Review: CRKT Pilar Knife

The CRKT Pilar has proven to be a hot commodity. Following its debut at the 2017 SHOT Show, this little EDC knife has sold out at many of the major online retailers. Journeywind Junk wanted to know what all the fuss was about, and CRKT was kind enough to oblige. Here’s my review of the Pilar, supplied by the folks at Columbia River.

Form

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With its unique blade shape and sturdy construction, the Pilar is a meat cleaver for your pocket. Everything about the design screams “confidence,” from the thickness of its blade to the deep curve of its forward finger choil. CRKT’s robust framelock further compliments designer Jesper Voxnaes’ workhorse vision.

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As followers of Journeywind Junk know, one of our favorite budget knife designs is the Squid, also from CRKT. One of my main points of attraction to the Pilar was that, in many ways, it appears to be a beefed up version of that EDC gem. The Pilar shares its satin finish and 8Cr13MoV steel with the Squid, trading in the later’s thumb stud for an ovoid thumb hole. But this new knife offers a few things that its smaller cousin doesn’t. Foremost among these is the modified sheepsfoot design of the Pilar’s 2.4-inch blade, whose extra thickness (0.15-inches) pushes it beyond the Squid’s already impressive utility. CRKT has added the option for tip-up or tip-down carry, though only on the right side. The blade’s flat grind will also be easier to sharpen than the hollow grind found on the Squid. That being said, both knives arrived with excellent edges.

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All of this muscle comes with a price – weight. Heavy duty work means heavy duty heft, and the Pilar feels all of its 4.2-ounces. This is distributed over a 5.9-inch open length, with a handle thickness of 0.43-inches. But once it’s in your hand, the Pilar just feels good. Its beefiness and decidedly non-tactical appearance make it clear that this a knife built for the pockets of well-worn coveralls, roaming the warehouses and garages of the world. Would it work in an office setting? Yes, absolutely. But the weight and girth of this little big knife may feel a little out of place in your dress slacks.

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This harkens after the designer’s intent. Voxnaes crafted and named the Pilar after author Ernest Hemingway’s 38-foot fishing boat, which he used to conduct surveillance on German subs during World War II. Like the man and his boat, this little knife is definitely more at home in the field.

5 stars out of 5

Function

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The Pilar excels at short, powerful cuts. Its strong grip and deep forward choil provide a feeling of security, even under significant exertion. Its large finger hole provides adequate purchase when opening, and the thick framelock snaps nicely into place. The graceful curve of the blade spine creates a natural resting place for the thumb, and the handle is long enough for a full-fingered grip. There’s a lanyard hole in the knife’s far aft section, should you desire to add some additional purchase.

The action can be simultaneously smooth and stiff. The blade travels well over its thick teflon bearings, but the thickness of the lock bar adds some effort to the process. Some of the surfaces you interact with during locking and unlocking can be a little sharp, so your thumb may feel a little tenderness while learning the process. There’s also some stickiness on the initial deploy, until you learn where to place your thumb in the oval. Still, I’ve been pleased with the overall functionality of the knife.

4 stars out of 5

Future

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Like the Squid, the Pilar scores several strong points in the Future category. Chief among these is its ease of maintenance. All it takes to disassemble and service both knives is two small star drive bits and a touch of lube. A complete teardown and restoration can be performed in less than ten minutes.

And while 8Cr13MoV steel has taken its lumps in the EDC community, I’ve found it to be adequate for daily use. It’ll take an edge and it’s easy to sharpen when necessary. For a workhorse knife like this, it’s a serviceable choice. And with CRKT’s lifetime warranty, you’ll be covered in the event that your ambition outpaces the Pilar’s ability.

Overall, the knife’s solid construction and strong ergonomics would seem to be indicative of a long and productive life.

4.5 stars out of 5

Finance

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Alright. I’m going to try to make a point without contradicting myself. I stated above that I have no problem with the Pilar’s 8Cr13MoV steel. And, operating in a vacuum, I don’t. But the EDC knife community is anything but vacuous.

What I’m getting at is this: While the standard CRKT steel is fine, it would be nice to have the option of upgrading to something like AUS-8. Consider the Ontario RAT 2 and the Cold Steel Finn Wolf – two similarly priced knives, both offering a slight uptick in the quality of their steel. And demand for the Pilar has sent prices as high as $45, in some cases, which is more than 25% more expensive than either the RAT or the Finn.

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When the dust settles, we expect the Pilar to retail for considerably less – perhaps $25-$30. At this price point, it’s a great deal. And one could even make the argument that the knives I’ve compared it to occupy separate niches in the EDC community. While the Finn is designed as an outdoors blade and the RAT is more of a finesse tool, the Pilar is a thick, heavy bruiser. You don’t carry the Pilar for slicing apples or dressing game. Its forte lies in short, strong cuts with outstanding control. If your job has you sitting behind a desk for most of the day, it may not be the best knife for your dollar. But if you’re breaking down boxes, working on machinery, or doing other tasks requiring a beefy cutter, this is the knife for you.

Oh, and maybe prepping food in the field. I imagine the Pilar to be a beast of a carrot slicer.

3.75 stars out of 5

Where to Buy

CRKT’s Official Website

Amazon (Rated 4.3 out of 5 stars over 5 customer reviews as of 4/15/17)

Blade HQ

Smoky Mountain Knife Works

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