A mechanical wonder with practical functionality, the CRKT Provoke incites wonder.
Karambits are unique knives, originating in southeast Asia as an agricultural tool and later adapted as a weapon. Its signature claw-shaped blade allows effective slashing, and given its cutting edge is always oriented to the target at an angle, it also delivers wicked slices from point to hilt.
Just think about how a cat grabs, holds, punctures and cuts its prey and you have a pretty solid idea about how a karambit operates. The age-old design still inspires and intimidates, and some manufacturers have even figured out how to put a new spin on the longstanding design.
Take the CRKT Provoke, for instance.
Knifemaker Joe Caswell took the concept of a folding karambit and made it a bit different. Instead of the blade simply folding into the handle, the Provoke’s steel lunges out and back in with a simple flick of the thumb. In the ancient art of knifemaking it’s difficult to come up with something unique, but Caswell did.
The Provoke not only incites wonder in collectors but also elicits excitement in serious users.
The blade of the Provoke (MSRP $200) is 2.4-inches long and is made from D2 steel for superior edge retention. To work properly with the deployment mechanism, the blade is chisel ground. The flat side is faces in toward the handle, laying flush against the frame when closed. This is mainly a safety precaution, protecting the user from cuts or torn clothing when the blade isn’t in use.
The Provoke’s signature action is what Caswell dubbed “kinematic”. It works thusly, the blade is attached to a pair of movable arms anchored into the handle. To deploy the blade, it is held in reverse grip and the thumb presses on the exposed end of the blade. The arms pivot and the blade leaps forward. Closing is equally as effortless. Just press down on the exposed locking tab just below the finger ring, then the blade is retracted backward until it rests fully against the handle frame.
Nicely, given it doesn’t take much force to open or close, the blade locks in the open position. Honestly, it’s a really neat, mechanical motion. Fairly self-evident, the movement of the Provoke is unlike anything else available on the market today and has the ability to capture even a jaded knife aficionado’s attention.
Another intriguing aspect of the CRKT offering is its pocket clip. Often used, rarely discussed and poured over, the clip is one of those unsung if not massively simple aspects of the knife. Even here the Provoke takes a different twist in design.
The clip is spring-loaded and rests against the finger ring completely. To open, you simply push down on a notched portion of the clip and it rises up. Some might complain it’s overly complex, but it does fit nicely in a knife defined by its mechanical ingenuity. Not to mention, in hand, you do not feel the clip at all—a break from nearly every other option with in a standard configuration.
In addition to the full-size Provoke, there is a scaled-down version in the form of the Provoke Compact (MSRP $150). Essentially, it’s the same knife but with a blade length of 2.2 inches. Where this petite Provoke earns its stripes is ease of carry, as it is much less cumbersome in the pocket than its big brother. And, from my perspective, this smaller version’s action is a bit crisper than the full-sized, perhaps due to the smaller blade.
Again, aiming at EDC, CRKT also offers the lightweight Provoke Grivory (MSRP $100). You guessed it, the handle is made from injection-molded Grivory—a very stiff but lightweight glass-reinforced thermoplastic. Here you have a host of choices in handle colors, including fluorescent green, red, blue, and orange—adding some pop to an already exciting knife. Regardless of the color, the blade’s arms are always black Grivory, providing a nice contrast to the frame and matching the blade’s black stonewash finish.
It’s also worth noting that the Grivory arms are reinforced with steel to provide strength and rigidity to the material for superb blade action. The lightweight version weighs 4.7 ounces; for comparison, the full-size Provoke weighs 6.1 ounces. So there is considerable weight savings.
As for the action on the Grivory, it feels a bit different than the aluminum handle versions—in a good way. For me, it felt a bit lighter and faster in deployment.
Provoke First Responder
For the save and serve professionals, CRKT offers the Provoke First Responder (MSRP $225)—the full-size knife with a 2.4-inch blade. However, it does have some value adds life-saving professionals should appreciate, such as a ceramic glass breaker point inserted into the end of the handle frame.
The Provoke’s curved blade is especially suited for rescue work, particularly cleaving through seatbelts with a single, swift pulling motion. In addition to the standard integrated pocket clip that all Provoke models feature, the First Responder also includes a molded sheath with multiple carry options to offer carry flexibility if desired.
The Provoke EDC (MSRP $175) features a 2.5-inch long drop point blade of D2. This iteration replaces the knife’s standard talon-shaped blade with a blade shape that is more friendly to daily cutting tasks. Honestly, it’s perhaps my favorite out of the entire Provoke family.
The action is very quick on this one, though once open you have to reorient your grip from a reverse to a forward grip. The blade’s lock release on the EDC version has been reoriented from the position of the other Provoke models, to make one-handed closing of the blade possible. You can deploy the Provoke EDC one-handed as well as close it one-handed. It does require some practice to close one-handed but once you get it down, you will be able to do that easily.
For those who might be serious about employing the Provoke for self-defense, or simply like to fiddle with the knife’s action as a fidget toy, CRKT offers a trainer model (MSRP $100). Built exactly like the live-bladed lightweight Provoke, it sports a dulled and blunted blade. In short, there’s no danger of accidental cuts or stabs while working with the knife.
Furthermore, a series of holes drilled into the blade blank subtracts weight so it is the same as the live-bladed version. The trainer is only available in an all-blue handle, signifying its purpose.
Using The Provoke
When using the regular Provoke, you’re limited to a pulling motion for cutting, though it has a defined blade tip for precise cutting and scoring. If you intend to carry one on an EDC basis then the Provoke EDC is a better candidate because of its double ground drop point blade, which is more conducive to general utility use.
Due to the more common blade shape along with the short length, this model allows you to get into places where a larger knife blade cannot. This means using the Provoke EDC to open mail, packages, strip wire, cut cardboard, and other general working tasks that a knife of this size would be called upon to do. The D2 steel does an excellent job at holding an edge yet when it comes time to resharpen, it’s still a great steel.
If you like knives that are a step away from ordinary—not to mention are conversation starters—the Provoke series is for you. If you like mechanical things…the Provoke has your name on it. However, I would pick the Provoke EDC as the best of this bunch if you are just going to carry one for daily cutting purposes.
Each model is made with excellent fit, finish, and sharp ess right out of the box, however. I think this design is perhaps one of the most inimitable knives out there right now. It may not be for everybody, though. But if your knife tastes venture into the unique and different, then the CRKT Provoke series has your name on it.
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