Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Survival Knife Review: Habilis Bush Tool

Survival Knife Review: Habilis Bush Tool
As we embark on a month or so of Bushcraft/Survival knife reviews from various manufactures at a wide variety of price points I decided to start with the Habilis Bush Tool as I was quite intrigued by its new design modifications and thought it could be an amazing tool. First let's look at my requirements for a bushcraft/survival knife (Full Article Outlining My Requirements and the Rational For Each LINK). As you can see the tool on it's surface meets all of my requirements for a one-tool option for a bushcraft/survival knife so everything else comes down to performance and personal taste What I hope to demonstrate is the performance part of the equation and will leave personal taste to you.
1) Background on the knife and its relationship to me. First this knife is my buddy Jeremy Moran's knife and it has been his EDC for several months now and I have used it nearly every weekend (we work together for 40 hours every weekend and camp/bushcraft/etc. in between work and an overnight trip each Sunday into Monday. So I have used this knife many many times for heavy camp tasks and worked with it to process game and just to make a meal.

2) Fit and Feel in the Hand: Generally the knife is well balanced and does feel good in all positions in your hand. It is a heavy piece of steel and if you compare it to some of the other knives in this series you will think this this is a beast. The only means of using this knife I didn't care for was as a bearing block for a bow drill setup (pictured bottom center). The knife/sheath was designed in a manner that the bearing block is facing the rear of the sheath so you can't use this feature without having the knife out and the blade exposed (something I highly recommend you don't do as one slip and your knife could impale you within the triangle of death). 
3) Manageable Blade Length: The cutting edge on this knife is 5.25" long and the overall length of the knife is 10.25". Both of which are very manageable lengths and makes for very good fit and form. While on this topic I did find this blade to be the hardest to sharpen and its edge retention was much less than that of all the other knives. The dulling of the blade became the bane of our existence on many occasions as we could not do fine carving or feather sticks with this blade on many occasions unless we just got done sharpening the blade. So be warned it's a bear to sharpen. We used a tactical rod, sand paper, leather strop, and several stones and none of those seemed to get a great edge and keep said edge for long. 

4) Solid Flat Pommel: The pommel is is extended and on a slight angle. While this does technically fulfill this requirement, it makes life very difficult when trying to drive in tent stakes due to the angle you have to hold the knife. I didn't notice the angle as much when breaking open acorns but the angle was difficult to manage for tent stakes (something I use the pommel of my knife for on a regular basis). Also the fact that the scales and the pommel do not provide you with a fully flat striking surface makes it even more difficult to strike your intended target in an efficient manner. Driving a nail into a shelter or to hang a posted sign was quite a difficult task with this setup.
5) One Cutting Edge With No Serrations: The edge is just what you ask for one cutting edge with no serrations. It has a Pseudo-Scandi Grind, see above on what I said about its difficulty to sharpen. I usually can sharpen a Scandi grind quite well but this one vexes me.

6) 90 Degree Spine: The knife has a decently filed off 90 degree spine and a notch for ferro rod striking. I tried this notch with several different rods and had mixed success but had good results wile using the spine. 1/4" rods seemed to work the best with the notch throughout my testing.
7) High Carbon Steel: This knife is made for 1095 high carbon steel so it is able to be used with flint as a flint/steel striker for in-field fire starting if needed. The anvil portion of the blade makes the using the knife for a flint/steel fire starter very difficult to say the least. The small portion of the blade is not sufficient for this task. Was I able to get the car cloth to take a spark (of course I was see above) but it was much more difficult than with a traditional blade.
8) Sharp Spear Point: This knife does have a spear point but the anvil portion of the blade makes it awkward for fashioning this knife into a spear. You can use the spear point as a drill of sorts but not quite as well as a traditional style knife.

9) Heavy Duty Sheath with Ferro Rod Loop: This knife comes with a choice of a leather sheath or the Kydex pictured above. Jeremy opted for kydexso he could attach multiple items to the knife. I personally am not a fan of this type of sheath because of its bulk and the way it lays when moving. This sheath does have excellent retention and adaptability but is quite uncomfortable to wear when siting or kneeling.

10) Blade Thickness between 1/8" and 3/16": This is a 3/16" knife and is quite robust, its a good thickness for everyday tasks and and things up to batoning and chopping.

 11) Full Tang Knife: This blade is full tang and built for consistent abuse. It batoned everything I put in front of it and made several cords of fire wood with it. Chopping, well it chopped through the arm sized log in the center picture but honestly chopping was no advantage over batoning with something that size but its nice to know its an option. Feather sticking post abuse, well that didn't happen the shavings were the best I could get with that knife and I was able to light them with a ferro rod.

This knife meets all of my requirements for a bushcraft/survival knife but when it comes down to performance and personal preference I simply wouldn't carry it because of edge retention, the difficulty in performing fine carving and the anvils negative impact on using the knife as a flint/steel fire starter. I personally would not bet my life on this knife after testing it for a few months and Jeremy actually felt the same way after a frustrating hunting season with the knife it was traded off for an ESEE and a BHK (I'm sure you will see those in this series at some point). I was extremely excited about this knife when it came out and thought the changes to design would greatly change the game but was let down at nearly every turn. The anvil was helpful with batoning and keeping the blade even while going through wood, but the increase in difficulty striking flint on the knife was not worth the trade off in my opinion. I had high hopes of the ferro rod notch to help save my 90 degree spine for other tasks besides ferro rod scraping but it only worked in a mediocre fashion with most rods. The extended flat pommel was another let down to me as well as it was quite difficult to use for most tasks due to the blade being a different height than the end of the handle, add to this the angle of the pommel and it made it even more difficult to implement. When I look at a custom knife I often compare it to a Mora and in my head its always the Bushcraft Black as its one of the cheapest bushcraft knives, yet one of the most versatile in my mind. This knife is $150.00 more expensive than the Mora and offers no upgrade from that model in my mind other than the thicker steel and longer blade length. The blades chopping abilities will probably end up being the best in the series due to the knife weight and design but that is why I carry a Bacho Laplander and an axe if needed in the winter or batoning when needed.

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  1. Hi..Notice there was no guard to prevent fingers from sliding off handle up onto blade..has that ever been a problem? This looks like an awesome tool though...

  2. Nice...A question though..noticed no guard between fingers and blade..Is there a risk of hand slipping off handle and onto blade? Just wondering...this looks like an awesome tool!