Freitag, 29. August 2014

Looking for a bushcraft knife? - A brief review shootout

 Bushcraft knives have seen quite some development in the last years, and it seems a whole new species of knives is born. Believe me, it is not. A knife has to cut. Period. In some limited cases normally referred to as abusive use of a knife it also has to dig, chop, baton, and pry. Bushcraft knives tend to be constructed to do all that, and sometimes it seems they are more designed towards the abusive side of the work than the actual cutting. For instance, the famed Ray Mears design has a very low scandi grind bevel resulting in a cutting geometry that is more of a wedge, perfectly suited for batoning and surface whittling such as required in carving a spoon and such and also suited for skinning and prying apart animal pelvises, nothing wrong with this, but try delicate work with it and it will not work as well as a knife designed to cut.

One of my favourites, however, is this Hubertus prototype, a bit strangely tauted "revolutionary skinning knife". It has a blade out of 440C with a cryogenic heat treatment at a claimed 60 HRC, beautiful red liners under Micarta scales. It has a high flat grind, very slicey, and comes with a simple leather sheath for belt carry only.

 The blade´s not too thick at some 3,2 mm and the serrations and ergonomic handle contour make for a very comfy and secure grip. It measures at a sensible 85 mm EDC length. It has a lanyard hole for the obligatory pimping lanyard beads;-) we all love...
 Word: Not a knife for prying, and the handle could be a bit longer, but it cuts like a monster. It is a perfect little task knife for occasions when a larger knife simply isn´t necessary. Out of the box it came hair-splittingly sharp, and the edge retention is very well and I guess the claim of 60 HRC is well there. It is flexible enough, though, to take some abuse, too. It comes in at some 120,00€ if it ever sees production.
The next combo I have taken just for comparison purposes into the evaluation, and to do some myth busting. It´s one of the best ever combos for ´crafting, i.e. the Fällkniven F 1 with a laminate 420J2/VG10 blade, the WM - 1 with a solid VG-10 blade and the Victorinox Swiss Tool, famed for being the only tool with which you can drive nails into a solid concrete wall;-) (a separate review will follow). Those three are a combination not leaving want for anything. BUT! Nowadays those two Fällkniven knives alone sell for roundabout 250-300€. Both are razor sharp and dead reliable and closing the gap between prybar and cutter with an acceptable compromise, but the prize is, as we will see, a bummer.
 The Boker Colubris I have reviewed some time ago already. It cuts well, nothing to be ashamed of for sure, albeit not so very slicey, and, due to its heft, can even double for a small chopper. The wide blade makes it suitable for digging for roots also, and it can take quite a beating due to the stonewash finish which makes minor scratches practically invisible. The blade is 440C with a standard tempering at about 58-59 HRC. The g-10 handle can be used to drive nails into a wooden wall;-), it´s that durable. The thick blade 6mm x 109mm inspires confidence. It sells at 69,00€.
 The Colubris sheath fits well, but has one minor flaw. Kydex is a thermoplastic material which looses fit over time when carried in a warm environment. The belt lock in a horizontal position (scout carry mode) allows the handle to point slightly downwards, which makes it slightly easier to draw. When the Kydex loses fit, however, it COULD be possible that you lose the blade. Also, the heft of the blade does not make for a comfortable carry when using thinner belts. A 50 mm belt is close to mandatory, but, hey, this knife´s not made to be carried when wearing a suit and tie;-). It certainly is a knife for the big boys out there...;-).
Last but in no way least is the prize-breaker combo of this review. A Mora craftline High Q Carbon Robust and a Mora laminate carving knife. The big ´un measures in at a healthy 115mm x 3 mm with a good Kraton handle over a hard plastic inlay, which is that hard you can easily crack nuts with it. The sheath is very interesting in that another sheath can be attached to the button in front. The hole in the sheath of the little carver fits into it. The carving knife has a high carbon steel blade, 59 x 2,3 mm long and thick, with a stainless steel ferrule and a birch handle. The tang goes all the way through the handle and is fixed with a rustic but time - proven clamp in the handle. This duo is an eye opener, in that the big knife costs 11,49€ and the small one 17 €. I use those two very much. Both can stand up to day- in day- out abuse for years. They cut extremely well, and the big one prys and batons and begs for more. Both come hairpoppingly sharp out of the box.

All in all I can say that from a merely functional point of view alone there is no reason to spend more than 12€ for a serviceable bushcraft knife. The Fällkniven, Hubertus and Boker knives are good and even great knives, but their performance is easily matched by the Moras. Of course, they lack image and ambiente, and it is not always all about function, so if you want a bit more fascination, just go ahead and buy those other knives. I did, and I do not even regret it.

But if we are honest, what is it that we need? Indigenous cultures do not entertain this attitude. They love their tools and lovingly repair them when they are damaged. We rant on survival and whatnot when all we might be doing is a nice stroll around the local woods practicing some skills to our leisure. It is a hobby. In, say central Amazonas, Papua, Africa or Siberia those skills are not just a hobby you practice at your leisure, but a necessity to if not survive, then at least live better. The individuals relying on knives over there would chose the Moras, if they would at all buy anything. More realistic is they´d make their own from saw blades or even traffic signs.

Now this post is not about spoiling anyone´s joy at collecting knives or leisurely practicing some rewilding. This is maybe even more crucial than the everyday routine of some indigenous backlwoodsman or -woman, for we have to change, and the bushcraft hobby shows us a path we can enjoy, and thusly, love, and thusly use to change our individual life to hopefully get a new perspective on our Western society. But do not be sad if you cannot afford those "blingbling" knives everyone raves about in the forums. Buy a Mora, as accomplished backwoodsmen and boy scouts do for ages, or browse the garage sales and flea markets, or, better yet, roll your own.

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