A good sharp knife should be at the top of the deer hunter’s list. Over the years, knife designers and manufacturers have been experimenting with different steels and handle materials with the result that today we are beset with a host of knives with high-tech stainless blades. These are claimed to be corrosion proof and to hold a sharp edge for longer periods of skinning and butchering. The problem I’ve found with many such “modern” knives is that the steel is too hard which makes them very difficult to sharpen once they become blunted. In fact, some need special tools to restore their former keen edge.
Being an unsophisticated country boy, I have always had a hankering to keep things simple. The conclusion I’ve come to after testing many different brands of knives is that I’m only satisfied with a knife that holds it edge reasonably well and is easy to sharpen when it needs touching-up with a steel. It should also be malleable enough so that it won’t break even when I pry with it. I’ve never had much time for knives that are supposed to be rust resistant, or one that claims extra hardness, as you must be extra careful not to abuse it or put much torque on it. And once it dies get dull, you’ll find it’s a real chore to sharpen it, particularly in the field.
Modern steel formulas involve alloys – tungsten, molybdenum chromium and other additions to the basic high-carbon steel to improve the appearance or physical characteristics of the finished product. In truth there is no such thing as metallurgical free lunch, so every kind of alloy is a compromise. From a practical standpoint, you have to go a long way before an alloy of high-carbon steel is bettered for hunting purposes. Maintenance apart, the knives I like best are not stainless steel and I don’t care if they stain easily and lose their brightness. I just clean them better and oil them after every use and go right on using them. One thing’s for sure, I have never had to discard a blade because it rusted. Which brings me to Svord knives which are hand-crafted in New Zealand from the best Swedish high carbon tool steel. Each knife is individually hardened and tempered using a unique, time-honoured secret heat treatment process and hand-ground on a water-cooled stone. Head honcho of the Svord company, veteran cutler Bryan Baker, says “he has utilised the advantages of carbon steel over stainless to produce a range of knives ideally suited to New Zealand’s demanding conditions and preferences of professional hunters and sportsmen alike.” Each knife has the Baker “Convex” edge and comes ready for work.
I have been using Svord knives for many years now and was enthused when Outdoor Sporting Agencies sent me two samples of Svord fixed-blade knives for review; I labelled them a “Big Game” pair. One was a De-Luxe Sporting knife, a stag-handled drop-point listed as the Model BTS “Bird and Trout Stag‚Äù, but I’d rate it as being an excellent all around knife for the game hunter to carry on his belt. The second knife from Svord’s Master Cutler range 677MCR is a simonpure skinner with Micarta handle and a big bellied blade ideal for flaying off an animal’s hide with long, even strokes. Both knives came with a sheath, the latter with provision for a steel on the side.
Both blades have a flat back and a choil which allows the full length of the blade to be properly sharpened. The drop point has either a half tang or a hidden tang which is covered by the handle and is shaped to pass through a hole in the staghorn to facilitate fitting.
The Skinner has a full tang running the full length of the handle with micarta scales riveted in place. Both knives have brass guards affixed to the blade in front of the handle to keep the hand away from the sharp edge while the knife is in use. The guards have an integral quillion projecting below the section surrounding the tang to form a protective shield for the hand.
I often read knife brochures and ads in which the manufacturer states that its knives are sharper due to a special grind of the cutting edge of the blade. In the case of Svord, this is true, as the purpose of the grind is to minimise the blade’s drag as it cuts. It also reduces the amount of time and effort needed to restore the edge. The drop-point hunter is taper-ground which produces a strong edge and is easily sharpened. The larger deep -bellied knife has a real skinning shape, useful on large animals for peeling off the hide. Svord’s skinner comes with a sheath which is useful for stowing the knife in a pack. I have been using one of Svord’s early working class skinners which has a wooden handle for many years.
Svord’s stag handled knife with 93mm drop-point blade is a popular design, typical of what the average hunter prefers to carry every day. Nobody needs a bowie knife with a foot-long blade to skin and dress a deer even one as large as a mature sambar stag.
Svord blades will readily take a sharp edge and are easily resharpened in the field. Even though they are not stainless, I have found these knives will resist rust with a little care and will hold an edge for long periods of extensive use, only requiring a few strokes on a steel every now and then.
As a measure of their excellence, Svord knives have been praised in the prestigious “American Fighting Knives” magazine who rated their durability and edge holding quality as “outstanding.” They are on sale throughout New Zealand in over 80 sports stores and a number of countries including Australia and the U.S.A.
The shape, size and uses a knife can be put to is limited only by those producing and using them. Svord offers a variety of different knives large and small that are relatively inexpensive, useful tools. The Bird And Trout Stag sells for $149 and the Skinner for $370, therefore they deserve to be more popular.‚ÄÇ