Sometimes the best blade for the job is a simple utility knife.
by Leon Pantenburg
(Disclaimer: Hultfors supplied the knives used in this review. I was not paid to test, write or review the products, and Hultafors had no input into this review. At the time of publication, Hultfors has no advertising relationship with Survivalcommonsense.com)
I love using my expensive, pretty knives in the field. To me, a good-looking knife with fish scales, blood or dirt on it shows the practical side of the cutlery art form. I don’t deliberately abuse any knife or use it for some task it wasn’t designed for, but I like to see well crafted and beautiful knives being used.
That being said, sometimes you don’t need the best survival knife for a mundane task. The best choice might be an inexpensive, quality knife that can take some hard, almost abusive use. Gardening and yard work come to mind. The last time I used a utility knife for yard work, the blade was used to hack a plant out of a concrete container, cut PVC pipe for irrigation systems, trim sod, dig out some stubborn weeds, cut jute twine and open a fertilizer sack.
A good utility knife needs to be sturdy, hold an edge well and be safe to use. It should have a secure way to carry it, but still be easily accessible. The handle should be generous and comfortable to handle for long periods of time. And it should be inexpensive, meaning it has high quality, but doesn’t cost much. “Cheap” infers low quality.
Recently, I’ve been using and testing the Hultafors line of knives, and I’ve been impressed with how well they hold up, and how practical their design is. They cost about $30 each, which is about 30 percent more than the standard Mora Companions or Clippers.
The Hultafors company is based in Sweden, and their knives are made in Taiwan. The business began in 1883, according to the Hultafors website, when Karl-Hilmer Johansson Kollen designed a “world-renowned folding rule.” Since then, the company has designed and manufactured tools for craftsmen and tradesmen.
Here’s the good stuff about the Hultafors knives:
Comfortable, safe handle: A practical handle is a necessity on a tool that will be used a lot. That means a large diameter and a long handle. Hultafors have a handle made from PP plastic, that is fitted with a Santoprene friction grip. I never noticed any potential for my hand slipping off the handle.
Rigid blade: The weak point in any folding knife is the hinge. For a knife that may end up be used for digging and prying, you want the security of a rigid blade. Folding a knife onto your fingers while working in dirt is guaranteed to totally ruin your day.
Sturdy sheath: Generally, the plastic sheaths on Moras or other inexpensive utility knives are pretty pathetic. But what can you expect from a knife that retails for under $20? The Hultafors sheaths are the next step up. They hold the knife securely, but not so tightly that you can’t withdrawn the blade easily to use it.
Good blade designs: The designs are outstanding for the specific tasks they are designed for.
Steel: The steel is advertised as “Japanese carbon steel, hardened to 58-60 HRC’. Carbon steels are harder than stainless, and they hold an edge longer with less bending, making them a terrific choice for abusive work. I’m not an expert on steel construction and it’s a complex subject, so there’s much more to this subject than I will expand on here. But, in the Hultafors knife specifically, the steel feels to me extremely hard and stable. In my experience these knives holds an edge quite well, and re-sharpening was easy. I presume it will also rust easily, like all carbon steel, so cleaning the blade after using is required. Most people don’t clean their knives, they just throw them in the bucket. That’s an expensive mistake and I always recommend people take care with their tools.
Tang: A full tang blade would be ideal for this model, but that would be rare in a knife in this price category. The Hultafors line has a 3.2 inch tang that makes them quite durable.
Here are several Hultafors I have tested:
Blade length: 3.6 inches
Blade thickness: .12 inch with scandi grind
Blade design: The Expedition has a drop point, and a curved belly near the point. This makes it a good choice as a skinning or hunting knife.
Steel: Japanese carbon steel, hardened to 58-60 HRC, with rust protective electrophoretic coating to withstand rust. The coating on my Expedition looked fine until I cut an overgrown fig tree out of a concrete pot. Digging and hacking while working on a lawn sprinkler system made the finish look experienced.
Spine: The spine is ground at 90 degree angles, like an ice skate. It is designed to work as a scraper for the ferrocerium rod that comes with the Expedition. Both work fine for their intended purposes.
Sheath: For an inexpensive knife, the sheath was a surprise. The knife is held securely and a textile belt loop allows it to be worn on up to a three inch belt.
Handle length: 4.52 inches
Weight: 4.2 ounces
Price: $29 (as of this writing)
I beat the crap out of this knife, using it for all sorts of yard work. Other than scratching the blade coating, there is little evidence of wear of hard use. The Hultafors Expedition would make a great backpacking knife because of the weight, compact size and practical design.
Blade length: 3.07 inches
Blade thickness: 0.08 inches
Handle length: 4.52 inches
Weight: 3.4 ounces
Price: $31.50 (as of this writing)
This is a practical knife for every day carry or as an entry level wood carving knife. The handle allows the blade to be easily controlled for fine wood carving or other detail work. It would also make a pretty fair small game processing knife. The Fine Detail Knife knife is so affordable, there is no reason not to have one.
Blade length: 3.76 inches
Blade thickness: 0.10 inches
Handle length: 4.68 inches
Weight: 3.9 inches
Price: About $14 (as of this writing)
The name says it all. This is the knife you want for a variety of unrelated cutting tasks. The All Purpose Knife closely resembles the proven Mora Companion, and costs about the same. That means this design can handle cleaning fish, skinning big game, cutting flowers, whittling wiener sticks and cutting PVC pipe for the lawn sprinkler, and anything else that might come up. (You can’t beat this deal!)
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