• Leon Pantenburg | Survival Common Sense


Best EDC Knife? We review the Big D Delta Cruiser XL

490 400 Survival Common Sense Blog | Emergency Preparedness

What makes the best Every Day Carry knife?

That choice will probably vary with the individual. But if you want a reasonably-priced custom knife, you probably need to talk to Donavon Phillips.

by Leon Pantenburg

The knife world knows Donavon Phillips as a Bladesports World Champion, knife maker and mentor to new knife makers. I know Donavon as a fellow Mississippian and friend, who made a really great Every Day Carry knife for me. The knife is called the Big D Delta Cruiser XL.

So what makes a good every day carry knife? Well, to start with, it has to fit your needs. An office worker might need a petite folder that can be carried discretely out of sight. A forester, logger, construction worker or Mississippi River deck hand might need a long-bladed hunting/survival knife. What do you do every day that you might need a knife for?

The Delta Cruiser XL handle is long and thick. It is custom-made to fit my large hands very well.

I work in two different worlds. As a computer guy/desk worker, my EDC needs are met nicely by a Swiss Army Knife Tinker or Classic. As a canoe guide with Big River Wild Adventures and Quapaw Canoe Company, I need larger, sturdy belt knife. I generally carry a UP Bravo or LT Wright Genesis.

My knife collection is extensive, but cutlery enthusiasts are never satisfied and I cannot quit tinkering with knife designs.  After a conversation with Donavon, he agreed to make me an EDC knife.

Flashback: Donavon and I met several years ago, and then we ran into each other again at the 2019 BLADE Show in Atlanta. I hung around Donavon’s booth while he sharpened his knife for the Bladesports competition that would happen in about an hour. When Donavon was done sharpening, he plucked a hair out of his beard and carved shavings off it.  He went on to win the competition.

donavon competing

Donavan Phillips on his way to winning the Bladesports World Championship.

We had talked about a custom every day carry design. The knife would have a hard life. My EDC is used for whatever I need a knife for. (I NEVER substitute a knife for a hammer, screwdriver or pry bar.)  My EDC would be a reasonably-priced knife with quality steel that holds an edge well, but would also be easy to sharpen. The handle would be micarta, since that  material is moderately-priced and damned near bulletproof. (My experience is that the material gets almost tacky and “grippy” when it gets wet. This is a big deal on a knife that might get used to gut a deer, whittle a feather stick, cut up vegetables for a stew, clean fish or for other hunting/survival tasks. )

Finally, it would have a long, thick handle so I could get a good handful when working. Donavon delivered the knife and I put it to work.

Here are the specs on my Delta Cruiser XL

Overall length: 8 inches

Blade length: 3-1/2 inches

Handle length: 4-12 inches

Steel: A2, hardened to 59-60.

Grind: Convex

Point: Spear

Handle: Micarta

Sheath: Kydex or leather

I took the Cruiser on a wild plant foraging expedition in late August, and used it to harvest mullein, plantain and kudzu.  I cut open a potting soil bag in the back yard and used it for other puttering around jobs. I pruned the jasmine vines and bamboo in my yard. It worked great for these tasks, though admittedly, they weren’t much of a challenge.

But the Delta Cruiser will be on a canoe trip on the Mississippi River soon, and the knife will be loaned out to beginner wilderness survival students. More on that later.

Here’s how the Delta Cruiser XL has worked out so far.

Steel: A custom knife with crappy steel is a waste of money. While I have other knives in the “super steel” category, for all-around, hard use, I’ll take A2 or CPM 3v. Both have served me well. A2 is a common tool steel, used in chisels and other wood working tools, so that means it will be reasonably priced. CPM 3V is step up, IMO, but not necessary. I can’t tell much difference in edge-holding ability, and A2 is easier to sharpen. I specifically requested A2 in this knife.

Handle: The Cruiser had a thick, long handle, as per my request. My palm measures four inches across, and any knife with a handle less than four inches long usually doesn’t work for me. At 4.5 inches, the Cruiser handle is perfect for me.

Point: A spear point is a good choice for a user knife. It had a centered point, which is good for drilling (think fire bow hearth) and piercing (think initial under the tail work when gutting a whitetail). The point also has enough belly near the point to make it a passable skinning knife.

Grind: For my needs, a convex grind is the best. IMHO, the grind holds an edge really well, and is easily sharpened. Donavon can grind your blade to your preferences.

The Delta Cruiser comes with your choice of a kydex or leather sheath.

Sheath: You can order a kydex or leather sheath. In my case, I use a Bark River sheath I already had. The knife rides well in the leather sheath and it fits my criteria for comfortable carry – can I get in my truck and fasten the seatbelt while wearing the knife?

Blade length: A good overall edc blade length is three to four inches. It is long enough for serious work, but nimble enough for wood carving. FYI – I prefer a five-inch blade on my hunting knife and a four inch blade on my bushcrafter.

Blade thickness: The Delta Cruiser blade is about 1/8-inch thick. I prefer thin blades on working knives, and see little value in thick blades. With today’s superior steels there is no need to beef up blade thickness for added strength.

Tang: The full length tang has a Donavon Phillips customization – it is tapered toward the end of the handle to reduce weight and improve handling. And it looks really, really good!

So do you need a Delta Cruiser?

IMO, everyone needs an EDC knife, and your grail EDC knife may be someone else’s abomination. The best solution is to do some research, talk to other knife user/enthusiasts and decide what will work best for you. If you can’t find a commercially-produced knife that suits you, contact Donavon. He can custom make anything you need.

The Delta Cruiser sells for $300 each, and the price includes shipping. Contact Donavon here.

Check out other Big D knives.

Thanks for sharing!

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