Just about anyone can tell you that a knife is easily the most important tool that you can carry on your body when you venture off the beaten path. A decent knife, when used properly can do many things for you when you need it to, such as build a shelter, hunt, skin and clean game, protection and several other tasks.
A common misconception that folks have is that the bigger the knife, the better it is in a survival situation, or a real work situation. While this can certainly be true under some circumstances, I found out in the beginning what a pain it can be to carry around a large cumbersome knife, especially if you expect to use it for fine wood work. Over time I’ve found that something in the 4 inch blade range works well for what I do. The knife that I have had the privilege to review this time is a classic styled Kephart from Sugar Creek Knifeworks called the Campcrafter, and it sits right in that size range.
First, let’s have a little history on the design of the blade. Back in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, gentleman named Horace Kephart was looking for a knife that would suit his needs and desires in the field and in everyday living. Horace firmly believed that a much larger knife was not needed in the bush and wanted something that would cover a broad range of tasks. Over time and experimenting, he came up with his own design that many outdoors-man still seek out today for its simplicity and multi-purpose function. If you want to read more about Horace Kephart, use Google to search out his work and check out the book “The Book of Camping and Woodcraft” (later just called “Camping and Woodcraft”). It’s still in print today but you can also find it in digital format for free online as well. I’m sure that if Horace were alive today, he would look at this knife and immediately see his own design and admire the quality.
Though many people have copied the Kephart design and added their own spin to it, Mike from Sugar Creek Knifeworks made his Campcrafter true to the original design. After working with it for a while, it has become my favorite go-to knife when I want to strap something reliable on and head out to the woods. Like all of Sugar Creek’s knives, Mike used 01 tool steel when creating this version of the Kephart. He noted to me that he really likes the versatility and dependability of this steel and after working with his Woodcrafter, I couldn’t agree more! Mike uses his own tried and true way to temper his steel and cuts all blade profiles out in-house. This way he has total control over the entire process and can make sure each and every knife is up to his personal standards. The Campcrafter has a 4 ⅛ inch blade and offers a full flat grind with a convex edge. The tan Micarta handle is a work of art in itself coming in at 4 ½ inches in total. In all of my testing with this knife, I never had a problem with the handle becoming uncomfortable in my hand while performing all of the different tasks I normally do while in the bush. The tan linen Micarta scales not only hold up will, but look fantastic at the same time. With the total length being just 8 ⅝ inches overall, it’s very easy to carry and won’t get in your way at all. The blade is 1 inch wide and exactly ⅛ inch thick along the back. As with all traditional Kephart designs, this knife is full tang from top to bottom. Mike has added a lanyard hole to his Campcrafter, something I always like to have.
Field testing with this knife was a complete joy and I was able to see how Horace found this design to be beneficial. The blade was hair splitting sharp when it arrived to me and surprisingly, stayed that way through all the testing I did. I was able to feather some sticks with no problem at all. It was almost like using a Mora while working with wood. I did some light batoning with the Campcrafter and it was able to slice through smaller sticks with ease. I chose not to work with really thick pieces of wood because I like to use a hatchet for the larger chores like that. I always have my hatchet with me to handle the bigger jobs, but I’m 100% sure I could have worked the Campcrafter through a sizable log with minimal effort.
Another wonderful thing you get with the Campcrafter from Sugar Creek Knifeworks is a beautiful sheath made by JRE Industries. Since Woods Monkey is owned by JRE, I have had the pleasure of using their sheaths in the past. It’s made of heavy leather with strong stitching and a fire rod loop to keep your ferro rod close at hand and easily accessible.
One of the many things I really like about Sugar Creek Knifeworks is the communication. Mike is a great guy who will answer your questions and will make sure you are happy with your purchase. In all, I’m very pleased with Campcrafter and really enjoyed working with it. Mike really works hard on all of his blades and the quality stands out when you hold it in your hands and start to work with it. The Campcrafter will sell for $125.00 when Mike makes his next batch of them and that’s a heck of a deal for a quality, handmade tool.
I had the chance to work with the Sugar Creek Campcrafter a bit before sending it along to Bill for review. I also was taken with Mike’s take on this classic design. I’ve worked with a number of Kepharts now and I have to say this one was my favorite. It’s an excellent execution of a classic, simple, and functional design and I liked it so much that I ended up ordering my own from Mike right after I sent this one to Bill for review! – Tim Stetzer
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