Monday, November 10, 2008

CRKT Zilla Tool, a new take on multi-tools

Columbia River Knife & Tool has always led the way in high tech, inexpensive and creative factory knife designs. When the ZillaTool was released I was extremely hesitant to even pick one up, it seemed goofy. The buyer for a retail cutlery firm I worked for told me he thought Spyderco's Spyderench tool was a ridiculous and overpriced paperweight. The ZillaTool seemed like that to me at first. I'm a Victorinox tool guy, and a fan of Leatherman too, and the ZillaTool just seemed like an impulsive "me too" type design. My opinion changed when I went on a hike with Jon, he picked up the full size Zilla at a sporting goods store on the way home from our hike. I believe he now uses it as a backup utility knife and keeps it in his van for odd jobs. After handling the tool my curiosity grew, and then S, B & T's very own Eric picked up the Zill Jr. at a cutlery shop near him. The Jr. is a very manageable size and clips easily into the pocket, its advantage being a utilitarian knife blade, plus pliers and a few common screwdriver bits. I recently obtained the full size ZillaTool, of course in Tactical Black, like Eric's Jr. model. It weighs in about 7.5 ounces, so it seems heavy at first, but it's well balanced.
The knife blade is deployed with CRKT/Kit Carson's well known 'flipper', all you need to do is tap your index finger against the protrusion to rotate the blade into the locked position. I'm a knife be sure, and I fully expected the Zilla's blade to be kind of "half-assed" know, an add-on to a tool that is primarily a plier. How wrong I was!
The black coated combo-edged blade is about 3 inches long and came hair popping sharp right out of the blister packaging the tool came in. The serrations are tight, shallow little scallops and work very well on tape, cardboard and paper, common utility foes for an average person's knife blade. The plier handle is released by simply sliding back something that resembles a safety switch. They are spring-loaded and the wire cutters were competent enough to sever metal keyrings with ease, and with no apparent damage to the tool. Zilla came with a phillips and flat head bit, nestled snugly on either side of the lengthy tool. I like the fact that when bits are inserted in the end for use, they are centered, and not offset like most multi-tools.
The included cordura sheath is decent, but I can see the need to eventually replace it with something more high quality and heavy-duty, like a knife or tool sheath from

All-in-all I'm satisfied with the ZillaTool, and glad I got the black one, I just think it looks more badass than the original model with the beadblasted look. I've found that CRKT's combination of AUS 6 or AUS 8 type stainless steels, coupled with their trademark beadblasted look, is a certain recipe for surface rust spotting on blades and tool components. I say that with many years of experience having sold, carried, used and examined many of their products. The CRKT warranty is very reasonable and fair, as long as you are not blatantly misusing or abusing the product, they will repair or replace anything that gives you the slightest trouble. I remember writing them awhile back about a replacement pocket clip for one of their knives and they fixed me up quick, with a new clip in the mail free of charge. I've also exchanged emails with CRKT's top dog, Rod Bremer, who's extremely dedicated to quality and quick answers for customers.

For the basics, let me quote's copy about this tool:

"Another unique multi-tool from I.D. Works™, with locking spring-loaded pliers, two hex screwdriver bits and a quick-action stainless steel combo-edged blade. Comfortable Zytel scales and nylon sheath make this a real monster at a great price.

Handy pliers, knife, screwdriver, wire cutter, bottle opener.
3.0" blade
6.5" handle
7.4 oz weight

Spring loaded pliers, wire cutter, screwdriver with bit holder, 'flipper' opens blade one-handed, stainless pocket clip, bottle opener.
Black nylon sheath included."

So far, I've used the Zilla's narrow blade to transfer dry nasal snuff into new containers and also mix snuff for new flavor/scent combinations. I also used the knife to open boxes while assisting staff at local petstores where my employer's products are sold. This tool is a bit bulky and heavy for my taste, or so I thought, but after 45 minutes or so, working with it, in its sheath in my back pocket, I hardly noticed it, until I needed it. Jon keeps his, as I mentioned in the side pocket of his van door for utility chores or things that a simple folder just cannot do. I have to take back and re-examine everything I thought about this design. It works well, it's fairly priced, as I think you can find them at most retailers for around $30.00 USD. The black Zilla just looks extremely cool, like a multi-tool 20 years ahead of its time.
I think I am going to order one of's heavy duty mil-spec sheaths for it, the included pouch is decent, but it does the futuristic-looking tool no justice. These are just my initial impressions, and I'll update as needed, and maybe Eric and Jon can add their impressions of the variations on the Zillas that they purchased. I do like the fact, that like a traditional folder, CRKT included a very burly pocket clip to secure the tool to gear without using the sheath.

CRKT's ID Works Tool line is here

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