John-Satory Satori Arts in La Crosse

By Clay Riness  

I’ve already made it quite clear that I am nuts for knives. To me, the world of knives is fascinating because all are designed from one general concept; take a hunk of steel and sharpen one side (or sometimes two sides) to a cutting edge. However, the sheer variety of blade designs for specific purposes is staggering.

After having read most of the Amazon reviews on an Old Hickory butcher knife, and seeing some videos about it being repurposed for a sort of bush knife, I went ahead and ordered one, just because …

(Inner voice: “What the heck, it’s only 11 bucks.”)

I have to admit … when this knife was delivered I was very disappointed on a variety of counts. The grind was ridiculously poor. It was so crude with burrs that when I attempted to slice carrots with it, it was more of a saw than a knife edge. Further, the scales weren’t even symmetrical; one was longer than the other.

(Inner voice: “Well, it was 11 bucks. Live and learn.”)

I spent an evening in my chair observing it in my hands, turning it over and over and thinking.

(Inner voice: “Well, it IS 1095 carbon steel … and after all it was only 11 bucks.”)

That night, I wrapped it in paper towel, dowsed it with apple cider vinegar and then wrapped that in plastic wrap. I left it on the counter overnight to put a patina on the steel. The next morning when I unwrapped it, it was black with oxidation. A good wipe-down left it an aged gray and looking much sweeter. After the wood had dried, I rubbed in some oil.

(Inner voice: “For 11 bucks, this thing is kind of cool now. I kind of like that the scales are uneven. It’s … unique.”)

A few days later, I spent an enjoyable, slow, cathartic two hours with a two-sided oil stone, a fine Arkansas stone, then a strop, and put an edge on it that only 1095 can brag about. When finished, it aced the paper and the hair shaving tests. I rubbed a few more coats of oil into the scales, and then a light coating of oil on the steel. By then I had developed an odd affection, even a love affair with it. Sitting in my chair, turning it over and over again, I realized exactly why there were so many great reviews. It really is a good piece of steel; it’s nostalgic-looking, crude but elegant, old-timey … and it took me to get it to that state of grace.

(Inner voice: “I can’t believe this great knife was only 11 bucks!”)

Finally, I pulled the trigger and ordered a Ka-Bar 7” leather sheath for it, because any fixed blade in the field needs a good sheath.
(Inner voice: “I can’t believe I paid 16 bucks for a knife that cost me 11 bucks.”)

Moral of the story … for under $30, if you are willing to make this into a real cutting tool, you too can discover the endorphin-producing euphoria of falling in love with an Old Hickory, and press it into service on your belt. Sure, it’s no high dollar, exotic wood, custom-made bushcraft model that you’re almost hesitant to use because it’s too pretty. But, it’s practical, it’s sharp, it’s made in the USA and it’s all yours.

Outer voice: “And it’s 11 BUCKS.”