Back in June of 2009 Senior Editor Garret Lucas reviewed CRKT’s Folts Minimalist Knife. For 2010 CRKT has added two new blade styles to the Minimalist line. This article will focus on these new offerings; the Bowie and Tanto.
I am a huge fan of neck knives in general and have several in my collection, all of them produced by CRKT. Earlier this year I wrote up the CRKT Renner Neckolas which I thought very highly of. After using the two new versions of the Folts Minimalist, the Bowie and the Tanto, I would probably choose those over the Neckolas. I don’t arrive at that decision easily because I really liked the design and look of the Neckolas. I usually carry a couple of knives when hiking and generally favor larger fixed blades and folders for any kind of woods use. However, after using the Minimalists’ over the last couple of weeks I can definitely see a place for one of these knives in my kit. I also think that they wouldn’t make a bad choice for a car survival kit, bug out bag, or even for self-defense.
The Minimalist Bowie and Tanto have similar specifications. Both knives measure 5.13 inches in length and weigh an extremely light 1.6 ounces. The hollow ground blades are 2.125 inches in length and are made from 5Cr15MoV steel with a bead-blasted finish. The handle material is black polished Micarta with subtle hints of green that are held in place on the tang with two torx screws. They also include a small woven lanyard pull that helps to easily remove the knife from the sheath. The sheath is made black Zytel that includes a detachable belt clip and a long adjustable paracord necklace. Overall, the fit of knives into the sheaths is very secure. At no point did either knife fall out of the sheath while wearing them, yet they remained easy to remove when you needed them.
I wore both knives off and on for about three weeks in the evening while running errands and hanging out with my friends. These knives are extremely light and comfortable to wear and with the adjustable cord they can be made to fit any torso. In addition to the EDC use, I got to do a day hike with fellow Woods Monkey Associate Editor Tim Stetzer and Contributing Editor Scott Wickham. Both Tim and Scott had a chance to fiddle around with the Minimalist during the hike and both thought the design and functionality of the knives were pretty good. Scott recommended trying to start a fire with them, which we later did as you’ll see below.
In terms of function, both versions of the Minimalist tested were extremely sharp out of the package and I was able to shave with them both. I did find it somewhat easier to shave with the Minimalist Tanto initially. However, after the battery of tests with both knives I found it much more difficult to shave with them as of the writing of this article. Both blades are certainly still usable for most tasks but before I take them out into the woods again I will hone the edges of them on my CRKT Slide-Sharp system (which we reviewed here on Woods Monkey back in August of 2009).
The first test I used both versions of the Minimalist on was in creating tent stakes and some general whittling. The design of the handles shows that the knives are meant to be used in the fingers rather than clenched in the palm of the hand. This design allows for a significant amount of control while using the blade. I have large hands and usually knives of this size don’t work all that well for me. However, I was quite impressed with how easy they were to use, and over time they didn’t bother my hands as much as other small knives in my collection. Usually when making tent stakes I use a much bigger knife, but I found that the Minimalist did a decent job cutting notches in the stake. Of the two versions, I did find the Minimalist Bowie to be easier and less time consuming to make a stake with over the Tanto bladed Minimalist.
The Minimalist’s make a great camp kitchen knife as well. I used both versions for a number of chopping duties in my kitchen on vegetable, meat and opening plastic packages. This is another area where the design of the knife proves its effectiveness. You can cut pretty much anything with great precision and if you have any sort of detail work that requires a fine blade, I think it makes a good choice. Think field paring knife. This usefulness on detail work carries over to other tasks as well. I can see the Tanto version of the Minimalist being used in my leather working gear. I did use the Minimalist Tanto on some scrap leather I had lying around and it did a great job of cutting it into very small strips. Both knives did routine tasks like cutting nylon rope and paracord with ease too.
The last test I used both versions of the Minimalist on was in fire starting, as Scott recommended. I was able to get a good amount of spark with both knives using a large Fast-Fire fire steel. I found that the ridged area were the thumb rests on the spine was a great place to get a lot spark. I was also successful in using the flat potion of the spine as well. However, it did leave some marks and grooving on the knife. Considering the amount of sparks I was getting, I would probably remove the piece of hacksaw from my fire steel to save a couple of ounces in gear and streamline things a bit.
Overall, I liked both versions of the CRKT Folts Minimalist that I tested for this article a great deal. They definitely proved that they are well made, multifunctional utility knives. Many hikers are very concerned with the overall weight of the gear they carry. I suggest looking at a Minimalist for their kits. A knife that weighs in at less than two ounces and that can serve a multitude of purposes makes a great fit. For some people the Minimalist may seem bit small but I highly recommend trying one out as you won’t be disappointed. Of the two I would probably favor the Minimalist Bowie. I like the overall look of the knife a bit more and found it easier to use for carving and whittling. In addition it has a more “woodsy” feel. The price for the Minimalist is extremely affordable and can be found on numerous websites that sell all versions of the Minimalist for around $20.00, proving that you don’t need to spend a ton of money of a functional and well-made knife.
As Ian mentioned, Scott and I had a chance to check out the knives while he was testing them as well. I have to admit, I really like these little Folts neckers. I liked the original Wharncliffe model that Garrett initially tested but after handling all three I find the Bowie to be my favorite. Whichever model you prefer, they’re solid, comfortable little blades that perform bigger than their size would imply. As Ian stated, the finger grooves at first seem limiting until you actually use the knives and then you realize that they actually nestle into the hand quite nicely. CRKT does a nice job on the neck sheaths on these as well. They’re a very trim, compact design, but they hold on to the knife securely with just the right balance of retention and ease of use. I liked that they came with paracord too, rather than cheaper braided nylon neck cords. The Bowie and the tanto add some nice options in blade styles to the original design and contribute to making a nice initial collaboration between CRKT and Alan Folts even better! – Tim Stetzer