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Home > Magazine > Blades > "Old Hickory" Camp Knife Project

"Old Hickory" Camp Knife Project
November 09, 2008

A few years ago I bought a $8 Old Hickory 6" butcher knife and it sat around. I'd bought it because I'd read that it was easy and fun to convert these into camp knives. Finally I went and just TOOK some time out of an overloaded (16 things on the to-do list!) day and just layed into it. Since then I've taken a few minutes here and there to move it along. ...It's the starting-up that's the thing on so many little projects like this.

I'm not finished with it, but here's a pic of how far it's come along.

I've read that their skinner knives and the 8"+ butchers have thicker blades, if that's what you want---seems perhaps smarter for a camp knife. But a thinner blade always slices a lot better and I haven't bent a knife yet!

I kinda like the idea of a filet knife for deer---that's what a classic 6" boning knife is, with its semi-flexy blade and often upswept blade angle. But this here camp knife has a much wider blade. And it's not like I'm very good at butchering deer, but I am getting quite a bit better at it. So, who knows how it will function in the real world.

I've been REALLY enjoying my Ahti Metsa 3.75" puukko for whittling, but it has a VERY thick blade---so maybe this new knife will find a range of other uses. I didn't have a sheath knife with a blade over 4" so this is also part of testing out a bigger knife.

(Speaking of bigger knives, I'm testing out a bigger folder for my trail-clearing mission. My 3.75" Spydy Endura works fine for my quick'n'on-the-go branch'n'bramble lopping but it's perhaps a bit small. I'm looking into a 5-6" pocket folder now! Report to come one of these days.)

I enjoy how the steel of the Old Hickory "sings" when you whittle with it---it makes a high-pitched "ping," almost like a chime, when it's used.

First, I used my bench grinder to take down the top of the spine about 1/2" near the tip, tapering to an 1/8" halfway back, in a kind of traditional clip-point shape---shortening the blade a 1/4" as well, to bring the point closer to the centerline. (Maybe this semi-classic shape goes into a sheath easier?) Then I cut away some width from the edge side near the handle, to keep the sharp stuff just a bit further from my finger.

I thought that the OH could use a fingerguard. It dropped from the handle right to sharp blade so I was either going to put a guard on it or dull the blade for a ways. I decided to go with a guard. I really like Osage Orange wood so I whittled and sanded a couple pieces of Osage to make a guard, then I glued them on with the new high-tech West G-Flex epoxy---it's their hot new uniquely flexible epoxy---I figure it might take repeated shoves and strains well. I shaped the guard to protect my finger and to give my thumb a point of purchase. It feels good so far.

When I've gotten the Osage guards wet they really glow and look a deep, beautiful yellow-gold. I look forward to putting some sealer on them to make them stand out permanently.

There were some gaps so I thought I'd fair them in and smooth out some transitions with putty. I had some old "Water Putty" that claims to be a great instant water-based "plastic." I hope it's tough enough after I stain and seal it.

I really like the "hook" for the little finger on my Ahti Metsa, so I cut one into the butt of the OH handle. We'll see how that works for helping me hold onto the knife in use.

Next: finish the knife, make it pretty...and make a sheath!

Ya know, the sheath is almost the main thing about a camp knife. I've never made a sheath before! I'm thinking that a pocket clip would be a neat way to mount it but we'll see. I have a couple other kitchen-cum-camp knives that need sheaths also.


Here's how my knife started out. The 6" OH is discontinued. There's a 7" now, but I think the 8" would make a better camp knife, as it has a thicker blade.


Here she is, unfinished, but possessing a bit of panache even so.

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