindstone says:

    Hm, my dad is looking for a good EDC but also wants something for gardening, outdoor, and hunting. I think this might fit the bill for a Christmas present.

  7. How did you find cleaning the knife (what with the IKBS pivot and all..) always been curious about that. Not sure if I would be as brave to cut apart a pineapple with it..or even gut a fish, all I can see is dozens of these tiny bearings flying everywhere the moment I disassemble it!

  8. Patrick Dorn says:

    After reading all the reviews I picked up onw for my son to use for fishing purposes and cutting lines etc. I removed the clip with a torx screw driver after my son agreed the clip was only semi purposefull and would just as easily slip in his pocket without need for clip.

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Knife Review: CRKT / Ken Onion Hootenanny

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