Old is new. Recycle. Experiment and then produce that which works. The best place to test designs is in the hands of sportsmen, not those who cut into concrete and bend knives with pipes. These philosophies and many more are a driving force behind Blind Horse Knives.
Dan and L.T. are more than just knife makers; they are also sportsmen that use their knives to the fullest extent. Their designs cover the range of tactical, hunting, and bushcraft, and more. One of the most interesting and useful knives BHK has produced to date is the Bushbaby. The Bushbaby is a compact knife that is the smaller companion to the full sized Bushcrafter. When the concept knives for the Bushcrafter were shown around at PWYP 2008, I was interested, but something didn’t quite make me need to have one. The knife was just a bit too large for the EDC (every day carry) and camping/hiking uses I envisioned. Blind horse solved that problem in just under a year when they debuted the Bushbaby. I knew it was one of those knives that I just had to have. I ordered one and impatiently awaited PWYP 2009 where delivery had been promised. When I received it, I was not disappointed.
With a cutting edge of just over three inches and a spear point design for the blade, the Bushbaby lands right in the category that I most enjoy for general outdoors, camping, and bushcrafting. I have found that a knife with a blade in the range of three to four inches is going to provide the most utility for general carving, slicing, notching, and even fine work. Much longer and the ability to safely choke up on the tip for detail work is lost. Much shorter and the ability to effectively baton, cut up larger fruit or meat, and perform other tasks which require a moderately long cutting edge is lost. Many spear points are bluntly shaped and thickly ground, but the Bushbaby doesn’t fall victim to this. The point of the blade is centered vertically and it is ground thin enough to perform tasks which require needle like precision. It also has a very gradual taper. This makes for a tip which provides excellent penetration into soft materials without binding up. The gradual slope of the edge towards the point also allows for an effective amount of belly, which makes the knife capable of slicing, skinning, and caping tasks.
The spine of the blade is purposefully squared for easy striking of fire steels as well as scraping. The Bushbaby is 1/8” flat ground 4140 steel with a convex edge. It is ground to size and shape, then cold blued before being sharpened. The relative thinness of the blade combined with the flat grind allows the knife to pass through what is being cut without binding. It also allows for just enough thickness that the knife will easily stand up to the forces applied to a knife when it is used for batoning, notching, and drilling. The convex edge is thin and even, razor sharp and polished. The beauty of a convex edge on a knife shines through with thin grinds. Because the edge approaches zero just like a parabola (for those of us who remember algebra), the final angle of the edge is greater than it would seem. This allows for much greater support of carbides in the edge than most production flat bevel edges today. It also means that with a thin edge bevel the knife will cut like a laser through most material, but as the same time will stand up to a large amount of use while maintaining a sharp cutting edge.
The handle of the Bushbaby oozes good ergonomics. Many times I have used a knife that has a handle which is an appropriate size and shape for me, but the handle is too thin, too thick, or too blocky. This is not the case with the Bushbaby. The handle is a bit thicker and slightly more tubular in shape than many other knives in the same size range, but that helps to provide a large gripping surface. It is also slightly oblong, which helps to prevent the knife from rotating in hand while it is being used hard. Every contact face of the handle is nicely smooth and rounded. The rear has a good shape which allows plenty of purchase if the knife is being used to drill or for tip work, while at the same time not causing hot spots or irritation in traditional slicing or carving grips. The fronts of the handle slabs have a great taper for using the knife in a more food oriented pinch grip. The finger cut in the bottom of the handle is the most cleverly designed part. It allows for a very secure grip with the index, middle or ring finger while holding the Bushbaby in various ways. The handle to blade ratio just allows for someone with medium sized hands (like myself) to index the tip of the knife by gripping the knife so the index finger lies along the spine. I find the ability to index the tip very helpful, especially when working blind or resheathing a knife without looking. The handle is made of fiddleback maple that Dan and LT get from a gunstock maker in Pennsylvania. I really enjoy the fact that they are ‘recycling’ materials that are too short to make into new stocks, but just right for making knives! The two pins in the handle are made from brass, as is the lanyard hole. I don’t have a lanyard in my Bushbaby, but I know that many people prefer to have them. Paracord and slim leather cordage fit perfectly, so fabricating a lanyard or a fob would not be difficult.
Once I had my Bushbaby in hand, I started testing it out and using it for many different tasks. I haven’t stopped in the six months I’ve owned the knife, even for some tasks which are downright unusual for a knife. I know LT will enjoy this, but yes I have even used the knife to stir a drink! Nothing is quite like stirring a hot acidic mixture with a carbon steel knife to see how well the cold bluing will hold up against corrosion. I have also performed other much more mundane duties with the knife over the time I have owned it. With the name Bushbaby, the knife is definitely meant for various bushcraft tasks including whittling, drilling, batoning, notching shelter building, trap building, and anything else needed while out and about.
The knife excels at carving with the comfortable handle and excellent edge geometry. I picked up a spoon carving habit right about the same time that I got the Bushbaby. Out of the many spoons I have carved, several have been done completely with the knife, and quite a few more have had some carving done with it. I have carried the knife while backpacking in the wilds of WV and used it for fire starting. I batoned firewood down into manageable chunks, created a bunch of wood shavings and even used it to strike the fire steel. It performed quite admirably. I have used it for cutting up cheese and sausage, for sandwiches, veggies for soups and stir fries, and I’ve even used it to field dress a squirrel or two. The convex edge and flat grind make the knife a great slicer for all manners of food prep.
The Bushbaby comes with a leather pouch type sheath. It is made by JRE industries for Blind Horse. It is made of sturdy cowhide, with an excellent finish. The sheath as it comes with the knife is not terribly water resistant, but I fixed that with a liberal application of Obenauf’s Leather Oil. The sheath sports a fire steel loop that will hold the larger ‘army’ type fire steels. It allows for a couple different methods of carrying the knife. The first is the same as most other pouch sheaths, simply carrying the knife using the belt loop on the back of the sheath. The second involves the use of the D ring built into top of the belt loop, and the attached strap to use the sheath as a dangler. The D ring could also be used in conjunction with paracord or any other number of items to attach the sheath to a pack or other gear. When carrying the Bushbaby I have overwhelmingly used the dangler attachment. When carrying other items on my belt such as a pistol, I have found that the dangler allows for more comfort as it takes up less belt real estate than a the knife in the sheath.
Throughout all my usage, the Bushbaby has been dulled and sharpened many times. Because the steel is heat treated to a Rockwell hardness of 54-56 and is a simple high carbon variant, it is super easy to keep razor sharp. Many people these days are of the opinion that knives must be in the 58-60 Rockwell range in order to hold a good edge. I used to be one of those people before I got my hands on a few of the knives from Blind Horse. It is true that a knife which is a bit softer will not hold an edge for quite as long as one that is harder. However, a knife which is a bit softer will have greater resistance to chipping and breaking. It will also be much easier to sharpen in the field if the edge is allowed to degrade too far for a simple touch up. I think that LT and Dan made a smart choice with the Bushbaby, because it has remained plenty sharp while I’ve used it, and when it does get a little dull it takes moments to get the edge back to screaming sharp. For folks who are interested in a higher performance steel, Blind horse has recently announced that Bushbabies will now be made in O-1, with a Rockwell hardness of 57-59. I know I am looking forward to testing them out side by side!
At a mere cost of $90, the Blind Horse Knives Bushbaby is an excellent knife. It is useful as a companion on a trip, as an EDC, for a hunter, for backpackers, bushcrafters, survivalists, and anyone else who enjoys using a well designed and handy knife. During the time that I have owned my Bushbaby it has met or exceeded all of my expectations. I would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone.