If you think you know hollow handle knives, think again. The whole hollow handle genre got a bad rap back in the 80’s with a myriad of cheap versions that couldn’t stand up to hard, or even routine, use. It’s time to take another look at the concept though and the new Boker Plus Apparo is just the model to change your mind on the concept.
Good hollow handles have always been available; they just weren’t generally what you saw out of the major production companies. There are a number of custom makers and small businesses that have been doing it right all along though and Martin Knives out of Texas is one of them. If you don’t think you can afford a custom just yet though there’s good news, because Martin has teamed up with Boker to do a production version of one of their rugged hollow handle knives called the Apparo.
Apparo means “prepared” in Latin and it’s a fitting name for a survival knife; especially one with a hollow handle that allows you to carry other survival gear right inside the knife. The thing that sets the Apparo apart from other hollow handles knives is the unique manner in which the blade is screwed into the handle. It’s a proprietary system designed by Newt Martin but it’s one that they shared with Boker for the production knives. In testing it’s held up extremely well and while they were able to bend and even break the blade in vice testing the one spot where it never broke was at the juncture of the handle and tang. That’s pretty impressive for a hollow handle. Keep in mind almost anything can be broken if you try hard enough and destructive testing, in the proper setting, can be very informative. You aren’t likely to break your Apparo in normal use though, as I found out during my testing. More on that in a bit.
The Apparo is a big, bad survival tool. Its 12 7/8 inches overall and carries a 7 inch drop point blade with an unsharpened back swedge. Steel is 440C with a saber grind that’s a meaty 6mm thick. Three inches of the spine are cross cut saw, positioned just above a lightening fuller in the blade. A heavy double quillon guard keeps your hand off of the blade and it’s predrilled to allow for lashing if need be. The handle itself is a tubular design 4inches in length with a screw on pommel that gives you and extra half inch of length. The handle is crosshatched for texture and cord wrapped as it comes from the factory. The hollow handle cavity is about 3 inches deep and 15/16th of an inch in diameter. That’s enough room for a batch of lifeboat matches, a pile of Tinder-Quick tabs and a ferro rod, or a small fishing kit. A set of good threads and a sturdy O-ring on the butt cap keeps things water tight and safe until you need them.
The Apparo comes fitted with a simple and sturdy black leather sheath. I like it. It’s made of thick leather with a full welt and has a loop big enough that it’ll ride on just about any belt including a military web pistol belt. There’s a tie down spot for a leg thong as well if that’s your thing. I know we live in a MOLLE world these days but there’s still nothing wrong with the old standbys. A simple leather strap goes over the guard when the knife is sheathed and snaps into place. The sheath is reversible and will work with either a right or left handy carry. MSRP is listed at $189 but street prices can be found more in the $130 range. Not bad for a knife with this much machining and a sturdy leather sheath.
When it came time to field test the Apparo, frankly, I beat the snot out of it. I figured folks are going to question the strength of a hollow handle knife so I wanted to make sure it held up before I signed off on it. I did a good bit of chopping with the Apparo to see both how well it actually chopped and how well it held up. I was visiting my folk’s house and found a downed locust tree in the woods behind the house. Locust is tough stuff. There’s a reason that it’s used for fence posts. When it dries it dries dense and hard. I hacked off some wrist thick branches from the tree and then batoned those down into kindling sized pieces. I found that the Apparo chops well. There’s a lot of mass in that thick blade and at 7 inches in length there’s a good bit of room to chop with. I did find my one gripe about the Apparo while doing my chopping though and that’s the cord wrapped handle. The thin cord used to wrap the handle seemed a little slick to me and it moved around while I chopped. I ended up taking it off part way through the testing and found that I much preferred the checkered metal handle unwrapped. I felt it gave me a much more secure grip when I was swinging the knife. The wrap was fine during regular cutting chores, and it’s a nice way to carry some extra cordage, but I felt it hindered your grip while chopping. After I took it off I wrapped it around the sheath so that I still had the cordage available if need be.
Once I stripped the cord off, I made it through the chopping with no issues at all. The blade felt solid in the hand and bit deep. I didn’t exhibit any sort of loosening of the blade and honestly didn’t see any difference between the Apparo and many full tangs knives I’ve used before. Batoning that wood down to fire starting size was my next step and an area where I wondered again how the hollow handle would hold up. As mentioned, Locust is tough stuff. I used a Locust baton to split the slightly larger Locust logs. The 7 inch blade gave me plenty of length to work with even on the 3 to 4 inch thick log rounds I was working with. Now, the spine of the blade has a pretty aggressive saw and I’ve heard a lot of folks grumble about how a saw back tears up a baton. Well, that’s true. But guess what? Batons are free! My Locust one was chewed up by the time I was done but still held up pretty well. It became firewood too when I was finished though so it didn’t really matter. Had I broken it on the saw backed blade I’d have just cut another one. Point being, yes the saw back will chew up your baton but I really never saw that as mattering too much.
Speaking of the saw, I did use the saw a bit too. Honestly, I’m not a huge fan of saw backed knives. Not because they chew up my baton, but because I never found them to work all that well. Given the choice between a saw and a non-saw version I’d take the non-saw version just about every time. With that said, the Apparo saw is pretty aggressive and it does work. I found that it cut relatively well considering the short 3 inch length of teeth and it made nice, clean notches. And that’s what I would probably use it for, making notches for lashing, making tools etc. I could actually hack through limbs faster than I could saw through them. Still, it didn’t hurt any other function of the knife and the notching can come in handy at times so I can certainly live with it on the Apparo.
If you’ve always wanted a hollow handled survival knife but couldn’t bring yourself to buy one of those cheap ones we all saw as kids, and haven’t saved up the cash for a full blown custom job, then the Boker Plus Apparo is a great compromise. You benefit from all of the design and engineering of Newt Martin at Martin Knives and gain the affordability of a production version from Boker Knives in their Plus line. That’s a win-win and you end up with a rugged, practical survival tool in the process.
As seen in the Woods Monkey Column of Issue #14 of Self Reliance Illustrated!