Most knife reviews probably start with the blade. What steel its made of, what’s the grind, point design, etc. This one will be different. Andy Roy is the man behind Fiddleback Knives, and his thoughts on a knife are different. He wants to make a knife that’s, “a hardworking user knife with handles that allow prolonged work without hot spots and discomfort. A handle should index the knife in your hand, so you know where it is without having to look at it. And, a handle should allow the user multiple grips, and the edge should come right down to the handle for high force cuts, like notching, where you want the object right near your fist”. Spot on Sir! Which leads me to the handle on the knife I had for review–the Fiddleback Bushcrafter. The Bushcrafter’s scales are stabilized, dyed curly Maple and the first time I took this knife out of the sheath I was just mesmerized with them. They are really beautiful. The width of the stripes changes as you move it in the light. Optical illusion? Black magic? My aging eyes? Who cares? It’s quite interesting.
To test the comfort a bit, I whittled on a new walking stick for (I set my watch) 45 minutes straight. Zero discomfort. I could have gone another 45 without issue I suspect. Then I threw a piece of paracord into the very custom lanyard hole (Andy uses a unique, layered liner that’s quite distinctive) and did some more heavy duty work with it. Again, no hand pain, no discomfort, and no problems.
Just because there’s so much emphasis on the handle, don’t think that Mr. Roy doesn’t care about the steel. On the contrary, he heat-treats his own 01 to make this and other model knives. They routinely test to 60-62 Rc., which he says works well for 01. I like the sharpest knife I can have. I know not every knife is designed to be a hair popping razor, but if it’s good steel, it should hold a fairly sharp edge. I ran the Bushcrafter over my JRE strop bat a few times for good measure, especially since I try to do a whole test without retouching to see how long it will last. So, what we have here is 01 steel, measuring at 8.5″ overall length, with 4″ of that being cutting surface. It’s also 1/8″ thick, 1 1/4″ wide and is of the convex grind variety. I like the feel of a knife where the handle is just a touch longer than the blade. It feels more in balance to me.
A couple weekends ago I finally had the chance to get this knife out into the woods proper and see what it’s all about. I made fire with it, I made a mock shelter with it, I wore it baldric style and hiked a few miles through the woods. As expected, this workhorse of a knife performed all tasks asked of it. A first test for me is always batoning some wood down to size for a fire. This knife batons very well! There is plenty of room for your hand and the convex blade sliced right through all I threw at it. It was working good so I started pounding the blade in and giving a little twist; it just broke the wood up faster with nary a sign of damage. After the batoning I made a feather stick to see if the edge was holding. It was still sharp enough for this task so the high Rc is doing its job and maintaining the edge. There is also enough of an edge on the spine to work the fire steel so I used it to get things going. I cheated a little and used WetFire tinder; it works so well!
The next proper chore for a bush knife is shelter building. First I harvested some long poles, about 5 feet each. I wanted to check it out as a chopper so I added a lanyard allowing me to choke back on the handle and get the balance point farther back for chopping. The end of the handle, which indexes your pinkie in place so well in a conventional grip, works equally well for finding its way between your middle and ring finger when choked back on. That and the lanyard made this handhold position rock solid. So, away I went to the chopping chores. With just a little bending of the tree, the Bushcrafter was through the sapling with a couple swings. This being the bigger Bushcrafter that Andy makes (it has a .5″ wider blade than the Bushcrafter Jr.) there is more weight in the blade for some great chopping. That went good so I was now in search of something suitable for stakes for the guy wires.
I found some good, solid pieces for this and I started sharpening the bottoms. I tried all sorts of techniques for this and found that the chest lever cut worked the best for the majority of the cutting. Holding those wonderful scales in reverse grip was just as comfortable as normal cutting. Love those handles! I like a notch in about the middle of the stake so that the 550 cord has a better chance of holding solid and thought this would give me a chance to do some fine work and see how the knife handled this. It worked well and I think the harder Rc was an advantage here as well. I would make my diagonal cut in then push straight down and give a slight twist to dislodge that piece. This technique was working great and the twisting on the blade was fine.
Up with the tarp, guy wires tied, and I have shelter! Those 5 foot long saplings worked just fine after I sharpened the tops to fit the grommet holes in the green tarp. With the shelter in place and my fire underneath, time to just stock up on some more wood to feed the fire. I went for a hike in the woods looking for more walking sticks and suitable firewood. I have really taken a shine to the baldric rig setup as my in-the-bush knife carrying style so I have weaved about 53′ of 550 cord with a McGizmo clip to snap onto the sheath. I really like this instead of a belt mounted sheath for most things. It goes on easy enough whether your wearing a T-shirt or winter jacket, allows quick access to the knife as it’s in front of you for constant in, out, in, out or can be swung behind you for walking. As I’m hiking through the woodlands, up and down hill, I didn’t notice the knife at all. It rode comfortably baldric style all day. That indexing point for the pinkie at the pommel of the knife also aided when drawing the blade when I found a good walking stick candidate. I forgot to mention, I have not sharpened the knife for this working weekend and it soldered on quite well the whole time. I have since lapped it up and down the strop to get it back to where it was when I started.
If you are looking for a quality hand made knife for bushcraft, this is one to consider. The workmanship was very high giving zero trouble with any part of it. This is also a knife to be proud of when it’s pulled from the sheath with those beautiful, functional, scales. The fit and finish of the handle is second to none and it will hold it’s own against any hand made knife on the market. You might want your first little project after getting one of Andy’s Bushcrafters to be whittling a few sticks into a nice knife holder/presentation piece for the living room. This knife is great looking enough to be on display after you get back to the Ponderosa! Fiddleback Forge makes more than the Bushcrafter reviewed here so be sure to check out the web site for more of Andy’s fine work. Looking for the latest and greatest from Andy, don’t forget to check out the Fiddleback Forge area on BladeForums.com Pssst, I have seen this Bushcrafter in a Scandi grind too, and it rocks!