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TOPS TPBKUK01-BRK Bushcrafter Kukuri
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- Category name: knives
- Country of origin: USA
- Brand name: TOPS
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13 3/8" overall. 7 3/8" 1095 high carbon steel Kukri blade. Full, extended tang with lanyard hole. Black linen Micarta handles. Mil-spec olive drab ballistic nylon MOLLE. Compatible sheath with front utility pocket and cord lanyard.
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As I'll discuss below, this knife is a great compromise tool if you want to carry something that can mostly replace a hand ax and a belt knife. But it's not the best at anything. Some people might say that that's perfectly fine and to be expected from a compromise tool. However, when out in the woods trying to get a fire started in a cold rain, you don't want to expend extra effort and time to perform basic wood processing tasks that could be more efficiently completed with something else. With use and comparision to other tools, this knife has become more of an expensive curiosity for me that I'll happily take out for some fun once in a while, rather than the knife I'll depend on when out in the woods. Read on for the details.
This knife is incredibly well built and will probably outlast me. For this price point, that's what I'd expect, but it's nice to see them deliver. The steel is very thick (but read below for why this isn't always great) and has a full tang. Fit and finish is great. The coating on the blade is extremely resistant to wear - which is nice in a knife that's going to see a lot of abuse. I don't mind when my knives wear, because it's inevitable and a sign of distinction, but it's nice to know the coating on this will last longer than most. The handle is made of micarta and is very solid. Generally this is an amazingly over-built knife and a joy to hold and behold.
I have medium sized hands and this knife feels very good in hand. The curve of the handle combined with the subtle finger grooves gives a very good grip. The bottom hook of the handle is helpful to keep a solid hold on the knife when chopping while still keeping the fingers loose - which is essentially if you want to get a good swing. There is some pretty aggressive jimping on the top of the spine which feels very solid under your thumb when choking up on the handle and helps a lot with control during fine carving. The weight of the knife is well balanced and the geometry of the blade ensures there is a forward bias that feels nice when chopping.
No complaints here. This knife came razor sharp from the factory. I have done some mild touching up after heavy chopping and the edge returns easily. Beginners may find it hard to sharpen the curved blade. I have found that V-shaped pull-through sharpeners such as can be found on the Lansky Blade Medic are great for these kinds of knives. You don't need them shaving sharp for good wood work but I can easily get this knife to paper-slicing sharpness.
This is the biggest drawback of the knife and the dealbreaker for me. This knife is intended to showcase its chopping ability, and while it is a competent chopper, it's just not great. After much experimentation with this and other chopping tools, I think it basically comes down to the length of the knife and the grind and thickness of the blade. The length is what it is - not everyone wants to carry a 14" chopping blade (like the excellent Condor Pack Golok) or a hand ax. That's OK but you should be aware of what you're giving up in chopping ability. The saber grind on this knife is not great at splitting and doesn't seem to have as much bite as other tools with a convex edge, and the thickness of the knife seems to contribute to shallower bites when chopping as it doesn't want to sink as deep. To be fair, the designer of this knife has some youtube videos where he shows how to reprofile the edge to be convex. I might give that a try but don't expect it will solve the issue with the thickness or length. And let's face it - if you're willing to cary this large and heavy of a knife already, then a more competent 14" blade is not a big step up and depending on what you buy will actually look less intimidating. This is my view based on my experience - your mileage my vary. Hope it is useful to someone.
This knife is a good carver. The inner curve of the blade near the handle is great at capturing the wood, and the heft of the knife and the jimping make it very easy to control. In addition the saber grind works to its advantage here and is good for fine slicing. This is a good knife for making feather sticks or doing other fine work. I will note again, however, that the thickness of the blade is a little more than you'd want for fine work.
The internet bushcrafting experts seem divided on whether a person even needs to baton firewood. Personally I like to do it because (1) it's fun and (2) it's a quick way to get to some dry wood in the center of a thicker piece. This knife is wonderful for batoning, and if it came at a much, much lower price point I would consider still having it for just this purpose. The curve of the blade is great at slicing into the wood as you baton, and the thickness and heft of the blade, combined with the wide flat spine, give you the confidence to bang away as hard as you want.
Like the knife, the sheath is very well made but is way too big and a little too "jungle warfare" themed for me. It is a very solid green nylon and holds the knife well in a plastic sleeve, and has a generous front pocket for keeping knicknacks like a fire steel, sharpening stone, multitool, etc. It is molle compatible if you like that kind of thing and also has a belt loop. Personally I usually keep the knife in my pack as I am a little embarassed by the look of the sheath when out in the woods with regular folks.
I probably would not buy this knife again. It is enjoyable to hold and use but just doesn't excel at any of its intended tasks. For the money and the weight, I would prefer (and now use) a dedicated chopper like the Condor Pack Golok and a small folding or belt knife for fine work.