As most of you know, the custom knife industry is very large and there are a lot of different models and knife makers to choose from. From there, you need to decide what steel you want to go with, the size and shape of the blade, the grind, and even the handle materials. While a lot of knife makers like to make these big decisions easier for you, I don’t think you are going to find a nicer gentleman than Dan Eastland and easier to read website than his own, Dogwood Custom Knives.
Dan Eastland is the head honcho at Dogwood Custom Knives and does all of his work by hand and by the order. In one way or another, Dan has been working with knives of all sorts for a majority of his life. He has had many professions over the years, all of which required use of a knife of some sort. After becoming a stay-at-home dad and taking up wood working as a hobby, he found his calling by helping out Andy Roy at Fiddleback Forge. His apprenticeship with Fiddleback helped him hone his knife making skills and eventually he opened his own shop at his house where he could focus on his craft and create his custom designs for the public at large.
After some great e-mail exchanges with Dan, I learned a lot about how he works and more about the wonderful blade I received in the mail to review for Woods Monkey, his very own Kephart Redux. Just about everyone knows the story about how the famous Kephart design came into the hands of many men and women over time. Horace Kephart designed his blade style with functionality in mind and over time many other knife makers have reproduced the Kephart and added their own touch of class to an already excellent knife. Dogwood Custom’s Kephart Redux fits the bill in every way and includes one of Dan’s latest trade secrets!
When the blade arrived, I was very excited to get it out of the box and examine it since I had heard about some of the new things Dan was doing with his handles. I’ll go into great detail on the handle soon but would like to chat about some of the other characteristics first. This model of Kephart came to me with a molded Kydex sheath that helps the knife in place, almost too well. At first, I wasn’t sure if I had to do something else to extract the knife, or just muscle it out. With a good yank and a loud pop, the knife was free. The sheath came with eight eyelet holes (six close to the top, two at the base). Without any visible means to mount the sheath to my belt, I just figured that you would want to use some paracord (which came with the sheath) to create your own custom mounting solution. (Editor’s note: we need to double check with Dan and see if those holes are spaced for a large Tek-Lok) I will say that the sheath is very well made and does have many mounting solutions for packs and other travel cases. Re-inserting the knife into the sheath was also a bit of a challenge, but I think that over time and with more use that it will loosen up some. While this sheath may work for some people, I’ve just always been a leather fan and will usually pick it over anything else.
The blade finish itself is very smooth and beautiful. I now see why Dan prefers to use CMP-154 as his steel of choice. You gain the high-shine and polish that you get with a basic stainless, but with much improved durability and edge retention. Dan spent some time working with different chefs and building a good working knife and found that he could get the most bang for the buck with CMP-154. The blade itself is 5 ½ inches long and sports a classic Kephart spear point and comes in right at 1/8 inch in thickness. The convex grind that you get with the Kephart Redux is razor sharp and ready to be put to work. When working with the blade, I found that batoning was a snap and the edge retention I was told about was quite true. I was able to reduce a small stack of medium sized logs into kindling within no time. Along with heavy tasks, you can also use the Kephart Redux for fine carving and intricate wood work as well. Likewise, while traveling down the trail at a decent pace, the knife rode very well while sheathed and attached to my belt.
The real draw to this particular Kephart that Dan designed is the 4 ½ inch handle. When questioning Dan about the materials used and machining practices, I was told that the process is patent pending and a trade secret of his. As for the material used, it comes from Composite Craft and is called C-Tech. The epoxy infused fiberglass has the ability to glow in the dark and as it turns out, there are a few tricks to making this happen for a long period of time. Dan has been working very hard on this handle and ways to maximize the glow time and brightness. After just 60 minutes of direct sunlight, you are gifted with between 10-12 hours of glow time thanks to the way C-Tech has been machined. Sunlight seems to be the key for this product, as artificial light doesn’t seem to provide the same “charge” as good ole mother nature. (Editor’s note: having worked with a number of glow in the dark outdoors products before I have to say this is a neat feature. In addition to allowing you to easily find your knife at night, the glow form a handle such as this actually makes a nice “night light” in your tent and usually will give you enough light to get up and move about if you need to get up during the night.) Along with being extremely cool to look at, the knife feels great in your hand, is well balanced and comes with a lanyard hole with a neat matching green lanyard with some custom bead work.
When all is said and done, I can whole-heartily recommend this knife to anyone looking for a great custom Kephart design, but who is also interested in a little modern technology as well. Dan’s Kephart Redux is a powerhouse in the field, easy to maintain, feels great in the hand and can easily amaze your friends around the campfire! The price of the Kephart Redux varies due to the different options you can pick from on his website, but suffice to say you can pick up one of these gems for between $200 and $250. Check out Dogwood Custom Knives website and check out all of the different knives Dan can make.
“Like” the Monkey on Facebook while you’re at it too!