I subscribe to all 3 of the prominent knife magazines and every issue is read from cover to cover… more than once. As I am a custom knife crafter (stock removal) I always pay particular attention to the knife reviews. To be honest I have always wondered whether or not the articles were biased in favor of the maker. One of the magazines did a review of K-Bars new release of the Kephart Knife and I bought the K-Bar ‘Kephart’ based on that review. Sorry to say, I was more than a little disappointed with their product (and consequently decided that there is definitely a bias).
The steel is good (1095 CroVan Carbon Steel) and I really like the finish K-Bar used on it. I also really like the knifes design (designed by Mr. Horace Kephart in 1897) and the thickness of the blade. I was also impressed with the quality of the sheath although it was not true to form for a Kephart reproduction. Unfortunately ‘my’ review goes down hill from there.
First off K-Bar used nuts and bolts to secure the handle material instead of steel pins. Then they placed the nuts facing out rather than the bolt heads (Very tacky looking and an obvious lack of quality control?).
The “walnut” grips were not epoxied onto the tang and when I removed them after my testing, the tang was heavily rusted. I am well aware that in Mr. Kepharts time there was no epoxy, but then again there was no rust inhibiting coating like K-Bar used either. I’m all in favor of using modern technological advantages if it improves the quality and extends the life of the knife, and is not blatantly obvious.
In that same vein – the walnut scales were not stabilized or finished with anything (raw wood) and I was getting small chips of wood coming off at the finger guard. The handle also ended up being very scarred up from use. Treating the wood with Tung Oil or some other hardener would have helped prevent this from happening. This is the first time I’ve received a knife with an unfinished handle. I also found the knife handle way too thin, which resulted in hot spots and difficulty in gripping it under serious use… and I do not have a large hand. Since it is a reproduction, maybe the measurements taken were of an old and worn handle and that’s why it is so thin?
Given the quality of the K-Bar version, I would have priced it at around the $80 mark rather than the $119 I paid. Having said all that – I really like the knife (thanks mainly to Mr. Kephart) and it will become my EDC once I finish modifying it to my liking.
“….It was a rough looking affair when I received it, neither ground nor polished. Every cent of its value had been put into material and temper, leaving me to beautify it as I might wish.” (Horace Kephart)
So that’s exactly what I’m doing. I am beautifying it as I wish. Thicker stabilized walnut grips with a red fiber liner (both epoxied on), peened copper pins and a Tung Oil/Linseed Oil finish. On mine I did a mustard etch and a partial bluing of the blade, just my own personalization of ‘my’ knife.
I am in the process of making 4 more that will be for sale in about a month. So if you bought a K-Bar Kephart knife, and are not quite as happy with it as you thought you’d be, and you like what I’ve done with mine, and leave a message or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. And I can “beautify it as YOU wish.”
If you find Mr. Kepharts knife design aesthetically pleasing, as I do, and want to know more about the knife and the man – pick up a copy of Knife Magazine or go to www.knifemagazine.com. They did an outstanding article that intrigued me enough that I went to Amazon and got one of Mr. Kepharts books.