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Modern materials Khukuri

Discussion in 'H.I. Cantina' started by kookery, Oct 11, 2012.

  1. kookery


    Oct 11, 2012
    I've always wanted a kukri (khukuri, kookery, etc). I might buy one after finding this forum. Everybody says the pinnacle of kukri-craft comes from Himalayan Imports. But, looking around, I see the "blems" postings where the natural material handles are showing their propensity to crack and have other sorts of problems.

    What I'm hoping to find is a "modern pinnacle" that has a synthetic handle (kraton maybe), and possibly an option for corrosion resistant stainless steel metallurgies for the blade. I'm never going to be a Gurkha, but if I get the opportunity to play one on TV, then I might like a hilt guard design that will prevent me from sliding my hand from the handle to the blade. It would also be nice if it had a matte black or blued (chemical or heat) finish for additional corrosion resistance, but I could do that with spray paint if I had to. There's a chance I might use a kukri for chopping up big salt water fish (in the water or out), so in addition to metallugical and coating corrosion resistance, it would be nice if it could be disassembled for rinsing to prevent corrosion from forming in hidden parts under the handle. A modern Khukuri should have a modern sheath too.

    Does something like what I'm describing already exist? If not, I suppose I could always hack it up myself, but that would be more work than I want to do if I can avoid it. Most importantly, I'd lose the "authenticity" vibe that comes from an original, well-designed tool. I'm sure I'd get the shape and the balance wrong, or something like that, if I made it myself. But making it myself, I could use whatever exotic steel I can source, and I could put something like a paracord handle on it that could be replaced easily.

    Thanks for any advice you can share.
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2012
  2. GoodStuff


    Oct 3, 2012
    In any marine environment, with carbon steel, you *will* get rust period.
    But there are ways to help that. Patinas or cold blueing will provide protection. But rusty boat knife is just the deal in the ocean with carbon steel.

    Having had many plastic handles, i keep finding myself going back to wood. Think about how long wood lasts, even in a marine enviro. They have pulled entire beams of ships from the age of sail from the deep. You, won't likely live long enough to outlast most wooden handles, unless you use these every single day for hard, hard work.

    This is a tool right? it *will* break if you use it hard enough. I saw a big old boy once snap 1/2 the head of a 1.5" crescent wrench right off... 'ping'... *anything* can be broken. but can you fix it? I dont have a kraton injection mould. But i do have stuff to work on wood.

    I still say wood is best. Wood has been a proven handle material for countless millennia.
    "Adequate technology" - A good explanation of why the knife is still around and we aren't all cutting up our hoagies with lightsabers i guess.

    So, what i am saying is, don't worry so much about it. you will likely never break an HI knife. and if you do... you are the freaking fish warrior, Pirate Captain. So, just buy another one. You have to expect to go through a couple of cutlasses when you are slaying sea-monsters, and swashbuckling, and stuff.

    So try the recipe first, before you start trying to brew your own. I doubt you will be disappointed.
  3. monk3yfist

    monk3yfist Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 24, 2009
    There are a few companies that make "modern" khukuri like the one you describe. Honestly HI makes top quality blades that can take a beating and hold up. If you're worried about rust just take care of your blades amd there's no issue. If you want modern handle materials there are people that can put one on for you if you don't want to tackle the project yourself. I say pick up an HI and see if khukuris are even for you in the first place before you try to find "the ultimate" one. I owned a few before I knew what I even wanted out of one. Good luck.
  4. kookery


    Oct 11, 2012
    Thanks for your detailed reply. I've broken plenty of wrenches myself (among other things).

    316 stainless handles salt water well, but it still has to be disassembled and rinsed with fresh water to prevent corrosion. I won't take anything I care about into salt water if it's made of plain steel. So far, everything I have is stainless steel, anodized aluminum, titanium, brass/bronze, or various forms of plastic and rubber.

    If I add a kukri to my kit, I'm not sure it will be needed in salt water, but if I add a kukri to my kit, it will be because I will want to use it wherever I want to use it :)
  5. Shinook


    Apr 2, 2012
    I agree with GoodStuff about wood being the preferred material for handles. The Blems with cracked handle are typically results of getting really hot without enough oil while they spend time in Reno, Nevada. A properly cared for and oiled handle that is not left in extreme elements shouldn't crack the ways the blems have. And even then, the blems are the exception to the durability of wood, not the norm. I've used my Ganga Ram quite hard in time I've had it, and it has showed zero handle problems. The satisal wood handle with a concealed tang is very sturdy, and I have full confidence in it.

    GoodStuff is also correct about mixing carbon steel and salt water. I would be very careful about keeping the blade clean and oiled if I were to use it around salt water.

    If you are determined to want a more modern material for the handle, here is an example of using micarta as a replacement handle on an HI Khukuri. http://www.bladeforums.com/forums/s...time-in-black-linen-micarta?highlight=micarta

    If you search the forums, you will find more examples of handle replacements and also different blueing techniques.
  6. Grease


    May 10, 2012
    Despite the joys of stainless steel, 5160 is actually a very wise choice for a kukri. It's designed to chop, hitting things extremely hard. 5160 is a spring steel, which means a blade made from it will withstand impacts better than most others steels. With a good patina/blueing/coating, the blade shouldn't have any rust issues as long as you care for it. And if it does rust, just run some sandpaper over it and expose the patina underneath.

    Another option would be ordering a custom from a maker here...
  7. GoodStuff


    Oct 3, 2012
    I understand. But what is stopping you?
    I use carbon steel in the ocean all the time. I but i don't take my nice polished and carved pretty pieces to cut up fish either.
    As you say, you have to wash stainless too, so I don't think you will have too much problem with carbon steel with "reasonable" efforts at care, as long as you know there is always going to be some rust on the blade when you are in the spray. Or you can paint it.

    But the trade off for having a strong carbon steel blade, vs brittle stainless is worth the extra care IMHO. I had a fancy titanium knife once too, till i lost it. (Dropped out of my sheath diving) I could have bought 5 carbon steel knives and just thrown them away if they got rusty for what i paid for the TI knife. Something to consider...

    My best advice is still, try the standard designs first. They are available, relatively inexpensive and will help you make an informed decision about what you really want.
    I understand how you feel about wanting the perfect super knife. I was the same way 2-3 weeks ago. But after you try out a HI kuk, i am confident that like me, any concerns about durability and construction won't worry you so much anymore.
  8. davidf99

    davidf99 Gold Member Gold Member

    Sep 27, 2011

    I suggest that you buy one of the KLVUK models. They are inexpensive and the black forging scales help with rust resistance. You can find out if you really like the feel and handling of a khukuri, and discover some of the advantages of the "authentic" traditional design. For example, the traditional handle ring fits between the fingers and keeps the hand from slipping forward onto the blade (and you can sand down the ring edge a bit on the palm side if it cuts into your hand), making a hilt guard unnecessary unless you're planning to duel with the knife.

    Since you emphasize salt water use, I suggest that you get one with a wood handle, preferably a dense-grain wood like satisal and give it a polished superglue finish, as has been discussed in some postings on this forum. A finish like that would probably make the handle as waterproof as any artificial material.

    There are knifemakers in the U.S. who can make a knife for you with exotic steel and other materials, and it would probably cost you something in the range of $500-$1,000 or more, with a good long wait. You can get an HI KLVUK for about $65 plus $15-$20 shipping, and try a khukuri somewhat similar to what Nepalese villagers have been using for centuries in their daily work. Many people on this forum have started with one khukuri and become real enthusiasts.

    -- Dave
  9. kookery


    Oct 11, 2012
    That's good advice. I notice that if I spend tons of money on something fancy, I'm much more likely to put it on ebay because I never use it. If I get something "just right", then I use it until I break it.

    It looks to me that nobody makes Kukris in the way that people are demanding. I checked out some of the links people have been posting in response to my question, and it appears to me that almost EVERYONE wants a modern, durable handle, a modern durable sheath, reliable known blade type and quality, etc - but nobody is making it! As far as I can tell, the market leader Himalayan Imports is still making the kukris out of random bits of scrap metal. I'm not sure of what I would be getting with the Himalayan Imports knives - are they 5160? Hardened to what hardness? I didn't see that info on their site.

    If I end up making my own, I might as well set up shop and start selling them, haha...no, seriously! If Himalayan Imports gets $150 each for kukris that aren't quite what people really want, and Cold Steel gets $300+ for kukris that aren't quite what people want, then I might have to get into the knife business :) I'm only half joking...
  10. kookery


    Oct 11, 2012
    I did a search, but didn't find what you're talking about right away. Do you have a link you can share?
  11. kookery


    Oct 11, 2012
  12. ecos


    Jul 2, 2006
    Keep in mind that in general stainless steel is weaker than carbon steel. Since a kukri is often a larger blade intended for chopping many people steer clear of stainless. CPM3v is a carbon steel that offers superb strength, great edge retention, and a bit better corrosion resistance than most plain carbon steels, although at a higher price...it might be something to check into.

    There are both custom makers and factories producing kukris in modern materials. Of course the custom ones are pricier, but you can find them for a few hundred.
  13. kronckew

    kronckew Gold Member Gold Member

    Aug 17, 2003
    HI doesn't use random scrap metal. they use recovered vehicle leaf springs, with a preference for mercedes. these are, i am told, 5160 or close enough to make no difference. they are hand forged, not ground or laser cut. they are differentially hardened and tempered by the smith by hand using an anthracite coal fire and a tea-pot of boiling water and a bale-full of experience. the sweet spot are generally around 58-60 rc, with the tip and inside curve a bit less. the spine is softer. the intent is that a broken khukuri is useless, a bent one can be unbent.
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2012
  14. Bigfattyt

    Bigfattyt Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 23, 2007
    Busse Combat. They make two versions.

    KZ and the KZII. 12 inch blade. .257 thick nearly indestructible Infi steel, guard. Micarta or G10 handles.

    But pricy, and tough to find.




  15. GoodStuff


    Oct 3, 2012
    Not true at all. This traditional kukri design has been proven for thousands of years. That is about as reliable and durable as it gets.
    But you will never find a hand made, hand forged knife that is exactly the same as the next like a factory made knife. It is about the craftsmanship of the maker. So, try one out. They aren't expensive.

    Especially the KLVUK, which stands for "Kesher Lal, Villager Ugly Kukri" Kesher Lal being the "Kami" (the blacksmith), that made the knife.
    Try one and you will understand what we are trying to convey. In fact, I predict that you will feel a little foolish for worrying so much about improving or modernizing the kukri, just like i did when i handled the traditional design for the first time. When you handle one, you will see just how streamlined and practical the design is.

    Follow the recipe first, before you try to change it. At minimum you need to understand the design as it is. And I don't think you will be disappointed. There is a reason the kukri in general, and HI specifically, have the reputation that they do.
  16. kookery


    Oct 11, 2012
    Thanks for the photos, and the good advice! I like the Busse designs, and this one just looks neat:


    And it looks like there are a lot more options out there than I thought there were:



    Looking at the price of all of those, the Himalayan Imports kukris look like bargains. As soon as I'm done exploring, I will probably follow all the advice to start with the basics and move along from there. Although I like those fancier, expensive types, they're so expensive I would probably be afraid to use it, haha. There's nothing that annoys me more than shopping hard, figuring out what is really ideal from my point of view, saving the cash for it, waiting for it be delivered, and then being afraid to use it for fear I might scratch it!
  17. Shinook


    Apr 2, 2012
    I started my foray into khukuri only last spring. And I've learned one very important thing since then. EVERYONE wants khukuri like HI makes them. If I hand a friend an HI khukuri their eyes widen and they they start mumbling about how beautiful, solid, functional, comfortable, and stunning they are. It doesn't even matter what model I hand them. I've placed HI khukuri in the hands of friends from all different backgrounds, and from different parts of the world. I always get the same reaction. Gleeful lust. They all gravitate to the same knife, my blem HI-BAS by Rajkumar with a satisal wood handle. They all do the same thing with it, "swing very slow and carefully at a piece of wood". I then laugh, take the BAS back and swing fast and hard into the same piece of wood. Then their eyes light up even more, and their love affair with my HI-BAS goes into overdrive. They start going to town on every piece of wood that I'll let them at. I laugh, and show them what my 18" Ganga Ram can do to wood. They are always stunned. But the strangest thing is that all do the same thing here as well. They start defending the performance of the "THEIR" Hi-BAS. They admit that the Ganga Ram does chop better, but they don't care and they want to use "THEIR" HI-BAS. Its hilarious, and they all do it.

    I tell you this because until you have a handmade khukuri made by Himalayan Imports in your hand, its easy to want "modern perfection". I admit, that for over a decade I wouldn't buy a knife unless it had a little butterfly on it and said Benchmade. I've since learned how special a knife can be when its made by a craftsman using techniques passed down for centuries. Each blade I've gotten from HI has a different look and feel to it. They are all unique, and have their own soul, for lack of a better word. I strongly recommend you get one. I like my KLVUK, but I have to admit that I don't like it near as much as my other khukuri, though that could change after actually get to use it some more(weather and work have kept me from my normal hikes). And while my go to blade is my Ganga Ram, I always recommend people start with the HI-BAS. Its what I started with, and its what my friends always pick. Its incredibly versatile, and one of the easiest khukuri to use.
  18. jdk1


    Apr 21, 2010
    First off, this may be moved to the Cantina as the main forum is Auntie's showroom, so don't be alarmed. All things khukuri are welcome here and it takes a little time to know what goes where:)

    OK, there are several manufacturers making khukuri just like folks want. HI has a huge dedicated following for their khuks. They offer heavy weight monsters fit for axe work and hiking sized versions of many models as well, all the while practicing a good karma business model which imparts a special feeling to their khukuri and this forum. Tora has a cult following due to Simon's obsession with traditional size and weight, as well as authentic replicas of military models. Busse has their khukuri for those who want special steel, high tech. Micarta, bomb proof construction, and can afford the price. Cold Steel offers an outstanding khukuri in the Gurkha model and it has many devoted fans, myself included. I can't comment on the khukuri houses as I don't have thier products and likely never will. There are customs available as well. I would suggest trying different makers if you can as they each offer something different.

    HI makes this pretty easy with blem models and their new village series. My first HI was a blem'd WWII model and it's still my favorite HI. The horn handle had a hair line crack then and that's all it has now. As others have said, much of the damage to the blems happens in the air between Nepal and Reno. Once in someone's hands, it's usually an easy fix from what I've seen. You won't find concrete hardness info as HI's, as well as Tora's, are hardened the traditional way with a tea kettle. It's an art using the kami's senses and experience. It is decidedly low tech., but fascinating and amazing at the same time.

    Also as has been said, stainless doesn't seem to work as well for choppers. The exception could be the CS San Mai Gurkha, but I don't have one so can't say for sure. Carbon steel was used on ships for a long, long time. With care it should still be just as good. Good luck.
  19. wildmanh

    wildmanh KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jul 9, 2000
    Kookrey, welcome to the forums!

    If you want a Khukri with a handle made from modern composite/laminate handle materials like Micarta, g-10 and the like, I suggest buying a Blem with a cracked then replacing the handle. This way you have the best of both worlds.

    FWI, my observations have concluded the following: wood Khukri handles appear to be more stable, but for long term use Horn holds up better. If a horn handle cracks and is properly repaired, 99% of the time, it never has a problem again. . . . My first Khukri was a used 15" Ang Khola with horn handle that I bought from Uncle Bill back in the summer of 2001. It was made back in the Early days of H.I. so today it's 20 something years old. Uncle Bill gave me a great deal on the Khukri because the horn handle had a 2 big cracks and at least 1 small crack, the tip of the blade was belt, it was dinged, dirty, and the sheath had shrunk and split over time. I cleaned up the Khukri, used a ball peen hammer and chopping block to gently straighten the tip, repaired the cracks in the handle with black JB weld, sanded the whole thing down, put a new edge on the blade and started using it. Despite 11 dry winters in Utah (Even though we get snow and sometimes crazy lots of it, the air is really dry here) the handle has no new cracks and is as good as when I fixed it.

    Hope you find the answers and solutions that you are looking for. Please stick around and enjoy!
  20. Daniel L

    Daniel L Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 2, 1998
    You sound like you could be a buyer for a Extrema Ratio Kukri - the KS or KH model. Basically stainless steel blades with a synthetic handle. They look cool and modern.
    But I will happily bet you that they will not outchop or be as tough as a HI kukri of the same weight .

    They look like a kukri but they are not convex ground, differentially hardened or have the balance and harmonics tuned from decades of experience. But as I said,they look cool :)

    The new Cold Steel Kukri also has a model with a finger guard now... butt ugly in my opinion.

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