Knife Review: L.T. Wright Bushcrafter HC

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If the cost of a quality, handcrafted knife has been beyond your reach, the Bushcrafter HC by L.T. Wright Knives may be just what you have been looking for. Introduced at BLADE Show 2015, the HC is their entry-level, full sized fixed blade. For just $75 without sheath, the Bushcrafter HC is perhaps the best bargain around for a handcrafted, U.S. made bush knife.


Detailed Specs
Manufacturer: L.T. Wright Handcrafted Knives
Designer: Tim Stetzer
Blade: 1075 spear point, convex grind with secondary bevel, 2-step patina
Rockwell Hardness: 57-59 HRC
Scales: Natural micarta, bead blasted
Tang construction: Full Tang
Sheath (Optional Extra): pouch-style leather with firesteel loop and dangler attachment
Country of Origin: USA
Price: $75 without sheath, $105 with sheath

Dimensions (measured on this test sample)
Overall Length: 8.412”
Handle Length: 4.412”
Handle Thickness: 0.835”
Blade Length (tip to scale): 4”
Sharpened Length: 3.748“
Blade Thickness: 0.091”
Weight: Knife,  5.1 oz / Sheath, 3.4 oz


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Overview

To get the price down, the HC uses lower cost materials than the rest of the LTWK lineup, but it gets the same attention to detail as every knife they make. That means the micarta, steel, and bolts are all joined together with marine grade epoxy, securing the scales and preventing rust from eating the blade from the inside out. It also means the spine of the blade is ground to a crisp 90-degrees, enabling easy striking on a firesteel and scraping wood for tinder. The HC also comes with their hallmark fisheye bolts and extra large lanyard tube.

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To mitigate costs, the brass portion of the bolts are a little smaller than on the standard full-sized knives, and the lanyard tube is aluminum, rather than brass. The biggest savings come from the choice in blade material, being made of thinner, 3/32” stock, 1075 High Carbon steel.

When the HC was originally announced, I remember thinking, “Why not 1095?” but no longer. Since they have made the blade thinner, and still want it to hold up in rough conditions, the greater toughness of the 1075 makes perfect sense.

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This is a steel that will rust easily, so the HC comes with a two-stage patina to aid in corrosion resistance. First, the blade is soaked overnight in cider vinegar for the “base coat,” and then mustard is applied by hand to get the dappled look. While this will not make the blade rust-proof, it goes a long way to keeping the steel in better shape.

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Materials aside, the HC has all of the same traits that have made their standard Bushcrafter a classic. The design is an exercise in “less is more,” with a simple spear point blade an oval broomstick-style handle, with the index finger groove being the only added feature. I have to believe this makes the knife easier to manufacture as well, playing a part in the low price.

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The HC is lightweight and balance is also good, slightly biased toward the handle. It feels good in the hand, and indexes well thanks to the groove, which is shallow enough that it doesn’t interfere with any handhold I could think of. Still, it does provide a (small) measure of protection by keeping your finger from sliding forward onto the sharpened edge.

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The spear-point blade is a bushcraft standard and for good reason. It is an all-around handy shape that carves well and the inline point makes for efficient drilling. Hunters may wish for a bit more belly than this iteration, but I reckon there is just enough to be pressed into skinning duties.

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For an additional $30, you can get the HC with a leather sheath that is made by JRE Industries. The sheath is a smaller version of the sheath that comes with the GNS and Rogue River, and features a dangler attachment and firesteel loop that will accommodate a ⅜” diameter rod.

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The dangler can be folded under for higher carry, and the main loop has plenty of room for even very wide belts.

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Fit & Finish / Initial Edge

Everything on the Bushcrafter HC is up to the high level of quality I’ve come to expect from L.T. Wright Knives.

I’ve seen L.T. shape the handles on a Bushcrafter in person, doing everything by look and feel using only a grinder with slack belts and wheels, and it is amazing how perfect they turn out. The shape is symmetrical and smooth with no hotspots, and the seams between the scales, bolts, and tang are all blended perfectly; it all feels like a single surface.

All LTWK’s are hand sharpened on a slack belt, and then buffed on a felt wheel loaded with green polishing compound. As such, the edge angle may not be precisely the same along the entire length of the blade, but the resulting edge is hair shaving sharp.

I had no trouble push-cutting through taut ¾” manilla rope, and could easily slice through free-hanging phonebook paper.

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This Bushcrafter HC easily has the sharpest spine I’ve encountered on one of L.T.’s creations. It had no trouble at all scraping bark or throwing sparks from a ferro rod.

Sharpening

With relatively low wear resistance, maintaining the edge on 1075 is about as easy as it gets. You could probably sharpen it on concrete if you had to in an emergency.

Since the initial edge was convexed, I maintained it for the most part with a loaded strop. The more I sharpen this way, the more I find it easier than using a stone, especially on knives like this one where the sharpened edge is hand ground. The surface of the strop will follow the contours without having to worry about precise angles.

TESTING

Food Prep

First up, some kitchen work to get an idea of how this knife handles. There is a slight taper at the front of the scales which makes for a nice feel in a pinch grip.

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With my thumb on the side, and the tip of my index finger resting in the finger groove, cutting up all manner of vegetables was comfortable and controllable.

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The HC handles paring chores easily and comfortably.

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It performed just fine but I did find the initial edge to be thicker than expected when dicing things like onions and potatoes. I was a little surprised, as the convex edge on the Rogue River (with thicker, ⅛” steel) had performed so well on the same comestibles. Mostly this is down to the nice distal taper on the Rogue River; the stock thins out toward the front of the blade, while the HC maintains a thicker spine closer to the tip for increased strength.

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A couple test swipes on my Sharpmaker revealed the edge near the tip was a little shallow. the rods were hitting the shoulders at the same spot on both sides, so I decided to thin the edge with my Ken Onion Work Sharp, bringing it down to about 17-18 degrees. After reprofiling, the knife was a much more compliant kitchen companion. We’ll see how the edge holds up to the bushcrafty stuff.

Woodworking

First up after reprofiling I decided to make a “try stick,” or at least an attempt at one. The stick I chose was hard and dry, so we’ll find out the strength of the thinner edge pretty quickly.

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The silky handle made for an agreeable whittler. There wasn’t a task that strained it, whether in a brute force grip, reverse paring-like cuts, or drilling holes with the rounded pommel.

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The tip is narrow enough that scooping out a half circle was little trouble and the straight edge provides plenty of real estate for carving and notching.

The spine of the knife detracted from the overall experience though. As I mentioned earlier, this HC had a crisper spine than any LTWK I have previously tested, as well as the thinnest blade. These conspired to leave my thumb feeling raw from pressing down during a carving session. Gloves are needed to alleviate the issue, or a quick mod with a sanding block or file to ease the edges of the spine near the back of the blade.

Most of the edge held up just fine, but I did put a lot of stress on the blade. There were a lot of twisting and digging motions going on, and I did get a few rolls in the edge near the tip. They all stropped out with no problem, but the truth is I probably put too steep an edge angle on the blade considering the 1075 steel. I should bring it back to a more reasonable 20-degrees.

Batoning

Before I did though, I took the opportunity after a couple of rainy days to baton to the center of a couple of logs. Being so thin, the HC would not be my first choice for splitting wood, but can it withstand the associated stress, and will it work in a pinch?

Like every LTWK I have batoned, the knife held up absolutely fine. The patina will quickly scuff and wear away, but the rest of the knife looks unmolested, even though I had to beat on the blade and the pommel quite a bit.

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I started by splitting off the outer layers of damp wood to get at the dry stuff inside. Once I had the circumference down to a bit over 3 inches, I went for a down-the-middle split. This is where the thin blade started to show its downside. Fortunately, I had some ready made wedges at hand from the off-the-side splits I had already made.

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I pounded the blade down as far as it would go, and then wedged the top end open with the pieces of wood. This loosened the blade, which allowed me to baton down another couple of inches. A couple rounds of alternating blows between the knife and the wedge had it split clean in no time.

After that, the remaining half split easily with no wedge assistance, and I quickly had a small pile of kindling ready for a fire.

Feathersticks

Taking a few of the batoned pieces, I set to making curls. I would need to be able to make slices fine enough that they could catch a spark from a firesteel.

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Even after all of the batoning the edge showed no damage at all, and I had no problem getting what I needed from the knife.

I soon had a nice nest of curls to give things a try. The crisp spine of the knife threw an impressive shower of sparks and I had a fire going in under a minute. Not the best tinder, but it will certainly work!

Cardboard

Being the thinnest LTWK I have tested yet, the HC should go through cardboard like buttah! We’ll see if that extra slicy-ness can offset the 1075’s lower level of edge-holding.

I put a fresh edge on the blade with my trusty Spyderco Sharpmaker, bringing the edge back to 20º per side. Performance was decent, lasting a respectable 280 feet before I got a couple of plows in the cardboard. Even then there was plenty of usable edge left. It was no longer shaving sharp but it could still slice hanging phonebook paper cleanly.

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The handle shape made the task very pleasant. There were no hotspots to speak of and the reverse-grip/draw-cut method I use for this test felt just as natural as a standard forward grip.

Conclusions

I know what you are thinking, because I thought it too… you can get Condor knives with 1075 steel for far fewer dollars. My own testing has shown them to be good knives, so why spring for the LTWK?

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For a start, the Bushcrafter HC is handmade by a small team of craftsmen in the USA, as opposed to an import from a high-volume factory line. This naturally makes the knife more costly to produce but it pays dividends on the fit-and-finish, something the Condor’s are not exactly known for. I personally take pride in carrying something with that kind of pedigree, and I would pay… have paid… for that privilege.

If I hadn’t been given this review sample free of charge, I would have gladly opened my wallet for this knife, and the reason is simple. I stated it earlier, but it bears repeating.

The Bushcrafter HC is perhaps the best value out there on a full-size, handcrafted, US-made bush knife.

I’ve handled some of the standard LTWK Bushcrafters in ⅛” A2 steel, as well as some of the older Blind Horse versions with 5/32” O1, and I actually like the knife better with the thinner stock on the HC. Nothing wrong with those knives, but the HC just feels more right; it is more nimble, and it harkens back to a time when most outdoor blades were at least this thin, or even slimmer.

Although the Bushcrafter HC is not “ultralight,” the size and weight would make it a good choice for backpackers and hikers, especially if they are relatively new to knives, as the edge maintenance will be fairly easy. With a comfy handle and versatile blade shape, the design is a solid choice.

If 1075 doesn’t set your steel junkie loins a’burning, stepping up to the A2 version of the knife (available in both full-flat and scandi variants) is a no-brainer. If you appreciate the easier to sharpen metals of yesteryear but still want all the benefits of modern construction, or if you are looking to get into handcrafted knives without breaking the bank, the Bushcrafter HC is your ticket.

comments

  1. Great review David(and awesome pictures). I might make this one my first knife from them after this.

  2. stuartb says:

    Mustard dappling looks awesome, makes me wonder what a few gobs of Sriracha would do? Maybe your reviews should come with recipes to compliment the blades?

    1. You aren’t truly a knife nut until you can differentiate carbon steels by how they taste!

      Only half kidding… I know of some who can do it…

  3. Jonathan says:

    I just picked up a GNS in 3V with shadetree micarta, looks to be a great knife. It will be paired with a larger tool depending on the trip i go on.

  4. I_Like_Pie says:

    I suppose that I am the odd bird, but if I am planning on having a Bushcraft or SHTF knife, why in the world wouldn’t I sacrifice having a hardness point or so in lieu of a stainless blade?

    Carbon does perform a little bit better, but I am not foolish enough to believe “That much” better.

    I know that this is the “IN” or hip thing to have a carbon blade for a survival knife. To be pragmatic enough to have the ultimate knife for survival and choose something that will rust almost instantly just stumps me.

    1. Jonathan says:

      There is no such thing as better. A steel has 3 properties. Toughness, edge retention, corrosion resistance. You get to pick two, of the three. Carbon steel is much tougher, holds a working edge well, eaiser to maintain, and has a finer carbide structure. Bushcrafters use knives to baton, chop, and carve. This means you want a knife with a tough, fine edge. Ever seen a wood carving tool in stainless? No, because it doesn’t have the right properties for the job. Nor will you ever see a stainless axe.

      Additionally, these steels are very predictable for grinding and heat treat. Heat treat and edge geometry mattter way more to performance than steel.

      Personally, I like A2 and 3V for my fixed blades. A patina and a tuff cloth can go a long way to maintain your knife.

      1. I_Like_Pie says:

        Uuhh…yes there is my friend. And my Fisker’s axe is, in fact, stainless. As well as many of my Mora wood carving knives. Love my hook blades.

        That is incredibly simplistic and not at all indicitive of modern metalurgy. Your trinity does not represent a 3 part Venn Diagram, but more of a common rule of thumb.

        There are more complexities that go into making knife steel.

  5. LUXCANCAN says:

    Does anyone make a kydex sheath for this ? I have no problem with this type of steel. I even did a wave pattern on my mora that had my friends do a double take if it was Damascus. Two contestants on the show Alone has a lt wright. They know their stuff but I don’t want a leather sheath argh.

    1. LTWK offers custom kydex and can do the Bushcrafter HC for you.

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Knife Review: L.T. Wright Bushcrafter HC

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