Some lessons are easy to accept, while others are stubbornly ignored. But if a student finally allows knowledge to sink in, he grows into a new understanding. Then he is inevitably baffled as to why he fought so hard against learning or trying something different. Today I am that student. The Tavian bushcraft knife by Condor Tool & Knife taught me a few valuable lessons, and I am happy to pass my newly acquired knowledge on to you.
Over the years, my knife interests became focused on getting a knife with perfect fit and finish and the latest high-tech steels. But each time I acquired my dream knife, some trivial blemish disappointed me. What the Tavian taught me is that new steels, complex locking systems, and expensive handle materials can seem really cool, but in the end they are not required. Sometimes common materials are the right materials, and a straight-forward design gives you exactly what you need.
The Tavian was designed by Joe Flowers of Condor Tool & Knife. I corresponded with Joe to ask him about the unique design of the Tavian. He said, “I wanted something that could ride lightly on the hip but could still be used hard. I wanted something that looked a little different than your normal craft knife, and had a handle that could be at home in the hands of a kid or a large adult.” The 4.5 inch handle is made of a natural-finished hardwood that is smooth to the touch. It is pinned to the tang in three places and has a roundish shape that fills the hand. Condor Tool & Knife included a lanyard hole made of what looks to be brass. The end of the handle is wider, tapering as it approaches the blade. I measured the circumference of the handle, and it came to about 3 inches near the butt of the handle and about 2.5 inches where the handle meets the beginning of the blade. There is a small, half finger guard near the choil to help prevent the hand from sliding onto the blade during use.
The Tavian’s blade is a hair shorter than 4.5 inches, is made of 1075 high carbon steel, and comes with a Scandinavian grind. It has a full tang to add to the overall strength of the knife. The blade is relatively narrow at about 1 inch for the majority of its length. The blade has a bit of a rustic, rough-hewn look to its finish. Interestingly, the unground portion of the blade is covered with some sort of smooth, blackened coating which should help prevent corrosion. Out of the box, the blade was not sharp enough to shave. The overall length of the knife is just about 9 inches, so this knife falls into what I would call the medium-sized fixed-blade category.
Condor describes the brown, pouch-style sheath as “Handcrafted Welted Leather.” The high quality leather is thick, well finished, and neatly stitched, telling me that the maker knew what he was doing. There are 2 bolted pins at each end of the stitching that also help to fortify it. A sturdy belt loop allows the user to hang the sheath on the waist. There is no loop or strap to keep the knife locked in, but 75 percent of the knife sits securely in the sheath.
I ran the knife through a variety of tests that required a good grip. The wood is sanded smooth and does not include features designed to provide extra grip, but I did not have trouble keeping my hand secure. After several tests, my hand became a little sweaty, improving my grip just a bit. I like the tubular shape of the handle because it filled the hand and did not cause any painful hotspots during prolonged use.
Earlier I mentioned that the Tavian’s edge was relatively dull when I received it. I do not consider this a problem because I prefer to put my own edges on my knives anyway. I got out my Edge Pro Apex knife sharpener to put an edge on the blade. The 1075 steel took a fine edge and was very easy to sharpen all the way up to the 1000-grit and on to the 3000-grit polishing tape. I was able to put a mirror finish on the edge. The knife sliced paper with ease and shaved arm hairs by scaring them off before the edge hit them. While 1075 is not a stainless steel, I did not have any corrosion problems during the time I have used the knife. I will gladly risk some minor patina or rust in exchange for the edge-holding qualities of 1075 steel.
The first cutting test was to slice up a pizza box for the trash. The pizza box was made of thick cardboard, so I felt it would be a good test of the edge-holding capabilities of the 1075 steel. I slashed the large pizza box into a pile of slivers. Afterward, the knife still shaved without much difficulty.
My next test was to use the knife tip to drill a hole into some random fallen tree branches to see how the tip faired. The knife has a somewhat narrow, pointy blade, so I twisted and drove the tip into the wood, spinning it to create a hole about .5 of an inch deep and .75 of an inch wide. No chipping or tip breakage occurred.
Next, I did some general whittling of some sticks that fell from a maple tree in my backyard. I stripped the bark and whittled the whole foot of wood. The knife handle was comfortable and the blade carved easily. After these three tests, the blade was just shy of being able to shave. A very usable edge remained.
Weeks earlier, I ran the Tavian through some batoning and fuzz stick tests with my bushcraft-loving friend Todd. We had no problems splitting pieces of wood by whacking the spine of the blade with a large stick and driving the knife through the wood. We also made a few fuzz sticks, and just like my other whittling tests, the knife performed without flaw.
Finally, the Tavian was also put on Halloween decorating duty. My five-year-old son asked me to carve a pumpkin for him, and he then handed me an odd pumpkin the size of a baseball. The fine, pointy tip made the task easy, and he was happy with the results.
The simple design combined with simple materials begets a fully functional, economical knife. The lesson here is that fancy, complex designs push the knife industry forward, but a simply designed knife will get the job done with excellent results. The Tavian is strong, lightweight, well-built, and comes with an equally impressive sheath. The Scandi grind and 1075 steel performed very well, and edge retention was excellent. The retail price is $39.98, but I did a quick search on the web and found prices in the $24 to $42 range. For the money, this knife provides an excellent value.
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