Knife Designers and custom knives
It is late in the clear blue afternoon and the setting sun is turning the few clouds in the sky pink. I am making my way back home, tromping through the fresh snow. The temperature is an unseasonably warm 15 degrees. F, and everything is quiet around me. The woods are quiet and the only tracks I see are the ones I made coming in. This where you go when you want to be nowhere.
Why was I out here on this clear winter evening. It was she first day of testing two incredible knives that were just asking to be put to use. Used for what? Well, camping, hunting, fire making, food prep and, most of all, just being company on outings like this. The first is a Finnish pattern with the traditional Scandal grind and useful shape. The especially of the Enzo trapper though, actually lies in the handle. This is one of the relatively few full tang Scandi blades in production. Not only full-tang but also skeletonized to keep a proper balance in the hand. Couple the innovative design with handle options, such as snake wood, curly birch and ivory Elforin and you have the blade that makes your heart skin a beat.
The second is the RAT Cutlery RC-3 a knife designed by two men with the experience of two decades of living tools not only to survive but to make themselves comfortable. When this kind of experience is put into the design, you often have a knife that works and a design that understands the various uses a knife may be put to, and performs them with aplomb. If I am only going to carry one how does one decide on the best knife? My only choice is to pit these two knives to use, and see how they stack up. Not only does the knife I carry must help build fires. It may have to cut rope, perform kitchen duties or clean spruce grouse on a crisp fall morning. What better wat to find the strength of a knife than actually using it.
The first to be put to use was the RC-3. From the specifications and the pictures I saw I expected this to be a good knife. What I was not expecting was to like it as much as I did. As soon as you have this knife in your hand you realize all the though and experience that went into the design. The thing you will notice first is the triple retention sheath. This is designed to make sure that the knife will always be there. While this is important to those in specialized lines of work such as paratroopers or smoke jumpers, you may not realize that it can be important to many others as well. This could easily be kept as a backup survival knife under a snowsuit without any fear of it falling out. It is also nice to know that if you took a nasty fall in the great outdoors or had an unexpected dunking, you would still have your knife on you. The sheath also includes a clip to go in place of the jump proof backing for other modes of carry. I have been carrying this knife daily for nearly two weeks using the included clip. It makes for an ultra-high ride carry that disappears under a T-shirt.
For the last two weeks I have been building fires, hiking in the snow and just enjoying the great outdoors. This knife has made fuzz sticks for a fire, shaved fatwood for tinder, cut rope and para cord and bored holes in a plastic sled. And that was before I got it in the house. Inside it has worked right along with me while making dinner, cutting high-density tubing, opening packages, cutting cord and even helped with a bit of leather work.
At this point I feel like I have enough use to get a feel for the strengths and weaknesses of this knife. What you don’t see from any pictures is how well all the elements work together. The coils is well placed, it adds a couple of grips that would be very useful at times. Using the coil the belly of the blade is closer to your hand, like some skinning patterns. The handle itself is grippe even when wet, and is impervious to moisture. Surprising to me was how well the handle worked, even with the slim scales. While I did not use it for extended and felt good in the hand.
This is a slim, tough, versatile knife with a knockout sheath system. When I mentioned to Jeff Randall of Rat Cutlery that this knife could hold a wicked edge by being tempered harder he simply referred me to the video. It is something special to bend a production knife 45 degrees and have it return back straight again. That is something that I would not even try with many knives I own. There was no cracking, no taking a set, only a hard0use knife.
So I had a hard use knife designed for anything I may encounter in a size and shape that makes it easy to carry along with me. But what if you prefer something more traditional? You know, beautiful wood a nicely polished blade and leather a sheath. Ideally it would also have a full tang just for the confidence you get from seeing that solid piece of metal running from the tip to the butt. Apparently, Dennis of Brisa’s knife works was thinking something similar but he wanted to build knives similar but he wants to build knives similar traditional patterns that are noted for their balance.
Finnish knives have been the same for decades, and many feel there is nothing to change. Dennis wanted to use the full tang of many western knives, but also keep the useful Finnish blade profile. This was difficult though because many Nordic knives are noted for their liveliness in the hand due to the lightweight stick tang. Enter the skeletonized tang of the Enzo Trapper, which had a full tang for strength and is skeletonized for lighter weight and balance. These blades are made in cooperation with Lauri of Finland with additional design from British knife maker Stuart Mitchell of Sheffield, England. You can see that a lot of work was put into making this design something special.
I have a soft spot in my heart for traditional patterns, but also like the full tang knives. I kept saying “When I find a full tang Scandi that isn’t a full-on custom, I won’t be able to resist.” When I saw the picture of three of these Enzo trappers on the Brisa Web site, I knew my time was up, Handle choices were box elder burl, curly maple Elforin and many others. Blades come in your choice of carbon, stainless or a hollow ground D2 option. I ordered only the bare blade of one of the three available options. I took on the challenge of finding some really nice looking wood for the bare blade to make an appropriate sheath. While these knives come built to your specifications in a leather sheath, they are also available in kit from, or as the bare blade, like I ordered. The knife built on the carbon rapper blade is the one I did my testing with while I waited for some current production samples from Dennis.
After carrying the RC-3 for nearly two weeks I noticed all kinds of things about the Enzo Trapper. The first thing I noticed was the carry system. The Enzo’s comfortable shape does not ride up close like the RC-3. The second is the feeling you get when you pull out the shiny crisp blade. This knife is a joy to look at and tasks are looked at with anticipation to see how the knife will perform and perform it does. As you would expect it excels at cutting wood. In letting a wooden handrail for two small parts seemed intuitive. What you would not expect is the easy way it slid through leather approximately 1/8 inch thick.
This is a pretty knife and even those who aren’t “knife people” notice it. It has the looks I like and I am finding out it also has the performance to back it up. As the knife loses its razor edge, it does so evenly so what it dulls gradually not all at once. This way I know it is losing sharpness before it becomes a dull useless tool. After a small amount of cutting leather and cardboard a total of six strokes brought it up to a very nice sharpness. It really seems like this steel takes an edge well. Just for fun I measured it by laying the knife on a postal scale using it to cut string. These cuts took less than 2 ounces of pressure without having to spend any appreciable time on the edge. The only thing I had done was the mentioned six strokes on a crock stick. The 2 ounces of pressure meant that the knife should simply fall through the thread with its weight. In case you are wondering yes, it did. Who knows what kind of an edge you could get by spending a little time on it.
I did not do any heavy use testing for a reason. I believe that knives like these are designed as knives not pry bars, bolt cutters or shovels. I did however do a couple of drops onto a wooden floor from waist height so they landed point first. This can happen in real use and I was interested to see the results. The RC-3stuck in the floor and quivered for a second due to its flexibility. Light rub marks showed on the coating on the first 1/8 inch of the tip. It did not chip on this test, though I was a little disappointed that it suffered any damage at all. These were two knives of similar size made with two totally different concepts in mind. I have carried these daily and spend time using them on various tasks. Doing so allows a person to understand why they were designed the way they were and what they excel at. I’ve cut wood cardboard, leather, string, vegetables and packing tape, among other things. I’ve carried them in nice clothes as well as in clothes for work and play. So, which knife is the best.
Choose the correct knife for you
If I wanted a knife that needed to be small, tough and used for some difficult jobs, I would choose the RC-3. This is a knife that I know could ride under a shirt snowsuit or along with other gear and would always be there. It makes a nice tool to back up a precision cutting tool, due to its toughness. Tromp through the snow or slide down a hill, and this knife will stay along for the ride. It has a sheath that can be configured in several ways for various users. If I wanted a tough knife in a small package this is the one I would take. If I wanted a beautiful knife in a more traditional pattern that takes a very good edge, the Enzo Trapper stand head and shoulders above the rest. This knife has most everything in one very nice package. Nice looks, beautiful handles a leather sheath useful patterns a full tang and great edge holding just to mention a few things I like about this knife. If I wanted a knife to camp or hunt with this is the one I would take. Whatever your endeavor here are two well designed knives that could be exactly what you are looking for. Whether you want a tough as nails knife made for all the dirty work on you want a traditional pattern with great looks and performance to match, test these out.