Review: Impinda Slipjoint Folder

Slipjoint folder! From Chris Reeve Knives! It's a bold move… but it clearly shows that in a changing world you have to adapt to stay on top.

So with more and more countries banning one-hand locking folders the answer is… yeah, a tough slipjoint. Sure, CRK could have just developed a small Sebenza in such a form, but instead they teamed up with Bill Harsey again and created a knife which is not just functional, but also quite a looker.

William ‘Bill’ Harsey, foremostly a knife designer but also a hunter, fly fisherman and long time lumberjack from Oregon. His most known design is the Chris Reeve Yarborough knife (known as the “Green Beret” on the civilian market) – a knife, which is presented to the toughest men in existence, those who completed the Special Forces Qualification Course.

I’ve known Bill for at least 14 years now, and it was 6 or 7 years ago when he showed me his ‘small trout’ fixed blade during Blade Show, and later in 2016 the unnamed folding variant of that knife. Now it’s official – that folding knife design became an early variant of the Chris Reeve Knives Impinda, a slipjoint folder a lot of us European knife enthusiasts have dreamed of!

The IMPINDA (“open, repeat” in Zulu) is a hell of a tough slipjoint, with a lot of “hidden tech” in the design. With a blade length of just under 8cm and non-locking two-handed action, it’s legal in most places around the world.

What’s important is that the actual cutting edge does not exceed 3″ so (as I was told) it also meets the regulations of a knife legal to carry in the UK, which has one of the most restrictive knife laws today.

Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer so don’t quote me if confronted with a police officer and always, ALWAYS check YOUR local knife law.

You can check all the specs on the CRK website so let’s skip to practice straight away. The way it operates really does make it a 2-handed knife, so there is no worry that one (like a police officer) could argue it could be easily opened by flicking it with one hand (like some ‘fake one handers’ which only mimic the look of a slipjoint). It is a 2-handed knife, period.

The handle is nicely contoured, safe to grip and finished as most CRK knives are – with coarse bead-blasting. It’s very secure to hold, no questions about it. I really like the clip, which is like a breath of fresh air for the company – it’s a new design, 3D sculptured in Titanium, slightly curved and follows the handle’s shape. Really well done and a clear departure from Sebenza clips (which are also very good!).

But the most interesting part of the handle is hidden inside! When you take a good look at the Impinda there is hardly any space between the handle slabs and the blade. So what about washers? Well… the Impinda is equipped with full-size perforated bronze washers, which are precisely nested inside the handle!

The tolerances are crazy small!

A very clever design and not easy to do. It’s the first time I’ve see such big, serious washers nested like this, it’s way harder to do than ball bearings. But for a slipjoint it’s exactly what you want – vault like smooth resistance, not friction-less action of the blade like on a flipper. It’s for your fingers’ safety.

Another high-tech detail, developed by Bill and CRK, is the curved design of the joint between the backspring and the blade. What it does is similar what a cam does in a compound bow – when you open a knife the tension is relatively small and grows over a long way from 1 lbs up, reaches a max and sets the blade in place. But the force required to close the blade is a solid 5+ lbs!

So in other words: it’s easy to open, but very secure and way harder to close (accidently). It might be not the first knife with this kind of approach, but CRK just nailed it with smooth traveling mechanism like no other maker ever before.

And last but not least… I really like that “Idaho Made” and Harsey’s signature are hidden inside the handle slabs in the pivot area. The only marking on the outside is a very small CRK logo… minimalism and class at its best!

It’s very Harsey-like in shape while being very non-Reeve-like at the same time. Something new from CRK? How is that possible? Well, that’s what happens when a new generation take the wheel, and in this case it’s been Tim Reeve (Chris’ son) who pushed the project to become a reality.

And that exact shape is perfect for what it’s been designed for – an EDC kind of knife, for everyday cutting jobs at home, office or vacation. By the way, it might be ‘just’ a pocket friendly slipjoint, but it’s still seriously bigger and bolder than a classic Swiss Army Knife.

Such a slim and pointy drop-point blade is clearly a great choice on a slipjoint. This kind of knife can be useful, not just as a stand-alone cutting tool, but also as a fine cutting knife carried together with a hatchet and a big broad Nessmuk-style fixed-blade, which together creates a classic ‘Nessmuk Trio’ (if you’re not familiar with that term – just google it… it’s worth checking).

Where a Sebenza’s broad blade screams ‘power’, this one gently says ‘utility’ – without even the smallest hint of being categorized as ‘tactical’. But it can still deliver deep cuts like a serious folder, unlike a small backpocket ‘slippy’.

The stout hollow-ground S35VN blade and full-size handle is more than enough to take care of any small to mid sized woodworking project on a camp site, like whittling a tent stake in my case.

It’s exactly the shape you’d prefer as a personal utility blade, for food processing, cleaning fish, carving, whittling, opening boxes, cutting string, etc. The point is very fine without being too brittle, with the help of that long swedge it penetrates easily through leather, meat, all sorts of canvas and like. It’s a classic shape, which is quite self-explanatory.

Overall Impinda is a very handsome knife, and that classic non-threatening look, enhanced by the bold nail nick (which says: I’m not a one hander!), is actually a serious benefit in today’s society. It’s a knife you can easily open in an office without scaring the sheeple colleagues to death like you would with the Reeve’s Tanto Umnumzaan!

I’ve used my Impinda a lot in June and July, in high Tatra mountains, lower (but wild) Bieszczady mountains South East of Poland, and also when sailing on the lakes with my family. I used it for any cutting job including food prep, gutting and cleaning fish, working with rope on a sailing boat, whittling, carving, and last but not least preparing feather sticks to start a fire.

It’s worth noting that Impinda’s top swedge has a nice 90 degrees sharp spine (ok, it’s just under 90) which could be used for emergency firestarting with a ferrocerium rod. Sure, it’s a slipjoint so you need to be extra careful but it’s possible. And if that’s the only solution – just go for it!

So if you’re looking for a 2-handed, non-locking knife for any reason (either legal or just like me for pure pleasure of owning this beauty) and you’d prefer something considerably stronger and more capable than your Swiss Army Knife – the Impinda will be an awesome answer.

Of course all that perfection comes with a rather hefty price ($450 in USA, and even more in Europe due to taxes) but the tool you get is not just nice and solid, but also unique and perfect to the smallest detail. It’s a gem.

It’s surely solid enough to be passed to next generations… and with such a classic look it will never be outdated.

It’s easily one of my favorite knives ever. Definitely THE favorite slipjoint in my personal collection. And if you’re wondering… yes, I bought it with my own hard earned money, without a hint of hesitation, at Blade Show 2018. I’m frequent traveler through Europe so this one will be my go-to travel blade.

And last but not least, this knife was voted “American Made Knife of the Year” by Blade Magazine during Blade Show 2018 in Atlanta, which is a very serious achievement considering all the competition.

By Piotr Ma

Senior Contributor & Edge Specialist, more posts.

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