Custom Knife Review. Testing a knife made by one of our own BFC members

Kodiak PA

Gold Member
Dec 3, 1998
Recently I had the opportunity to take along a custom knife to test on an Alaskan bush camping trip made by Blade Forums.Com’s own Corduroy. I bought the knife from him about two months ago and I promised him that I would give the knife a hard work out as soon as I could. I figured this trip could be an excellent testing opportunity. Corduroy being who he is, asked me to pull no punches. He asked me to test the knife hard and to report to the forum the results. This camping trip is one that I have been planning a long time and it took a lot of preparation. Our location was the top of Summit Mountain off of Kalsin Bay in Kodiak Alaska. My sons and I took a bush-plane out to Summit Lake last week. Summit Lake is locate approximately 20 air miles south of the town and the lake has some special significance for me since an elderly friend of mine lived out in the bush there for almost 35 years before he moved back to town and I have heard lots of stories about this 1.5 mile long lake. I have been wanting to go out there for quite a while and this lake would give me an excellent opportunity to test Corduroy’s knife. The lake was completely abandon and we had the area all to ourselves!

I took Corduroys 4” drop point hunter, a custom sheath made for this knife by BFC own Gary Graley ( Gary’s Web Site). To back the knife up I took my Spyderco Moran with its Edgeworks custom kydex sheath, a CRK&T M16 and my Spyderco hat

Cord’s knife is a fixed blade; 4” drop point hunter in a mirror finish. The blade’s steel is ATS34, there is beautiful file work on the blade’s spine and the handle is made of solid burgundy micarta handle.

See the Knife and Sheath here

I wanted to work this knife hard and I immediately put it to use as soon as we landed. I used it to help clear brush around the camp where I would lay the tent. I used it to sickle tall weeds where I wanted to place my field kitchen and I cut and chopped kindling for the campfire. My first concern was for the edge. I hear all these stories of ATS34 chipping on production folders and fix blades. Well, I am pleased to report that the knife withstood a lot of light chopping duties with absolutely no damage to the edge. This was very important to me since I have some long-term plans on using this knife. What helped was Corduroy’s encouragement and guaranteeing that if the knife chipped or otherwise didn’t perform to m y expectations he would make it right or return my money.

Other duties for the knife included cutting fishing line, fashioning marshmallow sticks for the boys (very important), cooking duties to include cutting steaks, fish fillets and just some plain old whittling for fun. Any opportunity to cut something, I did. I even practiced stabbing the point into a large log to see if I could damage the point. I could not. The knife held its edge wonderfully on day one. One of the other uses that I had from this knife was using it as a mirror to help me remove my contact lenses. I get a chuckle when I think of that. I thought I brought everything I needed—now that is utilizing a knife!

The edge holding abilities compared well with the VG-10 Spydie Moran I brought and in fairness to Cord’s knife, I used the ATS34 knife a heck of a lot more than the Moran. The mirror finish held up very well with no appreciable scratches. The file work is not only eye catching but the work can be used as a serration to prevent slipping when working the blade. I treated the knife with Tuf-Cloth before I left and there was no rust on the blade by the time I got home. Any excuse I had to cut something, I did. I wanted to see how long it took to dull this knife.

Working the knife

Day two brought much of the same chores. I continually cut much of the hard wood around the shoreline. The knife lost some of its razor sharpness by day two but I still had no problem safely utilizing the blade. It continued to cut and cut well. I continue the small chopping chores and was very impressed that the knife was holding up so well. At this point I had full confidence in the knife and packed the Moran away and just carried the drop point and the CRK&T M16 for back up.

Some other thoughts. Corduroy did an exceptional job with this knife. It is attractive, very utilitarian with some added artwork (file work) to make this a keeper. There is some mild pitting at the blade insertion along the tang but it is very minor. The micarta handle is very solid….so much in fact that I would venture to call this handle steel micarta and my hands were pretty sore after the three days at the lake. I would like to point out that I have never own micarta handle that inspired so much confidence and compared to my Cold Steel R1’s micarta handle the CS feels like plastic compared to this knife.

I know a lot of folks have seen this version of Corduroy’s knife. I know for a fact that some established custom makers have examined his knives and have been impressed (I won’t name drop here to save Cord some embarrassment
). His knives have been appraised by some knowledgeable cutlery folks for around $250 so I feel I got a bargain picking it up for the $100 I got it for.

By day three the knife was still cutting well. I was getting a little frustrated trying to dull it so while we were waiting for the bush plane I found an old, hard cedar log and commenced turning it into a small block. The cedar smelled great after turning it into a bunch of shavings after 45 minutes. Even so the edge was still sharp enough to easily cut. After returning home I had no problem getting it hair shaving sharp after just 10 minutes on the Spyderco Tri-Angle Sharpmaker.

Over all it was a great experience testing this knife and it was one of those rare times that you know you got yourself a real winner. Good job Cord! Why don’t you tell us when you’re gonna get back into the shop and make some more (sorry to put you on the spot) customs? I would also like to point out that Gary’s sheath held up very well, too. After being exposed to rain and the elements, the sheath is as new looking as the day I got it. If you’re in the market for a custom sheath, give G2 a holler and see what he says.

Thanks for letting me share my experience testing this knife in the great Alaskan outdoors for 3 wonderful days in some of the prettiest country you could ever imagine.

Final Knife Pix



[This message has been edited by Kodiak PA (edited 07 July 1999).]
Great write up on what sounds like a great knife and sheath, Greg. And also to put a face with the name. Sure sounds like God's country up there. Closest we have is our Upper Peninsula.

Don LeHue

The pen is mightier than the sword...outside of arm's reach. Modify radius accordingly for rifle.

[This message has been edited by DonL (edited 07 July 1999).]
Greg, the chipping problem with ATS-34 has been a bit distorted. It is not like if you take an AXIS and whittle on a stick you will chip out the blade. The problem is that when ATS-34 is hardened up to about 60-61+ RC the breaking point is pretty close to the deformation point. What this means is that if you take your knife and cut up a cardboard box rapidly and happen to hit a stable or two, odds are that the edge will chip rather than bend and absorb the stress. If the temper is lower then the breaking point is much higher and the edge will deform (indent) rather than chip out. Corduroy has commented before that he does have his blades tempered a bit lower to make the edge more durable.

I would be curious to know how ATS-34 and 440C compare at similar 56-58 RC. One of the reasons that ATS-34 is always quoted as having greater wear resistance is simply because it can be hardened more and at 61 RC ATS-34 is obviously going to have a better wear resistance than 440C at 56 RC. However it would be interesting to see how the steels compare in terms of abrasion resistance, durability and corrosition resistance when the RC are similar. Cordurory, why are you using ATS-34 anyway? Is it because of performance issues or manufacturing ones? Nice looking knife by the way.

Thanks Greg,

Really interesting report. Sounds like Corduroy makes a quality knife and Gary makes a quality sheath. Nice to see this test of a BFC member knife.

Great location - Almost like one of those "wish you were here" postcards (for knifenuts only)!

After the bad mouthing I've seen lately about ATS-34, it's refreshing to read a good report about a quality knife using it. I'm starting to believe it's the maker, not the steel. As Cliff says, it would be interesting to compare ATS-34 and 440C performance at similar RC values.
That was a great review! Thanks for taking the time to do so, as its always nice to read a real-life report. Especially since, in this case, the report is about some products made by members of this site. I agree with you (pressure), it would be nice if Corduroy made some more of those, I'd be interested! Then we could send the knife over to Gary to finish up the package for us!

Thanks again,
Great looking knife Corduroy, not to mentiont the sheath Mr. Graley. Great review too. Sounds like a winner of a knife.

thanks and take care
Great reveiw, Greg! Glad you had fun on your trip!

One question: You mention handle strength and that your hand hurt after the weekend; how comfortable was the handle?

I am very impressed with the knife, the sheath, and the review! Good job, guys!

Clay Fleischer

Thanks for the comments everyone. They're much appreciated. I do feel fortunate for living up here and the scenery is always a plus!

Cliff, thanks for your input on the ATS34. That really helps put the ATS34 steel in perspective and your points are very well taken. And you're right when mentioning tht Cord does heat treat to a lower RC--sorry I forgot to mention that. Thanks.

Clay, I would say that the handle is a trade off. You have a solid handle that will withstand a lot of abuse and in return you give up a little in the comfort area. Could be that I just don't do enough outdoor work to toughen my hands up to be honest. All in all I rather have a solid piece like this. The handle is one of things I am most impressed with due to its heft.


Thanks again, Greg, for the effort that you've put into this write-up. I sometimes have to really dig at folks to get the critical perspective that I need to improve my work, but you have been very clear-spoken and honest in our conversations, and your words will be affecting what I do in the future.

One specific point is this handle design. Since I have retained a few knives in this design that I didn't feel were up to my standards for sale, I've passed them around to some friends with different hand sizes and grips. I've been re-evaluating it myself. I think that the lead-up to the guard is too shallow and angle and a bit too long for most hands, and this will be adjusted if I use the pattern again.

As for the edge-retention and performance on this knife, all credit must go to Texas Knifemaker's Supply, who did the heat-treatment for me. They have treated all of my knives and in every case the results have exceeded my expectations. As was mentioned, they do seem to treat a bit softer than the 60-61 that some production companies push ATS-34 to. I think that the ease-of-sharpening and increased toughness I have observed in my knives more than makes up for any loss of edge-holding (though I have not seen much of a loss here, either). As for chipping, I made a 15" blade in ATS-34 that has chopped through hardwood, coins, and aluminum barstock with some edge deformation but no chipping.

In comparison to 440C: I have only made a few 440C blades, but they have held up much batter than I expected. I would be hard-pressed to distinguish one of my TKS-treated 440C blades form one of my TKS-treated ATS-34 ones without prior knowledge. There is a wide range of 440C out there, as it does not have the same tight manufacture specs that some newer steels do, and heat-treatment seems to make a big difference as well. I have used blades in German 440C, in particular, that were as good as any ATS-34 I have tried, and found this in my own knives as well.

As to why I choose ATS-34, it is important to know that my shop has been on hiatus for two years while I was finishing college. I made these knives two years back, when many of the "hot" steels right now were unavailable or less well known. I had some experiments planned for 440V and D-2, but mainly I felt that ATS-34 was a solid performer and a good stainless choice for most knives. I prefer ATS-34 to 440C for two reasons, neither a matter of performance: one is that I feel it grinds "cleaner," and the other is that folks (especially back then) were much more impressed with the name than they were with 440C.

Finally, it's starting to become a bit awkward having folks refer to me as "Corduroy." I like it, but it seems as if I am hiding behind something. My name is Andrew Gleason (I prefer Drew), I am 24 years old, and my shop is called Little Bear Knives. I am currently getting back to work in my shop to take care of unfinished business and do a little project or two, but because I am not certain of my plans when I graduate in September, I am not taking orders at this time. I may do a few Benchmade modifications, if you'd like to contact me about that.

Thanks again, Greg, and I'm sure I'll catch up with you on ICQ. Great job with the pics!

-Drew Gleason
Little Bear Knives
Nice review, and sounds like a wonderful trip! Next time let us know and we can meet ya there!


It ain't those parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me,
it is the parts that I do understand.
Mark Twain

Drew :

I prefer ATS-34 to 440C for two reasons, neither a matter of performance: one is that I feel it grinds "cleaner," and the other is that folks (especially back then) were much more impressed with the name than they were with 440C.

It is open honesty like this that I respect highly and attracts me to a knife maker much more than just about anything else. I can't think on anyone I have had a problem with who has had a similar attitude. I think its a simple as someone with a strong product has little reason to say anything other than fact.

With just about everyone and their mother saying "I can chop up iron bars and my knives still shave" its nice to see Drew comment that his ATS-34 knife saw some edge deformation after hacking up the metals. Which I would expect assuming the edge had a thin profile and I would guess it did from pasts posts.

Realism is a refreshing trend.


With Slick Willie visiting here today at the base and all, I'm a bit late with my reply. You put a really nice spin on the evaluation. A veritable travelogue with normal sportsman usage of a fine blade. Your honesty with the blade handle helps all concerned including ol' Corduroy. I liked the homey, laid back, yet very effective synopsis provided. Well done!

Hi Greg,
Nice review my man. Reminded me when my kids were young and we used to go wilderness camping. Really great to have a lake all to yourself isn't it? Luckily I live in an area where I can still do that occasionally.

I liked your assessment of Micarta. It is my favorite man-made handle material. It does have it's minor limitations as you pointed out. If the handle does not fit your hand well it can get somewhat fatiguing after extended use. It also can get a little slippery especially around blood. Like I said though these are minor points and as you stated the stuff is as tough as steel. I'll take it in a heartbeat over Kraton or the "wonder" plastics that are proliferating nowadays.

I've always liked ATS-34 but as the folks pointed out proper heat treating is essential. Cliff brought up some good points about hardness. 440C is also another favorite of mine and like ATS-34 a proper heat treat is also important but not as important as the purity of the metal. There's some junk 440C out there. I am really growing fond of my "top three" though which are 420V, 440V and especially Talonite. Good stuff.

Drew, you are quite the talented young man. At only 24 you're displaying a lot of maturity. It's young guys like you that are really showing us old farts that the "Gen X'ers" are going to be okay. Nice job Drew and keep at it. You're only going to get better.

Gary after viewing your sheaths and enduring all of Greg's ravings
I'm going to have to send some business your way. You're a talent brother.

Thanks Greg for the report and let's hear more. Oh yeah, "El Baldo" did you give Clinton a proper "salute" for me. Sometime I'll have to tell everybody, (if he'll let me), what our friend Bill McWilliams did at "ol' Lefty's" childhood home. It was funny!

To be fair, I managed to exit the base before Slick arrived as I had a medical appointment. Trust me though... the preps and coordination with the Secret Service are unbelievable.

Our troops spent 4 hours in 92 degree heat awaiting the man's arrival. A true "command performance" or as I'm sure you used to say in the Marines... a "rent a crowd" evolution

Did ol' McW actually take a leak on a commemorative of Slick's. Heard rumors about something like this

I would like to thank everyone who has read or replied to this post. I have learned a lot from the discussion and I can't think of anything more fun than testing a custom knife.

Oh...for those who are interested here are some more of Gary's fine sheaths. I hope I'm not gonna make Gary busier than he already is but this is a picture of all 3 sheaths Gary did for me. All 3 knives were made by Drew (though they are concealed by the sheaths)
See Some More Of Gary's Work Here

Have a great weekend all!


[This message has been edited by Kodiak PA (edited 10 July 1999).]
Greg, great review. Cord must make a really good knife. Glad y'all had a great time. I am looking foward to your next custom knife review, so don't keep us waiting.

Chris, Top of Texas Knives

Man, I can understand what our troops go through with this "attention glutton" pres of ours. As you say the "rent-a-crowd" contingent is always in full force. If I were still in the Corps I'd be CM'd because I'd walk out of anything he was near. I hear some students did just that at a college where he was giving the commencement speech, (yeah, these "Gen Xer's" are going to be okay).

Yup, you got it right on Billy's visit to "Ol'Lefty's" home. Loved that story.
About the name;

Names are a very personal thing. They reflect a lot about who and what you are. The one you're issued at birth may or may not suit you, or it may have things/experiences connected with it that you'd rather sever your ties with. In my case, I actualy go by Snick/Snicker amongst my friends, it's a nickname, and I don't plan on keeping it forever, but I am planning on getting my name legaly changed.

If you prefer to go by your given name, I'm all for that, but just because you choose to use a different one doesn't mean you're "hiding" anything. Even if you are, it's not like everybody has a right to know all the intimate details of your life. Obviously, if you're going back into buisness, using a "real" name of some sort is advisable.

Basicaly, whatever you choose to go with, I'm with ya, but don't feel embarassed/uncomfortable/whatever with what you have gone by. Drew is Corduroy is some guy I debate or converse with over the internet. A rose is a rose by any other name.

Your knife looks real nice. I wouldn't mind getting my hands on one at all. And age got nuth'n to do with nuth'n. I can't tell you how many golden oldies I've met who couldn't find their ass in the dark if they used both hands. Deeds and words speak louder than numbers, or something like that. This is not to disparage the older guys, many are pretty cool, just that they aren't all wise old masters, and they don't all warant being put up on a pedestal. They used to be young too, some day we'll all be old. A person is better judged by their works than senority, your works speak for themselves.

Best wishes,

Greg, nice review! But do you have to make us envious of that Spyderco cap of yours? LOL!!!

When I saw that knife made by Drew up for grabs a few months back, I knew it had potential.

Enjoy your toy, good buddy!