This was built as a first prototype. It may be the only one, or I may turn it into a new model. Bottom line is, this one is available now.

It is a mid-sized knife design, based on the larger Thai Enep style machete’s, but in knife form.

It has a 7” blade length, is made from 3/16” O1, differentially hardened. Flat primary grind, with convex secondary. Cutting edge is thin and sharp close to the handle, and a tad thicker in the “sweet spot” for more chopping type work.

Green canvas micarta with brass and steel loveless bolts.

Comes with leather sheath.

If you are interested, drop me an e-mail at offthemapknives at iCloud dot com.

Cheers!!!

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6th Feb, 2014

Taking Orders Again!!!

If you have contacted me in the last couple of months about a knife order, you more than likely got the response of “I have stopped taking orders at the moment.” My wait list was getting crazy long, and I was feeling a bit overwhelmed. I also need some time to sort things out.

The good news is that I am opening up for orders again. Wait time is relatively short, but I can give you a better estimate if you e-mail me with an order.

I have also changed some of the knife options. So, if you want a knife, check the knife pages, shoot me an e-mail and let me know what you want.

Thanks,
Brian
offthemapknives at iCloud dot com

My wait list is roughly a year at this point. It is very rare for me to have any knives available, but I do have a couple at the moment.

The first is my twist on the traditional Leuku that I posted about a while ago.

The knife has a 7” blade, awesome contoured handle in green canvas micarta. Made of 3/16” O1, differentially hardened and etched, with a scandi-vex type of grind. It comes with a nice deep leather sheath.

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I am asking $280 for this beast plus $8.95 shipping CONUS. I will ship elsewhere, but would need you to cover the extra delivery costs. Just ask.

The next is a model that I am really fond of, but have been too lazy to create a page for that would allow people to order it. It is a great all around knife, and makes a great camp kitchen knife too.

The blade is 5” long, made thin and sharp from 3/32” O1 with a forced patina finish. The handles are osage and comes with a leather sheath.

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With the wood on this one, I am asking $220 plus $8.95 shipping CONUS. I will ship elsewhere, but would need you to cover the extra delivery costs. Just ask.

If you are interested in either, shoot me an e-mail at offthemapknives at gmail dot com.

Thanks for looking!!!!

Brian

I went on a snowshoe/backpacking outing with one of my friends.

I call this a “Traditional Meets Modern” trip because I tried to stay as traditional and primitive in my stuff as I could. However, we were going in the winter, in about 4 feet of snow, and were in a National Park that did not allow fires unless in the designated fire rings. Try to find one of those 4 feet under the snow! :) So, a white gas stove was going to be in order for cooking and melting snow. There was not going to be any primitive shelter building and I did not bring an avalanche shovel (which would have been a great idea) for any snow shelters. So, a sleeping bag, mat and a tarp were in order for the modern gear (we left the backpacking tent behind). I tried to stay as traditional with the rest of the gear as possible. Wool clothes, from pants to hat, wooden snowshoes, canvas pack.

I know a lot of people like gear, so I will get back to that in a little bit, but first wanted to cover a little bit about the trip.

The Trip

First, a couple quick comments about the trek. I am by no means heavy, but a couple pounds heavier than I normally am, and would like to be. Also, I am not as in shape as I would like for a trip like that. I have not been running, or doing anything like that, which I usually do. This trail that I am about to take you on would be a piece of cake in the summer, and easily done in a day. The distances are not crazy for a summer hike, and the terrain would not be all that demanding. But, coupled with the deep snow (4 feet or so), more than a day pack, snowshoes, some of the trail conditions and the fact that some of the trip was pure navigation (hard to find a backpacking trail under the snow) all added up to make it quite an adventure, and slower than summer hike.

We were leaving on a Saturday, to return on Monday. The location was about 5.5 to 6 hours from my friends house. Leaving early Saturday morning, we knew we would only have a partial day to snowshoe in. Knowing that, we wanted to keep the first day in a reasonable hike. You can see from the map below (we actually started about a mile south of the marked trailhead because of road plowing conditions) that our plan was to start from the trailhead and try to make it around Chapel Rock area for the first camp. Somewhere around 4.5 miles with our additional distance from the trailhead.

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Our next planned leg of the journey was to continue along the shoreline trail for a longer full day of about 7 miles and make it to the Mosquito Falls area. After that, we would have an easy 1.5 miles out (plus an additional mile of unplowed road that we didn’t know about) that would get us back to our vehicle, and on the road home at a decent time. That was the plan anyway…….let’s see how it goes.

Gear

I know a lot of people like gear. So, I will cover everything I took here all in one fell swoop (I can’t account for everything my friend brought) and then I will go on with the whole story.

Both my friend and I were wearing Iverson’s Michigan patterned 12×46 snowshoes.

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I was wearing Danner boots, wool socks, Smart wool base layer, super cheap military wool pants, used Swanndri Bush Shirt, and homemade wool hat. My gloves changes from a leather pair to a more modern warmer pair (for get the brand).

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The pack I was wearing was Duluth’s Bushcrafter, which is a canvas and leather pack. The two things of note you will see on the pack here is a little round pad for standing on to keep your feet warm in camp, and reflective windshield shade from the dollar store. This is my second experience with the window shade and put on top of your sleeping mat, it seems to work rather well, and is virtually weightless. If you ruin the thing…..it was a dollar :)

For additional clothes, all I brought was a change of wool socks, a heavier base layer (for sleeping in and in case I got wet) and a down shirt, which is mean to be an inner layer as well, but I put it on wherever was convenient.

I took a Wiggy’s Super Light sleeping bag (for lack of a better cold weather bag), and my Cooke Custom Sewing 10×10 tarp.

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I already mentioned the Duluth Pack. For cooking, I used my MSR Dragon Fly, took along 1L bottle of white gas (I knew it would be a bit too much fuel, but with melting snow for hydration, I would rather go on the safe side) and my Mor’s Bushpots for cooking. I would never stick the large pot in a backpack for backpacking, with the exception of winter. The larger pot makes melting snow easier, and will fill two nalgene bottles. It saves a lot of hassle. I also had a Vargo titanium mug, and one nalgene bottle.

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How about knives?

I took along my Northstar.

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And my new Leuku.

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I also can’t forget the Savinelli Tortuga 677ks pipe with about 1/2 ounce of Cornell and Diehl Ephiphany :)

That about does it. Let’s go on with the hike.

Day 1

I ended up waking up at 4 am, and left my house at 4:15 arriving at my friends house around 5:15. We loaded up and were on the road by 5:30. There was nothing overly eventful on the road trip, and we ended up close to our destination around 11:30 am. We figured we would have one last purchased meal before heading in. Stop for lunch, another 30 minute drive to our spot, and 4 miles down a 5 mile road hoping that it was plowed at all at first, then hoping it was plowed to the trailhead. Get to our parking spot, check out the snow, last minute shuffling of gear, changing our clothes, and we are finally on our way around 2 ish. My times are pretty approximate as I don’t wear a watch and kept having to ask my buddy what time it was when I wanted to know :)

Off we go…..

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At first we were taking pictures of everything. How deep the snow was and how it made some cool formations on top of logs and such. In the grand scheme of the amount of photos we took, they just didn’t make the cut.

So, our first real sight was the first set of waterfalls.

One of the bridges getting there.

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My friend.

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We also used this break to brew up a quick tea at hot chocolate.

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Getting to this first set of falls was not all that difficult, and it was a great sight to see. Looking back, the next stretch of trail was pretty short, but it seemed fairly long at the time. There were no gorgeous waterfalls or cliffs to keep you pushing on. Pretty much decent terrain through woodland. Toward early evening, it felt like we had enough trekking, and were feeling pretty tired. Just then, about an hour and half before darkness (or so) we came up to Chapel Rock. I have seen it from boat, but it was amazing from this side, and this close.

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There was one last bridge crossing before we found our spot to camp for the night.

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Our camp is overlooking a small creek. It is hard to see, but is a very nice spot.

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The next day is periods of grey, grey and snow and then periods of sun.

We started along the shoreline trail, which if you look back at the map, is going to be long.

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After leaving camp that morning, it did not take long to reach what I call the “wimp out trail.” It was allow us a fairly easy (3 mile) hike back to the trailhead. If you look back at the map, you can see it, and it basically goes on the other side of Chapel Basin. The decision had to be made to wimp out, or go long. Of course we went long :)

After making that decision, there were some creepy moments for sure. Motorized vehicles are not allowed out here, so there are no snowmobiles, no sight of people, but there were some old tracks to let you know someone had been here before. It was never a feeling of “we are not going to make it.” Just more of being able to finish the loop in the time we had intended. Plus, committed to the loop, it was not like you could quit and give up, or even just turn around and go back.

Added to that was the fact that the first mile of lakeshore trail was kicking our ass. Terrain, our packs felt heaving, and we were overall just slow moving. At this point, it was looking like maybe we got in over our heads with the timeline. It ended up working out perfect by the way, I am just trying to re-tell my feelings at that point.

At one of the more difficult terrain features, my buddy decides to jump off one of the bridge crossings and go up another way.

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The lakeshore was starting to look really amazing, and some of the ice formations were hard to believe unless you were seeing them. The pictures do not do them justice.

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There were also points where the trail came eerily close to the cliff. Again, hard to do it justice, but here is a look down.

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I told my buddy that just standing there, it really didn’t bother me. But, if you started to think about it, it was pretty freaky :)

There were a few spots in the trail that we decided to go into the woods and come back and meet the trail because we were just not comfortable what was going on with the snow and ice that was near the cliffs. There were also a couple of other sections that the trail was literally a foot from the end, and the snow was sloping towards the edge. I decided to remove the snowshoes and post hole it across those spots rather than risk sliding of any sort. :)

At some point, the terrain broke. It became a nice woodland trek, with occasional shore line views, and also one that allowed us to pick up our pace. Somewhere along the line, we also stopped and whipped out a stove, and cooked up a nice spicy chili for lunch.

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At this point, we were feeling fatigued for sure, but also much less concerned for how far we needed to go to finish the loop. We could make it out the next day, regardless if we got home later than we would have wanted.

The next sight we came upon was quite cool. We couldn’t figure out what was going on, but apparently the way the water was hitting the rocks allowed for a lot of spray to hit the trees and freeze. Really, really thick ice.

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One last bridge to complete our lakeshore portion of the trail.

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The turn in to Mosquito Falls is where things get a little bit interesting. We kind of knew it could, so we made another break for tea, hot chocolate, elk jerky and trial mix before going further.

Up until this point, there were at least signs that other people had been around (old tracks). Besides, the trail is not hard to find when it is going along the lakeshore. The next trail had not been traveled on at all. We saw the marker for where it started, but ten feet in and the trail was lost. Try finding a narrow backpacking trail under 4 feet of snow, and it is just not going to happen. I had brought detailed topos, and my friend had brought his GPS for backpack up. Neither of us were even the least bit concerned about getting lost. This was a piece of cake. But, at this point in the day, we had caught that medieval disease (Dragon Ass…..spelled Draggin Ass), we were more worried about energy conservation. We didn’t want to be back tracking, and finding river crossings, etc.

Admittedly, this was also one of the most fun parts of the trips. Because we had to navigate, had to use the terrain features, and since everything worked out for us (we did have to find a bridge crossing), it was pretty cool.

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Oh yeah, my topo map (which was USGS) and being old, does not always have newer trail information on it. That was the case hear, and our trail was not on our map. So, it was not as easy as just following the trail on the map, and matching terrain. Regardless, we set out knowing we would make it without issue.

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Following the terrain, we knew when the river direction change was coming, and then we changed our course accordingly. We ended up hitting the river about where the trail should, but obviously never saw a trail. From the terrain, I could tell exactly where we were at on the river.

My buddy was using his GPS occasionally, but it did not have as much detail on it, and did not contain the branch in the creek, which we were obviously going to have to cross. Guessing where the the trail was supposed to be, and using the topo map and terrain around, we figured we had better head into the creek branch, otherwise, we could easily miss a bridge.

Good thing we did! As soon as we saw the creek, about 75 yards (we actually passed it) was the bridge.

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Had we not decided to head in at the time we did, we would have easily missed this bridge, and do the dreaded double backing that we were fearing. Obviously, that didn’t happen and things worked out rather well for us.

This is the point where we wanted to make it to for the day. Camping in the general area would allow us a fairly quick 1.5 mile hike to the trailhead (and the additional mile of unplowed road), and get home at a decent time on Monday.

At this point, as you can tell, having run out of steam, we were also running out of steam for pictures. They are becoming few and far between and this is the end of the pictures.

This is the part where we deviated from our plan a bit. We went a bit past this point, and the woods opened up in to an fairly open, fairly flat woodland. Pitching camp would have been no big task, but it also would be nowhere near as fun and interesting as our last location either. Figuring that we had already came this far in a day, we decided to push on the last bit to the vehicle. Navigating out of the woods was no issue at all, and we arrived at the unplowed road about exactly as there was no light left to see :)

We got the truck, and the gear all loaded and pitched our last camp Bear Grylls style (at the Days Inn in town), and then wandered next door for a beer, a sandwich, and then passed out!

Trip Summary

All in all, it was an amazing trip. If you just think of it in terms of winter camping, it was not my ideal way to camp in the winter. For a few reasons, we didn’t really have much choice. This is a highly visited area in the Summer. While I wouldn’t mind that type of trip, it is usually not my thing. But, visiting the same location in the Winter is awesome because the views are different and absolutely no people :) Because of that though, there are lot of regulations of what you can and can’t do. You are not going to be making a primitive bed, or making a swedish fire lay.

Ideally, it would have been nice to use snow to our advantage for sleeping arrangements, instead of sleeping on top of it. That would have required an avalanche style shovel, which I wasn’t interested in carrying, unless it could be used to dig to the ground to have a large fire, which wasn’t an option either because of the area. With a large fire, it would have been nice to rig up a ridge pole, drop some hooks, and melt snow and cook that way. It is much more enjoyable than using stoves. But, we spent so little time in camp, and more time moving that they way we went worked out rather well for this trip.

If I have any other random thoughts on the trip, I will try and jot them down. Just thought you might be interested in going along.

Thanks for looking!

25th Feb, 2013

Leuku

I am not a big knife person. I tried to be. I have owned many, many big knives, from all of the big names (before I made knives). I have to admit, there is a strong emotional appeal to a big knife. They are cool, they are appealing in the movies, and there is always the “what if” scenarios that go through you head.

In reality, all my big knives ended up staying home, or staying in camp. If they got used, it was because I purposely went looking to use them instead of actually needing to.

As a result, my personal knives have gotten thinner, lighter and sharper because those are are things that help me do the things that I do often really, really well. Because of that, I can definitely see the usefulness of a big “tool” for processing dried wood. I call it a “tool” because is isn’t a replacement for my smaller, sharper knives and was never intended to be.

With that in mind, if I am going to use a larger knife, I have always had an attraction to the Leuku. I believe the reason is simplicity. It is a simple design, that has been around for a long time, and has done all the jobs a big knife requires for generations.

With the idea of a Leuku in my head, I started have all the thoughts about how to make it. Of course it would be a full tang. But, would it be a normal full tang, or a rat tail? Peen the end, or thread it with a pommel?

What I ended up with is a kind of a modern twist on a simple knife. I didn’t necessarily go traditional, but stuck with what I know would work, but tried to keep the simplicity of the knife shape.

I started with the blade length. I drew out various ones, but ended up going with 7”. I know that 8” is a more common length and a true “big knife” would work much better if it was longer. But, I was trying to be realistic with this knife and keep it at a length that I would actually use, instead of leaving in camp or at home. I drew it out with that pure straight back and it just look too boring to me. I ended up giving it a bit of rise in the spine, but not enough that it would drop the point and negatively effect batoning. With the grind, as with most Leuku, I put a scandi on it, and then convexed it a bit for durability and decreasing the wedging that would occur in splitting and chopping. The thickness is 3/16”……..so it is a heavy duty Leuku. Remember when I said “tool?” :)

Next is the handle. The scandi or scandi-vex grind is good at keeping the metal in the blade, and giving it a forward weight. With that in mind, I wanted to keep the handle as compact as possible (no butt sticking out). I planned the butt to swell out like a small axe handle, and it ended up working out great. When shaping the handle, I kept it wide at the top (to spread the force from impacts out over a larger surface area) and tapered it toward the bottom to get the classic egg shape. Once I got the handle shaped in that dimension, I tapered toward the front until a choke up grip was really comfortable. Finally, I put the swell in the butt to give it that axe handle feel. I couldn’t be happier.

If you look close, you can see the etched hamon line. I used green canvas micarta, and finished it to a bit of a polish with brass and stainless loveless bolts.

Enough talking, here are the pictures.

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31st Jan, 2013

Grinds

It was a long time ago that I wrote the page for my blog about knife grinds. While a lot of the information still holds true, my personal preferences have changed greatly!!

Just yesterday I had a customer write me and ask me the following question:

What advantages do you see in a scandi grind besides ease of sharpening (I find convex to perform well, and is incredibly easy to sharpen)… “

Since I took a decent amount of time responding with a thorough response, I figured I would share it here.

Different grinds are all about what YOU do with your knife. There is no one grind that does everything well. If someone tells you that, it is because they only know how to (or only sell) one type of grind.

Assuming all things kept equal (steel, heat treatment, tempering, etc) a convex grind is the most durable grind there is. Immediately after the cutting edge, the edge quickly gets supported by more steel the fastest of any other grind. That is why axes are made with a convex grind. They receive lots of impact, and hold up really, really well.

The reason I am not a fan of them is that most of the knives I use and use often, are 4″ or so. I am not chopping, beating on it, or pounding through concrete blocks. Meaning that durability is not on the top of my priority list for that type of knife. What is at the top is cutting ability. For me, all that extra steel behind the edge of convex grind is just too much unnecessary ”meat.” Once the cut has occurred all the steel must not but pushed through the material you are cutting, and slicing ability is greatly reduced.

If I like the feel (and ease of sharpening of a convex edge) what I do us put a full height flat grind on the knife, and then put the secondary grind on with a slack belt so that it is mildly convex. I think it works well because you get a touch more durability with the small convex grind, it can be easily sharpened like a convex grind, but once you get past the secondary edge, you don’t have all that steel (that I don’t think you need in a 4″ knife) left to get in the way of your cutting.

That is not to say that the scandi grind is a super slicer. In fact, it is definitely not the best at slicing, especially non-deformable things (like an apple). The full height of the grind occurs over a short distance, and once you get past that, you are now trying to push the full stock thickness of the knife through the object you are cutting.

In my personal knives, I minimize that by going with thinner stock. I know that a thick piece of steel is reassuring in your hand but is also not as necessary as most people think. My favorite scandi grinds are made from 3/32″ stock. It is thick enough that you can use it much harder than you think, still has enough bevel for control (which I will get to next) but yet is thin enough to improve its slicing ability (even though it will never be the best slicer compared to other grinds).

What keeps me coming back to the scandi grind is the carving control. If you carve stuff from wood often (especially green wood) the scandi grind bites and holds well. The flat bevel works like a wood plane and it is very easy to control the depth of cuts and keep them even over long distances. A very simple test is to try and remove the bark from a green stick. You quickly find the correct angle to hold the scandi knife, can hold it easily, and can quickly shave the bark. With other grinds (especially the convex) you are always hunting for the correct angle, and once you have it, it is not easy to hold. There is always a bit of “wobble” going on during that process.

Once I got used to that feel and that control, I could not give it up unless I am in a position to have more than one knife.

To make a long story short (too late)…….

I like scandi’s for wood crafting, carving, light food work (not cooking grand meals, but if I am doing that I can afford a second knife), and venturing into the general purpose arena.

I like the full flat grind with convex secondary for a more general purpose knife. Works great of food, game (skinning and butchering), opening packages, boxes, and in general a more general purpose knife.

I think a convex grind is just too overkill for 4″-ish knife.

You asked my opinion….so there it is :)

4th Dec, 2012

Stormy Kromer

Stormy Kromer caps are made in Michigan. It is something every outdoorsman in Michigan should probably own. The further north, the less excuse you have :) I have lived my whole life in Michigan, and have somehow managed to not own one of these. I have eyed them for a long time, but never purchased one.

Finally, I made the decision to get one. Mostly because, as much as I don’t like to admit it, on the course of a normal work day, taking the kids to school, going to work, stuff after work, I don’t spend a ton of time outdoors. Days like that it is too cold to not wear a warm hat, but sometimes a little overkill to go wearing the full stocking cap. I was looking for something warm, comfortable, and that I liked the looks of. I don’t mind the wool caps (like the Scottish Driving Caps) but most people associate those things with golfers, of which I don’t want to be included :)

Looking through the models, I knew I wanted to get the Mackinaw. I figure if I want a cold weather hat, I want it to be for cold weather. Might as well get the warmest. I am also a sucker for the color that SK calls “Olive” and it is nicely trimmed in tan.

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Since I wanted the Mackinaw, the only way to get it was to order it on-line. I found a couple local places that carry SK’s, but they all carried the standard model. I did try a couple on, but all the ones that I found were one size larger than the one I thought I would need. So, it was a little scary ordering a hat and hoping that it fits properly, and that was probably one of the things that has kept me from one for so long. My biggest fear was that this one would show up too tight, not having tried on this exact size before.

When it showed up, I pulled it out of the box and it felt awesome. Nice wool, and the interior was super soft. Almost felt like a merino, even though I know it is not. SK states the liner is 100% soft cotton. Plopped it on the noggin. Wow! It felt great. Like a hat that had been broken in for years. Seriously. Only one issue…..it still felt a tad bigger than I would have liked.

I thought about it for a few and figured I would live with it. Then, I thought about the flaps that tie in front. I undid them, tied them closer together and tried again. Too tight! Bit that is a good thing, because somewhere in between is easy, and was where I needed it to be. I got it tweaked in just right and it is awesome!!!! It is actually quite cool that you have that little bit of adjustment available to you.

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A couple other things I learned in the paperwork that came with it. Made in the US (knew that) lifetime warranty and it came with a 3 year insurance card. If it is lost or stolen in the first 3 years they will replace it no questions asked at half price.

All on all I am happy with everything but one thing. It is in the 60′s!!! :) Highs on Wednesday will be in the 30′s though, so I will get to wear it soon :)

I have a knife design that has been rattling around in my head for some time. I have to admit, it is also not solely my brain child. The design also comes from months of chatting with Ben Piersma, owner of Ben’s Backwoods.

One of the most underrated knife features (in my opinion) is a swell on the top of the handle. When you close your hand around an object, having something filling in that space is pretty damn important to comfort. It is something that a simple oval shaped handle can do very easily, but becomes trickier with a full tang knife style like this one. It seems so many knives are cut out of a piece of stock that is flat across the spine and the back of the handle. While easy to do, it can never match the comfort level of a swell like this, in my opinion anyway.

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The second key feature on this new knife is the first finger groove and guard area. A true guard gets in the way when doing things like batoning notches on a flat surface (like a log). But, having a little bit of something there can be beneficial for the grip I am about to talk about.

Previously, one of my primary concerns with this area of the knife was to get the first finger groove as close to the cutting edge as possible. Easy to understand because it is a matter of leverage. The farther away from your hand the item you are cutting, the more leverage it has. Power cuts are done up close.

However, this one is a bit different. I put some space in there for a very good reason. Ben has been known to grip his mora’s with his whole hand going over the guard. It kind of puts your first finger half over the cutting edge, but it is not scary to do. It feels like it centers the whole knife in your hand, and gives it a balance that is not achieved by simply “getting close to the edge.” It allows a lot of control and makes doing things like feather sticks a really fun task. Since Ben grabbed his Mora’s this why, I try to optimize this area of the knife specifically for that, and I have to say it feels wonderful.

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The picture I have of my holding is attempting to show that grip. I was trying to take the picture with a big camera and no tripod so I had no choice but to do it up close and left handed.

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I will try and get a better picture, but if you watch Ben’s video on the Ghillie Kettle, right around 0:20 you uwill see him using this knife technique.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=qgUuPE1GI0E

This knife now has a page of its own for ordering under the “Off The Map Knives” tab of this website.

I have handled one, and used one a little. But, I am looking to get my hands on one for at least a few days.

I would be willing to buy, trade, or if you are willing borrow for a few days.

Let me know if you can help me out.

Brian

15th Sep, 2012

Small Game Season

I am a bit behind on my posts, because this is actually from the opening day of Small game Season, which is Sept. 15th here in Michigan.

Excited to get through hunter’s safety and get his license, I wanted to take my oldest out for some small game. My daughter is not one to be left behind, so she got to go too.

It was a very fun time, with squirrels galore! The leaves are still green, the woods are still thick, and the squirrels hard to see. But, it was a blast no matter what! Can’t wait to go again.

I didn’t bring a camera, so sorry for the crappy camera phone pictures.

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