As any masterful inventor will tell you, a new tool inspired by anything but a specific need is destined to fall flat. So when Joe Caswell took pen to paper to create the mechanism that was to become Kinematic™, he wasn’t acting on creative impulse, he had the words of his tactical-knife-wielding firefighter, EMT, and police officer buddies echoing in his head.
Their need: have a backup knife that can be drawn and deployed quickly without having to drop the tool or weapon in the other hand.
From Fixed Blades to Folders
Joe started with an exploration of the traditional Karambit knives on the market—his buddies had expressed their desire to carry a knife with that blade shape for a number of reasons. “Most of the tech of the folding Karambit is traditionally taken from a standing folding knife. Most designers out there have simply curved the handle and put a ring on it.” He was determined to create something completely different.
“We have such a powerful bias about how things are done,” Joe explains. “Sometimes the old way is the best way. Oftentimes, though, it’s not. The tragedy is that seldom do people bother to challenge something that, for all intents and purposes, does a good enough job. They don’t think there’s opportunity there. I beg to differ.”
Starting With a Blank Slate
While there is no lack of CAD and machinery in his shop, when you’re dealing with something without precedent, he says; when you’re starting from square one, it’s nice to start with something small. So he broke out the popsicle sticks. Seriously.
When the first iteration was complete, Joe knew he was on to something. But it was too complex. “It looked relatively similar to Kinematic™ as you know it now,” says Joe, “but it was more complex. Essentially you squeezed the mechanism and the blade shot open. The pivot was around the ring. There was some cool engineering involved, but it was unnecessarily complicated.”
The second one was a winner. And the rest is history.
“I first put it out there on my Instagram handle. The short story is that it went viral. “That’s when I knew it was time to put everything else on hold. I even quit my job.”
A Viral Design
“I first put it out there on my Instagram handle. The short story is that it went viral,” Joe explains. “That’s when I knew it was time to put everything else on hold. I even quit my job.” Two full years of research and development ensued before we created and launched the Kickstarter campaign. That’s an entirely different story. If there might have been a sliver of doubt about the success of his new innovation, it dissipated completely when he received the backing of over 700 people who invested over $350k into his project. Those customs are expected to be delivered in early 2019.
Meanwhile, the CRKT partnership was well in the works, and the anticipation for a full-blown production model was sky high.
From Custom to Production
“I had never seen anything like it,” reminisces Doug Flagg, CRKT’s VP of Marketing and Innovation. “I met Joe when I went to the USN show in September 2017—I had seen his innovation on Instagram. He showed me his custom personally and when I saw the way it turns a typical knife function upside down I thought, ‘we have got to do this.’ The reality was that Joe had a lot of options; many companies were courting him and his innovation, and he chose us.”
After the decision was made, the leg work began to take Joe’s creative vision and turn it into something that a manufacturer could create on a large scale with more economical materials without compromising on style, performance, or usability. “It was very beneficial that Joe handed me an actual design to work with,” says Robin Leong, CRKT’s VP of Engineering and New Product Development. “As far as the design goes, it’s incredibly innovative. At the same time, it’s super simple. It’s comprised of four major components and a lock. When I showed my friends and contacts at the factory, they were wowed.”
Rethinking the Folder
In short: Joe is pulling the folder into the future whether it’s ready or not. The folder has been around for over 2,500 years and it might have gone untouched for another century if Joe hadn’t spread some popsicle sticks on the table.
Engaging Kinematic™ technology is simple: nudge the upper crossbar with your thumb—while the rest of your fingers firmly grasp the handle—and the blade lunges to life and locks into place. Shift the discrete lever at the base of the finger loop and the blade retreats into its closed position.
Going forward, you’ll begin to see Kinematic™ actualized in new designs. “A big reason why I wanted to work with CRKT,” Joe shares, “is because they work with such high-quality designers. I’ve done my bit with Kinematic™. My job here is finished. Now it’s time to assign the technology to other designers. The result is sure to be completely unexpected and something that the industry can sink its teeth into.”