CUS­TOM KNIVES

A col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween a Swedish man­u­fac­turer and an English, cus­tom knife-maker sets the ed­i­tor’s pulse rac­ing

Air Gunner - - Contents - Model: Sa­fari, black G10 lam­i­nate RRP £ 69.95 www.casstrom.co.uk

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.

Col­lab­o­ra­tions

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.

Full tang

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.

Cus­tom knife

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

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.