McMillan recently introduced as a companion to their Fixed Blade Hunting Knife, a smaller Custom Caping Knife designed to handle all of the fine detail work involved when removing the head skin cape for trophy mounting. The knife is well suited for this task because the scalpel-like blade and the fine blade point easily handle the delicate work around the antlers/horns, ears, eyes, lips and nasal passages. Also, the ergonomically-designed handle, the slightly recessed choil and the short section of jimping on the back of the blade (near the point) are all designed to assist the user in the work.
Crafted from D2 tool steel, which is well known for its resistance to chipping, edge deformation and stain resistance, the blade has been differentially heat-treated by the proprietary Friction Forged process. This means that the spine of the blade at a Rockwell hardness of Rc 45 is not nearly as hard as the cutting edge zone at a Rc 65-68. The forging process reduces the size of the nano-size steel grain microstructure in the extremely hard edge zone, which in turn provides peerless edge retention without the usual brittleness. In addition, the chromium content of the steel composition is enhanced to produce a corrosion-proof edge.
The knife measures 6.75 inches overall, with a blade length of just 2.5 inches. This is a full-width, full-length tang design, which provides enhanced strength at the critical blade/handle junction. A slightly recessed choil near the base of the cutting edge acts as a guard of sorts, which is a safety mechanism to prevent the forefinger from sliding forward onto the sharpened edge. The choil also allows the user to grip the handle in an alternate manner when performing precision incisions.
The handle scales are blue/black Micarta (layered fabric impregnated with epoxy and subjected to extreme heat) and feature mosaic attachment pins. The handle configuration mirrors the grip pocket of the human hand, which provides better blade control and increases the comfort level during the term of the caping assignment.
Furthermore, the design incorporates a slight curve to the entire back of the knife so that cutting pressure is inherently positioned at the point of the blade. Simply put, the overall design of the knife has been so engineered that all of the bases (function, user comfort and enhanced edge integrity) have been covered.–Durwood Hollis
Handcrafted knife is specifically designed for delicate work in small areas.
McMillan is best known for its lines of ultra-accurate high-end hunting and tactical rifles, but it also offers custom hunting knives. Recently, McMillan added to that line a small caping knife that’s specifically designed for the fine, detailed cutting necessary when removing a hide that’s going to be mounted.
When caping an animal, you don’t just remove the hide from the head, you also have to split the lips, nose, and eyelids, and also turn the ears inside out all the way to the tips. And you have to do all of that preferably without cutting a hole through the cape or yourself. I ran a small taxidermy shop before getting into publishing, and have some experience when it comes to what works and what doesn’t for caping. What works is a sharp blade–one that’s fine, nimble and light, but not so light that it “flutters” around in your hand. For me, caping in the field always meant two knives–one a Victorinox 3 1/4-inch paring knife, and the other a small X-Acto knife with an extra pack of replacement blades. After removing the cape, I’d find a smooth stone about the size of a baseball and stretch the hide over that so I could carefully pare down areas using the Victorinox, and when I got to the delicate areas, I’d switch over to the X-Acto and its razors.
It would be nice to do both the major and fine work with a single knife, so I’m anxious to give the new McMillan a try this hunting season. I see several things going for it as a possible one knife replacement for my two. For one thing, I like its size. Like the paring knife I’ve been using, the McMillan Caping Knife is big enough to manage making a “Y” or “7” incision at the back of the skull, but is also small enough that you can control it during that incision. Another thing I like are the small serrations along the top of the blade so you can more easily control it using your finger. That’s the type of control needed around the lips, nose and eyes. Finally, it’s made for McMillan by DiamondBlade and from what I’ve read on DiamondBlade, the darn things just stay sharp.
If it holds its edge, then this knife should be just the thing for guides who cape their client’s trophies. For everyone else, it’s a handy size for general utility and camp use.–Scott Mayer