CRKT CEO Review & Blade Testing

TL;DR: In spite of its svelte blade and skinny build, the CEO offers some of the best edge retention I’ve tested. A wonderfully weightless EDC knife that disappears in the pocket. Not suited for heavy-duty, backwoods stuff. But a great companion in the office, warehouse, and tackle box. Good build quality to boot.

Table of Contents

CEO Blade Specs

  • Cutting Edge: 3.18″
  • Blade Width: 0.50″
  • Blade Length: 3.21″
  • Edge Thickness: 0.026″
  • Spine Thickness: 0.09″
  • Blade Shape: Drop Point
  • Blade Steel: 8CR13MOV, Stonewashed
  • Edge Grind: Flat Saber Grind

Additional Specs

  • Scales: Glass-Reinforced Nylon
  • Handle Length: 4.45″
  • Overall Length: 7.57″
  • Overall Width, Folded: 0.58″
  • Handle Width: 0.58″
  • Handle Thickness: 0.47″
  • Weight: 2.11 Oz.
  • Lock: Liner Lock
  • Opener: Right-Handed Thumb Stud
  • Clip: Steel, Stonewashed
  • Country of Origin: China
  • Model: 7096YGK

CRKT CEO Knife Review

First Impression: The CEO is one skinny little knife. I knew this going into it. But even in my spidery hand, the CEO feels like a stick. This is a knife made to be inconspicuous and utterly nonthreatening. I suppose that’s a benefit if you want to carry it in “sensitive” environments (like, say, the white-collar office or public transportation).

I went with the flashier “CEO Bamboo” version, because I like the 90s-esque neon yellow. The CEO’s also available with G10 and aluminum scales, and an optional flipper that ditches the standard thumb stud. Prices range from about $41 to $60; the “Bamboo” is currently the cheapest.

On the flip, I feel like I’m holding a combination of a miniature Tanto and scalpel. This is a slicer through and through. The drop point and saber grind provide good accuracy for making delicate cuts, and I anticipated having a bit of fun cutting through boxes with this blade.

Naturally, a knife this small and skinny isn’t going to provide the sort of gorilla grip that, say, a big ole’ Cold Steel blade or “tacticool” chopper might afford. If you try to use this knife to chop or strike, chances are high you’ll roll the handle in your palm. At the least, you’ll feel a pinch from the steel handle cap or belt clip.

Speaking of, the handle cap is surprisingly handy. It’s a nice wide, flat surface that can be used to occasionally tap or smack something stubborn. I thought it might be anodized aluminum. But I noticed over a week of use (including using the cap to tap a crooked fly lure hook back into shape) that it seems to be steel with a matte black powdercoat.

It’s a small detail, but a nice touch: The frame and handle are pretty lightweight, so the steel cap provides a bit of balance against the weight of the blade. It’ll hammer and wear better than aluminum, too.

The CEO’s Build Quality is Good

Small, “cheap” knives often miss out on getting the proper treatment when it comes to fit and finish (like the CJRB Ria, which I despised reviewing and will continue to shame). But the CRKT CEO hits all the marks: The fasteners are countersunk Torx bolts, which sit recessed into the scales and frame.

The belt clip is great. It’s springy and strong, and sports the same stonewashed finish as the blade for continuity. The frame inside the scales is machined well and gets the same finish, too.

The nylon scales are comfortable in spite of their size. They’ve been given some subtle curves and horizontal lines that mimic the look and shape of bamboo — thus the model’s nickname. This alone won’t compensate for the fact the CEO’s so small, but it provides a little extra grip and control in the fingers.

The internals are assembled well, with fitment of the tang and locking bar perfectly symmetrical inside the frame. There’s no slop to speak of when the blade’s open. Flipping the blade out from the handle is easy; the thumb stud’s just large enough without sitting too proud of the scales.

Engagement of the liner lock against the tang is finely tuned. The lock affords a solid click without feeling gritty or tight. In proper fashion, the lock sits barely proud of the tang. This allows for some wearing in over time, without excessive blade play building up.

I’m a stickler for even blade grinds, and CRKT got it right with the CEO. The spine presents with perfect symmetry from tang to tip.

The flat saber grind is executed well on both sides of the blade. There’s a subtle swedge ground into the spine that runs to the tip, leaving pointed flats on either side that provide some nice geometry. I appreciate how the cutting edge ends just before the choil, leaving a small flare at the heel. This provides some extra strength and stiffness.

The CEO’s overall presentation is excellent, with good build quality in the handle and a very nice grind and finish on the blade.

The CEO’s Action is Buttery Smooth

Although the CEO’s got a skinny handle with a recessed thumb stud, I found it pretty easy to manipulate the blade from close to open with one hand. The action is very smooth thanks to some decent caged bearings.

My only gripe with the CEO is found in the liner lock release. It’s small. You have to pick at it with your thumb to get decent leverage. I didn’t have much trouble, but if you’ve got some beefy digits, you may need to grow out your nail a bit. CRKT at least ground part of the liner lock at an angle, which opens up the contact patch a bit. Still a “fidgety” close, though.

CRKT CEO: Sharpness and Edge Retention

For newcomers, I test out-of-the-box sharpness and edge retention performance of every knife I review using an Edge-On-Up certified knife tester.

Out of the wrapping, the CRKT CEO measured 180g and 186g on two tests, for an average sharpness of 183 grams. For context, that’s how much pressure the edge needed to exert to cut through the piece of test media (a synthetic fiber).

Next came my least favorite part: Attempting to destroy the apex by running it across a piece of incredibly hard ironwood.

Five pounds of pressure on the blade, with 100 back-and-forth passes across the length of the apex. Then it’s back to the Edge-On-Up tester to see how much the blade dulled.

After dulling, the edge measured 202g, and 205g, for an average of 203.5 grams of sharpness (we’ll round up to 204g). That equates to approximately 90% edge retention, which is pretty impressive for such a small, thin blade made of mid-grade 8CR13MOV. That means the grind and heat treatment were both dialed in by CRKT, taking full advantage of this stainless alloy’s carbides and composition.

CRKT CEO Edge Performance vs. Other Knives

Knife / ModelFactory SharpnessSharpness After TestEdge Retention
Spyderco Para 3 12026545%
Benchmade 940 EDC17529060%
SOG TWI8-CP Twitch II12520063%
S&W Extreme Ops SWA24S16526063%
Buck Knives 110 Folding Hunter14522066%
Spyderco Tenacious15022567%
Ontario Knife OKC Rat II SP18527069%
CIVIVI Elementum20127972%
Opinel No. 1228037073%
CIVIVI Praxis18323080%
Zero Tolerance 0450CF24029083%
KA-BAR Dozier Folder27532585%
Cold Steel AD-1018520590%
CRKT Endorser23025092%
CJRB Feldspar21522596%
Cold Steel Recon 1 Tanto17721582%
Kershaw Link CPM 20CV23226289%
CJRB Ria Folder (12C27)19628369%
Gerber Paraframe 1 (ATS-314)18622085%
CRKT CEO18320490%
Kershaw Leek13319269%
CRKT M16-10KS22833468%
CRKT Squid21537557%
Vosteed Corsair16317494%

Against all other knives reviewed at the time of this publication, the CEO’s out-of-the-box sharpness is ranked 9th of 20 blades. The CEO really shines with edge retention. At 90%, the CEO’s tied for 3rd against Cold Steel’s AD-10. The former just beats the latter in sharpness, too.

For context, the AD-10’s blade is made from CPM-S35VN, a premium powdered metallurgy alloy with over 1.3% carbon, a much higher carbide composition, and a higher advertised Rockwell hardness rating (59 to 61 HRC compared to 8CR13MOV’s 57 to 59 HRC).

You can compare knife steels in depth with our composition charts.

I was not expecting such a thinly ground blade with less than 1% carbon content to do this well, particularly against a blade that costs over twice as much (the AD-10 costs $125; the CEO ranges $41 to $60). But there it is. So, the CEO’s one helluva slicer. Its budget blade dug into one of the hardest woods in nature and laughed at it. Pretty slick.