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27
APR
2022

What Defines the Best Custom Utility Hunting Knife? Part 1

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If you are a knife maker wanting to enter a utility hunter for judging at the 2022 Blade Show, you should read this first…

 

Very popular in his home country of Slovakia, Jan Hafinec outfits his custom utility hunter (shown above) with a 5-inch blade of forged C105 carbon steel sporting a flashy double Hamon. The handle is made of Presentation Desert Ironwood.  Guard and sub hilt: stainless steel  Overall length: 10″  A custom leather sheath by the maker completes the package. Fisher’s price for a similar knife is $699.00 (Impress by design image)

When it comes to custom knives, the best utility hunters have many of the features outlined herein. (Note: There are two parts to this blog.)

Countless articles have been written about hunting knives. Primarily, the stories discussed which knife is best for which game.  The two main features that get the most coverage are the blade style/shape and the length. The knife referred to commonly as the hunter is more than likely a utility hunting knife.
No matter where you are if you are using a guide—hunting or fishing—more than likely your guide is the one doing the dressing of the game. Chances are, he is using a utility hunting knife with some of the following features.

Blade Steel
If you ask 100 people what the best steel is for a hard-use field knife, you probably will get at least 50 different answers. Why? End users are very loyal to steel that has proved itself in the field.

The two primary choices for blade steel are carbon and stainless. Each has its pros and cons. Stainless steel’s biggest advantage is that it is rust-resistant, meaning it will require less maintenance. Stainless is not code for “no maintenance.” Yes, stainless steel will rust.

Carbon steel requires maintenance. Many things will make carbon steel rust, several examples being the blood from the game that is being processed and some types of vegetation, including vegetables. However, the rust can be held to a minimum or eliminated simply by cleaning and oiling the knife after use. Keep in mind that storing your carbon steel knife in a leather sheath can also cause rust, especially on a wet blade, as the tannic acid used to process the leather can cause rust spots.

The winner of Best Utility Hunter at Blade Show 2018, ABS Master Smith Josh Fisher’s hunter (above) has a 4.25″ blade of 1084 carbon steel, a Ringed Gidgee handle, and a guard of brushed Stainless Steel. Overall length: 8.75″ The knife comes with a custom-made leather sheath. Josh’s price for a similar knife is $685.00. At that show, he earned both his ABS Master Smith (MS) stamp and the B.R. Hughes Award for the best knife submitted by an MS applicant.  (Eric Eggly/PointSeven image)

Karis Fisher (above knife photo) is the daughter of ABS Master Smith Josh Fisher. Karis not only earned her ABS journeyman smith (JS) stamp in March, she also won the Joe Keeslar Award for the best knife submitted by a JS applicant. The 4-inch blade is 1084 carbon steel and the handle is Vintage Micarta®. Guard: 416 stainless steel. Overall length: 8.5″ Sheath: custom-made leather.  Karis’ price for a similar hunting knife is $375.00.

While carbon steel can rust, it does have two advantages over stainless steel if the blade is forged. First, several blade smiths forge distal taper into their carbon steel blades. The taper removes weight from the blade, thereby making the knife lighter in weight and thus easier to carry and manipulate. Second, carbon steel blades can be differentially heat treated to give them a hard edge for sharpness and a softer back for malleability. The latter results in a blade with greater flexibility that is much more likely to bend rather than break under high stress.

The steel you choose for your utility hunting knife should be one that can be sharpened in the field and fit the requirements for what you want your knife to accomplish. Remember—it is always best to resharpen your knife before it gets dull!

Ideal Sizes

Having judged custom utility hunters at the Blade Show for over two decades, I can tell you there is no one ideal size. That said, most of the judging competition winners feature a blade between 3 7/8 and 5 inches in length. (For the makers reading this, please do not submit your 10-inch bowie or 2-inch miniature in this category for judging.) Among the accompanying images for this story are three past winners of the category at the Blade Show. Note the differences and similarities of these knives. In addition to dimensions, the importance of handle ergonomics cannot be overstated! Most handles will feature some kind of contouring and generally will be between 4.5 and 5 inches long.

The 5-inch blade of W2 tool steel with Hamon headlines a utility hunter by Jim Crowell. (pictured above) The handle is black canvas Micarta® and the guard is stainless steel. Jim made the leather sheath. Overall length: 10″ This knife was made for the author. Jim’s price for a similar knife is $850.00. (Impress by design image)

Circle back around to our blog for the rest of this 2 part article. Thanks!

10
JAN
2022

Return of the Tactical Fixed Blade

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Blade Magazine Jan. 2022 Custom knife Field Editor Les Robertson Tactical Fixed Blades Reemerge

Blade Magazine Jan. 2022 Les Robertson Custom Knife Field Editor pages 32-36

Never gone completely, it’s just been overshadowed–until NOW!

No matter what the product is, it goes through a product life cycle. Development, introduction, growth, maturity, saturation/decline. This applies to custom knife market sectors as well. Most recently we have seen this in the tactical folder market between 2010 and 2018.

Such is the cyclical nature of custom knives and the markets they can be found in. As one market goes into decline others come to the forefront. This is not to say that the market goes away, it just cools off. For those of you who were around in the mid to late 1990s, you know that the “experts” sounded the death knell for tactical folders. LOL

Once a market sector gets hot a large portion of the custom knife buying public wants to participate. Eventually, the law of supply and demand raises the prices to the point where very few can continue to participate. Remember, Collectors, collect! This will lead them to another market sector where for many the hunt for the next grail begins.

Today, we are seeing the beginning of the tactical fixed blade market re-emerge. While prices range from $200 to $5,000.00, most collectors will find a price point that fits their budget. Like the tactical folder market, new steels, handle materials, and construction techniques will be introduced. My article in the Jan. 2022 Blade Magazine discusses this at length. I would suggest if you think this is something that would interest you, pick up a copy of this issue.

14
OCT
2020

Collecting Custom Hunting Knives

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 In the recent 3-part article in Blade Magazine, HOW TO COLLECT CUSTOM HUNTERS, Les discusses 1. Sept. issue) Collectible Users 2. Oct. issue) Investment Users 3. Nov. issue) Collectible Influencers. Often, the first custom knife someone buys is a hunting model.  Perhaps a skinner, semi-skinner, caper, bird & trout, or even a filet knife. These knives are purchased primarily to be used on a hunting or fishing trip where they might end up helping to produce a trophy mount or even dinner! 

Blade Magazine September 2020 Part 1 Collectible Users

The most popular custom knife style is the hunting knife.For decades knife makers and collectors have invested in these knives. Bill Moran even sold his family farm to become a full-time maker and we’re all glad he did. He is credited with the revival of the forged blade in the USA. Buster Warenski, who is considered the finest maker of the 20th century, started out primarily building hunters and skinners while working with Harvey Draper for three years. If the buyers of those knives could have only known how valuable they would become today.

Blade Magazine October 2020 Part 2 Investment Users

There are many influencers persuading us to choose one product over another. In the case of custom hunters, style, materials, technique and reputation of the maker may be considered. If the knives were created by a legend of the custom knife world, all the better. Some makers who are lesser-known to the newer collectors influenced todays makers and their knives; therefore, contributing to the knife value. Please check out the complete 3-part series in Blade Magazine.

Blade Magazine November 2020 Part 3 Collectible Influencers

COLLECTIBLE INFLUENCERS & LEGENDS

The W.E. Bill Ankrom Hunter was featured in the third part of the Blade Magazine article “Collectible Influencers” (November 2020 pages 34-38.) He is best known for the precision of his knives. Today, the majority of his work is high-end art knives.

W.C. Bill Davis Drop Point Hunter Bill studied directly with Bob Loveless. Bill was one of my favorite Loveless style knife makers. I lost count how many knives I bought from him over 25 years. His work was a true replica of Loveless’s work.

W.C. Bill Davis Duplex Drop Point Hunter (above) The knife shows the unique duplex blade grind.  The tip is designed for tasks that require more precision.  While the secondary grind offers extra strength for cutting harder materials. Full tapered tang with red liners, stainless steel lined thong hole. Bill passed away in 2015.

Schuyler Lovestrand H-2 Hunter  In my opinion, Schuyler is one of the top 5 stock removal makers in the world. His work always approaches perfection. In the 30 years, I have been working with him, his knives have never disappointed. SOLD

Fred Carter Integral Drop Point Hunting Knife Fred Carter began making knives in the mid-1970’s in Wichita Falls TX.  He was one of the pioneer’s in custom knives to build full integral knives.Today, he builds primarily high-end art knives. Additionally, he originally trained knife maker, David Broadwell.

Tim Hancock Forged Damascus Hunter  Tim was well-respected, awarded many awards and considered one of the finest Mastersmith’s in the world. He was a legend among his fellow Master Smiths. A gifted artisan, who incorporated several design elements into his work. He unfortunately passed away in 2019.

02
AUG
2020

Blade Magazine Custom Hunters Part 1

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“How to Collect Custom Hunters”

Blade Magazine Custom Hunting Knives Article Les Robertson September 2020 Skinner

With the Blade Show cancelled for this year, and hunting season upon us, check out Les’ 3-part article on collecting hunting knives in the current issue (Sept) of Blade Magazine. Les begins discussing collectible users on page 30.

A knife that is a collectible user may sound odd at first. Often, the first custom knife that someone buys is a hunting type knife. This includes a Skinner, semi-Skinner, caper, bird and trout, and even a filet knife.

These knives are primarily bought to be used on the next hunting or fishing trip. While they may end up helping to produce a trophy mount or dinner. This time shared with family and friends creates memories that last a lifetime. The stories are retold repeatedly and passing through generations, connecting people to past and future activities to come.

What memories do your knives hold?  

Part two will discuss investment hunting knives considered “users.”

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Robertson’s Custom Cutlery is your source for custom knives from today’s leading custom knife makers. We only feature the highest quality knives at value prices. Our custom fixed and folding knife selection includes tactical fixed and folding knives, presentation fixed and folding knives, bowies, hunters and skinners, and a large selection of forged blades. Les Robertson, author and owner of Robertson’s Custom Cutlery, is also a Field Editor for Blade Magazine and an instructor at Blade University. If you have questions about the content in this article or about any knife or maker on our website, you can contact Les directly at customknives@comcast.net or (706) 650-0252.

16
MAR
2020

FORGED SUB-HILTS FLOURISH- MARCH BLADE MAG.

Don’t miss the latest Blade Magazine article March 2020, “FORGED SUB-HILTS FLOURISH”  by Les Robertson

The article, starting on page 12 through page 18, discusses the pros and cons of building one of the most challenging fixed blades; the SUB-HILT-FIGHTER.
Some featured world-class knife makers in the article: Bob Loveless, David Lisch; along with expert input on making a sub-hilt from David Broadwell, Samuel Lurquin, Steve Randall and Josh Fisher.

HERE ARE A FEW SUB-HILTS WE HAVE AVAILABLE IN STOCK BELOW: (click on the photos to link to the specs.)
TIM HANCOCK DAMASCUS FORGED SUB-HILT FIGHTER
Tim Hancock Unique Forged Damascus SubHilt Fighter D'Holder ABS Master Smith Custom Knife

SCHUYLER LOVESTRAND JR. BEAR SUB-HILT FIGHTER
Lovestrand Jr Bear Custom Sub-Hilt Fighting Knife Handmade Stag

JIM SISKA M-16 SUB-HILT FIGHTER

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Robertson’s Custom Cutlery is your source for custom knives from today’s leading custom knife makers. We only feature the highest quality knives at value prices. Our custom fixed and folding knife selection includes tactical fixed and folding knives, presentation fixed and folding knives, bowies, hunters and skinners, and a large selection of forged blades. Les Robertson, author and owner of Robertson’s Custom Cutlery, is also a Field Editor for Blade Magazine and an instructor at Blade University. If you have questions about the content in this article or about any knife or maker on our website, you can contact Les directly at customknives@comcast.net or (706) 650-0252.

01
SEP
2019

USER DRIVEN DESIGN – Custom Hunters

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My article, User Driven Design on hunting knives is in the October 2019 issue of Blade Magazine pages 50-53.

There is an overview of different types of knives used by hunters. Specifically, the designs and how they are used. I even discuss the dimensions, steels, guard, and handle material of the styles and  purpose of these blades. Basic maintenance for these knives is also addressed.

Incorporating this knowledge, will allow you to select the right tool for the job. Remember, it isn’t the firearm that creates the trophy, it is the knife.,

Blade Magazine Oct. 2019 Hunters Knives Custom user driven designBlade Magazine Article User Driven Design Oct. 2019

The following knives are featured in the User Driven Design article and are currently available with Robertson’s Custom Cutlery.

Click on the linked photos below for more detailed info:

Gordon Graham Damascus Hunter Forged Custom Knife

Graham Damascus BW Forged Hunter

Milan Mozolic Hunter Custom Knife

Mozolic Custom Forged Stag Hunter

Wess Barnhill Forged DI Hunter Custom Knife

Barnhill Forged Custom DI Hunter

Want to know more about these and other custom knives?

Sign up for our Newsletter.

 

Robertson’s Custom Cutlery is your source for custom knives from today’s leading custom knife makers. We only feature the highest quality knives at value prices. Our custom fixed and folding knife selection includes tactical fixed and folding knives, presentation fixed and folding knives, bowies, hunters and skinners, and a large selection of forged blades. Les Robertson, author and owner of Robertson’s Custom Cutlery, is also a Field Editor for Blade Magazine and an instructor at Blade University. If you have questions about the content in this article or about any knife or maker on our website, you can contact Les directly at customknives@comcast.net or (706) 650-0252.

29
MAY
2019

“Collecting the Art of Steel” Blade Magazine

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Blade Magazine Collecting Art of Steel

Don’t miss Les’ latest article, “Collecting: The Art of the Steel,” published on pages 82-87 in the current June issue of Blade Magazine.

Today’s hottest forged knives are boasting flashy San-Mai and Damascus blades. More so than any time over the last 30 years, Damascus and San Mai blades are no longer the purview of just Master Smiths.  Due to improved equipment and the availability of information, Les finds several Apprentice Smiths and Journeyman Smiths creating some exceptional blades.

Some have the skills required to make the blades, but still need improvement on the overall knife.  Other makers, such as the ones featured in the article, have abilities that belie their status in the American Bladesmith Society.  They are few and far between; none the less, they do exist.  The problem is and has been, the price of their knives is not commensurate with their status in the market. That said, each collector will make up their mind with regards to the pricing.

His recommendation to collectors is to do your homework to understand the details of the knife you are looking at and judge them on their own merit.  This is important as there has been a growing trend, particularly among Journeyman Smiths, of pricing their knives more than they are worth in the marketplace.

This publication will be free with your admission into the Blade Show.  See ya in Atlanta at the show!!

 

03
FEB
2019

Handmade Knives’ Cyclical Nature

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KNIVES 2019

Be sure to pick up a copy of Knives 2019. In addition to all the incredible photos, you can read my article, “The Cyclical Nature of Handmade Knives.”

Starting on page 8, I discuss my take on the custom knife market from 1984 to now. Oh, the photo is ABS Master Smith Steve Randall’s First Sub-Hilt Fighter!

05
JAN
2019

4 Paths to Collector Glory Blade Mag. 1/2019

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Please check out Les’ article on “4 Paths to the Collector Glory” in the Jan. issue of Blade Magazine pages 22-25.

27
JAN
2014

Z OPENERS

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Will Zermeno’s Saigo!
BLADE MAGAZINE • APRIL 2013 • By Les Robertson, Custom Knife Field Editor
Click here to read article

11
NOV
2013

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A FORGED KNIFE

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Part 1 Proportion and Balance, Handle Styles, Blade Traits and more.
BLADE MAGAZINE • SEPT 2013 • By Les Robertson, Custom Knife Field Editor
Click here to read article

Conclusion Standards of Quality, Delivery Times and Deposits, Bladesmith Business Practices and more.
BLADE MAGAZINE • OCT 2013 • By Les Robertson, Custom Knife Field Editor
Click here to read article

06
NOV
2013

Call in a Guinea Hog, Soo-ey!

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Scott McGhee’s Bushman, a Combination Forged Blade with a Tactical Look.
BLADE MAGAZINE • MAY 2013 • By Les Robertson, Custom Knife Field Editor

Click here to read article

04
NOV
2013

Subtle Simplicity

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Daniel Winkler and Karen Shook Team Up to Create a Unique Knife Style
KNIVES ILLUSTRATED • JULY 2011 • By Les Robertson, Custom Knife Field Editor
Click here to view article

 

02
NOV
2013

They’ve got the “Look”

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Paul Letourneau’s Tactical Knives Feature Form, Fit and Function
KNIVES ILLUSTRATED • JULY 2011 • By Les Robertson, Custom Knife Field Editor
Click here to read article

17
AUG
2011

Exceptional Handles, Exceptional Knives

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Jason Knight’s Knives Are Built Tough and Are Built to be Used
KNIVES ILLUSTRATED • AUGUST 2011 • By Les Robertson, Custom Knife Field Editor
Click here to read article

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