The ink had barely dried on my Sebenza review. I was sitting peaceably at my desk and distinctly remember saying how it would be a good while before I got my hands on another Chris Reeve knife. Shockingly enough it was only a couple weeks before the sweet Siren that is Chris Reeve Knives beckoned me back. Well, lets be real. The only thing that was really shocked by this purchase was my back account.
This time around I picked up a CRK Umnumzaan (or “Umnum” for short). Right off the bat I could tell this was something special. Much like the small Sebenza the Umnumzaan was so attractive because of its simplicity. And in many ways the Umnum is even more simple than the Sebenza. But each piece is so carefully considered that the simple shapes belie an incredibly detailed design. It’s a really interesting knife, so lets dive on in and take a closer look.
General Dimensions and Blade Details
The Umnumzaan sports a 3.675″ blade, has an overall length of 8.445″ and weighs 5 ounces. This is a larger knife, suited for utility work or perhaps as an emergency defensive tool. I think most people will use the knife as an EDC item. On paper 5 ounces may seem kind of heavy, but in my hand the knife feels light for its size.
This Umnumzaan comes with a Tanto blade shape. This was actually a special limited run of the knife that is completely sold out. The Umnumzaan traditionally has a drop point blade. Truth be told, I’m a bigger fan of the drop point version, but I couldn’t resist this unique tanto shape. The tanto shape is very powerful looking and quite aggressive with the hollow grind, swedge, and wonderful flat ground tip.
Speaking of grinds, everything has been ground with laser-like precision. I can spend hours staring at the blade alone, it’s really very satisfying. The blade stock is 3.56mm thick and the edge of the tanto version has a slight amount of belly. The blade on my Umnum has been given a nice stonewash. This is a beautiful finish that doesn’t show wear as easily as other finishes and will resist rust.
The steel on this particular Umnumzaan is CPM S30V which has been hardened to 58-59 RC. In 2011 CRK started to make these knives in S35VN. This is supposed to be an improvement over the original S30V, but I have no experience with it and there has been some controversy as to whether S35VN truly is superior. Apparently CRK worked closely with Crucible (the manufacturer of both S30V and S35VN) to develop this steel. I would expect S35VN to perform as well as S30V, if not better. Knowing CRK, they didn’t take the switch from S30V to S35VN lightly. Once I’ve had more experience with the steel I can provide my thoughts. I will say that S30V is excellent stuff, so if you snag an older version of the knife expect it to perform very well.
Handle, Ergonomics and Pocket Clip
The handle of the Umnumzaan is simple, but it is wonderfully refined and beautifully finished. CRK started with two slabs of 3.8mm thick 6AL4V titanium. There is a single stand off (pillar) near the pommel, so the knife is held together only at 2 places (at the standoff and at the pivot screw). The edges of the handle have been wonderfully rounded and contoured. A lanyard hole has been sunk into the back of the handle and on my knife a leather lanyard has been threaded through. All the stainless steel hardware has been polished to a bright sheen and the titanium scales have been sandblasted, which is attractive but will quickly pick up small scratches (unavoidable given the material).
Ergonomics on the Umnum are also very nice. The handle easily accommodates my larger hands. An attractive pattern has been milled into both sides of the handle. This provides both visual interest and extra grip. However, the bare titanium itself is also fairly grippy. It’s obviously not rough like G10, but definitely resists slipping. Additionally, there is nice, totally functional jimping on the spine of the blade and there is even something of a choil. I have no problem at all with the ergonomics on this knife.
The pocket clip is the legendary CRK “double dip clip” which is so good it’s almost beyond description. When you insert the knife into your pocket, the first dip is quite sturdy. However, once it reaches the second dip, the knife is totally locked in place. The best part is, the knife is still very easy to insert and withdraw from the pocket. Simply put, this is a big improvement over a standard clip. I happen to think that this is the best pocket clip currently on the market.
Deployment and Lockup
The Umnumzaan has dual thumb studs. These studs also double as the stop pin in both open and closed positions. The thumb stud is only useful for deployment from the right hand, but the left hand stud is too close to the lock bar to work as an opening mechanism. As a southpaw I was a little disappointed by this, but I understand that this was necessary if the thumb studs are to double as an integral stop pin.
However, I did notice that the nub that CRK refers to as glassbreaker can be used to open the knife left handed. If you push on this glassbreaker, it opens the knife enough so you can access the thumb stud and full engage the knife. It’s a less than perfect solution, but in a less than perfect world I’m totally willing to accept it – especially since CRK also makes a dedicated left hand version of the Umnumzaan.
As for the deployment itself, the Umnum moves with a feeling of purpose. The action is exceptionally smooth and the blade locks into place with a soft yet satisfying “click.” I like the deployment a lot. The knife features phosphor bronze washers that have been perforated and loaded with fluorinated grease to reduce friction.
I also want to discuss the pivot on this knife, which is quite unique. This is a very thick pivot screw, and it has a special 4 hole bolt pattern that requires a special tool to unscrew it. Thankfully CRK sends you all the tools needed to take this knife apart along with detailed full color instructions. This is great because most companies really don’t want you to take apart your knife. In some cases it will void your warranty. I like how CRK acknowledges and encourages the responsible disassembly of your knife. In my mind this shows how much CRK stands behind their products.
As far as lockup goes, the Umnumzaan makes use of a modified framelock. I say “modified” because the frame of the knife doesn’t actually come in contact with the tang. Instead, a ceramic ball has been inset into the face of the lock bar. This ball is what comes in contact with the tang, not the titanium frame itself. This ball also doubles as your blade detent. This is great because now you don’t need to worry about the titanium on your lack bar wearing out. Lockup on my knife is excellent with no blade play at all.
Disengaging the lock is also worth talking about. The handle is shaped in a way so that there is a slight lip on the lock bar, so you can easily catch the bar with your thumb and disengage the knife. This lip doubles as the choil. The blade slides into the closed position with another soft “click.”
Chris Reeve Knives Umnumzaan – Final Thoughts
The CRK Umnumzaan is just an absolutely fantastic knife. There is no way around it. The materials are all top notch, the fit and finish is incredible, the design is absurdly well thought out, and the overall style of the knife is just super super cool. At $425 new it definitely isn’t cheap, but I do feel like you are getting something for the price premium.
I tried to touch on some of the extra details that make this knife special, but there is only so much I can do in a ~1,500 word review or a 10 minute video. Let me just restate how precise this knife has been engineered. Every day of Chris’s 20+ year knifemaking career shows with this knife – absolutely no stone has gone unturned here. I am highly impressed with the Umnumzaan and totally recommend it if you like the knife and can get around the price tag.
Chris Reeve Knives Umnumzaan – $425