For thousands of years all decent outdoorsmen have had all shared something in common, the knife. A good knife is a simple, practical, irreplaceable tool that is neither a pure weapon nor an ornamental showpiece. It is a tool of true utility. Whether you’re skinning game, making a shelter, or preparing a meal everyone who thrusts themselves out into great outdoors, for whatever purpose, needs a good knife.
My search started a few years ago when I started camping in earnest. I already had some good folders and a well-used USMC Camillus knife that I got at a swap meet. The Camillus was alright, but despite its USMC credentials the overall design was not sufficient for what I wanted to do.
During my search I abandoned the local sporting goods store and started looking online. It turns out one piqued my interest while watching a video interview featuring Creek Stewart. His knife of choice was the Ontario Blackbird SK-5.
If you’re not familiar with Creek he runs a website called Willow Haven Outdoor and is on the Weather Channel show Fat Guys in the Woods which is a survival/bushcraft oriented reality show. The video predated his show and at the time I had no idea who he was, but the attributes he discussed regarding a good survival knife lined up with what I was looking for.
As it turns out his suggestion was better than I expected. It met most of my criteria with the biggest points being an easy to sharpen blade (read ”no serrations”), a corrosion resistant metal, and a respectable sheath. On top that it was Made in the USA.
In a vast departure from my typical approach of obsessing over a purchase at the store, handling the knife a half dozen times, and pointlessly contemplating a purchase, I decided to just go for it and I bought in on Amazon straight away.
I have now had my Blackbird for about two years. It has seen moderate use camping a few times and generally screwing around in my backyard. An attribute that I had not previously considered, but that I now greatly appreciate is the weight of the knife. It is sturdy, but is light in the hand and easy to handle. Also, as a first for me the knife also features Micarta scales which has become my favorite handle material. I find it smooth and easy to handle when dry and grippy when wet. As bonus it lends a quality feel to the knife that you just don’t get with plastic based composites.
The handle is slab sided and features a well-defined groove for your index finger and a complimentary groove on the bottom for your pinky. Between these grooves is a nice swell along the front of the handle that feels secure and proper when held with a fist style grip. A good sized lanyard hole is provided near the base. The full tang blade flattens out nicely at the base of the pommel. It is suitable for light pounding or cracking walnuts, but in my opinion not much else.
The knife has a spear pointed 154 CM (stainless) blade it features a flat grind on the blade with a plain finish. The manufacturer states that it has a mirror finish, but to me that implies a high polish which is not the case on this knife. It lies somewhere between a matte and polish. I found this finish to be preferable to the powder coating and similar finishes on other knives. The slicker finish goes through wood smoother and there is no concern regarding tearing up a coating on the blade.
The well-made sheath that comes with the knife is thoughtfully designed. It is made of a very durable nylon and has a snap closure that holds the blade handle. The sheath has a higher loop sown in for drop style carry and another lower loop suitable for carrying higher on your belt. Additionally, it is MOLLE compatible. A small drain hole is provided at the base of the sheath to let out water should you go for a swim.
I’ve used it hardest for camp chores. The Blackbird throws off great sparks from my Swedish Fire Steel, dices spam with ease, and made a suitable replacement for a stirring spoon when I make scrambled eggs. It is okay to baton wood with, but the 5” length and thinner profile really only makes it suitable for splitting smaller logs. I prefer to process wood with my camp axe or saw, but it is nice to know if will at least split something if I’m in a bind. It really shines when making tinder and feather sticks. The smoothness of the plain finish, the sharp edge, and the light weight make it a great knife for this task.
For reference on my set-up I secured a fire steel in the MOLLE on the front and for a lanyard I used a good bit paracord in a square/box weave. I went with a long box weave because I wanted something help secure my hand if I’m gripping low on the knife for light chopping. I also wanted to be able to secure the lanyard around my wrist.
In short the Blackbird is a tough ass knife that fights above it weight class. If you’re looking for a ¼” thick tool steel monstrosity to pry open car doors then you should look elsewhere. But if you need a good quality knife that is suitable for camping, bushcraft, and other outdoor activities then you might want to consider the Blackbird.
List price is $173, but street price is a more reasonable $115-$125.
Specifications from the Manufacturer:
Edge Type: Plain
Hardness: 58-60 HRC
Sheath Material: Nylon
Sheath Color: Tan
Sheath Type: MOLLE Compatible
Handle Color: Black
Blade Grind: Flat
Blade Finish: Mirror
Blade Color: Silver
Blade Thickness” 0.13 in (0.33 cm)
Blade Material: 154 CM
Blade Length: 5 in (12.7 cm)
Overall Length: 10 in (25.4 cm)
Country of Origin: United States of America