Sleek lines, an ‘organic’ feel, and a name that throws back to the days of speakeasy riverboat gamblers on the Mississippi… these things put the CRKT Swindle high on my everyday carry list.
In the cutlery world, there are very few well known “free agent” knife designers. Those who carry weight with their name are usually freelance/collab folks (like Michael Burch) or in-house designers (like Ed Schempp at Spyderco).
The exception to this rule is Ken Onion. When he signed with Kershaw, the results transformed the cutlery industry. His Speedsafe-assisted opening design and the “Onion” series of knives catapulted Kershaw from a small brand into a dominant force.
Ken Onion Designed ‘Swindle’
So, when Onion jumped over to CRKT a few years ago it was yet another sign that the company was about to transform itself. As a curious side note, the same guy who signed Onion for Kershaw also signed him for CRKT. The Knife Business is truly a small world.
Onion’s first few designs at CRKT were distinctly Onion-ish — lots of curves and organic blade shapes. They were all technically solid, but none captured the attention of knife “knuts.” Then CKRT released the Swindle.
This is a knife unlike any Onion designed before. It still has something of an organic feel, but its lines and name harken back to a design at least a century old.
The Swindle, with its reverse curved handle and wharncliffe blade, is a modern version of the riverboat gambler favorite — the Swayback.
The swayback is a traditional knife with a nail knick. Its rounded and curvy handle fit well in the hand and its acute point does well at stabbing and piercing cuts, something a riverboat gambler might need to do to get out of trouble. Its thin profile also slices like a demon.
The Swindle eschews the bone or stag of its traditional predecessor, opting instead for blasted steel handles. Unlike the folders carried on the Mississippi, the Swindle has a lock, and it is a framelock (what else would you use in a high-tech rendition of a Swayback?).
It also has a flipper that rides on a bearing pivot, making it a slick and speedy opener.
The real design triumph, however, is the pocket clip. Stylish and functional, the spring-loaded clip rides flush with the of the handle. There is nothing like it anywhere, and it contributes to the knife’s great feel in handle and its easy carry.
There are two versions, a high-end model with 13C27 steel, and a lower-end version with 8Cr14MoV. I prefer the clean look of the cheaper version as it lacks the unnecessary and busy corrugation pattern on the handle. Both versions are good EDCs.
Though they lack high steel, they have a great look and feel in handle. And they aren’t too expensive, leaving a few extra bucks in your pocket for a game of Hold ‘Em while you are out on the water.