CRKT Provoke Review: Karambit with a Twist
November 30th, 2022
6 minute read
If you thought that the term Morphing Karambit was the genus and species for a praying mantis-like insectoid, you get a gold star for creativity. But so would California knife maker Joe Caswell for engineering the thoroughly unique handle design of the Columbia River Knife and Tool’s (CRKT) Provoke karambit folding knife.
Springfield Armory offers a branded version of the CRKT Provoke with bright orange handles and the Springfield Armory logo and an American flag etched on the blade. I had never seen any knife, karambit or otherwise, quite so striking in form and function at the moment when I unsealed the Provoke on my workbench.
What Is a Karambit?
While generally acknowledged to have been created in Indonesia, the karambit or a similar agrarian tool found use in the Philippines as well. The curved blade was employed by farmers for cutting vegetation or general utility. One could also be utilized as a defensive weapon if the need arose.
A karambit can lacerate, thrust, strike, trap, lock and block. Because of its power and versatility, the karambit can be found in many countries’ martial arts systems. For the use of any weapon, please receive proper training. I am not an instructor.
However, as a first-generation Filipino-American, I have much love for karambits. Rudimentary training in Filipino martial arts via my Escrimador grandfather and uncles led me to appreciate many things empty-handed or edge-armed. A karambit — the Southeast Asian-style knife having a short handle, a finger ring at the butt, and a short, curved blade — made its way into my possession several decades ago.
Designer Caswell’s spin on the CRKT Provoke karambit melds the thousand-year-old basic form with the modern-day use of kinematics. Kinematics is a subfield of physics that is concerned with objects in motion but not forces involved, hence the term morphing.
In the case of the Provoke, this translates to the opening and closing of the knife being somewhat akin to a triple-rocker mechanism, where three links rotate from a “fixed” link. Engineers, feel free to school me in the forum.
The Provoke unfolds by inserting an index finger into the ring and pushing down at the rear of the blade. The linkage movement causes the blade to extend forward into a locking position. This is not an assisted opener; there is no spring mechanism in play.
Conversely, the knife is closed by pushing down on a locking lever and manually (and carefully) retracting the blade. For this, I discovered the lever to be inset and stiff in operation. While this is not a one-handed closer, there is no way it can accidentally fold on you once locked open.
As a folding knife, the Provoke does not require a sheath since the sharp portion rides closely to the frame while not being fully enclosed. However, CRKT does make a sheath that can be purchased separately. It includes multiple attachment options for belt and MOLLE carry. Affixing these to the grommets gives the user many carry variations.
Mr. Caswell, ever inventive, added a one-of-a-kind “zero profile” clip which sits flush with the ring’s handle until the user squeezes the rear grooves. This elevates the spoon to mate with the material of the pocket. It makes for a relatively deep carry while still enabling the Provoke’s user to access the finger ring.
The Provoke’s handle is constructed of Grivory, a high-strength thermoplastic that can be found in other production knife makers’ offerings. The material’s injection molding results in a strong and durable handle. The two links of Grivory connecting the main handle to the blade are reinforced with steel. The pivots are very large and sturdy, befitting this sized folder. While the CRKT Provoke may seem a bit husky, I felt it was unobtrusive in a pocket. It is light at 4.70 ounces. Closed length is 4.96” and open, it is 7.19”.
A German stainless steel named 1.4116 is used by CRKT for the Provoke’s blade. 1.4116 is a steel best known for its inclusion in surgical instruments and Swiss Army knives. The hawksbill blade is asymmetrically ground on its right side so the edge fits flush with the handle. While the grind is predominantly on one side, there is a secondary bevel on both sides. This being the case, when slicing through paper or other flat media, the blade’s cut tracks straight.
1.4116 is at the entry-level for high carbon steels with a carbon content of 0.45-0.55%, although it is very stain resistant at 14.0-15.0% chromium. Hardness of the blade is reported to be 55-57 RHC. The length of the sharpened part of the blade is 2.47”. CRKT gives this blade an interesting black stonewashed finish, which is an amazing offset to the orange handles.
I almost exclusively carry a knife on my non-dominant, or left side, since 98.33% of the time I am armed with a handgun. While the Provoke is built for right-side carry, it can be placed in a left-side pocket.
For this, it is best drawn by reaching one’s left index finger around to the body side of the knife and rotating the Provoke counterclockwise until it is clear of the pocket. It’s not as hard as it sounds. Maybe you’re lucky and left-handed. Or, you can wear 5.11 pants like me and put the knife in the left front utility pouch. Problems solved.
Because of my love for toy-like things like yo-yo’s, pens and balisong knives, I cannot help but flip and spin the Provoke around by the ring. Disclaimer de jour, this activity can be extremely dangerous. If the blade is extended, you can cut your forearm or another necessary appendage if inattentive.
While the Provoke can be spun for defensive utility, it has the heft to be fun to manipulate in the closed position, too. Do this if you are just plain fidgety.
Springfield Armory’s branded CRKT Provoke is in all things a provocative knife (see what I did there?). From its advanced kinematic technology to its old-world karambit heritage, the Provoke is Mr. Caswell’s tour de force of innovation. It is certainly a knife worthy of closer examination.
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