At BLADE Show I was approached by a newer maker trying to get his name out there, Mr. Brian Ehst of Haw Creek Blades. We settled on the Hunter you see here to review. Not just a hunting knife, this pattern fits my idea of a compact survival blade very well, so I will do some evaluation from that perspective as well. Lets see what it can do.
Maker: Brian Ehst, Haw Creek Blades
Blade: CPM-154, High Flat Grind
Handle: Osage Orange, Black G10 bolster, Black and Orange Dual Liners
Tang construction: Full Tang
Country of Origin: USA
Dimensions (measured on this test sample)
Overall Length: 8.45”
Handle Length: 4.718″
Handle Thickness: 0.835” at widest point
Blade Length: 3.732” (measured from the tip to the leading edge of the handle scale)
Sharpened Length: 3.43”
Blade Thickness: 0.189”
Weight: 6.25 oz
This Haw Creek Hunter represents something of a bargain with premium materials not usually found in a handmade knife costing a mere $230.
CPM-154 blade steel is just the beginning. This knife also features osage orange scales with a black G10 bolster and dual liners of orange and black.
The only reason I can see for the (relatively) low price on this handmade knife, is that the craftsmanship is not quite as good as the big guys out there. Despite feeling fantastic in the hand, the contours are not perfectly consistent from side to side. There are a few spots and facets that you don’t feel but you do see. The pommel also shows some unevenness and the wood is darkened here from overheating during the finishing stages.
If you can look past those imperfections, there is a lot to like about the Haw Creek Hunter. The blade itself is ground well – symmetrical grinds with an even plunge line with very little wedge left at the heel.
I also like the finish. It is not a high polish and appears to have been sanded (by hand?) in a few alternating directions, including radially. The result feels like a low tech way of doing a stonewash finish. This ought to be great for a working knife.
The grip feels secure and comfortable. My “work glove size-large” hands fit perfectly between the index finger groove and bird’s beak pommel. The are no real hot spots to be found in any standard grip.
The handle shape and general profile here is classic. The nice thing about this style of hunter is the downward cant of the blade. This allows for a knife with considerable amount of belly while keeping the tip right along the centerline for precision or drilling tasks. Unfortunately the vertex at the pommel creates a couple little points that can dig in if you are pressing down from the rear. If the outside corners of that vertex were eased just a bit that could alleviate or even eliminate the issue.
With CPM-154 supersteel at a stout 3/16” thick and heat treat by Peters’ Heat Treat I had no doubts the blade will perform. The Haw Creek Hunter does everything you would want in a tight little package. I never found myself wanting in my testing this past fall, provided the tasks were fit for a blade of this length.
The edge arrived highly refined and shaving sharp. Hanging phonebook paper was no match for the edge, so I immediately took the blade to our standard cardboard regimen, stropping before the start just for good measure.
As I expected, the edge held up great but the geometry hampered the knife on this test that favors slicier blades. After about 100 feet it was clear this knife was suffering from the same problem I observed when testing an ESEE Izula-II. The shoulders of the blade created enough drag that even the sharpest edge in the would would not make this knife a pleasant cardboard cutter.
Without a hollow grind (or even a full flat) to help mitigate the blade thickness, that 3/16” stock puts a big slicing handicap on the Haw Creek Hunter.
The Haw Creek Hunter performs all manner of bushcrafty cuts with aplomb. Some feathersticks as soon as I brought the knife home were done without drama.
To further test the woodworking ability of the Hunter, I not only crafted tent pegs, but also a few of the standard “try-stick” cuts. The knife’s edge had no problems with notches, stop cuts, diameter reduction, etc.
The grip was clean and comfortable throughout. Chest-lever grips are especially suited to this handle shape.
The only letdown was drilling. As mentioned before, the sharp point on the pommel meant gloves would be needed to prevent discomfort.
Moving into the “abuse” category, I did a few things to try and muck up the edge, but for the life of me I can not find the photos I took during this testing phase, so I will have to rely on my notes alone.
The CPM-154 steel did not let me down – plenty tough – especially with the pro’s at Peters’ performing the heat treat on it.
The drilling had no impact at all on the tip. Even after extreme twisting the point was intact and plenty sharp.
Popping out notches on wood by twisting the edge at the bottom of a cut also had no ill effect on the blade.
And of course the big one… batoning… the practice everyone loves to hate.
For the record, with all the modern materials available to us I expect a knife (especially one as beefy as this) to be able to handle a certain amount of batoning. Even if you don’t practice it regularly, I want to know the knife I am carrying can do the job if need be.
So how did our test knife fare? Long story short, the blade of the Haw Creek Hunter is thick enough to obliterate anything that is small enough for it to span. It wasn’t a fair fight really. I could not find anything that could seriously task the blade.
The design of the Haw Creek Hunter is well thought out, but there are ways I think it could be improved.
For an outdoor knife of this size, I don’t think the blade needs to be quite this thick. Given “Hunter” is in the name, I would love to see this knife in ⅛” thickness for better slicing, food prep, and meat processing.
You would give up some brute strength but I think the tradeoff here would be worth it. I can sympathize with the designer in this case as this is a compromise I am all too familiar with; I had to make similar considerations when I created the Nordsmith Pilgrim.
The only other thing I would change is to alter the pommel for more comfortable drilling.
Getting past those two points, I love the profile of the knife. Drawing comparisons again to the Izula-II, I dig the way the Haw Creek Hunter combines the centerline tip with lots of belly. The handle is very comfortable and suits the blade very well.
I also love what you get for your money with this blade. A relative bargain in the world of handmade knives, the Haw Creek Hunter may be a little rough around the edges, but it doesn’t make any excuses. With a well considered design and premium materials, it can darn sure get the job done.