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A New Folding Knife from Knives of Alaska (And Other Knife Notes)

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October 09, 2012

A New Folding Knife from Knives of Alaska (And Other Knife Notes)

By David E. Petzal

It occurred to me that I haven't done anything on knives in a while, so here goes. As a brand, I’ve seen more Knives of Alaska cutlery in the hands of guides and outfitters than any other maker’s stuff, which is probably due to the fact that Charles Allen, who heads the company, has been a game biologist for something like 40 years, and is an Alaska guide, and knows what he’s doing.

Latest in the line is a series of small slip-joint knives that are just about right for carrying in your pocket. My favorite is the Ranger (pictured here), a drop-point with a 2.3-inch blade made of D2 steel, an orange-and-black micarta handle, and a price tag of $69.99. It’s a very strong little knife that can do just about everything except clear a path through the jungle, and if you went to Princeton, or your kid goes to Princeton, the Ranger’s handle is in the school’s colors.

If you’re looking to buy a knife or sell one, particularly a custom blade, I most highly recommend Arizona Custom Knives, which was founded in Arizona, but has moved to Florida. They have a huge variety, cheap and expensive, all types, factory and handmade. I’ve bought and sold knives through them, and the ACK folks do exactly what they say they will do, when they say they will do it. And in these sorry times, that is one hell of a recommendation.

For those of who you are knife nuts and assume that there were always thousands of custom smiths and factories using exotic dedicated knife steels, assume again. Back in the middle of the last century it was pretty drab and dismal. There were maybe half a dozen smiths who were nationally known, and those by damned few, and most factory knives were nothing to get excited about.

But in the mid-1960s, three things happened: Gun Digest ran an article by Ken Warner on custom and semi-custom knives that caused people to say, “Holy s**t, how long has this been going on?”. Second, a number of trailblazing knifemakers such as Bob Lovelesss, Ted Dowell, and D.E. Henry showed their peers that there was a different way to do things. And third, a gent from Arkansas named A.G. Russell got into the knife business.

A.G. did a lot more than that. He recognized and encouraged new talent, and sold their knives. For years, he sent out a list of custom knives for sale that was an invitation to fiscal ruin. He is probably the single most important force behind the custom knife boom, which is now 40 years old and shows no signs of diminishing.

And God bless him, he is still in business. A.G. sells a wide variety of high-end factory knives and custom cutlery, much of which is made for him alone. He has also established a second business called Russell’s for Men, which sells all sorts of neat stuff. The road to fiscal ruin runs from both websites, but who cares? We only live once, don’t we?

 

Comments (19)

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All Comments
from PbHead wrote 1 year 27 weeks ago

Thanks Dave. Now I have another great place to Christmas shop for my family.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mjenkins1 wrote 1 year 27 weeks ago

Mr Petzal, which knives in particular would you recommend from Knives of Alaska for basic skinning and butchering? I'm in the Southeast and deal with ye ole whitetail and blackbear. Thanks

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from deadeyedick wrote 1 year 27 weeks ago

For some reason when I purchase a fine knife it seems to get lost faster than a run of the mill type knife.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from davidpetzal wrote 1 year 27 weeks ago

To MJenkins 1: There are in in particular that I favor. First is the Extreme Yukon #1, which is very handy for knocking the guts out of them and skinning, although I'd like a tad more curve in the belly. Second, for butchering, is the Bush Camp, which is a highly useful all-around knife and is also at home in the kitchen.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tim Platt wrote 1 year 27 weeks ago

I'm already losing about $15,000 a year four years running just because I own a house, so fiscal ruin is not unfamiliar territory for me. Deadeye, I have the same problem. I blame the five kids I had and hope that at least one of them is enjoying the fruits of my labor.

Sweet links from Dave as expected. I have always wanted a Damascus blade, and now that I know I can have one from Boker made from the barrel of a famous German tank $1,800 sounds cheap. Didn't my house lose that much value last month? What the hell am I waiting for?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from RPeterson wrote 1 year 27 weeks ago

Mr Petzal, About a year or so ago you stated that the Diamond McMillan knife was the best. Do you still feel this is true? And how do you feel how the McMillan Diamond knife come pairs to a Dozier Knife like the Dozier K-19 Professional Skinner?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Safado wrote 1 year 27 weeks ago

Dave,
I'm not familiar with slip-joint knives. Is that the locking mechanism?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from davidpetzal wrote 1 year 27 weeks ago

To RPeterson: I don't completely understand your question. The McMillan knife is made for them by DiamondBlade, and I have never used a knife that will hold an edge as well. You can get a few as sharp, but they won't keep it as long. Do you mean how does it compare to a Dozier knife? Bob Dozier makes fine knives, intelligent designs, same D-2 steel as the DiamondBlade, but the latter's forging is completely different, and the Doziers I've used will not keep an edge as long as DiamondBlade. Nor will anything else.

To Safado: Slip joint refers to a folding knife whose blade does not lock in the open position. Yes, it does refer to the locking mechanism, or more accurately, the absence of one.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from dick mcplenty wrote 1 year 27 weeks ago

Knives of Alaska are a dime a dozen because every big box sporting goods handles KOA by the truck load and prices it to move. Few Guides have any clue about good gear,they usually carry whatever they can get cheap or are tipped with.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Steve in Virginia wrote 1 year 27 weeks ago

I have a weakness for good knives -- as long as they are made in the USA. I don't need another knife, but I will look for this one. The funny thing is, the one knife that I end up using all of the time during deer season is a Buck Vanguard, with the less expensive rubber handle. It's darn near perfect. It's already been put to use on the first deer of the year opening day last Saturday.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from postmodern_barbarian wrote 1 year 27 weeks ago

D2 is certainly a high-end steel for knife blades & industrial-grade tools that need to be tough _and_ abrasion-resistant. It has a relatively high chromium content, making it more rust-resistant than most non-stainless steels. But the type of steel is only part of the story: how it's hardend and tempered makes a matters, and some manufacturers have mastered that art better than others. Another thing to remember is that the better a knife holds an edge, the harder it'll be to resharpen. People who use knives a lot (e.g., butchers, chefs, etc.) sometimes prefer blades that resharpen quickly even though they have to be touched up more often.

Me, I'm a sucker for well-made pocket & hunting knives. There's a reason I don't visit AG Russell's website very often-- I have a wife & family to support.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Safado wrote 1 year 27 weeks ago

That's why I love this site, I'm always learning something new!! I have a bunch of Laquioles that are slip joint knives and I didn't know it. This knife sounds like a good gentleman folder, the type that I carry daily. I alternate sometimes a Laguiole, right now I have an Al Mar in my pocket. My favorite gentleman folder is the Chris Reeves Mnandi but it is pricey.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from crowman wrote 1 year 27 weeks ago

I have been a customer of Russell's for years and they some of the best working knives that you can buy.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from tom warner wrote 1 year 27 weeks ago

I have bought almost all of my many knives over the past 30 years or so and cannot recommend them too highly. Fine people to do business with and if you cannot find what you are looking for in their monthly catalog, it may not exist. On your recommendation I attempted to order a knife from DiamondBlade not long ago, which did not turn out well. The lady who took my order somehow seemed to have lost it and when I inquired about it, declined to reply. So I was left with a pretty poor impression of that outfit.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from tom warner wrote 1 year 27 weeks ago

Sorry, I meant to say A.G. Russell. My mind is failing I guess.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from jaukulele wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

Very nice. It looks sturdy and powerful.

I think all my nice knives disappear to my dad's pocket.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from BackRoad600 wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

hmm...looks real nice...I love the handiness of folders, and since I trust Mr. Petzal's reviews, a site prowling/drooling session and a possible subsequent purchase may be in order...

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Del in KS wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

I just bought 2 more knives from cold steel. Remember the Pendleton lite hunter was knife of the year couple years ago. They are still excellent and very reasonably priced. They make great gifts and I don't mind getting blood all over them instead of my rosewood scales on the Buck ergo hunter. Midway has them on sale right now one model is only $11.95 and is razor sharp right out of the box, holds an edge too. I gutted 3 deer with one last fall and it still was hair shaving sharp. What more could a man ask for?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Del in KS wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

BTW Dave my son is in grad school at Wharton U in Philly do they have a knife in those school colors?? Might make the kid a nice graduation gift. Dave I can't believe you are only 54. Young whippersnapper, you are.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from deadeyedick wrote 1 year 27 weeks ago

For some reason when I purchase a fine knife it seems to get lost faster than a run of the mill type knife.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jaukulele wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

Very nice. It looks sturdy and powerful.

I think all my nice knives disappear to my dad's pocket.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from PbHead wrote 1 year 27 weeks ago

Thanks Dave. Now I have another great place to Christmas shop for my family.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mjenkins1 wrote 1 year 27 weeks ago

Mr Petzal, which knives in particular would you recommend from Knives of Alaska for basic skinning and butchering? I'm in the Southeast and deal with ye ole whitetail and blackbear. Thanks

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from davidpetzal wrote 1 year 27 weeks ago

To MJenkins 1: There are in in particular that I favor. First is the Extreme Yukon #1, which is very handy for knocking the guts out of them and skinning, although I'd like a tad more curve in the belly. Second, for butchering, is the Bush Camp, which is a highly useful all-around knife and is also at home in the kitchen.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tim Platt wrote 1 year 27 weeks ago

I'm already losing about $15,000 a year four years running just because I own a house, so fiscal ruin is not unfamiliar territory for me. Deadeye, I have the same problem. I blame the five kids I had and hope that at least one of them is enjoying the fruits of my labor.

Sweet links from Dave as expected. I have always wanted a Damascus blade, and now that I know I can have one from Boker made from the barrel of a famous German tank $1,800 sounds cheap. Didn't my house lose that much value last month? What the hell am I waiting for?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from RPeterson wrote 1 year 27 weeks ago

Mr Petzal, About a year or so ago you stated that the Diamond McMillan knife was the best. Do you still feel this is true? And how do you feel how the McMillan Diamond knife come pairs to a Dozier Knife like the Dozier K-19 Professional Skinner?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Safado wrote 1 year 27 weeks ago

Dave,
I'm not familiar with slip-joint knives. Is that the locking mechanism?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from davidpetzal wrote 1 year 27 weeks ago

To RPeterson: I don't completely understand your question. The McMillan knife is made for them by DiamondBlade, and I have never used a knife that will hold an edge as well. You can get a few as sharp, but they won't keep it as long. Do you mean how does it compare to a Dozier knife? Bob Dozier makes fine knives, intelligent designs, same D-2 steel as the DiamondBlade, but the latter's forging is completely different, and the Doziers I've used will not keep an edge as long as DiamondBlade. Nor will anything else.

To Safado: Slip joint refers to a folding knife whose blade does not lock in the open position. Yes, it does refer to the locking mechanism, or more accurately, the absence of one.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from dick mcplenty wrote 1 year 27 weeks ago

Knives of Alaska are a dime a dozen because every big box sporting goods handles KOA by the truck load and prices it to move. Few Guides have any clue about good gear,they usually carry whatever they can get cheap or are tipped with.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Steve in Virginia wrote 1 year 27 weeks ago

I have a weakness for good knives -- as long as they are made in the USA. I don't need another knife, but I will look for this one. The funny thing is, the one knife that I end up using all of the time during deer season is a Buck Vanguard, with the less expensive rubber handle. It's darn near perfect. It's already been put to use on the first deer of the year opening day last Saturday.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from postmodern_barbarian wrote 1 year 27 weeks ago

D2 is certainly a high-end steel for knife blades & industrial-grade tools that need to be tough _and_ abrasion-resistant. It has a relatively high chromium content, making it more rust-resistant than most non-stainless steels. But the type of steel is only part of the story: how it's hardend and tempered makes a matters, and some manufacturers have mastered that art better than others. Another thing to remember is that the better a knife holds an edge, the harder it'll be to resharpen. People who use knives a lot (e.g., butchers, chefs, etc.) sometimes prefer blades that resharpen quickly even though they have to be touched up more often.

Me, I'm a sucker for well-made pocket & hunting knives. There's a reason I don't visit AG Russell's website very often-- I have a wife & family to support.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Safado wrote 1 year 27 weeks ago

That's why I love this site, I'm always learning something new!! I have a bunch of Laquioles that are slip joint knives and I didn't know it. This knife sounds like a good gentleman folder, the type that I carry daily. I alternate sometimes a Laguiole, right now I have an Al Mar in my pocket. My favorite gentleman folder is the Chris Reeves Mnandi but it is pricey.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from crowman wrote 1 year 27 weeks ago

I have been a customer of Russell's for years and they some of the best working knives that you can buy.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from tom warner wrote 1 year 27 weeks ago

I have bought almost all of my many knives over the past 30 years or so and cannot recommend them too highly. Fine people to do business with and if you cannot find what you are looking for in their monthly catalog, it may not exist. On your recommendation I attempted to order a knife from DiamondBlade not long ago, which did not turn out well. The lady who took my order somehow seemed to have lost it and when I inquired about it, declined to reply. So I was left with a pretty poor impression of that outfit.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from tom warner wrote 1 year 27 weeks ago

Sorry, I meant to say A.G. Russell. My mind is failing I guess.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from BackRoad600 wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

hmm...looks real nice...I love the handiness of folders, and since I trust Mr. Petzal's reviews, a site prowling/drooling session and a possible subsequent purchase may be in order...

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Del in KS wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

I just bought 2 more knives from cold steel. Remember the Pendleton lite hunter was knife of the year couple years ago. They are still excellent and very reasonably priced. They make great gifts and I don't mind getting blood all over them instead of my rosewood scales on the Buck ergo hunter. Midway has them on sale right now one model is only $11.95 and is razor sharp right out of the box, holds an edge too. I gutted 3 deer with one last fall and it still was hair shaving sharp. What more could a man ask for?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Del in KS wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

BTW Dave my son is in grad school at Wharton U in Philly do they have a knife in those school colors?? Might make the kid a nice graduation gift. Dave I can't believe you are only 54. Young whippersnapper, you are.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment