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July 1, 2010 Comments (0) Gear & Equipment, Reviews

CRKT Eat’N Tool

IMG_2771cAnyone who knows me knows that I’m a sucker for a good spork. I have a bunch of them and am always on the look out for nifty new models.  While at the 2010 SHOT show in Las Vegas I was quite surprised to see a new offering in the spork family being offered by none other than Columbia River Knife & Tool!

 

 


IMG_2780aIMG_2802aWhile certainly known for their knives, CRKT maintains a division of extremely creative folks in their I.D. Works, The I.D. Works folks have really come up with some out of the box ideas on multitools and unique and functional gadgets.  The new Eat’N Tool springs from that well source and is the work of Liong Mah, a New York City designer.  Mah has done a lot of work in custom knife design but he also has a background in the culinary arts so it should be no surprise that he eventually came around to applying his skills to the most versatile of eating tools, the spork!

IMG_2775aThe CRKT Eat’N Tool is a departure from the traditional spork in a couple of ways.  As soon as you see it you know this isn’t just a metal version of the good old KFC plastic spork.  The Eat’N Tool is just that, a tool which you can also use to feed your gullet.  The most obvious departure is the stubby “T” shaped grip of the Eat’N Tool.  Think push dagger meets spork. Its short, its light, and its compact.  The Tool is made of 3Cr13 steel treated to a 51-53 HRC, so it should be tough enough to stand up to even your buddy’s worst campfire cooking. It features 0.075 inch long tines and is 4 inches in overall length.  Weight is a paltry 1.5 ounces.  The main tool of course is the spoon with the integrated fork tines.  Flowing back from that is the “T” handle which encompasses a number of features.  The most obvious one is the large central hole which not only makes for a handy finger hole, but also helps keep the weight down on the Eat’N Tool.  At the juncture of the spoon bowl and handle is a bottle opener, and there is a large flathead screwdriver blade along one side of the “T” of the handle.  At the top of the “T” are 4 holes.  Three make up a set of Metric wrenches in 10mm, 8mm, and 6mm sizes, and the last is a hole for the provided carabiner so that you can clip the Tool to your keys or gear.  The Eat’N Tool comes in either a bead blasted finish or with a black, food safe, non stick finish.  My review sporks were of the bead blasted variety.

IMG_2787aLet me start by saying that the Eat’N Tool has a great gadget factor to it.  If you like sporks, or you like key chain tools, you’re going to love it.  Yes, its a little gimmicky maybe, but that’s much of its charm. It has a great form factor and packs a lot of function into a light, compact, and convenient space.  According to CRKT its gotten extremely positive response and I can believe it based upon my own experiences with it. More folks than not were really drawn to it and anxious to take a closer look.  The size of the Eat’N Tool is both a curse and blessing.  On the plus side, this is a tool you can take with you anywhere.  It’ll easily clip to your key ring, inside your pack, or just stuff in a pocket.  It would also work quite well on a neck lanyard so you’d have a spork ready for any sudden eating contingencies.  Don’t laugh. I’ve seen folks walk around with a spoon or spork in a pocket or around their neck at many a campout just in case they stumble across a meal invite, or an opportune dessert.  At larger camp gatherings its a pretty common fact that you’ll get invited to sit down and break bread with someone during the course of the day.  Never hurts to be prepared.  The compact size of the Eat’N Tool would also lend itself to stowing inside of a small backpacking pot or kettle as well.  If you’re going for minimal size and weight, the Eat’N Tool is great.  The down side to that compactness is the short handle.  While great for space saving, it doesn’t lend itself to getting into deeper bowls, backpacker meal pouches, or MRE’s.  I will admit I’m a fan of long handled sporks for just those circumstances so its a trade off you need to be aware of if you’re considering the Eat’N Tool as your only eating utensil.

IMG_2783aMoving from the general properties of the Tool to its specific components, lets take a look at what it has to offer and how well the various tool components work.  The obvious starting point is the spoon/fork combo.  The Eat’N Tool has a somewhat shallow oval shaped bowl and a set of fairly pronounced fork prongs. In actual use I found the Tool worked pretty well on foods like oatmeal, and things like the stews and rice dishes you commonly find in backpacker or military meals.  It worked well for scooping, and for stabbing the occasional bigger chucks of meat and veggies.  On actual cut pieces of meat like steak, chicken, or whatever your flesh of choice is, they did a decent job as well.  I’ve used some sporks with more pronounced tines that did a little better but I couldn’t complain, I was able to eat without much fuss and that’s what counts. When it came to soup, my results were mixed. I made some Cup of Soup in a Guyot Squishy Bowl as that’s a common food and container combo I use when backpacking. The Eat’N Tools bowl was a little shallow.  It worked, but I didn’t get a lot of broth in it with each scoop.  I ended up using it more to scoop the noodles up and just drank the broth out of the bowl.  Overall performance?  For solids and substantial stuff like rice dishes, casseroles, cereals and actual hunks of food, the spork is good to go.  For thinner soups it’ll do the job, but doesn’t really compete with a full spoon.  That’s a tough area for a lot of sporks though so the Eat’N Tool is hardly alone in that area.  It’s pretty common for a spork to compare more to a tea spoon when tackling soup than to a table spoon.

IMG_2822aIMG_2835aMoving up from the spoon bowl we come to the bottle opener.  I put the bottle opener to some vigorous testing while on vacation, purely in the interest of science of course.  Generally I found that the opener works fine, but my father-in-law and I felt that it could use a sharper edge to easier catch on some bottle cap lips.  It would occasionally slip off the cap rim while opening, requiring a couple tries in some cases to crack open a cold one.  Naturally the more adult beverages you crack open, the harder this operations becomes. I suspect its rounded so that it doesn’t snag on your pocket or clothing and, since it does still open bottles just fine, this isn’t a big deal.  It certainly beats having a nice case of beer and no opener at all! Up from the opener is the screwdriver blade.  This is a nice, big, handy flathead blade capable of tackling big screws.

IMG_3043aWe found that it worked great for tightening the main stock screws on Henry .22 rifle and for tightening scope rings on another rifle.  We wished that CRKT would have sharpened up both sides of the tool though to give you two different sized screwdrivers to work with.  The one side is a bit smaller, but it isn’t ground to a screwdriver profile so it only worked in wide slotted screws like the ones of the scope mounts.  The screwdriver blade also makes a nice prying tool, or scraping tool. It worked well on popping open paint can lids after scraping off some old paint that was sticking the lid closed.  I also found out that the big flathead works great for prying apart my kid’s Lego blocks too!  Located in the “T” of the handle, the Metric wrenches are well positioned and work fine if you have something in those sizes to snug down or loosen up.  I really was surprised though that one of the holes wasn’t a standard 1/4 inch size. In addition to be a fairly common size, it would have allowed the Eat’N Tool to work with 1/4 driver bits of all types further expanding its usefulness.  The last hole in the blade is the one that takes the provided carabiner. I thought this was a nice touch personally.  It allows you to easily attach the spork to your gear and unclip it when its time to eat. I’ve seen folks tie cords to their spoons and sporks so they can hang them around their necks or hook them to packs but I was never a fan of that practice.  The cord can get wet, or food covered, when you eat and wash it and it just doesn’t seem hygienic to me.  With the carabiner you can easily unclip the Eat’N Tool when its time to use it and then snap it right back on your pack or key ring.  It’s a simple thing, but it’s well executed.

Overall, I think CRKT has hit a real home run with the Eat’N Tool.  It’s sort of a crazy idea for a mainstream knife company, but probably something we should expect from the ingenious folks in the I.D. Works.  They have a history of coming up with unique designs and this is no exception.  I can’t say it’s the best eating implement I’ve used (I’m still a fan of long handled sporks with deep bowls) but it does a variety of things decently in a package that’s very easy to pack or carry.  I look at it as the spork for when you don’t have a spork, or the “backup spork”.  It’s a great addition to your traveling kit or for stowing with your lightweight cook gear.  The absolute best part is the price.  The MSRP on these is only $6.99!  I’ve seen them as cheap as $5 online even, and that’s pretty crazy when you look at the stupid prices some sporks go for.  Heck, I paid over $30 for a spork at the Blade show recently.  For $7 any of the minor shortcomings of the CRKT Eat’N Tool are easily overlooked.  For that price its an outstanding value based upon gadget factor alone. If you’re a spork or gadget fan, or you just want a great compact eating utensil with some added versatility to it, then go out and grab yourself an Eat’N Tool.  At that price, grab a handful of them and pass them out to the outdoorsmen and gadget geeks in your life too!

http://www.crkt.com/

http://www.liongmahdesigns.com/

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