Custom knives are a lot like other custom toys; cars, motorcycles, firearms, etc. You’ll find overpriced junk, and you’ll occasionally run across a real bargain by a manufacturer who’s just doing things right. Let me introduce you to one of the latter, built by the folks at the Blind Horse Knives, called the Woodsman Pro. In this article, Woods Monkey takes a long look at the great, USA Made, Woodsman Pro, and we find out if it’s capable of keeping up with the rest of the horses in the stable.
Blind Horse Knives has been in the knife building business for years. I remember buying knives from BHK back when they were cutting their knife blanks out of old saw blades. Those were great knives, and I still have one of them (the others all went to friends as gifts). But the new generation of blades from BHK is second to none. These are hand built from the ground up, exactly how the guys at BHK want them to be.
The Woodsman Pro was designed from a blank page to be an all-around woods tool. Call it bushcraft, camp craft, camping, woods running, or general woods bumming, the Woodsman Pro was made to do everything you would need in virtually any scenario. It will cut your firewood, strike your firesteel, carve your tent stakes, make your cane pole, and clean your fish. The Woodsman Pro will be constantly at the ready in the excellent sheath, and won’t let you down when it’s time to get to work.
Made of O1 tool steel, the Woodsman Pro takes and holds an excellent edge. O1 steel is a high carbon tool steel, so yes, it’ll rust. But before you go and flip your lid that this isn’t the latest-greatest, high-speed, super stainless, remember: The known world has been conquered over and over again using stone tools, bronze swords, and carbon steel rifles. If you’re worried about O1, quit reading this now and go ArmorAll your tires…. Moving along, my version is scandi-ground in the correct fashion. This means it’s sans any secondary bevel making the knife cut like the dickens. The new version of this knife will be in a sabre grind, my favorite knife grind actually. This takes the benefits of the scandi grind (incredible woodworking ability) and brings the taper higher up the blade. This lends strength to the edge and when coupled with the full flat grind, provides extremely good edge strength.
The 4” cutting edge’s slicing capability is amazing. Four inches seems to be just right, long enough to process game and short enough to be handy. My previous favorite hunting knife came right in at a 4” blade , and it had sliced up everything from geese to elk. The Woodsman Pro will get that assignment now…. And the O1 has the strength to take the abuse without having to be a sharpened prybar. Use the Woodsman Pro for woodworking, and you’ll never go back to a thick beveled knife again.
The next best attribute of the Woodsman Pro is the handle. If you’re a frequent Woods Monkey reader you know my opinions on knife handles, they have to be comfortable and useable without any doo-dads or sharp angles. The Woodsman Pro knocks this out of the park. The handle is smooth, round, and gradually increases in diameter from hilt to pommel. Perfect. Round. And Smooth. I used the Woodsman Pro for several hours at a time during testing and never felt so much as an uncomfortable spot anywhere, in multiple types of grips. Equally, the 4.75” long handle is long enough to use while wearing gloves. The epoxied and pinned on green Micarta cleans easily. Transmission oil, fish blood, and sweat were all scrubbed away with a little soap and water.
What brings this combination of knife blade and handle into the realm of a true bush tool is the sheath you’ll be carrying it around in. This sheath is built like a tank, and I’m a stickler for good leatherwork. The fold-over, pouch style sheath is built of thick leather, and dyed deep brown. The stitching is evenly done in two rows protected by a thick welt. Hollow rivets are found at the top and bottom, and can be used to tie the knife to other gear as necessary. The fire steel loop fits my Army sized fire steel, which is secured in place by a loop of shock cord. On the back of the sheath you’ll find two belt loops and steel “D” shaped hanger. The dangler style belt loop is removable via a Chicago-screw. While a lot of guys like a dangler sheath, I’m not one of them. I prefer the knife be held snug to my body and not constantly swinging into my leg. Removal of the dangler loop was easy, and the stitched on loop held the Woodsman Pro tight and secure when worn on my belt.
I have used the Woodsman Pro for all sorts of tasks over the past month. I first received the knife just days before I left for a trip to Louisiana. Knowing I’d be doing some fishing, I decided to bring the Woodsman Pro along. Out on the water the Woodsman Pro zipped through fishing line, trot line, and dried up rope still left on the boat cleats. After a poor bass fishing afternoon, we shifted our focus to catfish, a critter I’m particularly adept at putting in the cooler. While running yo-yo’s at night I found the integral half guard a very nice feature. I could draw the knife and do what I needed to do while indexing the knife in my hand in the dark. I never had to look to find out where the edge was. The big lanyard hole made securing the knife to my wrist via a piece of string standing in as a lanyard very simple, and really led to my peace of mind while working over the water. After a night of fishing, and quite frankly, beer drinking, there was some fish cleaning to do the next morning.
I took the biggest three catfish, all over four pounds, and set to work with them with the Woodsman Pro. Normally, this is a job reserved for a thin bladed fillet knife and a pair of skinning pliers. But I was testing the Woodsman Pro, so all that kit stayed in the camp. I filleted the fish, flipped the fillet over, and did the same to the skin side to remove the skin. While I did lose a bit of meat to the not-flexible-at-all Woodsman Pro’s blade, the job was quick and simple. I’d prefer a fillet knife for this task, but after another dozen fish, I feel like I’d have it down pat and do a good job at it. The acidity of the catfish left a very cool patina on the knife. Kinda a marbled rainbow pattern. Patina is the name of the game when using carbon steels, and I really like the way this one came out.
On a woods hike back in Colorado, I really stretched the legs on the Woodsman Pro. I started first with fire building. Taking some dead juniper and splitting it apart into pencil sized pieces was an easy task. I then made some long curls off another piece and then mixed them into a tinder bundle with some dry grass and super fine bark scrapings. The spine of the Woodsman Pro was intentionally left squared off so it would throw sparks from a fire steel. And throw sparks it does! The second try had it, and my tinder bundle was lit and blazing away. All totaled, I had a sustainable fire going in under five minutes. Another ten minutes gathering fire wood and a lunch fire or warmth fire would be a straight forward operation.
Since I wanted to see how the Woodsman Pro would do with finer wood work, I decided to make a simple trap arrangement that I’ve used a zillion times. Most commonly known as a ‘twitch-up’ snare trap when used with a bent branch as the tension, I opted to go for a heavy rock suspended over a tree branch instead. A friend and I were recently talking about early warning systems for camping to alert us when black bears come looking for snacks (all too common in Colorado, and it’s happened to him before), and I thought this was simple, fast, and would probably scare us as much as the bear. Carving out the trigger and sear notches were quick and simple, the stout handle of the Woodsman Pro really made fine work with the tip very comfortable. Sharpening the sear stick and driving it into the ground was the next step. Then, I tied a heavy rock to the end of some parachute cord, suspended it over a tree branch, and secured the other end of the cord to the trigger stick. When the notches were engaged, the rock hung awaiting the trigger to be set free via the trip wire that was simply the rest of the parachute cord tied to a nearby bush. This arrangement took less than ten minutes, and with a tin can full of rocks tied to it, it would let campers know of a lumbering bruin looking for a midnight snack. Imagination is your only limitation here, as this could have easily been a snare for small game, or an alarm for oncoming predators. Either way, the Woodsman Pro was the perfect tool for the job.
Back around the house I’ve used the Woodsman Pro for everything from breaking down cardboard boxes, to scraping fouling off an AR15 bolt (the spine of the blade), to cleaning off the drain plug to a friend’s transfer case in his 4×4 during some repair work. The Woodsman Pro has handled it all. And if this sounds like I really like this knife, it’s because I do. If I had to find something to complain about for the sake of evenness, it would be the D-ring on the belt loop. While elk hunting, the D-ring tended to ‘clink’ into the handle, making a very man-made noise in an otherwise quiet environment. I ended up pack carrying my Woodsman Pro because of this, which isn’t an issue for me while hunting. Besides that, I couldn’t find anything I dislike. I rarely, I mean rarely, throw that much positive ‘thumbs-up-ed-ness’ behind anything, but the Woodsman Pro deserves it. It’s fantastic, and I plan on it being on my belt for years to come.
The Woodsman Pro is a limited run knife, but is available directly from Blind Horse Knives for about $165. While a bit expensive, you certainly get the quality you’d expect for that kind of cash. And while it’s not my dream, custom hot-rod, I’m very happy with it. If you’re in the market for an heirloom quality knife for any outdoors work that may come down the road, I’d give a long, hard look at the Woodsman Pro. I did, and I’ll never look back.
Blind Horse Knives is now L.T. Wright Handcrafted Knives and Battle
Horse Knives. Both companies will honor warranties from Blind Horse Knives.