Knife Review: Schrade SCHF14, by StuartB
I’ve been trying to write this review for a while, but it’s been held back by an onslaught of work and life’s sundry other distractions. I was spurred on by David Andersen’s recent post about abusing pretty knives he had won from TTAK and Clay’s bug out knife article, both well written and thought provoking.
While this is not a review that will live up to TTAK’s scientific test procedure, it does touch on those themes of practicality and fit for purpose. The knife was my prize for winning the TTAK Facebook photo competition – in the form of a $35 gift certificate for the Smokey Mountain Knife Works. Clay was apologetic that it was sent in lieu of any hardware in the TTAK prize drawer at the time of his taking the reigns of the blog. Was he kidding? An excuse to browse for new toys at SMKWs is a treat in its self, especially as I was a first time visitor, and I was plying with House money. Thanks Clay, and to all of you who voted for my photo entry.
I had some fairly tight criteria in mind for selection of the knife and for its intended use:
• Keep within the $35 budget – a self-imposed test of restraint given the wonders of SMKWs website
• Be a useful addition to my existing knife community; to be ‘rode hard and put away wet’ , unlike several of those fancy shelf queens I have littering up the shelves
• Be compact enough to be worn as a camping knife – on a trip I typically revert to one of my 3” folders that rides in my pocket while the big fixed blades get relegated to the side of the backpack (serving little purpose other than a dead weight just waiting for TEOTWAWKI to happen)
• Rugged design with ‘good enough’ steel and a secure sheath
• Good looks (don’t hate, its important!)
I live in California, which actually has surprisingly relaxed knife laws, that said, my EDC is a small SOG Flash 1, as it’s easily pocketable, law abiding (under 3” blade), the AUS8 steel holds a good edge and more importantly isn’t so expensive that I might shy away from using it for everything, every day. I have a few over-designed and overpriced knives that don’t get the use they deserve, somehow I am held back from really beasting them due to their price, which is a shame and probably points up some interesting issues about price and value (or my psyche?).
So my criteria quickly whittled down the several thousand options SMKWs had to offer and I ended up the proud owner of a Schrade SCHF14; a mid-price compact fixed blade, sporting acceptable steel and tough enough manage whatever the camping life has to offer. Here’s the skinny: –
• Blade Steel: 8Cr13MoV
• Handle Material: G10
• Blade Shape: Modified Drop point
• Serrated: No
• Carry Options: Kydex Sheath
• Blade Finish: Stone washed
• Blade length: 3.4″
• Blade Thickness: 1/8”
• Overall Length: 7.9″
• Weight: 0.38 lbs.
Oh, that ‘new knife’ smell
Out of the box the knife gave a good impression of weight and strength; it’s basically an 1/8” slab of 8Cr13MoV Chinese steel (similar in performance to AUS8) held between some seriously sculpted G10 scales. It fits my hand well, has a nice balance, strong jimping to the thumb rise and a deep drop point blade (or does that top cut make it a real clip point?). In short, it’s a real thug of a knife.
The stone wash finish was the biggest initial turn-off, maybe due to having lived through the 80’s in England and been witness to the stone washed jeans fad (not in a good way). That and some pretty poor quality control issues.
For a knife that has only two moving parts (the two studs that hold the scales), forgetting to tighten one of those makes for a 50% fail rate. That’s normally no biggy, except these days everything ‘tactical’ seems hobbled by adopting star head torx screws that you never have the right size for, let alone two different sizes that you’ll need to fix it. Certainly not something easy to resolve if they work loose out in the woods, miles from the nearest Home Depot or tactical toolbox. So, apply Loctite, tighten them up and be done with them.
Second, the blade arrived with a ‘factory blunt’ edge (Of my budget knives only the Moras seem to arrive with that perfect edge). It was asymmetrically ground to about a 40 degree bluntness that required some considerable effort from my Lansky stones to get it back into shape. But the steel does take an edge well, and I soon had it sorted and ready to go. There is a certain pleasure in giving a blade a nice edge and I polished it down to a 25 degree bevel, in keeping with its expected use: chopping, whittling, batoning (it’s what all the cool kids are doing this year), cutting limes for the Mojitos, digging boy scouts out of horses’ hooves, and general rough housing.
The last gripe was that the belt loop on the Kydex sheath was too thin for my belt. The loop is 2’ deep but only 3/16’ wide and fairly inflexible, so for anything but the belt material itself it’s a no-go. That kind of rules out my military surplus belts, with their clunky clips and buckles. If only it was a clip on attachment rather than a closed loop it would be perfect. However, when I did find a matching belt, it rode well on my hip, kept a very low profile and very flat. The Kydex material is a nice upgrade and has leather like texture and a few holes for additional tie downs (the closed loop can be detached by unscrewing two rivet fasteners, so maybe there is a fix for that loop?). The blade snaps in and feels secure, even without a retention strap.
The size is perfect for camping chores (are they ‘chores’ when camping?), easy enough to tote all day without dragging or snagging, tough enough to take a fair amount of abuse, and now it’s all fixed up, it’s likely to take that and more for quite a while to come. The G10 scales are inset to the full tang handle and have been routed out from a textured blank to achieve a very grippy surface despite their slender proportion. There’s even a slot for a lanyard or tie down at the heal.
So how did the Schrade stand up in testing? I fed it the usual assortment of cardboard, rope, timber and various other camp type materials and, as expected, its thick blade excelled at stabbing, slicing, whittling and splitting through them all. It felt very tough, that short blade gave plenty of control and power and that modified drop point/clip point blade just taunts you to stab into just one more fearsome looking cardboard box (I swear that thing was coming right at me). The abbreviated scales dig in a little and a glove would be good for extended tough work, but I have little doubt that this couldn’t stand up to anything it was pointed at. The downside of that stout blade did show up in more delicate detailed work, like food prep and repairs. Of course it will cut through an onion, but it will be coarse! There are better options for that type of work and while it will muscle through, it comes back to being fit for purpose.
Overall the Schrade fits that sweet spot between being too ’fugly’ or too pretty to carry, being built tough enough but not at a price where you wouldn’t really want to rough it up, its beefy but not over compensating. For me, time will tell if it makes it to be my ECC (Every Camp Carry). You can carry it camping without it scaring the children, as in it has a certain tactical look without screaming ‘Mall Ninja’ (it does actually say ‘Mall Ninja’, but at least not so loud to result in name calling).
It seems like a great choice too for a Bug Out/Bug Home knife, and at that price point, you could pick up a couple for the emergency bags you have stashed in the car and under the stairs (though my Moras have called shotgun on that deal already). The only problem is that the Schrade is a knife that keeps wanting to picked up and be used, so you will always be going back to your stash to ask it, respectfully, to come out and play.