by, Jesse Mathewson
Sometimes you can find a knife at a good price, with the beauty and superb construction that makes it worth buying custom. I am someone who enjoys blades, and own several thousand; ranging from Opinels, Moraknivs through CRKTS, Kershaws, Ganzo, Blue and Gold Benchmades as well as high-end custom jobs. If I were to list every manufacturer I own one by one it would fill several pages, then adding the knives from each into that equation and you would have a book larger than the current Lyman Loading manual.
As a father-son bonding experience, my dad and I started building blades years ago, while I would love to get back into the industry, it is unfortunately not something I am capable of doing at this time due to physical constraints.
Every other day someone is handing me a blade and asking for me to put a razor edge on it, or touch up some nicks or buff out scratches. Being raised in the Midwest on a farm and then moving to Arizona and living in the wilderness several months a year, I don’t have power tools for these jobs; I use whetstones, diamond hones, strops, and files. Every blade I own can shave, including my hand axes, tomahawks, fighting hawks, khukris, machetes, bowies, fighters, etc. This is an essential part of owning a knife, after all what good is a dull blade? You are virtually guaranteed to cut yourself faster with a dull blade due to lack of purchase on surface you are attempting to cut.
However, this isn’t an article about sharpening, which can come at a later date if you want. This is an article about one specific knife from a relatively new blade crafter. Blacktag Knives and Rags; made by Rachel Oliver of Michigan. She creates camping, skinning, and working blades. Her prices range from $50 through $150 and without a doubt the money spent is worth it. The holster is just a cover for the blade, nothing special, you need to add the belt loop or purchase a specially made holster for the blade. However, the blade itself is where everything comes together.
Blade specifications of the one I purchased are as follows –
1. 1095 high carbon steel, well-tempered, it holds an edge well and is more difficult to sharpen than my baseline high carbon moras, which means the hardness/Rockwell is over 57 (this is good).
2. 1/8” of an inch thick at the spine, mora style grind ending in a concave edge
3. 3 and ¼” blade length, 1 and ¼” width from edge to spine
4. 3 and ½” handle, fits very well in the hand especially when holding it in the standard caping/ large game skinning hold.
5. Weight is around 4 ozs., very solid feeling.
When it came to me it had a hard sharp angle a little over 25 degrees and thin, I re-profiled this to allow for better ability to use as a skinning/caping knife; dropped it to a wide, shallow 17 degree angle approximately. I find this angle or even a 15 degree one works best for caping properly, especially with Arizona antelope and Coues deer. It is just small enough for rabbits (which are not extremely difficult) and large enough to easily work up through black bear should I decide to tag for one this year.
The testing for this blade was relatively simple; I purchase knives much the same way I purchase firearms, with specific intentions involved, it is the rare blade/firearm that is expected to do more than a single task at a time. I should note, I do have them and enjoy them as well. You will be seeing some reviews in the future from some of these.
1. Blade strength, I placed it in a vise with cloth and wood bracing it, using my substantial body weight I pushed and pulled and failed to cause it to move. (Again a good thing for this particular knife)
2. Edge longevity, I used it to prepare several meats, skinned out a couple of rabbits, cut through about 50 boxes post moving (new and better location) and it was still shaving sharp. A few swipes on the strop and I was able to easily slice paper again.
3. Grip retention, even with dirty hands, wet hands, and bloody hands and greasy hands it stayed nicely in my hand. The grip design was quite well thought out. For the pictures I wiped it down well with Ballistol, a personal favorite cleaner and lubricant for both firearms and knives.
4. I specifically requested that it have character, meaning, I did not WANT a knife that matched in every way, it needed to fit me. And this one does, and still looks VERY beautiful.
5. I will be building a leather holster for the knife, it will enclose the plastic/carbon holster it came in, and as sweat and heat are catalysts for rusted high carbon materials in Arizona.
Overall, I was extremely impressed with the blade and would not hesitate to recommend this young lady and her very skilled work to anyone who knows knives. Given my need to re-profile the edge I would suggest clarifying with her what it is you are planning on using it for. Otherwise this knife and manufacture gets 4 out of 5 stars from me.
Let me know your thoughts and ideas, and or if there is a specific brand you are interested in and if have it or have used it, I will gladly drop a review here. Remember, we are only as good as our equipment, and not all equipment MUST be made in a certain area to be quality. Test for yourselves, and above all, think about where you are, what you want and where you want to be.
Free the mind and the body will follow