I unwittingly was using a Kephart blade for years. My ‘go to’ blade of choice was a Swiss army knife in one of its many variations but I almost always found the most used tool on the knife for me was the knife blade. The spear point just worked for me with whatever I needed to do. I always wished someone would make a spear point fixed blade for use it the woods.
Eventually, I found several to choose from and while they came close they were still, not quite perfect. The search continued. I mentioned liking a few blades of that style over the years to other knife geeks and one day received an “Oh! Like a Kephart.” as a nodded reply. I was at a loss and inquired what the heck a ‘Kept Hart’ was. I figured it was some custom knife maker. They replied in no uncertain terms that he was one of the best outdoor writers and woodsman that ever lived.
He was legendary for the use of a certain style and shape of knife of his own design. The more I heard and did research the more I grew interested in finding one. It seemed pretty common to find custom makers that did the pattern here and there but I was on a budget then and could not afford a custom built knife on a working college student’s salary.
Years later I read much of Horace Kephart’s writings especially Camping and Woodcraft. He really knew his stuff and his knife seemed perfect for quite a few uses. It’s a good read and I recommend it to anyone interested in the subject. Fast forward a few years and it comes down the pipes on the internet that Condor Knife and Tool will be doing a Kephart knife designed by Joe Flowers. Bonus!
I have evaluated Joe Flowers designs before and any who have met him or his blades could tell you he knows his stuff. Joe is an outdoor writer, traveler and ‘bug and Lizard guy’ of some note. That experience paid off when Joe started to design some knives for Condor. He knew the Kephart style would be a great addition and when it debuted a few months ago it was a sellout. The people had spoken. Let’s find out what they were yelling about.
The blade itself is 1075 high Carbon Steel with a natural blackened finish. The handle is a Salvadoran hardwood very similar to dark oak or walnut in appearance and performance. Three brass pins fix the blade to the handle and are finished beautifully. Some have said here and there on internet forums that some Condor knives need to have the handle finished tweaked. Many folks prefer smoother or rougher or, whatever. Everyone’s tastes are unique. The piece I received for evaluation was perfect. No high polish, just a nice well done hand friendly shape and smoothness of wood. The scales were even on both side of the blade near the base and that is a great indicator of how much fitting and work went into this piece. At the pommel of the knife the handles taper in slightly giving room to maneuver the knife with the ever important pivot provided by the pinky finger. The knife has no lanyard hole. There is a slight integral guard on the edge side to keep your fingers from running up into the edge. That is good because the edge came very sharp. Right from the factory it had a buffed edge and performed well in all the tasks I used it for. When I resharpened it, it also took my preferred slightly toothy edge well. Best of both worlds for whatever way you prefer to sharpen your knife.
The knife blade is a sturdy spear point 4.5 inches long and about an eighth inch thick, perfect for outdoor tasks such as food prep, skinning game or general woods utility cutting. My test knife could cut free hanging paper, cheese, meat vegetables and wood easily. The back edge of the blade has no finished and a sharp enough corner to strike a ferro rod on. This ‘bright’ edge also serves to let the user see where the blade is in lower light situations a unexpected plus.
The sheath with the Kephart was handcrafted dark brown leather with a stitched belt loop and rivets at throat and tip for strength. It’s a pouch style so there is no ‘keeper’ or way of securing the knife in the sheath, but that is perfect for its intended quick use. The knife was handy to re-sheath after using it for whatever bushcraft and general knife work you might do. I found the sheath a tad loose for inverted carry or extreme shaking but it is not really designed to encounter those activities so it’s really not much of an issue. With an overall length of just 9 inches, the Kephart was perfect for everyday carry or on the belt on the trail. Weighing under a half pound it is definitely not a pants dragger.
I wore and used the knife for several weeks to get a feel for it and try it for any bushcraft tasks it might be called on to do in the wild or at camp. As a cheese and cracker spreader and general food prep knife it did well, even with slicing up vegetables and not just meat. With utility cutting it indexed well and drew a nice cut in whatever I needed trimmed.
I found that the factory edge tended to skip a tiny bit on hardwoods I tried to carve on. After putting on a toothier edge it worked just fine on even the hardest woods for notching and pointing sticks for stakes. I ‘feather sticked’ some fat wood when doing a bit of experimenting with natural dyes. This helped get the fire started well and I usually have trouble with feathering the sap laden wood. The Kephart also chopped up acorns and thinly sliced fungus for this operation. Another bonus in the cold was the nonconductive properties of the hardwood handle. All metal handles look cool but you had better have gloves on in the winter time. It was cold out and I did not have time to screw around with a tool that didn’t work. There should be a term for ‘the joy of using a proper tool’ because the Kephart gave that in spades.
Overall I was very happy with the Kephart from Condor. It’s a good bush blade and I would not hesitate to take it anywhere I needed to go in the wild and trackless lands. Its traditional appearance and subdued form make it easily accepted by regular folks you might encounter who might be a little skittish around fixed blades.
Next time you’re at a camp out and you see someone not quite satisfied with their knife of choice, pull out your Kephart and let them give it a try. You can find the Kephart online for anywhere between $30 to $45 and it is money well spent.
Editor’s Note: just got word from Condor that more Kepharts are on their way to suppliers now. If you’re looking for one and can’t find it, check back in 7-10 days from the publishing date of this artilce!
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