Busse Steel Heart II Variant report


Feb 25, 2000
I had the good fortune to spend this past weekend hiking and fishing with my brother and a friend in the backcountry of the Sequoia Nat'l Forest. For those familiar with the area, we fished a stretch of Boulder Creek about 30 miles west of Mt. Whitney and 10 miles south of Kennedy Pass. Having only recently received my Busse Steel Heart II variant from Andy Prisco, I was eager to take this opportunity to give it a proper indoctrination.

BTW, the knife earned its variant status by virtue of the fact that its blade is approximately one inch shorter (about 6.5 inches long) and a little bit wider and thicker than the production SH. Also, the handle is affixed via the older style stainless screws rather than the newer flared tubing. And finally, it sports a very attractive natural matte finish as opposed to the standard black coating. Here's a photo:

To better assess its versatility, I purposely took no other knives and relied on the SHII to perform all tasks both in camp and on the trail. This, of course, isn't how I normally operate, but this was intended to be a test after all. For the record, the edge on blade had not been touched by me since its arrival from Andy Prisco.

After a late arrival Friday night we arose early Saturday morning to sub-freezing temperatures, grabbed our packs and poles and headed down the steep slopes toward Boulder Creek. Being the only knifenut amongst us, I made sure the SHII was securely strapped to my gear before our departure. As it turned out, my not so little companion would see use early and often. About an hour outside of camp we came across a small, but key, foot bridge that evidently didn't survive last winter. During this period of high runoff and fast water, this particular bridge provides the only means of access to the fishable portions of Boulder Creek. After scouting up and down this feeder creek for about 30 minutes, we were faced with only one barely acceptable alternate crossing. This route, however, was blocked at the crucial stepping off point by a couple of dried out, gnarled scrub oak branches about the diameter of a grapefruit. Having no desire to add whitewater rafting to the list of the day's activities (especially sans raft), out came the SHII. After about 15 minutes of steady chopping the way was cleared. Fortunately we were able to avoid what would have otherwise been a quick end to our hopes of fishing that day. Despite the extremely hard nature of the wood in question, the handle remained comfortable throughout. I believe that the knife's slightly blade heavy balance was a definite advantage here, as well. At the end of this chore, there was no perceptible difference to the feel of the edge.

Several hours later the canyon narrowed, and our only path was blocked by a thick briar patch that gave new meaning to the term "dense vegetation". As some promising pools were just ahead, the decision was made to call the SHII back into action. The going was a bit slower here, but again, the knife performed admirably. Most of these branches were about the diameter of your typical garden hose, and although they were alive, they were still very dense and dry. These thorny shrubs were also very springy and the relatively narrow edge profile of the SHII (as compared to most other heavy duty utility blades) greatly enhanced the knife's cutting efficiency in this medium. My knuckles were somewhat exposed to the foliage, but I don't know of any other knives that would have offered any additional protection here. Towards the end of this drill, as I made a last whack at a particularly stubborn branch, the blade passed through more far more easily than expected and went on to impact a granite rock at nearly full force. I immediately recited a few choice words that are appropriate only on the Whine and Cheese forum. When I inspected the edge, however, I was thrilled at the minimal amount of damage that had occured. I had dinged the edge pretty good down near the handle to be sure, but it felt to my thumbnail as if the metal had rolled and deformed rather than chip out. The affected area was maybe 4mm long by 1mm deep. Other than that, the remainder of the edge still felt as sharp as when I had left camp. Once dinner was secured in the form of several rainbow, german brown and brook trout (the largest measuring about 16 inches) we departed the area.

After hiking back to camp (and waiting for my heart rate to settle back down into the low 200s), the Busse was immediately put to work preparing wood for the campfire, breaking down an old pallet that we had found in a nearby clearing, and lopping the heads off of our trout. At the end of all the day's activities I could now honestly say that, though still very sharp and functional, the edge had lost a little of the toothy feel it possessed when new.

I will now interject a quick plug for the diamond sharpening tool sold by Mission Knife and Tool. Though intended for use with their line of Beta Ti knives (and specifically designed to preserve the non-magnetic properties of the ti knives), these little sharpeners are lightweight, durable and are outstanding performers on any blade. Of course, sharpening steel blades with it can contaminate your ti blades, but this is of no concern to me. After about five passes of the hone on each side of the SHII, the blade was like new again. Even the INFI that was displaced by the rock impact was neatly realigned and almost undetectable after a few more passes in that specific area. In short, I couldn't have been more pleased with the blade's performance throughout the day on this wide variety of heavy duty tasks.

But what may have impressed even more about the SHII, was the ease with which it handled the delicate cutting chores. All weekend long while fishing, the SHII neatly trimmed away the excess Spiderwire (you know, the braided fishing line that's impervious to teeth and nail clippers) from the knots used to tie on my hooks and flies. Opening small foil pouches was an easy task as well. It was here that I noticed how the assymetrical edge geometry of the Busse knives will cause the cut to drift. You quickly realize, however, that by holding the blade at slight angle, you can once again achieve straight cuts easily.

The bottom line is that I am thoroughly satisfied with both the versatility and durability of my Steel Heart II variant. Over that 48 hour period I used it more vigorously than any knife I've owned and yet I feel like I never even approached its potential. INFI steel is definitely a performer. Although I should know better, I can't believe how resilient this steel really is. For any of my other knives, the rock impact alone would have resulted in an extended session on the Edge Pro. I still feel like there's some room for improvement where the sheaths are concerned, especially in light of the work that Tim Wegner and others are putting out, but this is a relatively minor beef. Overall, my hat is off to Jerry for producing such a nuclear tough product, and my thanks go out to Andy Prisco for providing a level of customer service that's befitting such an outstanding product.

Semper Fi

What a great weekend--and what a knife! You guys know how to party.

I was impressed with the diversity of performance from your SH. Given this experience and what you've seen of the rest of the Busse line, do you have an opinion on whether any of the other former classic or current "E" models would have served as well over such a wide spectrum of service? Or did you just happen to get the best one ever made?!?!?! You are one lucky devil.

Bronc...what a cool review. Thanks for your kind words and for sharing your experience with your new Variant. I know Jerry appreciates it, as do I, IMMENSELY.

Andy Prisco, Manager
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[This message has been edited by Andy Prisco (edited 06-14-2000).]
Bronco, great review and an attractive knife.
BTW, could you review your Mission MPS Ti please?
Bronco was the shorter length done to yur request? If so what was your reasoning behind it? Have you ever used a regular Steel Heart?

What is the grit of the Mission diamond sharpener. Do you know if it is a mono or poly diamond crystal structure?

Nice report.

Thanks to all for the kind words.

Yeah it was definitely a super weekend. We'll surely be back soon. It was also a good reminder that I need to be spending a little bit more of my freetime on the Stairmaster
. To answer your question though, I have to first state that I don't own and have never held either the standard Steel Heart II or the Battle Mistress in either handle configuration. So please take what I say with a grain of salt. But, based on the descriptions and reviews of others, I would have to surmise that both the SHII and BM would have performed at least as well, and probably better, than my variant in a majority of the tasks described. The only possible exception may be when I was attacking the briar thicket. This involved some close quarters chopping and hacking due to the close proximity of rocks and boulders on all sides. It's conceivable that in this situation, a longer blade may have put me at slightly more of a disadvantage, whereas the wider and thicker blade of my variant still carried a good deal of momentum in a more compact package.
So, all in all, I'd love to tell you that mine is the best in the world, but I have too much respect for your intelligence to try it with a straight face.

Several months ago I received my first Busse knife (a Badger Attack) from Andy and was very impressed with the overall package. I immediately decided that I would like a larger blade for just the types of situations described above. I discussed my options with Andy, and was torn between the SHII, which I thought might be a little bigger than what I needed (remember, this is from the perspective of one who never carried anything into the field larger than a Ka-Bar), and the proposed redesign of the BA, which I was worried might be too similar in size to the BA I already owned. At this point, I don't believe the new 6" model was being discussed publicly yet. Anyway, while in the midst of this dilemna, Andy got ahold of this variant, which at 6.5", seemed to split the difference perfectly. I jumped on it and haven't regretted it since. As I mentioned to Will, I have no experience with the standard SHII.

The Mission sharpener is 45 micron grit. It's of a slightly tapered conical shape (the tip is good for many types of serrations) and weighs only 1.5 ounces. In fact, it's so light and handy, I was thinking about having a custom sheath made for the SHII that would include a slot for this sharpener. I'm sorry, but I don't know whether it uses a mono or poly diamond crystal structure.

Neil Blackwood is working a little bit of his magic on the MPS as we speak, but I promise to post an update soon.

I'm glad you enjoyed the post, but without your assistance this review wouldn't have been possible in the first place. The fact that you treat the first time customer the same as the lifelong customer speaks volumes to your commitment to customer service.

Semper Fi
Beautiful knife! I didn't see a picture of this particular variant on Andy's site though... If I may ask, what does it cost? Personally, I wonder what this variant would handle like in a slightly thinner steel (say 3/16) than used on the standard steel heart. Any chance of that?
By definition, the variants are largely one of a kind knives that just kind of show up from time to time. I'm not sure there's any rhyme or reason to when or why they're produced beyond Jerry getting an itch to try something different. As such the price will differ from variant to variant. Note- I believe that there have been some exceptions to this one-off rule such as the recent run of Desert Warfare Mean Streets.

Due to the toughness of INFI steel, I would think that a SHII or the new 6" knife with a 3/16ths blade would perform very well. The likely tradeoff would be that such a blade would definitely weigh less and probably gain a little bit of cutting efficiency while giving up some of its nuclear indestructibility and chopping ability. If you're interested in something like this, I'd recommend giving Andy Prisco a call (see his post above). He's recently made a service available to his customers whereby you describe in very loose terms a type of variant you'd like to see. He passes that info along to the Busse shop and if it gets made he'll let you know. Busse will also accept traditional custom orders. Andy can easily give you the details on both.

Semper Fi

Just a quick follow-up to your report...

This past weekend I had the opportunity to run a straight-handled Busse Steel Heart II through some very vigorous testing, the results of which were then evaluated by perhaps the most discriminating and hard-to-please critic in the Western world: my momma.

On Saturday, we took the Steel Heart II into the backyard for some weeding. Said weeds included a small oak tree (approx. 2" diameter) and a few small maples (ranging 1" - 1 1/2" in diameter). After demonstrating the superior chopping power of the knife on the aforementioned oak, (which was handily chopped down in six successive whacks), momma went to work on the maples, which, only moments later, were resting peacefully on the wood heap out back.

Upon completion of our chores, momma cleaned the blade with lemon-scented palmolive and went to work on the pork roast that she was preparing for dinner. She thought the blade was too thick for the pork, but was impressed with its sharp edge, which had held up extremely well to the chopping done earlier. She then said "mmmm...good knife. Go fetch me a beer."

I will let the results speak for themselves...