Knives Illustrated - - News - STORY AND PHO­TOS BY KEVIN ESTELA

The Fiddleback Forge Bush Her­mit proves it is more than just a bush knife, it's also a dy­namic hunter. BY KEVIN ESTELA

Add hunt­ing to its al­ready im­pres­sive list of field uses. Re­cently, Fiddleback Forge re­leased a new model, the Bush Her­mit, to their pop­u­lar cus­tom and mid-tech knife lineup. Al­ready pop­u­lar with out­doors­men with in­ter­ests in camp­ing and bushcraft, the Bush Her­mit is de­signed to be an all-pur­pose field knife with a belly de­signed for slic­ing. Its over­all con­fig­u­ra­tion makes it well-suited for use as a hunt­ing knife, as well as an heir­loom-qual­ity blade, wor­thy to be passed down for gen­er­a­tions to come.

I re­cently had an op­por­tu­nity to test one of these blades and was not go­ing to miss out on the chance to put it through the ringer, to eval­u­ate how it would or wouldn’t work as a hunt­ing knife.

Com­fort in Hand

Fiddleback Forge has earned a rep­u­ta­tion in the knife com­mu­nity as pro­duc­ing some of the most aes­thet­i­cally pleas­ing blades, with trade­mark “bulls­eye” lan­yard tubes and “as-forged” blade fin­ishes. You might think Fiddleback Forge blades were de­signed to be visu­ally ap­peal­ing be­fore they were de­signed to be hard work­ing, but that as­sump­tion couldn’t be more in­ac­cu­rate. Fiddleback Forge owner, Andy Roy, doesn’t fa­vor form over func­tion and his pri­or­ity is com­fort in the hand. The com­fort is achieved through a com­bi­na­tion of taper­ing of the tang, round­ing the squared edges and fin­ish­ing the han­dle with pro­gres­sively finer abra­sive and pol­ish­ing belts. I used the Bush Her­mit in a va­ri­ety of tasks found in and around the hunt­ing camp. Re­gard­less of what grip I used, the Bush Her­mit was com­fort­able and pro­duced no hot spots.

What is nec­es­sary to men­tion is the ab­sence of a ferro-rod sharp spine found on many sur­vival knives. Long be­fore the re­cent “sur­vival craze,” knives with spines like this were con­sid­ered un­fin­ished. Andy Roy pur­posely rounds his spines to elim­i­nate any stress points, as well as mak­ing the knife more com­fort­able when pinched by the blade near the tip. If the out­doors­man can carry a ferro rod, he can carry a scraper. In a real bind—even though it will dull the edge slightly and isn’t ad­vised as the pri­mary method— the out­doors­man could use the edge of the blade as a ferro rod scraper.

The Sheath

A hunt­ing knife should be car­ried in a man­ner that pro­tects the user from the edge and the knife from the el­e­ments. Just as eas­ily as the blade can process an­i­mal flesh, it can serve up a nasty cut to the user if he isn’t care­ful. Con­sid­er­ing hunt­ing is an ac­tiv­ity usu­ally done in the early hours of the day and in less-than-fa­vor­able con­di­tions, a se­cure sheath should not be an af­ter­thought, but a pri­or­ity. My Bush Her­mit was pro­vided with a deep pouch sheath from Diomedes In­dus­tries. The sheath could be worn on the belt as is, or with the drop-leg at­tach­ment that has an in­te­gral firest-


eel loop. This is my pre­ferred method of car­ry­ing a blade deep into the bush. I sug­gest adding some Loc-tite to the drop-leg at­tach­ment screw as it would be a shame, pos­si­bly a life-threat­en­ing er­ror, to lose your blade be­cause the screw walked out.

With only a small seg­ment of the han­dle ex­posed, I opted to at­tach a small length of blaze-orange para­cord to help with draw­ing it from the sheath. The ex­tra length of cord not only helps with re­triev­ing the blade but also can be tucked be­hind my belt to pro­vide a sec­ondary form of re­ten­tion.

In Use

I re­ceived my sam­ple Bush Her­mit dur­ing the peak of fish­ing sea­son when no game could be legally hunted. While this stopped me from poach­ing, it didn’t stop me from test­ing it in a man­ner sim­i­lar to game pro­cess­ing. I pro­ceeded to my lo­cal meat mar­ket and pur­chased some bone-in meats. I pro­ceeded to de-bone them and trim away the ex­cess fat, with­out re­mov­ing too much, since we all know if you kill the fat, you kill the fla­vor.

At 1.25-inches at the widest part of the blade, the Bush Her­mit was not un­wieldy work­ing around bones and joints. Even with greasy hands, I had no trou­ble achiev­ing a good pur­chase on the Bush Her­mit. With­out any gaps in the han­dle ma­te­rial, lin­ers, and steel, I didn’t have to worry about leav­ing any bac­te­ria be­hind that couldn’t be wiped and washed away.

I used my Bush Her­mit to process a Lon­don Broil steak into strips of jerky. By putting the steak in a cold re­frig­er­a­tor for a while, I not only made it firmer for slic­ing, I was able to see how us­ing the Bush Her­mit would feel with cold hands from han­dling the meat I sliced up. Thanks to the gen­er­ous size and wooden han­dle ma­te­rial, I ex­pe­ri­enced no dex­ter­ity is­sues while work­ing the blade.

Cut­ting hide and hair can quickly de­stroy an edge, es­pe­cially when that hide and hair is cov­ered in caked-on mud, as is usu­ally the case with wild hogs. Since I didn’t have ac­cess to any freshly-killed game, I re­sorted to cut­ting through var­i­ous thick­nesses of leather while do­ing some leather­work. The belly of the Bush Her­mit al­lows the user plenty of fin­ger clear­ance when slic­ing with the blade, and the depth of the cut is very con­trol­lable. I worked the blade


of the Bush Her­mit against the leather to thin it out, a process called skiv­ing and usu­ally left for ded­i­cated leather­work­ing knives.

The Bush Her­mit had no trou­ble mak­ing clean cuts in the leather in a sim­i­lar way to skin­ning, where con­trol­ling the blade is es­sen­tial to pre­serv­ing the in­tegrity of the hide. With­out hav­ing an ac­tual car­cass to work with, the leather shop pro­vided me what I needed to eval­u­ate how it would work on var­i­ous game.

I also used my Bush Her­mit in a va­ri­ety of tasks I nor­mally en­counter in a hunt­ing camp and in the field. Start­ing with early morn­ing ac­tiv­i­ties, I pre­pared my break­fast with it, slic­ing onions and press­ing gar­lic to go with my steak and eggs. As with other car­bon steels, re­peated use in the kitchen lets a nice patina de­velop on the ex­posed steel.

Over the course of the field test, I used my Bush Her­mit to trim branches out of the way while plink­ing, cut cordage of var­i­ous ma­te­ri­als and thick­nesses and for fire prep to make lunch out in the field. When the blade be­came no­tice­ably dull, sharp­en­ing it was ex­pe­dited by us­ing a com­bi­na­tion of di­a­mond stones and ce­ramic rods. Since the knife would con­tinue to be used on pos­si­ble ed­i­bles, like food items and in the kitchen, I took the step of coat­ing it with a thin layer of olive oil each time. This pre­ven­ta­tive main­te­nance was all that was nec­es­sary to ward off any sur­face rust. In fact, the only place rust that was slightly vis­i­ble was the 1-inch of tang ex­posed when the knife was in­serted into the sheath.

Plan for Suc­cess

A smart hunter plans from suc­cess back­wards, and if you an­tic­i­pate need­ing a knife for game pro­cess­ing, camp chores and gen­eral field­craft, the Bush Her­mit is a great se­lec­tion. It is just the right size to serve in mul­ti­ple roles, al­low­ing you to fo­cus more on the hunt and less on the cut­ting tools you wish you had. Strap one onto your belt the next time you go into the woods and per­haps you’ll be for­tu­nate to have a good har­vest and get to test it out for your­self. KI


Top: The Bush Her­mit works just as well for wood carv­ing tasks as it does as a meat cut­ter.

Bot­tom: Re­gard­less of the grip used, the Bush Her­mit was com­fort­able in hand.

Top: The Fiddleback Forge Bush Her­mit fea­tures sig­na­ture “as fin­ished” mark­ings on the blade.

Right: The Fiddleback Forge Bush Her­mit was per­fect in camp for food prep.

Left: The Bush Her­mit worked great for slic­ing up Lon­don Broil for the food de­hy­dra­tor.

Above: The wide han­dle of the Bush Her­mit makes it an ex­cel­lent choice for those with size large and ex­tra-large hands. 1:1 AC­TUAL SIZE

Bot­tom Right: The Bush Her­mit pro­vided for this re­view came with a beau­ti­ful hand­made sheath from Diomedes In­dus­tries. This sheath fea­tures a drop carry adapter with firesteel loop. Bot­tom Left: Andy Roy is able to achieve a light­weight feel in the...

Mid­dle: The self-guard of the Bush Her­mit pro­tects the user from rid­ing up on the blade when hands are slick. 1:1 AC­TUAL SIZE

Top Left: The black and orange lin­ers re­ally high­light the beauty of the iron­wood han­dle.

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