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#1006911 - 07/14/14 10:36 AM Bushcraft Evaluation - 17 Knives Put To The Test!
Architect Offline
Junk Yard Dog

Registered: 02/19/10
Posts: 5207
Loc: Earth
This post contains the results of my evaluation of a variety of knives for consideration as a "bushcrafter". It was my objective to evaluate the largest number of knives available to me in hopes of identifying the best knife (in the test group) or at least identify features that were desirable in a bushcraft knife.

In all, this test included:

3.5 Hours of pretest evaluation
9.5 Hours of testing
4.0 Hours of post evaluation and testing data compilation

First, I'd like to extend my gratitude to all who loaned one or more knives for this evaluation. Without your participation this couldn't have been nearly as comprehensive. Thank you for the trust and investment! I've elected to not identify who loaned the knives (to protect your anonymity), but you're more than welcome to claim ownership of your knife(s) in this thread! I've scrubbed your knives three times, dried them thoroughly, lubricated the metal and already shipped them back to you. I'll forward the tracking code via a private message later today.

MY DEFINITION OF A BUSHCRAFT KNIFE

Knife selection is as subjective as art appreciation. I like Ford vehicles, and you might prefer something made by Honda. However, an evaluation is worthless without a clearly defined set of parameters by which to judge the product. As such, I define a "bushcraft knife" (BCK hereafter) as:

1) A knife devoted mostly to wilderness and outdoor use, but capable of being used for kitchen type duties as well.

Typical BCK knife chores include activities like: cutting notches in figure-four snares; filleting through wet wood to produce fuzzy or feather sticks for firemarking; skinning game; cutting up snared animal meat for use in the campsite stew pot; camp site detail work like trimming small branches and cutting paracord; general small tasks like opening freeze-dried food pouches; etc. Essentially, the BCK is a smallish detail knife.

2) A small and lightweight companion knife.

The BCK is likely to accompany a larger and more sturdy knife. The larger knife would handle more strenuous tasks such as cutting through the pelvic bone of a whitetail deer, chopping through a limb to make a lean to shelter, etc. This isn't to say the BCK would not be required to perform larger tasks. As with all things wilderness, we often have to improvise.

3) Before the test my definition of the BCK yielded the following general specifications:

DESIGN TYPE: Fixed Blade
BLADE LENGTH: 5" or Less
BLADE THICKNESS: 3/16" or Less
WEIGHT: As Light As Possible

KNIVES AVAILABLE FOR EVALUATION
This is far from a conclusive list of knives worthy of consideration for "bushcrafting", however it is the largest sampling of knives I could assemble in short notice.



Bark River Gunny
ESEE ESEE-5
ESEE ESEE-4
ESEE ESEE-3
Fallkniven S-1
Survive! GSO 4.1
Ontario TAK-1
Busse Combat SAR-5
Busse Combat Boss Street
Swamp Rat RMD
Swamp Rat Vex
Swamp Rat Warden
Scrap Yard Mud Mutt
Scrap Yard S5
Scrap Yard 511 MO (FFG)
Scrap Yard 411
Scrap Yard 311

On to the evaluation!

FIRST IMPRESSIONS
The purpose of the "first impression" component of this evaluation was to develop initial and somewhat subjective opinions about each knife. I spent a minimum of five minutes with each knife, and every knife was weighed using the same equipment (Taylor electronic scale) within a ten minute span of time. I intentionally selected knives randomly as to not form opinions about similar (or exactly the same) features such as handle types.

BUSSE COMBAT SAR-5
Weight = 10.6 oz
Edge = Factory / New

This knife is TOO HEAVY! It also has poor balance due to the unusually large / thick handle. The big and bulky handle makes the balance non-conducive to detail BC work. No matter how I hold it I cannot figure out a way to effectively control the blade.

BUSSE COMBAT BOSS STREET
Weight = 8.8 oz
Edge = Factory / New

This knife is too heavy for the size of the blade. The handle feels a little cramped due to the talon hole. The handle isn't too small, but the shape makes me want to choke up / crowd the blade. I've tried squeezing my hand up toward the blade, but the talon hole guard makes it uncomfortable. Its too handle heavy to be useful for detail work requiring balance. The lack of choil compounds these issues.

SWAMP RAT VEX
]Weight = 7.4 oz
Edge = Factory / New

The handle is TOO SMALL! You have no choice but to use the choil, and the cutting edge cut my finger while just handling the knife. This is also unusually heavy for its size.

ONTARIO TAK
Weight = 10.2 oz
Edge = Unknown

This is HEAVY and has the ergonomics of a 2x4. The choil is just big enough for the tip of my finger. Feels surprisingly controllable considering my initial impressions. The handle is too big for the blade.

SCRAP YARD MUD MUTT
Weight = 5.9 oz
Edge = Factory/New

The "mudder" handle style feels too small for the blade length, and weight. The choil is useless. Overall feels surprisingly light for its blade length. My hand feels cramped on the grip.

ESEE-4 with G10 Grips
Weight 8.0 oz
Edge = Factory / New

The handle feels a little too small, but its 100% functional. The balance is handle heavy, but not exceedingly so. Overall the knife is too heavy for its size. The gimping is nice. I like this knife.

SCRAP YARD 311
Weight = 5.0 oz
Edge = Unknown

The blade is basically uselessly short. The proportion of handle to blade is ridiculous. The choil is useless. The "basic" handle style is not conducive to detail work. I have low expectations for this knife.

FALLKNIVEN S1
Weight = 6.8 oz
Edge = Factory / New

The handle diameter feels too small. This lacks a choil, and I think with a 5" blade it needs one. The handle guard combined with lack of choil makes me think this is going to be hard to use for detail work since choking up will be impossible. Overall feels like it'll lack finesse.

BARK RIVER GUNNY
Weight = 5.8 oz
Edge = Unknown

NICE! No choil, but the design allows closeness to the blade. The gimped thumb ramp is awesome. This is a very comfortable knife! I wish the blade was 3/4" longer.

SCRAP YARD 411
Weight = 6.1 oz
Edge = Factory/New

The popsicle tang makes the balance blade heavy. The choil is cut in a manner that can allow the cutting edge to nick fingers. I like the handle design, and overall design.

SWAMP RAT RMD
Weight = 10.0 oz
Edge = Factory / New

Nice design. This is a comfortable knife that allows multiple holds. Good handle to blade proportions. It does feel heavy compared to some of the other knives.

SCRAP YARD SCRAPPER 5
Weight = 6.8 oz
Edge = Unknown

This feels cramped compared to the RMD. It feels great in the "choked forward / choil detail hold", but not as much in a standard hold. Good balance, and blade design. I like the thumb ramp.

SWAMP RAT WARDEN
Weight = 2.3 oz
Edge = Sharpened by me.

This is basically a useless knife. The handle is a terrible design, and the blade is too short.

SURVIVE! GSO 4.1
Weight = 6.5 oz
Edge = Unknown

I want to choke up on this one. Good handle design, but its a little too thick. This knife needs a choil, and thumb ramp. It has great balance.

SCRAP YARD 511 MO (FFG)
Weight = 6.4 oz
Edge = Unknown

The handle is too small for the blade length. This needs a choil! The balance is weird, and feels "off". This is an unusual knife.

ESEE-5
Weight = 15.4 oz
Edge = Factory / New

THIS IS TOO BIG AND HEAVY!!! This is just too overbuilt. The blade is too thick, and the weight is insane. It has good balance, but would be absolutely worthless as a BC knife. I think this would make a great aircrew survival knife.

ESEE-3
Weight = 5.1 oz
Edge = Factory / New

The blade is too thin. I'm afraid I'm going to break this while sitting in Fort Living Room! This seems like it'd make a good necker with the handle scales removed. I think this would be a good companion knife.

FIRST ROUND (NO USE) ELIMINATIONS
The "first round eliminations" included knives that had readily apparent design flaws and therefore didn't warrant testing. Each eliminated knife's reason for expulsion from the evaluation is listed below.

BUSSE SAR-5
This knife has terrible ergonomics, and is just too heavy for use as a bushcrafter.

BUSSE Boss Street
This knife's weight doesn't justify its 4.25" blade. Weight to blade ratio is a critical factor for me.

SWAMP RAT VEX
I've already cut my fingers with this one so I'm concerned about my safety when I get out into the heat and use it with sweaty hands. It is also way to heavy for a knife with such a small handle.

ESEE-5
BRUISER! This is just too big, heavy, and unwieldy for detail work. She'd probably make a great pry bar.


Edited by SkunkHunter (07/16/14 06:27 AM)
_________________________
JYD #123

Jack Burton: I have a knife.
Gracie: A knife? This guy's twelve feet tall!
Jack Burton: Hey, don't worry (its a ScrapYard), I can handle him.

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#1006912 - 07/14/14 10:36 AM Re: Bushcraft Evaluation - 17 Knives Put To The Test! [Re: Architect]
Architect Offline
Junk Yard Dog

Registered: 02/19/10
Posts: 5207
Loc: Earth
TESTING PROCEEDURE EXPLAINED
Each knife that made it past the "first round elimination" phase was subjected to the following standardized testing procedure (the order knives were tested in was completely random for each test):

1) Paper Cut - each knife was tasked with slicing, curling, and directional change detail cuts on a single piece of 20# copy paper. This is to establish a base line edge for comparison to the end of testing edge retention.

2) Fuzzy stick - each knife was tasked with skinning equally seasoned wood to produce feather or fuzzy sticks.

3) Firebow divot drill - each knife was tasked with stabbing equally seasoned hardwood, and drilling a divot for use as a firebow divot.

4) Notch cut - each knife was tasked with cutting an equal sized "figure 4 notch" in equally seasoned wood.

5) Mild chopping - each knife was tasked with chopping a small branch of equally seasoned wood.

6) Cable cut - each knife was tasked with cutting an equal number of sections of 0.95 triangular trimmer line. The belly and upswept edge was used for this test.

7) Green trim - each knife was tasked with trimming a sections of green foliage for use as outer debris hut material. One large single branch was used for the evaluation.

8) Wet use test - each knife was soaked in water and then I evaluated the handle's safety while being used with equally wet hands.

9) Peel apple - each knife was tasked with thin peeling an apple. I had a request to fillet fish, but do to cost I was unable to answer this request. I used Gala apples which have a surprisingly similar consistency so this could be construed (LOOSELY) as a "fillet" test.

10) Potato & carrot cut - each knife was tasked with slicing a potato and cold carrots.

11) Squash slice - each knife was tasked with slicing as thinly as possible fresh picked squash.

12) Paper cut - each knife was tasked with slicing, curling, and directional change detail cuts on a single piece of 20# copy paper. This was to serve as a basis of comparison for edge retention.


Edited by Architect (07/14/14 10:50 AM)
_________________________
JYD #123

Jack Burton: I have a knife.
Gracie: A knife? This guy's twelve feet tall!
Jack Burton: Hey, don't worry (its a ScrapYard), I can handle him.

Top
#1006913 - 07/14/14 10:39 AM Re: Bushcraft Evaluation - 17 Knives Put To The Test! [Re: Architect]
Architect Offline
Junk Yard Dog

Registered: 02/19/10
Posts: 5207
Loc: Earth
TESTING RESULTS
Each knife's performance in each test is listed below.

Paper Cut



Scrapper 5 = Struggled at first to cut paper. It has a toothy edge, and isn't as sharp as I'd like.

311 = Good edge and better than expected. The short blade is already showing its limitations. Handle style offers a lot more control than mudder style.

411 = Good edge, and design lends itself well to working detail. The blade weight helps balance tasks.

TAK = Good toothy edge. Design allows detail direction change cutting easy. Surprised how much I like this knife. Blade seems to be dulling already.

ESEE-4 = Blade edge seems thick and somewhat inconsistent. Not as sharp as I was hoping. Good control and change of direction ability.

Warden = Blade is too small for be useful. Not enough to actually test effectively. Edge is okay, but seems thick for size of knife.

Fallkniven S1 = Wow! Best knife so far! Great edge - super impressed with knife. In spite of size this knife allows for great control and cuts paper like butter. Direction change is simple. Not the most comfortable handle.

Mud Mutt = Very sharp, but inconsistent. Thin blade is an asset for this exercise. I'm finding inconsistent edges on all SY knives. The balance of the Mud Mutt is weird.

Gunny = Impressive! Only knife that allowed push cutting limp paper. Good size blade for exercise, and it is SHARP! Direction change was easy. This is handle heavy, but still allowed finesse.

511 MO = This is the second best knife so far. Its tied with the S1. Super consistent sharpness. Cuts paper with ease. Blade length and design (FFG) allow detail work and direction change easily. I like it, but it is decidedly blade heavy. This is growing on me.

GSO 4.1 = Sharp! More difficult to control than I had hoped. Sharp edge, but must work slow and deliberately with this knife due to the handle/blade design. I'm disappointed in this one.

RMD = Edge typical of BKG (except the 511MO). Toothy leaving a raspy cut edge. Heavy knife but weight not noticeable while cutting paper. Hard to get cut started, but good control and detail once moving. Preference for 5" blade is being revealed in this test.

ESEE-3 = Toothy - needs a strop. Very handy blade shape and thickness. Seems useful and can change direction easily.

NOTE: Scrap Yard's knives made "directional change" cuts very difficult.

Fuzzy Stick



Winners: ESEE-4 and S1



Pass: ESEE-3, TAK, Gunny, Warden



Almost Fail (was able to perform task, but with great difficulty): Scrapper 5, RMD



Fail: GSO 4.1, 511MO, 411, 311, Mud Mutt

Fire Bow Divot



Winners: 511MO, TAK, RMD, ESEE-4, Gunny, S1, Warden, ESEE-3



Pass: Scrapper 5, GSO 4.1



Fail: 411, Mud Mutt, 311


Edited by Architect (07/14/14 10:51 AM)
_________________________
JYD #123

Jack Burton: I have a knife.
Gracie: A knife? This guy's twelve feet tall!
Jack Burton: Hey, don't worry (its a ScrapYard), I can handle him.

Top
#1006914 - 07/14/14 10:39 AM Re: Bushcraft Evaluation - 17 Knives Put To The Test! [Re: Architect]
Architect Offline
Junk Yard Dog

Registered: 02/19/10
Posts: 5207
Loc: Earth
Figure 4 Notch Cut



Winners: S1, Gunny



Pass: ESEE-3, Warden, 511MO, TAK, RMD, ESEE-4



Fail: GSO 4.1, Scrapper 5, 411, 311, Mud Mutt
_________________________
JYD #123

Jack Burton: I have a knife.
Gracie: A knife? This guy's twelve feet tall!
Jack Burton: Hey, don't worry (its a ScrapYard), I can handle him.

Top
#1006915 - 07/14/14 10:40 AM Re: Bushcraft Evaluation - 17 Knives Put To The Test! [Re: Architect]
Architect Offline
Junk Yard Dog

Registered: 02/19/10
Posts: 5207
Loc: Earth
Mild Chopping



Winners: RMD, TAK, 511MO



Pass: S1, ESEE-4, Scrapper 5



Fail: GSO 4.1, Warden, 411, ESEE-3, Gunny, Mud Mutt, 311

Cable Cut



Winners: ESEE-3, RMD, GSO 4.1, Mud Mutt, S1



Pass: 411, 311, Warden, Scrapper 5, TAK, ESEE-4, 511 MO, Gunny

Fail: None.
_________________________
JYD #123

Jack Burton: I have a knife.
Gracie: A knife? This guy's twelve feet tall!
Jack Burton: Hey, don't worry (its a ScrapYard), I can handle him.

Top
#1006916 - 07/14/14 10:41 AM Re: Bushcraft Evaluation - 17 Knives Put To The Test! [Re: Architect]
Architect Offline
Junk Yard Dog

Registered: 02/19/10
Posts: 5207
Loc: Earth
Green Trim



Winners: ESEE-4, 511 MO, S1



Pass: Scrapper 5, Warden, TAK, 311, Gunny, Mud Mutt



Fail: 411, RMD, GSO 4.1, ESEE-3

Wet Use Test



Winners: 411, TAK, Scrapper 5, S1, 311, Mud Mutt, 511 MO



Pass: RMD, GSO 4.1, ESEE-4, ESEE-3, Gunny



Fail: Warden
_________________________
JYD #123

Jack Burton: I have a knife.
Gracie: A knife? This guy's twelve feet tall!
Jack Burton: Hey, don't worry (its a ScrapYard), I can handle him.

Top
#1006917 - 07/14/14 10:42 AM Re: Bushcraft Evaluation - 17 Knives Put To The Test! [Re: Architect]
Architect Offline
Junk Yard Dog

Registered: 02/19/10
Posts: 5207
Loc: Earth
Apple Peel



Pass: TAK, RMD, Warden, Gunny, ESEE-3



Fail: ESEE-4, S1, Scrapper 5, 511 MO, 311, 411, Mud Mutt, GSO 4.1

Carrot Cut



Winners: S1, TAK



Pass: 511 MO, RMD, Gunny, ESEE-4, ESEE-3, GSO 4.1, Warden



Fail: 411, Scrapper 5, 311, Mud Mutt
_________________________
JYD #123

Jack Burton: I have a knife.
Gracie: A knife? This guy's twelve feet tall!
Jack Burton: Hey, don't worry (its a ScrapYard), I can handle him.

Top
#1006918 - 07/14/14 10:42 AM Re: Bushcraft Evaluation - 17 Knives Put To The Test! [Re: Architect]
Architect Offline
Junk Yard Dog

Registered: 02/19/10
Posts: 5207
Loc: Earth
Potato Slice



Winners: S1, TAK, Gunny

Fail: All others failed to slice thinly!

Squash Slice



Winners: Gunny, TAK, S1, ESEE-3



Pass: Mud Mutt, RMD, GSO 4.1, Warden, Scrapper 5, 311, 411, ESEE-4, 511 MO
_________________________
JYD #123

Jack Burton: I have a knife.
Gracie: A knife? This guy's twelve feet tall!
Jack Burton: Hey, don't worry (its a ScrapYard), I can handle him.

Top
#1006919 - 07/14/14 10:43 AM Re: Bushcraft Evaluation - 17 Knives Put To The Test! [Re: Architect]
Architect Offline
Junk Yard Dog

Registered: 02/19/10
Posts: 5207
Loc: Earth
Final Edge Retention Paper Cut



Winners: S1, Scrapper 5, 311, 511 MO



Fail: All others failed in some capacity. Some were dull enough to tear paper without cutting it.
_________________________
JYD #123

Jack Burton: I have a knife.
Gracie: A knife? This guy's twelve feet tall!
Jack Burton: Hey, don't worry (its a ScrapYard), I can handle him.

Top
#1006920 - 07/14/14 10:44 AM Re: Bushcraft Evaluation - 17 Knives Put To The Test! [Re: Architect]
Architect Offline
Junk Yard Dog

Registered: 02/19/10
Posts: 5207
Loc: Earth
FINAL VERDICT & LESSONS LEARNED
This test yielded some very surprising results, but before I mention those I'd like to make some general comments about the features I determined make for a good bushcraft knife.

General Comments

I found that a 5" full flat ground blade is about ideal. I also found that convex edges are excellent. Both of these findings are consistent with previous testing I've conducted. I also found that blades shorter than 4" severely hamper the usefulness of the knife.

Blade Steel

SR101 was the best overall steel for edge retention. However, the typical Busse Combat Group thick edge / blade design severely hampers their knife's ability to handle detail type work. BKG would be well served by thinning the edges of their excellent steel.

A2 performed very well with a convex edge, but couldn't retain nearly as well as SR101.

Laminated VG10 is an outstanding steel on par with SR101, but there was only one Lam VG10 in this test.

Handle Material

Res-C is remarkable when wet. It actually works BETTER wet than dry in terms of safety retention. Micarta is very good while wet, but outstanding when slightly wet. Micarta benefits from aggressive texture when dry.

Knife Specific Comments

Regarding Bark River - I think the Gunny would be my "runner up" knife in this test. Had the blade been 3/4" longer it would be in the winner circle.

Regarding the Ontario TAK - I was surprised by this knife. My expectations were exceedingly low. However, it outperformed many higher priced knives, and would have scored as a "best buy" had it been able to retain an edge. Unfortunately, this one failed miserably at edge retention.

WINNERS & LOSERS

The biggest disappointment in this evaluation was the GSO 4.1. I had the highest hopes for this knife, and it absolutely performed abysmally overall. At one point I almost stopped using it for fear of injury. I was soaked with sweat, and during the bow divot test I had my hand slip up on the cutting edge as a stabbed the knife into seasoned hardwood. I literally cannot stress how disappointing this knife was.

The two "winners" surprised me beyond belief. Ironically these are the only two knives I almost excluded from the entire evaluation based upon the commentary to follow....

The Scrap Yard 511MO looks like a weird and awkward design. When the offer to borrow it came in I, at first, rejected it, but after some consideration accepted the offer. I cannot be happier that I did. This knife had OUTSTANDING edge retention, and capability. It is without a doubt the far-and-away best Scrap Yard knife I've ever used.

The Fallkniven S1 was almost excluded because I had several people tell me the VG10 edge would be too fragile for this evaluation. I've had VG10 chip on Spyderco knives, but I elected to test this one anyway. I AM SO GLAD I DID. The S1 is a remarkable knife with incredibly useful capabilities. Its edge retention was only bested by the 511MO's. Overall, I declare Fallkniven Laminated VG10 more than up to the challenge of bushcrafting.

Both the 511MO and S1 were treated to a "his and hers" fillet mignon meal at the conclusion of 9.5 hours of field use. Without any touch up the knives sliced through the steak like it was warm butter....




I'm keeping the RMD (and thinning the edge considerably) and S1. All of the other knives I provided for this test are being sold.


Edited by Architect (07/14/14 10:53 AM)
_________________________
JYD #123

Jack Burton: I have a knife.
Gracie: A knife? This guy's twelve feet tall!
Jack Burton: Hey, don't worry (its a ScrapYard), I can handle him.

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