The Redemption, a big beast of a blade, is the latest creation from Columbia River Knife & Tool and the mind of well-known knife designer, Ken Onion. Onion is known for his flowing designs and contoured, ergonomic handles, and probably most notably his assisted-opening folding knives, of which he has designed several for CRKT. However he is definitely no stranger to tough, hardworking fixed-blades.

With an overall length of 15 inches, and 10 inches of cutting edge, the Redemption is a large knife. Large knives require large sheaths, and I like that CRKT took the opportunity here to make the utility pouch on the front of the sheath a good bit larger than average. Other features of the sheath include tie down points around the perimeter and up the back, a nylon webbing leg strap, and quick-adjust dual belt loops. The sheath also has dual retention mechanisms via an adjustable snap-closure retention strap, and a hard Kydex liner that the knife snaps into. The hand of draw can be changed by simply removing the binding post that secures the Kydex to the nylon with a Philips screwdriver and reversing the hard liner.

The heavily featured G10 handle is deeply contoured, but smooth to the touch, and has natural feel in the hand. The rounded surfaces feel very comfortable and yet still provide for a secure grip on the knife. Drawing the knife reveals a flowing, stylized, re-curved blade of 0.25-inch thick YK-30 steel. It has a somewhat leaf-shaped forend, has a sharply beveled spine, and very sharp drop point. The curves of the handle flow well into the curves of the blade and give the knife a very organic look. As is the norm with the CRKT knives I have handled, this blade boasts a very sharp edge.

Have To Eat

Knife sizes and geometries are varied in order to make them more functional in specific tasks, but when it comes down to it, all knives are made for cutting things. It just so happened that I was carrying the package with the knife in it into a room at the same time that I was bringing in the fixings for some pan fried pork tender loin and grilled vegetables that I had picked up for my evening meal. I enjoy cooking very much, so I always like testing knives in a kitchen even if it means – or perhaps more accurately especially if it means – taking the knife out of its comfort zone. This time there was the added attraction of cutting onions with an Onion.

Working mostly with the area of the blade between the tip and the swell, I first attacked the vegetables. Of course the mushrooms were no challenge at all, and a pound of baby portabellas was quickly sliced. Slicing the squashes nice and thin was easy enough, the mass, high grind, and sharp edge sliced through the soft material with little effort. Cutting the onion into eighths was no problem at all, just start at the top, push down and rock the blade. The knife sliced through the tender loin clean and easy with one push-pull motion, and maintaining consistent slices was a breeze.

On The Coastal Plains

Ken Onion resides in the lush islands of Hawaii, and it seemed clear to me that experiences in that type of environment were drawn upon for this design. To me it seemed only fitting to test the knife in a similar setting on the outskirts of a farm in the coastal plains of southern Florida, the area where I had been working recently.

In the field the knife carries well on the belt. The long sheath stops just a few inches above my knee, so having the leg strap to keep the knife close was a definite plus while working in areas of dense growth rich with entangling vines. Recent tropical storms had brought down a lot of trees, this created massive obstacles on one hand, but created great opportunities to put the knife to the test in chopping on the other. This was good for me because this is just one of those knives that as soon as I had it, I really wanted to go out and chop something with it. It is blade-heavy, with the balance point roughly 1.25-inches in front of the handle, and has an edge geometry that is a very high grind, nearly flat, on a relatively wide blade. It is particularly wide at the forward swell, which gives it a long acute cross-section right at the sweet spot for chopping. I knew when I first held it that it was going to bite deeply, and I really wanted to see just how deep.

On downed and still mostly green live oak, the knife was clearly in its element. By striking diagonally at their bases, limbs up to 1-inch in diameter were easily lopped off with single cuts producing cut faces nearly 2 inches long. Even larger limbs up to 2 inches in diameter only required a slight second strike from the opposite direction to finish them off. When chopping into the heavier mass of the treetop, good solid blows yielded penetrations averaging 1.5 inches in depth, and 4- and 5-inch diameter sections were severed with no more than a half dozen strikes. Naturally the drier, more seasoned, hardwood of trees that have been down longer presented more of a challenge. I could still sever limbs up to 1-inch with a single strike, but it took a little more force, and into the solid trunks the average penetration was right at an inch in depth.

Big knives like the Redemption are not designed for the average day hike. Knives like these are made with a deeper treks into the wilderness in mind. In the true wilderness you make your way the best you can, and you never know what may need to be made in the field. For such a large knife I found it to be fairly versatile and adaptable to different needs. The knife has a very nice sharp tip that tapers to a fine point over the last 2 inches of the thickness of the blade. The tip is good for boring small holes and doing finer tedious work like sharpening the tips of gigs and making the barbs. The beveled spine is a bit sharp for a lot of force on a thumb making push-cuts as in making notches, but I found that the using the flat on the spine near the handle worked well for this task. The re-curved part of the edge works great for whittling and shaping points with the curve wrapping around the piece of wood and preventing the blade from slicing out of the cut as easily as a straight edge can. The beveled spine prevents the knife from being a great improvised draw knife, but I found that with the pressure spread across four fingers it was bearable as long as only removing small amounts of material at a time. The trade-off is that this beveled spine should make a great bone breaker, and help the knife achieve exceptional penetration in flesh if the need arises.

My Own Little Slice…

Part of the price I paid for access to the land I was using, once all was discussed, was to cut several large vines that would eventually kill off some very large live oak trees. Though not the same as a hanging rope test, because the vines are more rigid and attached at both ends, I thought it would still be a good test of how the knife performed in the wilds. With long, arcing, diagonal blows, green vines up to 1.5-inches in diameter were severed in one strike.

In the tropics the large fronds from palmettos and palmetto palms are a gift from nature, and are good for a number of uses on extended stays in the bush. They are used for making cleaner areas on the ground for sitting or for processing game and fish, and they make great “shingles” for shelters for protection from the sun or the rain, as both come often. The fronds from the palmetto palms are my favorites because they can grow very large and can cover more area. The branches of the palmetto palm range from 5-inches at the base to about 1.5 inches at the base of the frond. Cutting them is not a chore you look forward to doing with an average sized hunting knife because gathering enough for any sort of shelter is time consuming and labor intensive. This is an area where the Redemption excels, and cutting through 1.5 and 2-inch limbs with single strikes was no problem at all, easily producing 3 and 4-inch long clean cuts. In less than a half hour I had more than enough fronds to shingle a shelter, cover a bush kitchen, or create a raised surface for the controlled collection of rainwater, and the knife still had a great edge.

In the last two weeks the CRKT Redemption has gone from proving it can pull its own weight in a kitchen to the lush tropical forests of southern Florida. It has cut green hardwoods, heavy green vegetation, thick thorny briers and heavy vines, and went on to cut and shape hard seasoned live oak. It’s big, tough, and versatile, definitely a blade to deliver you from the deep dark wilderness.

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