Ready for something different? Out of a catalog filled with steel framelocks and G-10 comes the CRKT Sketch, a plastic-clad powerhouse featuring a utility-minded wharncliffe and surprisingly solid construction. CRKT touts it as being “blue collar through and through…just like you.” Color of my collar aside, this black-on-red budget blade has been an interesting companion. Here’s my full review of the CRKT Sketch.
Here’s the usual caveat – This knife was sent to me as a review sample by CRKT. That means that I didn’t pay the $25 this little guy costs over at BladeHQ. Still, I think I’ve shown a fair amount of objectivity in the past. Say what you will about CRKT – They’re certainly good sports. On to the review.
This is, without question, the most well-built CRKT I’ve handled. While the materials themselves may not be tip-top, the assembly and attention to detail is spot on. Let’s hit some dimensions before diving into the details.
Overall Length: 6.625”
Blade Length: 2.75″
Blade Thickness: 0.14”
Handle Length: 3.875”
Handle Thickness: 0.48”
Weight: 3.3 oz.
Got it? I’ve also included a couple comparison shots, just to give you an idea of its relative size. As you’ll see, it’s much smaller than the Kershaw Link. Its flat-ground wharncliffe features a much more angular tip, somewhat reminiscent of a disposable razor knife. In fact, here it is next to one:
Unlike a utility knife, you can’t swap in a new blade as soon as the old one dulls. And, with 8Cr13MoV under that black coating, bluntness is never too far away. Still, the blade spine is nicely chamfered, with an oval thumb-hole and handle cutout designed primarily for right-handers. This is, in fact, a pretty unfriendly knife for lefties. Carry is rights side, tip-down only. The clip itself is quite nice, however. It offers a decent amount of spring, allowing your pocket to slide easily past the gently textured polymer handle. There’s also a flat lanyard hole, which is smoothly integrated into the design.
Like a gift-wrapped present, the Sketch is perhaps more interesting inside than out. Despite its solid out-of-the-box action and blade centering (Way to go, CRKT!), I decided to take this guy apart. Here’s what I found.
That’s right – One bronze washer! The Sketch also features stainless steel liners, a prominent detent ball, and a D-shaped pivot. While I’m usually disenchanted by the inner workings of budget knives, the execution on my tester was spot-on.
About that handle… If it reminds you of a certain cephalopod, then congratulations! You’ve spotted the similarity between the Sketch and another CRKT model, the Squid. Both are the work of designer Lucas Burnley, a man known for creating practical EDC tools. But where the Squid comes with a steel chassis, the Sketch utilizes polymer handle scales with rubber TPR inlays. This allows for increased grip and improved ergos, at least in my medium/large hands.
Lastly, let’s talk about the color. This black-on-red model is nicely finished, with a squarely utilitarian appearance. I’m not usually a fan of black blades, but I think it works here. The overall aesthetic screams “tool,” but not in the ironic way of the Snap-On knife.
4.5 stars out of 5
I’ve never quite understood the hype around wharncliffe blades. Yeah, I’ve handled and review a few modified versions, but they’ve never resonated with me. Remember that comparison to a razor knife? Well, it’s an apt one. Both are designed with a work-first mentality, prioritizing function over form. Maybe this is why wharnies have never really clicked with me until now. From the first box I tackled with the Sketch, I’ve been sold.
From envelopes to cardboard to catering, I feel like this is a knife I can beat on. The position of the tip allows for excellent control when opening packages or performing fine tasks. And, while it’s certainly not a quick-deploying blade, the thumb hole is a perfectly serviceable opening mechanism. Ditto the linerlock, which snaps into a solid 50-percent state.
Not everything is beer and bologna sandwiches, though. The handle ergos are good, but this is definitely a three-finger knife. As such, I find myself bearing down on the grip a little more than normal. The handle scales do flex a bit, but the steel liners keep this from being a major issue. There’s also a bit of a hotspot where the lockbar contacts the crook of my index finger. But, hey, it’s a linerlock. That’s kinda par for the course.
Analogy time! The Sketch is kinda like that one guy on the jobsite who will do whatever he’s asked. He’s got a great attitude and a real passion for work, but you know his legs aren’t the best. He gets easily winded, too, so the job takes a little extra time to complete. But you like this guy, because he’s always ready to help. And he’s more versatile than some of the specialist superstars who get upset if you ask them to perform outside their comfort zone. And so this guy sticks around, working his way into a variety of useful and interesting roles. He has shortcomings, sure, but how can you be upset with someone who derives sincere enjoyment from their work?
That, in a nutshell, is how I feel about the Sketch. Yes, 8Cr13MoV sucks, and I really wish CRKT would stop using it. But outside of its unfortunate steel, this is one of the best little workers I’ve come across.
4 stars out of 5
This is going to be a partial parroting of the CRKT Batum writeup. The same CRKT Limited Lifetime Warranty is offered here, good for “as long as you own your knife.” Second owners are out of luck, as are those who make modifications. I’m still not sure if this applies to disassembly, but I’m not too troubled on a knife at this tier.
The average lifespan of my medium-duties CRKT’s has been between two and three years. That covers my time in food service and home improvement, opening lots of plastic, packaging, and banding. I imagine the Sketch would hold up for a similar amount of time, given the budgetary nature of its steel. But it’ll be a good run while it lasts.
3 stars out of 5
For $25, the Sketch is a fairly compelling value. It compares favorably with the Ontario RAT 2, which is my go-to recommendation at this price point. Except for one thing – That darn 8Cr13MoV. On the one hand, the use of budget steel lends itself to the workaday, semi-disposable feel of the blade. That may not sound like a complement but, in some ways, it is. This is the sort of tool I’d buy for someone who doesn’t care about the finer side of knifemaking. All they want is a thing for cutting, without the pretentious baggage we as knife nerds associate with our gear choices.
Look – at this price point, I’m not going to knock the Sketch too much for it’s steel. But again, CRKT – You’re leaving money on the table. There are legions of fans out there who love your designs, especially when they’re penned by folks like Voxnaes and Burnley. VG-10, D2, and CM154 are cheap. Offering knives like the Sketch, Squid, Pilar, and Batum in mid-tier steels would flood your coffers with cash. The demand is out there, just waiting for you to cash in. You nailed the fit and finish on this knife. Now, just give us better materials.
4 stars out of 5
Whew. The main thrust of my rant on this knife seems to have come in the section above. Instead of recapping those gripes, let’s revisit the positives.
The Sketch is one of the finest CRKT’s I’ve encountered. It’s well designed, competently assembled, and thoughtfully finished. The ergonomics are strong, and the wharncliffe blade excels as a utility slicer. It’s been a great companion this holiday season. If you’re looking for a knife to gift someone, this is a solid option.
But, hey, Columbia River – Here’s an idea for the New Year. Why not send out a survey or conduct some sort of poll among your fans? Just to see if there’s any interest in new and different steels. I’d be more than happy to promote this sort of research on my site and social media channels. I think you’ll be surprised at the response.