Fixed Blades

First Use Testing Part 2: Big Chris Custom Knives “SteelHead” fillet knife.

The other night I gave my first impression review of my new Carter Cutlery Funayuki. Obviously that is an heirloom piece from a recognized Master, and I didn’t want it to overshadow my other major BLADE Show purchase – a Big Chris Custom Knives fillet knife which had previously been without a name. I will get to that story in a minute, but as I said, the knife is in all aspects worthy of its own post.

Thinking back to my first BLADE Show (2014), out of 10’s of thousands of knives on display, there was one that struck me like a lightening bolt – my Kim Breed Model 15. I was walking by, scanning blades on tables on both sides of the aisle when it stopped me in my tracks. This year I wasn’t walking by; David had brought me over to introduce me to Big Chris. I began to examine his knives, and when I picked up a subtly beautiful fillet knife I immediately felt a connection.

Big Chris’s knives are known for being extremely light. They are made from thinner stock than most comparable knives, trading away a little wood processing capability (obviously irrelevant to this knife’s purpose) in favor of cutting ability and a wonderful hand-feel.

The handle really fits my hand perfectly. Not only are the micarta scales attractive, almost mimicking wood-grain, I love the material’s tendency to swell and increase in grippiness when wet. Obviously this is a desirable quality in a knife which is meant to be used while covered in fish slime and rinsed frequently. The handle has a subtle teardrop shape, being slightly thinner on the ventral (bottom) side. You can just barely feel the tang against your fingers, and this allows the knife to be subconsciously indexed for proper orientation in the hand.

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The handle ergonomics are outstanding.

In fact, when I showed the knife to Kim Breed after I purchased it he remarked specifically about how nice the handle felt. If you have ever watched Kim evaluate a knife, he hates sharp edges, and it is one of the first things he will ding a knife on as he examines it. His praise in this case is extremely noteworthy.

After my Murray Carter purchase, I was feeling a bit squeamish about buying another knife, but every time I picked it up throughout the weekend I felt the same connection with this particular blade. I been wanting a Big Chris knife after reading David’s review of the Hiker and Pocket Fighter as well as Big Chris’s 5 from the Grinder post. However I didn’t need another bushcraft knife right now, but I didn’t own a good fillet knife. After sleeping on it Saturday night, I plunked down the $320 to purchase the knife with my own money Sunday morning.

Fast forward to the other day and I finally had the chance to put the knife to use. I haven’t made it out fishing since the show, so I used a slab of wild sockeye as an obviously analogous test-medium. I also sliced up some raw chicken as well.

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First cut was simply to cut the salmon into sandwich sized chunks. Normally I would do this from the inside out, cutting the skin against the board, but for demonstration purposes I went through the skin side this time. The extraordinarily sharp 10V blade zipped right through the scales flesh.

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My technique is rusty…the knife excelled.

Since I was going to be cooking two of the pieces with the skin on, I set those aside before skinning the last piece. Pressing the flat of the blade against the skin and working it along allowed me to cleanly remove the meat in an effortless pass. My technique is rusty so I left behind some meat on the skin, but you can see that the cut is remarkably clean.

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These are actually shaved from the top of the piece.

I cut a few pieces of translucently-thin slices of salmon, and repeated the process on the chicken breast. Excellent results both times.

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translucent chicken

I have much more testing to do before I write a final review, but so far this knife has lived up to my “love at first feel”. It is a knife that really does feel alive in your hand.

At the open of this post I alluded to the fact that this knife did not actually have a name, as I discovered after reaching out to Chris. I was struck by a flash of inspiration and made a suggestion – Steelhead. A steelhead is a sea or lake-going (anadromous) rainbow trout, so named for their silvery-chrome coloration. They are native to the Pacific Northwest, but there is an artificial run on the Great Lakes. The fish are stocked in tributaries as fingerlings, imprint on the river before falling out into the lake to grow for 2 or 3 years. They come back to their home river as adults and attempt to spawn. They are hands-down one of the most exciting freshwater fish one can catch on a fly-rod.

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The steelhead’s 2-tone coloration is a spot on match for the Big Chris SteelHead.

Since there was already a knife called “Steelhead” (some imported POS available on Amazon), the name SteelHead was chosen – which is actually a better fit anyway. The double-capital compound word is cooler, and it riffs on Chris’s tendency to be a “SteelHead” himself. A knife-name was born, and I became a footnote in the annals of knife design. I am pleased to be associated with such a great knife.

Discussion

One response to “First Use Testing Part 2: Big Chris Custom Knives “SteelHead” fillet knife.

  1. Big Chris should have a slogan: A slice above. He makes high performance slicing machines. I got one in S30V, and one in S90V.

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