I first became aware of Tufnell Customs Knives after meeting Ron Tufnell while on a fishing trip with some mates to Broome, Western Australia. It turned out that Ron, besides being a damn nice bloke, also makes knives for a living. As a keen deer hunter myself, that’s a subject that always gets my attention – so it wasn’t long before we were chatting over Ron’s vast array of custom made bladeware. To cut a long story short, I was as pleased as anything when Ron thrust one of his ‘Gut-hook Skinners’ into my hand for review.
The Gut-hook Skinner is one of Ron’s trademark knives, designed especially for hunters. It features a 10 cm drop-point, hollow-ground blade and is the perfect size for skinning and butchering medium to large game – say anything from goats up. The blade is constructed from Bohler-Uddeholm N690 knife steel made in Austria which, like all of Ron’s knife blades, has been hardened to 58-60 HRC on the Rockwell C scale. According to Ron, one of the benefits of the N690 steel is its cobalt content, which allows a very uniform structure within the steel. In a knife blade that translates into a fine and consistent edge, with enhanced edge retention and sharpening receptivity. Pushing the scales down to only 240 grams in its leather sheath, this knife can be easily stowed in your daypack until you need it.
The spine of the knife features a prominent gut hook close to the point. Previously I’d come to think of these additions to be something of a gimmick. Not anymore. Used correctly I’ve found the gut hook to be a valuable tool that can make processing game much quicker and cleaner – more on that later.
The handle of my knife is constructed from polished African ebony hardwood that has been stabilised by extracting all air by vacuum and had the open pores filled with liquid impregnates to prevent cracking. The handle scales are attached to the full tang blade with steel rivets, so it’s not going to separate any time soon. There is a lanyard hole at the end of the handle to complete a stunning finish. Incidentally, Ron’s range of knives are adorned with an amazing variety of handle materials ranging from wood, bone and composites through to abalone shell, antelope horn and warthog tusks.
Having a good-looking knife is one thing but it must also be functional – so how has the Gut-hook Skinner performed in the field? In a word, flawlessly! I have carried the knife for several months now and used it to process several deer, goats and even a zebra in Zimbabwe. With its prominent finger churls the knife sits comfortably in the hand and is easy to grip while working. It is very sharp and can be retouched easily. The gut-hook, as mentioned, is exceedingly useful not only for gutting animals without puncturing the intestines, but also for ‘unzipping’ the skin when removing back straps, hinds legs and other choice cuts.
Ron is a native of South Africa, which is where he learned the knife making trade. He has done several knife making courses, is trained as a fitter-machinist, and has served with both the army and police. He started his knife making business in 1999 and his products quickly developed a reputation for being right up there with the very best. Ron frequently seeks feedback from hunters to ensure his knives are as functional as they are aesthetically pleasing As a testimonial to this, Holland and Holland regularly commissioned Ron to make custom knives to accompany their rifles, using the same wood from the rifle stock to make a matching wooden handle for the knives. You won’t get a recommendation much higher than that!
Ron’s business, Tufnell Custom Knives, is now based in Broome, Western Australia, where he offers a range of hunting knives, pocket knives, carving sets, steak knives, biltong knives and many other pieces. All are handmade by Ron himself in his own workshop – so no two pieces are identical. Ron is fastidious in constructing each and every knife to the best of his substantial ability, and is extraordinarily proud to hand over knives of the highest possible quality to their new owners. Ron also offers what he calls the Tufnell Forever Guarantee, which allows knife owners to have their knives sharpened for free, should they so wish.
You can read more about how Ron makes his knives in a previous Sporting Shooter article HERE, check out the photos in the gallery below, or for even more information check out Ron’s website HERE. In the meantime, if you’re in the market for a quality, handmade hunting knife that you’ll be proud to own and that is sure to be different from anything your mates have, give these knives some serious consideration.
The Gut-hook Skinner – Specifications
Overall length: 20 cm
Blade length: 10 cm
Blade thickness: 3 mm
Steel type: Bohler-Uddeholm N690 knife steel
Weight with sheath: 240 grams
Weight without sheath: 180 grams