The reentry of one of the oldest American cutlery firms is marked by some of the most creative knife design features that the market has ever seen.
In 1870, German immigrant Adolph Kastor started his own company in New York City importing German-made cutlery. In 1897, an import tariff made it too expensive to continue the import business, so Kastor began making his own domestically-manufactured edged products. Eventually, his manufacturing efforts led to Charles Sherwood and his little knife manufacturing facility in Camillus, New York. By the early 1900s and with Kastor leading the way, Camillus Cutlery began to enlarge, producing close to a million knives a year.
During World War II, the company worked closely with U.S. Marine Corps officers to develop what came to be known as the KA-BAR fighting utility knife and Camillus was awarded the first government contract to provide the knife for U.S. troops. After the war, Camillus shifted back to civilian production, but eventually the end was near. In 2007, the company filed for bankruptcy, and all of its intellectual properties and machinery were acquired by Acme United Brand. In 2009, Camillus Cutlery was reintroduced to the public, making the company one of the oldest knife manufacturers in the United States.
One of the most significant factors seen during the company’s return was the introduction of their new Carbonitride Titanium fixed-blade and folding knives. This proprietary technology utilizes Physical Vapor Deposition (PVD) to bond a thin (less than 5 micrometers), hard ceramic coating onto the blade surface. This coating becomes part of the blade surface and is a permanent molecular bond that will not peel, flake or chip. This same process is commonly used on machine tools, drills and milling cutters to improve overall cutting ability several times over.
When I attended the recent SHOT Show, three of Camillus’s newest Carbonitride Titanium hunting knives featuring this process, two fixed-blades and one folder, caught my eye. All three knives feature the use of AUS-8 stainless steel (carbon .75 percent, Chromium 14.5 percent, Manganese .5 percent, Molybdenum .3 percent, Nickel .49 percent, Silicon 1.0 percent and Vanadium .26 percent), with each Rockwell hardened to Rc 58-59. This particular Japanese-made alloy composition is extremely well rounded, producing versatile blade steel similar to the American made 440B.
The largest knife in this grouping is the HT-8.5 fixed blade that features a drop point blade pattern with 3 1/4” cutting edge and an overall 8 1/2” length. Additional blade features include: a recessed choil to allow a tighter grip position for close work, and back edge scalloping for alternative forefinger positioning. Blade tang is full length with an ergonomic molded handle that offers superior hand-to-knife contact. While this particular knife is multi-purpose, it features a sweeping edge for skinning ease. The knife comes with a rugged fabric sheath that features an internal hard plastic edge protector for safe and secure personal carry. From elk to eland and deer to duiker, this is an extremely functional edged tool.
The FK-7 folding knife features an internal frame locking system to secure the blade in the open position. The clip-pattern blade is 2 3/4” long and has back edge scalloping with short lengths of jimping for alternative forefinger positioning when involved in detailed cutting assignments. There is also a “Quick Launch” internal main pin system that uses a ball bearing to provide for instant blade opening. While most folders use some type of nail nick to facilitate blade opening, all it takes to open this folder is nothing more than a flick of the forefinger. Lastly, handle scales are molded around an open frame with an attachment clip. This is a rugged little folder that can handle field dressing, skinning and trophy work with ease.
Rather than being a knife, the GH-6 is a rather uniquely designed fixed-blade gut hook. Measuring just 6” in overall length, the sharpened hook is wide enough to easily deal with hides and pelage of varying thickness, preventing clogging during the cutting process. The blade also features a recessed choil and on the back of the blade there is a short length of jimping for positive thumb contact. The tang runs the full length of ergonomic molded handle, which provides a secure grip surface under demanding conditions. Using this handy tool is like having a built-in hide zipper. It simply and easily slits open any hide with ease and doesn’t cut into the underlying viscera or muscle tissue. A tough fabric sheath with a rigid plastic insert allows for out-of-the-way belt carry.
Camillus has done themselves proud with the creation of this trio of highly functional cutting tools. Obviously, the designers understand the specific needs of big game hunters. By using a sophisticated stainless alloy, functional blade patterns, an innovative blade coating and user-friendly handle designs, all three of these edged tools provide the where-with-all to deal with any game animal, big or small. It just doesn’t get any better than that!–Durwood Hollis