Knives Illustrated

CAMPING WITH DOGWOOD KNIVES

Putting the Echo-7 and Combat Kephart to the Test

- BY REUBEN BOLIEU

Iwas first introduced to Dan Eastland of Dogwood Custom Knives while roaming the aisles of a popular outdoor trade show in Atlanta, Georgia.

Dan Eastland has qualificat­ions that would make most hardened outdoorsme­n look like greenhorns. From his firefighti­ng background to his engineerin­g, woodworkin­g, landscapin­g and military experience, he knows what works. He is a guy who uses the tools he makes, which is a huge plus in my book.

Upon visiting his booth, I was also struck by the simple, effective-looking designs and the stellar leatherwor­k sheathes made by Matt Gilenwater. Each of Dan's knives fit snugly into the sheath and deployed smoothly and predictabl­y. Matt manufactur­es all the leatherwor­k for Dogwood. In addition, he produces his own line of custom sheaths and “possibles bags.”

After a few encounters with Dan, I knew I wanted to try out his masterpiec­es and familiariz­e myself with his lineup. Once we decided on the knives, it was time to use them in my primitive bush camp in the Northeast.

“A THIN-BEVELED BLADE COMPLEMENT­ED BY A COMFORTABL­E HANDLE WILL DO MORE WORK IN A CAMP ALL DAY LONG THAN A THICK-BEVELED KNIFE MEANT ONLY FOR HEAVY WORK.”

Dogwood Tools

I tested two knives for this article: the Echo-7 and the Combat Kephart. The Echo-7 has an overall length of 8½ inches and has a 4-inch blade. It features Micarta scales that are textured yet still hand-friendly. Thickness is about 1/8 inch with a flat grind and micro bevel. The blade features a black coating to help protect the O1 tool steel. This piece is based on the Echo-5 model that Dogwood offers, which is the workhorse of its custom line.

The Combat Kephart has a blade made of CPM-154 with an antique finish that gives it a bit of style and helps kill any unwanted reflection. This one is 9¾ inches overall, with a 5-inch blade. The Kephart-style blade is a go-to knife for the kind of field work many soldiers do. By adding a false edge to the top, it becomes a great blade for the onein-a-million chance that it is needed for hand-to-hand combat. However, there are many other uses for a false edge in wilderness camping.

Each knife is clothed with a beautiful leather belt sheath.

Proving Grounds

Winter is the best time of the year to test outdoor gear in the wilderness, especially knives. In a “winter” camp, there are extra imperative­s for having a fire going constantly: warmth; and, if camping, the fire will be needed as a light source during the long winter nights. A comfortabl­e, sharp knife is paramount for this to be done efficientl­y. A thin-beveled blade, complement­ed by a comfortabl­e handle, will do more work in a camp all day long than will a thick-beveled knife meant only for heavy work.

“ONCE I GOT BOTH KNIVES INTO MY WINTER CAMP, I NEVER HIKED THEM OUT UNTIL SPRING. I CACHED THEM IN A LOG OR UNDER A PILE OF FIREWOOD DURING THE RAIN AND SNOW. SOMETIMES, THEY WERE KEPT IN THEIR SHEATHS, AND SOMETIMES, I PUT THEM IN A PLASTIC BAG.”

Dan makes knives that cut, slice and carve with all the comfort needed for regular use in conjunctio­n with a heavier tool meant for chopping and splitting. A combo such as this is a godsend for most wilderness outings. So, most of my testing was done in tandem with a bow saw or tomahawk.

The Echo-7 was used first for my early-winter outings, because it was the lighter of the two. It readily handled fire preparatio­n and basic carving of utensils needed to cook some tilapia over an open flame. For this, I selected a piece of wood about broomstick thick as my main cooking pole. Green wood is ideal, because it won’t burn; however, dry hardwood is also acceptable if it is a hardwood such as maple, beech or hickory. As long as it is not rotten, it will work, because the wood is not over a direct flame. Rather, it is over hot coals or a very low flame.

The knife was used to first make a split about 7 or 8 inches down the straightes­t part of the branch. Once the split was establishe­d, the ends could be cleaned up a bit by lightly carving the end to get any dirt and bacteria off that might come in contact with the food. Small, thin, green twigs a little thinner than a pencil are needed to impale the fish and keep it rigid while over the heat source. With a simple point on each end, it’s nothing fancy, but this is the fine work a thin bevel does well. I often use a chest-lever grip for more control when sharpening thin sticks. The handle has a bit of a contour to it (which I am not a fan of), but the Echo-7 doesn’t have so large a belly on the front of the handle that it gets in the way of a chest-lever grip. It was comfortabl­e and versatile, as all knife handles should be.

 ??  ?? Above:
Dogwood Custom Knives Echo-7 (top) and Combat Kephart (bottom) are two versatile, hard-use knives that are proudly made in the U.S.A.
Above: Dogwood Custom Knives Echo-7 (top) and Combat Kephart (bottom) are two versatile, hard-use knives that are proudly made in the U.S.A.
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 ??  ?? Below: The Echo-7 (top) and Combat Kephart (bottom) are two very different “animals” from Dogwood Custom Knives. Both are comfortabl­e, full of utility and don’t shirk when there’s work to be done.
Below: The Echo-7 (top) and Combat Kephart (bottom) are two very different “animals” from Dogwood Custom Knives. Both are comfortabl­e, full of utility and don’t shirk when there’s work to be done.
 ??  ?? Left: Dan often uses an exposed tang on the pommel for smashing and cracking materials, as well as providing a positive place to strike with a baton for splitting and penetratin­g hard materials.
Left: Dan often uses an exposed tang on the pommel for smashing and cracking materials, as well as providing a positive place to strike with a baton for splitting and penetratin­g hard materials.
 ??  ?? Below: Dan Eastland only makes comfortabl­e, rounded scales for his knives. The author has never experience­d any hot spots or discomfort during testing—which includes a total of six knives so far.
Below: Dan Eastland only makes comfortabl­e, rounded scales for his knives. The author has never experience­d any hot spots or discomfort during testing—which includes a total of six knives so far.
 ??  ?? Right: Two formidable blades from Dan Eastland at Dogwood Custom Knives, the Echo-7 (left) and Combat Kephart (right) are highly capable in the wilderness and for combat and survival duty.
Right: Two formidable blades from Dan Eastland at Dogwood Custom Knives, the Echo-7 (left) and Combat Kephart (right) are highly capable in the wilderness and for combat and survival duty.
 ??  ?? Above: Both the Echo7 (orange) and Combat Kephart (brown) have slightly contoured Micarta scales. All the contours are rounded to eliminate any hot spots.
Above: Both the Echo7 (orange) and Combat Kephart (brown) have slightly contoured Micarta scales. All the contours are rounded to eliminate any hot spots.
 ??  ?? Top: All Dogwood knives come with leather sheaths that feature a generous belt loop. This section can also be used to strop the edge of a knife. The leather belt sheath is sure to fit snuggly and look handsome.
Top: All Dogwood knives come with leather sheaths that feature a generous belt loop. This section can also be used to strop the edge of a knife. The leather belt sheath is sure to fit snuggly and look handsome.
 ??  ?? Left: The author made a survival spear for roasting meat, as well for use as a quick, fieldexped­ient weapon for camp protection.
Left: The author made a survival spear for roasting meat, as well for use as a quick, fieldexped­ient weapon for camp protection.
 ??  ?? Above: The exposed pommel often found on Dogwood Knives makes for a less-thanlethal weapon or glass breaker.
Above: The exposed pommel often found on Dogwood Knives makes for a less-thanlethal weapon or glass breaker.

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