This new company bases its success on innovation, technical quality and functional design. If you think everything’s already been done, you won’t land a job at CRKT. That doesn’t mean they make complicated knives, but there’s always something unusual in the build. CRKT’s first success, the K.I.S.S. folder, caught the eye of dealers and buyers because there’s nothing there but two pieces of high carbon stainless, arranged to be knife blade, handle, pocket clip, frame lock and sheath. Ed Halligan’s design “Keeps It Super Simple” in ways no one considered before, and laid the groundwork for many more fine CRKT ideas.
Two former Kershaw Knives employees — Paul Gillespi and Rod Bremer — founded Columbia River Knife & Tool in Tualatin, Oregon, in 1994. After four years the company made its first big hit with the original K.I.S.S. folder. Introduction of the knife at the 1998 Shot Show was enough to sell off the first year’s production run in just a few days. Innovation also caused some problems for CRKT along the way. Much of the CRKT production work takes place overseas in Taiwan, and on October 3rd, 2000, the U.S. Customs Service seized a $4.3 million shipment of CRKT knives — even though all models had previously passed Customs tests and did not qualify as switchblades. The Customs Service’s contention that the knives looked and acted like switchblades threw the company into an extended court battle. CRKT won, but lost a million dollars in the process, not to mention $30,000 in legal costs.
Columbia River Knife & Tool currently manufactures three classes of products, which they describe as Sporting and Working Knives, Professional Knives & Tools, and something unique — I.D. Works & Tools. CRKT sport and work knives use some traditional styling but their folding knives add modern technology like one-hand opening and lockback blades. You’ll find all-metal designs as well as familiar fixed blades with handles of natural materials like polished wood. In the Professional line CRKT offers knives designed specifically for the military user, as well as knives built for Emergency Rescue work and tailored for modern tasks — like severing seat belts without injuring the person strapped in by them. One of the most interesting selections in CRKT’s catalog, the I.D. Works, introduces us to unique multi-tools filled with features you’ll wish you’d thought of first.