Photo credit: Frank Borelli
Photo credit: Frank Borelli
A couple of weeks ago, I received two knives for test and evaluation from Grayman Knives. Now, I'll say up front, I'd never heard of the company. The pictures I saw on their web site weren't particularly pretty, but the testimonials from people who had purchased their knives were very complimentary. When I got the knives I had two immediate reactions:
- Wow, that's a hefty tool that will take a lot of abuse, and
- That's a butt ugly blade.
I had to remind myself that a little more than 20 years ago, I thought Glocks were ugly too, but they work. "Pretty is as pretty does," applies. I've tested (and thoroughly abused) these blades, and they've taken it without issue.
The two knives I received were the West Nile models Grayman has on their web site. Essentially they are the same design, but in different sizes. Shown at right, the SB West Nile Warrior comes in a 7.5-inch blade design and a 6-inch blade design. The shapes and contours are the same, but the overall size and weight are very different.
The larger design, as mentioned, sports a 7.5-inch blade that is a full ¼ inch thick throughout. At one point the knife is 2 inches wide. The smaller design has a 6-inch blade, is the same ¼ inch thick throughout, and is 1.5 inches wide at its widest point. The knives are available in 1095 high carbon steel or from S30V stainless steel, an excellent alloy for rugged use tools. Two finishes are available: black oxide (on the 1095 steel) and Micropeen, which is a high shine polished finish. The grips are made from Micarta, and you have your choice of black or green. Additionally, to add to a secure hold on the blade, the handle portion is cut with a deep finger groove and curved along the spine to fit your palm. There is a lanyard hole near the end for those of us who tend to drop things and like them tied on.
For the two test knives I received, one of each size, the sheaths were different. The larger blade came in a black ballistic nylon sheath with a hard plastic insert to protect the nylon from the knife's edge. The smaller blade came in a simple Kydex sheath that, from what I understand, was simply expeditious for sending out the test knife. According to Grayman's web site, their knives are delivered with the ballistic nylon sheaths. The sheath itself appears very versatile, with multiple mounting options for belt, vest or MOLLE, and a utility pouch on the front for a smaller folding knife, multipurpose tool or other necessities.
The blades are sharpened on a single bevel, often referred to as "chisel ground." This makes maintaining the edge a lot easier, and maintains the integrity of the blade thickness for a greater portion of the knife. Make no mistake, these knives were built to take abuse. While many production knives are very carefully finished so that they look pretty, the Grayman knives simply aren't. They are brute blades that will take what you throw at them... or what you throw them at, if you want to do that.
The big belly of the blade makes it front-end heavy, increasing chopping power. The thickness of the blade makes it harder to thrust into objects, but these knives weren't designed as combat blades to be pushed into a target; they were designed to endure the elements and abuse of the field and continue to serve basic cutting needs. They do that very well.
All of my cutting tests were performed as usual. Both sizes of blade were tested. Neither had any issues with cutting the normal materials I have on hand, from string to rope. In fact, the curvature of the belly made cutting the thicker materials on a single pull-through much easier than normal. That said, I had no success in getting the knives to punch through plywood in my overhead swing. It wasn't because the knife couldn't; instead, it was because the blade is so thick and the design keeps that thickness as close to the point as possible. I simply wasn't strong enough. So, because I am who I am, I got out my three pound sledgehammer and hammered them through. Once they were hammered through, I had to wiggle and push and wedge and shove...and finally worked them free to pull them back out. They were none the worse for wear.
Given the design, I felt chopping tests were in order and began to hack up several items. The first was a hard plastic bucket I had in my shed--the type you can get paint or other building materials in. That bucket is now in pieces. The knife showed no signs of chopping. Out around my backyard are a number of small bushes, saplings, miscellaneous plants...several fell prey to the blade's chopping power. Swinging the larger blade was like swinging a hatchet. Because of the thickness of the blade and the single bevel edge, it cut deeply and removed chunks of wood.
It's my understanding that every Grayman knife is hand made. This is not a mass production facility. This also means that the knife you order from them may not have a blade exactly 7.5 inches long--it might be over or under by a few thousandths of an inch. The sawtooth back isn't kerf cut, and you won't find any delicately rounded edges--except on the cutting portion of the blade. I can't reiterate enough: these knives are not built to look good on your belt, or for photos. They are built to do a rough job and function through many more rough jobs.
Having beaten and abused the two that I have now, I look at them just as I do my Glock pistols: they still may not be pretty, but I have to admire their ability to perform. I can recommend them and encourage you to visit the Grayman Knives web page for more information. Having abused them both, I definitely like the larger knife for its greater weight, which adds to the chopping power it has. The smaller knife, however, would serve as the better general purpose camping, backpacking or hiking knife.