Over the course of the last few years, my love of knives has moved through different phases and dozens of knives have passed through my hands. Nearly all of those knives have gone on to other owners eventually, as I don’t like to keep knives around that I don’t use, but a handful have proven to be such gems that they’re high in my mind for performance:value consideration.
1. Mora Classic
Of nearly immortal status in the bushcraft world, the Mora Classic is a blade that I have come back to time and again. At such a low price, this is one of those knives that you won’t hesitate to use hard, and it will very likely shock you at it’s edge holding, ease of sharpening, comfortable grip, simplicity, and just overall durability – particularly for a knife at that price point. That exceptional value is what has drawn woodsfolk to this knife for generations now. And even though it takes some criticism for not being truly full tang, it’s not paused at anything I’ve done with it. By nature of the design, the Mora may not hold up to the same abuse endured by knives with a full length and width tang, loveless bolts, supersteels, or some of the other modern innovations that high end bushcraft knives offer, but neither will you cry as hard if you chip the edge, mar the handle, or even worse, lose it altogether! Especially for detailed work like feather sticks and fine carving, this is a “go-to” knife.
Resources: Mora Classic on Amazon
2. Lauri PT
Lauri puts out blade blanks rather than full built designs. To some that might be a drawback, but to a person with a moderately crafty bent, there are all kinds of possibilities to handle this blade yourself. My favorite method is the fiberglass resin handle, illustrated here, but leather, bark, and wood are all easy mediums to use with only fairly basic tools required. The blade on a Lauri looks like a scandi style at first glance, but a closer inspection will reveal that there is a microbevel at the very edge. Whether or not this is a good thing is a matter of opinion, but I’ve found these blades to be extremely tough, crazy sharp, and only slightly harder than a Mora to bring back to shaving sharp. Personally, I prefer the PT (progressive treatment) models over their base line, but even the base ones are very capable themselves. Another very affordable option, the choice of handle and sheath can bring the cost up on this economical blade if you’re not careful.
This has been my most recent addition to the collection, and tops (ha, no pun intended) the list as my favorite overall. As a production model, it’s designed to provide near custom performance at a slightly lower cost. The Fieldcraft is a large knife, and it just exudes durability and toughness! It’s made of 1095 steel which, along with O1 and D2, is my favorite for field use knives. Though as a lefty I have to replace the sheaths that all production knives come with, the Fieldcraft’s sheath seems to be well liked by right handed users. I learned to make leather sheaths years ago – a skill that would serve all left handed knife users well! I don’t have anything negative to say about this knife at all. I suspect that it will still be the blade I am using as my primary fixed blade many years from now.
Resources: Tops Fieldcraft on Amazon
Although not a fixed blade, the Opinel No.6 gets 10x as much actual usage in my hands as any of my fixed blades do! And despite the fact that when most people think of bushcraft blades, they picture a beautiful sheath knife, I imagine that I am not alone in turning to a convenient pocket folder for most of the things I am usually doing when out in the woods. From trimming line to carving trigger sticks to cleaning under my fingernails, folders are just tough to beat! I say this as a reformed folding knife hater. Up until even a year ago, I doggedly carried a small fixed blade every day, despite the fact that I work in an office and had to be careful to keep it professionally very discrete. I decided to buy my first Opinel a few months back, and that’s it, I’ll be carrying one every day from now on. Inexpensive, beautiful, and ingeniously designed, I strongly prefer the carbon blade. Compared to the stainless options, the carbon is much easier to sharpen on a stone and holds an edge just as well, if not a little better than the stainless version. I now happily own a series of No.6’s, but I know the No.8 is also very well liked as a slightly larger variation in the same style.
Resources: Opinel No.6 on Amazon
The Eskabar was the knife that accompanied me on my first steps into bushcraft back about five years ago. I abused and beat on that poor knife, learning how to sharpen on it, how to not take care of high carbon steel, how to make knife handles (it probably wore about 6 different handles over the years), and how to baton. It served as my intro knife just beautifully, and although I sold it eventually, I still consider getting another because of how trusty a blade it was. It was also made of 1095, though I seem to recall that a D2 version is being made as well now which would probably be just an incredible pairing with this design. This one also came with an ambidextrous sheath, always a nice touch for us lefties!
Resources: Becker Eskabar on Amazon
As much as I love knives and will continue to buy and sell them, I’m very content with my current Fieldcraft, Lauri, and Opinel ensemble. With those three, I can do just about everything one might need in the woods, though I guess I might need to add a machete at some point. 🙂