Historically Israel has been a country that has been on the forefront of technological advancements. Israeli scientists and engineers have helped advance such fields as genetics, computer science, agriculture and military and weapons technology. Israelis developed the Given endoscopic capsule, drip irrigation, the Uzi sub machine gun and advanced avionics in the F-16.
Last but not least, Dustar, the only serial production knife maker in Israel has improved and developed quite a number of knife designs, most notably for bushcraft purposes, the Dustar Magen.
Dustar is a family business and was founded by Meir Aziz in 1984. The company got its start using electro erosion processes, EDM wire-cutting techniques and CNC milling. Meir is a manufacturer of precision metal parts, molds, tools and dies. Hani Aziz, Meir’s daughter, started to work with her father in 2004 while learning mechanical engineering. They started dealing with knives in the end of 2004 after they met Alex Shamger, a local custom knife maker in Israel. Alex had come to the Dustar factory to cut a knife that he had designed on the EDM wire cutting machine. Meir and Alex became fast friends and on Alex’s suggestion, Meir started his knife making career. Shortly thereafter Meir and Hani Aziz became the first to produce knives serially in Israel. Their first model was the Model 1-Arad. A little more background on Meir and Hani Aziz is important. Both father and daughter are Jewish Israeli citizens, and are required by Israeli law to have served a minimum of two years military service for women, three years for men, and both have performed their service. Both are combat veterans and respect the value of a good knife, and it shows in their work.
I learned about Dustar knives at Blade Show 2011 in Atlanta, GA. The Dustar table had a well populated display of several knife designs that I am accustomed to and some that I had not seen before. After meeting Hani I immediately thought she was just a sales representative because she was so knowledgeable about her knives. After a brief conversation about her father Meir, I was quickly corrected and found that Hani was one of, if not, the major force at Dustar knives. Eventually our conversation moved to Dustar’ knives. The knives were mainly combat and fighting designs with some utility styles. One knife, the “Magen”, caught my eye immediately. The Dustar Magen (the Hebrew word “magen” translates to “shield”) is rated by the company as a utility blade. The blade shape is consistent with any bushcraft blade design with a few subtle differences that I will comment on soon.
The Dustar Magen comes in a simple white box with blue lettering. Contained inside are the knife and a black leather sheath. The Magen is a full tang knife that is 9 5/8 inches in overall length and 5 mm thick, with a 4 3/4 inch long blade. The blade is constructed from Swedish D2 steel treated at a RC of 57-58, making it capable of holding a very sharp edge while being incredibly easy to sharpen. The edge is a hybrid scandi. The G-10 handles are well shaped, secured with three fasteners and feel solid in the hand. One of the very cool things about this knife is the grind work all over it. Even though every Dustar knife is cut by an EDM wire cutting machine, Meir and Hani have taken special care not to have left unnecessary edges on the knife. The spine of the knife is ground from tip to butt in a very unique way. The spine of the blade the ground flat, creating ninety degree angles, so that the user can use a baton or strike a fire steel effectively. Along the handle the spine is rounded and textured so that there are no sharp edges to muck up hands and retain grip.
A black leather “bushcraft” style sheath is included with the Magen. The leather is good quality and has uniform color. The seam is glued together and riveted. After some time, the sheath has loosened a little more than I would like. At the time I received this knife from Hani Aziz, she mentioned that a new sheath with stitching was in development.
Because this knife was designed and tested for combat by the IDF, I tried to test scenarios that would complement that as well as bushcraft use. Let us start with the combat scenarios. The first thing I did with this knife was issue it to combat veterans and asked them to think of ways they would have used it in combat. Surprisingly every vet’s first question was “what is it designed for?” After letting them know it was a utility blade, the ideas started flowing. The Magen was first used to dig a hole. Not a fox hole but a small one square foot pit that something could be buried in or planted. The Magen did well. A hole was dug, mainly cut, pretty rapidly. The wear on the edge was next to nothing. Admittedly on the first attempt the soil did not contain any rocks in large quantities. Next we dug up roots for wild edibles and medicinals. The soil was in those cases usually pretty rocky, but again the edge held. Next we damaged all sorts of materials. We severed metal retaining bands on crates, pried pallets apart, cut boxes, cut through 10 gauge copper wire, stabbed various plastic containers and ripped apart the sidewalls of tires. Don’t do that, by the way, unless you are really careful, I almost made my left thumb a charm to hang around my neck. We cut all manner of Mil-spec cords and rope, from paracord to the stuff cargo nets are made of. The Magen went right through them with little catching and fraying of the ends. The thicker rope we actually had to baton through. The tip was used to loosen screws, break glass, open cans, strip paint; I even removed a couple splinters from my hands from the pallets. Zero problems keeping the edge. In all aspects the Magen performed like a utility blade. I am very proud of its performance so far.
Bush crafting with this blade was a joy. I ran the standard bushcraft tests on the knife. The first was batoning. The Magen is pretty thick for a knife its size, so batoning really was not a chore. The blade wedge sank in clean and produced decent chunks of firewood and kindling. Batoning against the grain was no fun though. I do not know if the blade was too thick or if the Sugar Maple wood I used was too green but I had a couple problems with pieces over two inches in diameter. The tip of the blade is fantastic for making fireboards. The angle of the tip coupled with the modified scandi grind drilled perfect shallow holes, and cut great notches in my new fireboard. The flat spine across the blade struck a fire steel superbly, lots of sparks.
In the bush kitchen I have to say I am on the fence about the Magen. This knife is great at butchering meat, but not so great at vegetable preparation. I butchered and deboned several chickens with this knife. The stiffness and shape of the blade were perfect for popping joints and cutting bone. The meat was cut well but not very thin. A couple of steaks felt the wrath of the Magen as well and it was a phenomenal steak knife. Vegetable preparation however was a mess. Unless you are gutting a pumpkin or some other species of squash, save yourself some time and use your normal vegetable knife. The blade shape of the Magen is not conducive to slicing tomatoes, cucumbers, celery or any other soft vegetable. Keep in mind though that it is a “utility” knife and deserves better punishment than kitchen duty.
I had The Magen for an extended period of time, and it eventually needed to be sharpened. I really kind of dreaded this activity because of the D2 blade. Most D2 steel blades I have sharpened, while sharp in the end, have been a real pain to break in and have had a RC typically in the low 60’s. The Magen however has a RC of 57-58. I asked Hani why she did it this way, and she said “it is because that is when the steel takes its best features in terms of elasticity, strength, wear and maintenance of the tip”. I sharpened the blade with three unnamed wet stones, a course, medium, and fine of the usual grits. Within a half hour I had returned the edge to razor sharpness. I followed the same bevel already ground into the blade. The refurbished edge held up as well as the factory edge and is still going strong.
The Dustar Magen is an Israeli combat utility knife, designed, produced and tested by combat veterans. This knife has seen combat action in some capacity in the Middle East and I am sure elsewhere. Some soldier across the world is carrying and using this knife as you are reading this. The design is sound, the blade is sharp and the heat treating is flawless. Meir and Hani Aziz along with Dustar, I am sure, will become well known names in this country and in the bushcraft communities at large.
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