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Dexter Ewing

D2 Tool Steel Knives: Four That Make The Cut

D2 Delivers In Edge Holding, Overall Performance, And Affordability. These Four D2 Knives Are Emblematic Of The Toughness Of The Material

Even if you haven’t used a knife of D2 tool steel, you’re no stranger to it if you have been into knives for any length of time. Many knife manufacturers use D2, as have numerous custom knifemakers.

Why is D2 so popular? Two reasons are it offers the best bang for the buck in terms of edge holding and overall performance. D2 is regarded as a step up from basic, low-grade stainless steel and is often found in entry-level to mid-grade production knives. One drawback: D2 is not a stainless steel so it will require a bit more care. Still, the performance advantages outweigh that drawback and you get a knife with enhanced edge-holding power that handles tough cutting chores. 

D2 comes from the metalworking industry. There it is primarily used to make steel cutting dies, so that tells you all you need to know: It basically is a steel used to cut steel. Think about that for a minute. D2’s chemistry in percentages is 1.4 to 1.6 carbon, .7 to 1.2 molybdenum, 11 to 13 chromium, and 1.1 vanadium. It can be hardened past 60-61 HRC on the Rockwell scale without being brittle. BLADE Magazine Cutlery Hall-Of-Fame® members Jimmy Lile and Wayne Goddard used D2 a lot in their knives, as does Bob “Dr. D2” Dozier extensively in his outdoor models. Top production knife companies such as CRKT, Kershaw, SOG, A.G. Russell Knives, Ontario and KA-BAR are but a few that have multiple offerings using D2.

CRKT Fawkes

 The CRKT Fawkes is an excellent choice for a stylish EDC folder, featuring flipper operation and IKBS pivot bearings for smooth opening and closing.

Maker Alan Folts designed the CRKT Fawkes to be a stylish, colorful EDC linerlock folder. The knife’s name is derived from the Harry Potter movie franchise, specifically the phoenix that appears in the series. 

With a closed length of just 3.76 inches the Fawkes carries comfortably, and the blade deploys fast and easy thanks to the IKBS-ball-bearing pivot and assisted-opening spring. The two work in conjunction to provide swift, smooth deployment, and the assist helps detent the blade in the closed position.

The multi-layer orange G-10 handle generates visual excitement and a splash of color. The ergonomic design provides a comfy grip for cutting tasks. The 2.74-inch, clip-point blade is flat ground and sports a swedge as well as a milled-in fuller, which creates a bit of attitude. A flipper tab helps initiate blade deployment. The knife carries securely thanks to a deep carry, fold-over-style clip that holds the closed Fawkes blade tip up and as low as possible in a pocket.

The handle shape is striking. A pronounced finger groove near the pivot helps index your grip, while chamfering eliminates harsh edges and hot spots. The matching orange G-10 handle spacer sports a series of large notches that help seat the knife in your grip. Blade action is quick and authoritative. The linerlock engages the tang with zero movement. CRKT will make the Fawkes a regular production knife model this year, with the only change being a switch to 1.4116 stainless for blade steel. 

Made in Taiwan, the MSRP for the Fawkes is $89.99.

Kershaw Endgame

The high flat grind of the Kershaw Endgame makes it a great choice for a working utility knife.

Kershaw‘s Endgame flipper folder features a highly usable modified drop-point blade, along with an ergonomic handle featuring modern design elements, all translating into a classy EDC that opens easily via the flipper tab.

The 3.25-inch flat-ground blade incorporates a distinctive humpbacked swedge for an aggressive look. A notched rest on the spine allows comfortable thumb placement for greater blade control. A stonewashed finish seals the tiny pores of the steel’s surface to fight corrosion as well as give the blade an industrial look. It also hides scratches from use pretty well and reduces glare.

A stainless steel framelock ensures solid lockup. The large finger recess at the pivot end helps index your grip. The handle curves aid in secure purchase every time.

The handle’s aesthetics are interesting. There’s bronze PVD (physical-vapor-deposition)-coated steel accents, textured FRN (fiberglass-reinforced-nylon) scales and a window cutout. The multi-layered visual adds more subtle color to the otherwise gray blade and handle. I do not care for it—it seems too busy. I don’t mind one type of overlay or even some machined-in grooves on the handle surface—both achieve function along with a sensible appearance. A deep carry pocket clip positions the closed Endgame nice and low in the pocket away from probing eyes.

While ergonomic and comfortable, the handle is a bit lacking in the midsection. For extended use, I would not recommend this knife. My hand grips the handle tighter to make up for the lack of bulk in the midsection. The answer is to redesign the handle and give it more mass. However, for tasks requiring choking up on the blade and handle for extra control, such as wire stripping, the Endgame is ideal. I felt in full control of the blade and was able to make precise cuts easily. If you do a lot of detail cutting, this might be the knife for you, or even if you need a folder for mundane slicing tasks. It’s got a great blade shape that is stylish. 

Made in China, the Endgame has an MSRP of $107.99.

Medford Knife & Tool 187DP

At 5 5/8 inches closed, the biggest knife of the test bunch is the Medford Knife & Tool 187DP. Its hollow-ground drop-point blade makes short work of most any cutting task. The half-titanium/half-G-10 handle is equipped with a framelock.  

Medford Knife & Tool specializes in manufacturing hard-use knives in the USA. These are not safe queens—they are engineered to hold up in real-world survival situations. The 187DP heavy-duty framelock folder is a representative example. The hollow-ground blade is 3.75 inches and comes in a utilitarian drop-point pattern. Closed length: 55/8 inches. An oblong hole facilitates easy one-hand opening. Dual thumb studs function as the blade stop in the fully open and closed positions.

The blade is 3/16-inch thick. Make no mistake, the 187DP is quite a chunk! The grip is ⅝-inch thick, and you will know when it’s in your pocket. A milled titanium clip carries the closed knife blade tip up but is not reversible. Any company using milled clips gets bonus points in my book. Regular stamped steel clips do a very good job at holding your knife at the top of the pocket for easy access, but, in my opinion, are not much on style points. Milled clips look more stylish and also hold the knife securely to the pocket lip.

If you are a rough user and use your knives outdoors or just plain beat them up, the 187DP is for you. Its rock solid build and bulk stand up to the heaviest use. I like the way the handle tapers toward the butt end, enabling you to get a secure hold. A series of traction notches machined close to the butt further assist in obtaining a solid no-slip handhold. It feels fixed in your hand and instills confidence in controlling the large blade. The steady grip allows you to bear down on the blade to power it through cuts.

Many who favor tactical folders will tell you a framelock is best for hard use. The 187DP’s framelock engages quite securely and disengages with a firm push. A milled-out section on the lockbar accommodates a thumb to disengage the lock—nice touch by the Medford crew. The blade cuts aggressively and dispatches most any material and food with aplomb.

Out of the box I really liked the factory edge. The ultra-strong lockup makes the knife feel like a fixed blade. Consequently, user confidence is high and you don’t have any reservations about putting it through the toughest jobs. While a large tactical folder, it can easily be tamed for precise cutting by making use of the choil to choke up on the blade and handle. 

There’s also about an inch-and-a-half-long run of traction notches on the spine just above the blade hole. Your thumb rests comfortably there and you can execute controlled cuts easily—a very nice touch and positive attribute.

The only complaint I have about the 187DP is the size and, therefore, the weight, both of which exceed the limit for what I consider an EDC folder. You can feel its bulk and presence in the pocket, especially when you bend over. 

MSRP: $475.


The SOG Stout FLK is definitely stout! Don’t let this compact folder fool you—it’s built for heavy work. It can get down to precise work as well, such as stripping wire.

The SOG Stout FLK is configured in collaboration with Danish maker Mikkel Willumsen. In appearance, the framelock folder lives up to its name and has a 2.62-inch drop-point blade. Closed length: 3.38 inches.

If you’re looking for an inexpensive work knife, the Stout FLK is it. It’s big enough to handle most cutting chores but not too big to be in the way or too cumbersome to carry. With its flat grind and short swedge, the blade shape is utility friendly. An oblong hole permits you to thumb the blade open as you would any one-hand folder, or you can use the flipper tab instead. 

A pronounced choil enables choking up on the blade for more exact control and works with the large finger recess in the handle as well. Spyderco does this sort of thing, too. It’s a way to make smaller knives feel large in the hand and provide more blade control.

The handle is in the familiar half-and-half framelock construction, using textured G-10 on the presentation side. This saves weight as opposed to having an all-metal handle and also adds traction for sure handling. A matching steel spacer provides balance as well as structural rigidity. 

The deep-carry pocket clip is ambidextrous and holds the Stout FLK low in the pocket while keeping it easily accessible. The clip is attached to the butt end and comes over the side. SOG calls it a bayonet-style clip, a style used quite a bit in the company’s line. 

Made in China, the MSRP for the Stout FLK is $54.95. Finally, SOG will release the knife as a slip joint this year.

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The Viking Seax And Where To Get One

Deeply Rooted In Scandinavian History, The Seax, AKA “Scramasax” Or “Sax,” Was The Blade Shape Of Choice For The Much-Feared And Revered Vikings.

Typically the Norsemen were associated with their famous axes, but, truth be known, they also carried a knife that saw more general use: the seax.

The Scandinavians usually lived in villages, farmed the land and raised animals. In such an agrarian society, they also needed tools to help them work the land and harvest the fruits of their labor. This is also where a knife came into play.

“Their personal knife was called the seax and it never left their side because it was their version of an EDC,” begins Ernest Emerson of Emerson Knives, Inc. “The knife was tasked with a myriad of chores, from skinning a freshly taken deer to cutting up the turnips they grubbed out of the ground with the same knife.”

Seax blade shapes
The folding Emerson Knives Seax puts a modern twist on this age-old blade design. (Image via Emerson Knives)

Emerson said the seax also could be employed as a self-defense weapon if needed. It was truly a blade for all seasons: Harvest produce in the morning, fend off the enemy after lunch, and then prepare supper in the evening—all with the same blade.

Seax Designs

All joking aside, the seax was a handy blade.

“It is a bowie-style blade, a spear-point type of blade, a Loveless drop-point hunter-style of blade, and, of course, the well-known ‘broken-back’ style featuring a severe clip close to the front, finishing in a point well below the center line,” Emerson said.

He said the broken-back seax style is the most common and appears in TV shows and movies depicting Vikings.

Broken Back Seax
The Broken Back Seax by Aidan Garrity of Iron Lion Blades features a 10-inch damascus blade of 1095 carbon and 15N20 nickel alloy steels, and wrought iron. The handle is maple and the bolster is moose antler. Overall length: 18 inches. (SharpByCoop image)

Blade lengths varied wildly from seven inches on the short end and topping out at 30 inches, the latter Emerson called a short sword, basically.

“The seax needed to be an all-around utility tool that could chop, cut, slice, and sometimes stab, all with equal ease of application,” he said. “A Viking’s livelihood depended on self-sufficiency, resourcefulness, and the quality of his toolkit.”

What is a seax
The Cold Steel Damascus Long Sax features a 17.25-inch blade with an edge that curves up toward the tip. MSRP: $635.99. (Cold Steel image)

At first glance, the seax may not seem as exciting as a recurve blade, but looks are not always everything. The beauty of such a blade lies within its ability to tackle cutting chores.

The straight-line cutting edge tackles a variety of tasks easily, and the point of the blade is both precise and powerful, with the ability to score as well as penetrate.

5 Best Seax Knives

The long history of the seax is still going strong today as companies young and old are making new versions of the historic blade.

These five are some of the more unique and exciting seax knives available today.

Terävä Skrama 240

Terävä Skrama 240
Terävä Skrama 240

Direct from the Finnish brand Terävä, the Skrama is a rugged bush knife great for chopping, slicing, and building shelters in the outdoors. The 9.4-inch blade is made from 80CrV2 steel with a 59 HRC. It comes married to a textured rubber handle for easy grip in any weather conditions.

The blade has a full tang and a flat edge but with a twist. It’s sharpened to a 34-degree edge except for the two inches closest to the hilt. That small section is sharpened to a finer 25-degree edge for more meticulous, precise knifework.

The Skrama comes with either a leather sheath or a plastic cover and has an MSRP of $69.99-109.99.

SZCO Supplies Brass-Studded Seax

SZCO Supplies Brass-Studded Seax
SZCO Supplies Brass-Studded Seax

SZCO Supplies has made a fun, durable knife with its Brass-Studded Seax. The piece features a 10-inch blade married to a wooden handle. The knife is adorned with brass studs on the handle as well as a brass guard and pommel.

For a budge knife, it does have some weak points. The two main ones are that the leather sheath may need some working in to be at its best, and the knife may need a sharpen out of the box to have a pristine edge. Other than that, this is a good knife for the money.

Strong enough for a log, sharp enough for a piece of chicken, SZCO Supplies has made a  seax that is well priced at an MSRP of just $27.63.

Medieval Collectibles Viking Seax Knife

Medieval Collectibles Viking Seax Knife
Medieval Collectibles Viking Seax Knife

This seax from Medieval Collectibles has the look and feel of a knife from the Viking era. It’s made from 5160 tempered carbon steel with a full tang, which is peened over the end of the handle’s metal end cap.

Just over 17 inches in length, and a blade length of 12.1 inches, the Viking Seax comes with a handle that has a wood grain finish and a hand-stitched leather scabbard with a belt hanger.

At just 14.4 ounces in weight this is a utility knife great for everything from chopping through wood and brush to defense and protection. The Viking Seax comes with an MSRP of $169.

Grimfrost Broken Back Seax, Type IV

Grimfrost Broken Back Seax, Type IV with scabbard
Grimfrost Broken Back Seax, Type IV with scabbard

From Grimfrost comes a full-tang seax made of 1045 carbon steel. A reproduction of a 1,000-year-old seax found in London, the Broken Back Seax is 16 inches in length with an 11-inch blade.

The handle is handmade ash and the included leather scabbard is hand-stitched. It also features “Grimfrost” stamped in runes on the side of the blade.

Lots of time and care went into making this knife as authentic as it could be and it shows. So whether you want to feel like Leif Eriksson exploring new lands or just want a strong knife while chopping, Grimfrost has you covered.

The Broken Back Seax has an MSRP of $132.

Lunar Light Forge Damascus Sanmai Seax

Lunar Light Forge Damascus Sanmai Seax
Lunar Light Forge Damascus Sanmai Seax

This amazing seax is from the husband & wife duo of Nathaniel and Megan Everett at Lunar Light Forge in Akron, Ohio.

The damascus blade is made from 42 layers of 1095 and 15n20 steel around a 5160 core. It is paired with a handle made of Buffalo horn and Cocobolo wood, and it comes with a hand-tooled & hand-stitched leather sheath.

It’s just as much an art piece as it is an excellent utility knife. The 7-inch blade can process an animal, hack off tree limbs, and chop in the kitchen. It does have an MSRP of $722.50, but for the amount of craftsmanship and care that went into the piece, you’ll know you’re getting a knife of the highest quality.

Editor’s Note: Mike Abelson contributed to this piece

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7 Of The Best Kukri Knife Options

The Kukri Is A Historic Knife With A Long History Of Military And Outdoor Use. These Are Seven Of The Best Kukri Knives Out There Today.

The way a kukri feels in your hand makes you want to obliterate thick foliage and saplings.  The blade’s forward-weighted feel, the ultra-secure handle, and the reach the knife provides all work together in an ancient cutting and chopping tool that packs more punch than a machete for tackling the tough stuff.

What Is A Kukri?

The kukri is a variant of the machete with a recurve blade that developed in South Asia hundreds of years ago. It may have evolved from the sickle and is today used as the standard utility knife for the Ghurkas in Nepal. The kukri is the national weapon of Nepal and still synonymous with the Nepalese Army. It remains the main weapon for all Ghurka military units around the world including the British Army’s Brigade of Ghurkas.

How To Use A Kukri

The kukri knife is designed for chopping outdoors. Like other machetes, the kukri has a longer blade of 10-15 inches depending on the type. It is a useful military weapon because its center of mass allows the fighter to slice as they chop to penetrate an enemy deeply and even slice through bone.

As an outdoor tool, the kukri machete can do a bit of everything. Nepalese use it to do everything from chopping wood, digging, slaughtering livestock, chopping vegetables, and even opening cans.

Due to its shape, with a more narrow blade by the hilt and a wider blade by the tip, the kukri can function as a nimble utility knife up close and do the work of a small spade or even an axe as well.

The 7 Best Kukri Knives Today

Today, the kukri is made of modern materials and is used around the world for its durability outdoors. These are seven of the best kukri knives on the market today that would make any lover of the outdoors happy.

CAS Iberia APOC Kukri

APOC Kukri
This APOC Kukri is one the author found to be very controllable—so controllable, in fact, it even whittles well in a pinch.

At 16.25 inches overall, the APOC Kukri from CASIberia is a formidable chopper.  The 10.25-inch blade of this knife is .22-inch-thick 9260 spring steel with a low-glare, rust-resistant black coating. Though it doesn’t hold an edge as long as some other steels, expect it to be easy to maintain in the field. It also is a forgiving material, able to withstand heavy use and abuse.

The ultra-ergonomic handle is machined black G-10 fastened by three Torx-head screws.  The multi-faceted grip features a pronounced index finger recess, an integral front guard, and a flared butt to prevent backward sliding of your hand. At 23 ounces, the knife harnesses the devastating cutting power of traditional kukris, and amplifies it using modern materials.  

I found rather crisp edges on the tang and guard where crispness shouldn’t be. The easy fix? Lightly file the harsh edges to soften them a bit.

Once past the aesthetic imperfections, what you see is a forward-weighted chopping tool whose overall blade shape was inspired by traditional kukris as well. The graceful curve of the belly houses the sweet spot.

I found the handle rather interesting with its varied curves and prominent finger groove. When I first held it, I didn’t like it. My initial impression was it didn’t “fill” my hand. However, once I took the kukri into the woods and began swinging it, only then did the handle start to make perfect sense. The dip behind the guard acts as a sort of pivot. The knife will move a bit in your grip because of this, but it doesn’t move so much that it’s distracting or impossible to use. The slight movement actually works with your hand in creating powerful chopping strokes. And, due to the blade’s weight and thickness, I found the knife a really effective chopper.

The APOC Kukri excels at chopping, with the sweet spot in the middle of the blade belly. It was the surprise of the bunch in terms of how well it performed, especially for such a relatively unknown brand.

Out of the box the cutting edge was sharp but rough—rough as in a coarse edge and not looking very refined. Nonetheless, that’s also good because the coarse edge has “teeth’’ and bites in harder. The APOC kukri really turned out to be the surprise of the test bunch. It performed very well. I was able to modify the edge by hand, evening it out a bit—and it does seem to sharpen up fast in the field.

The Kydex sheath is a side-break design, allowing the kukri to tilt itself out of the sheath. However, the sheath needs more tension as it locks onto the handle to secure the knife. A secondary button snap strap extends around the upper part of the handle to secure the kukri into the sheath. Be sure it is securely fastened or it may fall out of the sheath accidentally. The belt loop webbing is fairly flimsy as well, but it will do the job. It does, however, allow the kukri to move around in the sheath in response to your movements, so, in case it snags a branch while you’re walking through the woods, it might free itself as you move.

All in all, I think this would make a great use-and-abuse chopper, one that you won’t be hesitant to go out and beat up. Made in China, it has a manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of $175.

SOG Knives SOGfari

The SOGfari kukri is sharp all the way around—both the plain-edge blade and the sawtooth spine. Not as heavy as the other test knives, the author rates it for intermittent use.

The SOGfari Kukri Sawback Machete from SOG Knives combines three tools in one: kukri, machete and saw. The 12-inch blade is .1-inch-thick 3Cr13 stainless steel.

Overall length: 18 inches. The recurve blade adds cutting power and the double-cut sawback spine easily zips through saplings. The handle is molded Kraton rubber and sports dual guards at either end to prevent forward or rearward sliding of your hand. There’s plenty of handle belly to fill your grip and make the knife feel comfortable and secure. The exposed pommel is notched and can be employed as a hammer if needed. A black blade coating enhances rust resistance and cleans easily.

The sheath is heavy-duty, sewn-and-riveted ballistic nylon with plastic liners. It secures via a zipper pull. A fabric fastener flap protects the zipper to prevent accidental unzipping—a very thoughtful design. A large loop of ballistic nylon accommodates all belt sizes and a button snap secures the handle. The sawback makes it more difficult to slide the blade in and out, though the sheath unzips partially to provide more room.

The SOG SOGfari Kukri is the only piece in the test bunch with sawteeth. While not intended to replace a nice, high-quality folding saw, it is better than no saw at all. The only problem is its tendency to bind up due to the blade’s thickness.

I found the SOGfari lacking in the weight-forward design of most kukris. This is good in that there’s less weight on your belt or pack—bad in that you must put more muscle behind chop strokes, which can be tiring. Normally, with a weight-forward blade you’d benefit from gravity on the down stroke. The sawback is more gimmick than anything. It really doesn’t work well and forces you to open the cut more to enable the thicker blade to slide through. If not, the saw binds up every time. Conversely, in a survival situation having the saw is better than no saw, so in that case it’s a plus. I would not rely on the SOGfari as your primary saw, so carry a dedicated folding saw if you’re exploring the woods.

The SOGfari is well made for the price but the lack of a weight-forward blade keeps it in the occasional-use category. Made in China, it has an MSRP of $29.99.


The KA-BAR BK21 Becker/Reinhardt Kukri is an exceptional all-around performer. It can be used as a chopping tool, machete or a utility knife as demonstrated here. It balances very well. Inset is Ethan Becker, one of the knife’s designers, outlining the rules of the chef’s knife cutting competition at the 2019 BLADE Show West. (Becker image by Eric Eggly)

KA-BAR’s BK21 Becker/Reinhardt Kukri was designed in conjunction with Ethan Becker and the Hank Reinhardt Estate. The 13.25-inch blade offers reach and power with plenty to spare. The blade is .195-inch-thick 1095 Cro-Van carbon steel epoxy coated for rust resistance. There is that forward-tilt signature of kukris, and the blade’s profile gently swells toward the center. Along with the flat grind, it enables the BK21 to be used as both a machete and a chopping tool.

Molded from an impact-resistant polymer called Ultramid®, the handle is dense and lightweight. It resists absorbing liquid and moisture, which makes it almost impervious to the elements. The rounded/blocky handle shape may look a bit awkward at first, but don’t knock it until you try it. The contours make for a very comfortable grip that isn’t tiring when evaluating for long-term use. Three rather large hex-head bolts secure the handle onto the full tang design, and the exposed pommel can be used as a hammer.

The BK21 has a high-quality sewn & riveted nylon sheath with a hard-plastic reinforced tip to prevent puncturing. An integral nylon loop promotes easy belt carry. A button snap closure secures the blade.

Due to the weight distribution of the KA-BAR BK21 Becker/Reinhardt Kukri, it excels as a machete in clearing tall grass, weeds, and vines.

The overall shape and weighted feel of the BK21 is reminiscent of traditional kukris. It’s not forward-heavy like some and is balanced well. Due to its length and weight/balance, it excels as both a chopping tool and a machete. It can cut vines and tall weeds as well as fell saplings. It’s really two tools in one. The entire kukri is solid. The designers knew what they were doing.

The BK21 is 18.75 inches overall, retails for $240.74, and is made in the USA. The sheath is imported from China.

TOPS Knives A-Klub


The gunstock war club used by Native Americans inspired Amanda Kaye of Discovery Channel’s Naked and Afraid
TV show in the design of the TOPS Knives A-Klub. The blade’s curvature accentuates cutting and chopping power.

Heavy duty and ruggedly built perfectly describes the A-Klub chopper by TOPS Knives, the company’s first knife designed by a female—Amanda Kaye of Discovery Channel’s Naked and Afraid television series.

She is an avid hunter and outdoor enthusiast, as well as having an interest in Native American primitive skills. Kaye employed the gunstock war club as the design inspiration for the A-Klub.

The gunstock war club was a blunt-strike weapon used primarily in the 18th and 19th centuries by Native Americans of the Eastern Woodland, Central, and Northern Plains tribes. Named for their resemblance to the wooden stocks of muskets and rifles, gunstock war clubs were fashioned from ash, oak or hickory. The swinging force put into the weapon meant it would strike with the points of the design, and it proved very effective and devastating.

The gunstock war club used by Native Americans inspired Amanda Kaye of Discovery Channel’s Naked and Afraid
TV show in the design of the TOPS Knives A-Klub. The blade’s curvature accentuates cutting and chopping power.

Due to the blade’s curve and angular tip somewhat reminiscent of a tanto, the A-Klub is also effective and devastating as a chopper. The blade is just over 12 inches of .19-inch-thick 1095 spring steel in the company’s subdued Acid Rain finish. The overall length is 18 inches.

The 23.8-ounce A-Klub is a beast. It has a forward-weighted tendency, though not as much as some choppers or even a traditional kukri. However, the blade curve accentuates swinging power and presents the edge at an angle in relation to the target, so the knife shears on contact.

Kaye designed the handle to maximize user comfort and control. An index-finger groove assists in locking in your hand, along with a curved main grip area that accommodates your other fingers. The green Micarta® handle is very lightweight and durable, and practically impervious to the elements, fluid absorption, and impact. Three hex-head screws fasten the scales to the full tang, and there’s a hole for a lanyard.

Coming off the index-finger groove, folks with smaller hands can shift their grip rearward on the handle for increased swing leverage. The A-Klub has a pronounced rectangular profile, which helps make it feel more secure in your hand.

Due to its weight-forward design, the TOPS A-Klub harnesses very effective cutting and chopping power. No matter how you swing the blade, the edge is almost always going to catch the target at an angle and, therefore, cleave through it cleanly.

The knife includes an expertly designed side-break Kydex rig. The rig’s leather-dangler attachment permits the heavy knife to swing and pivot freely on your belt in response to your movement, being accidentally snagged on brush, etc. Having the knife swing freely makes it more comfortable to carry.

Performance-wise the A-Klub bites in deep and hard, consistently discharging large chunks of wood with each blow. The blade’s “sweet spot” extends from the bottom of the tanto tip about two inches back toward the curve.

The handle can be gripped in at least two ways. One is with your index finger nestling inside the forward finger groove to provide a degree of control and also leverage. In the second, back your hand out of the forward finger groove and grip the handle further rearward toward the butt end. The latter handhold will enhance the power of each stroke.

Of the test bunch, I rate the A-Klub the best chopper, hands down. Made in the USA, it has an MSRP of $350.

Cold Steel Magnum Kukri Machete

Cold Steel Magnum Kukri Machete
Cold Steel Magnum Kukri Machete

It’s been said that good things come in small packages. Cold Steel has no time for that. Their Magnum Kukri Machete comes in two varieties with the larger having a massive 17-inch blade and an overall length of 22 inches.

At 2.8 mm thick, the blade is made of 1055 Carbon Steel with a black baked-on anti-rust matte finish. It weighs in at 20.1 ounces and is weighed forward to give you better leverage while slicing.

It has a five-inch polypropylene handle and comes with Cor-Ex sheath. It will most likely need some sharpening when you get but with an MSRP of just $35.99, the price can’t be beat.

Condor Heavy Duty Kukri

Condor Heavy Duty Kukri
Condor Heavy Duty Kukri

Condor Tool & Knife of El Salvador have made a kukri that combines the best of machetes and the best of an EDC knife. It’s smaller than traditional kukri machetes, with a blade at just nine inches, but what it lacks in size it more than makes up for in manuverability.

The blade is 6 mm thick and made from 1075 high carbon steel with a blasted satin finish. It has a more pronounced bend in the knife than most other kukris which allows for more precise knife work when needed.

With a sturdy walnut handle, and a sheath of welted leather, Condor’s kukri is made of quality materials from top to bottom. The only knock on it is that it will need sharpening out of the box to get the type of edge you want when cutting through brush. With an MSRP of $117.91, it’s a good knife for its price.

Smith & Wesson Outback Kukri

Smith & Wesson Outback Kukri
Smith & Wesson Outback Kukri

Smith & Wesson makes more than just guns, and their Outback Kukri is a great example of the company’s knifemaking prowess. The 11.9-inch blade is made of 7Cr17Mov Stainless Steel and finished with a black powder coat. The rubberized steel handle provides great grip while slicing.

It’s a light knife at just under 20 ounces, and that lightness brings both pros and cons. The pros are that you can a better feel of what the knife is cutting through and can slice with more speed. The cons are that it could get damaged more easily than heavier kukri knives due to overuse.

The balance comes with its price. The MSRP is just $34.15, which is a great price. If you’re not looking to become the next Bear Grylls, this kukri might be all the knife you need.

Editor’s Note: Mike Abelson contributed to this piece

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8 Best Puukko Knife Options

Puukko Knives Are A Traditional Knife Of The Nordic Countries. It Is Used For Everything From Hunting To Chopping Vegetables

Puukko is Finnish for “knife.” It is deeply rooted in Scandinavian countries where the knife is both tool and art form. In fact, the puukko plays an important part in Nordic culture. Often included as part of the traditional cultural dress, the puukko is a historical symbol, especially in Finland and Northern Scandinavia.

The Finns treat the knife with deep respect. Many men in the country take great pride in how they carve their knife’s handle. It’s so ingrained in the culture that the Finnish Defense Forces don’t issue a standard knife to its soldiers. Instead, most men simply bring their own puukko with them into service.

What Is A Puukko Knife?

Rich history aside, puukkos are first and foremost solid work knives. They are of basic construction, consisting of a high carbon steel blade mated with a handle that is usually of a natural material, though some modern versions are synthetic.

The steel is traditionally crucible steel made from limonite iron, which was almost exclusively the type of steel made in Finland before more modern manufacturing methods were invented in the 19th century.

Primary uses are woodcarving and food prep as well as most anything requiring a cutting tool. Outside the Nordic culture, puukkos have earned a solid reputation as stout knives built for serious labor. It’s easy to see why these knives are favored among outdoor folks.

If you spend time camping or hiking or are simply in need of a good, solid fixed blade that withstands hard use and requires low maintenance, consider the sleek, slender puukko.

What Is A Puukko Handle Made Of?

One of the more common puukko handle materials is Masur (curly birch, though you’ll also find antler, bone, leather, and other hardwoods. Modern factory-made knives can come with a plastic handle instead of using traditional materials. The handle has no guard, and the blade boasts a gentle upsweep to the edge to facilitate easy cutting.

Puukko Sheaths

Puukko sheaths are usually leather and may or may not have fancy tooling. A belt loop is separate and affixed via a metal ring. Also known as a dangler, the sheath is free to move separately from the belt loop and you. This comes in handy if you’re seated, as the knife can move freely and adjust itself into position yet remain easy to withdraw.

Best Puukko Knives

Today, puukkos have become a popular knife beyond just Scandinavia. In places ranging from El Salvador to Russia and the USA, puukkos are prized for their durability and ruggedness. Below are five of the best puukkos that are available today.

TOPS Tanimboca Puukko

Puukko knives
The 90-degree blade spine on the TOPS Tanimboca Puukko is for use with a fire restarter. Scrape the corner of the blade spine down the ferro rod to create a shower of sparks. (Marty Stanfield Photography)

From TOPS Knives, there is the Tanimboca Puukko. Designed in conjunction with Serbian knifemaker Goran Mihajlovic, who has spent the last two decades living in Colombia, the Tanimboca combines the best of a puukko knife with the toughness of the Amazon.

The blade has a slight clip point at the end and a flat spine is great for fire starting and scraping tasks. The knife is made from 1095 steel with a 56-58 Rockwell hardness and a length of 3.63 inches and a tumbled finish. The Tan Canvas Micarta handle honors the traditional puukko and looks great.

The knife comes with a brown leather sheath and has a belt loop so it’s easy to take with you. A cool, contemporary take on a historic knife makes the Tanimboca work the $170 MSRP.

Benchmade 200 Puukko

Benchmade 200 Puukko
Benchmade 200 Puukko

You know Benchmade is going to put out a good product, and their 200 Puukko is no exception. The drop point is made of CPM-3V steel, the 200 is super hard and super durable even by puukko standards. The rubberized Santoprene handle provides excellent grip, and the lanyard hold in the handle makes the 200 easy to bring with you outdoors or on the job site.

Add in a leather sheath and you have a top-tier knife that can handle any situation you throw at it. With an MSRP of $160 it’s fairly priced and worth every penny.

Ahti Vaara Finnish Puukko Knife

Ahti Vaara Finnish Puukko Knife
Ahti Vaara Finnish Puukko Knife

Direct from Finland comes a budget puukko from Ahti. The Vaara is made from carbon-vanadium alloy steel with a traditional Masur birch handle and brass fittings. The is sharpened with a Scandi grind and is 3.74 inches in length. Overall, the knife is 8.31 inches long and well-weighted.

A neat design element is a black spine made of carbon steel. The flat edge, like with other puuukkos on this list, is great for starting fires and scraping away at material.

With a reasonable MSRP of just $51.45, the Vaara is a well-priced knife, and even with the shipping cost from Europe, it should still be under $100.

Marttini Tundra Kelo

Marttini Tundra Kelo
Marttini Tundra Kelo

Another puukko made in Finland, the Marttini Tundra Kelo is not just a beautiful knife but also a quality one. Unlike most puukkos, which have a narrow tang within a solid wood handle, the Tundra Kelo is a full-tang blade surrounded on either side by a wax-coated gnarl birch handle.

The 4.33-inch blade is longer than most other choices on this list and is made from stainless chromium steel with an HRC 58 in terms of hardness. The black leather sheather contrasts nicely with the look of the knife itself.

The MSRP is € 139, which converts to $146.87 before shipping. One of the pricier knives on our list but worth it if you’re looking for a high-quality authentic Finnish puukko.

Condor Indigenous Puukko Knife

Condor Indigenous Puukko Knife
Condor Indigenous Puukko Knife

The last knife on our list is from Condor and is one of the most visually striking. The Indigenous Puukko Knife has a 3.9-inch blade made of 1095 high carbon steel with a Scandi grind.

The walnut handle features an inlaid golden wire wrap to help with grip, and it looks great. the handle is meant to combine elements from Polynesian and Sami cultures to celebrate indigenous cultures from around the world. The Sami are an indigenous group that lives in northern Norway, Sweden, Finland, and a small portion of Northwest Russia.

The knife comes with a welted leather sheath and is incredibly light at just 4.6 ounces. At an MSRP of just $95.45 this is a well-priced, nimble, and beautiful knife.

GiantMouse Ace Nimbus V2

This folder is inspired by the puukko and other Nordic knives and is built to be a mix of EDC and tool for the jobsite. The 3-inch blade is made from satin-finished Elmax steel meted to a green micarta handle for a secure grip. The blade has a full flat grind and thin edge. This allows for longer, more precise slicing strokes, and since the blade comes to an extremely fine tip the knife is also great for puncturing as well.

The nuts and bolts of this knife are great. The liners are made from AISI 420 hardened steel, and the liner lock keeps everything rigid. At 3.8 ounces it’s both light yet heavy enough to feel good in the hand.

The blade is .138 inches thick. That’s more than fine for many standard tasks around a jobsite but you might not want to start using it as a pry bar if you don’t have to.

MSRP: $185

Kellam Knives Ranger Puukko

This knife is a puukko to its core. It’s designed and built to stand up to not only combat but also the ferocious winters of Northern Europe. The 6-inch blade is made from forged 80CrV2 carbon steel with a teflon coating for added wear resistance and a Scandi grind.

At two-tenths of an inch thick, the blade is a beast and can stand up to almost anything life can throw at it. Use is aided by a 5-inch tempered rubber handle that won’t crack or deform even in hostile conditions.

Th Ranger Puukko is standard issue for troops from both the Finnish and Estonian militaries, and it’s easy to see why.

MSRP: $186.45

Helle Temagami CA

Designed by Les Stroud, the Temagami is a full-tang puukko that was precisely built to be among the best of its type on the market. It starts with a half-full tang design. That means the blade can be seen along the spine of the handle except near the fingers; this is done to better weight the knife and to better withstand harsh conditions.

The curly birch handle looks great and is ergonomically designed for hard, intense work. At 4.34 inches long, the triple laminated carbon steel blade is long enough to be used for slicing, puncturing, and even chopping for food-related tasks. The leather sheath allows for easy transport and storage.

MSRP: $209

Editor’s Note: Mike Abelson contributed to this piece

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San-Mai: Steel Trinity


The Three-Layer Construction Of San-Mai Results In Sharp, Durable, Beautiful Blades

San-mai is an ancient blade construction technique that originated in Japan around 1300 A.D. Those who continue to use the technique harken back to those early days of craftsmanship and take pride in their finished product, a combination of the old and new that presents a dazzling aesthetic in three layers combining tensile strength and edge holding in a working knife blade.

“San-mai is a Japanese term describing a knife composed of three layers of steel that are forge welded together and ideally unite some different properties of the used steels within one knife,” explained Benjamin Kamon of Korneuberg, Austria. “Or, it serves another purpose as, for example, to ‘save up’ rare high-carbon steel used in the middle for the edge, which is what I believe started it originally.”

Jeremy Bartlett of Parkersburg, West Virginia, agrees. “Traditionally, two softer metal outer jackets and one high carbon core steel for the edge are used,” he said. “The main reason to use san-mai is so you have a soft steel jacket and a high-carbon core cutting edge. This will make the knife very durable with a great edge.”

The san-mai process is similar to the layering of damascus, a.k.a. pattern-welded steel, but retains a methodology all its own. In damascus, the layering and relayering of component steels typically result in numerous layers in the billet, while the object of damascus forging is often to create a pattern in the steel itself, along with the enhancement of blade performance.

“San-mai ends up taking much less time to make [than damascus],” added Noah Vachon of Mistissini, Quebec, Canada. “For one thing, you’re starting with fewer layers—three instead of 15 or 20 in my case. That’s fewer surfaces to grind clean when prepping the billet material. Also, unlike making pattern-welded steel, there’s no need to restack or further manipulate the billet. One thing that is a bit trickier is the core material has to be kept centered. I try to work a blade evenly from both sides when forging san-mai. With damascus, this is less of an issue.”

How To Make A Knife With The San-Mai Technique

Curt Zimmerman of Longview, Texas, uses two methods of san-mai construction. “I make it with a laminate billet and sandwich my core material between it, or I will use a canister. For the core I use 1084 because it is the most forgiving steel that I have been using as far as heat treating and workability. For the jacket or laminate billets I use 1080, 15N20 and pure nickel shim material because it is readily available and easy to work with. For the material in canister, anything from chainsaw chains to fishhooks, ball bearings, scrap damascus or other stuff lying around the shop will work. I like this because it’s great to experiment with.”

 The texture on the san-mai blade of Benjamin Kamon’s chef’s knife is what he calls denty. “The technical term would probably be tsuchime,” Benjamin noted. “The denty serves the purpose of benefiting food release as the texture in the blade will produce small air pockets between the blade and foods that like to stick.” (SharpByCoop image)

Zimmerman showcases his san-mai talent in a beautiful fixed-blade fighter with a ball-bearing san-mai blade and an ancient walrus ivory handle. With inch lengths of nine for the blade and 14.5 overall, the fighter flaunts contrast between light and dark. The san-mai blade’s distinctive pattern and the integrity of the cutting edge are well defined.

“The most visible sign of a well-made san-mai is the center core showing equally on both sides,” Zimmerman observed. “I’ve only been building knives for about a year, and it has become a true passion of mine.”

Vachon is familiar with 1084 and 1095 carbon steels for the core of his san-mai blades and intends to branch out to 26C3 and White Paper #1. “I try to choose materials that play well with each other,” he commented, “that is, that bond easily and move at comparable rates when worked.

“I’ve been using 410 stainless for the jacket. It stays bright when etched, which gives a nice visual contrast with the darker core, and the carbon migration that goes on where the layers meet can be very attractive. A stainless jacket with a carbon core is sort of the best of both worlds in terms of function. Antique wrought iron is also a fascinating and beautiful jacket material that tells a great story.”

When Noah completed a breathtaking chef’s knife with a 10.25-inch blade and overall length of 16.2 inches, he knew he had done something special—a tour de force in his cutlery journey. 

“This knife is the culmination of all the skills I’ve learned during my career as a maker, with a cherry on top,” he related, “everything I learned from cabinetmaking and lutherie*, as well as the years studying ergonomics as an industrial designer.” The knife combines the san-mai blade of antique wrought iron and 15N20 and 1095 core with a handle of stabilized redwood burl and denim. A copper Micarta® bolster completes the package.

“This knife was forged from my first- ever house-made billet of wrought-iron san-mai,” Vachon recalled. “The iron is from a piece I brought home from the New England School of Metalwork in Maine. The outer layer visible near the spine is the wrought iron. It’s full of impurities from the way it was manufactured over 100 years ago, and that gives it loads of character. The next layer that looks brighter than the rest is the 15N20. It has nickel in it and that prevents it from etching darkly. The layer at the edge is the core material. Having five layers would usually be referred to as go-mai I suppose, but it’s the same idea.”

Kamon identifies a departure from the time-honored in his san-mai construction. “The biggest difference to traditional san-mai is probably that my outside layers are made from stainless steel instead of mild steel, which is mostly used in traditional san-mai,” he noted. “The advantage of stainless steel is exactly that. It’s stainless but with that comes also the visual advantage of a strong contrast after etching the finished blade as the stainless steel stays silver, shining while the cutting layer gets very dark. The cutting layer is from a tungsten-alloyed high carbon steel called 1.2519 that is not stainless, and the reason for its etching quite strongly in an acid such as instant coffee or ferric chloride.”

Benjamin’s chef’s knife with a 10-inch blade of seven-layer stainless steel with the 1.2519 cutting edge presents a dazzling effect. At 15 inches overall, this issue’s cover knife features a handle of ringed gidgee wood and a bolster of dark gray titanium. 

“Behind the edge is the darkly etched cutting layer,” he related. “After that is the nickel layer that prevents carbon from diffusing into the outer jacket layers of the blade. After the nickel there is a thin layer of high-carbon manganese-alloyed steel. This steel only serves a visual purpose and produces a slightly cloudy and dark faded effect in the stainless steel jacket. Last but not least, there is the outer layer of stainless steel in a shiny silver color.

  “My years spent learning to forge and my countless failures have eventually led to this first—but not last—house-forged wrought iron san-mai blade,” noted maker Noah Vachon. “It’s long and tall, thick at the ricasso and thin at the tip, and feels just right. (Caleb Royer knife image)

“The texture on the blade is what I call denty, my brand for it. The technical term would probably be tsuchime. The denty serves the purpose of benefiting food release as the texture in the blade will produce small air pockets between the blade and foods that like to stick. It also makes a given blade lighter in weight compared to the same blade without texture.”

Delam Safeguards

One of the biggest challenges in constructing san-mai is the potential delamination of the steels—when the layers literally start separating from each other—during the forging process. Bartlett has devised techniques to help guard against that.

“When delamination happens, not only is the structure and durability of the blade compromised,” Jeremy reasoned, “but now you also have a void where contaminants can enter and cause the blade to rust from the inside out. The key to not having any delaminations in your san-mai billet is to take your time and make sure your mating surfaces are clean. Also, you need to make sure that you have no oxygen getting into your billet while heating in the forge. Check for small pin holes in your MIG welds all around the billet. I’ve tried using flux core to weld around the billet, but now I use only MIG wire with argon/CO2 gas. The last thing is to make sure that you don’t try and draw the billet out too much at one time. The jacket [sides] material and the core material will want to move at different rates because of the different makeup of the steels.”

Bartlett’s 15.25-inch fighter with a 9.25-inch blade of 416 stainless clad around a 1095 core, and a handle of curly koa wood with black G-10 spacer presents a highly contrasted look.

“You can see a total of three distinct areas on the blade,” he said. “The black area down to the edge is the core steel. Moving toward the spine, the next area will be the carbon migration area. This is where during the forging process some carbon leaves the core steel and migrates to the low carbon stainless jacket. This leaves a distinct crystal-like line between the two layers. The carbon leaving the core steel only affects the area where it meets with the stainless. No carbon is leaving the edge, where you need all of it for a good blade. The third area of the blade is the stainless jacket material. This area will be shiny and mostly free of any effect from the etching process. You will sometimes see, as in this case, a ghost hamon that will follow the peaks and valleys of the san-mai pattern in the blade.”

What Does San-Mai Look Like?

The look of high quality san-mai is readily apparent. The finest san-mai exhibits core steel that is centered in the billet along with the presence of the carbon migration line in the blade. In poorly made san-mai, the jacket steel approaches the edge of the blade too closely. After sharpening a few times, the soft jacket steel may run directly into the cutting edge, rendering the blade less than useful.

The watchful eye, the practiced hand and the awareness of control in each stage of construction will bring san-mai to life and perpetuate this centuries-old artistry of form and function beautifully.

*Lutherie is the construction and repair of stringed instruments that have a neck and a sound box.

Best Kitchen Knife Sharpener: 8 Sharp Options


Correct sharpener selection is imperative for keen household cutlery. With that, here are four kitchen knife sharpeners that make the cut.

Dull kitchen knives not only make meal preparation more difficult, they also can slip and cut you when you least expect it. As a result, it’s imperative to keep them sharp. If you sharpen them yourself, correct sharpener selection is key.

A kitchen knife sharpeners can be as simple or complicated as you want. No matter your skill level, there is a sharpener for you. For those with little-to-no sharpening experience are the cost-effective pull-through sharpeners. These are as simple as simple can get. Often they are plastic-bodied devices with one or two slots. Inside the slots are the sharpening media. The media are permanently affixed at pre-set angles The most common media for the two-slotters are carbide and a fine-grit ceramic. The carbide quickly restores damaged and worn edges, while the fine-grit ceramic polishes and hones the edge to razor sharpness. Anyone can achieve a sharp edge with a pull-through.

Smith’s Products Slide Sharp Edge Grip

Smith’s Slide Sharp has two pairs of pull-through slots to address both standard and Asian-style kitchen knives.
Smith’s Slide Sharp has two pairs of pull-through slots to address both standard and Asian-style kitchen knives.

One such kitchen knife sharpener is the Smith’s Products Slide Sharp Edge Grip. It has two sets of slots. One pair addresses standard kitchen knives at a pre-set 20-degree angle, and the other addresses Asian-style knives at a 15-degree angle. The standard slots have carbide for a coarse grit abrasive and ceramic for fine grit. The Asian-style slots have diamond rods for coarse grit and ceramic for fine.

The Slide Sharp’s indexed sliding grip is textured for a non-slip purchase to allow for secure sharpening. Depending on which slot set you use, the other set is covered by a sliding cover, which is how the sharpener is stabilized—by placing your hand over the sliding cover. 

The cross-section of the sharpener resembles an upside-down “Y,” with the arched base held in place on the edge of a table or counter. This gives you another option for stable sharpener operation. Consequently, you have two ways to secure the sharpener during use. Few pull throughs provide such an option.

The Slide Sharp is effective and works as advertised. To use it on a countertop or tabletop, take one hand and stabilize it on the flat work surface. To use it on the edge of a kitchen counter, sit it on the counter edge via the “Y” legs and, while holding it with one hand, pull the blade through and down with the other. You have a better line of sight
to the sharpener this way and it’s very safe, too.

Designed with an upside down “Y” frame, the Smith’s Slide Sharp sits securely while held to the edge of a countertop. This puts the sharpening slots at an angle for better viewing while in use.
Designed with an upside down “Y” frame, the Smith’s Slide Sharp sits securely while held to the edge of a countertop. This puts the sharpening slots at an angle for better viewing while in use.

If you must use a pull-through, I highly recommend the Slide Sharp. I also recommend using the lightest pressure as possible to sharpen, as pull-throughs can remove too much metal, more so than ceramic, diamond or powered abrasive belt sharpeners. Removing too much metal can prematurely deform the cutting edge.

The Slide Sharp is a little over 1.5 inches tall and a bit under 3.5 inches long. Its compact nature enables convenient drawer storage. The manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of $11.99 makes it incredibly affordable and provides no excuse for anyone to have dull kitchen knives. MSRP: $11.99

Camillus Extreme Edge V2 Knife & Shear Sharpener

The Camillus Extreme Edge V2 Knife & Shear Sharpener features a pull-through design with carbide media for kitchen knives and fine ceramic for shears to establish edges in quick fashion. 
The Camillus Extreme Edge V2 Knife & Shear Sharpener features a pull-through design with carbide media for kitchen knives and fine ceramic for shears to establish edges in quick fashion.

The Extreme Edge V2 Knife & Tool pull-through from Camillus is a two-for-one deal. A set of carbide abrasives addresses plain edge and kitchen knives. It also features a built-in shears sharpener.

The cylindrical body is around 3 inches in diameter. The top is cast metal and houses the carbides, while the fine-grit-ceramic shears sharpener is in the unit’s rear. The plastic body has an outdoorsy camo theme appearance. For safe operation, a suction cup at the base activates by pressing down and rotating the unit to firmly grip the tabletop surface. For scenarios where the suction cup feature isn’t feasible, it acts as a standard non-skid base.

The sharpener works OK, though I didn’t feel the carbides to be as aggressive as with other pull-throughs I’ve used. The edge it produced was sharp though not surgical sharp. At least the V2 provides a functional sharp edge, which is better than having no sharpener and a dull edge.

The suction cup base of the Camillus Extreme Edge V2 is designed to stick to a slick surface for stable sharpening.
The suction cup base of the Camillus Extreme Edge V2 is designed to stick to a slick surface for stable sharpening.

The suction cup base was a disappointment. I could not get it to cling to the slick worktop of my toolbox most of the time.  You must really press down on the sharpener and twist it to get it to stick, but it kept loosening repeatedly. However, you can still use the sharpener safely and effectively by employing the suction cup as a non-skid rubber base. Oh, and one of the carbide teeth loosened up after the first few uses, which is unacceptable. MSRP: $19.98.  

A.G. Russell Knives Field Sharpener

You can see the diamond-grit hones stored in slots in the base of the A.G. Russell Field Sharpener.  This is a completely functional, self-contained guided sharpening system that goes anywhere you do.
You can see the diamond-grit hones stored in slots in the base of the A.G. Russell Field Sharpener.  This is a completely functional, self-contained guided sharpening system that goes anywhere you do.

The A.G. Russell Knives Field Sharpener is probably the most versatile of the test bunch of kitchen knife sharpeners. Not only does it sharpen kitchen knives but also pocket knives, hunting knives and tactical knives. Such value and versatility is a hard combo to top no matter how you slice it. 

The Field Sharpener has a molded plastic base and hinged cover. You insert a pair of included 4-inch sharpening rods into two holes at a preset angle of 15 degrees. There’s a set of coarse diamond-grit rods to quickly repair a worn edge or rehab a damaged one. A set of medium-grit ceramic rods further sharpens and dials in edges to razor sharpness. The unit measures 5-by-2 inches and is compact enough for stowing in a toolbox, tacklebox, backpack or even a jacket pocket.

Place the sharpener on a flat work surface. Select the set of rods you wish to use and insert into the holes in the base. The flip-up cover secures the rods when they are tucked inside the base; when open, the cover forms a convenient guard to prevent the blade from coming down on your hand. Place one hand on the base to secure the sharpener. With your other hand, take the knife and move the blade down the rods, while pulling it across from tang to tip—two motions at once. Don’t use a lot of pressure; allow the weight of the blade to rest on the rods and move it down. Keep the blade positioned perpendicular to the tabletop surface; holding it straight up and down allows you to sharpen at the proper angle of 30 degrees inclusive.

The Field Sharpener’s flip-up cover secures the rods when they are tucked inside the base. When open, the cover forms a guard to prevent the blade from coming down on your hand.
The Field Sharpener’s flip-up cover secures the rods when they are tucked inside the base. When open, the cover forms a guard to prevent the blade from coming down on your hand.

The Field Sharpener is very effective. If you’ve used Crock Sticks or a Spyderco Tri-Angle Sharpmaker, you will take to this one easily. It requires the same motions. Unlike the Sharpmaker or Crock Sticks, it’s portable enough to take on outdoor adventures. It’s great for camping, especially if you use a variety of knives.

Given the longer length of many kitchen knives and the 4-inch rods, you must pull the blade across the rods with a bit of expediency to be able to capture the entire blade length in one downward pass. Just be mindful that this technique is more pronounced with longer blades. With shorter blades you won’t notice it as much. The round profile means the contact area of the rod to the blade is smaller and more effective at removing steel. It’s easy to use and highly effective. MSRP: $39.95.  

Work Sharp E5 Kitchen Knife Sharpener

The Work Sharp Culinary E5 uses the same flexible abrasive belt technology as used on the company’s Ken Onion Edition sharpener. Three pre-programmed sharpening modes eliminate the guesswork of obtaining a professional edge.  
The Work Sharp Culinary E5 uses the same flexible abrasive belt technology as used on the company’s Ken Onion Edition sharpener. Three pre-programmed sharpening modes eliminate the guesswork of obtaining a professional edge.

The Work Sharp E5 Kitchen Knife Sharpener is a top-of-the-line powered kitchen knife sharpener, offering multiple modes, speeds, and the latest technology in providing consistent high-quality sharpening knife after knife. The E5 was designed from the ground up as a powered sharpener that can sit on a counter full time, blending in with other appliances with a minimal footprint. Like Work Sharp’s other powered knife sharpeners, the E5 uses flexible, long-wearing abrasive belts to create an ultra-durable convex edge.

Place the blade inside each slot and the abrasives do the work. Select from one of three sharpening modes via the one-touch programming feature. The Shape mode—three rapid clicks on the power button—starts at a high speed for fast cutting and repair of worn edges, then drops down to the Refine mode—one click—at low speed for the final touch up. The Sharpen mode—two rapid clicks—runs the belt at medium speed for routine edge maintenance, followed by the Refine mode for fast touch-ups.  

Select the desired mode then alternate placing the blade in each of the slots. Watch the lights on the power panel. Whichever mode you select, a light shines next to it. Ten seconds before the machine changes modes, the light will begin flashing to warn of the upcoming transition to the next mode, or, depending on the mode, stop completely. Simply draw the blade through. The machine does all the work.

Changing belts on the Work Sharp Culinary E5 is easy. Flip down the faceplate. Press down on top of the machine with one hand to release belt tension, and, with the other hand, remove the belt. The new belt goes on in reverse order.
Changing belts on the Work Sharp Culinary E5 is easy. Flip down the faceplate. Press down on top of the machine with one hand to release belt tension, and, with the other hand, remove the belt. The new belt goes on in reverse order.

The first time you use the E5, you will be reprofiling your blades to the set 17-degree angle, which can take some time. At extra cost is an upgrade kit that includes more coarse belts, and 15- and 20-degree angle guides for enhanced versatility and quicker sharpening. MSRP: $59.95. 

The E5 works well and produces the convex edge, which is very sharp and durable. The sharpener is quiet and easy to operate, something novices appreciate. If you are serious about cooking, it is essential to have not only high-quality knives but also a high-quality sharpener. The E5 is it. MSRP: $149.95.




Other Kitchen Sharpener Options

Shenzen Knives Electric Diamond Knife Sharpener

Shenzen Knives Electric Diamond Knife Sharpener
Shenzen Knives Electric Diamond Knife Sharpener

Diamonds aren’t just a girl’s best friend. This sharpener from Shenzen Knives features an electric diamond grinding wheel with two settings designed to sharpen both steel and ceramic knives.

Its powerful motor can remove chips as large as 1mm off of ceramic knives, and it easily comes apart for cleaning. An added plus is the universal knife guide slot, which is designed to keep your knives at the perfect angle for the best possible edge on both the fine and coarse settings. Specifically for kitchen knives, this machine is not meant to sharpen scissors, hunting knives, or any other types of blades.

MSRP: $49.99

Sharp Pebble Premium 1000/6000 Whetstone

1000/6000 whetstone
Sharp Pebble Premium Whetstone Knife Sharpening Stone 2 Side Grit 1000/6000 Waterstone- Whetstone Knife Sharpener

The whetstone, and other sharpening stones, are a much more finite and meditative way to sharpen your knives. Coming in a variety of grit sizes, whetstones work by being submerged in a liquid, usually water, which enhances the stone’s ability to sharpen a blade while also allowing the chips and scrapes to wash away. Sharp Pebble offers a variety of whetstones in different grits and at different price points. (The 1000/6000 stone is a perfect stone for home sharpeners, and is the method I’ve used to sharpen my kitchen knives for the last several years. I enjoy the process of using the stone and feel it provides a quality edge whether it’s my chef knife or my paring knife.)

The majority of the stones come with an angle guide to help you get the best sharpening angle for your knife. These stones can also be used to sharpen other implements from razors to scissors to chisels.

MSRP: $40.99

Messermeister Fine Grit Honing Steel

Messermeister Fine Grit Honing Steel
Messermeister Fine Grit Honing Steel

Sometimes your knife needs honing rather than sharpening. That’s where honing steel, or a honing rod, comes to the rescue. Over time and normal use, the edge of your knives will bend and warp at a microscopic level. Honing steel works to massage the edge back into the proper position without removing as much material as sharpening would. (I hone my knives daily while sharpening them 2-4 times a year. By honing I’m able to maintain a sharp edge longer and maintain better control over my knives while I cook.)

Messermeister offers a variety of honing rods ranging from steel and ceramic to diamond. Their fine-grit rod is made of high-carbon tool steel and can be used to hone knives made from any material. It’s designed to never wear over its lifespan and should be able to hone your knives’ edges for decades.

For a fair price, you can’t go wrong with this rod, and your knives will thank you for it.

MSRP: $24.95 (10-inch), $29.95 (12-inch)

Worksharp Electric Kitchen Knife Sharpener

Worksharp Electric Kitchen Knife Sharpener
Worksharp Electric Kitchen Knife Sharpener

For a quality all-rounder, look no further than Worksharp’s newest electric sharpener. Roughly the size of a softball, the sharpener effortlessly sharpens anything you can throw at it in the kitchen including scissors and serrated knives.

Its sharpening slots feature built-in 20-degree angle guides so each edge comes out at a perfect angle. Beyond just sharpening, the device features a ceramic honing wheel as well that allows you to maintain your edge every day.

MSRP: $59.95

Editor’s Note: Mike Abelson contributed to this story

Best High-Carbon Steel Knife Options

Looking for a tough and ready option for EDC? Here are 4 factory high-carbon steel knife options that wear and use the reliable 1095 steel well.

Knives in tried-and-true carbon blade steels such as 1095 often are left out of the conversation. Do they still have relevance in the modern world of knives? The short answer is yes—and they remain relevant for the same advantages that made them popular in the first place.

“There are a number of reasons why 1095 is popular with consumers and manufacturers,” states Joe Bradley, sales and marketing manager for KA-BAR Knives. “It’s a great steel to work with and maintain, which is the primary reason we have used 1095 Cro-Van for decades.” Says Shane Adams, marketing director for ESEE Knives, “It takes a beating and is field-serviceable. We know it, use it and trust it with our lives.” Adds Jeremiah Heffelfinger of TOPS Knives, “1095 is also easier to sharpen, especially in the field, than some stainless steels.”

You can work 1095 to death, then take your favorite sharpener and put an edge right back on it. Try doing that with CPM S30V stainless! Because of 1095’s tendency to rust, you must maintain it more than stainless. Many 1095 blades sport a coating that protects most of the surface except the edge. If you’re not careful, corrosion can begin at the edge then travel up underneath the coating. Consequently, in a wet environment keep a light coat of oil on the blade. If you wash the knife, towel dry it carefully and let it air dry, too. As for some of today’s top models in 1095, check these out.

Condor Tool & Knife Bush Slicer Sidekick

The Bush Slicer Sidekick from Condor Tool & Knife is a small, lightweight fixed blade designed to handle intricate food prep tasks similar to those paring knives address. It also functions as a stand-alone tool for bushcraft, as well as day hikes and such.
The Bush Slicer Sidekick from Condor Tool & Knife is a small, lightweight fixed blade high-carbon steel knife designed to handle intricate food prep tasks similar to those paring knives address. It also functions as a stand-alone tool for bushcraft, as well as day hikes and such.

The Bush Slicer Sidekick from Condor Tool & Knife is a small, lightweight fixed blade designed to handle intricate food prep tasks similar to those paring knives address. It also functions as a stand-alone tool for bushcraft, as well as day hikes and such.

The 6.4-inch modified wharncliffe blade on this high-carbon steel knife has a defined tip for intricate cutting tasks, but also enough sharpened real estate to get work done. Close to 9 inches overall, the knife carries well and is neither too big nor too small for many food prep and camp chores. The black Micarta® handle is ergonomically shaped for maximum user comfort. The sheath is well designed, too. One of the few hybrid-constructed models employing Kydex and leather, it is quite user friendly. You get the rigid protection of Kydex along with the carry versatility a leather loop offers, allowing the sheath to move somewhat while on the belt. The gray Kydex complements the handle’s appearance.

The Bush Slicer Sidekick is built extremely well, with high quality fit and finish. The edge is razor sharp out of the box. The standard Condor blade finish is two tone, with the darkened heat-treat scale finish on the flats and machine satin on the bevels. The cutting edge is tilted up a bit in relation to the handle, giving more hand clearance on a flat surface. The way the blade profile tapers toward the tip is smart as well, giving the knife the ability to tackle finer cutting tasks. Another nice feature is the 90-degree blade spine for use in conjunction with a fire-starting ferrocerium rod.

Condor’s knives are not flashy but work like pack mules. The Bush Slicer Sidekick slices cardboard like a champ. The flat grind tapers the edge to a thickness that is both durable and sharp.
Condor’s knives are not flashy but work like pack mules.  The Bush Slicer Sidekick slices cardboard like a champ. The flat grind tapers the edge to a thickness that is both durable and sharp.

The flat-ground blade thins the edge well so it sails through a variety of materials, yet is thick enough for durability. The tip is controllable for fine and precise cutting. Integral front and rear guards prevent unwanted hand movement in either direction. However, those with larger hands may find the grip a bit small. It also lacks a lanyard hole. At a manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of $119, the Bush Slicer Sidekick represents excellent value in an expertly crafted using fixed blade. County of origin: El Salvador.

TOPS Knives 3 Pointer

The TOPS Knives 3 Pointer is a great multi-carry fixed blade with the option of being a neck knife.  The drop-point blade is great for cutting food as well as utility tasks that require a sharp blade and precise control, such as wire stripping.
The TOPS Knives 3 Pointer is a great multi-carry high-carbon steel knife, a fixed blade, with the option of being a neck knife.  The drop-point blade is great for cutting food as well as utility tasks that require a sharp blade and precise control, such as wire stripping.

The TOPS Knives 3 Pointer might be the smallest of the test bunch, sporting a 3.1-inch blade and 6.6-inch overall length, but also has the most options. It comes in three handle choices—black Micarta, tan Micarta and skeletonized. In addition, each model comes with two modes of carry. Straps screwed to the sheath permit horizontal belt carry, and a chain provides neck carry (just remove the belt loops). The options might make you consider the 3 Pointer to replace a folder for EDC.

The high-carbon steel knife’s heart and soul lies in its deep-bellied drop-point blade capable of field dressing game, doing chores in camp, etc. Black Traction Coating helps ward off rust. It is a very durable coat that withstands frequent heavy use.

The handle is particularly interesting. The pronounced finger groove can lock into your grip, with the rest of your fingers falling into place on the tapered handle. Unlike other fixed blades of this size, the handle isn’t blocky or bulky, which allows it to be carried as a belt or neck knife.  We tested the tan handle version, which has a nice contrast in appearance to the black blade. Three large traction notches accept a thumb comfortably on the spine to exert control and pressure. The red liners provide a subtle pop of color contrast.

The 3 Pointer’s handle is particularly interesting. The pronounced finger groove can lock into your grip, with the rest of your fingers falling into place on the tapered handle.
The 3 Pointer’s handle is particularly interesting. The pronounced finger groove can lock into your grip, with the rest of your fingers falling into place on the tapered handle.

The Kydex sheath is well made and designed with an integrated thumb rest that lets you grip the knife handle and push out, easily popping it free of the sheath. The feature is very well thought out and not found on many knives.

I carried the 3 Pointer mainly as a neck knife for the evaluation. Neck knives are a love ’em/hate ’em proposition. If you want to carry a smaller fixed blade in a discreet manner this is the most viable option, as neckers conceal easily, even under a plain T-shirt*.  They also work well with polo-style and button-down dress shirts. And when you start layering as the temperatures drop, neck knives carry well under a hoodie and other cold weather wear. The flat handle profile enhances discreet carry without printing underneath the aforementioned T-shirt. I like how the shape and contours help you obtain a very secure grip.

The drop point blade is usually my favorite when it comes to straight knives due to its versatility. The belly allows the blade to tackle sizeable cutting tasks while remaining easy to carry.  If you prefer taking a small fixed blade into a restaurant to substitute for the knives provided, the 3 Pointer is low profile enough to cut food without attracting unwanted attention.  The TOPS 3 Pointer in tan Micarta has an MSRP of $125—an excellent deal for a USA-made sheath knife.


The ESEE 4HM comes in some of the most utilitarian packaging anywhere with information that every outdoor survivalist needs, including how to determine distance traveled, GPS and topographical map tips, and much more.
The ESEE 4HM comes in some of the most utilitarian packaging anywhere with information that every outdoor survivalist needs, including how to determine distance traveled, GPS and topographical map tips, and much more.

The ESEE 4HM blends toughness and cutting efficiency in one package that carries easily and is built for extended use. The 4.3-inch blade has a generous belly for field dressing, food prep and some bushcraft. Overall length is just short of 9 inches. Blade thickness is .1875 inch and the flat grind is robust for long-term durability, though thin enough for slicing. The blade has a black powder coat to protect it from the elements.

The ESEE Knives 4HM is designed to be a more modern variation of a bushcraft/utility knife. With its straight-forward design, it offers high performance with a more user-friendly blade.
The ESEE Knives 4HM is designed to be a more modern variation of a bushcraft/utility high-carbon steel knife. With its straight-forward design, it offers high performance with a more user-friendly blade.

The Micarta handle is beefy but rounded in the right places, and fills your hand without generating hot spots. The Micarta is fastened to the tang using three sets of flat-head Torx screws. A lanyard hole comes with a length of paracord, making the 4HM easy to extract from the well-made, sewn pouch sheath of brown leather. The knife sits down in it securely but loose enough so it comes free smartly when needed.

It is a great all-around fixed-blade high-carbon steel knife. The blade and handle shapes are universal and work well in most scenarios. The drop point shape is also a great scraper, if needed. The fat handle cross section gives a reassuring grip, as opposed to shapes that might be comfortable but, due to being too thick, are not as secure in the hand. If you enjoy hunting, camping and hiking and use a fixed blade a lot, this is the knife you need. Country of origin: USA. MSRP: $178.

KA-BAR BK18 Harpoon

The BK18 Harpoon’s tall, flat grind engages whittling and carving jobs with gusto. The swedge provides a bit of visual attitude, too.
The BK18 Harpoon’s tall, flat grind engages whittling and carving jobs with gusto. The swedge provides a bit of visual attitude, too.

The BK18 Harpoon is Ethan Becker’s latest design for KA-BAR.  The 4.5-inch drop-point blade offers plenty of length for food prep and outdoor tasks. The prominent harpoon-style swedge projects attitude. The ergonomic handle features multiple swells for comfort and a non-slip grip. A palm swell fills your hand and provides excellent stability and control. The harpoon blade forms an integral forward guard, and the slightly dropped handle butt helps capture your hand. There’s an oblong hole for a lanyard.

At 9.3 inches overall, it’s a great mid-sized sheath knife. The blade belly slices easily, while the handle provides the ultimate in control. Traction notches on the spine allow you to choke up. The sheath is a molded Celcon® polymer with a heavy duty nylon webbing belt loop. The knife fits/clicks in to avoid inadvertent loss. A nifty feature is the two molded-in vent channels that reduce moisture by allowing inside air flow. A secondary webbing button snap secures the handle in place, though the way the knife clicks tightly into the sheath, I cannot imagine it popping loose accidentally. The belt loop also can be re-mounted to set the knife up for left-hand carry.

The KA-BAR Becker BK18 Harpoon is equally at home with food prep or work tasks. The blade’s sweeping belly tackles a host of chores inside and out.
The KA-BAR Becker BK18 Harpoon is equally at home with food prep or work tasks. The high-carbon steel knife’s blade’s sweeping belly tackles a host of chores inside and out.

One thing many remember about seeing their first Becker design is the chunky handle design. As awkward as it may look, it works. No matter the model, basically the same handle shape is used, a hallmark of Becker designs. The BK18 Harpoon has the same configuration but it’s slimmed down considerably. It’s comfortable for extended use and helps keep your hand in place with no awkward sliding in either direction. It also helps prevent the handle from rotating in your grip.

Speaking of handles, there is an optional upgrade. The tan Micarta kit, which replaces the stock molded grip, is $35. It’s worth it. The Micarta has a nice grab-you-back feel that holds well even with wet hands—a feature the stock handle somewhat lacks. MSRP is $120, also not bad for a USA-made fixed blade.  

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