Bowhunting World June 1990
Choosing Knives and Sharpeners – By Tim Dehn
Like your bow and broadhead -tipped arrows, a good hunting
knife is standard equipment for bowhunters. Here’s a
look at the wide range available, along with other cutting tools and
sharpeners designed for the sportsman.
I’d owned and lost more than a dozen jackknives before I bought my first hunt-
ing knife, but I hadn’t learned much about cutting tools. The knife I bought as a
teen had a long, narrow blade more suited to stabbing than cutting, and a smooth and slippery plastic handle. I learned later that the tang collected blood and din, the leather
sheath collected odor, and the gleaming blade wasn’t rust proof.
Today, I use two hunting knives, worlds apart in form but both capable of chores from
digging a broadhead loose from a log to field dressing and butchering big game.
The knife I love to show off is a fixed-blade model that retails for about $95. It has a
heavy, stainless-steel blade with thumb serrations on the back and a groove for my index finger below. The polished stainless guard and hilt flow smoothly into the tough Micarta handle. The knife is a work of art that feels like part of your hand when you use it.
But I rarely do. That knife weighs nearly a pound and on hunting trips it’s usually back at camp or in the truck. The knife I carry is a folding lock blade from Western Cutlery with a green, checkered Valox handle and simple Cordura sheath. The 3 1/2-inch stainless steel blade is longer than I need and yet the knife and sheath together weigh under four ounces.
There’s more than a dozen companies producing folding hunting knives today and I
wasn’t surprised to find Field Contributor Deano Farkas also prefers that style, though
his Lightweight Lockback by Schrade incorporates a gut hook cut into the back of the drop-point blade.
Farkas said it is impossible to over-emphasize the importance of a sharp knife that will
hold an edge. He has field-dressed more than 100 whitetails, and adds “Ninety-nine percent of them have been by myself. You usually don’t have anyone to help you hold the legs, and often by the time you get out of the stand and track your deer it’s pretty late at night.
With the gut hook, I’m not sticking them in the stomach under conditions like that .”
Lightweight folding knifes aren’t the best for splitting bone, but that’s not how Farkas
uses it. He cuts around the rectum and pulls it out, rather than splitting the pelvis to get at it.
“I’ve found if you split the pelvis in the field, and you have to drag the deer any distance, you get a lot more dirt in the body cavity.” Farkas reaches up inside the chest cavity to cut the windpipe and to free the diaphragm from the ribcage. “That’s another thing I like about a folding knife. With a fixed blade, I’ve often cut myself doing this. With a folding knife I can hold the blade almost closed as I slip it inside, then flip it open once I’m in position to start cutting.”
The nylon sheath most hunting knives come with today may not look as nice as
leather, but it’s far more practical for scent-conscious bowhunters. “Even if you try to
wipe your blade off, some blood is going to get in the sheath and that can really start to
stink,” Farkas said. “When my nylon sheath gets dirty, I just wash it off with a little baking soda and warm water.”
Back home in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Farkas uses other knives to skin and butcher
big game. “I do my own deer, 100 percent. A buddy and I have invested in a meat grinder, a meat slicer, the whole bit. I hang the deer on a gambrel in the garage or the backyard, weather permitting. Then I skin it, cut the two front quarters off, take the loins out, split the deer down the backbone, and take the ribs and hind quarters off.
Farkas owns a D-shaped meat saw, but said he usually uses a PVC-plastic pipe saw to
split the backbone. The wider blade doesn’t bind even when he’s working alone, and he
said the sport saws popular with hunters today would probably work just as well.
I’d have to agree, judging by the way my Gerber folding saw zips through hard and
softwoods as I’m clearing shooting lanes.
Like similar models from Game Tracker and Coghlans, the folding saw has a lightweight plastic handle and an aggressive tooth design that cuts on the return stroke to minimize pinching. In my treestand, it adds a foot to my reach as I zip twigs and small branches out of the way. And at ground level, I’ve huffed my
way through a 4-inch dead oak in under two minutes.
Anyone who has spent much time in front of display cases knows hunting knives today
come in an almost infinite variety that makes categorizing them very difficult. You could call the Buck Fieldmate a sheath knife, but don’t picture a staghorn handle and harness leather sheath. This 1989 introduction has a finger—grooved olive drab Kraton handle, a camo nylon sheath and a 5 1/2-inch blade we’ll let the people at Buck Knives explain. The back of it features “an emergency saw for cutting wood, metal or ice and a sharpened, serrated clip for cutting rope, wet or dry.”
Try to describe the Game Skinner from Outdoor Edge, and you better have a picture
with you. David Bloch designed the unique cutting tool as a senior design project in engineering school. He got his degree in mechanical engineering, but he has been using it at the cutlery firm he now heads in Boulder, Colorado.
“My Game Skinner combines the T—handle grip of a push knife, the blade of an Es-
kimo Ulu, and a gut hook. It ’s designed to do the whole job on animals as big as elk — gutting, skinning and quartering.” While the Game Skinner has a thick, 3-
inch blade Bloch said you can pound through a bull elk’s pelvis, the 2 5/ 8-inch blade on the Game Trapper will easily handle whitetails and mule deer. Both knives can be reversed in the hand as you are pulling on hide. “You just keep the blade outward of your fingers as you work and you don’t have to sit it down and risk losing it or getting it dirty,” Bloch explained.
Like most hunting knives on the market today, those from Outdoor Edge use rust-
proof stainless steel blades that are easy to care for but so hard that sharpening on natural stones can be difficult. That’s one reason for the popularity of the diamond embedded whetstones like those from Diamond Machining Technology (DMT).
DMT used to build diamond segments for the stone-cutting industry, Elizabeth Powell
told Bowhunting World, and when most of that work went overseas in the late l970’s she and husband Dave sought other markets for the company’s expertise in industrial diamonds. “Our first knife sharpener was a round, 3-inch Diamond Whetstone that
looked a lot like a hockey puck. We were making grinding wheels at the time and had to cut the center out, and we sent some of those to L.L. Bean & Company in Freeport, Maine.
They liked how fast they sharpened knives, but not the shape .” It wasn’t long before DMT’s Marborough, Massachusetts, plant was cranking out rectangular Diamond Whetstones from 3-inch to 12-inch, all with a unique, polka-dot appearance because the diamond-embedded metal has circles of plastic interrupting it. “Our pat-
ented process gives you an interrupted cut that is much more aggressive than a continuous surface. The plastic dots provide a place for the filings to collect and let the diamond portion cut like the teeth on a saw.”
Anyone investing in a Diamond Whetstone ought to also invest in the time it takes to
read the instructions. These “stones” are used with water, not oil, and a light touch is
best. “Depending on the type of steel, Diamond Whetstones can sharpen from 10 to 100 times faster than natural stones,” Powell said. “We tell people to stroke their diamonds, don’t hack them.”
While the smaller DMT models will fit in carrying sheaths, hunters may prefer the
Diafold models because of their built-in handles. Originally produced in round, rod styles ideal for touch up, the Diafolds are also sold with 4-inch Diamond Whetstones capable of restoring the edge to any hunting knife. Offered in fine, coarse and extra coarse, the fine is the most popular because it is easy to use without removing too much material from the blade. “You really just need a single Diamond Whetstone,” Powell acknowledged. “You can get a super clean edge with just the fine even if
it takes a little longer that way. And we don’t sell our Diamond Broadhead Sharpener in anything but fine, because broadheads don’t get that dull .”
The broadhead sharpener from DMT uses a pair of 3-inch Diamond Whetstones on an
angle-adjustable plastic base. Depending on what you spend for broadheads or replacement blades, it could pay for itself in a couple seasons.
Broadhead hones are also available from Bear Archery dealers, because Bear offers
hones with natural or ceramic stones from TruAngle. New for 1990, Bear’s own Check-
point Broadhead Sharpener combines carbide cutting wheels with an Arkansas Stone on a comfortable composite handle.
Firms that build sharpeners are also beginning to offer sharpening guides, recognizing that in today’s world many of us didn’t learn how to put the right angle on a cutting
tool at our father ’s knee. Two I’ve seen in use are sharpener systems from Lansky and GATCO, the latter an acronym for the Great American Tool Company. Both firms team a selection of oil stones in plastic holders with a knife-sharpening guide that adjusts for different angles.
The Lansky honing guide can be hand-held or mounted on its base and bolted to a work-bench. With the knife blade clamped in it, a rod is attached to one of the hones and then placed through a slot in the guide. With a series of smooth, even strokes you can quickly put a uniform edge on one side of the knife, then flip the clamp 180 degrees to finish the job.
GATCO uses synthetic oil stones it claims are more uniform and faster—cutting than most natural stones. The stones are mounted in color-coded plastic handles and the gold-anodized guide rods slide back into the handles for storage. GATCO lets you start with a single stone system, choose one with three or five synthetic stones, or invest in the Diamond Hone Sharpening System and really put an edge on your hunting knives fast.
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