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Living on the Edge

L.T. Wright Classes Share the Secrets of Knife-Making

by Todd Swanson


Resolve to Evolve

How are those New Year’s resolutions going?  Did you chuck ‘em already, like I did?

Well, I suggest a replacement resolution, a fun resolution, and a resolution that will enrich your life and renew your attitude.  And what’s more, it’s one you’re sure to follow-through on …

Take a knife-making class at L.T. Wright Handcrafted Knives!

They say no knowledge is wasted, and lifelong learning is the key to staying sharp in later years.  So for these and many other reasons, I believe I’m better-off for taking the Beginner’s Knife-Making Class at L.T. Wright Knives last summer.  Months later, it is an experience that has stayed with me.

When he created this series of classes, L.T.’s goal was to show people who love knives that with a little coaching, anyone with a modest home shop can make their own quality tools: All a person needs is the desire, a few key tools, and a mentor to show the way.  This simple conviction was the theme that resurfaced many times throughout the two-day weekend class.  And the surprising part: Within just two days, you’ll agree.



A Cutting-Edge Knife Maker

If you’re new to the world of custom knives, L.T. Wright is the founder of L.T. Wright Handcrafted Knives (LTWK), a family-run business outside Steubenville, OH.  Every knife that comes out of the LTWK shop is guaranteed handmade to a high level of quality.  In fact, at any step in the process a knife that doesn’t meet their high standards “goes straight into the vice,” where the steel is broken before being recycled into fresh blanks.

LTWK takes orders for custom knives and produces several successful product lines, including a collaborative project with British knifemaker Gary Wines.  Customizing their production models keeps them busy as well, often as promotions for high-profile customers like the NRA.

And the dedication to excellence extends to the peripheries of knife-making as well.  To help ensure consistent quality, LTWK has expanded into creating Kydex sheaths for their unique custom and production products.  They even make fire steels.

Maintaining not just quality but also consistency among high-volume handmade knives is the mark of a truly extraordinary knifemaker.  So who better to learn from?



Living on the Edge

Like so many other experiences I’ve had since I began writing for WoodsMonkey, I had some trepidation about diving into a world I knew so little about.

I’m not the capable grease-monkey most of my friends are, and while I loved high school Shop class and occasionally fumble through projects in my garage, I’m not in any way competent in a workshop.  I worried that this deficiency in my self-reliance skills made me unqualified to take any classes that involved shop machinery.

But within ten minutes of class, I realized two things: 1)the other the students, whether male or female,came from various backgrounds and were roughly of my skill level — some knew a little more, some a little less — and 2) I’m exactly the kind of person that L.T. is trying to help.


Fellow student Michele Marrinan agrees.

“I was worried about being so new to the world of knives,” says Michele, who traveled from Pittsburgh to take the Beginner class with her husband, Brian.  “I didn’t even know how to use the steel​-rod-thingy in my knife block.”

But L.T. and his instructors soon put Michele’s anxieties to rest.

“The atmosphere at L.T.’s shop was very nurturing,” she said. “They sincerely want you to learn, and they teach you in a way that makes you feel knowledgeable and capable.”



Knife-Making Safety

Another thing that put me at ease right away was the emphasis on safety.  This message came loud and clear in two ways.

The first is that early in the introductions, L.T. made it clear that safety was of the utmost importance, and this priority was reiterated in the handout.  He stressed the importance of safety gear, reminded us to always wait for an instructor, and warned us about which machines were most dangerous.  (Hint: It’s one of the last ones you might expect.)

The second emphasis on safety was that our welcome packets came equipped with dust masks and safety glasses.  We were also gifted with an LTWK themed shop apron to keep the sparks off, which I now use in my home shop, especially when I’m cutting metal or wood.




The Welcome Packet

There were a number of other goodies in the welcome packet.

Knife-Making Stuff

Most exciting were the components of our knives-to-be:  A rectangular plate of metal that would become the full-tang blade, two bricks of scale material, a brass tube for a lanyard hole, and two pins for fitting the scales to the blade.

The knife-making components were impressive, because L.T. didn’t skimp on any of the parts.  The blade blank was versatile O1 tool steel, a high-carbon steel with good edge retention, preferred by many self-reliance experts.  And the blocks of durable scale material were a resin-infused black canvas called Micarta.

L.T. took time to explain the virtues of these materials, as well as comparing and contrasting them with the pros and cons of other options.  Even though I’ve written more about knives than any other WoodsMonkey topic, I was reminded that there’s always more to learn.


Other Goodies

Something often overlooked but very helpful was the syllabus.  This handout contained a welcome note, an overview of what would be covered over the weekend, and an equipment list.   It also contained a diagram showing the parts of a knife, like a visual glossary, and a list breaking down each step of the knife-making process.    This really helped to orient us, gave some structure to our note-taking, and showed us what to expect from each day.

There was even a Sharpie marker for tracing a wooden template onto our blade material.


A notebook, pen, and name tag rounded out the contents.  If I could change only one thing about the class — and come to think of it, the only thing I would change —would be for the instructors to wear name tags too, especially on that first morning.  That way when L.T. sent me to Mikey or Scott or Russ, I’d know where to go.




The Pros that Made the Cut

Apart from taking the plunge and signing up, the key to your success in class is the team that L.T. built.  The pro knife-makers at LTWK may not have been master craftsmen when they first stepped through his door, but L.T.’s mentorship made expert apprentices of them all.  But what makes them special goes beyond drill presses and belt sanders.

The employees that thrive at LTWK — the people who make the cut, so to speak — are the ones most like L.T. in nature: Inclusive and unassuming, patient and persistent, with a fixation on quality and an enthusiasm for sharing what they love.

For all these reasons, we students were soon comfortable with the LTWK crew.  What you’ll find when you first wander into their shop is an unpretentious group of friends that invites you openly into the fold.  It doesn’t hurt to be greeted with doughnuts, coffee, and a handshake, either.



The Sharpest Tools in the Shed!

Beyond all this, L.T. and his instructors are surprisingly proficient instructors.  They never talked down to any of the students, but instead talked to us like we already knew each other.  I’m convinced the reason is simply that that’s exactly how they really saw us.  The impression I got was that the LTWK instructors saw us as kindred spirits, novices eager to understand the art of what they do for a living.  And besides, what artist doesn’t like to know his unique skills are appreciated?

So while being a bit more knowledgeable would be nice, being a greenhorn student is no detriment.  On the contrary, you’ll find that the more help you need, the more eager the LTWK instructors are to help.



The Shape of Things

If you’re like me, the biggest worry of trying something new is not knowing what to expect.  So here’s a brief run-down of what you can expect from two days at the L.T. Wright Basic Class.

Bring a camera.  The LTWK crew welcomes you to take pictures throughout the class, assuming you don’t put yourself in harm’s way for the sake of a photo.

Class starts early each morning, so no sleeping in that weekend, but for these couple of days it’s entirely worthwhile.  Again, doughnuts are available for those who didn’t make it to a restaurant on time.  There is a one-hour break for lunch each day, and on the hill above the shop is a long strip of fast-food restaurants to suit many palettes, so you have your druthers.

The class itself is hands-on.  This might sound like a no-brainer, but I just want to emphasize that there is no step in the process where the student isn’t learning, trying, and doing.  In fact, the knife you leave with is one you can confidently and truthfully say you made.



The instructors might demonstrate on one side of your blade or handles, but they insist that you do the other side, if not both.  Everything you’ll need to do will be obvious to you, because the instructors explain and demonstrate each step of the process, and they stand by you as you work, watching over your form as well as your safety.  But even when they’re helping you along, they’re teaching.  Not one opportunity for learning slips by them.

Eric Raymont, a metallurgical engineer from Coshocton, OH, appreciated this approach:

“The instruction was really well balanced.  They weren’t going to let you fail, but they weren’t going to do it for you either.”


The instructors helped me most with symmetry.  And from what they say, that is pretty common.  As they explained, doing one side of anything is pretty easy.  Making the sides match is the real trick, and at the professional level, it’s what separates their work from the amateurs’.

But no need to stress about getting the symmetry perfect.  The LTWK instructors won’t let you fail, but rather they’ll help just enough to ensure that you’ll take home a knife you’re proud of.



Bringing It Home

To illustrate how joining an LTWK class means joining the LTWK family, we were all invited to L.T.’s house for supper Saturday evening.  I don’t know that they’ll always be able to do this, but L.T.’s big-hearted wife treated us to a buffet of delicious snacks, entrees, and desserts.

She was very generous while we overran her home, a jocular party of hungry, grungy students that flooded the dining and family rooms and spilled onto the porch.  Afterward, we enjoyed some fun banter and friendly ribbing over soda and cold beers.

This was when I began to see that the strength of LTWK Handcrafted Knives was forged in a family-fired crucible and quenched in sweat:  Until recent years, the entire business was run out of L.T.’s house.  We got a tour highlighting where all the equipment once sat in the basement, where everyone was stationed as their jobs evolved, while the first floor had been consumed by the offices and shipping department.

This is worth mentioning because it speaks volumes about the kind of place LTWK is and how it’s run: highly professional and value-centered.  For me, this not only inspires confidence in LTWK products, it adds greater depth to the integrity of the superb knife you’ll take away from the class.

In fact, even the LTWK hat I bought at the end of class was sturdily stitched of tough materials.



To touch briefly on specifically what steps and tools you might expect to use during class, here is a short rundown.

Day One

  • After tracing the shape of the beginner knife onto our steel, we removed most excess metal at the band saw before roughing out the blade profile with a 36-grit sanding belt.
  • A row of drill presses equipped with different bit sizes enabled us to add holes for the brass lanyard tube and handle pins.
  • The first of several flattening stages preceded stamping the blade with a pneumatic press and scribing the center lines for grinding the angles onto the blade. More flattening with hammer and belt grinders follows.
  • The heat treat stage was a spectacle as Scott walked us through heating the blank with an acetylene torch, quenching in oil, and tempering the metal through slow reheating.


Day Two

  • On day two we began to move toward finish work by bead-blasting with fine glass beads and then smoothing this with Scotch Brite.
  • Next came the scale preparation steps from cutting them to a rough shape, drilling holes to match the blade handle, and shaping and polishing the fronts before shaping the pins, gluing everything up, and clamping it in place.
  • Then came the precision finish work like cutting and peening the pins, squaring and roughing the handle before rolling the handle on a belt sander to its final shape.
  • Next comes polishing the scales on high-grit belts and the buffing wheel. The buffing wheel, by the way, was that most dangerous machine that L.T. had mentioned earlier, but with the guidance of an instructor, this step was a breeze.
  • Finally comes finish up with sharpening the blade, cleaning up the spine, buffing the bevel and edge. After all this, there is nothing more satisfying that the final step: testing the razor edge by cutting paper.


Sound like a lot?  It is.  And it’s not.  The LTWK instructors make this whole process easy and achievable for every student.  And at the end, there’s an excellent JRE leather sheath to help protect and show off the fruits of your labors.



Finishing Touches

So, you don’t see yourself becoming a professional knife maker, and you’re wondering what’s the point?  Well, I can tell you what it did for me and my fellow students.

It gave us an even greater understanding and appreciation for the skill that goes into crafting a quality knife.  It is a small investment that can payoff big later by saving money on sharpening, on buying expensive knives, by making Christmas presents ourselves.  It also better equips me to evaluate other knives I might buy or review.  And best of all, taking the LTWK class allows us to indulge our hobby, not just for one weekend, but for many weekends to come.  After all, teach a man to fish …



But there is more to it than that.  Taking the Beginner class gives you greater confidence, and on several levels:  I am more comfortable in my own workshop, and with a larger variety of tools; I no longer feel reliant on others to sharpen my knives to that crisp edge I always want by can never seem to get; and I have an improved opinion of my self-reliance skills.

Because of all these reasons, and perhaps most importantly, taking the LTWK knife-making class gave me more confidence in, and an improved opinion of, myself.

And I’m not the only one.

“My husband convinced me to take the Beginner class,” says Marrinan, “but I’m the one who can’t wait to sign up for ​the next level.”



Hone Your Self-Reliance Tools


The first Beginner’s Knife-Making Class for 2016 will be held March 19-20 at their shop in Wintersville, OH, just outside Steubenville.

Resolve to make better resolutions.  LTWK will offer more advanced knife-making classes in time, and they already offer a Kydex sheath class.  Tackle the Beginner’s class this year, and your resolutions for the foreseeable future will be easy to make and easy to fulfill.
For more information, email or call 740-317-1404.






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SHOT Show 2016 Day 4

That’s a wrap and the monkeys are OUT!

Click through the slideshow below to see what we saw on Day 4 of SHOT Show!

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SHOT Show 2016 Day 3

Quick someone throw them a banana!


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SHOT Show 2016 Day 2

More from the monkeys in Vegas!


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SHOT Show Day 1

Let’s check in on the monkeys and see what they found!


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SHOT show 2016 Media Day

The Monkeys kick off the SHOT show with some productive range time at Media Day. Check out the photo gallery below as well the Monkey Instagram page to see what they saw!


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The Council Tools ApocalAxe

Council Tools ApocalAxe

By Dan “Doc” Holiday

Hatchet, hammer, gutter, skinner, and bottle opener.   The Council Tools ApocalAxe is built to perform an ambitious list of tasks for the hunter, hiker, or camper.ApocalAxe2


The ApocalAxe is drop-forged high carbon steel, 15 inches long, and weighs 2.0 pounds.  Head and handle are one solid piece, with a polymer molded grip at the handle end.  The knuckle-guard grip behind the blade is not covered.  The axe blade has a slight curve and has a total cutting length just short of six inches.  The head is topped with a gut hook and backed with a hammer head.  As mentioned, the head is cut out behind the blade, with a contoured finger grip on the heft to allow for fine cutting work.  The bottom of the handle is pierced for a lanyard, and features a built-in bottle opener.ApocalAxe5
The tool has a solid, reassuring weight.  It is predictably head-heavy, but, given the short overall length and low overall weight, balance did not pose any problems.  I did find that the tool was occasionally tricky to remove from the sheath:  the axe is lifted through the snap-close top of the sheath, and the rim of the polymer coating on the handle would catch on the bottom edge of the sheath.


The ApocalAxe worked well as a basic hatchet, cutting branches and splitting kindling well with the factory edge.  The hammer back handled a few roofing nails and both aluminum and plastic tent stakes easily.  The polymer grip, however, is only contoured for the axe-side, so using the hammer on an extended basis (and one struggles to imagine why one would) would probably be uncomfortable eventually.


I did not have a chance to test the gut hook in the field, but I did pull it through a couple of pieces of 1/16 inch thick cowhide leather.  It needed an initial knick with a sharper blade, but I was able to pull the hook and open a cut.  I think a little time spent sharpening the hook would probably be needed before relying on it as a primary tool in the field.ApocalAxe7As mentioned, I did not actually skin an animal.   I did spend some time whittling furring strips and other close cutting with the axe blade, holding by the knuckle guard.  My control was not a fine as I would like, and I found myself bumping my forearm into the handle frequently.   The top of the blade is rounded, and, as I found myself using the very top of the axe blade for fine cutting, I thought a more squared off end might serve better – but also thought that it may limit its use as a skinner.  I found a ¼ inch thick piece of cowhide, and used the axe edge/knuckle guard grip to split it to get an idea of what it may feel like skinning.  Awkward as my simulation was, the axe performed fairly well.ApocalAxe8

Of course, all of that hard work deserved a reward – and the bottle opener popped open a Yuengling Porter just fine…ApocalAxe9

The ApocalAxe comes with an accompanying twenty page booklet.  It gives some background about Council Tools and its founder, John Pickett Council, as well as a whirlwind tour of the history of axes from the Paleolithic to the present.  More importantly, it gives thorough instructions for sharpening, storage, and care of the tool.



For me, the tool would not eliminate the need for a good pocket knife, but a good hatchet/hammer combination, at only two pounds, is probably worth it in the backpack , and it is easy enough to take along for a base camp.  The solid construction tells me that, if cared for according to instructions, it is a tool I would have for a long time.  However, the ApocalAxe lists for $134.45 on Council Tool’s website:  for my own use, too much more than other tools which it would not completely replace.


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Bad Blood / Kendrick-Mosier Yokai

It can be tough to find the line between practical and stylish. On one hand, you need your knife to perform for the task intended. It’s not important if the handle looks good, as long as the job gets done. On the other hand, a knife that is well crafted and has the look that speaks to you is something to cherish. Everyone has the look and style that they like. The knife that speaks to you holds a place of honor in your collection, and is kept safe, clean, and well maintained. The practical knife may come from a big-box store, or at best from a quality mass producer. The showcase knife is probably a one-of-a-kind custom, costing more that most folks would spend at the grocery store in a week. So when you find a company who can give you the feeling you get with a high end custom, and a reasonable price, you want to let folks know.

Full Face Bad Blood Tanto Folder

I am fortunate to own a few knives made by Bad Blood Knives, and the Kendrick-Mosier Yokai folding knife is my favorite of them all. That’s because while I’m a practical guy at heart, a little bit of style goes a long way. Dave Mosier has designed a knife with clean good looks. It’s like a nice muscle car, factory fresh. No extra chrome and fancy lowering needed with the out of the box design looking this sharp. The G10 scales are nicely contoured to provide a solid grip, even when wet and the stainless steel pocket clip complements the blade when closed, along with the Torx steel fasteners. I really like the light brown, almost sandy pattern to the scales. Opening the blade is trivial, not only because of the high quality construction, but the flipper stud. When opened the Tanto inspired blade geometry continues the design theme, with a one sided face grind. An ample index finger notch and thumb knurls on the back shaft allow for fine control and give you the feeling that you’re holding a force to be reckoned with. All of that in most other knives comes at a price – literally! But with an MSRP of around $55.00 (which means you can find them new online around $42.00), it’s a knife that you can put in your pocket and actually use without worrying that it may get a scratch or ding. Mine, in fact, has a few mars on it, and I’m proud that it does. That’s because in addition to looking as cool as heck, it’s also a tool that can be used.

Closed Bad Blood Tanto Folder

The overall feel of the knife is good, be it in hand or clipped in your pocket. Weighing in at a decent 6.8 ounces, the knife feels solid in your grip. Closed, it has a length of around 4 ½ inches, and with the 3 ½ inch blade open, you get a good balance of grip to blade length for control. The Tanto inspired blade geometry for me is a plus, as I prefer a straight blade to a swept curve for most of what I do. Also, the abrupt angle allows you to make some difficult cuts if you are doing some whittling. I made a few simple wooden tie-down stakes, and I had a lot of fun with the angle making some deep cut cuts with it. The edge is pretty good out of the box, and went through thick sisal rope easily. In the woods, I was a bit worried that I may drop it and with the coloration lose it in the debris, but you take that chance with any tool. My axes usually have a splash of swimming pool blue at the base of the handles since you’re not finding something that garish in nature. I’m not going to defile this knife in that way, so I try and keep conscious of it. My only detractor at all is one that I find often on many pocket carry knives. They are typically set up so you can’t move the belt clip to the other side. I would think it would be simple to make a plate to match the bolt holes on the opposite side, properly positioned to allow swapping. Again, this is a very minor issue, and has no impact on the overall knife’s performance.

Opened Grind Bad Blood Tanto Folder

Most of my tools get used. The only ones that stay in corners or on pegs are the ones I inherited from my father. They were hardly heirloom quality ones, but the memories that go along with them are. Maybe someday, this knife will provide the same bittersweet feelings from one of my girls. I’d be happy if it was this knife that sat on their shelves, reminding them of their dad.


Full Grind Bad Blood Tanto Folder


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Benchmade Jungle Clip Point

Only a tenderfoot carries a big knife.  Yep, I’ve heard that one too.  I’ve also heard that a big knife can do the job of a small one but not the other way ’round.  I’m sure there’s plenty of guys out there that think they can do anything with their Swiss Army Knife, and some others that think unless they carry a 14 inch Bowie that’d feel at home in the Alamo they’re totally defenseless.  Truth be told, I’m somewhere in the middle.  And so is the Benchmade Jungle Clip Point.  A big knife with a fantastic design, built tough in the USA, at an incredible price point.  Let’s take a look at it.


The Benchmade Jungle Clip Point is pretty big in reality, but that does not mean it’s bulky.  Here’s what I mean by that.  Its blade comes in at 9.69 inches with an overall length of 14.29 inches.  It’s long, but surprisingly it weighs only 10.9oz.  For crying out loud, my multi tool, the Leatherman MUT, is 0.3oz heavier than that!  The handle is made of what Benchmade calls Santoprene, which I understand to be a proprietary polymer.  It’s slightly soft, tacky, and excellently shaped.  In reality, the 9.69 inch blade needs this exact handle.  It’s very comfortable.  When you hold this knife, you really understand why it’s such a sleeper in the Benchmade line up.


The blade is made up of my favorite carbon steel, good ol’ 1095.  Now a lot of folks look down on 1095 because it’s not the latest and greatest super steel on the market.  But 1095 has been getting things done for knife blades since the old school ass-kickers were charging Normandy.  Add Benchmade’s excellent heat treat, and you get edge resistance, blade toughness (57-59HRC), and durability.  The blade is saber ground, meaning it’s V ground about half way up from the edge, then flattens into the full thickness of the stock, in this case, 0.195”, or about 4.95mm.  For a knife this size, the saber grind makes a lot of sense.  It adds strength to the knife in its thickness, but provides cutting ability with good edge geometry without the need for bull.  A sharpened pry bar this thing is not!



sheath backBenchmade provides a very nice leather sheath with the Jungle Clip Point.  The sheath issheath front brown leather, well-stitched with two rivets at the top, and a nicely sized belt loop.  There is, however, no secondary retention to the sheath.  Like a good friend of mine once told me regarding his pistol holster, it stays in there with “friction and gravity.”  Turn it upside down and shake it, it’ll slide out.  Leave it vertical in your pack, on your belt, or as I carried it, inside the compression straps of your pack, and you have nothing to worry about.  Still paranoid?  Run some shock cord though the belt loop, then through the lanyard hole and loop it back on the handle.  Paranoia solved.

Over the course of nearly two months now, I have used this knife for everything I could.  On an overnight 4×4 trip into the Colorado backcountry, the Jungle Clip Point was used for everything I needed a cutting implement to do.  It started off doing a little chopping and hacking to beat back some fallen trees across the road.  The Jungle Clip Point chops extremely well, almost like a smaller hatchet, with a sweet spot right behind where the radius straightens out near the tip.  At camp, the Benchmade cut tent guy lines, chopped and split firewood, prepared dinner and breakfast, and served as a scraper to clear caked up mud off an air intake so it could be removed to service the carburetor.  Speaking of splitting firewood, the Jungle Clip Point batoned wood extremely well.  I was splitting 6 inch and larger sized logs easily.  I mean, easy.  The rubber Santoprene soaked up all the shock, and the saber grind drove the two halves apart.  This is one of the best fire prep knives I’ve used in a long time.  Even after the work out around the fire, I was able to push cut curls of aspen, and easily clip small chunks into manageable sizes for my BioLite stove.




On another adventure, I used the Jungle Clip Point to pry out globs of dried juniper sap from several old tree wounds.  The juniper sap burns extremely well, and likewise, entertains the heck out of a four year old!  Putting up a hasty poncho shelter with the knife was simple as well.  Cutting and carving stakes for the corners was a simple affair, and it was surprising how well the big knife handled the small chores.  While not a dedicated wood carver, things like trap triggers, pot hangers, and stake notches were easy to do.

The Jungle Clip Point held its edge very well.  Over nearly two months of hard use, finding excuses to test it, I’ve only touched up the edge twice.  Once on a ceramic rod then the strop, the second time only on the strop.  The handle and blade cleaned easily in soap and water when needed.  The only modification I’ve done to the knife was to Sno-Seal the sheath.  From the factory, it has a light coating of some sort, but still soaked up a little too much moisture for my preference.  Sno-Seal has been a long standing favorite of mine, and with a thick coat and a heat gun, I’m confident this sheath will last for decades.


So, is this a one knife option for the outdoor adventurer?  Yes, I think it is.  It’ll do everything you want, and really excels in some areas.  I think it’s best paired with a small knife like a Swiss Army Knife or a multi-tool.   That combo would really cover all your needs.  Speaking of the whole package, typical price for this knife comes in at just a tick over $100.00!  $106.25 seemed to  This very well may be the sleeper of the Benchmade line.  If you’re a Woods Monkey, you’ll love the Benchmade Jungle Clip Point.



Head on over to Benchmade to check them out:

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Budget Overland Kitchen Follow-Up

What a Year on the Road Looks Like

So I have been using and improving the Budget Overland Kitchen for just about a year now and there are some things that I would like to report and observations that I would like to share with you monkeys.



First off, let me say that all in all that I have been very pleased with the overall concept and the pack ability of the Front Runner Box. It really got tested. The kitchen has cooked food for up to 30 people without any issue. To give you an idea of its year, the kitchen has been to the LTWK Pouting, Overland Expo West, Overland Expo East, Mid-Atlantic Overland Festival, PWYP, and several smaller local camping trips.



So, yay Mike! You can read my original article here if you are unfamiliar with it or just need a refresher:


Ok now let’s talk about the observations and issues that have come to light. The first thing is that I was very hard on this bit of kit. Harder than I was comfortable with to see where it would fail. It received no maintenance outside of when I was out in the field. How it was packed when I got home is how it stayed until I went out again. If it was wet, so be it. The case stayed latched until I needed to get into it.


So first off, I chose cast iron cookware for a few reasons but as many of you know you need to maintain it for the best results. I have a lot of surface dust on the griddle and skillet. I would scrape it with the GSI scraper and heat and oil it before each use. It got no post use oil, which normally I would do. If you are lazy go with a different griddle and skillet. I would suggest the Pinnacle Skillet and Bugaboo griddle from GSI outdoors.IMG_0811


Second, when cooking for more than four people it was easier to use paper plates and haveIMG_1432 everyone bring their own eating tools than trying to rotate troughs the GSI plates and washing them. The plates did work quite well, even holding large rock cooked steaks and risotto. They survived having bush knives and sporks dragged across the eating surface and getting carried around by dogs. The cups and bowls did yeoman’s work as well. Hot or cold didn’t affect them at all.


Finally, the GSI cooking tools were my biggest fear when building the kit. How in the world would folding utensils hold up to the heat of campfire cooking and cast iron? Well you can definitely see some wear but they held strong and continue to work better than advertised.



The shakers in the cooking kit were a great size for a weeklong trip. However, if you like to season your food or have a larger group you may want to consider some backup. I chose to fill the squirt bottle with Dawn soap to not only clean the camp ware but also as a safety feature if we encountered any poison ivy or vehicle maintenance grease. Good on you, GSI Outdoors! I would not hesitate to buy any of their products and have actually done so.IMG_1428

Ok, on to the actual Kitchen setup. The foundation of this whole idea was the REI camp kitchen. It gave me plenty of room for the main
stove and a backup stove, a prep area, and enough storage to organize when we were in base camp. It also offered the flexibility to not use it if it was just an overnighter.IMG_0790

The one flaw of the camp kitchen was user error but you should learn from my mistakes so your friends won’t laugh and point like mine do. On our last trip to the Overland Expo East there were five adults and all of the stuff for camping and a show in our van. To say it was packed was an understatement. On the way down the camp kitchen ended up on its side and a full propane tank and several other packs were packed on top of it. The top of one of the wings had given way. The kitchen is still functional and will get a new top this winter. The one thing that I was unable to find a good solution for was a paper towel dispenser. I may try to mount one this winter when I replace the top.


Next is the heart of the beast! Words cannot describe how happy I am with the Primus stove that I picked. I liked it so much that I bought a second Primus stove with two burners to complement the main stove when there are a bunch of people out with me. I was able to make it through all of the camping and cooking with one large propane tank and was able to rig up a method to power both stoves off of the one tank. I am also currently researching if I want to add a propane lantern as a light source for midnight bacon. Speaking of bacon, at one point, the main burner was completely full of congealed bacon grease and had to be chiseled out and cleaned so it would work again.


Now for the unnecessary conclusion, I am really happy with this camp kitchen setup. You can put some time and research and get a setup going for less or you could go out and order everything I used from the first article and be super happy. Find pieces that fit your needs build your setup around who you like to overland with and get out there and do it. Put some miles on the gear that isn’t paying rent in your basement!



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