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Thread: Koster Bushcraft Review

  1. #1
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    Koster Bushcraft Review


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    Background:

    I have owned every generation of Koster Bushcraft knife since his first generation.

    1st Generation in 3V - With Penetrator Tip (picked up 'used' here on BF):



    2nd Generation in 3V - Cocobolo (I was in on the Pre-order on this one):




    First and Second Generations Side by Side - Top down.

    3rd Generation in 01 (modified Handle - and forced patina):



    I have been a fan of Dan's work for some time now. In fact, I fell in love with the JRE sheath so much that my early sheaths were simply copies of them (with very few changes). I frequented Dan's forum, talked to him via e-mail and on the phone when ordering knives and given my two pennies when asked. His 3rd generation is still being made in 3V or 12C27 depending on the batch and can be had in a myriad of handle materials.

    This review will be based on my 3rd generation Bushcrafter in CPM 154 and Cocobolo



    Specs:

    OAL: 8.505
    Blade Length (from handle): 3.909
    Edge Length: 3.874
    Blade Thickness: 0.127
    Blade Height: 0.892 at rear of blade
    Steel Type: CPM 154
    Handle Length: 4.496
    Handle Thickness at butt: 1.048
    Handle Thickness at Pinky: 0.900
    Handle Thickness in middle: 1.030
    Handle Thickness at front finger: 0.850
    Handle Thickness at Ricossa: 0.935
    Handle Width: About 0.850
    Handle Material: Cocobolo - no liners
    Pins and lanyard Tube: Stainless Steel


    Fit and Finish:

    Dan has his knife water jetted and the consistency from blade to blade certainly shows this. The two or three third generation knives I had of Dan's are identical in outline. The scandi grind is done with a jig and his handles are put on and manually (Two corby bolts and a recessed stainless lanyard tube) ground to shape. The piece of Cocobolo that I received has little to no figuring in it and over time has darkened to a very chocolate brown. The handle is shaped very evenly on both sides with the transitions from scale to blade being seamless. The recess for the stainless lanyard tube is an awesome little touch and is done with significant skill. The pins were a little proud of the cocobolo upon reciept and create small rises in what is otherwise a very well done handle.

    The spine of the blade is very square and the 'jimping' (if you can call it that, as they are very wide notches) is even and done with precision (again, thanks to the water jetting process). The flats came with a brushed finish and look very even - almost - matte finish. The grind is very even, if not exact, and the plunge lines lines up nearly perfectly. One nit pick about all Koster Scandi Knives that I have owned and handled is that they come with a fairly rough finish on them. In my opinion they should be taken to a much finer grit before shipment. However, as I mentioned before, I like to sharpen a blade my way before using it - so this isn't a deal breaker for me. I just think one more pass on the job with a worn belt would serve these blades well.

    Dan's knives are very clean and even. They are a no nonsense type of blade - but come very well done.



    First Sharpening:

    With any CPM product you know you are going to have a hard blade on your hands. 3V can be a challenge for some to sharpen - and most demand a diamond flat stone to even attempt the process. My first generation 3V blade chipped immediately after receiving it (total operator error - no fault of the maker of the steel) and I spent the next several lifetimes getting the blade back to even. I found that when trying to reprofile 3V a chunk of plate glass and several sheets of wet / dry sand paper in low to high grits is the way to go. For general sharpening - something like DMT bench stones would be advisable.

    However, with the CPM 154 - it seems a little less hard and easier to sharpen. I have no issue sharpening this blade on my japanese water stones and find Dan's even grind to be a breeze to sharpen. The first sharpening allowed me to find that Dan's grind is extremely flat without the slightest hint of convexing. I simply honed out the grind lines - set it to a polished stropped edge and set to work with this knife.

    Blade Geometry:

    The blade is a spear point blade very similar to the Mora or Puukko style. The grind runs absolutely parallel with the spine until nearly the last inch where the knife sweeps up and into a spear point. There is beauty in this design as well as allowing very even and flat cuts when needed. The grind seems to be a little less than 25 degrees inclusive (something like 22) and is fairly wide. This allows for the knife to slice very well for a scandi, while the blade material allows for the strength needed for a slightly thinner grind.



    One thing that potential users should note is that the blade is fairly thin in terms of height from edge to spine. The woodlore blade is nearly one inch in height, as is the Arete. The Koster is a little over 0.100th of an inch thinner from spine to blade. When I have my thumb on the blade and am taking off material at times I find the shaving running into my thumb and making this type of slicing a bit more awkward. However, this is common with the Puukko / Mora style and users of these blades will find nothing out of the ordinary.

    The thumb jimping is very deep and can be uncomfortable in certain hand holds - however - when attempting to spark a firesteel - it showers sparks in a very vigorous manner. All told - I am not a huge fan of thumb jimping as I tend not to use a knife in this position - but that is more preference than performance.

    The finger guard is fairly substantial on this knife as I tend to favor bushcrafters with little to no finger guard. A more reduced finger guard would suit me a little better - but this also may be a matter of preference. I prefer enough of a finger guard to feel where the knife is in low light positions but not so much that it hinders me from moving my hand about the handle or blade. When choking up on this knife this finger guard can get a little in the way.



    Balance:

    The balance of this knife is right behind the front pin and right where your hand falls naturally on the blade. I find this knife to be well balanced.

    In Hand / Handle Design:

    The handles on the Koster Bushcrafter are where the most change has happened over the years. The first generation was far too thin and people emplored Dan to give them thicker handles. The second generation was a bit thicker - but still not as thick as I or others wanted. The third generation saw Dan putting thick scales on his knives, and when he was taking orders, VERY thick scales indeed. This seemed to please the crowd. However, as Dan made thicker scales - he did not compensate in any way toward the front of the handle to allow for an easier transition from handle to blade. In fact, the blade reviewed has been thinned by a 1/16th or so on both sides by myself and then buffed back to a finish that matched (after all pictures in this review were taken). Dan has talked about addressing this with future generations of Bushcrafters - but I have not held any from his more recent batches.

    The contoured handle this knife sports favors the hammer and reverse grips. The butt plunges fairly deep and can get a little in the way in positions like the chest lever. However, this butt allows for a very secure grip in wet conditions and seems to be a trade off between security and comfort in alternate positions.

    The handle is comfortable in the hand and the overall outline of the handle has been tweaked and designed to fit the human hand very well. It is not the most neutral blade in the world - nor is it overly specialized - although it leans more specialized than neutral.




    Sheath Shots:

    The sheath that came with this knife was the JRE bushcrafting sheath. In my opinion JRE makes top notch stuff. I wish they would not rely on rivets on the belt loop - but besides this little area - they make a bomb proof sheath. 8-10 ounce leather - very well stitched - with two lanyard tubes. I simply wet formed this sheath to the knife and then after drying put a few coats of Montana Pitch Blend on it for protection. I ended up making my own sheath for this knife - but would not advise anyone getting a custom sheath for this knife if you like the JRE sheath.







    I also owned a kydex sheath made by Dan that I was very impressed with. This was for a second generation bushcrafter. The retention was superb, the edges were very smooth and using the older design Dan created dimples that allowed the knife to snap into the kydex with little issue. I loved this sheath and loved that I could carry it with a Tek lok in a horizontal position.



    I ended up making my own sheath for this blade, selling my JRE with a previous version of the Bushcrafter. However, I would not hesitate to use JRE's stuff at any time:







    Overall feelings after nearly a year:

    Dan's knives are very inexpensive for what you get. They are also nearly bomb proof. With a Micarta handle some version on CPM steel - if you broke it - you likely abused it. If you like the feel of a Mora but wish it was more robust and a bit more custom - you could do a lot worse than a Koster Bushcrafter. I have had one in rotation in one form or another for many years - and do not plan on selling this last one any time soon. It has a few draw backs in design - but I find most knives do. What it was made for - it does very well - and I really enjoy using this knife. If I were to be out in the woods, in a wet environ for an extended period of time - I would love to have the Koster in CPM 154 with me. It is the main reason I keep this knife. I know the stainless will hold up, is easier to sharpen, and Dan's assembly will not let me down.



    TF

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2001
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    Great review, Talfuchre. It is true that since then (I am on Gen5 now) I have thinned the handle down, added palm swell/contouring, and have upped the finish on the grinds to 220. I do learn, and do appreciate customer feedback. Sometimes it's hard to swallow, but I always benefit from it!

    Your review pics (and your sheaths) look great!!!



    Dan

  3. #3
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    I need to get a hold of one of the new ones. You have tweaked the design over time - and I believe every tweak I have seen has been an improvement. I am VERY happy with my Gen 3.

    TF

  4. #4
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    The list is now open for the next run.

    I went ahead and posted this to facebook - hope that was ok with you.

    Dan

  5. #5
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    Ño problem Dan. If you want a comparison review and have a second or blemish - I would be happy to do so while I get my money together. This way it would be fully updated.

    Also. I will look you up on facebook.


    TF

  6. #6
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    Gen 1 is still my favorite but overall they are one of my favorite Bushcrafters. What I like is they are more compact than most. I don't like to carry a huge knife.

    Not sure what gen the birch one is, it's O1 and I ground the guard off some.


















    I was at a knife show and actually found a pair of scales for this one that approximated the "Bushcraft" contour so I didn't have to grind the bark off to get the right shape:



  7. #7
    Join Date
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    That looks great - good job on the scales!


    Thanks for the pics and reviews.



    Dan

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
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    I'm fortunate enough to not only have a gen 3 with desert ironwood handles and brass pins/tube, but I've also got a talfuchre sheath for it.

    I love both.

  9. #9
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    I'd agree 100%.



    Dan
    KosterKnives.com

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Skrapmetal View Post
    I'm fortunate enough to not only have a gen 3 with desert ironwood handles and brass pins/tube, but I've also got a talfuchre sheath for it.

    I love both.
    Post pictures Skrap Metal - I don't remember this one.

    TF

  11. #11
    Are you making sheaths for Koster Bushmasters? I would love to get one if you are. Any information would be appreciated. Thanks.

  12. #12
    Join Date
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    This is a good reminder for any fans of the 1st Generation Bushcraft knife because the 2012/2013 model is closer to it in profile - most notably a smaller/closer guard and the thumbgrooves pushed forward.

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Koster View Post
    This is a good reminder for any fans of the 1st Generation Bushcraft knife because the 2012/2013 model is closer to it in profile - most notably a smaller/closer guard and the thumbgrooves pushed forward.
    Not that it means a whole lot, but I really like the changes that you've made to the knife. Can't wait for my knife.

  14. #14
    Join Date
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    Me too.

    Sometimes it's hard to take feedback on your heart's-passion-work without sinking into negativism...but for me, it's a necessary part of my business model. This knife was conceived by customers...so it's natural that its design ought to respond to customer feedback.

    I've taken all the comments/suggestions/ideas I've received and this latest version is the best I can possibly do.

    So, yes, it does give me relief to know someone approves of it.

    Thanks for posting!

    Dan

  15. #15
    Join Date
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    Here's a pic of the latest design:


  16. #16
    Can't wait for the write-up you are going to do on it.

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