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Last Updated: August 12, 2019
One of the hallmarks of a quality folding knife is to be able to take it apart and put it back together without any problems. That is one of the qualities I find most admirable in my Spyderco Sage 1, which remains one of my all time favorite EDC knives to this day. Certainly that is one of the draws to the CRK Sebenza; its unapologetic simplicity and ease of disassembly and re-assembly. I think it’s one thing to put something together properly at the factory and have it work well in the short term, but if it doesn’t go back together correctly after being taken apart then something is horribly wrong.
So when I saw CRKT roll out the Homefront, a knife that was designed to be taken apart, I took notice. At first glance this may seem gimmicky in the same way Lionsteel made a handle that changes color when you hold it. The knife industry is a tough one to innovate in, and some of features touted as “innovations” can be questionable at best. But the Homefront was designed by Ken Onion, and CRKT has a history of executing custom designs well. So I approached the Homefront with both interest and a healthy dose of skepticism.
General Dimensions and Blade Details
The Homefront has an overall length of 8.3″, a 3.5″ blade, weighs 4.8 ounces, and is made in Taiwan. I have a soft spot for utilitarian folders with a 3.5″ blade. Some of my favorite user pieces fall into this category, including the Cold Steel American Lawman, Kershaw Blur, and Buck Marksman. In an age of high dollar titanium framelock flippers these are the unsung heroes of my knife collection. While I am as guilty as the next guy for wanting to check out high end offerings, these humble pieces keep showing up in my pocket to get the job done.
The Homefront has that same “no bullshit” appeal that these other knives have. It’s simply constructed and geared towards functionality. But that is not to say that the Homefront is devoid of detail and visual interest. The knife has a military inspired aesthetic that has grown on me since acquisition. I am still not a fan of the oversize star on the pivot, but the rest of the design agrees with me, and the knife is nicely made and beautifully finished. In my mind this is a dedicated utility knife, and is one that could be pressed into a variety of roles as your situation requires.
The blade is a handsome drop-point design, with a prominent fuller, big belly, and a simple swedge terminating in a capable tip. You almost forget this is a Ken Onion design, except for that suggestion of a recurve. The blade features a hollow grind and a lustrous satin finish. The knife is ground reasonably thin and it slices well. This is a classic and useful blade shape.
One critique is that the edge is not sharpened all the way to the plunge line. Instead, you have about a quarter inch of unsharpened steel. The advantage is that you can use this as a poor man’s forward finger choil, but the disadvantage is that you lose that cutting surface and the knife can be a little harder to sharpen on some systems.
CRKT chose AUS-8 for the blade steel. I’m not a steel snob, but this is my biggest criticism of the knife. Given the near $100 retail price point (I paid $90 for mine, but now see the knife retail for a little over $80 on Amazon), this should be S30V, 154CM, or some other higher end stainless steel. Every other aspect of the Homefront is on par with a $100 knife, so it’s a shame to see the steel suffer here. Still, AUS-8 is serviceable stuff, and it will certainly work for a knife that is meant to be used. It is tough, doesn’t rust easily, and is easy to sharpen.
If you add up all my reviews I have probably written the equivalent of a full length novel on AUS-8, so I won’t belabor this further. At the end of the day I don’t mind the steel in a lower end knife, but would be remiss not to ding the Homefront for the choice of AUS-8 blade steel.
Handle, Ergonomics, and Pocket Clip
The handle is constructed of 2 slabs of 6061 aluminum that have been type-3 anodized a rich olive green. There is a partial geared aluminum backspacer, and a nested steel liner lock. The handle is modified to accommodate the Field-Strip take down system (more on that below) with the inclusion of a release lever near the pivot and a geared wheel at the pommel.
Fit and finish on this knife is immaculate. The lines are crisp, there is an absence of tooling marks, and everything comes together perfectly. The anodization is tough to capture with photography – it has a subtle depth to it that doesn’t show up well in the pictures. The anodization has held up nicely, but I don’t doubt if I drop it on my driveway it will show signs of wear like my Marksman.
The Homefront benefits from a simple approach to ergonomics, and is a comfortable knife in hand. The handle itself is lightly textured and the aluminum is a far cry from abrasive G-10 or rough patterning. There is a shallow finger choil, and a row of toothy jimping – aggressive enough to bite in sharply if you really bear down on the knife, but easy to avoid if you place your thumb on the spine of the blade. The geared backspacer and release wheel provide additional traction if you need to use the knife in a reverse grip, but largely stay out of the way when you are using the knife with a normal forward grip.
Ken knows how to design a comfortable knife, and this Homefront benefits from his decades of experience.
The pocket clip is an unassuming piece of folded-over stainless steel. It’s black, rectangular, and does a decent job of keeping the knife held in place in your pocket. The aluminum handles don’t offer much traction, so retention isn’t outstanding. It is a deep carry clip, and the Homefront all but disappears into your pocket. Beyond that, there isn’t much to report, beyond the handle being milled, drilled, and tapped for right side tip up carry only – not a big deal for me, but a potential source of contention for some.
The Homefront carries nicely in the pocket. It’s not overly thick, heavy or large, and it carries like you would expect it to. No complaints.
The Homefront is the first production knife to feature Ken Onion’s Field-strip Technology. It’s a system that allows the knife to be taken apart without tools in seconds by way of a lever near the pivot and a release wheel at the butt of the handle. Flip the lever, turn the wheel, and in seconds you have a fully disassembled knife.
I have had my Homefront for about 6 weeks at this point, and in that space of time I have disassembled and re-assembled the Homefront probably 100 times. Not out of necessity, but out of that neurotic fidgety compulsion that drives most knife collectors to obsessively and absentmindedly flick the blades of their folders. This is the same neurosis that is responsible for grown men spinning $100+ tops and the TorqBar. Plus I wanted to test the system out thoroughly.
I am here to say that after taking the knife apart obsessively the Field-Strip system still works great. I can take the knife apart and put it back together in under 30 seconds at this point. There was a small learning curve, but with a little practice the Field Strip system becomes easy to manipulate.
The bigger question is, “How handy is this?” I don’t work a particularly dirty job. I’m not in the military, or law enforcement, or anything remotely physical. So I don’t really “need” a knife that I can strip in the field, because, let’s face it, I’m never in the field.
But I can tell you this is a nice well implemented feature. I do occasionally take my knives apart, and when I do it’s at best an ordeal necessitating the use of torx drivers, a quiet space, a clean surface, and 10-15 minutes of my time. At worst you can mess up the knife. I have stripped screws, lost pieces under my desk, and have taken a knife apart only to find out it doesn’t want to come back together quite right.
There is value to this system whether you are trying to take your knife apart inside a tent or at your kitchen table. I wouldn’t want to take my Benchmade apart on a camping trip. But taking apart the Homefront outside is something I am completely comfortable with.
Deployment and Lockup
The Homefront is a sub-liner lock flipper. The flipper looks like a bayonet lug, paying further homage to the Homefront’s throwback military-inspired design. The blade runs on nested teflon washers. I am typically not a fan of teflon washers, but they work here. The washers are nested in such a way that they don’t fall out when you disassemble the knife, and my guess is that was the primary consideration when selecting teflon. Regardless, the blade flips open easily and the action doesn’t have that “floaty” feeling that is typical of teflon washers. It actually flips well, especially after a break in. The oversize flipper provides plenty of leverage, and the blade pops opens with a satisfying snap.
You can get a good look at the nested steel liner lock in the picture of the dissassembled knife. It’s unassuming, but it works well. The lock bar is easy to get at and doesn’t stick. There is a little side to side play, an acceptable trade off for a toolless design, but nothing more than you would find on an axis lock. Also, the blade centering is dead center every single time, without any tweaking on my end. This is super impressive to me, as so many knives get this wrong. It’s a testament to how well the Homefront is engineered and manufactured.
CRKT Homefront Review – Final Thoughts
It would be easy to dismiss the Homefront and its Field-Strip system as a gimmick. But I think doing so would be a mistake. At its core this is a well made and functional piece, and the Field-Strip aspect of the knife works surprisingly well. The knife comes apart and goes back together easily and consistently. This is a legitimate improvement over a regular screw-together folder, and CRKT did a good job with this. I’d like to see them carry this out with other designs and dial the system in even further.
I’d also like to see CRKT beef up the blade steel. I realize that this knife was manufactured in Taiwan, which means there are logistical challenges to getting quality steel to the factory, plus this was probably an expensive knife both to develop and manufacture, but at this price point you really need to be above the AUS8/8Cr13MoV tier of steel. Both Spyderco and Cold Steel have figured out how to get good steel to their Taiwanese factories, so it can be done. The choice of AUS-8 is not a deal killer for me, but I know it will be a turn off for many.
At the end of the day I think the pros to the Homefront outweigh the cons. This is an excellently executed knife, and it’s the most interesting edged tool to cross my desk in 2016. I think this knife is a good choice for both collectors of interesting and unusual knives, and I also recommend it for those who are considering the Homefront as an EDC piece. I purchased this knife with my own money for long term testing and evaluation. I’ll continue to carry and use the Homefront and will update this review if my opinion about the knife or Field-Strip system changes over time.
As I close this review out I can’t help but compare my Homefront to my Marksman. Both feature aluminum handles, classic lines, and solid construction. Both are unique and innovative in their own ways. And both are rock solid workhorse knives. It’s my pleasure to highlight unique offerings like these.
- Easy Maintenance: Field Strip take apart your knife for cleaning without tools
- Easy To Sharpen: High carbon stainless steel blade takes an edge well
- Lightweight And Strong: Aluminum handle combines strength with minimal weight
- Designed by Ken Onion in Kaneohe, Hawaii
- Versatile Use: Suitable for every day carry around the home or office