Last month, after a longer than anticipated wait, I finally received my custom-made Dan Koster Bushcraft knife! I had wanted to write a review the very next day, but with some much going on I've only just been able to finish writing it.
As I said, the knife was custom-made for me by well known boutique knife maker, Daniel Koster and I couldn't be happier with the final result. Here are the specifications:
- CMP3V high carbon steel for better edge performance
- 4-inch full tang blade approximately 5/32-inch thick
- Aluminum Corby bolts and 5/16-inch landyard hole
- Full Scandi grind at ~12.5 degrees
- 3/8-inch natural canvas micarta handle scales
- Black handle liners
- JRE custom-made leather sheath
There were two other knives that I was interested in at the time, the BCNW-01 Bushcraft knife and the Spyderco Bushcraft knife. I ended up going with Dan's design because I personally preferred having a finger guard which the other two knives did not have - I'm sure that bushcraft purists will be boo'ing me about now! As you will see from the photos, the quality and finish of the entire knife and sheath package is fantastic with tremendous attention to detail. I'll start from the outside and work in.
The Sheath As with many of the smaller knife makers, Dan focuses his attention to making superb knives and leaves most of the leather work to partners who are better suited to that line of work, which in this case is the marvelous skills of JRE Industries. JRE has been making quality custom-fit leather sheaths for all manner of knifes for a long time and have become very well known for their bushcraft style sheaths. The popular BCNW-01 Bushcraft knife also uses a JRE custom-made sheath (note: the blade of the BCNW-01 is ground by Dan Koster).
As you can see that there is no snap down retaining strap to keep the knife secure in the sheath, it is held in place by fit alone. The sheath is a perfect fit and holds the knife very securely and deeply. Mine is a right-handed sheath with a combination belt loop and neck cord loop on the back held in place by two heavy rivets. There is an additional vertical loop of leather on the long edge that securely holds a fire steel, allowing me to carry my knife and fire starter all in one convenient package!
The Blade There are two steel choice available for the Koster bushcraft knife; CPM 3V for those wanting the best edge performance, and CPM 154 for those wanting the best stainless performance. I personally chose the high carbon CPM 3V steel for my knife so that I would have better edge retention properties as that was more important to me. The high carbon tool steel blade means that it is more prone to rust than the stainless version, but with a little care and occasional light oiling the blade can easily be kept in tip-top rust-free condition.
The blade has a full Scandinavian (Scandi) grind which is a wide flat bevel that runs to the edge of the blade (Blade grinds explained). There is no significant secondary bevel as seen on most other knives. The angle is engineered to match the quality of the steel and its intended use. The result is a very keen edge, which can easily be sharpened to be razor sharp. Mine came with a "working" edge that was actually already razor sharp!
Another advantage of the Scandi grind is that it can be resharpened until the blade is worn away, without changing the angle of the edge. No jigs or other gadgets are required. All that is required is to lay the bevel flat on the stone, and work the entire surface of the bevel. It's significantly wide enough to forms it's own guide. The Scandinavian grind also gives excellent control in woodcarving. If you carve wood, you will probably find that the flat bevels give you better control of the cut.
The spine of the blade is ground flat to produce a crisp, square edge that can be used for striking a firesteel effectively. A clear differentiation from more classical bushcraft design is the small potion of jimping (notches) that have been cut into the spine very close to the handle. While these aren't strictly needed for either of the two main hand grips used in bushcraft cutting tasks (forehand grip and chest lever grip), I personally like them and have found them to be extremely useful for striking against my firesteel - more so than a squared edge alone.
The blade is 'full tang' which means that it extends through the entire length of the knife. For purely aesthetic reasons I chose to have black liners added to the handle scales to really make the edge of the blade pop against the handles.
Handle Scales The handle is made of natural canvas micarta held in place by two aluminum Corby bolts. Canvas micarta is a composite material made from layers of coarsely woven cloth and phenolic resin. While micarta is not technically as strong as G10, it is still practically indestructible. Micarta is totally impervious to heat, cold, dampness and even total immersion in water or oil.
It finishes up beautifully with a nice mild texture that seems to aid in gripping without feeling sticky in my hand. The scales are approximately 3/8-inch thick on each side, which seemed like a it was too wide when I first saw it, but the shaping has been done so well that they fit perfectly into my hand. In fact the original design of this knife had much narrower handle scales, so I'm happy that these were fattened up.
At the end of the handle is a lanyard hole which is reinforced by an aluminum tube. I have other knives that have very small (narrow) lanyard holes, but this one is approximately 5/16-inch and more than adequate to take even something as thick as paracord without binding tight. It's a small detail, but I really like how the lanyard hole has been flared out or countersunk. It makes it much easier to thread cord through the hole.
The front end of the handle scales are nicely rounded and then cut at a bevel. This creates a very smooth transition to the blade. In the photo above you can clearly see the finger guard shaped into the blade.
Overall I'm extremely pleased with the build quality and design of this knife - I would definitely recommend it to others. Carrying a knife like this doesn't sit well with my ultralight mentality, but as my knife skills and cutting needs have slowly evolved I've experienced a shift in my reasoning. I now cut weight where it makes sense, but not if it will compromise the functionality of the item. As the weather improves I hope to be outdoors more and one of the first things I want to do is make a video of this knife in action, so stay tuned!
See also: Koster Bushcraft Knife Modification
Disclosure: The author owns this product and paid for it using their own funds.