Question of the Day: Have you ever modified an Old Hickory?

Image courtesy of David C. Andersen

If you’re ever looking for a cheap way to have some DIY knife fun, Ontario Knife Company’s line of Old Hickory kitchen knives are a great place to start.  At $8-$18 a pop, less if you can pick them up used, the investment is small. Full tang 1095 steel means you are starting off with some really solid building blocks. The key is to go slowly and frequently dunk the blade in water to avoid ruining the heat treatment. The pinned wooden handles lend a classic look, but can easily be replaced with custom micarta or G10 scales.

The Butcher Knives are a popular place to start, and their general size make them well suited to Bushcraft or Kephart projects. Pictured above is my “steak knife” that was made out of a 7” butcher’s knife. It was created using only a rotary tool with cut-off wheel and a belt sander. The blade takes a razor edge that is quite satisfying when excising fine morsels of meat.

Image courtesy of David C. Andersen

And here is another project that I am working on, using an Old Hickory meat cleaver. I am creating a trio of tools that should complement each other in a camping food prep situation. Both of the blades have convex edges. With an inline point and neutral balance, the larger blade should do well as a general camp knife, but can also pull off some chores where one would usually reach for a chef’s knife; the long curved edge works well at rocking motions, mincing herbs or garlic, and long slicing cuts off a roast. The smaller blade makes a good paring knife/small utility knife. The third tool started out as a simple tinder/ferrocium rod scraper, and then I added a bottle opener to one side as well.

And now lets hear from the Edged Intelligentsia. How many of you have modded an Old Hickory? How many of you are getting ideas even now?


  1. Bill J says:

    I have a set of 5 that are still in the packaging. Now I know what I can use them for.

    1. A quick Google image search will turn up plenty of ideas for you! Some people get really elaborate and turn out some amazing results.

  2. Cool stuff David. Thanks.

  3. Jim says:

    Sure did! Long time ago. Made a really handy bird and trout type knife from one of the smaller Old Hickory knives. Lost it somewhere and I’ve never replaced it but i’m thinking I need to make another one. Theres another Ontario knife thats great for modding. The Aircrew survival knife is kinda clunky out of the box but with a bit of cutting and grinding they make great general use outdoor blades.

  4. Senna Marpat says:

    I’ve done a few, including making a nessmuk from a skinner, a large camp knife from an outsized butcher, and dressed up a few steak knives for sale. It’s been too long – I need to do some more.

  5. Adam says:

    There’s a few Old Hickory knives in my amazon wishlist. Anytime I go to the thrift store I look for decent kitchen knives but I have yet to find anything but cheap stainless knives.

  6. kap says:

    Once upon a time, I was a new Hunter and not having a lot of money too spend i bought a knife similar too the one depicted, for around 40 cents, I made a sheath out of an old boot tongue and Wa-la instant hunting knife, served me well for a number of years until I got to play in the South East Asian war game’s while gone my knife gave me a Dear John and left me for my brother, it was still being used by a Nephew who has since Misplaced it!

    1. Mark says:

      My shooting buddy said that his dad (now 90) used to take an Old Hickory knife when he went hunting. He didn’t waste the money on a hunting knife. He gutted and skinned deer with an Old Hickory.

  7. Mark says:

    Ontario / Old Hickory knives are the best bargain around. I bought a bunch of ’em used off of eBay last summer. Some were chipped. Some were rusted. All were dull. I restored every one of them. I gave some away. I sold some. I kept some. These are the easiest, and most fun, knives to sharpen I have handled so far. The average cost of one, used, is about $6.

  8. Spencer says:

    For those on a tight budget, and are willing to invest a little time and effort, modifying old butcher knives is a reasonable substitute for today’s high-priced designer knives. An added bonus is the owner learns some useful skills in knife (and tool) fabrication.

  9. Duncan Idaho says:

    I might have to give this a try when I finish my current projects.

    1. James says:

      One thing you can get from Old Hickory is an actual pig sticker, a double edged guardless knife used in causing pigs to join the Choir Invisible and become pork chops. Some of the Amazon reviewers are people who have farms and use it for that, but in shape it’s something like a John Ek commando knife.

      1. Duncan Idaho says:

        I was thinking of the 14″ butcher blade. It wouldn’t be too hard to reshape into a scramasax blade with a little elbow grease and a good file.

        Might redo the handle while I’m at it.

        Hell, I’ll have to start checking yard sales. I know a guy who got a set of vintage Case kitchen knives for a few bucks at one. I’d imagine these knives wouldn’t be too uncommon.

  10. Scott Urbach says:

    I use them all the time. One of my “things” is to find rusty old blades at antique shops, flea markets, etc.
    and bring them back to life. Old Hickory knives are outstanding for this purpose

  11. mitch says:

    Now I see where you came up for the idea of the Canteen Knife

Write a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Question of the Day: Have you ever modified an Old Hickory?

button to share on facebook
button to tweet
button to share via email