As with all things bush-crafting the need generally defines the tool. Questions I tend to ask of myself when looking at a new tool, gadget, ammunition, firearm, camping component and or bush-crafting necessity are quite simple and follow.
- Where do I live? (Am I in the jungle, low desert, high desert, tundra, forest or otherwise?)
- What are the largest animals of prey in my area, am I top of my local food chain or are there others possibly above me?
- What will it take for my basic survival in the area in which I live?
- How often will I be able to test what I am purchasing and or will someone else’s review be sufficient for me to make a decision on it?
Once I begin testing I attempt to do so in every condition that exists in the area I live in. I reside in the American South West (Arizona specifically), we have below freezing weather, over 120 degree heat, regular droughts and a lack of potable water as compared to many other locations. However, with proper conservation and approaches we also have the ability to grow food naturally (gmo free) throughout the year. This being said, survival conditions in this area are somewhat more difficult then they may be in other areas simply because of the extremes from hot to cold that can happen in any given 24 hour period.
This review is meant to look at a specific blade type, the khukhri or (kukri in Murika’). In my testing over the past decades I have used axes, hachets, large camp blades, machetes, saws and more. However, upon my discovery of the khukhri blade (specifically Nepalese made) and through the subsequent testing of these blades I came to the realization that for the high desert it really is probably the best multi tool one can carry on themselves when hiking, in a go bag, car kits and more.
Mesquite is among the hardest woods in the United States rivaled only by Eastern Maple, Oak, Hickory, Osage Orange and Ironwood as well as a few other similar woods around the United States. It is rated at 2345 ftlbs on the Janka hardness test. (This tests the amount of force it takes to embed an 11.28mm ball half way into the wood.) When it is green it regularly breaks chain saw blades and can take literally weeks to clear even an acre of it dulling every blade that touches it. Hence, when testing any blade part of that test ALWAYS includes chopping through, batoning and trimming mesquite. Of course the net benefit is that it is a hot burning wood as well as being a very nice flavor enhancer for cooking. So the chopping never goes to waste.
When I first began reviewing the various khukhri designs available from the Cold Steel Khuhkri, Cold Steel machete style, Fox kukri, Condors version and even a truly cheap M-Tech version I found that they all lacked the abilities I wanted from my khukhri’s. You see what I found was that they were either too thin (no splitting ability or limited) or they simply could not hold an edge properly. I even snapped the M-Tech and the CS Machete version chopping with it, destroying the handle. So I expanded my search, I found Himalayan Imports blades and after a bit more searching found a few other quite well built khukhris (though this is up for argument depending on with whom you speak). One of those is the Ex-Ghurka Khukhri House blades, it was here that I found what I had been looking for.
These blades are generally built using 5160 spring steel and tempered in three different hardnesses in three different areas. The spine which on a good khukhri is almost always 1/4” too 1/2” thick will generally be tempered around 20-25 rockwell providing flex and durability during heavy use. The center of the blade is tempered from 30-45 rockwell hardness and the edge (approximately 1” worth on MOST but not all (I have found the above two mentioned are the best available easily obtained builders) this edge is tempered from 55-60 rockwell hardness. Due to the shape it is an amazing chopper, easily cleaving head from body of game animals and or enemies as well as quickly chopping through your chosen wood of choice. Because of the wedge shape it makes an incredible tool for batoning strips of wood so that you can make any number of additional tools using just this one alone. I used one of my EGKH models to build a self bow from local woods that I than took several rabbits with quite easily.
Much like the old highland clans of Scotland and ancient Norway there is much competition between tribes/towns. In Nepal it is to produce the “best” blades and Ghurka troops out there. I would suggest only that you do additional research if you have the need too. Himalayan Imports (HI) carries a wide and incredibly beautiful variety of blade types. Each has its uses and potentials, EGKH also carries a wide variety with the same applying. Remembering that with blades there will never be a single blade that works for everything you may find yourself purchasing several if the bug bites. For myself I still carry the Morakiniv Companion (carbon steel/forced self applied patina of apple cider vinegar) and an Opinel #8 in ALL my bags, simply because I can do so and it only adds a couple of ounces.
The Khukhri’s I have found to be the best size for myself is the 12” bladed Ang Kola from HI or the 10” bladed Panjawala from EGKH. They offer a beautiful compromise between weight and ability, both are well made, full tang (this meaning that the tang regardless thickness runs all the way through the handle) and I have personally NEVER broke one. As with ALL knives I test, I hammered both about four inches into a large mesquite tree and than stood with my full 235 lb weight on them (flat side facing my feet) bouncing a few times they barely moved, after digging them out I proceeded to chop the tree down using them. It now resides in my back yard as firewood! Yes, folks when I test them I do it attempting to break them. You see, I have too know what their limits are. The only true limits of these wonderful blades is that shaving with them can be difficult given the blade shape.
Additionally each khukhri from these two wonderful manufacturers comes with a small skinning knife and a metal stropping/ honing tool meant only to clean an edge up not truly sharpen it. For that I would suggest DMT diamond hones or the Lansky curved hones or something similar. Both manufacturers have suggestions for sharpening on their page so by all means do you own research in that area. I personally prefer to polish my edges down to a mirror surface and be shaving sharp regardless size. What good is a dull or half sharpened blade? These blades weigh right around 2 lbs., as a result are not easily carried if weight is a concern. However, given their ability to function as a self defense weapon and survival tool and the fact that they easily replace hand axes, saws and other large knifes this is something easily adjusted too. Did I mention I have dug several holes with both as well? (And they retained their edges enough to chop more wood!) We are talking Arizona soil, rock hard top soil, gravel at around 6 inches with clay and other nastiness at around 13”. It is amazing what you can do with them.
As far as I can tell there are only two drawbacks to these blades. First, MAKE SURE YOU GET ONE OF THE TWO BRANDS MENTIONED, many other builders exist and believe me BudK doesnt make knives they make crap. Second they are HIGH carbon steel, so either apply a forced patina (I do always, looks are not why I own knives). And regularly oil them well, I use ballistol however, even animal grease will work or vehicle oil. They WILL rust quickly if left in the sheath for long periods of time. Store them using wall racks or safes OUTSIDE of the sheaths. As with every review I have ever done I am sure I left something out or will upset someone. This is not my intent, rather it is simply my intent to show you what works for me where I live. Remember, it is about what works WHERE WE LIVE and for EACH of us!
As a side note unlike many other reviewers of these knives I do not have a vested interest in either company. I have not received these knives as presents or in trade for the review. Rather I have spent my own money too ensure you get the best information available without coverup or over promotion based on my interest. My only income is based on the links that go through my Amazon account so feel free to click on the ad to the right of the article for my store and or a search engine that will help keep reviews coming. Additionally I am attaching several pictures, they do not show the HI knife, however, you will get the idea of testing involved to some extent.
Free the mind and the body will follow.