To the Alaskan hunter, who may be miles into the Tundra or high into the mountain verticals, his equipment has proven to be the difference between life and death. Only the bare essentials are carried to conserve weight, which can be an anchor to a hunter searching for his prey. The best portable stove, clothes, tent, sleeping bag, etc., he carries, is a necessary tool for survival and success of his hunt. His rifle may be the most important and certainly, his knife is second on the list. The most important factors of these two items are reliability, reliability and reliability! An Alaskan hunter searches his entire life to improve on these two vital necessities. His knife must be a most trustworthy friend. He doesn’t care what it looks like or if it has a shiny blade; he looks at a knife as a tool, an instrument of survival. It must be light weight, able to withstand severe weather and temperature conditions, razor sharp, easy to use, comfortable to the hand and able to process his downed game quickly, efficiently, without waste and remain razor sharp. The Alaskan hunter will put his knife through test after test before it will ever ride on his hip during an adventurous hunt. The knife must prove itself & have his “Alaskan Tested Tough” seal of satisfaction or it will not be used.
As a maker of knives, I am continuously searching for ways to improve and attain the best knife qualities for these hunters. I have been a hunter since I was old enough to carry a BB gun & carried a pocket knife every day of my life since I was 7 yrs. old, including the present day. I have lived and hunted along the Canadian Border of the cold Northeastern U.S., the swamps of sub-tropical Fl. and the Rockies of the South Western U.S. I have hunted the Rockies of The North Western U.S. & Canada to the northern tip of Baffin Island. Although my lifetime of hunting has not made me an expert hunter or an expert on knives, I did learn what I felt was necessary in a knife. My knife making started as a hobby around 2005 and quickly absorbed my interest. At first it was very confusing with the different types and qualities of steel and which one to use? Blade length, width, flex or non flex, edge design & retention, high carbon or stainless steel, blade styles, handle materials and ergo-dynamics, etc, etc. Also, the selection of knife styles to use: show knives, collector knives, artistic knives, decorated knives, work/utility, tactical, fighting, throwing, Bowie knives and the list goes on. Only time and practice will determine the path you will follow. Just because a person has made a knife or two does not make him a knife maker. He/she will start as an apprentice, working and studying for years to master his or her dream or close to it. For me, I think I will always be an apprentice in this field as I continuously study to learn what makes the perfect hunting knife. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as the “perfect hunting knife”!
O.K., we have established that knife making is a passion for me. I have chosen hunting & fishing (outdoor sport) knives to make and I have vigorously studied, experimented & researched to handcraft the toughest and most reliable knife qualities for the Alaskan hunter’s necessities. It should retain a shaving edge after many game processing’s, small enough to cape in the tightest spots efficiently, yet large enough to remove the abdominal organs from your game’s cavity. The blade must withstand extreme cold without becoming brittle remaining tough enough to do minor prying. It must bend or flex under extreme pressure, not break!
The difference between market knives and custom made knives:
Most of the high-end market knives are advertised as made with “high carbon steel”. This is usually a non stainless steel product with the carbon content usually not higher than 1.00. “High carbon content” market knives are decent knives in most cases, although they cannot be compared to the qualities of a high-end “custom made” knife. I make my knives out of a “high carbon steel”, also! The difference is the steels I use are stainless steels with tougher alloys & a carbon content 1.5 to 2.5 times higher than market knives. The carbon content is one of the products that gives a knife superior edge quality and strength. Add toughness and edge retaining alloy products to this and you have the best made knives on the market, today. Only, custom knife makers venture to this level. Superior steel cost is, probably the main reason for market knives to be incomparable. At the present time I am using CPM 154 stainless steel and CTS XHP stainless steel with the CTS XHP steel being the superior of the two. My knives crafted from CTS XHP steel are more likely to be purchased by professional hunters, guides & extreme exploring hunters spending many days and nights in very remote areas. Of course, I am always following the science of the steel industry as they continue to search and deliver a new and better steel.
I make several types of hunting knives, although the most popular models are the “Hunter” model with CPM 154 steel and the “Guide” model with CTS XHP. These knives are extremely light, weighing less than 10 ounces including leather sheath. They are non-reflective blades with a satin finish or stone washed finish. They may be good looking, but are not made to be pretty, just “bad to the bone”. The knife handles are crafted from Buffalo Horn, antler or stabilized wood and fastened to the full tang steel handle with epoxy and pinned. These knives will endure what an Alaskan hunter, or any hunter demands of its performance. Although, beyond normal knife usage is not recommended unless in emergency situations. My knives are tested tough before they leave my shop.
Now, do you really want to test a market knife against a custom made knife?