Knife Review

Review: CRKT Homefront by Ken Onion

The big news on the CRKT Homefront is a tool-less method for taking the knife apart, called Fieldstrip. With a few deft motions, the knife can be broken down into three parts for cleaning and put back together with ease.  What I want to know; is this just a gimmick, or does it actually hold up after months of everyday use?

Before we get to the meat of the review, a little background is in order.

This particular knife came to us by way of the folks at Work Sharp rather than directly from CRKT. When they sent our man Jake Middleton their new Combo Knife Sharpener to review, they also threw in a bunch of goodies, including the Homefront. Jake offered me the knife and I gladly accepted. I’ve been jonesing to thrash this new release ever since handling one at BLADE Show this past summer.

A hearty thank you to the Work Sharp folks for the knife. Not only was the Homefront a more expensive item than the sharpener itself, but they were also hard to come by at the time. Well played guys, well played.

Unfortunately (cue the sad face), both Jake and I were having issues with the knife. Neither of us could get the unit back together after taking it apart.

I had disassembled and reassembled the one at BLADE a few times, so I knew the operation is fairly simple. Eventually I tracked down the culprit of our troubles. The pivot post itself was a little too long and was preventing us from flipping the lever back to the locked position due to things not lining up. I could get it back together if I jimmied things around, but the pivot was fairly loose and not particularly stable once I did. (More on the actual disassembly in the review below)

This turned out to be a great test of CRKT’s warranty department. Up to this point, neither Jake nor I had reached out to our contacts at CRKT. Rather, I simply downloaded their warranty form, filled it out, and mailed the Homefront out on a Monday morning with a description of the problem.

The knife made it to Tualatin, Oregon on Wednesday afternoon. I expected to hear from them within a couple of days, but before I knew it, there was a box on my doorstep the very next Friday containing the repaired knife, which now came apart and went back together with no issues whatsoever.

What follows is a review of the knife in that state.

Detailed Specs

Manufacturer: CRKT
Designer: Ken Onion
Blade: Recurve Drop Point, Satin Finish AUS-8 Steel, hollow grind with swedge and fuller
Rockwell Hardness: 57-58 HRC
Scales: Anodized 6061 Aluminum
Pivot: Adjustable
Locking mechanism: Liner-Lock
Clip / Sheath: Deep carry black clip, tip up, right-side only.
Country of Origin: Taiwan
MSRP/Street Price: $150 / $75-$99

Dimensions
Overall Length: 8.313″
Closed Length: 4.728″
Handle Thickness: 0.25″
Blade Length (tip to scale):3.502″
Sharpened Length: 3.375″
Blade Thickness: 0.133″
Weight: 4.8 oz.

Overview

The Homefront, which features the Ken Onion designed Fieldstrip platform, was introduced at BLADE Show 2016 to oohs and aahs, my own included. The system is very simple to use.

Simply flip the lever at the pivot, unscrew the thumbwheel located at the rear of the handle, and the knife splits into three parts.

Everything is retained; no screws are removed and the locking liner remains captive in the aluminum scale. Even the nylon washers stay put for the most part. I only had one fall out once, and a dab of lubricant (mineral oil for me, thanks) was enough to keep it from happening again.

Reassembly is just the same in reverse… place the pieces together, screw down the thumbwheel and then flip the lever, squeezing the pivot together as you do so.

The thing that impressed me the most about this mechanism is how perfectly the knife goes back together with absolutely no futzing required. The blade stayed perfectly centered every time and the flipping action was bang on, with no adjustment required.

Aesthetically, the Homefront is meant to echo WWII era fighting knives. The flipper even mimics a traditional bayonet lug in appearance. The scales are anodized a muted gold color, and the thumbwheel blends in nicely with the spine ridges, which all bear a parkerized looking finish.

Just in case you thought the blade shape was a bit conventional for a Ken Onion design, there is actually a hint of a recurve and drop to the edge near the heel. Because of this there is a gut-busting amount of belly, but I still found the point easy to use in everyday tasks.

The pocket clip is painted black and allows deep carry, but the knife is still easy to extricate from the pocket thanks to the smooth aluminum scales. Impressively, it manages to do this without danger of the knife slipping out on its own; I always had plenty of retention in the pocket.

Because the clip is painted however, you will get some flaking as it bumps into things. It is a shame that at this price the clip doesn’t sport the same parkerized-esque finish of the rest of the hardware on the knife. It would look better, and wear more gracefully as well.

Fit & Finish / Initial Edge

With even grinds and consistent finish, CRKT has again shown how good they are at getting excellent results from their overseas factories. The blade is close to perfect, and the scales are as solid as they come. In fact I have only one complaint, and it is something I have seen on knives both cheaper and more expensive than the Homefront.

The plunge line continues to be a pet peeve of mine. Rather than grinding all the way back to (what would otherwise be) the sharpening choil, they start the plunge line further forward. Not only does this leave a wedge of unsharpened metal at the heel, it also makes it a little harder to sharpen all the way back, especially over time. Not much mind you, but at prices like this, it is that extra bit of attention that makes the difference between good and great.

I’ve seen this on knives that span a range of price points. It is a shame, because that is my only quibble with the Homefront. Everything is truly on the money with this knife.

The finish on the anodized aluminum held up great during the time I carried the knife with no scratches to be found.

The edge itself is pretty smooth for a factory sharpening job, and I could shave hair and whittle phonebook paper with ease.

Likewise I had no trouble push cutting through a taut section of ¾” manilla rope.

The flipping action is quite good–one of the better I have encountered actually. The knife opens with a solid thwack and thanks to the shape and buffed edges of the bayonet-lug flipper, you can snap open the blade over and over without any discomfort or sharpness.

Ergonomics

The Homefront is solid in the hand and feels like it could take a beating; the anodized aluminum scales provide just the right amount of mass while keeping the center of balance right on the point created at the back of the index finger groove.

While the scales are fairly smooth (the v-pattern does provide a tiny bit of grip), the ridges at the front and back of the spine help keep the knife secure in the hand.

The edges of the aluminum are rounded comfortably, and you can put a decent amount of muscle into things without them biting too bad. I also never found the index finger groove (or more particularly the point between the index and middle finger) to be uncomfortable.

Steel

CRKT does a great job with their AUS-8. The hollow-ground CRKT G.S.D. which is also made in Taiwan and uses the same steel did a bang up job on corrugated cardboard when I tested it previously. I managed to eat up 342 feet, against the grain, before the edge needed resharpening.

In the course of carrying the Homefront for a couple of months as my EDC,  I dismembered quite a few heaps of boxes and I have found its performance to be as expected based on my time with the G.S.D.

The AUS8 is also easy to sharpen. Although I am still miffed by the plunge line, my Spyderco Sharpmaker had no trouble keeping the knife razor sharp. Just expect to stay on top of edge maintenance, as this is no supersteel that will keep its edge for a few weeks before requiring a hone if you are using it every day.

Food Prep

The Homefront didn’t do quite as well in the kitchen as I was expecting. Even though the edge is quite thin, dicing a medium sized potato was enough for the high shoulders to get a little bound up and cause the cut to wander. Not bad, but not great either. Something with a high flat grind like the Ontario RAT1 (reviewed here) or Spyderco Tenacious (reviewed here) will do much better.

I also cut up some onions (since all I ever eat is potato and onion hash apparently) and the knife did a fine job. I also used it to take a slice off a big chunk of ham. Hunters ought to be pleased with the way this blade carves through flesh.

I then got distracted and forgot to clean the knife. It sat for the better part of the day until I got back with ham gunk all over it. Thanks to Fieldstrip I simply popped the blade out, gave it a quick wash and dry, and slapped it back together. There was no corrosion or spotting to be found.

 

Conclusions

Even without Fieldstrip, the CRKT Homefront is a well executed flipper. As for the disassembly, it is a neat party trick that is still actually useful. Sure you can take other folders apart, but you will need to have the tools present, and things can require some futzing to get back together perfectly; often needing some tuning to get the blade centered and at the proper pivot tension.

Not so with the Homefront. Without fail, the blade has been centered and the flipping action perfect every time I have put the knife back together, all with no extra effort.

If you are intrigued by the mechanism, but don’t like the look of the Homefront, give it some time. CRKT is treating Fieldstrip as a platform and will be releasing several different knives using it. I have even heard first hand that longtime CRKT collaborator Brian Tighe is working on something using the system.

Beyond different knife designs, I also think there is an opportunity for CRKT to offer replacement blades for this knife. Not only could they offer upgraded blade steels, but possibly other shapes as well, allowing the user to swap them out at will based on the task at hand. Imagine being able to use this drop point blade while camping on the weekend, and then popping in a wharnecliffe for your day job or a tanto for self defense.

I asked our contacts at CRKT if they had anything along these lines in the works, and if they do, they are staying silent on the matter.

So who is this knife for?

Gadget geeks will get a kick out of the Fieldstrip action, and as I mentioned before, the Homefront design is solid even without it; it makes a fine edc. The color even blends in nicely with a pair of khakis I own, making it a decent office carry as long as the dress code is not too formal.

For hunters that prefer a folding knife, the Homefront is a winner. The high hollow grind and ample belly should make it an excellent skinning blade which can be taken apart and rinsed clean after gutting your kill, all without fear of losing any screws or pieces in the process.

Despite our early issues with this particular example, I am bullish on the Homefront and particularly on the Fieldstrip platform. I like this knife, and I’m looking forward to what they come up with next!

 

Discussion

2 responses to ‘Review: CRKT Homefront by Ken Onion

  1. It looks ok but I think it needs to be tested a bit more before I would say it was any good
    It looks like it mite have a few week points to it
    Need to use one to see how good it is

  2. I dig the retro military look. If it were mine I would have to find a way to paint the star-shaped pivot screw a “fire engine red” and call it a Tokarev!

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