Despite the severe late autumn weather of of the Martimes, Canada Post managed to run today. And I received the last of the three knives I planned to buy this year as part of the process of updating my bushcraft gear and replacing the beloved Ka-bar USMC knife I had through twenty years in the Alaskan wilderness and Canadian north woods (did I mention my wife lost it when I lent it to her for 15 minutes on a camping trip?) This time, having more funds at my disposal than I did in Alaska, I selected knives with intentions a little more specialized, though I must admit–the Ka-bar USMC knife is, IMO, an about perfect bushcraft knife, doing everything well from prepping a trout for cooking, to butchering a caribou, to carving wood to make tools. (Did I mention my wife lost that beloved knife when I lent it to her for 15 minutes on a camping trip?) If it had not been lost, I doubt I’d have ever bought another knife–I’m not a collector–far too practical.
So, today the last of the three knives I ordered arrived, a SOG Tech Bowie–which is close in size and design to the Ka-bar USMC (did I mentioned my beloved wife lost it?) but with some substantial differences. It’s made of AUS8 stainless steel. I used to hate stainless steel–in the old days, it was virtually impossible to sharpen, hard and brittle. It’s one virtue was it was almost impervious to rust.
Well, stainless steel has come a long way, baby. AUS8 is a good steel with the right heat treatment. It’ll resist rust yet take and hold an edge very well. It’s not up to a good high carbon steel for strength and resilience, nor about impervious to rust like 440C, but it’s a good compromise and doesn’t break the bank.
The design of the SOG Tech makes it an acceptable bushman’s knife. It is ostensibly designed for combat, using a bowie-style blade similar to the Ka-bar USMC, but if your main purpose for a knife is to prepare fish and game, prep food, cut cordage and shape wood into tools, that is a good thing. The drop clip point is as sharp as a needle and would penetrate the toughest hide with ease. Personally, I would have preferred a beefier point such as you find on the Cold Steel Trail Master–it’s a bit tougher for tasks like creating the bowl portions of firebow rigs. I’d have willingly given up a little of the SOG Tech’s penetration power for that additional toughness as I am interested in a knife as a tool, not a weapon. And the needle-sharp point gives the SOG Tech a bit of a “tacticool” look, which I am not crazy about. Still, having studied dozens of other knives in the price range, I feel the SOG Tech was the closest to meet my needs. The other knives in the size and design range I was after that were close to the Tech were made in carbon steel, and I very specifically wanted a knife in stainless for those long wet periods eastern Canada is so prone to. An alternative with bushcraft more in mind is the SOG Creed. It sports the same hilt but is a bit heftier at the point, with a typical clip point with no drop intended to maximize toughness. I was tempted by the Creed but decided against it because I don’t like knives that are bigger toward the front of the blade. They make poor game processing knives and tend to have sheathing problems.
The SOG Tech has a stainless steel butt-cap and guard. Many newer knives offer guards made of the same polymer material the hilts are made from. Such guards occasionally crumble after a few years of moderate use. I was adamant that whatever knife I chose must have a metal guard. It was not so imporant to me the butt-cap be metal as I don’t use knives for hammers–that’s stupid as any handy stick or rock can make a better improvised hammer–but it is a nice touch that will add to the knife’s overall toughness. The guard is substantial in front of the fingers, keeping the fingers from slipping forward onto the razor-sharp blade. The guard also extends over the palm side, but is only half size, and it is easy to choke up on the blade for fine carving and cutting. The palm side guard is just substantial enough to stop the blade and palm from coming into contact but allow for easy fine work.
The black TiNi finish is beautiful. I haven’t had a chance to test it for durability yet, but I’ve heard it’s far tougher than Ka-bar finishes which last well if you don’t abuse them. I think the TiNi finish is unnecessary given the blade is stainless, but it can’t hurt and it looks great.
The blade is a quarter inch thick at the spine. It is a tough though not overly heavy, well-balanced tool that will last a lifetime with appropriate use and care. It is easily the finest and most elegant of the three knives I bought to replace the Ka-bar (did I mention my wife lost it?).
When SOG makes a knife, they tend to do everything very nicely (excepting the garbage sheath that comes with their Northwest Ranger). The SOG Tech bowie comes with an extraordinary kydex sheath. It fits the knife like a glove, is suitable to any kind of carry, and since it won’t hold water, helps the knife stay dry and rust free. It is a bit snug and you have to put in some effort to withdraw the knife but that will relax with time.
Overall, the SOG Tech bowie is an imminently practical work of art. I still like my Cold Steel Trail Master bowie a bit more, mainly because it is bigger and has a tougher drop clip point, but the AUS8 stainless steel and imminently useful size and design of the SOG Tech make it an extremely close second.
ADDENDUM: After about a year, I decided to sell this knife. I much prefer a large/small knife combination in the bush, or a small axe with a small knife. But mostly I decided to sell it because I was never comfortable with the Tech Bowie’s point. It had a concave clip point which makes for a needle sharp point, useful for butchering game, but such a point is also fragile. I did not consider the fragility–and the almost certain prospect of having to eventually reprofile this knife when the point broke–to be worth the trouble. I replaced it with a smaller, much lighter BK16, which is half the price and has a tougher overall design and works well in concert with my Trail Master bowie and small axe.