Most Bushcrafters are of the impression that a hand made knife of carbon steel is the best they can get and many aspire to this.
But is it?
Is the hand made knife - pound for pound - a better tool?
Of course if you want something special - made to your specs using materials of your choosing like the Leuku below - then a custom job is the only answer but if your looking for a work horse - why spend all that time and money?
Technology is such that many factory made knifes are now cheaper than ever before and yet of the highest quality - perfectly mixed steels of flawless quality and digitally set tempers which can not be matched by the hand maker? Can they?
We are all familiar with the Forst Mora - made popular by Mr Mears and now the standard issue tool by most of the better schools for novices but what of Brusletto or Helle ...... Martinni or any of the other Finnish or scandinavian makers with centuries of tradition behind them?
They all offer a vast array of tools so much so thant even the most picky of people must find one among the range they like!
Of course theres the argument - "well as in any hobby you should have the best tools you can afford" but does price really reflex quality?? Or does price actually just reflect the fact that a hand maker can not make the same type of knife in the same time span and with the lower overheads of a major factory?? If so then surely the "best tool you can afford" isnt a reflection on the tool and its ability but on the name of the maker?? Your paying for a brand name - Alan Wood knives for example, I've owned two and while the workmanship is great they cut the same as a Mora clipper - indeed in use the clipper is more versatile.
Recently (with the down turn in the global and UK economy) I decided to veer away from the hand made ranges and look at the mass produced tools out there ..........and have been pleasnatly surprised how good they really are.
My favourite (pictured above) came from Attleborough Accessories in Norfolk and is the Brusletto Middelalder - a factory custom job aimed at collectors and as such a limited run - which originally was rrp £70 BUT they are now selling at £30. For this price you get a lot of quality in the knife and it now piggy backs with my Wilderness Knife as my field utility knife!! The feel of the tool is excellent and the quality equally so ...........it certainly matches any hand made knife I've ever owned!
Other knifes in the Brusletto range I like are the Bamsen (my oldest knife which I used for many years until I joined the woodlore team) the Granbit and Troll are both equally good and make fantastic utility tools.
Of course ALL of the above doesnt detract from the pleasure you get from receiving and owning a unique hand made tool - but if your looking for a work tool, if your more practical than romantic, and if you want to own many knives for the price of one then a mass produced knife may be your answer .............after all even Mors Kochanski preferred one (the Erikson mora) to a custom job and as a man with a life times more experience than most people how can we fault him.....................
So next time your pondering a new cutting tool - give the factory ranges a thought - with the money you save you could even afford to go out into the wilderness and use it ")