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Frequency vs Weight in Chopping; KVLUK vs ASTK;

Discussion in 'Himalayan Imports' started by Jens Schuetz, Jul 20, 2014.

  1. Jens Schuetz

    Jens Schuetz

    Jun 24, 2013
    I've used my Kukris on many occasions but never really compared them in an objective test.
    Why now? I finished unpacking all boxes from our recent move, kids were sleeping and got some air to play a bit.
    I had tree leftovers with some insects in the bark. Nothing I wanted to keep in a house.

    What did I test? What kind of Kukri is better suited for chopping solid wood? One which hits fast and light or one which hits slow and strong?
    I also paid attention to edge damage/retention and muscle fatigue and ergonomics.

    The two contenders couldn't be more different.
    Here the specs:
    Amar Singh Thapa Knife by Lachhu
    18" OAL
    33 oz
    villager fit and finish .
    Spine thickness 2/5"
    All fittings are white metal.
    Dhar wood handle.
    Knife with a great history and story for your collection.

    15.5'' OAL
    20 oz
    Spine thickness --1/4''
    White metal fittings
    Asare wood handle

    Both knifes had their convex factory edge to which I added an arm hair shaving micro edge.

    Both Kukris were tested on the same log of extra hard California Oak which had dried in my garage since last year.
    I tried my best to use the same technique but had to adjust a bit.
    The lighter Kukri was less forgiving and if occasionally swung too hard at a less than optimal angle it just bounced off the very hard target and felt dangerous. Not really bad of course if you use common sense. Positioned right even a bouncing Kukri can't hit you in the leg.
    Anyways. The heavier ASTK almost always hit with authority and never bounced of thus I could transfer more force to the target and be less careful about it. Kind of counterintuitive that bigger is more controlled and less scary.

    The lighter KVLUK was swung for 30min until I felt some slight fatigue in my arm.
    After 4 hours break I used the heavier ASTK for 15minutes until fatigue started to show.

    The result
    30 minutes chopping with the light KVLUK (top) did only one 3rd of the work of the heavier ASTK in 15min and at the same level of fatigue.

    Power wins over frequency when it comes to chopping solid wood.
    3 times more work in half the time and the same level of fatigue.

    Of course the result would be different when swinging a light or a heavy Kuk at some thin twigs. But that wasn't the question of the test.

    Worth mentioning
    Edge retention.
    The original curved edge shape was intact and I only added micro edges at the very edge of the edge. The angle of this kind of micro edge was wide, but still very sharp. (sharp edges don't have to be very thin!).
    Contrary to popular belief (which equals sharp with thin) the sharp edges didn't take any visible damage from hitting hard wood.
    To my surprise the heavier ASTK which chopped 3times more material in half the time, even retained its hair shaving ability to ~50% of before the test and was still able to cut paper very well.
    The KVLUK could not shave a single hair anymore and failed at cutting the same paper. (picture below)
    Possible explanations:
    A) more frequent light hitting damages an edge more than less frequent and harder hitting.
    B) The blade of the heavier Kukri was much thicker so that the edge must have had a wider angle which should be less susceptible to sidewards forces and reduce edge rolling for example and stay sharp longer. (most likely in my opinion)
    C) The longer and flatter belly / sweet spot of the bigger Kukri gave more hitting area and spread the impacts over a longer area while on the KLVUK the impacts concentrated on a smaller and more curved belly.
    D) different Kamis, different steel source, different heat treat

    The smaller Kukri's handle are a tiny bit too small for my admittedly not very commonly sized hand (XXL/11). Thus its butt pokes a little bit into my palm. Nothing serious, but after 25 minutes or so it gets a bit bugging. It could be fixed by filing it for a few minutes, which I will do. Anyways, avoiding such a minor bug changes the grip and focus and causes a few more bounces of the target.
    The bigger Kukri had a better fit for me but towards the end of the 15 minutes it felt that the ring carved out of the wood in the middle of the handle was a bit too sharp. Nothing too bad but another 15 minutes and there would have been blisters. Also an easy fix just takes a file and a few minutes.

    If your primary goal is chopping solid wood faster and less tiring, get a Kukri as big and heavy as you can handle.
    A sharp edge does not attract excessive edge damage, even while chopping very tough material. A thin angled edge however dulls faster from chopping.

    Thank you for reading and I hope it was a bit interesting.
  2. pk977


    Dec 2, 2012
    Nice and detail explanation to the chopping point comparison between KVLUK vs ASTK. 15mins get the job done is incredible. Jens Schuetz is clearly analysis based on the field test.

    Last edited: Jul 20, 2014
  3. Dirtbiker


    Jul 2, 2010
    Very nicely done Jens.
  4. cul4u01

    cul4u01 Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 5, 2012
    Very informative. Thanks
  5. uluapark


    Aug 10, 2013
    holy cow, how thick was that log? my balance did a 18" in like 10 mins. only a little fatigue, and i am scrony, 5'3 140 lbs. it is 16 OAL and 35oz. and it was a hardwood tree.
    thanks for the info.if i may ask what are the ASTK's running price wise? i am debating getting that or another bonecutter in 12" length, but with wood handles instead of horn. for a true user. my 12" bonecutter is 19oz. i love it for a main belt knife. the horn makes me nervous to use it really hard tho.

    Did you make a v and then just widen it out, or sort of chew your way around in a semi-circle like a beaver chew type of style.
  6. pk977


    Dec 2, 2012
    Let's making a video if someone who will have KVLUK vs ASTK.
  7. Karda

    Karda Banned BANNED

    Jun 1, 2007
    That's me. I hate that video. The ASTK was kinda dull and that wood was really dry, hard and had that crack which seemed to absorb the blows.
    It felt like I was chopping ironwood and gave me a bit of a workout. About the only thing that really felt right doing that video was the strikes on the sweet spot.
  8. Gehazi


    Jun 30, 2013
    astk is one of my favorite knife styles, I only regret that I only have one.
  9. J W Bensinger

    J W Bensinger

    Mar 26, 2009
    Very cool analysis. I think there's a "sweet spot" in weight/length/geometry as well-it's a balance of getting the edge up to speed, having the weight to transfer that energy to the material struck, and an edge profile that doesn't fight you in penetrating the target. Some distal taper to the blade goes a loooong way as well.
    Karda-I know what you mean-wood in that condition is not very rewarding to chop at all. That's a chop-it-halfway-and stomp-it piece of campfire wood there.
  10. pk977


    Dec 2, 2012
    Karda, try to make another video, that no big deal. Chopping a bigger tree not on the ground.
    It is hard to imagine the feeling swing 42oz on hand.
    Anybody who have practice experience on video show us how effective using 42oz chopping weight to cut down the tree.
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2014
  11. mtnfalcon


    Feb 24, 2006
    Really appreciated this well-done experiment/review.
  12. Jens Schuetz

    Jens Schuetz

    Jun 24, 2013
    Glad you guys like the little test/review.

    The log was a tiny bit more than a foot in diameter.
    I attached a picture of the biggest wood chip I got. You can see it isn't that big. The fibers and the grain also show in the pic.
    This and the dryness of the material probably explain why the wood was so hard and tougher than anything I had ever chopped before.
    Angling through it worked only the first few chops. Then it turned into nibbling. Still kept the angles as good as possible and went a little bit arround on the log as well. Not really Beaver style but same principle.

    I'm 6 feet 2 (without shoes) and 235 pounds. Well trained, especially arms. (Captains of Crush lvl3 is almost mine)
    My technique is quite acceptable too.
    No way I could have done 18 inch of this in 10 minutes, Uluapark. also be aware 30 minutes with a Kuk feel like 5 minutes with anything else. It's just that much more fun.

    I'm tempted to see if an axe would do even better than the ASTK. only one problem. It rained last night so that the woods properties could be different now. Maybe I'll let it dry again for another week.

    If the attached picture didn't work I'll add it later from my desktop.
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2014
  13. Steely_Gunz

    Steely_Gunz Got the Khukuri fevah Moderator

    May 9, 2002
    That's excellent. Thank you:)
    I have to say, I think my KLVUK would out perform my ASTK. The ASTK I have is a monster splitter. I use it more like a maul than a knife. It busts kindling like a champ, and will continue to do so even after being pressed to butter knife dull...not that I have ever let it get to that point.

    The thinner edge on my KLVUK (both of them) would certainly bite deeper. That said, I feel that the KLVUK is a much better knife for general lop/slicing. With a little work on the edge, I think my ASTK would be a fine axe-like knife. I have to keep in mind that mine is the 15" version. Very stout at 32+oz.
  14. DanTheKnifeMan


    May 10, 2014
    Good info, thanks for that.
  15. J W Bensinger

    J W Bensinger

    Mar 26, 2009
    I can't see getting through 18" of any wood in ten minutes with a khuk-just the geometry is against you.
    Jens, my man, a #3 COC is no joke! I stopped at the #2.
    Steely-I agree about the KLVUK. My KLVUK and my lean little CAK by Bhakta are much more agressive choppers than my Gelbu or my sirupati.
  16. Shavru


    Feb 20, 2014
    Go Jens!! #3 is pretty dang impressive. Last I saw something about that there were only about 60 folks or so in the world that certified that high. Though that was a couple years ago. But I doubt it is too many more between then and now. I definately wouldn't want to shake your hand if you were mad at me LOL.
    And thank you for a great comparison vid. I find that I prefer a heavier CAK for this style chopping and the KLVUK for limbing, lighter twiggy stuff but then I am a wimp comparably so I have to let the blade and my shoulders do most of the work instead of my arms so for me heavier is better for chopping.

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