A leader in the field of folders and tactical knives over the past couple of decades, Spyderco certainly hasn’t rested on its laurels after their many successes. Over the years, they’ve continued to expand and develop their line of knives to address all fields of interest for knife enthusiasts. That dedication to variety is demonstrated with the introduction of their new Bushcrafter.
I’ve enjoyed my experience with Spyderco knives over the years, but I’ll be honest. This knife took me by surprise in a couple of very different ways. The first time I heard of their new Bushcrafter knife, my immediate response was, “Huh? Spyderco?” It just seemed a little off the beaten path considering the more modern design styling of most of their line. The second way it took me by surprise was when I first held it in my hand. I talked with our Associate Editor Tim Stetzer about this experience over the phone. There are a lot of great knives out on the market. Many of them you appreciate for their asthetics and there are quite a few that you begin to appreciate more and more as you use them. Some you can just look at and know they are very nicely designed for their intended purpose. But, the Spyderco Bushcrafter was the first knife I ever held in my hand and the first word out of my mouth was, “Wow!”
What was it that caused me to issue that excited utterance? I haven’t a clue, and it may sound a bit hokey to some folks reading this article. But, that’s exactly what happened. I was so surprised by it, that’s I mentioned it to Tim when we were talking one evening. Of course my response is completely subjective and a direct result of my own tastes and preferences, so I won’t begin to promise that you’ll have the same experience. The handle is carved and contoured out of black G-10 perfectly for my grip. It felt like someone took a mold of my hand and made the handle just for me. But, I think part of what really grabbed me was the heft of the knife. Between the thick handle slabs and the handle steel itself, there is some real weight to the knife. It exudes quality and inspires confidence on the part of the user. You feel like you’ve got a real, heavy-duty tool at your disposal to take on whatever comes your way.
Yeah, I know. That’s a whole lot of Zen meets the way of the knife kind of patter, but that was my initial experience. But, it all comes down to how it performs in the field, doesn’t it? So, only time would tell if it was going to truly live up to my expectations. So, what are those expectations? Everyone out there has a different definition of a bushcraft knife and there are hundreds of designs on the market that all kinds of knife lovers would say falls into the range of a “bushcraft” blade. But, somewhere along the way a general consensus of sorts has coalesced into a more standard thought of what a bushcraft knife is and what it looks like. A large population believes that a bushcraft knife should be made of a high carbon steel that’s easy to sharpen in the field, hence the popular use of O-1 for the blade. A lot of traditionalists think it should have a Scandi type grind which makes it good for wood carving and makes it easier to sharpen. That’s even better for me since as I have mentioned before, I’m somewhat sharpening challenged. Scandi grinds also leave more steel than a few different grinds making the knife stronger and able to take a bit more abuse in the field.
Most bushcraft style knives will typically have a blade in the 4 to 5 inch range making it easier to carry and easier to control with finer tasks and chores. And, most of the knives I’ve seen labeled as traditional bushcrafters tend to have more hand filling and rounded (contoured) handles. That’s not to say all of them, but the traditionalists seem to have a lot of influence with including this aspect in the definition. I’ve been dabbling a bit in trying out more traditional style knives of this type, mainly with some of the Nordic styles I’ve obtained including some samples from Kellam Knives. The handles are countoured just as nicely, though not as weighty. Most are made of birch. Plus, the steel in most of those knives is quite a bit thinner than the Spyderco’s blade (just a little over 1/8 inch thick) making the knives signficantly lighter than the Spyderco version. I’m not saying this is a bad thing since it all depends on what role you intend for your knife to play, but they are not anywhere near as robust as the Spyderco Bushcrafter.
I ran the Bushcrafter through the gauntlet of typical woods tasks that most of us would use it for while playing outside. The first thing I did was try it out on some light chopping chores. Certainly, the Bushcrafter won’t be able to do some of the jobs we’ve done in the past with the longer, chopper style knives, but it does quite nicely when you limit it to reasonable work. This in mind, I took on a few sapling sized victims to take down with the Bushcrafter. The thickness and weight of the Bushcrafter helped a bit in getting some decent momentum and force behind the cuts during the chopping exercises. I didn’t have a lanyard on the Bushcrafter yet (one’s on the way from Scott’s Knots) so I wasn’t able to back up on the handle too far lest I lose control of the knife. Even so, I had no problem cutting through various pieces of wood that would be used for things like making a shelter or even batoning thicker pieces for firewood. While chopping isn’t really what a knife of this type is intended for, it’ll still do what you need if it’s the only tool on hand.
Next up was to try out the edge and see how it did with shaving wood. I did this with both green wood and older, dry stuff as well. Whether you’re making a spear, a digging stick, a stake, or just whipping up a feather stick, being able to have fine control over the cuts is a big part of a bushcrafting knife’s job. The Spyderco Bushcrafter stepped up and showed its prowess in this area as well. The green stuff wasn’t a problem at all. The Bushcrafter flew through the shaving process like it was hungry for green wood. The wood was easy to shape and to notch with the Scandi style grind on the Bushcrafter. This makes the knife handy for doing things like making triggers and such for your various traps if that’s in your repertoire. I’ll admit that this is till an area that I really need to develop, this type of activity where the Bushcrafter shines. I’d also like to point out here that during the chopping and carving tasks, I didn’t notice any hand fatigue while using the Bushcrafter. The thick ergonomic handle really does the job of making your work easier and less tiring as well.
I then decided to work with some drier wood which would definitely give me a good perspective on its cutting ability. This is where the feather stick test comes into play. Lots of folks like making feather sticks to help with building fires. It helps the piece of wood itself start burning a bit easier, but getting the shavings together in a pile makes a nice little bundle of tinder to get the fire going in the first place. Green wood isn’t going to work for this job so that’s why the drier stuff is needed. The Bushcrafter had no issue with serving up good shavings from the dry wood for the job. Now, it didn’t slip off as easily as the green wood, but it wasn’t difficult either. This was a good time for me to work on my technique as well. A little while ago, I picked up on a a new way to do this type of chore and decided to try it. Rather than using just my arm and hand to do the shaving, I tried out the task while keeping my arm straight and just bending at the waist to get the movement going. This seemed to help a bit and made the job a bit easier.
Finally, I gave the Bushcrafter a workout by processing some wood for a fire. Mainly, this consisted of doing some batoning to break larger pieces down to kindling and even some more tinder. The Bushcrafter did an excellent job at this as well. In fact, it did better than I thought it would. I’ve had experience in the past with knives that have a thin edge but wide spine ending up just binding up in the wood while batoning. This comes about because the thickness of the blade separates the wood enough that the edge doesn’t have anything to bite into so you end up forcing the knife through the wood with force and sheer will. This wasn’t the case with the the Bushcrafter at all. As long as I worked with pieces of wood that didn’t exceed the 4 inch lenth of the blade, I was good to go! So, even though I had to make sure to think ahead and work smart during the test, it was a breeze. The beefy build of the Bushcrafter stood up to this test quite nicely. And, since the blade is only 4 inches long, there were times that the only part of the blade that I was batoning ended up being the point. I would cringe if doing that with some knives because of worry that the point might break. At no time did I have any worry of this happening with the Bushcrafter.
After working through the larger pieces, I kept breaking the pieces down into smaller bits to get a nice pile of kindling together. After a fire is going, you can be less picky about the wood you throw into it. You can even get by with some wet stuff provided the fire is going well enough. But, actually getting the fire going is the trickiest part especially if the elements are working against you and you don’t have dry materials ready on the ground. That’s why this kind of processing is necessary from time to time, and on occasion a knife might be the only tool you have with you at the time. By the time it was all said and done, I had a great little pile of kindling to work with having even using a baton to chop-cut through pieces to split them in half. Through it all, the Bushcrafter kept rocking and rolling without pause. And, while I appreciate the more hard-core user’s appreciation of Moras and traditional styles like the ones I picked up from Kellam Knives, I wouldn’t rely on those types of knives to stand up to this kind of abuse. I really like my Wolverine and Fang, but I couldn’t imagine doing any real batoning with them. Regular cutting chores? Sure. But, their thin steel and stick tangs keep me from putting them through any real abusive conditions. That’s where in my mind the Spyerco Bushcrafter pulls ahead as a one-knife-does-it-all kind of tool.
The blade on the Spyderco Bushcrafter comes from the factory with a hair shaving edge. At this point, I’m not really surprised anymore. I’ve worked with and reviewed several Spyderco knives this past years (and currently working on a couple more) and all of them, without exception, have had extremely sharp edges. What’s more, the O-1 steel blade extends into a full tang handle that adds to the heft and strength of the knife I was talking about earlier. Maybe I shouldn’t have been, but I was surprised by the edge on the Bushcrafter even after I had already done a few tasks with it. If I do a hair shaving test, I usually do it out of the box to show the edge as it comes from the factory. But, this time I forgot to do the shaving test until after I already used the Bushcrafter a few times. However, I thought I’d give it a try anyway and was pleased to see the hair on my arm start coming off under application of the Bushcrafter’s edge. It wasn’t quite as screaming sharp as a factory-fresh Mora or even their own Paramilitary 2 that I’m currently reviewing, but they did a nice job with this one!
The only thing in the package that I wouldn’t qualify as stellar quality is the sheath that comes with the Bushcrafter. Sure, it’s functional enough, but it lacks that certain something that would make it a sheath worthy of the Bushcrafter. First, it has 6 grommets along the edge of the sheath- 3 on each side with 4 near the top and two at the bottom. I guess that’s a nice enough feature if you’re wanting to lash the sheath to a pack or something else. But, seeing how this is a more traditional knife, I think the grommets take away from the aesthetics and makes it look a bit cheaper over all. The belt loop on the back is pinned into place with two rivets as well, and I probably don’t need to mention my thoughts on those. Since I’ve only had the Bushcrafter to use for a couple of months, I can’t really tell you how well the sheath is going to hold up over the years. Only time will give us that answer.
The one thing that I did like about the sheath was the symmetrical design aspect. That allowed me to flip the knife in the sheath so I could carry it left-handed. After a while, the leather forms to the knife in that carry and makes a fairly snug fit. So, there’s little worry about it slipping out and getting lost on the trail. The Bushcrafter rides very deep in the sheath with only about 1.5 inches of the handle sticking out. It’s easy enough to extract from the sheath, but it might not hurt to go ahead and use a lanyard to help with the process. After using the sheath more and more, most of the little worries and niggles went away. I appreciated its functionality the more used it. I still don’t like the metal grommets and rivets, but I’m not feeling a pressing need to get a custom sheath made for it like I have for some of my other knives. So, I’m going to call my feelings on the sheath neutral and let the end user decide if it’s up to snuff for them.
There’s a train of thought out there that you can’t do a solid review on a knife unless you’ve used it day in and day out for months or even years. The thinking there is that over that period of time, you’ll have a much better chance to come across something that might show a tool’s weakness and you can run it through every test possible. It’s good logic and hard to argue. However, if sites like ours only did reviews after many months of intensive and exclusive use, well, we wouldn’t be able to do many reviews, would we? No, I haven’t used the Spyderco Bushcrafter for a year solid, and it hasn’t been the only knife I’ve used in the last year. However, I’ve taken it out with me on multiple occasions and ran it through its paces and it’s passed with flying colors every time. Plus, I think I’ve handled and used enough knives over the past twenty knives to get a pretty good feel for how a knife will perform. Given its parameters (style and materials), the Spyderco Bushcrafter is an excellent production knife that ticks off all the boxes when it comes to interpreting the concept of a modern bushcraft knife.
The Spyderco Bushcrafter blends the best elements of tradition and modern manufacturing. The use of high carbon O-1 steel is a nod to traditionalists who want a proven steel that’s easy to maintain in the field. The use of black G-10 for the handle slabs is an interesting contrast in technology, but works quite well. The two materials combined make a striking and attractive overall appearance that not only looks nice but is also quite functional. The handle is extremely comfortable and lends itself to hours of easy use, and the Scandi grind blade has proven itself time and again out in the field. All together, the Bushcrafter is an excellent tool to have along on the ride when you tackle the outdoors. With a little research on the net, you can find one for around $175.00. Personally, for a tool that does the work you need and that you can trust with absolute confidence, I think that price is worth it.
If you’re looking for a bushcraft knife that blends together the most popular concepts of what most folks believe is the ideal tool, I’d encourage you to give the Spyderco Bushcrafter a close look. There’s a lot more to it than simply meets the eye!