Thursday, September 16, 2010

Swenson Custom Knives Review

Well the testing is complete so it is time that I offer a review of a very special set of knives hand crafted by the master blade smith, Luke Swenson.

Back in February I received an email from Ron Hood and he told me to keep an eye on the mail because he had sent me some stuff and he needed to know when I got it.  Obviously I was excited, I was thinking test gear, I love testing gear and it is even better when you didn’t have to work anybody to get it.  With my excitement overflowing the package finally arrived at the post office in the form a little yellow card in my box that said you have a package” well the counter was closed so the next day I rushed out of work early to get to post office before it closed.  It was a moderately sized package but considerably heavy for its size.  Rather than open it I drove home and let my imagination run wild.  Not too wild mind you, it had to be knives or a bomb but I was pretty sure that I had not pissed Ron off so I settled on knives.  I busted through the front door, tore past my wife and ripped into the package.  KNIVES!!

Not just any knives these were custom beauties cased in custom leather.  Not fancy ordainments and leather work just simple beauty in a functional form.  With the anticipation of undressing a super model I unsheathed these babies.  And etched into the blade was the inscription “To Norseman, From Ron Hood” my stomach sank.  Keep in mind that these were not some custom creation from the mind of the master blade smith; they were of my own design.

A few months back I had sent off some wooden knife designs to Ron for his review.  I had been designing and refining them for many years.  They had evolved in to what I would call the perfect knife for me and the ways that I use them.  I had no ideal that this is what was in the package, or even in the works.  They were identical to my wooden prototypes and every bit as comfortable and balanced as I had imagined.  I immediately emailed Luke and Called Ron to let them know that I received the package and that I was eternally grateful.  Being that I was at that time, in the middle of an intense mountain leadership course I immediately began to put them to the test.

Upon completion of the course I had a few weeks off then I was off to Norway for a winter survival course where they would be my only tools for survival.  I was sure that they were up to the task and had no issues choosing them as the only tools that I was allowed to bring.  This pair of knives are of different size blades and a slightly larger handle on the larger one.  The handles were designed to function the same and provide a variety of holds and grips for survival tasks.  These are not your usual survival knives; these were refined over a very long period of time as I developed my knife handling skills and awareness of blade geometry.

“These knives were made for a true American hero, a real life marine scout sniper they are both 01 tool steel, the large blade is from 1/4 inch stock, and the smaller blade is from 3/16 stock. Both are hand rubbed to a 600 grit finish and have convex edges. Both blades also have green canvas micarta handles and stainless fittings. The larger blade is a slick 9.75 inches and the other comes in right over 4 inches. The hand stitched 9 oz leather sheaths complete a durable dependable package. Hardcore adventure indeed!” –Luke Swenson

The handle design and function:  The shape of the handle was intended to fit comfortably in the hand forward and backward as well as upside down, basically comfortable in any position that you can hold a knife.  It also had to have a shape that offered good grip without any sharp edges knurling or jibbing.  This was accomplished very well and as an added bonus it is also easy to hold while wearing mittens.  The handle has no hard edges so using it for extended periods of time does not create any hot spots.  The pommel has a large hole that can accommodate a small carabineer.  This provides a sold griping location for heavy chopping when using a pinch grip on the rear of the handle.  Both the front and rear portions of the handle are slimmed down to lend great control when using the pinch grip.  Toward the front of the handle is a small relief carved into the flat of both sides.  This is for the thumb to sit while using the side grip, it offers greater control and almost eliminates any friction hot spots on the thumb.  The handle is of green canvas micarta and it is held in place by three stainless steel pins.  The set is finished with custom leather that makes them look like historical replicas.   

Summary:  This is an heirloom quality set of knives that will be passed along to my children.  Luke Swenson is truly a master of his trade and I would not hesitate to contact him for future projects.  The precision and attention to every detail of the design was flawless.  He inserted his own experience in the choice of steel and the type of grind on the blades without any reservation.  His expertise enhances the design and completed the pair where my experience was limited. The knives perform almost magically when the proper techniques are used during cutting chores.  From light camp tasks to felling larger trees this pair is up to the task.  They have been used on large and small game, many camp chores in desert and forest, in the frozen north of Europe to sunny southern California, and the Brutal Sierra Nevada’s. In the sun, or rain, or snow I could not ask for a better pair of sidekicks.