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Gossman Knives Bolo Review

Discussion in 'Gossman Knives' started by k_estela, Sep 8, 2010.

  1. k_estela

    k_estela Co-Moderator, Wilderness and Survival Skills Forum Moderator

    Feb 23, 2001
    Asian influence in Western culture can be found everywhere. From martial arts in action films, to chop suey at your local Chinese buffet to the computer you are probably reading this review on, the far East is around us. As outdoorsmen and women, Asian and Pacific Island blades have probably not gone unnoticed. Popular weapon patterns have been used by large manufacturing companies to sell blades and make profit. Little or no regard is given to the user who may need the blade to actually do what it is intended to do, heavy duty work.
    With this in mind, I decided to focus on function rather than flare in designing the Bolo pattern Scott Gossman and Greg Haugh would ultimately create for me. In the Philippines, when my father was a child, he carried a bolo whenever in the bush. Growing up on the Island of Luzon, he tended to a large parcel of land on the family plantation. It is no secret the stories my father told me inspired me to study survival since my adolescence. What may not be known is how he has sketched for me the tools he carried including his .22 Mossberg autoloader and the blades he used. This design is an adaptation of his bolo.
    Filipino weapons were generally field tools first and weapons second. Farmers would grab the nearest sharp object and apply it to their adversary. The traditional bolo machete or long knife was a tool for heavy vegetation cutting. My father would use it for denser wood cutting when a longer and lighter blade wouldn’t…well,cut it. I recall stories of him climbing trees to score coconuts or cutting bananas and carrying them home. I would focus on the bolo as the preferred shape for this new blade. Surely if it would cut dense woods in the Philippines, it would cut dense wood here in the Northeast.
    I researched blades from the Luzon area and also looked at the sketches my father made. I pulled design aspects of those pictures and sketches in with familiar handle shapes Scott has ground to create the Gossman Bolo pictured here.

    The gossman bolo with the sheath I made for it on the NH to ME river trip in June 2010.

    As with any proper bolo, it has certain features not found in many blades. Due to the taper from broad to narrow from tip to ricasso, the sharpened edge has different purposes. The nearest section to the ricasso, where the width of the blade is most narrow, is used for fine carving. The sweet spot before the belly is the power area for chopping. The belly and tip is used for skinning (if no small knife is available first) or piercing. Scott nailed the convex edge on this one but has another option for grinding. In talking with Scott, it would have been possible to grind the ricasso area thinner and the belly portion thicker to improve weight forward. The handle is long enough for a full grip and wide/thick enough to prevent unwanted hand fatigue.

    Sometimes, drywood is only found in the worst spots!

    2 person battoning with Big John Brown. Really giving the blade hell. No damage to report.
    Digging roots with the bolo

    After using the Gossman Bolo for a couple months now, it is everything I would need in a quality large field knife. It isn't quite a machete, it isn't a sharpened prybar either. It is a good large knife for bigger work. I used it all summer at the survival school on courses and also on personal outdoors trips. It sharpened easily and with a little stropping, the hair popping edge was renewed everytime. The full-height grind didn't bind like a short flat grind or secondary bevel. Pure and simple, it works as intended. From digging (please read cautious probing in organic soil) to draw knife duty, this blade did it all. It rode nicely around my body on a shoulder rig and also took the occasional ride stowed behind my belt at my 6. All you would expect to do with a knife was done to this one. Battoning, slicing food for group outtings, removing obstructions during navigation exercises and more.

    Using the blade to harvest earthworms

    I would have left this knife home after the first week if it wasn't worth its weight. However, I used it all summer and it was with me over 30 nights in the field and many more day trips than I am able to recall. In testing a lot of blades over the years, I always am excited to unsheath it for the first time. This one however, being part of my family's history, is exciting everytime. I get a little smirk on my face when I see that shape leave the leather I made for it. I know this blade will be with me for a long time and I hope you'll think about adding it to your lineup too.
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2010
  2. KuRUpTD


    Aug 5, 2008
    A beast of a knife - looks incredible ! thanks for posting.

    WILLIAM.M Gold Member Gold Member

    Apr 14, 2006
  4. kage


    Oct 25, 2006
    Looks great Kev! I think I would prefer it to be more weight forward, but being half-Filipino I definitely know what you're talking about. I thought about getting a custom barong from David Farmer, but this one looks good, too!
  5. quietmike

    quietmike Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 26, 2006
    That's a sweet looking blade!!

    What steel did you use for this one?
  6. k_estela

    k_estela Co-Moderator, Wilderness and Survival Skills Forum Moderator

    Feb 23, 2001
    Specs would help huh? Sorry guys!!!

    A2 steel
    9.5" blade, 5.5" handle.
    3/16" thick
    Natural canvas micarta handle slabs by Greg Haugh.
  7. TheGame


    Sep 24, 2008
    Good looking blade :thumbup:
  8. bigcountry1315


    Aug 3, 2009
    Kevin great review! I always love yours and Scott's collaberation. Form and function in a mind blowing work of art. I tip my camo hat to the two of you!

  9. Gossman Knives

    Gossman Knives Edged Toolmaker Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Apr 9, 2004
    Kev, thanks for posting the review. I really enjoy working with you on these projects. :thumbup:
  10. kahuana

    kahuana Gold Member Gold Member

    May 10, 2007
    Nice review, Kevin. Great work Scott. Having used this knife, I can attest as to its beauty and utility. From chopping to splitting to carving various woods, this knife performs. Anyone looking for a large "knife" can do no better than the Estela/Gossman Bolo. Thanks for the history.
  11. Great knife you guys. It's really neat to be bringing your heritage to life through Scotts work. Really cool.
  12. j williams

    j williams Basic Member Basic Member

    Nov 14, 2005
    Greg of Lonerider grips?

    Great review Kev. I want one now. Looks like a great large multi purpose blade.
  13. IA Woodsman

    IA Woodsman

    Sep 21, 2009
    Great story to go along with that knife Kevin. When I was I the service, guys would go to the PI and always bring back as many bolos as they could. They were a very hot trade item. Scott did a great job on a classic.
  14. Gossman Knives

    Gossman Knives Edged Toolmaker Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Apr 9, 2004
    Thanks guys, I appreciate the kind words.
  15. nevermind35


    Aug 14, 2009
    Wow that looks like a hell of a wilderness tool. I'm really digging the idea of the reverse tapered tang, very cool!
  16. frc505


    Jun 12, 2010
    that was a great review as always kevin . and the history was nice too !

    looks like you got another winning design scott !...

    cant wait to start my gossman collection :)

    my hats off to both of you
  17. grindonyou


    Sep 21, 2006
    Scott , That looks like a winner and it was put to good use first time out . good reveiw.
  18. Gossman Knives

    Gossman Knives Edged Toolmaker Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Apr 9, 2004
    Thanks. One thing I like about Kev's reviews is that they are done in actual field conditions.

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