AK Bowie 1, Alder 0

Oct 25, 2004
I promised yesterday that I'd put the bowie through its paces today. I never go back on my word.

The only students today were the base police which require no support from us. Weekly maintenance was pretty much done so I had plenty of time to give the bowie its workout. The problem was, the ground was frosted, there was pea soup fog filling the air, and I'd chosen not to wear my base layer today. I resolved to go at it when the sun came out and burned everything off. The problem was, that didn't happen until after lunch. :) Besides that, I'd brought a 'hawk out and had promised myself a good throwing session, which also ate into my time a bit. (It went well.) I did, however, have enough time left to completely limb and bisect a green alder. With a knife. If only my camping buddies could see me now...

The alder was just where I'd left it after its encounter with the Chiruwa AK on Tuesday. It's green wood, not too knotty, about the diameter of a telephone pole at its thickest and probably thirty feet long. I decided to start off with limbing it. Branches ranged in thickness from whippy little twigs to the diameter of my wrist. One in particular was almost double that thickness. The bowie's edge had been applied with a file and a coarse stone the night before to working sharpness. (I prefer a very coarse edge for chopping and general cutting.) It would not shave but was quite sharp.

Limbing went easily enough. Single blows were sufficient up to the thumb-sized branches. The blade would not always cut all the way through those; the weight of the blade (and resulting power of the blow) simply snapped them off in some cases. The wrist-sized ones required a few blows each. The one large branch really took a beating before it gave up the ghost -- not enough to tire me out, but enough to let me know I was working. That's when I got the crazy idea to cut the trunk in half.

I picked a spot about in the middle that wasn't quite as thick as the blade was long and got started. After I'd worked down about halfway through, I shifted my strikes to the side opposite me (still easy to do with an overhand swing) to make it all the way through. It took me about five minutes to sever it.

Observations: I need to build the handle up a bit. It feels nice while cutting but does not feel so nice through heavy chopping. The handle would slide slightly on each blow, until by the ninth or tenth one the ring on the butt would contact my pinky finger and transmit the full shock of the blow to it. I could grip the handle tightly enough to prevent this but it became fatiguing after several swings. Every third or fourth swing, while bringing the blade up to ready for the next swing, I'd loosen my grip slightly to allow the handle to slide back down again. Once I got the hang of that, the discomfort went away and my pace improved.

I once again learned that full power swings are almost never necessary. I throttled back to 50% or so and didn't notice any difference in chopping effectiveness. I keep forgetting that this thing works like a hatchet and not like a knife. The weight of the tool does the work. Powerful swings simply reduce accuracy a bit and tire you out faster. Long, easy swings work well. On purely overhand chops, dropping my leading knee (like I do with axes, hatchets, and -- now -- pure khuks) to put my body weight behind it made the work even easier.

It doesn't throw chips like the 16.5" AK did. When that thing hit wood -- wet, dry, seasoned, whatever -- everyone nearby knew it. Chips flew. They tended to stay in the "V" with the bowie. Every five or six swings I'd angle one in a bit more sharply and it would toss them out. Less dramatic but still effective.

It pries just fine. Every so often the blade would stick. Instead of wrestling with it like I do with a hatchet, I simply torque it or pry it out.

I didn't try stabbing the tip into wood and prying it out. I'd think that it would take it just fine but I'm not comfortable with that test yet. For the record, the 16.5" AK handled this in a spectacular manner. Likewise, I didn't know until recently (but should have guessed) that the ring at the butt is strengthened for use as an impact tool. That will get tested next time.

My favorite part of the test: the edge had hardly dulled at all throughout the entire session. It may have even been me imagining it, as no one else noticed a difference. I gave it a few minutes alone with the Chiruwa's chakma just for giggles. It shaved with effort afterwards. I'm now officially sold on steeling knives. Few things in life are as satisfying as giving a knife a workout and returning it to its scabbard with a sharper edge than it'd had at the beginning. This thing really needs a chakma to go along with it.

Everything said, this knife continues to impress me. I bought it because I was in the market for a good bowie as a do-everything-in-the-field knife...primarily for cutting and slicing, and maybe for some light chopping. It seems that this thing excells at chopping but can still perform all the other functions that I desire.

Guess I don't need to pack a tomahawk or hatchet while camping anymore. This thing's lighter than a hatchet and cuts far better than a hawk. Honestly, rereading this post I feel like a braggart. No one believed what I was accomplishing with this knife until they saw me in action, but it wasn't me -- it was the knife. This thing hits like a ton of bricks.

If I ever have a son, I'm naming him "Bura." ;)
Another great post. I took notes. You didn't ding or roll any edges? I just did today on one of my khuks, but likely hit a nail or several in the wallboard I'm demolishing. The tip is messed up but hammering it back is better than grinding or filing- keep the metal for another day.

Ad Astra said:
Another great post. I took notes. You didn't ding or roll any edges? I just did today on one of my khuks, but likely hit a nail or several in the wallboard I'm demolishing. The tip is messed up but hammering it back is better than grinding or filing- keep the metal for another day.


No dings, no chips, no rolled edges. The only dings I've suffered thus far were with the Chiruwa when I chopped those steel trashcans the other day. I expect that they'll be visible for a few more sharpenings although they don't seem to affect cutting or chopping ability. No nails or anything like that in the wood and I don't expect anything less than metal or stone will ding this bowie...although I did hit a concrete floor with it the first night I had it. No damage from that either. What an edge! And mine's not even convex. :D
:D Oh boy, this one's got it bad. Sounds like you had a lot of fun today Satori, great review.
Awesome review, Satori:) The only thing that i will add is that the bowie's tip won't take a full stab into wood and then snapped out at a 90 degree angle a la Cold Steel. it'll bend the tip a bit, but nothing that a tippy tap from a hammer won't fix. The tip is plenty strong, don't get me wrong. It'll pry what a tip should be expected to pry. paint cans, tin cans, etc. no prob. However, once you get past the thin part of the edge and get a good inch past the tip...no problem;) pry away. Once again, great review.