Finding a better hunting knife lead veteran big game hunting guide, Russ Kommer, to become one of the best knife builders in the industry, and for 2013, Browning proudly announced the Russ Kommer Signature Series knives.
Five field-tested and proven knives make up the Russ Kommer Signature Series. Included in the line are four fixed-blade knives and one folding blade model. The fixed blades knives include a 4” Bird and Trout Blade, 3 7/8” Drop Point Knife, A Gut Hook Knife with a 4 ¼” blade and a 7 ½” Filet Knife. The Folding Knife includes a 3 ¾” blade. The blades are hollow ground AUS-8 stainless steel and satin finished. The Filet knife features 420 stainless steel. All models are laser engraved with Russ Kommer’s signature.
Fixed blade knives feature a well-designed injection molded polymer rubber handle and include a black nylon sheath. The folding knife has alloy scales with textured inserts and comes with a belt clip.
When legendary knife-maker Robert (Bob) Waldorf Loveless died in the fall of 2010, it left a vacuum in the cutlery world. Initially, Loveless designed his knives as functional edged tools for the user who demands peerless quality at an affordable price. In recent years, however, the price of one of his knives has risen well above the income level of most folks, fetching up to $5,000 for a simple 3 1/2 inch, fixed blade.
During his knife-making career, Bob Loveless had several individuals who spent time with him in his shop. Some came for conversation; others for knowledge and a few were willing work. Jim Merritt was one who came and stayed for 30 years working side-by-side with Bob. As a full partner in the business, Jim succeeded Bob as the sole owner and maker of Loveless Knives.
Another who came to the Loveless shop in the early 1970s and stayed to work with Bob was Steve Johnson. Steve is now a full-time knife-maker in Manti, Utah, and is proud to say that his knives are made in the “Loveless tradition.” A more recent Loveless protégé is Brent Harp. A former police detective in Redlands, California, Brent became interested in knife-making nearly 30 years ago.
“I’d tried my hand at knife-making and found that it was something that caught my interest. Of course I didn’t know a thing about steel, let alone proper heat-treatment technique. When I learned that Bob Loveless lived near me, I called him on the telephone and he invited me to his shop. And that led to an apprenticeship that involved several days a week and weekends for more than two years.
“Initially, I really didn’t know who Bob Loveless was. As far as I knew he was just a guy who made knives. I figured that he could point me in the right direction. Of course, it didn’t take too long for me to realize that Bob was a true master and one of the most influential makers of the later half of the Twentieth Century,” Brent said.
Interestingly, both Bob Loveless and Brent Harp began their knife-making careers the same way. Loveless forged his first knife from an old Packard automobile leaf spring. Likewise, Brent made his first knife from similar material. And just like Loveless in the beginning, Brent didn’t know how to heat-treat a finished blade.
“Bob taught me how to heat-treat a blade using the heat from barbeque briquettes and then temper it in my wife’s kitchen oven,” Brent commented.
Of course, home heat-treatment has its limitations. Now Brent sends his blades to Paul Bos in Idaho, who for years has operated one of the most well respected heat-treatment facilities in the nation.
“Paul Bos is who Loveless sent his knives to for heat-treatment and Jim Merritt has continued that practice. That was good enough for me,” Brent stated.
While Brent’s shop is small, it contains everything he needs to make knives. In fact, Loveless gave him recommendations and even provided some of the tools. One particular piece of equipment was custom-made by Loveless for Brent’s shop. With it Brent can do everything needed to create a knife, with the exception of drilling and buffing.
True to form, Brent Harp makes knives in the Loveless tradition¾fixed-blade, ATS-34 stainless steel, drop-point pattern, full-length tang blades with stainless single guards and Micarta handle scales. When I visited his shop, the Loveless influence was clearly evident in several of Brent’s recent creations.
“While I make Loveless style knives, recently I’ve began to make subtle changes in the handle design. Since it’s really all about improving functionality, the slight offset that can be seen in my knife handle is more of an evolution rather than a significant departure from the original Loveless design,” Brent said.
Even though Brent Harp can produce an exact copy of any Loveless design, right down to the tapered blade tang and red fiber spacer between the Micarta handle scales and the tang, he is a true custom knife-maker.
“I’ll make whatever the customer would like to have in a knife, from the choice of steel, to the handle scales and even the sheath,” Brent remarked.
It should be noted the Brent also makes all of his own sheaths out of top-grade 10-ounce leather. And like the Loveless knife sheath, the Harp sheath is form fitting with an integral cam to hold the knife securely until the user removes it.
In 2009, I had the opportunity to interview Bob Loveless on several occasions in preparation for the writing and eventual publication of Knifemaking with Bob Loveless: Build Knives with a Living Legend. In my last conversation with Bob, he said, “If I could sum it all up, I’d say do better each time and pass it on.” Certainly, the knife-making skill of Brent Harp is clear evidence that Bob Loveless has accomplish his goal.
Harp knives start about $450 for a 3 1/2-inch drop-point hunting knife with sheath. For more information, contact Brent Harp at: (951) 285-9601– Durwood Hollis
Long a favorite with the hunting community, edged game care tools from Knives of Alaska are designed right and built tough. Their latest knife series are four pocket folders that are sure to be a hit with outdoor folk of every persuasion.
One cutlery manufacturer that has what it takes to produce peerless edged game care tools is Knives of Alaska (KOA). The primary reason this is that company owner Charles Allen is himself a hunter and fisherman. He is also the owner/operator of a world-class fishing and hunting lodge in southeast Alaska, an area known for its burgeoning population of brown and black bear, moose, incredible numbers of waterfowl and some of the finest salmon fishing in the world.
Even though the KOA manufacturing facility is housed in northern Texas, the preliminary design and field-testing is done at the lodge, which sits along the famed Tsiu River in southeast Alaska. There, every knife is put through a series of model-appropriate field tests, which can include field dressing, skinning, fleshing hides, quartering and boning-out big game, as well as filleting copious quantities of silver salmon, pink salmon and Dolly Varden trout.
“Having a manufacturing facility in Texas provides ready access to needed materials, as well as being a central shipping point for the entire nation. Our Alaskan location allows us to escape the heat of those long Texas summers and participate in some of the best fishing and hunting in the world. There, we are able to create new designs and use that real-time experience to put our knives to the test under demanding field conditions,” Allen said.
The latest KOA introduction is a series of four, one-hand opening friction folders. They’re small enough to slip into any pocket, but big when it comes to functionality. Much of that performance potential is credited to the D2 blade steel used in all four new pocket folders. Long favored by custom makers, D2 has a enviable reputation for being extremely tough and highly resistant to edge chipping. Since each blade is heat treated to Rc 59-61, these handy pocket folders feature solid edge retention.
Both the Ranger and the Rover feature classic drop-point blade patterns, making either one a great choice for work on small game. With the point “dropped” well below the spine, the user is able to slit open rabbit and squirrel hides without cutting into the underlying viscera or muscle tissue, something that can be difficult to avoid with a clip pattern blade. The Ranger features a 2.32” blade and weighs just 2-ounces, while the Rover has a 1.95” blade and weighs in at a miniscule 1.4-ounces. An oblong thumb engagement hole just beneath the blade spine allows one-hand opening. A short section of jimping is situated on the spine for forefinger positioning when making precise cuts.
Interestingly, the main pin that attaches the blade tang to frame is oversize and inset into the Micarta handle scales. This eliminates any potential lateral blade movement and enhances the overall strength of this critical joint. Lastly, the blade itself has a square tang, which provides a halfway blade stop when opening and closing the knife. I found it to be a safety feature allowing the user to be fully aware of the position of the sharpened edge in relation to one’s fingers when closing the knife.
Handle scales on both the Ranger and the Drover are crafted from orange/black layered Micarta. This is extremely rugged material that’s unlikely to crack, split or fracture like so many other natural or molded synthetic materials. Furthermore, in comparison to similar size pocket folders, I found handle scales both ergonomically designed and far more robust. The slight downward curve and taper at the end of the handle allows for perfect contact with the grip pocket of the hand.
The Model 400 and Spike folders are identical in both size and weight to the two aforementioned models, however, the Model 400 features a 2.55” blade and the Spike has a 1.89” blade. Blades are also D2 tool steel and heat treated to the same Rockwell hardness. While the blade patterns on both of these models are also drop-point, the design is modified so it’s much straighter with a far finer point. A slight swedge is integrated into the blade spine and a thumb stud on the back of the blade allows for easy one-hand opening. Like the Ranger and Drover models, both the Model 400 and Spike blades have square tangs, oversize main pins and orange/black Micarta handle scales. I’ve used both knives to gut trout and various warm water species and they were an ideal choice. So much so, that I keep one in my tackle box and the other in my fishing vest. The larger Model 400 has also functioned well as a caper on deer and antelope, as well as being useful when field dressing game birds.
While there are lots of features to like about this entire series, the fact that they are made right here in the USA, come with a limited lifetime guarantee and are affordably priced (Ranger/Model 400 $69.95, Drover/Spike $59.95), make any one of these handy pocket folders a “must have” acquisition.– Durwood Hollis
There’s a knifemaker in North Carolina called Spartan Blades where the company’s co-founders, Curtis Iovito and Mark Carey, combined their military experience with their shared love of knife making to manufacture finely crafted tactical and field knives. With 40-plus combined years of military experience, including retirement from US Army Special Forces, the two know what “tough” means and designs it into Spartan Blades products.
According to their website, “Our intent is not to provide a cool knife or the next great pry bar, but rather produce a knife that is highly functional, made from only premium materials and techniques that looks great, too.” That intent includes collaborating with world renowned knife maker, William “Bill” Harsey. One of those collaborative efforts is the Spartan Harsey Hunter, designed to serve double duty as a combat or hunting knife. This is a full tang knife with bevels hand-ground by Bill Harsey. Handle scales are 3D machined to ultra tight tolerance from 3/8-inch Micarta to provide a comfortable and sure grip.
The 5 3/16-inch blade is made from CPM S35VN steel with a hardness of 50-60 HRC. It has a drop point, making it ideal for gutting or skinning big game and at more than half-pound weight, the 3/16-inch thick blade has the heft needed for jobs such as splitting a sternum.
Model: Spartan Harsey Hunter
Designer: William Harsey
Overall Length: 10 1/2″
Blade Length: 5 3/16″
Blade Thickness: 3/16″
Blade Steel: CPM S35VN
Blade Hardness: 59-60 HRC
Blade Style: Drop Point
Coating: SpartaCoat – PVD in ZrN (Flat Dark Earth)
Handle Material: 3D Contoured CE Canvas Micarta Black or Green
Weight: 0.64 LBS
Price: Starting from $495