Review : Deerhunter (AUS-8A), Boye drop point hunters (cast 440C / Cobalt)

Interesting review, Cliff, I've wondered how the Boye Dendritics would compare. Can you tell me how you take the edge angle measurements?

Hey Cliff, I think I found a little spelling error. Its Under "Kitchen use", in the 9:th row.

"The blades were sharpened again using a bitchers steel and finishing with a 600 grit DMT rod"

But besides that, as always a very detailed review.

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If you are in the mood for some amusement read the reviews while they are in progress and have not been filtered through ispell.

Has Boye ever commented on why he casts the blades so thick? While the edge is thin, often the Deerhunter would cut material smoother as its almost 1/4 the stock thickness of the Boye Blades.

The 1/4" stock do make for more comfortable thumb on spine holds, but does that really out weigh the binding disadvantage? It also makes the blades stronger but for this type of knife is that even a functional gain?

The Deerhunter at almost 1/16" is plenty strong for any type of cutting. About the hardest thing I did with it was whittle hardwood sticks and I was leaning on it full strength (harder than necessary, very high fatigue rate) making deep cuts. Some of the wood was very old (yardsticks) and it was actually cracking during the cuts. The first time it happened I thought I snapped the Deerhunter in half.

Anyway I would be interested in seeing a Boye hunter at about 1/16". I don't imagine it would snap under any kind of cutting chore unless the casting makes it so much weaker than the AUS-8 in the Deerhunter. I would be very surprised if 1/4" was the necessary stock thickness for functional durability.


[This message has been edited by Cliff Stamp (edited 07-22-2000).]
I can think of two reasons why Boye makes the knives so thick. The first is, as you suggest is possible, that the casting process makes the steel too weak. Perhaps the "dendrites" act as stress risers throughout the steel. Not important when the steel is much thicker than the dendrites, but it seems possible that they would increase exponentially in importance as there is less and less metal around them. Also, I think Boye uses the lost wax method of casting these. Perhaps, to ensure proper forming of the mold, or appropriately even cooling of the metal, a greater mass of material is needed. Just a couple thoughts.
Since these are "hunting" knives it would be good to compare their effectiveness on something more akin to skinning deer. I like to section and strip the meat off of pork or beef ribs to test handling and cutting. Instead of rating "security" by performing stabbing tests, I would rate it by how well I could peform my skinning tests with my hand lubricated with vegetable oil (to simulate blood). The Deer Hunter's handle shape and checkering look like they would do well (as they did on your fish cleaning test).

I would think that the ATS-34 version of the Deer Hunter would do better in your tests.
I've been a huge proponent of the Deerhunter for years, so reports of good cutting performance, and that astoundingly useful sheath, don't surprise me. I too think the ATS-34 version might do a bit better. Still, it did pretty damn good. Many $450 knives would not come anywhere close to outcutting the Deerhunter; in picking the Boye, which is one of the very best, Cliff found one that will. Of course, for jobs that require deep penetration for slicing jobs, like some common utility tasks, the Deerhunter really shines.
Jeff, all the blades were used in the kitchen for an extended period of time. They were used on a lot of meats, trimming the fat off of steaks and sectioning it for stew, skinning and splitting chicken etc. . The handles on the Boye hunters while ergonomic do not set by shape or texture, however because they cut so well there is little resistance to the blade so there is nothing to generate a torque which would cause the blade to slip. The Deerhunter is more secure because of the indexing shape and texture and would be preferred for heavier work with a compromised grip, whittling wood or something similar for example. You make a good point though about this being the prime use of the blade, I will comment more on it in detail in the future.

Joe, yes, I think the Deerhunter is certainly a high performance standard, the only real negative is how fast the edge wears down. If you put all three in the kitchen at first the Deerhunter stands out especially on vegetables, but it only takes a little work before the Boye blades take over and the Deerhunter is slipping and tearing, and a little more and the 440C one will be reached for over the Cobalt one. As for the ATS-34 one, I had similar feelings, I was impressed with its performance and will most likely pick up one the fall to have on hand as a standard for light use blades.

There are two pictures added to the review, one from the side to show the profiles and one from the top to show the extreme difference in stock and grip shape.


[This message has been edited by Cliff Stamp (edited 07-23-2000).]
The Deerhunter always struck me as being kind of a more expensive version of a Mora knife. How would some of the Mora knives compare ?
I would think that the dentric casting method limits to how thin one can go. The SA80 weapon system's bayonet is dentric cast, (think thats the term), and the end result is very poor. For Boyle to get the right result I think there must be a limit to how far he can push the technology.
Just a thought.
To clarify the above, if I soap or oil up my grip and use the Boye blades whittling on hardwoods using deep cuts with a lot of force, my hand will slip down across the grip. The checkering as well as the swells on the Deerhunter prevent such slips and allow me to therefore cut deeper with it.

Johno, I gave away the Mora and Kellam I had so I can't do a direct comparison. However :

The Mora is made from slightly thicker stock and has a much more shallow flat grind than the Deerhunter (sabre vs full). The only advantage the Mora has is that the edge is formed by the primary bevel of about 12 degrees, the Deerhunter has a a lower primary bevel but the edge is formed by a thicker secondary bevel however you can set it quite low. The only I have on loan is about 14 degrees.

Based on that and what I can remember about the blades, I would bet the Deerhunter to outcut them across the board. The handle is also more ergonomic and secure and the sheath is vastly superior.

I don't know what thickness limits there are to casting dendritic 440C, but David's chef knives are of .125" stock, and in some models the blade stock is distally tapered down significantly thinner than that toward the point.

Cliff, I know Phil Wilson has worked in David's dendritic steel for kitchen knives, and probably has some opinions on thinness and strength in the material. I know Phil likes the Boye steel, and we know he likes to grind fairly thin.

My guess is that David has arrived at the thin edge/thick spine format, in knives that may see heavier than kitchen use, for much the same reason that Jerry Busse leans in that direction: combines aggressive slicing ability with strength enough for wedging and prying.

Not that Boye's knives will compete with Busse's under truly hard use, but the principal is the same. In these hunters, David is apparently trying to build some strength into a super aggressive slicer, whereas Jerry is trying to make a nuclear-tough prybar into an effective cutting instrument.

In my opinion, both succeed. Even though the thick Boye spine binds a little in deeper cuts, compared with thinner stock knives, it still does its job well as a high performance slicer. Just as the thin Battle Mistress edge will roll a little on harsh materials, but it's easily restored, and Shaquille O'Neil could probably do pull-ups on the big knife, supported by only the edge, after wedging it into frozen oak.

By the way, I believe the Boye knives are cast in "trees" of several like blades at a time, which to me suggests an injection type mold. Each blade is then separated from its "branch" at the injection point. This is the description David has given me in the past, on blades I've ordered.


[This message has been edited by WILL YORK (edited 07-24-2000).]
David Boye told me that he intends for the Drop Point Hunter to be stronger cutting bone and popping joints. I think the stronger spine helps support the thin edge too.

There is a lot of variation in the spine thickness of the custom hunters. Both of mine are over .2", but I have seen them closer to .15". It seems to depend on how they look coming out of the mold, or on David's whim when he finish grinds them.

They cut so well though, that I have not had any trouble with them binding. Love those knives.

A Couple of Boye Hunters
I can understand the prying strength, but 1/4" stock has very high strength. For a regular stainless steel you are talking about being able to handle several hundred pounds easily. That seems fairly excessive to me. However as Steve noted it could be that the ones Will had were just on the thick end of the spectrum. Concerning chopping or cutting bone or any edge leverage. I can't see the thick spine doing anything to help the thin edge. It is not like it can take away any energy from impacts or prying.

Going outside the theory I took the Boye cast Cobalt blade and a Barteaux machete (roughly 20 degree included convex edge bevel) and some bone. I chopped into it forcefully with the machete and continued to cut until I was about halfway through, a dozen or so chops. The edge was blunted but not visibly dented or rolled. I then took the Boye and lightly chopped, the penetration was very low as the mass is much less so the impact energy is vastly reduced. Yet the Boye hunter was visibly dented. I was very careful using it and kept the force low so the dent was minor and will be removed when I sharpen it. But it dented none the less. And this was with very low force.

Namviet commented similar awhile ago that his wife I think broke a piece out of the edge of a Basic working on or around some bone in the kitchen.

Concerning the binding, in order to actually notice it you have to have a blade on hand that has a similar edge profile but is cut from much thinner stock. If the edge is thicker then this will reduce the cutting performance far in excess of the thicker spine on the Boye hunter. To really see the difference take the Deerhunter, a Boye hunter and a Boye Dive knife. The edge profile is very similar on all three but the stock thickness significantly different.


[This message has been edited by Cliff Stamp (edited 07-25-2000).]
I asked NamViet Vo some questions about that incident on a thread back in February. His words:

"Will, my wife broke a Boye's blade while doing a little light prying (boning an elk). The blade did stay sharp for quite a while."

I don't know whether the blade snapped or suffered edge failure. In further discussion, he said that knife was a "Prophet" model, a small folder, which is hollow ground. I have one like it in my pocket, on which the bladestock is less than 1/8" thick.

In looking at two other 4" blade steel hunters and another like cobalt hunter which I have on hand, none approach .25" in thickness, although the cobalt is noticeably thicker than either of the steel blades, at the spine above where the actual cutting edge begins. Points are tapered on all three from about mid-way on the blade to the tip, again with the steel hunters being much more thinly tapered toward their points. Wish I had some calipers to shed a little more light, but there is obvious variation there.


I certainly like the Boye knives, have had several of them, still have a Basic #3 and the Boye/Loveless Persona a very sharp little knife. The Basic sees duty on leather so I can't say it's edge has gotten deformed for that work. The Persona has had some extensive whittling, not on bone, but hard wood and shows no sign of denting, this isn't the Cobalt blades but the regular cast 440C blades, both have very aggressive cutting edges.

Here is a pic of my favorite small fixed blade;


The edge is almost zero secondary bevel, very sharp knife, the back is thicker but like Cliff stated above, it provides a nice surface to rest the thumb on when cutting.


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I should clarify that the decrease in cutting ability because of the thick spine on the Boye hunters is not of the same magnitude that the thin edge increases the cutting ability. To get specific, also belong to Will, I have a blade from Carson and Schwarzer, it is of slightly thinner stock, has significantly more acute primary and secondary grinds yet the Boye hunters will out cut it 3:1 whittling wood simply because they are .01" behind the edge whereas the Carson/Schwarzer is .045" .