A collaboration between a Swedish manufacturer and an English, custom knife-maker sets the editor’s pulse racing
When English and Scandanavian craftsmen unite, the results can be outstanding, says the editor
Just once in a while I get wind of a product that quickens my pulse. Middle-aged hacks like me have ‘ been there, seen that’ for all too long, so when something really gets my attention, I know it has to be special. I saw the early prototype of this knife almost a year ago and on first sight I knew it was something special. Airgunners don’t need big knives, simply because our quarry species are naturally small, so a 2½” blade is ideal. For much of my hunting life I’ve carried folding knives, but with the law changing to make any locking knife carry the same status as a fixed blade, I figured I might as well have one and keep it in the boot of the car to and from my permissions. Fixed blades are far simpler, stronger, less expensive to make and way easier to clean hygienically, to ensure that the meat we produce for the table is of the highest possible standard.
I wrote recently about collaborations between custom knife-makers and large-scale production companies. This arrangement can often deliver superb knives at much more affordable prices than any small-scale, custom maker could offer. This was the case when Casstrom, a Scandinavian knife manufacturer, approached Alan Wood, a legendary English, custom knife-maker. He has a reputation for making knives so special that people pay fortunes just to own one of his creations, new or second-hand.
The Casstrom design team asked him to put forward a design that he felt would appeal to the British shooting community and the Safari was born. It follows the idea of being ‘more handle than blade’ making it work beautifully for small- game duties. Rabbits, pigeons and squirrels were never more easily field dressed and skinned than with this knife. Using Scandinavian-made, 12C27 stainless steel, an up-swept droppoint style was selected that’s perfect for game preparation. Then we come to the grind. As a dedicated game blade, the ultimate shape is a high, hollow grind that slips through meat and skin like nothing you’ve ever used before. This is not well suited to heavy chopping or carving because the blade is at its thinnest near the edge, but for meat preparation, this is the Holy Grail.
It uses a full tang construction where the knife ‘ blank’ is the full-width core of the handle as well as being the blade. It can be seen at the top and bottom of the handle. If you look carefully along the spine you see one of the subtle touches that custom knifemakers use. Inside the scales, the tang is
tapered toward the rear. This means that at the point where it takes the most pressure, it’s at its thickest, but to the rear it thins to save weight. This has a direct impact on the knife’s balance and feel without losing any strength.
G10 is an incredibly tough synthetic material that makes the ideal handle. It can resist extremes of temperature, is impermeable to water, mud and blood, and laughs at most chemicals. It can also be machined and shaped in any way you like. Casstrom chose to use a very smooth, almost polished finish on the Safari, whereas I’d have liked a slightly textured, bead-blast kind of appearance. That being said, because of the contouring of the handle where your fingers grip it, I’ve had no problems, even with cold, wet hands.
The Safari comes in a lovely leather belt sheath that sits on your hip unnoticed as you’re out hunting. I’d like the option of a synthetic sheath, but I’ll save that discussion for another day.
When you represent a custom knifemaker, your production standards have be pretty good and I’m glad to say that the fit and finish of my sample was exemplary. Even the logos on the sides of the blade were neat and precise. Achieving a high, hollow grind is not something the average knife factory is ever asked to produce, so more credit goes to Casstrom for delivering that so neatly. I can honestly say that I’ve never felt a knife slice through skin and meat more easily than with this little gem.
I guess we would love to spend time with a custom knife-maker and get him to build a blade that perfectly suits our tastes, but in reality, it will remain a dream for most of us. However, this knife comes a very close second to the dream and will deliver more build quality and performance at the very highest standard than any production knife ever could. What foxed me completely was the price. I would have comfortably expected this stunning model to be £125, so when I read £ 69.95 I was shocked. That’s the bargain of the decade! For those who like traditional materials Casstrom offers a model with curly birch handles that look sumptuous for £ 89.95. They’re treated with a process that drives a synthetic material through the wood’s pores, making it impermeable to water and blood, so just as practical as G10, but much better looking.
This knife has lived up to my hopes and even exceeded them. In my eyes, it’s almost the perfect airgunner’s knife and mine travels with me on every hunt. I take my hat off to Casstrom for doing all the hard work to offer us such an excellent knife at such a modest price. ‘ Du har min respekt’, as they say in Sweden.
“In my eyes, it’s almost the perfect airgunner’s knife and mine travels with me on every hunt”
Like the knife, the sheath oozes quality
Having more handle than blade gives perfect control
Creating a hollow grind is far from easy
A modified drop point shape is the ideal game blade