CRKT Ken Onion Shenanigan Folding Pocket Knife Review
“CRKT Strikes Yet Again…”
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Ladies and gentlemen, don’t let the name “Shenanigan“ fool you! This knife is anything but goofy.
There will be no shenanigans of any kind on this blog!! Just kidding… Let me introduce you to the CRKT Ken Onion Shenanigan.
I’ll start by saying that every now and again, you’ll find a knife that’s just plain different from the others… one that effortlessly stands out from the crowd. For me, that was this knife.
There’s just something special about the way this one feels in the palm of your hand… the way it reverberates when you open it. The experience is so visceral.
Don’t get me wrong, I love assisted opening knives, but there’s something new and exciting about how this knife opens without using any kind of spring.
It’s 100% old school… manual, with no assisted opening. Frankly, I don’t think it needs it. The blade snaps out quickly enough without it, and the feeling that accompanies it is so oddly satisfying.
The CRKT Shenanigan is a popular sport and work folding knife designed by world renowned Knife Designer Ken Onion.
The knife has popular workhorse AUS 8 blade steel in a bead-blast finish, flipper opening and tough, glass reinforced nylon handles.
WHO IT’S FOR?
Someone who’s looking for a slightly larger EDC pocket knife with a lot of personality. The design of this knife is downright sick, so if you’re someone who appreciates sleek aesthetics and unconventional design, I promise you’re not gonna be let down.
This knife is also suited for knife heads looking for a upper-middle sized EDC that excels in smooth slicing. However, if you’re looking for a small spring-assisted EDC, this one’s probably not going to be up your alley.
Something else that’s important to know is that the handle is made from GFN, so if you’re someone who prefers a heavier, more dense-feeling handle, this knife might not be for you.
The Shenanigan is (surprisingly… and ironically) a no-nonsense folding knife. It’s easy on the eyes, fun to deploy and simply elegant in design.
You will notice that the GFN handles can feel a little bit hollow and plastic-y when you’re first getting accustomed to the feel of the knife, but oddly that soon becomes part of the charm. In other words, this knife is an acquired taste.
All things considered, the blade looks amazing and cuts and slices well, the action is good, the frame is surprisingly tough, and the knife is reasonably priced.
This knife is not perfect (as no knife is) but the value that it offers is impressive considering the humble price point.
To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t a huge fan of this knife the first time I laid my hands on it…
I remember flipping the blade and thinking, “What the heck was that? Why did that feel so strange?” It almost felt hollow when opening, like there was no closure to the experience.
After spending a few minutes messing around with the Shenanigan though, my initial impression had completely changed.
At first I was totally unsure about how I felt about it, but funny enough, the more I played around with this knife the more I grew accustomed to its unique feel. It was so different than all the knives I was so used to using. It just gave me a different gut feeling.
The Shenanigan has a 3.25″ blade and an overall length of 8.25″. In other words, it’s not exactly a small knife.
The overall weight of the knife measures 4.1 ounces, but it definitely gives the impression that it’s lighter than that in hand. This is definitely because of the GFN handles.
It’s a light handle, so the center of weight is more forward towards the blade.
In terms of size, I would categorize this knife as an EDC plus. By that, I mean it’s still a good size for every day carry overall, but it’s definitely on the larger side of the EDC spectrum.
Here is how the Shenanigan compares in size to a few of its CRKT brothers; the firespark, the ignitor and the drifter.
The handle alone is about 5 inches, so it’s a relatively long knife. It’s gonna take up a big chunk of your pocket space, but it isn’t so large that it’s gonna be awkward to carry around.
It’s the perfect size for when you have basic sh*t to do today, but you still need something a little more heavy duty than just any small standard EDC.
The CRKT Shenanigan sports a modified drop point blade profile with a slight recurve. It’s clearly a signature Ken Onion style blade profile, so naturally I was onboard from day one.
The blade has a hollow-grind and a long swedged spine, so not only is it good for slicing, but it has a considerable amount of penetration power as well.
In my opinion, one of the most impressive things about this knife is the blade steel. The Shenanigan uses Japanese-made AUS 8 steel in a bead-blast finish, which makes the blade extra smooth as well as more stain resistant.
In case you didn’t know, finding AUS 8 in a knife at this price point is a big win. I have a lot of knives in this class that have blades made from 8cr13Mov, and while that’s a great value steel, it’s still one level below AUS 8.
AUS-8, which is a better mid range steel, isn’t the hardest steel (it has an HRC of 58-59), but it takes an edge very well, and it gets razor sharp in no time at all.
It’s one of the softer steels, no doubt, and while that may be off-putting to some, remember that AUS 8 undoubtedly has some major advantages over more premium steels.
Sure, AUS 8 doesn’t hold an edge quite as well, but it’s still tough and durable. It also takes a wicked sharp edge, and quick. Overall, I’m a big fan of this steel, and CRKT did a good job with the blade’s heat treat.
When I first got this knife, one negative thing I realized was that blade centering was just ok on my knife. Sure, it wasn’t perfect, but for this price point you really can’t be that picky. You simply can’t have it all.
One small but noticeable feature that I love about this blade, however, is the laser etched Ken Onion logo. It’s a small and possibly insignificant detail, but it pulls together the overall style design of the knife so professionally.
I’m a man who can appreciate the small details, and this small logo is an exceptional small detail. It just pulls together the sleek design style of the knife so well.
The CRKT Shenanigan’s handle is made of GFN, or Glass Filled Nylon. If you don’t already know, GFN is an incredibly strong material, and compared to other handle materials, it’s nearly indestructible.
Sure, if you’re not used to GFN handles they can feel kind of cheap, but boy do they get the job done. If it’s done right, it makes for one heck of a tough handle material.
As I said earlier, you’ll realize that this knife is a little front heavy when you hold it. The super light handle places the balance point well forward.
Fortunately, the shape of the handle somehow counteracts that a bit and makes up for it by providing a sense of balance and equal weight distribution.
The checkered inlays on the handle are another small detail worth pointing out. They provide enough friction to be effective, and they instill as much confidence in wet conditions as they do in dry.
Overall, I’m confident in this knife’s gripping ability, and I wouldn’t hesitate to use it in a wet environment. That’s always a plus with any knife. Another factor in this knife’s gripping ability is the jimping, but I’ll get to that shortly.
The pocket clip was a little tight when I first got this knife. It was a quick fix though. I stretched it out a little and that solved the problem for good.
Aesthetically, I’m a big fan of this clip. It’s uniquely designed, and it gives the knife that little extra dose of personality that sets it apart from your typical clip…
It’s not your cookie-cuttery, run of the mill perfectly symmetrical pocket clip. It has attitude and I like that. Again, I might sound like a broken record, but I’m all about those small details that most might overlook.
I mean, CRKT is undeniably ahead of the game when it comes to nailing the minor details, and there are definitely people out there (like me) who see and appreciate that.
One obvious drawback to the clip is the fact that it is non-reversible. Yes, the dreaded single-position pocket clip that seems to irritate people so many people to no end.
Granted, it’s right side tip down carry only, which is clearly the SUPERIOR clip position… kidding, it just happens to be the only clip position I use for any knife, but it would still be nice to have options.
So while it doesn’t inconvenience me, it could be problematic for you if you prefer an alternate clip position. Other than that, it’s a good, solid clip.
Once again, it’s important to understand that this knife is not spring assisted. It is completely manual, and that can come as a bit of a shock to some, as Ken Onion is famous for his spring assisted openers.
Don’t think that because this knife opens sans spring that it’s bad, or that it falls short in its deployment… Far from it, my friend.
The deployment action is smooth, albeit unnatural. It utilizes a washer system and finger flipper for a quick and fluid deployment that eventually left me wanting more.
There are no thumbstuds on this knife, but I find the flipper is more than satisfactory for a good snappy deployment. Thumbstuds would be totally superfluous in my opinion.
If you’re a thumbstuds guy and not a fan of flippers, this knife isn’t gonna be for you. You’d probably be better off looking at something like the Gerber Air Ranger.
As I said at the beginning of this review, there’s just something different about the action on the Shenanigan…
It’s probably fundamentally different than what you’re used to. Take a little time getting comfortable opening and closing it and I promise you it will be time well spent.
The Shenanigan uses a simple nested liner lock. It’s easy enough to engage and disengage, and as far as I can tell, there is no discernible blade play.
That being said, while the lockup feels solid, I do wish the liner lock was slightly more robust. Then again, I generally feel that way about all liner locks in general, soooo…
While I wouldn’t hesitate to use this knife in a self defense emergency, I do find the liner lock to be a bit thin to be considered tactical.
If I’m choosing my ideal tactical folding knife, I want a thick, heavy locking mechanism that can take a LOT of pressure, especially when the knife is penetrating in a forward motion.
I’ve done heavy duty cutting tasks with this knife and I’ve never had the lock fail on me, but I still would prefer something like a frame lock for those kinds of tasks.
All things considered though, the locking mechanism is tight with no slop or wobble. As far as liner locks go, it’s a solid choice.
This ergos on this knife are amazing, at least for EDC purposes.
The merging of a no-slip checkered grip pattern, contoured handle, and index finger choil make the Shenanigan perfectly comfortable in hand.
I have big meaty hands, and I’m still naturally able to get this knife to fit snugly in my palm. The handle has a decent amount of palm swell, and for that it can fit comfortably in hand.
The finger choil is also nice and pronounced, so it really helps your index finger latch on to something. It forms enough of a wall to prevent your finger from slipping forward onto the blade.
Now, I should point out the Shenanigan has quite the aggressive jimping cut into the thumb ramp…
While that is brilliant for lighter duty tasks, that can be a pain when you’re doing heavy duty cutting for any extended amount of time. I’ll elaborate on that in a minute.
I did two tests for the Shenanigan. When doing the “300 cuts of cardboard test”, I found that a minor hotspot formed right over the pocket clip, but was inconsequential really. I don’t ever notice that spot during softer day to day use.
When doing my 2×4 test, however, the aggressive jimping on the handle definitely started to dig into my finger after a while.
Like I said, for softer day to day usage, that aggressive jimping is really nice, but for heavy wood cutting, this thing will start to bite into your finger a bit.
For extended use, you’re better off wearing gloves… unless, of course, you’re the manliest of men and eat bowl of nails for breakfast…without any milk.
One thing no one can deny about this badboy is that it’s a pro slicer. The clean hollow grind and big ol belly let you slice through boxes with ease.
From my cutting tests, I found that the blade held its edge better than I’d initially expected. I also found that it didn’t drag too much.
All in all, it sliced great, and the penetration power is impressive. Again, I just wish that maybe it had a thicker frame lock to support all that power. Oh well, can’t have it all.
It was during the 2×4 cutting test that this knife really showed what it was really capable of. It held up surprisingly well!
It bit into the wood well, and it held a good edge. It dulled little bit, as to be expected, but all in all it really did hold a good edge! It didn’t chip or anything. For a knife at this price point that is impressive.
This blade’s performance, of course, is largely dependent on its blade profile.
Today I chose to review the drop point straight edge blade profile in this article, but it is worth pointing out you can get this knife with a Tanto blade as well as a partially Serrated blade.
I don’t own either of those two, but I’ve heard good things about them. Maybe I will look into buying those in the future.
Design of the blade itself is outstanding (as to be expected from Ken Onion)
I love the sweet opening and closing action
Performed surprisingly well on my 2×4 wood test
LEAST FAVORITE FEATURES
The lockup feels secure, but I do wish the liner lock was more robust
Pocket clip is non-reversible
In a nutshell, the Shenanigan’s lightweight and sturdy design makes it a great choice for everyday use.
It’s a rugged knife that’s shown it can take a lot of abuse. I pitted it against a 2×4 and it came out unscathed. What a good sport.
Blade Magazine was on point when they named the CRKT Shenanigan PPS the 2011’s Best Buy of The Year.
The combining of two forces, two legendary knife makers- CRKT and Ken Onion, really does make for one impressive knife for the price point.
If you’re looking for a reliable, long lasting everyday carry (EDC) knife at an attractive price, the CRKT Ken Onion Shenanigan should definitely be on your list, or at least a viable option to consider.
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