The excitement in the air was electric. Each person stood guard at their campsite with their eyes nervously scanning everyone else. No one wanted to miss a deal. There were goods to be had whether traded or sold, but you had to be one of the first in line. Was it going to be Joe with his multitude of Swiss Army Knives and Multi-Tools or would it be Charlie May bringing in a few of his best samples of bladeware? Everyone started unpacking their barter goods carefully, making sure to be aware of everything else that was happening around them. You could see each person in the trade area trying to decided whether or not to hold back their best items in case they might be needed for trade. It was the familiar dance of the Barter Fair at the 7th Annual Practice What You Preach camp-out this past April. You’ve got to be careful not to miss anything and quick to jump on what you like. Right off the bat, I missed out on a Doug Ritter fixed blade survival knife. There were about twenty of us circled around a large blanket of blades that looked liked someone had raided from a metro property room. But, that Ritter knive stood out like a jewel, just barely visible in the second layer of steel in the pile. By the time I made my away around about seven people to get to the knife, it was gone. I quickly surveyed the crowd and saw the happy little idiot who got to it first dancing with glee. What the Lord giveth…
But, behind the dancing Victor Of The Spoils, I saw another bustle of activity on the fringes of the crowd. There were only two or three people around a couple of other guys, but there was something frantic and urgent in their actions. I thought I’d take a chance and mosey on over. Actually, it was more of a scuttle than a mosey. No time for moseying around this pack of wolves. As soon as I got in the new mix, I found out it was the two guys I’d heard were coming from Blind Horse Knives. The owners’ names were L.T. Wright and Dan Coppins. In all honesty, I hadn’t heard of them until that point, and really didn’t know much about them. The only thing I knew was that I wanted that little knife they were showing off to the growing crowd. Let me say right now, that I have a bit of a fetish for small fixed blade knives–especially neck knives. Now, it can’t be too small like some companies make as I don’t think you can get a good purchase on a grip that accommodates only one finger and thumb. But, what I saw sparkling before my eyes in the afternoon sunlight fit the bill just perfectly. I gently pushed forward through the crowd raising an eyebrow or two as I did. I wouldn’t be deterred. Before I knew it I was at the front of the crowd wrestling the little knife away from L.T. Wright while pushing some bills at him with my other hand. The little precious was mine!!
The knife I’m referring to is what they call their Patch Knife. When I spoke on the phone with L.T. Wright on July 11th, he explained the origin of this knife and its name. He told me about a time when he was out antique shopping and came across a little knife that caught his eye . He questioned the seller and was told that it was called a Patch Knife for its use in cutting patches for muskets. This name and concept stuck with him until he and his partner were able to come out with their own concept of such a knife. That was the knife that I quickly tore from L.T.’s grasp and added to my collection. Not only is the knife a small tool able to be worn about the neck with ease, but it has several unique features that add to its appeal. First, though a small knife, it has a substantial handle for an easy and dextrous grip, and the blade shape has almost a triangular profile. The finish on the knife made me think back to other other knives that were older and had that nice patina of use and history to them. Mark that as a plus for the Patch Knife as well. Finally, one of the intriguing features of the knife is that it’s made of old saw blade steel. While the Patch Knife is hand made, the cost is kept down because of the type of steel that is used.
Over the phone, L.T. gave me a little background on the concept of using saw blade steel and on the history of the company as well. Blind Horse Knives has been in business since June 01, 2008. The company got its name from L.T.’s great, great uncle’s adventure in building a shack in the woods with only the help of a blind horse to assist in the heavy labor. The little shack was more of a place for this gentleman to get away from it all–especially the missus when there was a fuss going on. She referred to his little building in the woods as the "Pout House". What really appealed to L.T. and others that heard the story was the thought of that old blind horse that helped his great, great uncle finish the little project. Somewhere along the way, L.T. Wright and Dan Coppins decided that story would be a great basis for a company name. Hence, the origin of Blind Horse Knives!
What I was most interested in hearing about from L.T. when I was talking to him on the phone was the concept of using the saw blade steel. He said that their main purpose for doing that was to create a custom knife that was in reach for just about anybody. That thought is further exemplified by their Tiger Knapp series of knives which retail for about $30.00. That’s not a bad price for a knife that’s hand made in the U.S.A. The Tiger Knapp knife got its name from the tiger-stripe design across the length of the knife achieving a "flint-napped" look. The Patch Knife that I bought was a little more expensive at $50.00, but that included Fiddleback Maple scales, the patina finish, and the leather neck sheath complete with faux bone beads. The neck sheath is really a nice touch and adds a rustic feel to the whole outfit. I believe the sheath is extra now, but even so, that’s still a great price for such an attractive and imminently usable knife. I know a lot of people around me that spend hundreds of dollars for custom knives (including myself), so to get a knife that’s this attractive at such a low price is a real steal!! Even if it’s attractive, the fate of the knife depends on its true usability. L.T. stated that the steel used in the Patch Knife and the Tiger Knapp Knife was equivalent to 4140 steel and is heat treated to a Rockwell hardess of about 53-54 by Peter’s Heat Treatment. That group also does a cryogenic treatment during the process as well. All that was left for me was to wring out my Patch Knife on ordinary, every day chores.
One of my favorite knives that I have carried on a neck chain for the past several years has been a rather utilitarian fare. It’s a 154CM version of Rob Simonich’s Talon design. This particular model was made by the now defunct Camillus Knives, but I love the design and feel of the handle and it has been a great blade! I had a Simonich Talon in Talonite, but I traded it as I preferred my 154CM model for every day use and the Talonite model just wasn’t getting used. The Talon has a 3.5 inch blade and is housed in a kydex sheath that’s attached to my neck chain. While I love the knife and the retention of the kydex that allows for inverted carry, it is just a little "plain" for lack of a better word. Also, with the 4" handle, the Talon really is just a wee bit larger than needed for a neck knife. Even though it’s been very useful, you do know that it’s there. That’s what really attracted me to the Patch Knife that L.T. was showing off to the crowd. Besides the good-looking sheath and leather neck strap, it’s a bit more diminuitive than the Talon. Having worn the Patch Knife on several occassions already, I can tell you that you forget it’s even there. The blade is 2 5/8" long and serves to lighten the load a bit on the neck. With the way the sheath is designed, you have to carry the knife right-side-up, but I found that access to the blade in that position was no problem for me at all.
About a week ago, my friend Terrill Hoffman (photographer and author for Tactical Knives) invited me back down to the hills of North Carolina for a weekend of roughing it. The trick was to keep the equipment sparse and live out of what’s just in our emergency packs. Of course I accepted the invitation along with Joe Flowers and just about the first thing I did when I hit the road was to slip that little patch knife over my head and around my neck. Little did I know how handy that knife was going to be during the coming weekend. As mentioned, hanging from the neck, the Patch Knife is quite handy since it’s quick to retrieve and to re-sheath when you’re done with your task. No fumbling around in the pockets or reaching back for the broadsword hanging on the belt. Over the weekend in the woods, I used a knife for lots of little tasks including setting up and tying down my shelter (Sil-Tarp), opening meals, whittling wood, tinkering with fishing gear, and other sundry tasks. By Sunday afternoon, I realized that I hadn’t used any other knife available to me other than the Patch Knife (and I had plenty) for the whole weekend. The sole exception was when I used a Swiss Army Farmer for the saw so I could trim up the poles on my shelter. Other than that, the Patch Knife did everything else that I needed during the weekend. I was very satsified with its performance, and was very pleased with that pleasant sensation of zipping through something like it wasn’t even there. The Patch Knife comes with a very sharp edge, and its compostion allows for easy maintenance in keeping that shaving-edge sharpness. The other nice thing about, contrary to the usual Simonich Talon, I barely noticed the knife was there when I wasn’t using it. It was light, short, and didn’t swing around like a plumb-bob when I moved.
I am absolutely sold on this knife! I don’t give false praise. If I see something that I like because of its design or potential to be better, I will write about it and give suggestions while noting that potential. If something is really just a piece of junk, well, I just won’t write about it. There’s no point in wasting time writing up an article on something that just won’t do the trick and no real reason to trash a company or product unless there’s something along the lines of deliberate negligence. But, neither was the case with the Blind Horse Knives Patch Knife. Keeping in mind the $50.00 price and its intended purpose, I couldn’t find anything about this knife that didn’t live up to my expectations and at no time did it not perform any task well for which it was designed. Simply put, this is a fantastic little knife that’s priced right for those that want something unique without busting the checking account. Yes, there are small compromises. The Patch Knife and Tiger Knapp knives are made of steel used previously in saw blades. They are light and you won’t be able to chop with them. That doesn’t mean, however, that the knives are deficient in any way. To the contrary, these knives beautifully perform the job that knives were built to do, and that’s to cut things. Too many people expect a knife to handle any sort of abuse without mishap whether it’s batoning the blade into petrified wood or trying to pry open a steel gate. Use the tool that the task requires, and you’ll just about never go wrong.
Currently, Blind Horse Knives has other models in their lineup including the Work Horse and Pro Hunter, and their newest model due out in the next thirty days is their Bushcrafter line. The Bushcrafter came about as a result of consultation with Tim Stetzer (knife author) and a couple others about what would make the best all-around "bush knife". The Bushcrafter also uses the saw blade steel like the Patch Knife and Tiger Knapp Knife, but it comes with a flat grind instead of the hollow grind found on the smaller knives. However, it was pointed out to me that Blind Horse Knives will be offering flat grinds, hollow grinds, or convex grinds on all knives at the customer’s request. Dan and L.T. don’t just dabble in saw blade steel, either. They’re working with various steels and matching what works best for each specific design. For instance, their Pro Hunter (mentioned above and which you can view on their web site) is made of D2 steel. Besides their current batch of knives, Dan and L.T. have already laid the groundwork for future models as well. Their plans include expanding their line to kitchen knives (L.T. sounded very excited about this), fighting knives, and they’re considering a camp hatchet design as well.
While wrapping up the phone call with L.T., he wanted to make sure that we conveyed a couple of things that he was proud of with regard to his and Dan’s company. First, their products are made in the U.S.A., and you could hear the pride in his voice as he relayed this fact to me. Second, he wanted to be sure that people knew they wanted to provide quality knives at a reasonable price that just about anyone could afford. I couldn’t argue his point at all. Getting a custom knife made in the U.S.A. for just $30.00 or $50.00 (depending on model) is quite a feat and something folks should remember when they are out looking for their next blade. Even their upcoming Bushcrafter knife is rumored to be under $100 dollars, and that’s a significantly larger knife for a different purpose. From what I can see in their blade offerings and from the functionality of the knives that I have used, it is easily determined that L.T. and Dan not only have an eye for aesthetics, they also have down the feel of what just works the right way. Every now and then (not as often lately), you come across a strong product made by people with good values, and if you’re even luckier, you can sometimes get that product for a reasonable price. With Blind Horse Knvies, you get the hat trick. You get all three of these qualities and then some. I have already purchased one of their knives and I can say without equivocation that its one of the best purchases I’ve made in a long while. Not only do I encourge everyone to check out their products and get one for themselves, I’ll also mention that I’ll be getting even more blades from Blind Horse Knives in the near future. So, stay out of the way. The line starts behind me.