Knife Review: ESEE Junglas 2

ESEE Junglas 2

I have been using the ESEE Junglas 2 for about 6 weeks now, and I can safely say this is a chopper, with great slicing manners. Or is it a cutter with great chopping ability? How about both?

Stipulating the fact that I have not done more than hold the original Junglas, I think the Junlglas 2 is a better balance of the big and small. Being 16.5″ OAL, The Junglas 1 is 2″ more knife to carry, and 2″ less suited for the smaller tasks. Yet the Junglas 1 is still 3″ shorter than the CRKT Halfachance, which is already on the small side for a machete. Basically, I think the #1 is giving away too much pure chopping ability to a machete, whereas the Junglas 2 is a better all around knife while still being an excellent chopper.

The Junglas 2 is still very large for a knife (14.5″ OAL) but at 2″ shorter than the #1 it is not particularly awkward on the belt. I have used the ESEE Junglas 2 in tandem with a gas-powered reciprocating trimmer this fall. Whenever I encountered a vine, sapling, or branch too large for the trimmer’s teeth, I would draw the Junglas 2 and dispatch the offending vegetation. The Junglas 2 clicked easily back into the sheath where it remained out of the way until the next time. I will write more about this in the “Testing” section.

 

JUNGLAS-II SPECS:

• Overall Length: 14.5″
• Cutting Edge Length: 7.75″
• Overall Blade Length: 8.38″
• Blade Width: 2.0″
• Weight: 19.8 Ounces
• Maximum Thickness: .188″
• 1095 Carbon Steel
• Removable Micarta Handles
• Hammer Pommel

 

Construction:

ESEE Junglas 2

Like the larger Junglas, the ESEE Junglas 2 is made from .188″ 1095 steel. It is a full grind, no swedge, and comes with a very durable powdercoat.

The handle is identical to the Junglas, with a good thickness and swell that fills the hand comfortably. It has just a hint of curvature to it. The micarta is on the rougher side. Some folks get hot-spots from heavily textured micarta. I did not.

The pommel has a hook to it, though it does not provide as solid of a backstop as that on the BK9. However, I found I was able to have good results with the heaviest chopping when hooking my pinkie around the outside of the pommel.

The handle scales are affixed with 3 heavy, hex-headed bolts, and are removable. There is a lanyard hole on the exposed tang which I recommend using if you are going to swing the knife with any force.

In all, the handle provided a pleasing fullness and great gripiness.

 

Sheath:

Junglas 2 sheath

One of the most bomb-proof sheaths I have ever tested.

The Junglas 2 comes with one of the most bomb-proof sheaths I have ever seen. The sheath is a fusion of taco’d kydex and heavy-duty cordura belt and MOLLE loops . The kydex provides retention and the cordura allows for a bit of flex. The cordura is stiffened by a plastic stay sandwiched between the layers of cordura.

There are 3 levels of retention. The knife snaps into the kydex with an audible click, and does not shake free. If more retention is desired, the snapping cordura loop is an extremely solid backup. That said, I did not feel the need to snap the loop in situations where I was constantly drawing and sheathing the knife. The kydex was enough.

Jungals 2 sheath

Molle straps and belt loop

If ease of access is less important, such as for a soldier tossing his ruck in a vehicle, there is a drawstring cordura flap which encloses the top of the handle. I would imagine the MOLLE straps would fail before the knife would come free of the sheath if it is both snapped and flapped.

Junglas 2 sheath flap

The sheath flap can cover the handle for rock-solid retention when travelling.

 

Ergonomics:

The handle on the ESEE Junglas 2 is pleasantly hand-filling. There were 4 major grips I employed. First, for the greatest amount of control, on could safely wrap their index finger around the ricasso and gripping back on the knife’s hilt.

wrapping over the ricasso

For most detail work, a thumb on spine grip was sufficient.

thumb on spine grip

Thumb on spine grip

A full/hammer grip was my least favorite. The downside of a long handle with multiple grips options is that none truly fit like a slipper. My hand felt like it was in no-man’s-land when it was in the middle of the handle. I vastly preferred the pinkie-wrap described below.

With a Hammer-grip, my hand felt like it was in no-mans-land

And finally, for the most chopping power, I would wrap my pinkie finger around the hook of the pommel and cinch the lanyard down tight. Employed this way, the balance moves weight forward, and the Junglas 2 becomes a chopping machine.

“pinkie-wrap” grip

Carry:

Junglas 2

The Junglas 2 hung well above the knee.

The picture above shows me with the Junglas 2 on my belt. If your belt is solid, this is an option, though the knife needs to be removed if you are riding in a vehicle. For that reason, I preferred to carry the Junglas 2 on a separate belt which I could take on or off with ease. I do this frequently while guiding, but it was just as valid if using the Junglas 2 as a yardwork tool, which I did a great deal of.

 

Testing:

TTAK Testing Protocol:

Press cutting rope.

The ESEE Junglas 2 came with a very good factory edge. A touch toothy, but sharp enough to easily shave newsprint.

the ESEE Junglas 2 cut hanging 3/4″ rope easily, if not cleanly

The Junglas 2 ate 3/4″ sisal rope. It could cut a hanging piece effectively, and press cutting parted the strands cleanly.

Cardboard is not the knife’s strong suit. It has an excellent geometry for wood processing, but not for slicing corrugated. Coupled with the durable powdercoat, the knife was not a pleasure to work with. It did cut the cardboard cleanly more often or not, but it dragged mightily.

I did make it through 100 linear feet, and the edge held up well enough to peel and slice (not wedge) an apple, though it no longer zipped through newsprint.

Another positive note: The handle was comfortable even though I had to grip it firmly for an extended period of time.

 

Wood:

ESEE Junglas 2

Even though it is smaller than the Junglas 1, the ESEE Junglas 2 can still make chips fly.

I did a lot of wood processing with the Junglas 2, starting with a tent stake. Ethan Becker says he can learn everything he needs to know about a knife from making a tent stake. The various cuts required are a test of a knife’s chopping, carving, and shaving abilities. In fact, when Ethan acquired one of two known original Colclesser Bros. Kephart knives, he made a single tent stake with it before putting it up on the shelf.

notching Junglas 2

Notching a tent stake

Making a tent stake was ridiculously easy with the ESEE Junglas 2. I would have to do more to push the limits of this blade.

Jungls 2 tent stake

Finished tent stake

Fuzz sticks proved more difficult. While the Junglas 2 has good slicing geometry, it is still a little bit steep to make long, thin cuts.

Junglas 2 fuzz stick

The Junglas 2 did not excel at fuzz sticks

I found I had much better luck shaving wood for firemaking by turning the process around. Anchoring the Junglas 2 in a log, I was able to efficiently make shavings by drawing the wood across the blade.

Anchoring the knife in a log and drawing the branch across the blade was a better way to produce shavings

The next question was would I miss the Junglas 1’s extra two inches of length (and mass) when using the knife like a small machete. It turns out – not at all. I used the Junglas 2 to clear this hillside of saplings, brush, and vines.

 

“Before”

After just 35 minutes of work, I had knocked almost everything down and dragged out of the way.

“After”

One thing that I realized when clearing the hillside was how well the Junglas 2 did with precision “tap-chopping”. When I would cut something down, it was frequently ensnared in vines. These were small enough that I did not need a full swing. Using a tapping motion, I was often able to cut the small stuff by just tapping it once or twice, relying on the sharpness of the edge to shear the vine cleanly. I could do this in tight spaces lacking room to swing the knife.

The ESEE Junglas 2 cleanly cleaved through branches up to 1″ thick with a single stroke. I chopped limbs and trunks up to about 4″ in diameter with no trouble at all.

Upon post-work inspection, I did notice some slight rolling/nicks to the edge. Less than I would expect with a machete, but present nonetheless. This was easily addressed by the Spyderco Sharpmaker. It is worth highlighting another advantage of the 2″ shorter Junglas 2 over the #1 – ease of sharpening. As big as the Junglas 2 is, I could still sharpen it with “knife” methods. If it were much larger, I would need to switch to a puck or file. The edge would not be as fine as is achievable with the Sharpmaker.

The Junglas 2 was just small enough for teh Sharpmaker to handle

In summation, I can’t imagine a situation where the extra 2″ of the Junglas 1 would make the difference between achieving a task or not. However, the Junglas 2 is capable of being used with reasonable precision. This leads me to…

 

Culinary Testing:

Junglas 2 culinary

The ESEE Junglas 2 has a delicate side as well.

I didn’t do a great deal of culinary testin with the ESEE Junglas 2. It is too large to use as a steak knife, unless it is a very large steak. I was done making salsa, and stir fry hasn’t been on the menu. I peeled and sliced the apple as I showed in the cardboard test, and I went at a bunch of tomatoes and onions just to see how the edge performed.

I was pleasantly surprised. Thick knives, and those with steep geometry, have a tendency to wedge apples and onions. This was not the case with the Junglas 2. Both were sliced cleanly, and yielded acceptable results.

The Junglas 2 did an excellent job slicing tomatoes as well.

The predictable downside of the powdercoated blade was evident, as the textured coating does not glide through produce.

 

Comparison to the BK 9:

Junglas 2 BK9

The ESEE Junglas 2 and Becker BK9 are competitors for the same niche.

I had the chance to swing these two knives, identical in both niche and only 1/4″ different in size, side by side at this fall’s Beckerhead Gathering. The two blades performed similarly, which is no surprise.

The primary difference between the blades, other than the clip/drop points, lies in the handles. The Junglas 2 has a longer handle and a bit less cutting edge. Consequently, it has more of a “knife feel”, especially when gripped towards the hilt. I did like the more pronounced hook of the BK9’s pommel. I found it gave me a more confident grip when chopping.

As far as chopping performance, it was pretty much a draw.

If I had my way, I would take a hybrid of the two handles, borrowing the hook from the Becker and pairing it with the micarta scales on the Junglas 2. I preferred the “knifier” feel of the ESEE when it came to overall performance.

 

Ratings (out of 5 stars):

Aesthetics: *** 

The ESEE Junglas 2 is as good looking as it needs to be. Not a stylish blade, its look is utilitarian, following the lead of its function.

Blade: ****

It is a tremendous chopper and a solid slicer. It can handle all of the rougher camp tasks with ease, and can make a passable cooking knife if it is your only option.

Durability: ****

The handle is rock solid, and short of abuse, the .188″ thick blade will stand up to whatever you throw at it. -1 for the nicks and chipping, but otherwise the performance is there.

Ergonomics: ***.5

The handle has a pleasing feel, but it’s length and flexibility in grip positions means that there is no one rock-solid grip. I did like the balance for knifey tasks, and by sliding back your grip the balance became good for chopping.

Value: ***.5

At a street price of between $169-$199, the Junglas 2 is comparable to the TOPS Armageddon which is also 1095 steel and made in Idaho Falls, Idaho. 

The BK 9 which we have shown to be a quite comparable knife, is also made in USA and of 1095 steel, has a street price of $80-$130.

Overall: ****

I really like the ESEE Junglas 2. It is a great tool to make quick work of <4″ wood, yet is small enough to comfortably carry – much better than a machete.

Yet despite its chopping prowess, the Junglas 2 still feels and behaves like a knife. It can serve adequately if pressed into camp kitchen duty, and is ideal for many other camp tasks.

I haven’t carried the Junglas 2 guiding this Fall, I have been testing the ESEE PR4 in that capacity. However, I think it will make an excellent early season knife when heading to remote fishing holes that likely are choked with limbs and debris.  The bomb-proof sheath will carry the Junglas 2 up the hill comfortably, and the knife can deal with whatever we encounter when we get there.

 

comments

  1. Cody Rowen says:

    Excellent review! I did however catch one great feature you may not know of. It is a feature of the sheath we call the “slide lock”. It is that screw and Chicago nut with the rubber washer that can be found riding in the slot at the top of the sheath. When the blade is stowed inside the sheath, you can slide the slide lock to it’s top position to provide a very positive “locking” effect on the knife. A secondary use for this is that you can customize the amount of retention on the blade by moving it somewhere in the middle of the slot.

    Thanks for the great review!

    Cody

  2. stuartb says:

    Nice review and nice knife, but the thing that puts me off is the blade coating. There has to be a better way of protecting the 1095 that doesn’t get stuck slicing or scrubbed off with use? I feel that knives should look better as they age.

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Knife Review: ESEE Junglas 2

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