Knife Review: Great Eastern Cutlery #73 Scout Single Blade Trapper

Image courtesy of David C. Andersen

Image courtesy of David C. Andersen

I’ve been hearing a lot about Great Eastern Cutlery for the last couple of years, and after handling this Tidioute #73, it is easy to see what all the hubbub is about. Made in Titusville, PA by people dedicated to classic American pocketknives, it is easily the best constructed traditional slipjoint I have ever handled.

First I have to give a shout out to KnivesShipFree.com* owner Derrick Bohn for supplying us with this knife for review. He stocks a lot of Great Eastern Cutlery items and the site has some of the best knife photography on the internet. On the higher end stuff, they often shoot individual knives and list them as separate items, so you can see the burl of the wood or patterning on the handle of the actual knife you are ordering, rather than relying on stock photography. Thank you Derrick for the knife!

Overview

The good vibrations of this knife start before you even open the packaging. All GEC’s come in a cardboard tube, a way of setting themselves apart from all the boxes out there. Number designations denoting model numbers and handle materials are written on the end by hand.

Image courtesy of David C. Andersen

The specs on this knife are as follows:

Blade: Clip Point, 1095 Steel, Full Flat Grind with Swedge, Satin Finish
Rockwell Hardness: 57-59 HRC
Scales: Jigged American Cattle Bone with Brass Liners
Pivot: non-adjustable
Locking mechanism: non-locking slipjoint
Clip: None
Country of Origin: USA

Dimensions / Weights (measured on this test sample)
Overall Length: 6 ⅞”
Handle Length: 3 ¾”
Handle Thickness: 0.441”
Blade Length (tip to bolster): 3 ⅛”
Sharpened Length: 2 13/16”
Blade Thickness: 0.092” – approximately 3/32”
Weight: 2.55 oz

Image courtesy of David C. Andersen

Inside the tube is a bundle of rust-inhibiting paper that, when unrolled, reveals this beautiful single blade pocketknife. The handles are “Black Box Brown Jigged Bone,” and they appear almost black. Closer inspection reveals hints of color that are almost purple, accented beautifully by the brass liners.

Image courtesy of David C. Andersen

The satin-finished 1095 clip point blade is well proportioned, with a small swedge running almost the whole length of the blade. Something about the way Great Eastern’s big blades are shaped has always seemed “just right” to me and this one maintains that trend. The precision displayed in the sliver-thin sharpened edge is impressive. The knife arrived keen enough to shave hair, although it was slightly toothy.

Image courtesy of David C. Andersen

GEC’s are known for having stiff backsprings, and this one is no exception. It has broken-in a little bit in the time I have carried it, but it is still more than I am used to. It snaps open to a strong half-stop. From there it is easier to pinch the blade to complete the opening rather than using the nail nick. When closed, the blade shuts with authority. The sound when closing it is almost as addictive as the snick of a good assisted-opener in the aural pleasure department.

Fit & Finish / Initial Edge

It was hard to find anything that wasn’t finished perfectly. There was an ever-so-slight deviation in the edge near the tip that will disappear after one or two sharpenings, and one of the brass pins is slightly deformed, but that is it! That is all I could find.

Image courtesy of David C. Andersen

There were no rough edges anywhere. All the other pins are perfect. The jigging is precise with a few character spots of the bone showing through. No parts of the bolster stick up and the edges are even peened where the jigging intersects it. The bone scales, brass liners, and backspring transition seamlessly between each other with no gaps or hot spots. The backspring is equally flush whether the blade is open or closed.

Image courtesy of David C. Andersen

The bolster is a “square end” design and the way the tang of the blade lines up with it when closed and when half-open speak to the attention to detail in the design and execution of the knife.

Image courtesy of David C. Andersen

As I mentioned earlier, the initial edge was shaving sharp, but slightly rough – about what I consider average/acceptable for a factory sharpening job. The performance on ¾” manilla rope was adequate, requiring some effort but producing a decent cut.

Image courtesy of David C. Andersen

Slicing thin magazine paper revealed that the edge was consistent along the entire blade length, and could achieve a fairly clean cut. After being sharpened, the blade geometry meant it would whisper through the paper like there was nothing there.

Ergonomics

At only a single layer thick, the Tidioute #73 is eminently pocketable, slim and comfortable. In use, the handle is long enough for me to get all four fingers around it and the jigging adds a nice amount of grip compared to smoother covers.

Image courtesy of David C. Andersen

The #73 obviously can’t match the comfort of modern ergonomic handle designs during heavier work. That same jigging can create a few hot spots.

The blade feels larger than its 3.125” length would suggest. This inspires when holding the knife in a full grip for heavy slicing i.e. cardboard cutting.

Image courtesy of David C. Andersen

Due to the upswept belly, fine tasks requiring the use of the point are best accomplished by altering your grip on the knife. It is easy though to pinch the blade in front of the bolsters to acheive greater control over the tip. I found myself holding it this way when opening boxes that have been taped shut.

Sharpening

Being made of thinly ground 1095 steel, sharpening is quite easy with the #73. It doesn’t take much time at all with a Sharpmaker to hone the blade to a razor-like finish. I should note that the point of the knife is only barely concealed by the handle scales.

Image courtesy of David C. Andersen

After enough time the point will soon be “proud” of the handle if you use and sharpen the knife heavily. The best option at this juncture would be to mod the blade by using a stone or other device to drop the point.

TESTING

I carried the #73 Scout for the better part of a month, using it as my primary EDC. Day to day, the knife primarily opened boxes and envelopes, being especially at home with the latter.

I also carried it in my role as best man in a wedding; it was classy enough for this role without a doubt. The entire package is adequately slim so that when carried in a suit-jacket pocket it is virtually unnoticeable. The knife helped throughout the weekend with sundry wedding prep tasks. I also used it to split a Benadryl in half for the groom, and to cut my serving of prime rib when the supplied butter knife was not up to the task.

Cardboard

After putting a fresh edge on the blade with my Sharpmaker, as I do with all review samples in an attempt at consistency, I set to a pile of cardboard.

Image courtesy of David C. Andersen

Early on I could get extremely thin strips due to the sharpness. The blade ran at peak efficiency for the first 40 feet with a slight increase in effort afterwards. Hot spots from the jimping were manageable. The scalpel of a knife was going through the cardboard so fast that the blade actually became quite warm to the touch. At 342’ the edges of the cardboard were starting to show a little bit of roughness.

The GEC set a new personal record on this task.

I stopped cutting after making it through 472 linear feet against the grain. There was still no crumpling but difficulty was increasing and cardboard edge was ragged enough that I ended the test. It should be known, however, that the blade did have a little life left in it still.

I could still cut magazine paper afterwards, but the edges were predictably a little rough.

Whittling

If there is a more appropriate task for a traditional pocketknife than whittling, I’m not sure what it is. So, I carved up some tent stakes and made some feathersticks to see how the Tidioute would perform.

GEC-73-Scout-tentstakes

In a word, great. The edge would aggresively bite into wood and break chunks out with ease. Stop cuts and notches on tent stakes were accomplished with efficiency. With a saber grip, the points were done with a minumum of fuss.

Careful carving produced mostly straight feathersticks. The wispy edge would not curl the wood as effectively as other knives I have tested. On the upside the effort required was minimal. The feel of gliding through the wood was very satisfying.

Image courtesy of David C. Andersen

On the negative side, some hot spots did pop up due to the jigging and a chest-lever grip was awkward due to the beak at the end of the handle. The sharp blade mitigated some of the discomfort be being so effective.

All of the carving I did put a lot of lateral strain on the blade but it held up just fine. There was no play beforehand, and none afterwards either.

Food Prep

This pocketknife is one of the most at home in the kitchen I have tested.

Image courtesy of David C. Andersen

I first used it to prep a steak dinner, cutting potatos for home fries, paring the ends of string beans and breaking down onions.

Image courtesy of David C. Andersen

The blade of the #73 is a slicing dream. My favorite grip was cupping the butt of the knife in my palm and pinching the scales directly behind the bolster. This allowed for plenty of control and comfort in the kitchen.

Image courtesy of David C. Andersen

I was able to get super thin slices of onion, and the narrow blade allowed me to make radial cuts and mince the bulb into extremely fine pieces. The knife then made a superlative steak knife.

Image courtesy of David C. Andersen

The blade is long enough to halve small to medium sized apples with one cut. Once quartered, it is a little too wide to scoop out the core without any breaks, but just barely.

Image courtesy of David C. Andersen

Being high carbon steel, the blade will hastily patina, especially with acidic fruits and veggies. If you don’t like the look, I would avoid using the knife in the kitchen.

Conclusion

I said at the top that the Tidioute #73 is the best traditional slipjoint I have ever encountered. The design and execution sit heads and shoulders above any recently manufactured Case knife I have handled. This is not a dig against Case – they make fine knives and their Pattern 54 Trapper acquitted itself well in our tests – but this GEC is simply a higher quality product.

Image courtesy of David C. Andersen

The workmanship of the GEC is superb, but that quality doesn’t come cheaply. Retail on this knife is around the $90 mark. In my opinion, it is worth every penny.

Image courtesy of David C. Andersen

I couldn’t find a competitor that made a knife of the exact same pattern and materials, so comparisons are a little difficult. I do own a Case Large CV Stockman with jigged bone handles and the price on it is around $55+. You may get more knife with the Case, but you will get a better knife with the Tidioute, even if it is down on blades.

If you want a traditional pocketknife, made the traditional way, I don’t know where you could find something better unless you start looking at customs. The only negative mark I can give to this particular knife is the future issue with the point becoming proud after enough sharpenings.

Great Eastern Cutlery’s Tidioute brand is billed as a line of knives that are pretty enough to collect, but made to be used. This #73 Scout is exactly that.

* The Truth About Knives does not endorse any specific retailer. Shop where you wish. That being said, a hearty thank you to Derrick Bohn and KnivesShipFree.com for providing the knife used in this review.

comments

  1. Spencer says:

    Quite the handsome, classic folder. Wish it were mine.

  2. Nice review David,
    I’ve been considering a GEC for some time, might have to pick one up!

  3. Paul on Harsens Island says:

    Very excellent review as always. Might pick up a few for my sons.

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Knife Review: Great Eastern Cutlery #73 Scout Single Blade Trapper

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