My Dear Friends,
Rarely, if ever, do I revel in the misfortune of another, as I consider it somewhat distasteful at minimum and intolerable in the extreme. I recently found the opportunity to recant that position only briefly, as the misfortune suffered was to my distinct advantage.
Before you think ill of me, please allow me to explain further.
I have enjoyed a long relationship with Craig Wheatley of CKE Knives, and for some years now he has been a collaborator, conspirator, and good friend. It is reaching the point that I am quite certain he finds it odd when some time has elapsed and he has not heard from me with one bizarre knife design or another.
During the course of recent conversations surrounding his Tri-Bit Karambit design and the subsequent testing, I had casually remarked that I was interested in a Bushcraft-worthy blade and was actively studying their characteristics in pursuit of obtaining one. I further remarked that I knew that Craig crafted at least a couple of different models and was inquiring about pricing and time frame for delivery.
A few days later I received an email from Craig, lamenting a shop mishap that I am sure all knifemakers have suffered; while threading a hole for removable scale panels, the tap actually bound and broke off, lodging itself such that it rendered the hole quite useless for its intended purpose. What made matters worse, the knife was actually a special-order blade for a client who specifically wanted removable scales. For all intents and purposes the blade was ruined, destined for the scrap steel pile.
I commiserated briefly, feeling his frustration and angst.
He proceeded to offer up the blade to me for testing and evaluation, knowing that I needed one for camping and trekking this upcoming summer. Fixed scales would solve the singular issue with the knife, and it would not affect function in the least.
I was incredibly excited at the prospects, as I had never previously enjoyed the chance to test a purpose-driven blade that did not have some kind of self-defense overtone. This one would be pure survival, and in Craig’s opinion would be built to withstand anything.
Within a few short weeks a parcel arrived at my door, much larger than I had initially expected even with the description I had received from Craig. I opened the parcel and was quite amazed – the knife itself is a beast of a blade, admittedly designed to take any abuse one could dish out and ask for more.
This knife boasts an overall length of 11 inches, of which 6 ¼” is blade and 5 ¾” is actual cutting edge.
The construction was ¼ inch (0.25”) thick O-1 steel, perfect for blades designed to be used really hard. The blade itself was full flat grind for cutting and slicing ability. I realize that Bushcraft traditionalists will likely argue the relative merits of the Scandi grind, but with a blade this thick I consider the lack of a Scandi grind to be moot point, tradition be hanged.
I did request that the final edge be convex, which he managed handily. Upon arrival the knife would shave fine strips from notebook paper, which I consider quite a feat for such a thick blade. In fact, the blade is full-thickness until the final inch or so of the tip, where the entire blade tapers in a convex fashion out to a fine point.
Scales are green micarta and wonderfully contoured, fitting my hands beautifully without producing any hot spots during heavy use, and are permanently pinned and epoxied to the blade tang. A deep finger choil keeps your fingers out of harm’s way, securing your grip on the knife while in use. A lanyard hole provides an attachment point to keep your knife in place during more aggressive chopping.
Weight? Heavy, as might be expected, but I hardly consider this a fault given the level of indestructibility you are dealing with.
The knife came with a fitted Kydex sheath, fashioned quite tight and rattle-free. Craig indicated that since during our conversations I had mentioned lashing it to the outside of my pack, he felt that erring on the side of being fairly snug would be advantageous to prevent accidental loss. This is the kind of attention to detail that every custom maker needs; Craig not only considered what I thought that I wanted and needed, but also the features he knew that I needed including those I might be unaware of.
Not only this, but what kind of Bushcrafter might I be were I to not have a ready source of fire? To this end Craig also crafted a firesteel with a cocobolo handle (my single favorite exotic wood, and he knows it) and included a length of jute twine for use in firestarting.
Interestingly, the thing that surprised me most about this blade was the fit and finish. Craig had indicated to me that he wasn’t going to be too particular in these areas, instead concentrating on the functionality of the knife since that was his primary feedback interest. Based on that information I expected a very rough knife indeed; what I received was anything but. The micarta scales are smoothed flawlessly, leaving just enough texture for good gripping, and mate with the steel perfectly without any gaps or raised areas. So smooth are the transitions between the two that were it not for differences in temperature under my fingers I would be hard-pressed to tell where one ends and the other begins. The grind lines are perfectly clean and straight, the taper to the tip is even, and the scale pins are so smooth I cannot feel them against the micarta under my bare fingers when trying.
There is already a bit of Kydex scratching on the blade itself, but for something that will be batoned through firewood to create kindling I hardly worry about that, especially since the sheath is designed so exceptionally snug to prevent loss.
If you do not own one of Craig’s blades you owe it to yourself to check him out. I plan to see about one of his smaller Bushcraft blades for the inside of my pack this summer.
My friends, given the arrival of this amazing piece of steel, somehow I think that is it time to tie on a paracord thong for a lanyard and go camping!