Knife Review: Will Woods’ Bladeworks Kraken

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The Will Woods’ Bladeworks Kraken feasted on every test I could throw at it.

As I was packing my bags on the final day of the 2014 Blade Show, I got a text from Will Woods. “Make sure you stop by and see me before you go, I have something I want you to take home and test for the blog”. I was planning hitting the floor one last time before driving back to Knoxville, and I can’t imagine not having made every effort to say goodbye to Will even without prompting. I had corresponded with him and talked with him on the phone on several occasions prior to the show, but I can say I became friends with him after meeting him in person. That, and he had just bought me a great steak dinner Saturday night.

I mention all of this in the interest of full disclosure. I have come to realize that it is important to mention the circumstances of how I/we obtain a knife, be it a freebie from the maker, a loaner for testing, or something that was bought personally for one’s own collection. In the case of the Kraken, it is on loan to the blog to be returned after testing.

I make every effort to be objective in my reviews, and I have the pictures to document my testing, so judge for yourself if I am being too much of a fanboy or friend.

Background:

William Woods is TTAK’s “Knifemaker in Residence”. How exactly he got hooked up with Chris at the inception of the blog I do not know, but his contributions have been informative and welcome. He has always been responsive to me when I have a technical question as well.

Will graduated from the Savanna College of Art and Design. He merges this design background with his love of big knives and creates blades that retain a sense of aesthetic and proportion, yet make most Cold Steel creations look delicate by comparison. His Titan 2 has been rightly described as a folding pocket sword.

All of Will’s knives are custom made to order. The Kraken is one of his fixed-blade templates, and the knife can be customized with regards to steel, scales and sheath, and I image even a tweak or two to the jimping or blade shape.

Click the hyperlink for the Woods Bladeworks website.

Construction:

The Kraken, like most fixed blades is nothing but a blade and two scales. But the Kraken is a   10 3/4″ long slab of 3/8″ steel. The tang extends 1/2″ past the scales and is suitable to striking with a mallet or a hunk of wood.

When I began to test this knife, I did not realize that the scales are not epoxied to the tang so as to be user serviceable. While I took care to take care of the blade was wiped clean and dry, I did not realize that water (and blood) could make its way into the (not visible – as I said I thought that the scales were glued) gap between the tang and scales.

Because the scales are not glued, water and blood can seep in the gap. Periodic attention is required.

When I loosened the scales tapping on the handle to remove the knife from a log, I decided to take the knife apart and look under the hood. I was disappointed to see that I had been mistaken about the scales’ water-tightness and there was corrosion and maybe even some nastiness from the groundhog I skinned.

I took the blank knife and gave it a working over with the honing paste and leather wheel of my Tormek. About 3 minutes a side, and the blank was mostly good as new.

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Honing paste and the Tormek stropping wheel returned the knife to near new.

The scales I tested were G-10. They provided solid enough grip and are available in a range of colors, though Micarta is also available for those who really want extra gripiness.

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For $100 extra, you can upgrade the sheath to full leather or a 3-layer kydex/leather hybrid.

The standard Kraken sheath is two-layer Kydex. For $100, you can get a full leather or a three-layer Kydex/leather hybrid, which is what I tested. The handle inserts approximately 2″ into the sheath, providing firm retention. The blade could be shaken loose from an inverted sheath, but it took concerted shaking.

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Instead of a belt loop, there is a Blade Tech Tek-Lok clip.

The Blade Tech Tek-Lok clip is adjustable and can be attached to  a wide range of straps or belts. It attaches to the sheath with screws through the grommets.

Blade:  

One big slab of CPM3V steel. The Kraken is also available in 1095 steel with Cerakote treatment available for a $50 upgrade. The ground portion of the blade is 5″, but there is almost another 1/2″ of tang exposed before the scales start. To quote the maker, “The Kraken blade is a drop point full flat grind with a medium distal taper”.

In layman’s terms, that means the spine of the blade slopes down gently to the tip. The primary grind extends all the way to the top of the knife. The blade begins its taper to the tip/point at the mid-point 0f the blade. There is aggressive jimping on the spine and pommel.

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The Kraken takes a wicked, arm-shaving edge.

The steel is not the easiest to sharpen, but with a little persistence, the Kraken takes an arm shaving edge. (Sorry, not the best picture. Hard to take the picture and balance the knife). Plenty more on the blade in the testing section.

Ergonomics:

Among the best ergonomics of any large knife I have used. The handle is comfortable in my medium sized hand, but there is room to spare for those who have much large paws than I.

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The sub-hilt allows you to choke up on the knife for more precision tasks.

The sub-hilt is probably the knife’s most distinguishing feature. It provides the user with a positive, non-slip grip. If one wishes to choke up on the knife, you can safely move your hand forward and there is room for even larger fingers than mine before you reach the choil. The balance point of the knife is pretty much right at the sub hilt offering wonderful control.

Blade Testing:

Rope, Cardboard, Newsprint: 

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The Kraken did an excellent job on both climbing rope and sisal.

The TTAK knife testing protocol calls for cutting rope, slicing strips of cardboard, and shaving newsprint. Polyethylene “lemon-line”, static climbing rope, and 3/4″ sisal all parted cleanly and easily.

I used the Kraken to slice approximately 80′ of cardboard, both with and against the grain, in constructing my Penetration Test rig. CPM3V is known for it’s edge durability, and this test did not disappoint.

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The Kraken could julienne newsprint and coloring book pages, even after heavy use.

Slicing newsprint with the Kraken is as close to “Knife-vana” as one can experience. Large knives tend to be better at this than small ones. Large knives with a blade as sharp as the Kraken give one a tingling sensation as they zip through the fine paper.

Penetration Test:

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The Kraken penetrated up to 3 1/4′ of stacked cardboard.

I have documented the TTAK Cardboard Penetration Test previously. The Kraken performed  well, achieving a maximum penetration of 3.25″ . Only the Mora Bushcraft performed significantly better at this task.

Cotton Shredding:

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The Kraken cut cleanly through more than a dozen layers of t shirt at a time.

I have decided to add a new test to our protocol. I have lots of old t shirts that are earmarked to become gun cleaning patches.  The Kraken could slice cleanly through over a dozen layers at once. It was equally adept at slicing against a board. After reducing 2 shirts to patches, the edge was unscathed as the knife sliced newsprint no differently than if it had been freshly honed.

Food Prep:

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With its full flat grind and heavy blade, the Kraken is an efficient food preparation tool.

I did a lot of food prep with the Kraken. It handled ribs, raw chicken, fruits, and a wide variety of vegetables, many from my garden. Perhaps the best way to illustrate the Kraken’s culinary chops is to walk through the making of a chicken curry.

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First smash and mince the garlic. (probably the weakest point for the Kraken)

Then dice the onions...

Then dice the onions…

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…and tomatoes and some squash and bell peppers (not shown).

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After the veggies are all “Mise en Place”, slice your chicken and saute at the bottom of a dutch oven with a little oil and the spices. (Tumeric, Cumin, Coriander, Cardamom, Cloves, and Black and Red Pepper).

Add the onions and garlic, let them get translucent then add the rest of the produce.

Add the onions and garlic, let them get translucent then add the rest of the produce.

Simmer the whole lot on low for half an hour, and let rest for about an hour to let the flavors really combine. Serve with Saffron Rice and Naan. The Kraken knows its way around a kitchen cutting board.

Wood Processing:

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The Kraken excels at wood processing tasks.

For a fishing guide like me, the bushcraft aspects of a knife are most important. I can say that after testing, the Kraken is a fine woodsman’s knife. Not only will this knife baton a piece of firewood with the best of them,when you choke up on the sub-hilt, the Kraken can perform surprisingly delicate work as well.

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Delicate work like making a “fuzz-stick” firestarter is no problem for the Kraken either.

I also gave the Kraken a whirl at clearing brush. While it was not quite as good at shaving a sapling in two as my Mora Bushcraft, its heavy blade was a better chopper, and by combining the two techniques I was able to make a nice dent in some overgrown foliage.

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The Kraken could shave its way through saplings…

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…or it can be used like a small machete to hack through smaller branches in a single swipe. Larger branches and saplings will give way with persistence.

The Kraken is an excellent to adequate tool for pretty much any wood processing task you can put in front of it.

Dressing Game:

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Bean-stealing varmint.

I have been wanting to test a knife’s ability to skin wild game, and since large-game is not in season, I decided to make do with the groundhog that had been raiding my garden. A temple-shot with a Ruger 10/.22 dropped him in his tracks, and I proceeded to hang him up by the hind legs and get to work.

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The initial leg cuts were clean and effortless.

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…and with a bit of persistence the Kraken demonstrated itself a capable skinning knife.

I had to be careful not to penetrate the hide inadvertently with the Kraken’s razor sharp blade, but this was not much of a problem and I was able to cleanly remove the hide in a single piece. It is now in the freezer and I will tan it in a few weeks.

Though I had no plans to eat my kill in this case, you can eat groundhog if you wanted to. They are an herbivore with a diet similar to a squirrel or a rabbit, both of which are tasty and tender when cooked properly. I did however quarter the carcass to test the Kraken’s proficiency.

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Fat and flesh parted cleanly when I removed the backstraps.

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The Kraken easily disarticulated the hind and forelimbs.

The Kraken’s ability to process vegetables, meat, wood, and game make the Kraken a fine tool in a field setting.

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The Kraken proved itself to be a fine outdoorsman’s blade.

Other:

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Just for the heck of it I drove the Kraken into a log to see if I could stand on it.

Just for poops and grins, I decided to pound the Kraken into a walnut log and use it as a step. What practical purpose does this serve you ask? I have no idea, but the exposed tang in the pommel was begging to whacked. I suppose you could add an extra peg when climbing a deer stand. I just wanted to show how tough the knife is. In doing so revealed the slight weakness of the unglued scales.

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I could put virtually my whole 230# weight onto the handle. The only reason right foot is on the log is to keep it from tipping. (I am standing on a knife, with one hand holding a camera-phone and the other the fence post).

The Good, the Bad/Ugly:

Pros:

  • A wonderful blend of elegant form and brutally-tough functionality.
  • Excellent balance and ergonomics
  • Takes and holds an exceptionally good edge

Cons:

  • There is not much that an indestructible hunk of high end steel with a killer edge can’t do. I am getting a bit nit-picky due to the fact that it could so easily be remedied. If I were to order this knife custom for myself I would have preferred fixed scales. Leaving the scales user-serviceable was a design choice which is perfectly defensible, it just isn’t the perfect choice for this particular end-user. I use my knives around water a lot, and I would hate to need to constantly worry about what might be going on under the scales.

Price: $400 MSRP for base, Kydex sheath. Add $100 for Leather or Leather/Kydex hybrid. $50 Cerakote on 1095 steel.

Origin: USA (Georgia)

Ratings (out of five stars):

Styling: * * * * *

The blade has an elegant sweep to it. The proportions are pleasing for such a large knife. From the leatherwork of the sheath to the precision of the grind and etched logo, this knife lacks nothing in the fit and finish department.

Blade: * * * *

CPM3-v is a high-end semi-stainless steel that is prized for its edge holding ability, even when treated to a hardness in the low 60’s (HRC). This toughness makes it difficult to sharpen, but once a good edge is achieved it sticks around through pretty heavy use.

Ergonomics: * * * * *

I really like the sub-hilt. This is not a small knife, and having the flexibility to choke up for greater control while still maintaining a solid grip on the handle is comforting even when the knife is wet. I can’t think of an ergonomic request to change were I to order one custom for me.

Ruggedness/Durability * * * * .5

I am going to ding the scales coming loose when I tapped on the handle. Again, nothing a little epoxy or even loc-tite wouldn’t solve. I also think G10 is more likely to crack with use than Micarta. I might be wrong about that in a vacuum, but it has been the case in my admittedly limited experience. I had no problems with the scales themselves on the Kraken.

Overall Rating: * * * * *

I have developed a fondness for larger fixed blades over the last few years. While my Mora Bushcraft is the knife against which I judge all others, if we had nothing but utilitarian and value priced tools, the knife world would be a poorer place.

The Kraken stood up to any challenge I could throw at it. I can’t imagine any situation that I have faced in my outdoor career that this knife would not be able to handle and then some. Simultaneously, it has the look and feel of something special that can only come from a custom knife or a high-end production. This is a knife meant to be used, and to look both brutal and elegant while doing it.

 

(Author’s Note: I would like to thank Will for the loan of this knife for testing. I had a blast coming up with ways to demonstrate the capabilities of the Kraken. I would also like to thank our TTAK readers for their patience as I have been teasing this review for a while and it took a lot longer to write than I anticipated. I hope you find it as comprehensive as you would hope for in your search for The Truth About Knives).

 

comments

  1. For whatever reason the pictures of the curry are upside down. I will fix them when I am at a PC later. Apologies.

    1. I just looked at the post on my PC and the pictures look right side up. But they are upside down on iOS devices. Strange. I welcome suggestions…

  2. Terry Warlock says:

    Dang, you really knocked it out of the park with this review! I gotta admit, that’s one hell of a knife, and if I were to buy a custom it would definitely be on the short list. It’s really cool to finally see what the man behind those great knowledge base articles makes – like, this is his aesthetic and process given form, and one of my favorite parts about knives and knife makers are how they combine form, function, and design into a highly personal object.

    Also, big ups for including the use of food prep for the review. Food prep is one of those essential functions of a knife for me, so I really appreciate it!

    (nice curry too!)

  3. SigGuy says:

    Awesome review and knife! The photos are right side up on my android. Maybe its iOS upside down gnomes.

  4. I_Like_Pie says:

    BBQ the next groundhog….they cook up pretty darn good if they aren’t eating pine cones. Approach just like you would a pork loin. Rosemary is good thrown into the chips. Unfortunately you can’t tell anyone what it is or they will stick up their nose at it.

    Great knife review. The gunk between the scales would worry me. Wonder if there is something that you could use to fill the void and at the same time keep the scales removable if needed….Maybe permatex or silicone?

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Knife Review: Will Woods’ Bladeworks Kraken

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