The CRKT Minimalist set the standard in the knife world as one of the first truly affordable neck knives to enter the market that still offers a level of practicality that made it viable as a utility blade. While so many other neck knives at its price point turned out to be a gimmick, the CRKT Minimalist is actually quite useful as an EDC tool, and in my opinion, is one of the best back up blades in the business.
CRKT very wisely contracted Alan Folts for this design in order to recreate a production model of his very own custom Minimalist. This approach, which has been successfully used by knife companies (such as in the recent case of the Kershaw Emerson CQC-6K) leads to the best of both worlds – it gives exposure to the custom maker before an audience that may have never heard of him, and it also gives opportunity for those of us who are not in a position to drop a serious amount of cash on a full blown custom knife to get a “diet coke” experience for a substantially cheaper entry price. More collaborations like this please, CRKT. I vote for a Laconico or Fiddleback next!
Aesthetically, the Minimalist is very utilitarian in nature with its dull green/black micarta (or similar material) scales. I’m not the biggest fan of the colour scheme choice, but CRKT now offers an alternate version of the Minimalist that I think looks better: black scales and powder coated blade; much more appealing.
It should be noted that as well as color options, CRKT offers the Minimalist neck knife in a wide range of blade styles: from my Wharncliffe blade, to tantos and bowies. You can check them all out here on Amazon.
Notice the lanyard attached to the heel of the knife. In terms of functionality, it works great, but I cut mine off because it’s just too large and visible for me when I’m trying to use the Minimalist as a discreet EDC. Be advised that the lanyard hole leans towards the microscopic side, so don’t think you will be able to thread some nifty paracord lanyards through this one. Really thin lanyards only.
The stock is appropriately thin for a 5.08 cm (2 inch) blade with a total thickness of 0.25 cm (0.1 inch). I also love the aggressive jimping over the middle of the spine. Really aids in control when doing finer cuts, and remains quite comfortable in use.
When carried as a neck knife, deployment is fast and natural. The glass-filled nylon sheath is well molded, and the knife sits securely inside it. One quick tug and you’re 100% ready for business.
The CRKT Minimalist also comes with a removable belt clip. I don’t use mine, as I prefer to use the Minimalist as a neck knife, but the option is there should you want it.
The clip slips over your belt, with plenty of room for bigger belts. The clip can be adjusted so that the knife can be attached at various angles and positions. If you like carry options, this is a great option for you.
Objectively, the CRKT Minimalist looks quite sleek on my belt, and if it weren’t for the fact that I really like wearing it as a neck knife, I’d have no problem carrying it this way.
Deployment of the CRKT Minimalist, even from this position, is smooth and natural with no jerkiness or instability, as is common with smaller sheaths. Really nice work here.
There’s no shortage of Minimalists at my house. I actually own quite a few Minimalists myself, and have backups to give away to friends and family. They make really good gifts. One of my neighbours actually requested me to pick up a couple for him specifically; said they’d be perfect for his grandsons to use while they were over at his place. Needless to say, his grandkids loved ’em.
My own Minimalist has been carried by me for quite a few years, and over time, I’ve made substantial adjustments/modifications to it. The most noticeable alteration I’ve made is the complete removal of the scales. I removed them because of the simple observation that they were just a teensy bit too chunky for discreet under-shirt everyday carry in the summer. Didn’t want a printed outline of a knife whenever I carried the Minimalist under my shirt. I definitely don’t regret taking the handles off, as now, the Minimalist worn as a neck knife is almost completely invisible, even when worn under T-shirts – exactly the objective I was going for.
I contoured the handles and acid washed the whole knife. As you can see by the amount of wear on the knife and sheath, this thing has been heavily used. I wore it almost every single day for about 6 months as a back up blade and it got to the point that somedays I would wake up with it still around my neck. Obviously sleeping with a neck knife is probably not the wisest thing to do, so I would advise against that – regardless of how good the in sheath retention may be!
I also chose to modify the grind of the blade into a full convex. The steel CRKT chose to use is 5Cr13MoV, which runs pretty damn soft at 55-57 HRC. If I had one complaint it would be the steel choice, but when you take a look at the price (under $25 – insane), you have to be understanding; sacrifices had to be made somewhere.
With a lean, full convex, my Minimalist is now a robust slicer. Paired with the fact that since the handles were removed it is literally invisible when worn under shirt, the knife is pretty damn awesome if you ask me. Like I said, I do carry another knife on me at all times, but I don’t technically have to. The CRKT Minimalist is excellent as a back up knife or in case you just keep forgetting to pocket a regular everyday carry knife. Just slip the Minimalist around your neck and forget it: it’ll always be there when you need it.
Thinning out the blade and adding a needle tip drastically altered the cutting performance of the knife. It now cuts ridiculously well (edge retention not withstanding) and the tip bites in with almost no effort.
In terms of ergonomics, an unmodified CRKT Minimalist is very comfortable. Much more comfortable than my own scaleless version, but that should be apparent.
The stock CRKT Minimalist is shockingly comfortable in saber grip for a small neck knife. The finger grooves lock your fingers into place and the jimping adds some much-welcome traction. Really great ergonomics.
Choking up on the Minimalist for added pressure is still comfortable. If you need some extra leverage for a hard job, you would be surprised as to how much pressure you can crank out of this tiny 2-inch blade knife. Wharncliffe blades seem uniquely suited for utility tasks in my opinion, so if you’re a fan of this kind of use in particular, strongly consider the Wharncliffe blade version of the CRKT Minimalist over the others.
Perfectly placed finger grooves mean that there’s no way in hell your hand is sliding up to the blade should you make thrusting cuts.
Reverse grip, the CRKT Minimalist is also comfortable, but unless you’re using this knife defensively, I would suggest sticking to a more traditional saber grip.
In the pinch grip, the CRKT Minimalist is also very comfortable. Definitely not my first choice for a hunting blade, but certainly viable in a pinch (heh).
I honestly find that the CRKT Minimalist’s combination of discreet carry, quick and easy deployment, and secure grip design make it an ideal back up as a tactical knife. It points very naturally, and whilst the blade is a mere 2 inches long, a slash from a sharp 2 inch blade is no picnic.
As an everyday utility blade for cutting abrasive materials like cardboard? You’ll want something with a more durable steel. If you use the Minimalist regularly for cutting cardboard, you’ll have to sharpen the edge every other day, and that can grow to be quite frustrating. I’m really not a fan of 5Cr13MoV, and I’m not sure if the money saved is worth the performance hit. CRKT if you upgrade the steel to 8Cr13MoV you will have one hell of a neck knife. As it stands the Minimalist is a fantastic everyday carry option as long as you understand its edge retention limitations.
Ultimately, it’s hard not to like the CRKT Minimalist. It has great utility and use for pretty much any task besides cutting cardboard for extended periods of time. It’s one of the least threatening looking knives I own; it’s tiny and discreet, yet is able to do its job as a backup EDC better than pretty much any other neck knife I can think of. Again, I’ve also purchased quite a number of these for giving away, and as of yet, it’s definitely been the most well-received knife I’ve offered as a present. Being so affordable, it’s one of the best introductions to cutlery on the market for non-knife people. It’s also quite possibly the best option for children and young adults as a first knife.
Recommended. You really can’t go wrong with this one, ‘specially at its price point.