While many bushcrafters and woodsmen seek that one magic tool that does it all, I have lived in the woods about 80% of my life. I have always been a fan of a large/small knife combo when going into backcountry. After hunting around for days, and giving careful thought to the Cold Steel Master Hunter, the SOG Ranger and the Esee 3, I finally decided on the SOG Seal Pup Elite. In design it offers the best of every world. The Zytel handle is virtually indestructible and I doubt it will ever wear much, and it is long enough to accommodate my large hands. The AUS8 steel has moderate rust resistance, which is important here in the damp woods of eastern Canada, and it takes and holds an edge. The 3/18″ spine is stout, and the hollow saber grind makes it tougher yet allows it to be wicked sharp. The straight edge is a hair under 5 inches long and imminently practical for foraging and generally cutting and carving. There is plenty of belly for skinning and cleaning game. There is adequate space for choking up on the knife and the gimping all along the back is a useful feature for grinding notches or other substances. Unlike a lot of modern bushcrafters, I don’t waste good knives bashing wood. I use knives for knives’ jobs, so I like clip points. This knife has a well built, stout one that’s good and sharp. It’ll puncture a rabbit or deer hide quite easily. The new sheath is a thing of elegant function, holding the knife snug and secure, and can be rigged onto my pack, messenger bag or just slung on my gear belt or dropped in a pocket.. At a weight of a mere 5.6 ounces, it is no trouble and those few ounces are worthwhile weight.
If I were to buy another SPE, I would not spend money on the TiNi coating. It may hold up in the field but it doesn’t hold up great against Japanese water stones. The ordinary residue from a stone that works its way onto the blade as they are sharpened has already begun to wear the TiNi off
I must confess I was very disappointed with the edge it came with. I am not one of those that expects a knife to be hair popping sharp out of the box. In fact, I do not even want a knife I’ll use for hunting or woodscraft to be that sharp as it makes the edge fragile. But I do expect the knife to at least be sharp. The knife came on a day my wife and I went backpacking, and I just threw it in with my gear. In the field, it cut food well enough, but it was much too dull to cut a feather stick. I had to use my bowie for that, and to cut and make some quick tent stakes. It was so dull one could barely say it had an edge. More of just a play where the steel came together.
Still, the AUS8 steel is not too difficult to sharpen, even though it’s stainless. Harder than some popular carbon steels like 1095, but I’ll wager it’ll hold an edge longer than 1095, too. But when I got it home I examined the edge under a loupe and it looked like the edge bevel was at about 35 degrees. (Very sloppy, SOG! Especially on such an otherwise high quality knife.) I spent an hour working with water stones at 800 and 1200 grit getting that bevel to something more serviceable, around 20 degrees. Then another half hour refining the edge on 4000 and 8000 stones, then finally 20 minutes of stropping with a leather with a liberal application of chromium oxide, then on bare leather. I stopped sharpening just at the point the knife could take a little hair off my arm. (Normally, I wouldn’t render a knife so sharp but deer season is beginning, and this will my skinner for a deer or two and various rabbits and grouse. So I wanted it plenty sharp.)
I do farrier work and know how to sharpen as a result of that craft. I can render a tool anywhere from lawnmower sharp to sharp enough to shave horse hooves like softwood. I don’t mind sharpening. I just would have expected more from SOG, especially with a knife of the SPE’s reputation.
Still, I am very happy with this knife. After I have perfected the edge and tested it out, I’ll give it to my wife. She’ll like the low maintenance stainless steel.