When you think of a tough, workhorse of a knife, you often think of high-dollar knives that require several years wait and hundreds of dollars. CRKT has recently introduced a knife specifically to provide the user with a tank-tough, hard working blade that’s affordable and useful. Woods Monkey pushed this knife hard for over a month in all environments to see if it lived up to Columbia River’s claim.
The Columbia River Knife and Tool (CRKT) Kommer Integral Fixed Blade is a one piece, drop forged carbon steel knife designed to be rode hard and put away wet. The Kommer Integral Fixed Blade (IFB) is designed from the ground up to be tough. CRKT says the designer, Russ Kommer, took input from Special Forces operators and designed a knife that would hold up to their demanding tasks. I can’t say if there are really any military operators out there using the IFB, but I’d be pretty surprised if one or two didn’t find their way onto some web gear. Kommer took the concept of durability to the extreme, making the IFB from one solid piece of steel. The blade and handle have no seams, no joints to create a weak spot, no screws, handle scales, doo dads, or widgets. It’s tough, plain and simple.
First off, the basics. The IFB is made from 6168CrV carbon steel. There’s a lot of hype out there about the latest and greatest, super-duper-gotta-have-it stainless steel. But truth be told, a good quality carbon steel will beat stainless in nearly every measurable category, with the obvious exception of stain resistance. With some preventative maintenance, i.e. the occasional cleaning, you won’t have any problems with the IFB. Columbia River went with this carbon steel for one reason, and one reason only: strength. But they didn’t stop there. CRKT heats the 6168CrV steel to 1,000° F then they force it through a die to properly align the grain of the steel on the molecular level.
Once the steel is ready, Columbia River takes away everything that isn’t a knife. After all the scraps have hit the floor, the Kommer IFB ends up with a blade edge of 3.82 inches. The blade is wide, and with a very slight hump along the spine, is a basic drop point design that I think most of the Woodsmonkey readership will be familiar with. It is my opinion that the drop point blade shape is the superior all-around shape, particularly excelling at outdoor and ‘bushcraft’ chores. CRKT complimented the drop point design with a typical flat ground edge; another favorite of mine. The drop point blade shape and full flat grind flow seamlessly into the handle, leaving no joint or mechanical attachment to fail. To top it all off, CRKT uses a non-reflective black “EDP” coating to protect the blade and handle from corrosion.
The handle of the IFB is made from the same bar of steel as the blade, making the knife one solid piece of steel. While this build does add a bit to the heft of the knife, it also significantly adds to its strength. The handle is fairly rectangular in shape, but is curved so that it fits the human hand significantly well. The IFB has a series of 4 large holes and 8 small holes to remove un-necessary material in an effort to keep the weight down. Coming in at 7.7oz., the IFB is stout, but not heavy enough to pull your pants down or keep you from wanting to carry the knife on your next camping trip. The IFB has a short section of grooves where the thumb naturally rests on the handle behind the spine of the blade. The rest of the handle was left smooth by CRKT, and in my opinion, is the only drawback to the knife. If coated in oil or heavy sweat, the IFB can become quite slick to hold onto. After using the knife to cut off, trim and replace a new power steering return hose, the handle was invariably covered in power steering fluid. In the interest of honesty, I have to admit to the knife being a little tough to hold on to. While I didn’t feel like the IFB was going to jump out of my hand, I did have to make a conscious effort to hold on a little tighter.
I’m a firm believer than any knife is only as good as its sheath. After all, a knife that’s not there when you need it, or worse, is dangerous to carry, is not something I want around. With that said, I have to say that I am very impressed with the IFB’s sheath system. I use the word system specifically, because the sheath and Columbia River’s ingenious belt loop attachment really work together to give the user a variety of mounting options to carry the IFB. The sheath is made of Kydex, built pancake style, with two pieces of Kydex being press formed around the knife for snug fit. The sheath is held together with five eyelets, four of which are designed to hold the belt attachment loop to the sheath. CRKT uses the large hole closest to the blade as the method to keep the knife secured. The sheath is pressed so well, that the knife audibly ‘clicks’ into place and stays there until removed. Columbia River states that the sheath allows for inverted carry, so I decided to test that. Kneeling over some scrap carpet (cut out by the IFB!) in my garage, I held the knife upside down by the sheath. Handle down, I ‘pumped’ the knife up and down in an attempt to sling the knife to the floor. (authors note: watch those toes!) I was very surprised at the security of the IFB sheath. Inverted, it took nearly all I could do to dislodge the IFB from its home. While I did manage to upset the knife from its Kydex sheath, I am convinced that even inverted the IFB will remain with its owner.
The removable belt loop is mounted to the Kydex sheath via four Chicago screws. The belt loop is a real winner of a design, easily going on and off the belt or pack strap without a lot of fuss. Labeled under the American Sportsman’s Products name, the patented design opens and closed by sliding the back side of the belt loop up, then down over the belt, pack strap, or etc. While not designed to be MOLLE compatible, I was able to use the belt loop system to mount the IFB on my small outdoor gear bag that contains all necessary equipment should I find myself depending on my own resources out here in the middle of the Rockies. The MOLLE mounting straps on the back of my small pack were easy to manipulate into the belt loops. After several weeks of carry, the IFB never showed any signs of letting loose its grip. Moving from work vehicles, to personal vehicles, around the house and on various adventures, the IFB was securely affixed to where I put it. On a recent training exercise with work, I mounted the IFB on the leg strap of my drop holster for my pistol. Five hours of rough training later, the IFB was still there. If you should need to mount the IFB to MOLLE webbing, simply remove the belt loop and use a length of para-cord to thread the knife to the MOLLE webbing. I’ve found this to be more secure than a lot of those fancy MOLLE attachments on the market anyway.
When I received the IFB for review, I asked our Woods Monkey Associate Editor about how hard I could use it. I knew it was built to be used hard but I wasn’t sure how CRKT would feel about me beating up their knife. I got the ‘go ahead’ a day or two later from Woods Monkey HQ to really stretch the legs of the IFB. That night, the IFB and I were in the shop removing the 15+ year old carpet from the interior tub of my old ’70 Bronco to get it ready for a roll-on bed liner. The IFB cut, pried, and scraped carpet and carpet glue from every crook and cranny inside the Bronco. When the IFB arrived, it had a very functional edge. Although not quite ‘shaving sharp’ out of the box, the IFB cut, in my estimate, over 10 linear feet of carpet caked in grit, grime, mud, and rust. There were a few scratches here and there, but the IFB worked like a champ. No edge damage that I could find.
After a few more tasks in the shop, including replacing a power steering hose and stripping and cutting electrical wire, it was time for a test on wood. I batoned the IFB through some Lodgepole Pine heartwood that I had collected while dove hunting this past fall. Within a few minutes, I had a gallon of split wood that will eventually feed the fire pit when the weather warms up. I also batoned the IFB through Mesquite and a few pieces of Aspen that had dodged the fire last summer. Though I did manage to dull the edge a little, to the point where it would drag when cutting pine, I didn’t do the knife any harm. A few scratches and a little edge dulling were the worst that the IFB sustained through any of my testing.
The Columbia River Knife and Tool IFB really impressed me. I’d like to see a bit more texture in the way of the grip, but otherwise, the knife is very well built. Its solid steel construction and excellent sheath make it useable in any condition without fear that it will give up when you need it most. The 6168CrV carbon steel is easy to resharpen and makes for a knife that’s durable and tough enough for any task. If you’re in the need of a real hard user that will stand up to punishment and abuse give the CRKT Integral Fixed Blade a look.