The subject of
which knife is the best to carry can get very heated among
knowledgeable blade enthusiasts. Actually, no one knife
can do everything. I have well over a dozen fine knives,
several hand made to my specifications. But are they
better than an off-the-shelf design by a good custom knife
maker? To be honest, they are not, but I like them
It would be
very boring to get into a long discussion of the various steel
compositions used for knives today. 440C was the first
good stainless, but 154CM and AUS-8 are reputed to be
better...I have blades in both and can't tell the difference.
Schrade uses drawn steel, some blades are forged while others
are ground, all depending upon the method preferred by the
knife maker. You don't need stainless steel for a good
blade if you simply take care of your
Some time ago I
acquired an excellent hand made knife from Dale Sandberg - Dale's
knives are very unique, extremely strong, very sharp,
and the sheathes he makes are very durable. Dale
Sandberg of EDMF is pretty much retired and no longer
taking orders due to how hard it is for him to work in
the shop. He may still have a few outstanding orders
he is trying to fill, but after those nothing else
will likely be made.
A good folding knife with a locking blade is
almost mandatory because of their portability. Both Buck,
Browning and Puma (among many others such as Russell, Schrade, Case, Cold
Steel, Gerber, etc.) make excellent folding knives in a wide variety of
styles and sizes. The quality of folding knives is often reflected in
their price. If I'm just going to scrape some wood or do some real
work that might dull or scratch the blade quickly, I'll use a Case Sodbuster
at less than $20.00 every time instead of an Al Mar that cost ten times as
Specific use means
specialized design for maximum efficiency.
Skinning knives are a perfect example. At left is an
"Alaskan Skinner" from Herter's, with a unique John
Ireland sheath. At right is an RH Ruana skinner with a
John Ireland sheath. The Ruana is now far too
valuable for normal use. I had John Ireland of
Murder Lake, AK, make the sheathes for me in
Custom knife hand forged from an old file.
The knife and
sheath above illustrate that an outstanding and very
useful knife can be made with materials at hand.
A large file was annealed twice, hand forged to shape,
ground, sharpened, then hardened in a two-step
process, the back of the blade being spring temper and
the edge only being knife hard. The knife can
thus be used as a machete, clearing brush and chopping
down small trees, or be a fine combat knife if called
upon to do so. The sheath was made from plastic
cut from a thick blue 50 gallon barrel, glued and
riveted together. If the blade is kept clean and
oiled so that it does not rust, the knife and sheath
should last for the remainder of my lifetime and
another as well. This knife and sheath was made
for me by Chip Delyria.
Knife and sheath custom made
by Chip Delyria
hand forged from old files. The handles were made
from dry hardwood found in the forest, shaped and riveted
in place using nails for rivets and copper pennies as
for the sheath was from an old tractor implement power
belt found in an abandoned barn, hand riveted so the
knives all nest as shown above. The cost? Some
nails, rivets, and pennies.
A few of my favorite knives.
folding knife I purchased in 1971. These were the
first of the "custom" Gerber knives.
I purchased in 1972. Extremely high quality. I
carried this so long I wore out the John Ireland sheath.
folder I got from Al Mar himself in 1981 at the first SOF
Tanto I picked up circa 1982. Kydex sheath. Carried
only for emergency action requirements.
made by Boker. Only 2 years old. I lost the
one I got from Col. Applegate in 1982.
Whitetail skinner. Extremely useful knife for
gutting and skinning deer. Holds a very good edge. 20 years old.
field set. Very well made and useful for larger game
animals like elk or bear. The steel holds a good
edge and the shape and size of the saw blade is quite
useful. These are current production and quite
Damascus steel knives can
hold a very good edge. Some can be very hard to sharpen due to the
nickel content, but the edge holding ability makes up for that. Being
made of layers of different hardness steel the edge has micro-serrations
which aid in cutting. Many Damascus knives are very expensive but some
good ones are now coming in from areas where wages are counted in pennies
Above is my favorite woods
knife. The handle is comfortable and it holds a
good edge. The hollow ground blade has a thick
spine but is thin enough to cut well. From
Above is a larger Damascus
knife, extremely sturdy but the handle is designed for
large hands. From Pakistan, via eBay.
is a large, well shaped Damascus folder. It
carries easily in a sheath and is very comfortable in
use. The blade is non-locking. From
Pakistan, via eBay.
is a beautiful, very handy hatchet, easy to carry and
use when quartering game in the field. 300
layers of 1095 and 15N20 high carbon tool steels, 11"
OAL. Extremely dense Damascus and really holds an
edge. Made in Cyprus, sold on eBay by e-kioskthessaloniki.
To make the handle more comfortable in use I added a
Damascus hatchet that could have been useful as a
handled Ulu but the grind is wrong - it should have
had a hollow ground blade. Only 6'' long and
easy to carry. I'll have to hollow grind the blade
myself. 4340 and 1060 steel. From Pakistan via
eBay by knives4u12.
I just scratched the surface with
this short article. There are thousands of knife makers
and tens of thousands of varieties of knives, and there
wouldn't be that many if just one design or maker had
the answer for every problem. My only objective
was to provide a little guidance. You can't go wrong with any
of the knife makers I have mentioned, but you can spend
a whole lot more for knives that are not any better.