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Last Updated: July 19, 2019
It’s no secret that I think the creative team at Benchmade has been adrift for the past few years. This is perhaps best evidenced by the fact that the company’s most exciting new offerings are actually re-issues of old models: the 940-1 and 551-1. These rockstar designs are interspersed among more puzzling offerings like the 808 Loco and 300 Axis Flipper.
Buy the Benchmade Crooked River at BladeHQ
But Benchmade does seem to be cobbling together a theme. They seem to be taking this “old school, meet new school” approach not only to their classic designs, but also by melding traditional designs with modern manufacturing in their “Hunt” lineup. I thought the Small Summit Lake was a successful mashup of traditional lockback folder with modern materials, beefy construction, and precision manufacturing. The 15080 Crooked River is a knife cut from that same cloth.
In fact, the Crooked River takes the juxtoposition even further. This is an even greater departure from tradition to the point where we almost have a caricature of the classic bowie. Yet there is still a timeless quality to the knife. The low slung blade and bolstered handles tug at the heartstrings of traditional knife design, while the finishes and flourishes appeal to this fan of modern folding knives.
General Dimensions and Blade Details
The Crooked River has an overall length of 9.3″, a 4″ blade, weighs 5.41 ounces, and is made in the USA. This is a big knife, and is far outside the confines of what I would consider to be an every day carry (EDC) piece. If you were to whip this out in public to trim packing tape or open an envelope, most people would hide under their desk. And if a friend offered up a Swiss Army Knife at a campsite, you could go full Crocodile Dundee on the guy with this Crooked River. This is a “knoife”. I wouldn’t mind a smaller, more manageable version for daily carry.
The Crooked River features a long and lean clip point blade. I have always enjoyed a good clip point for it’s practicality, and the Crooked River is no exception. The high flat grind has been nicely executed complete with Benchmade’s 2-tone stonewashed satin finish. The blade is cut from an impressive 3.15mm thick piece of S30V stainless steel, and it carries a significant amount of steel out all the way to the tip. The end result is a blade that has a good tip for piercing, plenty of edge for cutting, and a nice belly for food prep and possibly even skinning.
The choice of S30V stainless steel for the blade is less exciting now then it may have been 5 years ago. These days I prefer S35VN for it’s improved toughness and ease of sharpening over S30V, but in my opinion Benchmade has always done a great job with their S30V. For example, the S30V on the Volli continues to impress me with it’s sharpness, edge holding, and ease of maintenance. I think Benchmade knows how to make the most of this steel.
The blade geometry of the Crooked River is stouter than the Volli, but this is still a functional blade and the S30V performs nicely on this knife. Capable of taking a keen edge, and holding it for an acceptable period of time, the S30V on the Crooked River is still functional despite there being sexier steels on the market. No issues with corrosion either.
Handle, Ergonomics, and Pocket Clip
The Crooked River has a long curving handle that compliments its long curving blade. The combination of diamond wood, aluminum bolsters, and orange pivot collar is striking, and I am sure that decision alone has sold many 15080-2’s for Benchmade. If resin-injected wood isn’t your thing, then Benchmade also offers the Crooked River with smooth gray G10 handle scales.
Underneath the scales are full stainless steel liners (skeletonized) and a bright orange G-10 backspacer. Holding things together is a large black pivot and blackened steel hardware. Everything is precision fit, and there are a number of nice details to enjoy, like the arced face between handle scale and bolster, the geared backspacer, and of course the snazzy orange pivot collar. Even the lanyard hole is oval and chamfered, adding style to an otherwise mundane feature of a knife.
Despite there being a good deal of weight around the pivot, the balance point on the Crooked River is behind the axis lock, and is close to the “hump” of the finger choil. The hand feels most at home here; set back further on the knife. While this isn’t billed as a tactical folder, I would be curious to get someone like Chad’s take on the Crooked River. I have no doubt that a knife like this could be pressed beyond pure utilitarian purposes if the need arose.
Beyond my comments on the balance of the knife, the Crooked River benefits from a subdued approach to ergonomics and traction. The long handle provides plenty of room, even for extra large hands. The diamond wood scales offers some texture (not much), while a mild run of jimping on the back of the handle indexes the thumb while still allowing the user to cut with the knife for extended periods without significant thumb fatigue. All said, the ergonomics have proven to be adequate for my purposes.
The Crooked River is a big knife. While I don’t think 5.41 ounces is overweight given the build quality and footprint, it’s still substantial, and when closed the knife is pivot heavy. This creates something of a pendulum effect in your pocket. Benchmade has tried to counter this with a stiff pocket clip. This is a good idea, and my Crooked River holds firmly in place.
On the subject of pocket clips, Benchmade went with a black parkerized version of their split arrow clip. I have always liked the split arrow clip, and here it is situated high on the handle for a relatively deep and discrete carry. The handle is also drilled and tapped for ambidextrous tip up use. That said, Benchmade’s deep carry clip will fit on this knife, and if you prefer a more discrete deep carry option Benchmade typically will send you a deep carry clip free of charge if you ask them nicely.
Deployment and Lockup
While some may grow bored with the axis lock, it remains one of my favorite locking mechanisms. I like the easy one handed opening and closing. Plus it’s fully ambidextrous. And I don’t know if I am simply bullshitting myself, but to me it looks like the phosphor bronze washers on these Benchmades have gotten thicker over the years. Much like my new 551-1, this Crooked River is smooth and easy to open. The blade pops into place with a satisfying “snick”, and the ambidextrous thumb studs are easy to get at with either hand.
Unlike some of the axis lock knives that have crossed my path, my Crooked River locks up tightly and without any play. Blade play is a common complaint on axis lock knives, but I have found that most knives can be fixed with a targeted application of Loctite. Here, blade play was a non-issue, and the axis lock remains as practical and easy to use as ever.
Benchmade Crooked River Review – Final Thoughts
Not to get all jingoistic on everyone, but the Crooked River appeals to the red blooded American in me. This knife takes me back to my childhood, handling my dad’s old Buck fixed blade tucked away his closet next to the well worn Swiss army knives, and old harmonicas.
There is an undeniable charm to the Crooked River that strikes at that primal note that has drawn many people to knife collecting in the first place. While not the most practical offering for an erudite urban EDC, the Crooked River is unapologetically bold and beautiful, and I think it is one of the nicer new designs from BM.
The Crooked River is a knife that I would like a smaller version of. As it stands I don’t see it getting a ton of use personally, but perhaps it has a place in your collection. If the Crooked River piques your interest in the same way that it piqued mine, then I am pleased to report that it is a well made and satisfying folder.
- BUILT FOR THE HUNT: Simplicity and style meets unmatched function, no matter the application; An ideal hunting knife capable of countless tasks in the field.
- AMERICAN MADE CPM-S30V STEEL: For first-rate edge retention and corrosion resistance; Clip-point construction for easily controlled cuts.
- STABILIZED WOOD HANDLE: Is made from a durable composite material that's been backfilled with resin; Stands up to a range of harsh elements and environments; Stronger than natural wood.
- AXIS LOCKING MECHANISM: Ensures safety and a smooth open and easy close; Reversible split arrow clip; Lanyard hole for versatile carry options.
I recommend purchasing the Benchmade Crooked River at Amazon or BladeHQ. Please consider that purchasing anything through any of the links on this website helps support BladeReviews.com, and keeps the site going. As always, any and all support is greatly appreciated. Thank you very much.
Hi I have a unrelated question. I saw a old response you had on a question about the benchmade bedlam 8600 auto and was wondering what would be the best sharpener for the knife would be. I am new to sharpening and the blade is the partial serrated version.
Hi Aaron, Thanks for the question. I think the Spyderco Sharpmaker would be a great choice for the Bedlam, and for people new to sharpening in general. It was my first sharpener, and for ~$50, it remains a constant in my knife collection. I still use it, and still recommend it.
It can also sharpen serrated and partially serrated edges. Let me know what you think if you decide to check one out.
Justin shelly says
Hi I actually just bought this knife and I’m extremely happy with it, but I know that time will come when that fresh factory edge will be gone and I’m gonna need to sharpen it. What do you think is the best sharpener for the job concerning my beautiful new crooked river benchmade?
Congrats on your new Crooked River. I hope you enjoy it. Depending on your budget, skill level, and preferences I can recommend a number of sharpeners, but my recommended starter sharpener is the Spyderco Sharpmaker. I have written a number of sharpener reviews over the years and you can check them out here.
Justin shelly says
Thanks for the suggestion I believe I will go with that sharpening system. I’ve been looking at a lot of reviews on the sharpmaker and the main consensus is that it does a fantastic job and it’s easy to use. I have noticed sharpener like that use rods at different angles depending on what knife your sharpening. Any idea what angle is the best for sharpening this model?
Justin, You can’t go wrong with a Sharpmaker.
As far as the angle, I would go with the 40 degree edge option on the Sharpmaker. 20 degrees per side and is pretty standard for EDC knives.
First Benchmade that I have been interest in for years!
Matt, Despite it being a large and impractical knife (for me at least) the design was so nice I had to check it out – especially since BM is really not turning out much else of interest.
Earl Sweatpants says
“If you were to whip this out in public to trim packing tape or open an envelope, most people would hide under their desk.”
LOL, I’ve had folks look at me sidewards when I used the small blade on my keychain SAK, this thing would probably prompt a call to the police. That silly reality notwithstanding, this one looks like it’d be right at home in the pocket of anyone who needs a serious folding knife for serious work. I love folders with a nice thick blade and I really like the wood handles. I personally hope different and/or “exotic” handles becomes a fad, how many black tactical folders can you have?
So these resins in the wood prevent warping I assume?
Yeah – this is probably not a knife to show the co-workers, unless you work construction or some other job that would justify a tool like this. Kinda sad honestly.
Yes, Diamond Wood (actually it’s DymondWood, and apparently I dicked that up in the article – I’ll fix it) is stabilized to prevent warping and presumably it makes it easier to 3-D machine. You can read more about the product on the manufacturer’s website: http://rutply.com/404e.html
Justin shelly says
I clicked on the link to dymondwood and it just took me to a page telling me their manufacturing facility was destroyed in a fire in 2014 which really sucks for the company but I couldn’t find a working link to explain what it is exactly. Is it a solid piece of wood somehow infused with resin to prevent water, warping and other damage? And if so do you know what kind of dymond wood they used on my 15080 crooked river? I tried looking into what kind of wood was used on the handle but couldn’t really find an answer. I love the knife regardless of what the wood is but I really like knowing what materials are used on the things I pay good money for. Thanks, Justin
Yes it is a type of stabilized (resin infused) wood. Basically it is wood soaked in resin placed under a vacuum. The vacuum vastly accelerates the soaking process. It effectively drives the resin into the cells of the wood and once the resin soaked wood cures the wood is considered “stabilized” and is now completely impregnated with resin. The end result is something that looks like wood, but it won’t shrink and expand or crack like natural untreated wood can. You can also color the wood by dying the resin.
The BM Crooked River or the Spyderco Military? If you can only have one…
That is a tough question. If it was between the two, and I needed a true “user” knife, say if I were to go on an extended trip to the Amazon or something, then I’d probably go with the Military as its a more practical offering. It’s lighter, less flashy, carries easier, etc.
But from a collectible or fidget factor standpoint I like the Crooked River more. It’s a beautiful knife.
Benchmade hasn’t made a knife that has caught my eye in quite some time. The Crooked
River changes that. This is a handsome knife that pays homage to the classic lines of dad’s old lockback, while still possessing enough uniqueness to “stand on its own two feet” in terms of design and appearance. As always, thanks for the great review, Dan.
Thank you for the kind comment. I could not agree more with your assessment of the Crooked River and think you hit the nail on the head. Thanks again.
Insipid Moniker says
Love the lines of this knife. A gorgeous homage to the old folding hunter pattern that maintains modern sensibilities. I’m sincerely hoping this trend from Benchmade continues as I think many of use love the convenience of modern folders, but agree that traditionals have an profound edge in terms of aesthetics.
IM, I totally agree and think this is a great direction for BM. Lets hope they listen to the customer feedback and travel further down this modern-meet-traditional path.
Jacob Vandenberg says
Great review, Dan. I’ve been waiting to hear your take on this one. That’s an interesting suggestion that Benchmade make a small version of the Crooked River. That might take this knife from a fascination to a must-buy for me.
Thank you, Jake. Yes I think a smaller version would be more practical for most people. FYI, your review is the next BM on deck. Will be a few more weeks but I am excited to publish it. Take care.
Jacob Vandenberg says
Thanks for the heads up, Dan. That’s very exciting to hear. I can see now that you weren’t kidding when you said you had a lot on your plate. Thanks again for the feature.
Yup, I have reviews on deck for the next month and a half or so, and then my day job keeps me busy, but I look forward to publishing your guest review in the not so distant future.
Yep, it’s a striking knife — athletic son of a happy marriage between a Buck 110 and a BM Contego. I got the gray G-10 version. The visual pop of the orange pivot collar against the cool-toned handle is kind of like a preppy wearing a splashy tie with a gray cotton suit.
The pivot-heavy design creates an interesting feel. That handle really tapers down as you move back toward the pocket clip. One upside is that the knife carries pretty slim for a 4″ blade. The part that protrudes above the pocket seam is deceptively narrow and modest looking.
I have found the S30V edge to be somewhat chippy and fragile so far, in medium use, but I haven’t had the chance to resharpen past the factory edge yet — I won’t be at all surprised if things improve after a couple of sharpenings. That’s what happened with my BM Osborne.
I love the analogy to this being the marriage between a Buck 110 and Contego – I think that is spot on.
I still prefer S35V for the same reason you mention. S30V can be chippy in some cases. I have noticed that with some of my Spydercos in S30V. Plus it’s harder to sharpen. I’ll be curious to see how the blade on this CR holds up in the long term.
At any rate, thanks for stopping by. I would not have guessed that the Crooked River is a knife you would buy (because it’s big and somewhat heavy), but I am glad you got one and are happy with it.
Heh, it was pure aesthetics.
Like a lot of other folks, I like the Crooked River’s visuals so much (a fully realized blend of traditional and modern cues) that I ponied up, even though, as a non-hunter, I can’t exactly think of a use for it. It could be used in a tactical role but IMO doesn’t quite have enough dedicated features (grip security, fast deployment) to replace something like a Recon 1, large Voyager, or Endura Wave.
And at a pricey (though fair, for a US product) $170, I’m a little reluctant to thump on it, especially since my first efforts left me with some edge chips to sharpen out.
Ben has talked about this “hallowed” effect in his reviews — above maybe the $75 mark I start to feel the knife is too much of an investment to get really grimy with it.
I totally agree with you. I don’t really plan on beating this one up either. I have so many knives at this point that I don’t really see this one being a true “user” piece for me. I liked the design and voted with my wallet. For me, if it gets much over the $100 or so price range I tend to be easier on it, although I do have some more expensive knives that I ended up using significantly like the Strider SnG, Boker Pipsqueak, etc.
Are you planning on reviewing the benchmade north fork and/or the grizzly creek anytime soon? I would like your opinion on those and which one you would perfer.
Offhand neither of those knives are on my immediate list (especially since I have reviewed a lot of Benchmades lately), but it’s not something I am opposed to reviewing either. I’ll keep it in the back of my mind, and if the opportunity arises it would be my pleasure to check either of those out. They do look very practical.
Bill Goodman, CPA says
I bought the Crooked River with G-10 scales in May 2016. I like it much. It is my EDC when not in dress cloths. I am an avid hunter and knife show promoter, http://www.PAKnifeShow.com. Please attend the Lehigh Valley Knife Show, Easton, PA USA, Oct. 1 & 2, 2016. See Lehigh Valley Knife Show on Facebook.
I also bought the first Benchmade Axis Folder, model 710, from McHenry and Williams personally at the NRA convention in Philadelphia around 1998, and carried it many times. It is a tough decision which model that I prefer or carry daily. I do prefer larger strong knives, and own around 500.
Bill Goodman, CPA says
More: The pocket clip is too tight to easily slip on my pocket cloth. On thick pants, such as jeans, I need to pry it open to slide on. I do not like the pointed arrow tip. I wish it had a more rounded and larger clip like my Ontario RAT-1, which easily slides on to my pocket. That is my favorite clip and a favorite EDC. . The BM 710 clip is fine. I shall accept your advice to contact Bench Made for a replacement.
Thanks for this and all of the great reviews on the site. Just bought this through your referral link. Hope it helps a little bit =]
You are very welcome. And thank you! Absolutely, every bit helps. I greatly appreciate your support.