Thursday, February 12, 2015

Schrade SCHF38 Frontier Review and Modifications

Schrade SCHF38 Frontier Review:
The Schrade SCHF38 Frontier is what some of us call the poor man's PLSK1 due to the close proximity of the specifications. For the small sum of $38.00 USD you can have one heck of a knife on your hip that will serve all of your wilderness needs. 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 (Full Article Outlining My Requirements For A Survival Knife and the Rational For Each LINK). What I hope to demonstrate is the performance part of the equation and will leave personal taste to you. 
So out of the box this knife meets almost all of the requirements. The only characteristic that needs tweaking is the high carbon steel because there is a coating that Schrade puts on the knife that limit its ability to be used to start a fire using the spine of the knife as a flint striker. This coating is helps to keep the knife from rusting during shipping from China but gives the knife an odd texture, makes it more difficult to sharpen, makes using the 90 degree edge difficult and makes using the spine as a flint striker impossible. You will also notice that the pommel is also not as flat as I would like but it is still usable for light hammering tasks (If you want better pommel check out the Mora of Sweden line or the Habilis Bushtool (LINK).

Knife Review By Survival Characteristic:

1) Fits Hand Comfortably In All Positions: The knife is growing on me with use at first I hated the feel of the handle there are two ribbed portions on the grip one on the top where your thumb rests and one where the tip of your middle finger rests on the bottom of the knife. Aside from those two things the knife is fairly comfortable. It's not quite Mora comfortable (The Mora Bushcraft Black is the grip by which I measure all other knives as it fits my hand perfectly) but it is decent for long term use.

2) Manageable Blade Length: The SCHF38 has a 5.77" Blade and is easy to work with. It does make the knife feel a little off balance when doing fine tasks but for the most part works well for all knife tasks. It is a good blade length for batoning fire wood and will filet a fish or field dress a deer with ease. While the blade is quite thick (which is a good thing for a one tool option type knife) it is still able to make great feather sticks ad do fine carving tasks as well. The knife comes a little dull out of the box but touch it up on a Lanskey Tactical Rod and you have a razor sharp knife ready for field use!
A Few Survival Knives I Also Love:

3) Solid Flat Pommel: The Pommel isn't flat on this knife but it is capable of driving driving a tent stake or nail in a pinch so it does comply with this requirement. Tale of caution.... this knife fails as a hammer unlike the Habils Bushtool (LINK HERE), Mora of Sweden line of knives or Jeff White line of knifes.

4) One Cutting Edge With No Serrations: This blade features a 5.77" Scandinavian grind that holds a edge with heavy use (batoned enough wood for 2-3 sustainable fires and made several feather sticks before we touched up the edge for this picture. The overall length of the knife is just over 11" and is just about the same size as most other "survival knives" being marketed today. Unlike the Habilis Bush Tool this knife was a joy to sharpen and could be done with any sharpening tool I had at my disposal (Laskey Tactical Rod, Sand paper, Wet stones, Ceramic Coffee Cup, Schrade sharpener, etc.)

Need A Sharpener, Try One Of These

5) 90 Degree Edge on Spine: This knife not only has a 90 degree spine but is a very aggressive one capable of any task you would need in the woods from striking a ferro rod, collecting tinder from trees (find any tree a deer has rubbed and use the spine to scrape the tree for tinder), using it as a makeshift hammer, or as a spoke shave to create a tinder bundle in a split wood fire like I did above. A few minutes of running the spine along the hardwood and you get a significant amount of tinder that went up with two strikes from an off the shelf box store ferro rod.

6) High Carbon Steel: This knife is made from 1095 High Carbon Steel and if you will remember the main reason this is a major priority in a knife is so you will always have a fire starter with you. Just pick up a hunk of flint and strike it along the spine into a super fine tinder bundle or into char cloth and you will have a fire in no time. ****Just remember you have to strip the coating off the knife in order to be able to do this, I have a tutorial on the process at the bottom of this article.

7) Sharp/Spear Point: This knife can easily have its handle removed with just an allen wrench and be made into a significant spear. While it isn't the best option for a spear (check out the Jeff White Spear Point I need to get my hands on one for a review) it will work quite easily and should be able to secure even large game. This spear point can also be utilized as a drill of sorts allowing you to start a bow drill fire.

8) Heavy-Duty Sheath With Ferro Rod Loop: I will be the first to admit I'm not a huge fan of this sheath. If you want it to be dependable you will need to sew the Velcro belt loop closed to ensure security. I'm also highly bias toward leather so I will let that be your guide so you can take my opinion with a grain of salt. Now what I like about the sheath. Its a solid fit, can be lashed to a pack, has a decent amount of room in the cargo pocket (holds a ferro rod, tactical rod sharpener, flint and fat wood at present) and the plastic insert seems to have good retention of the knife. The sharpener and ferro rod that come with the knife are a decent bonus, while the ferro rod is mediocre (comparable to box store brands) the sharpener is ineffective at first due to the holes and the rough edges.  We used this sharpener to get a very sharp edge on an Axe (See More HERE) and after sharpening all of my axes and hatchets this sharpener now works well for knives.

9) 1/8" to 3/16" Blade Thickness: This knife features a 1/4" thick blade which makes it a beast of a knife. This knife will will easily withstand constant abuse and batoning.

10) Full Tang or Nearly Full Tang Knife with 1+ Year of Abuse Testing: As you can see from the pictures above this is a full tang knife with a significant amount of metal to use as a batoning tool. This knife is heavy duty and you shouldn't think twice about picking up a log and using the knife to process fire wood.

So How Do I Strip The Coating Off This Blade?
1) Get the correct Allen Wrench to remove the scales (the size is escaping me as I write this article). The scales seem to come off with ease and go back on securely just as easily.

2) Obtain a can of Aircraft Paint Remover

3) Craft or obtain a steel work area for your project (a paint tray will work if needed).

4) Wear gloves (thick rubber are better) then liberally apply the paint removing foam to the knife

5) Wait roughly thirty minutes then use a plastic knife to begin to scrape the foam and the black coating off of the knife. Repeat this process as many times as possible.

6)  Utilize cold water to stop the chemical reaction and wash the remainder of the materials off the knife.

7) Utilize steel wool to continue to strip the knife down to bare metal.

8) We then started with 800 grit sand paper and worked our way up to 2000 grit trying to ensure all of the coating is gone.
9) Finished product before adding scales, notice the nice patenia look of the knife. I think the process not only improved the useability of the knife but also the look of the knife.

10) Completed project ready for flint/steel testing

The low price of this knife brings a decent "survival knife" to all consumers. While the initial price is less than $40.00 you also have to figure in the sewing supplies for fixing the sheath and the stripping compound which bring the cost of the knife to over $60.00. For that price I would personally buy a Mora Bushcraft Black (Buy It Here- LINK) or a Jeff White knife (Buy It Here- LINK) or simply save my money for a Battle Horse Knife. This knife would serve anyone well if they chose to make it their one tool option but there are other options out there that I personally prefer more and require no modification out of the box. This knife is an improvement for the Schrade line of "Survival Knives" and I'm excited to see if they continue to make improvements.Removal of the protective coating and shipping in an oil packed container would be a significant improvement.

Have something outdoor/bushcraft/trapping/preparedness/hiking/camping/fishing/hunting related you want me to make a post about? Leave me a comment and I will see what I can do! As always feel free to leave your questions and comment below! Also if you enjoy the blog please vote for us on the following websites to help us reach a wider audience:
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