Old Knife Dogs, New Knife Tricks

Old Knife Dogs, New Knife Tricks


Old dogs can’t learn new tricks, so says the Collective Wisdom.  And as far as the knife business is concerned, it is hard to find older dogs than Buck Knives and Ka-Bar.  Both are as old as it gets and both are virtually synonymous with a particular style of knife.  Buck’s 110 model is the progenitor of all folders, while the Ka-Bar USMC is the Ur-field knife. 

Over the years, new designs have tried to displace these two classics, and, to some degree, they have.  But Buck and Ka-Bar both have initiatives that take their know-how and leverage it in new and interesting ways.  These two initiatives show the way forward not just for Buck and Ka-Bar but for any other player in the knife business.

Buck Legacy Collection

Buck has done special editions and high end stuff for a long time, but the knives coming out of the Legacy shop recently have been insane.

First there are some ultra high end stuff like the Legacy Collection Marksman Elite, an upgraded version of the already awesome Buck Marksman.  The Marksman is a collab between Buck Knives and the Hawks.  Its strap lock and flipper are both incredibly innovative.  The standard model runs 154CM, not a bad steel at all.  The Legecy addition adds S90V steel, drops in an inlay on the handle, and switches colors around.  The result is a very aesthetically pleasing and high end version of a very good knife.

If that was all there was, the Legacy Collection would be something like Benchmade’s Gold Class, albeit with more affordable prices.  The Legacy Marksman Elite sells for $180 street.  There is a similarly upgraded version of the Whitetail flipper.  The real show pieces here are knives like the Jeff Legerton Brazen Bowie (shown above).  The knife is a radical design, a Bowie as drawn by a comic book artist and brought to life by a master knife maker.  This is a design so bold it is hard to imagine it coming out of a production company.  Another design the Conifer Dagger is similarly radical, but includes a very rare handle material–resin-impregnated pine cone.  To my knowledge, only Bark River and Buck make production knives with this very unusual material.

My favorite knife in the Legacy Collection is the Onset Flipper.

Image courtesy of Blade HQ

Image courtesy of Blade HQ

This is a very striking, minimal flipper.  The steel is an exotic combination of PCM-27 (a powder steel relative of D2) and RWL34 (a 154CM relative).  The pattern Damasteel achieves in this combination, called DS93X, is truly stunning.  The overall profile of the Onset places square within the trends of the market–3.45 inch bearing pivot, titanium framelock flipper.  The knife handle has a striking blue chamfer that gives the entire knife a letterboxed appearance when closed.  If the Onset came from the bench of the hottest custom maker around, it wouldn’t look at all out of place.  Instead, it comes from one of the oldest and most venerable companies in the business–a sign that old and trendy still mix.

Ka Bar’s State and Union Knives

In this day and age of instant gratification, it is hard to imagine a company or a brand that doesn’t have a website.  But State and Union, at least as of September 2017, doesn’t have a site.  It has an Instagram page and the output displayed there is nothing short of catnip for fixed blade fans.  State and Union is the custom shop for Ka Bar.  Given how awesome their stuff is, they have probably earned a website.  Heck, I haven’t even seen a knife from them on sale.  That’s pretty darn exclusive.

The vast majority of their output, or at least the output they have shared, is a variation on the USMC Ka Bar.  These variations include all sorts of different blade coatings and stacked material handles.  One of my absolute favorites was a USMC with gray and purple stacked handled and a gleaming polished pommel cap.  They have showed off a few other variants with muted greens and striking black and yellow patterns.  All of these have a look that fits the 2017 vibe perfectly.  They are, in a way, what would happen if Joe Oester and his design language got entangled with a USMC.  Honestly, I couldn’t think of a way to take such an iconic knife and make it new, but State and Union did.

They have also showed off some variants on other knives.  They showed off a rock pattern finished version of the Mike Snody collab the Big Boss.  Again, the colors are striking–camo green with a black “bolster.”  The blade finish is tougher looking too.  In all, it is a brilliant take on what looks like a great field knife.

My affinity for the knives of one of the other knifemakers in the Ka-Bar stable, Jesse Jarosz, makes me hopeful that one of his knives, either a folder or a fixed blade, gets the State and Union treatment.  And then there is the matter of Ethan Becker.  He has long designed some of the best fixed blades in the world.  Giving them a once over with nicer materials and better aesthetics would be one of the coolest “cherries on top” for knife fans.  I like black, and powder coat is fine, but the black-only color scheme on the Ka Bar/Beckers could use some sprucing up.  Imagine a 3V BK9 with micarta handles and mosaic pins instead of screws. I could even go for the “heat treat scale” or rawbar finish found on knives like those from Fiddleback Forge or Lon Humphreys.

The Ka Bar line up is deep and full of great, high value options.  State and Union gives people the chance on own one of these great users with a bit of style added.

If Buck and Ka Bar can push the envelope over a hundred years after they were founded, it gives me hope that newer companies can do the same.  It is also evidence that we are truly lucky in the Gear World right now.

The post Old Knife Dogs, New Knife Tricks appeared first on AllOutdoor.com.


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September 27, 2017 at 06:57PM


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