There was a time, many years ago, when I collected high-end custom knives. I designed several of the knives myself, and had a couple custom knife makers produce them for me. I was a real sucker for a beautiful hand-made knife; I still am. However, I didn’t want to use any of those beautifully crafted knives because, well, they were so beautiful. They were works of arts, and I didn’t want to see them get all scratched up. Oh sure, I had some custom knives that were “working” knives. I wasn’t afraid to put them to work or get the blades scratched or dirty. However, most of the knives in my collection were too darn pretty to use. (Using them would decrease the value of my knives.) Eventually, the entire collection was sold.
Since selling my handcrafted, fancy custom knives, I’ve designed a few more knives and have also received custom knives for articles over the years. I was mainly interested in a working man’s knife, rather than an “art” knife. I want knives that I’m not afraid to use and abuse. Christopher Fischer of C.T. Fischer custom knives from Elk City, Idaho contacted me some months back and asked if I would be willing to test one of his knives for SurvivalBlog readers. He also asked for an article on my findings. I agreed. He had an in-stock fixed blade knife on-hand that he sent to me. Many custom knife makers are backlogged months and sometimes years on their orders. I just happened to luck out this time with the knife being immediately available for testing.
I received the 6-inch, full-tang, all-purpose camp knife with a brass guard for testing. A camp knife is one of those knives that can handle most chores around a camp, dressing game in the field, and preparations in the kitchen, as well as act as a weapon for self-defense. A camp knife should also have some type of guard to prevent your hand from sliding onto the blade and doing some serious damage to your fingers. The camp knife Fischer sent me came with a full brass guard. He also offers the same knife without a guard, if you want it that way.
Fischer usually works with CPM S30V stainless steel; high-carbon steels, such as O-1 tool steel, 1095, 1075 and 52100; and steel from large saw blades. While I really like CPM S30V stainless steel, like many stainless steels, it doesn’t hold an edge as well as carbon-steel blades. I’ve always found carbon-steel blades easier to re-sharpen when compared to stainless blades. Now, don’t get me wrong, most of the knives I own and use are made out of some type of stainless steel, which is a nice thing to have in the rainy and very wet Pacific Northwest, where we usually have about 8-months of rain per year. Even with the best care, stainless steel blades can rust and carbon steel blades are even worse. Carbon steel blades require extra care, but it’s worth it.
The camp knife I received for this article is made out of 0-1 tool steel. Fischer sends all his stainless steel knife blades out for heat treating to Paul Bos, who (if you ask me) is “the” number one name in heat-treating of knife blades. Even though Bos no longer does the heat treating himself, the company still holds to his high standards. Fischer does his own air-hardening heat treatment himself on the non-stainless blades.
The blade on the camp knife sample I received is 6-inches long– neither too long, nor too short for a camp knife. The thickness of the blade is 3/16th of an inch, which is just perfect for this type of knife. Its overall length is 11-inches from tip to butt, and the knife weighs 13-ounces. The handle material on my particular knife sample is made out of light- to medium-brown Dymondwood. It is a dyed, plastic impregnated laminate that is available in 50 colors and color combinations. It has a layered look to it , which is very attractive and almost bullet-proof. We’re talking super-tough hand scales. However, you can get your knife’s handle scales made out of Micarta or hardwoods. Fischer doesn’t use bone or antler because they are fragile and shrink-up on a knife.
Another nice touch to all of the C.T. Fischer knives is that Fischer makes all his own sheathes, which are well-made and heavy duty. I’ve had some absolutely beautiful hand-made knives pass through my hands in the past with sheaths that looked terrible. The knives didn’t fit in the sheaths properly. Not good! Fischer’s sheath that came with my camp knife sample was made for the knife and will last a lifetime with little care.
Fischer will make you a sheath out of Kydex, if you request it. However, on this camp knife sample, it just made sense to my way of thinking to have a leather sheath. A Kydex sheath would detract from the look of the knife. You can also get a sheath made for horizontal carry as well as neck sheaths for his smaller knives. C.T. Fishcher will be happy to fill your special sheath requests.
Okay, I’ll be honest, before being contacted by Fischer, I’d never heard of him or his knives. I haven’t really been into custom knives in a number of years. So, I did some research on Fischer and his knives and found some big-name knife dealers are carrying and selling C.T. Fischer knives. These dealers’ websites had some favorable comments from very satisfied customers. That’s a good thing.
The blade on my camp knife sample has a soft satin finish on it. On a working knife, you don’t want a shinny blade because it shows the scratches easily. The handle scales were also pinned on the knife, and there is a lanyard hole in the butt of the knife. The knife came shaving sharp, which is a nice thing. Some custom knife makers don’t know how to put an edge on a blade.
Around my small homestead we always have an abundance of blackberry vines. No matter how much blackberry killer I spray on these vines, new ones pop up all the time. It’s an on-going battle keeping these wicked vines in-check, and it gets very expensive having to buy the spray-on blackberry vine weed killer. So, I often get out there with a knife and whack away at those vines. It’s a great media in which to test the sharpness of any knife. Many knives won’t cleanly cut through thick blackberry vines, which are super tough. The C.T. Fischer camp knife had no problems taking the large vines down with one slice with the knife. I also used the camp knife in the kitchen, too, for all manner of cutting, including tomatoes, meat, and onions. The knife breezed through them all.
Now, one look at the Fischer knife will readily tell you that it is a working knife rather than a show piece. You could mount it on a stand and put it on your desk for everyone to admire. However, Fischer’s knives are working knives, first and foremost, no doubt about it. Like the old Timex watch commercials, they can take a licking and keep on ticking. Okay, maybe not “tick”, but they can stand-up to just about anything you can throw at them and still do the job they were designed for. The camp knife had a nice balance just behind the brass guard. I like a knife that is slightly handle-heavy, especially if I’m doing any chopping.
I didn’t bother with any knife-throwing tests, like I normally do with knives. I just couldn’t bring myself to throw it and scratch the blade or handle scales. Yeah, there is still some of that “fancy” knife mentality left in me since I couldn’t abuse this sample by throwing it.
All-in-all, I was impressed with the C.T. Fischer camp knife sample. It is a working man’s knife, and one that deserves consideration as a wilderness or survival-type knife. If you don’t like this particular pattern, check out the website. Fischer also makes a Classic-style Bowie with a 9-1/2 inch blade, as well as a 3-inch utility knife and everything in between. Now, for the good news, the 6-inch camp knife sample I received, with the tool steel blade, is only $360. In my book, for a custom, hand made knife, of this quality, it’s a steal. I would have expected this knife to cost at least $500 or more. Now, once again, keep in mind, these are NOT show knives. They are designed as working knives, so the blades won’t come all shinny. However, the knife sample I received was well-executed, well thought out, and priced “oh-so-right”. Fischer doesn’t often have knives in-stock, but check with him. If the knife pattern you want isn’t in-stock, see how long it will be for him to make one just for you. – SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio