Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Off The Map Knives - Review

Functional Art

About a year or so ago, I had a hankering for a custom blade. I have a handful of very good production
knives (mostly ESEE) but wanted something a little more personal. My search eventually let me to the knife maker Brian Andrews. His site is The Backyard Bushman and his brand is called Off The Map Knives.

Brian has a very large selection of knives on his site, each with a ton of options. One of the great things about him is that he is also willing to do completely original work. Several of the knives he offers initially came from drawings and discussions between himself and individual customers. Knowing this, I approached him asking if he could tweak one of his designs for me.

What I asked for was basically a Tony's Bushcrafter handle with his The Bushcrafter blade. I also wanted the blade slightly longer. Brian tends to favor 4" fixed blades and my EDC folder has a 4" blade so that seemed a little testosterone deficient to me. Here are the specs per the options on his site:

Knife: Tony Knife handle, bushcrafter blade shape, additional .75" of length
Steel: O1
Grind: Scandi
Thickness: 5/32"
Handle: Desert Ironwood Burl with Jeweled cross pins
Liner: Black
Other: Matching firesteel

Here's the mockup drawing (the Tony and Bushcrafter are below)

And the finished product

Here's a better picture of the blade with the Scandi grind. I don't know why it got so washed out in the previous one.

The knife is an absolute work of art. I went with the heavier 5/32" blade thickness so it can better standup to batoning through wood, and it hasn't let me down. Here it is next to the 1/4" matching firesteel. The black scaling mentioned in the specs can be seen here, they separate the tang of the blade from the wood of the handle. He also gives the spine a sharp 90 angle for striking on the firesteel, and when you feel the edge of the spine, it is very pronounced.

Brian prides himself in the design and comfort of his knife handles, and he did an exceptional job with this knife. The handle fills the palm of the hand quite comfortably, more so than any other knife I own. You can see how the handle swells to fit in the palm of the hand in the picture above.

I got lucky with a beautiful piece of desert ironwood. The cross pins give it an elegant look. Something that I wasn't aware of until after I placed the order is that desert ironwood only grows in the Sonoran desert, which as I mentioned in the last post is where I grew up. That gives this knife an extra personal touch for me. The grip here is something that Brian wanted to change, one thing I guess he didn't like about the Tony's Bushcrafter was he felt the grip needed to be brought closer to the blade to give a little better leverage. Since grip comfort is something Brian prides himself on, I trusted the expert.

Needless to say, I couldn't be happier with the knife. It is everything I was looking for. A perfect blend of beauty and function. The craftsmanship is outstanding as well. The accompanying sheath is a hard leather which is simple, functional and well made. Getting the knife back in can be tricky sometimes because it is so sharp and can bite into the leather. Keeping the spine of the blade against the sheath and using a light touch usually does the trick. If you know the proper way to sheathe a katana, it is kind of like that.

Ordering was easy. Like I mentioned earlier I got in touch with Brian via email about what I was looking for and asked how long his wait times were running. At the time it was about 3 months so keep that in mind if you want to order. Eventually as the wait time expired we started hammering out the details via email and chat. Brian was extremely easy going, professional and easy to work with. If you have an idea for a custom knife and are looking for someone to create it, Brian Andrews may be your man.

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