If you missed the announcement last week, KA-BAR has just released the Becker BK98 Tuko via their new factory custom shop, State & Union Knives. In honor of KA-BAR’s 120th anniversary, the knife will be limited to 120 pieces and carries upgraded materials to justify its premium position and potential as a collectors item.
Last fall, Ethan gave me a sneak peek of some sketches of the knife and I have been waiting impatiently for it to drop. Well the cat is finally out of the bag.
Stonewashed S35VN, linen micarta scales, and an upgraded kydex-esque sheath. The knife itself is designed to straddle the line between a camp and a kitchen blade. Something right up my alley!
I had the pleasure of talking to Ethan about the knife at that point last fall and I am pleased to finally be able to share that interview with you. What follows is our conversation, lightly edited for clarity.
Tell me a little bit about what lead to the “Tuko” knife.
Like most people getting into knives, I thought there was going to be “The Knife” that was gonna solve all problems… every single problem… without doubt this knife will alow me to do all the things I wanted to do with a knife.
My first Bowie knife which had about a 5-inch blade was going to be “The Knife” that I could chop through large, dead trees and do all kinds of wonderful things with because it was a Bowie knife.
Well that didn’t work out too well…
As it happens, my local hardware store had a KA-BAR display. In it was a little cleaver which had a little thing on the back which I now know to be a meat tenderizer which looked, in the case, as if it was a saw.
It was hollow ground and it was thin, and I thought it would solve a lot of problems because it looked like a little hatchet blade on a short handle.
So I bought it! … thinking that it would solve all problems.
And of course, dissapointment followed.
So when KA-BAR came to me and asked me to take a classic KA-BAR design… they sent [me] a picture of that knife!
So they asked you work on that knife specifically.
Yeah, and other designers were being asked to do the same thing with old KA-BAR stuff [for the 120th Anniversary].
So I’m like, “Oh, okay I know what to do with that!” [laughs]
So, the Tuko is still not gonna be a big chopper, but it will be able to be used for anything other than chopping and heavy batonning, and it will be a “camp knife/camp-kitchen knife.”
I’ve often thought that the smart thing to do if you have a group of people going “out,” is to make sure that somebody has a small santoku of some sort… however light… with them, that they can efficiently take care of camp chores.
And you know, Jerry Fisk’s idea [the BK5] makes total complete sense, especially to somebody who has spent a lot of time around steak slicers used in a butcher shop… he came up with his camp knife, which is a marvelous, absolutely incredible good design. I just hope the “Tuko” is half as good.
So the limited run is going to be S35VN?
Something like that… one of the better “Secret squirrel” steels. [laughs]
I don’t have anything specifically against a lot of stainlesses, I just think that an awful lot of the high end stainlesses are probably not worth the money.
But thats… you know.. I’m old [laughs] and I actually really love 1095, and I could love 5160. I mean there are a lot of things that I could love unreservedly, but many of the stainlesses don’t do a whole lot for me.
I keep coming back to a friend of mine who took a BK15 to Wyoming and slaughtered, not just field dressed, two elk, a mule deer, 3 antelope and quote ‘a lot of little shit’ unquote.
I sharpened that blade when it came back. Now, I chastised him because it was pretty dull and I said, “Why didn’t you sharpen this?” He said, “It was still cutting.”
Now I am quite certain that he was putting a fair amount of strength in it, but thats better than a ton of meat broken down and wrapped and butchered on one factory edge which wasn’t fresh when it went to Wyoming.
Do you expect more out of a knife? I don’t, and my expectations are pretty high at this point in my life and I’ve been screwing around with knives… edged things… since I got my first hatchet when I was 5 or 6 years old.
And, do I like some of the stainless knives I’ve seen? Yes I do. Do I laught at myself sometimes for having purchased them? Yes I do. Will I buy some more secret squirell steel knives over the years? Yes I probably will. I can almost gaurantee it.
Coming back to the Tuko, how would the edge geometry compare to something like the BK16 for example?
It’s gonna be thinner. Edge geometry will be thinner and the curvature of the edge will be very similar, if almost identical to the small santoku that I designed for the Becker/ESEE kitchen knife set but with a thicker blade and will be not ground all the way up so that it can be used for things other than just kitchen work.
But no meat tenderizer on the back?
No meat tenderizer [laughs].
But no, I think it will make an excellent little camp knife. It should be a fun knife and it should work really well and it should be a collector’s item.
Fantastic, thank you sir!