“Large, Rugged, Dependable” are the words CRKT uses to describe their new Thunderbolt folder. After carrying it around for the past few weeks, I’d say they’re right. When I first opened the package I received the Thunderbolt in, my first thought was ‘Wow, this thing is big’. And after putting it to hard use on dozens of mundane, dirty, and typical jobs, it just comes back for more. It’s held up well, and has surprised me with how much knife you get for few bucks. The Thunderbolt uses 8Cr14MoV stainless blade steel. That’s basically a bunch of letters and numbers that I don’t understand. But the sucker cuts, and cuts well. That I do know. Since I have the larger of the two versions, I’ll give specs for this one. The second version is the same materials, just scaled down a bit. The blades of both are hollow ground with the large one having a cutting edge of 3 7/8 inches. I’m not normally a fan of the hollow grind, but the height of the blade allows for a shallow hollow grind that really slices nicely.
The overall blade shape is a tanto, but it’s unique in its design. The blade seems more like a drop point to me with the tanto influence being obvious. I had no problems with the blade shape interfering with normal cutting chores. The blade is also coated with a very slick and nicely colored finish. I normally feel a blade coating produces drag in the cut, but this coating is very slick and didn’t seem to slow the blade during my cutting chores.The handle is equally robust. Made from CNC milled aluminum, anodized gray and lined with dual stainless liners, it’s built to work. I wear a medium glove with wide hands, and the handle fit me just fine. If you have large paws, the handle will fit your hand nicely. There’s a black coated pocket clip mounted for tip-down carry for a right hander. The clip is removable, but not reversible–an option I’d like to see, as I’d be more likely to carry this knife at work set up for my weak hand. The locking system is of the liner lock variety, with the very nice LAWKS safety set up. When the liner lock is engaged, the user can manually engage the LAWKS safety, eliminating the possibility of the liner lock accidentally disengaging. The handle is nicely scalloped and milled in all the right places to provide positive traction under use. The only improvement I’d like to see in the handle area is either a recessed scallop near where you access the lock, or a bit more of an extended liner lock up out of the frame. Although I didn’t have any problems, the liner lock could be a little easier to get to when you’re done with the knife.
The first job of any folder with me is to get dropped in the cargo pocket of my work pants. At work, the Thunderbolt cut open flare boxes, vacuum sealed packages of various content, and the occasional envelope. The back of the handle was used to persuade a frozen lock to release via the application of a few polite taps from the Thunderbolt. Imagine yours-truly out in 5 degree weather, in blowing snow, cursing at a padlock when I was supposed to be off work 20 minutes earlier. After helping me out, the Thunderbolt and I got along just fine after that. Aside from a minor scratch to the anodizing, the was no real damage done to the knife, and we both enjoyed a warm ride home. The next toughest job for any knife I own is an afternoon in the shop. I typically have way more projects ongoing that I ever hope to accomplish, and a testing ground for the Thunderbolt was needed. I set to work on my old ’70 Bronco that I’m rebuilding and decided to use the Thunderbolt for anything that came up. It cut and stripped stranded electrical wire while working on the ignition. The knife also blazed through who-knows-how-old heater core hose that was so dry and hard I actually had to twist the knife in the cut to get the old hose to release from the water pump.
The knife has since seen use on firewood for the fire pit, opening numerous packages, breaking down boxes for recycling, and one very stubborn toothpaste container. One of the biggest selling points for me is the ability to operate the knife with gloves on. Living around all this white stuff on the ground keeps me in gloves for most of the winter. Not having to remove my gloves to access my knife is a nice benefit. I could even unlock the liner lock with gloves on. Pretty impressive, if you ask me.
All in all I have to say I’m very impressed with the Thunderbolt. With an MSRP of around $40, I have seen the large Thunderbolt for as little as $29.99. The smaller version can be had for real close to $25. That’s a great deal for a knife that’s a hard worker that you can actually use. Those high dollar knives that just sit on the shelf aren’t going to cut a thing when you’re under the hood, out in the cold, and up on some hill at work. The Thunderbolt gets the job done when you need it to. If you’re looking for a tank-tough folder that will get used when it’s needed, CRKT has a winner with this one.