John Landi is a man with a plan. Do you know how many "sportsmen" are in the US? He does. Do you know what the average is they spend on knives? He does. Do you know how many custom knives they own and how much they spend on those type of knives? He does. The man has done his research! John isn’t one to jump in with no business plan, he wants to succeed and be successful. And, he is quite on his way.
The new Kinzua model knife from Landi Knives is my favorite and will be a good seller I think. More on the knife in a bit. In my experience, all good knife makers have a mentor, some sort of plan, and a work ethic like no other. Mr. Landi met L.T. Wright, half of the Blind Horse Knives team, in January of 2007. I hear there were many phone calls and emails back and forth to get ideas streamlined and things organized. I have been to John’s shop and he has a great setup with different areas for different purposes and numerous knives in various stages of completion. As mentioned before, the plan sounds quite dialed in to me. At the moment he’s focusing on custom work and perfecting that, but other areas will follow and will come out later, according to the plan. I’m not spilling the beans! You’ll just have to wait and watch. From talking with the man, the passion, drive, and hard work are definitely there. He has a smile on his face talking about his knife designs and he is very happy working with his hands.
Different Knife Models
On the Landi Knives site they have listed Multi-Purpose, Landi PSK, Landi SAR, Combat Series, and the Survival Series. Some of these links work some say "coming soon". I’d mark the page and keep checking back, they will be hot! The Kinzua isn’t listed on any of these just yet, I think John is waiting to see what kind of market share they are most popular in and go from there. He told me he wants this knife to be a back packing/hiking knife. A multipurpose hiking knife that’s with you all of the time for all of your chores. This is right up the Kinzua’s alley. With a quality, full tang knife that is a full flat grind made of A2 (there are also 1095 and 154CM blanks at the ready in this design as well, just email John and ask what’s left in those steels), an overall length of 7.75", a cutting edge of 3.5" and a 1/8" thick blade, it will easily do what is asked of it on a hike. This knife feels good in the hand, with your thumb naturally falling onto the thumb ramp on the top. There are two sets of three large perpendicular slots cut into the spine. Three are positioned at the thumb ramp, and three are at the back towards the pommel. They are big enough for really good traction but not so big they seem out of place. The three at the back are a great aid in traction for your thumb in a reverse grip. The G10 scales are held on with Allen bolts. So, yes, you can remove the scales if you want. This will make cleaning it after field dressing game much easier and will also allow you to rig this knife up in spear fashion and use it as a skeleton knife.
The Kinzua Story and Knife Design.
The Kinzua Dam is located in the Allegheny National Forest in Warren County, Pa. In addition to its use as a power generating station and for flood control, it created Pennsylvania’s deepest lake, the Allegheny Reservoir, also know as Kinzua Lake. John’s wife’s Grandfather has a cabin in Ridgeway, Pa. and they like to spend time at the Kinzua Dam and in the Allegheny National Forest. This has gone on for the last 18 years or so. It’s such a beautiful and inspiring place, John decided to design a knife that was born of these great experiences, and the Kinzua came to fruition. Sharon, John’s wife, actually coined the phrase and it was a good fit. This is John’s own design and it fits the hand well. The thumb ramp feels good, there is just enough width to the scales to fill the average size hand, and with the selection of different steels and removable scales (change colors/materials as you see fit or have John sell you an extra set), it’s a winning combination that I really like.
What I did with it.
Like all test knives, this one gets some traditional Bush Crafting chores to perform. Up first was some batoning. Firewood is always a must to have and in various sizes. So, with the full tang on the Kinzua, don’t be afraid to baton the crap out of it. It performed as I assumed it would, quite well. Made little pieces out of big just like I wanted. One nice difference here with the Kinzua is the choil, really just a groove, that extends past the level of the cutting surface. It acts as a stop to keep the knife blade from getting pushed too far forward when batoning and helps keep the scales out of the wood. Nice little feature.
Next up was whittling up some shelter pegs and forked pieces for cooking over the fire. It holds a good edge, even after the batoning, and it still had retained a quite sharp edge for sharpening up pegs. When doing a little finer work like this, I usually end up holding the knife in my right hand and pushing with my left thumb for fine control. And as with 99% of what I test, this one hurts after a couple pegs. The spine is sharpened off at 90 degrees, which makes for a great area for fire steel work, but is hard on the thumb. Someday I’ll get this across, only sharpen the first inch or so by the scales for fire steel striking, round off the front end for pushing! Oh well. It’ll be on the first Scooter Field Knife when I get around to it. Back to the pegs. It took these down to sharp points in no time and was ready for more.
The other pieces for the cooking rig went well too so I moved on to the fire making. As stated, the new Kinzua has a nice, sharp spine for striking a fire steel or ferro rod. After skinning down some fat wood with the knife, a couple strokes with it on the ferro rod had a nice little fire going. One of the front counter sunk holes for the bolts works well as a place to seat your thumb securely while striking the ferro. The rod left some scorch marks on the blade after a couple fires but they wiped right off this durable knife with no problem. Looks good as new!
John provides a Kydex sheath with the Kinzua. It has no built in belt loop but does come with a TEC-LOK, the exclusive design of Robert Terzuola and Tim Wegner. Also, five big rivet holes hold the sheath together and provide even more ways to mount/carry the Kinzua. It can be mounted to your pack’s shoulder straps, can be a neck knife, or connected to a baldric rig, either clamped in the middle of the strap with the TEC-LOK, or clipped to the very end of the sheath. I prefer the baldric carry style and this is an excellent knife to be clipped in the middle while the baldric holds something else at the end. This also keeps the knife at chest level for quick access. I think with some handy Kydex work of your own, or a small job commissioned to someone who does sheaths, a fire steel loop bolted on to the other side of that TEC-LOK would be a welcome addition.
Overall the Kinzua is a well thought out design from John Landi. It performs quite well in the back packing/camping role and will give excellent service. There is just enough of everything, blade belly, handle length, grip of the scales, to feel right and give you years of service. This would be a great way to get into a custom knife without breaking the bank and, while John is still a growing company, have a potential collectors piece to yourself. It also comes in other colors but I was taken with the orange. Blaze orange G10 with matching Kydex will be hard to loose in the woods. It just needs a cool knife lanyard to go in that hold in the end of it. I know a guy who makes such items… The only things I might change are the rounding of the front of the spine for thumb pushing and the small choil needs rounded off a bit on the back so it doesn’t dig into the front of your index finger after extended use. I talked to John about this and at least the choil rounding might be a running change to it in future versions. The Kinzua is running about $129 but check with John at his site for details.