Most folks don’t know who Horace Kephart is, but to a lot of us he embodies what traditional camping is—a time when leather and canvas were synonymous with camping.
Horace Kephart, undoubtedly, romanticized camping with his book, “Camping and Woodcraft”, written in such prose as to spark the imagination of any young person in the field of camping.
Kephart, to many, is considered the dean of camping and as such has created a cult following of sorts.
I can’t deny he hasn’t affected me as well and as an homage I wanted a way to pay back the inspiration that was Kephart.
Every October there is a set of dates put aside for the commemoration of Kephart, known as Kephart days.
Kephart’s most notably recognized tool was his knife, a spear point style blade which he himself describes as the sorriest looking tool, but was his most revered. So, when I set out to pay homage, what better way than to replicate a knife in his spirit.
There has been many Kephart knife copies, a blade that is about eight inches long, an 1/8th of an inch thick, and is a spear point made of carbon steel. In my iteration, however, I wanted something that embodied me and the dean, a mixture of who he was with who I am.
It is no mystery, nor do I hide the fact, I only endorse one knife, “the Mora”. After over 15 years of outdoor use there is no task the Mora has not been able to accomplish and often better than higher priced knives. There is nothing magical about the mora other than the quality of such an inexpensive knife. At the time—over 15 years ago—my knife only cost me ten dollars. And though I was chided by several outdoor survival instructors for using it, to this date the very same knife has not let me down. There is nothing in the outdoors I’ve not been able to do with that knife for which it was designed for.
When I searched for a Kephart knife, I wanted it to be a part of me as well as Kephart:
- 8” long (per Kephart)
- Spear Point (per Kephart)
- 1/8th “ thick (per Kephart)
For me I wanted the following:
- desert ironwood handles (to represent the area I live in, the Southwest)
- Stainless Steel blade (It is the only steel I will own and works better for my activities)
- Scandi Grind (It is the best edge design, hands down, for working with woods)
- Mosaic Pins to dress up the show piece as the homage
After searching high and low for a knife maker, one caught my eye—Abe Elias, of Diving Sparrow Knives. There were other options, but he offered another angle which would certainly help make this a one off.
While anyone can make a sharp edge, Abe is known for his custom contoured handle. And if this knife was going to be what it was suppose to be, I wanted it to be as unique as possible. After all, it was my homage to the dean.
Abe and I communicated for a long time, often spending more than an hour on the phone. Though I told him what I wanted, I also told Abe I would like his influence as much as mine in the design as he knows knives better than me. I gave him a lot of latitude in the design, but was adamant it needed to be a stainless scandi grind and as close to the angle of the Mora companion as possible.
for sometime, Abe had entertained the idea of adding a Kephart model to his line, but had never done so. This was the push he needed, apparently.
Almost immediately Abe asked me for my hand size. I have to admit I was a bit thrown for a loop, but quickly realized this was part of the process that was the backbone of Abe’s custom handle.
Almost a year later I received my knife from Diving Sparrow Knives. And while most would go out and use it immediately, I had zero desire to do so until Kephart days 2014, almost three months away. I didn’t even slice a piece of paper for that time.
Earlier this month, during Kephart days, I finally christened the knife. While the look of the knife is beautiful, I was most critical of the angle of the grind. After all, I am very attuned with the angle of the Mora and wanted nothing less. To my satisfaction, Abe nailed the grind. What was more impressive is he didn’t use a jig to get the straight lines—he free handed it.
Now, while I did ask for an1/8th inch thick blade, Abe used 5/32nd instead. Though it did add weight, Abe was conscientious of the grind angle and compensated by pulling the shoulders of the scandi grind higher on the blade in order to maintain the angle. This, in my opinion, gave the blade a much more prettier edge, from tip to riccaso.
For the knife, Abe chose ATS34, the Hitachi equivalent of 154CM. This steel was the perfect compromise between ease of sharpening and edge retention.
Abe also added the white liners to the blade, something I didn’t ask for, but creates balance to the knife.
The Mosaic pins were picked out by Abe as well. He chose a clover pattern for the pins which fits the knife beautifully.
On the aft of the handle, both sides, there is a depression that gracefully accommodates the tip of the pinky on on one side and the base of the pinky on the other side. This very much reminds me of making a depression in the ground for ones hips for sleeping. In addition, this depression also exists for the forefinger and base of the forefinger. These depressions made it very comfortable to hold and use the knife for long periods of carving.
Note the Depressions, forward and aft, on the handle resting on the board
So how does it handle?
Keeping in mind I am much more used to a lighter Mora knife, I found myself over cutting and carving due to the higher kinetic energy behind the knife. It took a bit getting used to pulling back on the pressure when carving notches for trap triggers, but admittedly I had a grin on my face.
The wider scandi grind made it a dream to make feather sticks. With a wider scandi platform it was easier to get consistent paper thin curls on feather sticks.
So, where do I stand with this knife? I love it. And for the $400 dollars it costs, it is worth every penny.
If you’re looking for a custom knife, I recommend Abe Elias at Diving Sparrow Knife Works. He was very attentive with my wants and made suggestions and was more than willing to spend time on the phone with me. He has a hundred percent happiness guarantee. If you don’t like something about the knife, let him know and he will fix or replace it, until you’re happy.