A review of the Columbia River Knife & Tool, Large Batum
I've been compiling this for a couple weeks, because I know how this goes. When I first get a new knife, it's the best knife, ever, and I'm not going to make you listen to that nonsense, since I would just have to come back later and say “wellllllll... there are a few things it's maybe not the best at”. If I'm going to be wrong, it should be about something less important than knives.
I had my eye on the Batum for a while, but wasn't quite ready to make a purchase, until I noticed that the blade thickness was 3/16”.
Almost all factory knives are 1/8”. I like things that fit with my knuckle-dragger persona: granite furniture, hard-toe boots, hammers, and when I saw that the Batum is a more proper knuckle-dragger knife by way of it's thicker blade, I was sold.
Other goodness that I only noticed after getting it was the flat bevels.
Again, the vast majority of factory knives have concave, or “hollow” bevels. To get a flat grind, you usually have to go to one of Spyderco's full flat ground blades, which terrify me by feeling incredibly thin and dainty. I know a lot of you love Spyderco, and will tell me that they are tougher that you think, and anyway, a knife is a cutting tool, and you have to respect it's limitations. I agree. And I will stick to my sharpened prybars, thanks.
So who cares? Well, me. Flat-ground blades push better in deep cuts, like cardboard, or sharp cheddar cheese blocks. You should probably at least rinse the knife off before switching from one to the other.
One thing I will give Spyderco is that the hole in the blade works well as a deployment method. Vox even got CRKT to give the hole a little chamfer about 70% of the way around.
It's a thoughtful detail that I appreciate.
The blade steel is 8cr13MoV, CRKT's stock in trade. Columbia River has problems with heat treat, and they always have. Sometimes you get a good one (my Lightfoot M1, and the Batum). Sometimes, like my Carson M16, you get one that just won't get sharp.
The XcrXXMoV steels keep the prices low, but at the cost of edge retention. Even when they get it right, the edge goes away after 3-5 pizza boxes, and you should plan to retouch it on the regular.
See what you don't see on the spine of the knife? No jimping, and no thumb ramp.
This is a good thing. Jimping is the little notches on the spine of most knives, that are supposed to give you better control by increasing the surface area of skin-to-steel contact, blah blah blah.
Except that if you choke up on the blade, your index finger ends up within an inch or so of the point, and jimping way back there near the tang is just about useless.
Same goes for the thumb ramp. It's a hold over from “tactical” knives, supposed to make your knife do something better when it comes to covert de-animation. I do love me some high speed, low drag, all black, oper8tor knives, but if you have serious delusions of using your 3” blade folder as an SD tool, then you are in the wrong forum.
The G10 scale on the presentation side is about what you'll find on other knives. It's got a reasonable amount of traction, although not enough for, say, river rescue duty, if that's your thing.
And if it is, you should be considering a vastly different kind of knife, anyway.
The lock side scale is stainless steel, and I'll guess that it's 410, for those of you who are really interested. It's been heavily stonewashed,
and I'm a sucker for stonewash finishes on knives (as compared to jeans, but now I'm showing my age). It gives it that “pre-worn” look, and I don't have to worry as much about scratches and scuff marks.
The lock over-travel tab is a thoughtful touch.
It's not really necessary, and putting it on the inside of the frame is one of the things that shows CRKT did a good job of listening to Jesper Voxnaes.
I appreciate the lockbar cutout.
They could have done it in one pass with an end mill, and called it good. Instead, they took the time to use a ball mill, cutting the center trough, and then the two outer cuts. It had to be done in that order to get what you see here, unless they switched tools. Either way, the extra time and tooling cost shows that some more planning went into this.
Same with the kerf for the lockbar itself.
I've seen knives (and not just from CRKT!) with lots of machining marks on the sides of the kerf, where somebody had the milling table going way too fast. This one looks like a waterject, because all you see is the grain structure of the steel.
An algebra problem:
Pocket opening width – your palm width + width of knife
If the answer to this math problem is a negative number, then your hairy meat hooks are going to scrape against your knife whenever you go digging into your pocket for change. This is a case for a pocket organizer, or one of the other modern EDC accessories we all love, but that's another thread.
I can pretty much guarantee that you are going to have a clearance issue if you clip this knife into one of your front waist pockets. The same wide scales that make it so nice to use, take up a lot of real estate. I can get away with it because I get my pants in size “comfortable”. If you go for a more “fitted” look, you'll need other options.
The pommel end of the Batum is an example of aesthetics over ergonomics, but that doesn't mean it's all bad. Let's face it. We buy knives because we like how they look, although we may like how they look because we believe they will feel nice to use.
Brief digression: It seems that humans are wired to not really know about ergonomics. In many cases, I've looked at something which claims to be designed to fit the human body better than anything else out there, and it just looks goofy. CRKT tried this with a fixed blade years ago, and the handle sticks out completely odd to the blade.
It makes a kind of sense, though. Before we had the ability to produce tools which were supposed to be so nice and form-fitting, we spent a lot of time coming up with stuff that worked just well enough to get us down the road, and it gave us cars that will do 200mph, buildings that withstand hurricanes, and rockets that fly out into space on an almost routine basis. So the most perfectly hand-fitting knife handle may not be the most perfect knife.
Back on topic
The Batum comes through with the clip set up so that the knife will carry with the tip up, and the blade tucked in against the outer edge of your pants pocket. This does a good job of making sure the blade stays closed. But it also binds the pointy bits of the pommel against your leg if you're not paying attention to your own ergonomics. Stick your hand in your pocket, and it scrapes past the backspacer, and the little chamfers around the backspacer screws.
Move the clip around to the other position, and all this disappears. The front of the handle slabs curve down, vastly reducing the amount of scraping that gets done when you hand goes past the knife, and making it easier to draw, as well. Tip-up, the lockbar cutout can bind against your pocket cuff, forcing you to do the “get out here, knife” dance. Tip down, the Batum slides in and out of your pocket with much less drama, and for those with smaller hands (me), it puts your thumb right over the deployment cutout, instead of having to do some wrist gymnastics to make up the difference.
Just make sure your pivot screw is adjusted for “blade stays closed”, right?
The clip itself is very good, and this is a sticking point for me.
I like my knives to stay where I put them, even in situations that I will never encounter in real life. A little overcompensation, never hurts.
Too many folders go too far in the other direction, making it nearly impossible to pull or re-clip the knife, and while this is better than the alternative, I want to give CRKT a shout-out for getting the Batum's pokcet clip right CRKT got the Batum's pocket clip pretty much perfect
There you go. It holds the knife tight, but you can still pull it easily. The clip is small enough to cover with a shirt, which keeps it away from your furniture and car finishes. It's also easy to guide the knife back on to your pocket, when you're done.
The end of the handle is nowhere near your hand when you actually use the knife, and it's here that all of those compromises with pocket carry show their upside.
The wide chord of the handle makes the knife feel very secure and controllable, aided by the G-10's friction qualities.
The extra finger choil is an excellent feature. Pull your hand back from the blade, and you can give the Batum some “gorilla”, if you need to power through a job.
Put your index finger up in the second choil, and it becomes a precision instrument for sharpening pencils, opening envelopes, and all the chores that a smaller slipjoint might normally stand for.
Even though your finger is right up against the blade, it never feels dangerous. Vox nailed this one, and CRKT didn't try to improve anything.
Here is where I try to summarize all of this into a tidy little paragraph that you can read instead of going through all the text that you've gone through to get to this point.
That's a difficult job for me. I think too hard about knives, and I like to use three words where one would do. Instead, I'm going to cop out, with one of those obnoxious Pro/Con lists.
Con: Heavy for it's size Thicker blade stock means more resistance in deep cuts More obtuse blade belly can slide out of a cut, takes some getting used to Angular pommel makes pocket carry awkward in tip-up position Only two clip mounting choices can be a deal-breaker for some CRKT's Cro/Moly steel has very short edge retention Very wide handle takes up a lot of space when clipped to a pocket Some may question the lack of an assisted opener or flipper tab
Pro: Weight and blade thickness inspire confidence; feels like it was made for work Most of the objections about the pommel disappear if you switch to tip-down carry Pocket clip is small, but still holds the knife firmly G-10 scale offers good traction, without making it hard to deploy and stow the knife No thumb ramp to get in the way when you choke up on the blade Wide handle makes it easy to control Choil is wide enough to use for small work Thumb hole makes for easy opening Lock bar tab is one of several thoughtful design touches Fit and finish seem very high for an ~$40 knife
'Scuse the Amazon link. It's an easy example to grab off the Interwebs.
If you really want to do it up fancy, get a pair you like, then have somebody build a custom case for you. The thinking here, is that instead of "eh, those are just my reading glasses", now you have something really unique that you can say "hey! Check this out! Since I have to wear them anyway, I got this guy to build me something really killer."
Work day dump. In the pockets, on the belt loops. The Batum is coming to work with me. I really like this knife, and so I'm going to hurt it. Because it would happen eventually.
What do you use your breacher bar for?
Scraping, prying, an improvised screwdriver, and sometimes a chisel. In short, anything on the list of "knife abuse activities": scraping crud off motor nameplates and bolts, opening reluctanct connection boxes. Anytime I need to get the attention of some piece of equipment, the breacher bar is the first step. IMO, a knife and pry tool are complementary, and I try to make sure I always have both.
"Celebrating" my return to middle shift, with a bit of a fancy breakfast. Well, any breakfast is fancy, because I usually just have coffee. The Batum's thick blade means it isn't my first choice for food prep, but I wouldn't carry a steak knife for daily cutting chores, either.
There's a steak on the other side of the plate, that you can't see. At least there was, when I took the photo
Shorttime CRKT has been getting exponentially better over the years. Better collaborations, better designs. Kershaw is also pretty strong too. I'd still be in the market for a few of each. Cheap is good. We're not Navy Seals or Rambo- if our knives break, we can get a new one (none of mine have broken)
God, I hope so! For the last.. five years? CRKT has been mostly a division of Ken Onion, Inc, to the point where they could have merged with Kershaw and nobody would have known the difference, aside of a few designs by James Williams, and the Carson M series. Then, they came out with a bunch of non-cutlery hunting and fishing gear, and it seemed like they had lost their way completely. Getting Vox on board is a great big good step for them, and I especially love that they are making a Snailor. They need to keep getting Voxnaes-level talent to help them, though. It's a marathon, not a race.
There's this arc that most knife enthusiasts follow, with their knife purchases increasing in cost until they hit the mid-tech level. I've been buying knives in the $80-$120 range lately, and the CQC-7 was a big step above that. I'm fighting hard to keep from cracking the $200 barrier, and it was refreshing to find so much goodness at a reasonable price.
Edit: Now that Benchmade has cut ties with Doug Ritter, it would be very smart of CRKT to try and find a way to bring back the RSK folders. I'm sure Benchmade is very tight about the Axis Lock, but money usually finds a way to solve problems.
Last Edit: Mar 30, 2017 15:07:25 GMT -8 by Shorttime
I post here in part to "tune up" before I post on more, um, formal forums.
I've been feeding the Batum a steady diet of corrugated cardboard, in an effort to get the edge to go away. It did, and a couple passes over a makeshift strop brought it back. It shaves hair reluctantly, and that's more than good enough for me.
The first time I gave it some cardboard, it nicked me. I don't have photos, because it's not really worth posting. Hardly a paper cut, but in a bent, knife enthusiast kind of way, it's a good thing.
I wasn't paying attention, and the deep belly of the blade let it slip out of the cut It zinged past my left arm. I just barely felt it graze me, and I didn't think anything of it, until I felt it start to burn a minute later. I looked down, and sure enough, the tiniest cut.
The fact that it cut me with just a nick tells me it's plenty sharp enough.
It's not technically a blooding, since the bleeding didn't start right away, but I was planning on keeping this one, anyway.
CRKT has been the victim of indifferent heat treating over the years, so I'm glad I got a good one, this time.
One of the things I like is the flat grind.
You don't see it so well in this picture, but it's there. Flat grinds push better than hollow grinds in deep cuts.
It's also important what you don't see in this picture: jimping on the spine. Or a spine ramp. Both are useless features for the kind of cutting I do.
Another neat feature.
An internal lock over-travel tab.
I really like this knife, which may sound odd for something that cost about $45. CRKT was my first introduction to "good" knives, even though they are the low end of the production spectrum. Or, at least, there is a perception that they are the low end. And they have had some problems over the years, with their quality control. Much of their inventory is lackluster, but when they get it right, they get it right. I keep coming back to them. Like your first car, you don't forget it.
Well, it's not in Smead's league, but it makes me happy.
The CRKT large Batum, a Jesper Voxnaes collaboration.
Blade is right about 3", and right about perfect.
Especially this way
3/16" thick blade on a production folder?! Yes, please!
I've only had it for about three hours, so I don't know much about it yet, except that it feels about right. I've noticed a lot of knives don't have as much width as they should, and the pronounced choil is a big selling point for me.
Once I find out what I don't like about it, I'll post some more.
Last Edit: Mar 22, 2017 15:41:50 GMT -8 by Shorttime