The level of craftsmanship, quality of material, and consistent performance of every CRK knife have made them a coveted collector’s item among enthusiasts. Although Chris Reeve is now retired, his legacy lives on, as his team of skilled knife makers continues to produce the finest pocket and survival knives available.
From the early days, CRK has always insisted on using the best-quality materials. Through diligence and commitment to the craft, CRK has been at the forefront of significant industry advances. The industry standard Reeve Integral Lock debuted on the famous Original Sebenza upon its initial release in 1991. CRK also contributed to the development of CPM S35VN steel, which was a groundbreaking development in knife making.
History of Chris Reeve Knives
Chris Reeve Knives originated in a one-car garage in Durban, South Africa, on January 1st, 1984. Before setting up shop, Chris Reeve worked as a tool and die maker, partaking in custom knife making in his spare time.
Apart from his wife, Chris didn’t employ a single worker for several years. The company experienced steady growth, which eventually led to expansion and manufacturing upgrades. In 1989, Chris and his wife decided on an intercontinental move from their home in South Africa to Boise, Idaho, USA. This would prove to be a pivotal decision, having an enormous impact on the company’s success.
The ambition of Chris Reeve has always fueled CRK. As a constant perfectionist, he developed a company ethos to build every piece of cutlery with intent by considering the knife mechanics, the purpose of the piece, and the best-suited materials to make it. To this day, CRK operates with these principles in mind.
Features and Characteristics of CRK Products
● Reeve Integral Lock
The Reeve Integral Lock—often referred to as the frame lock—was created by CRK. It is an improved version of the liner lock, as it boasts a few key additions. The Reeve Integral Lock is suited to right- or left-handed users with its one-handed open-close design. This configuration eliminates the need for springs and has improved deployment safety.
● CPM-S35VN Steel
Chris Reeve worked alongside Crucible Steel to produce CPM-S30V in 2002. Crucible makes some of the highest quality of powder metallurgy alloys in the world to produce superb blades. This was the go-to steel for knife makers for many years. Known for its tolerance levels, the quality of steel used in CRK products has always been one of the main attractions for knife users.
Several years later, Reeve partnered with Crucible again to create an even better product. CPM-S35VN demonstrated improved durability and tolerance due to the addition of niobium. This steel is used in many premium knives today.
● Premium Knife Benchmark
Before CRK became one of the biggest knife brands in the market, premium or high-end custom knives didn’t exist. People would never have considered paying several hundred dollars for a blade. As a key differentiator from the competition, CRK sought to break the boundaries by producing premium, exclusive, and quality products. They set an industry benchmark for luxury knives. While other brands have attempted to adopt this approach, very few have come close to this day. CRK continues to maintain its identity as a high-end goods provider.
Due to the higher price of Chris Reeve knives, knock-off versions have been in circulation since the very beginning. It’s important you know what to look for when shopping for a genuine CRK product. Many of them now come with certificates of authentication.
● Reputation for Tolerance
Tolerance is perhaps the most appropriate word to associate with Chris Reeve knives. A big part of creating a premium brand was to use the best-quality materials. CRK set out to make the highest-grade products without sacrificing style or functionality. All CRK goods became well-known for their exemplary quality and high tolerances.
The Iconic Chris Reeve Knife
CRK has produced some iconic custom knives over the years. Although the brand isn’t as prolific as certain knife makers in terms of quantity, each release is designed with precision and intent. The emphasis is most certainly on quality over quantity. Here is a look at its most famous model.The Sebenza
CRKs flagship model, the Sebenza, has been mastered and remastered continuously for almost three decades. The very first interpretation of the Sebenza was handcrafted when Reeve still resided in South Africa. However, it was first released officially to the world in 1991 as the Original Sebenza. This model contained a sandblasted titanium handle with an ATS-34 steel, satin-finished blade.
The Original became the Regular in 1996 when it was released with a BG-42 steel blade. CRK created a limited edition version of the Regular in 1999. It featured a single piece of wood inlay on the face side of the knife.
The Sebenza Classic debuted in 2000 and was sold alongside the Regular for the next eight years. After partnering with Crucible Steel in 2002, both of these models received blade upgrades and were now produced using CPM-S30V steel.
To mark the 21st anniversary of the Original Sebenza, the Sebenza 21 was released in 2008. It was available in either large or small. Following this, the Sebenza 25 was introduced in 2012, 25 years after the Original Sebenza was created. This was the first model to boast the new and improved CPM-S35VN stainless steel. Many popular models of the Sebenza have now been discontinued, including the Regular, Classis, 25, and 21.
Every CRK CPM-S35VN Sebenza blade now has a Rockwell Hardness grading of 59 to 60 RC. They are all equipped with the Reeve Integral Lock. Some pieces come with the option of custom Damascus steel, a variety of inlays, and handle graphics.
There are several popular CRK products on the market today that maintain the high standards set in the early days. CRK makes two varieties of custom blades: folding knives and fixed blades. CRK doesn’t make automatic or out-the-front (OTF) knives. This makes them more unique and distinguishes them from their competitors, such as Microtech OTF knives, who produce premium automatic blades. Here are some of their current leading models:
The most current model in a distinct line of knifing excellence, the Sebenza 31 has a lot of history behind it. In keeping with the gold standard of CRK folding knives, the Sebenza 31 doesn’t disappoint. The large model is 8.3 inches in total length. The 3.6-inch blade is crafted with the customary CPM-S35VN stainless steel and comes with a Drop Point or Stonewash finish. You may also choose between several Damascus steel blade options.
The 4.8-inch titanium handle fits like a glove, delivering exemplary ergonomics. In signature fashion, the Sebenza 31 is available with a host of inlay options. Choose a stripped-back titanium look, a natural Micarta material for unparalleled grip, or a striking rhino engraving.
Although this is a relatively large folding knife, it is lightweight at just 4.5 oz. What’s more, it has the same angled pocket clip as the Sebenza 25, which was arguably the best clip of any Sebenza model for safe carry and lighting-fast deployment.
The Small Sebenza is just over an inch shorter than the large, coming as a 7- or 7.2-inch knife, depending on the finish. Other than the 3-inch blade and the 3-oz. weight of this version, the Small Sebenza carries over the same qualities as its larger counterpart, making it ideal for everyday carry in almost all states. Visually, this knife oozes class, particularly with the option of several pristine custom finishes. It is crafted to perfection and cuts with control and accuracy.
The Inkosi was released after the Sebenza 25. Although it isn’t a continuation of the line, it bears a close resemblance to the now discontinued 25. Like many CRK products, it comes in a small or large option. Inkosi is the Zulu word for “chief,” and the outstanding blade lives up to the moniker. It is head and shoulders above many folding knife competitors. The Large Inkosi is a sizable piece of kit. At 8.4-inches long and weighing in at 5 oz., it is quite robust and suitable for tactical or survival tasks.
As with any Chris Reeve knife, it is created flawlessly. The 4.8-inch handle is made from blasted titanium. It comes with a hollow grind and a rounded spine. The CPM-S35VN stainless steel blade adopts CRK’s drop point shape with a smooth stonewash finish. If you’re looking for a more portable version, the small Inkosi is significantly more compact. The 6.5-inch model is shorter but holds on to the 0.14-inch thick CPM-S35VN blade.
The Inkosi feels strong in your hand and is a dream to use. Although the thumb studs may take a little time to get accustomed to, they become very useful and add precision to your cutting. The titanium pocket clip ensures it stays where it belongs when not in use.
The Chris Reeve Mnandi is the definition of elegance when it comes to knives. Its size makes it the perfect EDC or gentleman’s knife. It is 6.375-inches long with a 2.75-inch blade. If you’re a knife buff and are interested in exotic materials, the Mnandi is a perfect knife to flaunt the Raindrop Damascus blade. Not only does the Damascus patterning provide a breathtaking visual, but it also boasts extreme toughness and edge retention.
To go along with the Damascus blade, the Mnandi is available with some striking handle inlays. The bog oak and Madagascar ebony are standouts. Beneath the wooden inlays lies a two-tone titanium base.
At just 1.5 oz., this is a very light knife. With the patented Reeve Integral Lock, nail nick opening system, and high level of craftsmanship, this knife performs beautifully. Despite its smaller stature, it can stand up to tough tasks. The 3.6-inch handle offers plenty of room for a strong grip and works ergonomically.
One of the many memorable features of the Mnandi is the pocket clip. With no visible screws, it adds to the classic, streamlined design. Despite the excellent clip, perhaps the best way to carry your Mnandi is in its leather sheath. The knife also comes with a cleaning cloth and a certificate of authenticity.
Maintaining Your Chris Reeve Knife
With any premium blade, maintenance plays an important role. Although Chris Reeve knives are built using the highest quality of materials, they are likely to require maintenance after extensive use. Tighten the screws, sharpen the blade, and clean the knife on occasion.
If your knife becomes dirty or is looking worse for wear after a lot of use, you may need to take it apart for cleaning. Before doing so, make sure you know how to disassemble and reassemble your knife. The Chris Reeve company produces high-end accessories to maintain and care for your premium custom blades, including a genuine leather mat for easy disassembly.
When cleaning, concentrate on the pivot area. Use a Q-tip or a microfiber cloth to gently remove any dirt or buildup. Apply lubrication where necessary with authentic CRK fluorinated grease, a tried and true recipe formulated to keep the brand’s blades in pristine condition.
If you’re in the market for best-in-class knives, Chris Reeve is a premium brand you should strongly consider. Every model is crafted to perfection with purpose and precision, taking into account the purpose and preferences of knife users.
At eKnives, we have some of the most beautiful custom CRK products available. We also provide accessories to make sure you have everything you need to keep your knife in top-notch condition. Contact us at (423) 525-9477 for more information about our selection of Chris Reeve Knives for your collection.