I’m always looking for a good hunting knife. So when the Zoe Crist Santa Fe became available last year, I got one and tried it.
by Leon Pantenburg
Kniveshipfree is a sponsor of Survivalcommonsense.com, but I don’t get free knives from the company, nor do they have any input in any knife reviews.
There are many things I liked about the Santa Fe, but the handle just wasn’t comfortable for my large hands. The handle rubbed between my index and second fingers, and for extended use, it wasn’t going to work.
In such cases, I pass the knife on to an experienced outdoorsperson and ask them to wring it out. (Check out Bob Patterson’s review of the Bark River Trakker Companion.)
Several months ago, the Santa Fe went to my friend Phil Brummett, a fellow Boy Scout volunteer, former scoutmaster and skilled wilderness survival guy.
Phil is also a Central Oregon fishing guide, and is on the water a couple hundred days a year. Any knife that can meet his standards has to be really good. And Phil’s hands are smaller than mine.
Here are the Santa Fe specs:
- Overall Length: 9.5 Inches
- Blade Length: 5 Inches
- Steel: 1095 Carbon Steel @ 58-60rc
- Blade Thickness: .174 Inch
- Weight: 8.125 Ounces
- Made in the United States of America
Here’s the good stuff:
Overall length is about right for a hunting knife. My favorite blade length in a hunting knife is about five inches. A four-inch length is fine, and six is very usable, but five inches just seems to work out best for Phil and me. (My go-to Ambush Tundra has a 4.5-inch blade.)
Steel: Carbon steel 1095 is a good, durable choice, and it won’t break the bank like some of the super steels. Phil says the Santa Fe’s edge-holding ability is great, and re-sharpening is easy.
A concern for some buyers is rust. Carbon steel can rust overnight if the humidity is high, the blade is put away wet, and the knife is ignored.
In Phil’s case, the knife is used in wet circumstances more often than not. Most of the time, that includes blood and fish slime. But Phil wipes the blade off after using it, and had no issue with rust.
Patina is another matter. Any carbon steel blade, over time, will develop some patina, or discoloration. Phil’s knife shows some, probably because it has cleaned a lot of fish and has been used for bushcrafting.
Both of us like the appearance – it shows honest use and wear. And it looks cool. Phil wouldn’t let me polish the patina off.
Spine: The spine is ground at a 90-degree angle, like an ice skate for the half of the blade next to the handle. It tapers down to a sharp point with the swedge.
This spine grind is useful for processing tinder or scraping a ferrocerrium to create firemaking sparks. The spine is one of those parts of a knife that is generally forgotten, but learn how to use it and it can be useful.
Grind: The Santa Fe comes with a full height convex grind, which is my personal favorite. I’ve had a couple of Tundras re-ground into full height convex, because that grind works so well for me.
Belly: The belly is from the tip, and includes the curve that blends into the straight edge. Though not designed to be a skinner, the Santa Fe would work fine. Phil commented that the blade design works well for cleaning steelhead salmon and other large fish.
Point: The clip point with swedge is outstanding. It combines two of my favorite designs. For field dressing big game, I like the clip point for that initial cut to open up the abdomen, without nicking the entrails. The swedge makes the under-the-tail work of field dressing a whitetail easy.
Handle: Like I mentioned, the handle design isn’t the best for me. It could probably be reworked with some sandpaper so the finger grooves were more comfortable. That also means the Santa Fe might be perfect for you if your hands are smaller!
You can get your choice of handle materials. For a user, I generally opt for micarta, since it is apparently bullet proof. But I also love the natural look of wood, and have a definite weakness for desert ironwood and curly maple. Get what you want.
Sheath: The knife comes with a sturdy leather dangler sheath that secures the knife well. Both Phil and I like this setup – you can wear the knife on your belt, under a coat, very comfortably. You can also get in a car and fasten your seatbelt with it on. This becomes really nice when you’re getting in and out of a truck or drift boat all day.
So what’s the bottom line?
Any reservations I have about the knife are strictly personal, based on ticky, nit-picky opinions I developed from a life-long, ongoing, obsessive-compulsive need to find that one perfect knife for everything.
If you’re looking for a good hunting knife that can handle many hunting/survival tasks, the Santa Fe could be your best choice. The knife retails for $187.47. This is a good price for a solid piece of cutlery that will last for many years.
So do you need a Santa Fe?
Phil needs a Santa Fe. I offered to swap him out another knife (and I have A LOT of high quality blades with different designs) for the Santa Fe if it didn’t do everything he wanted his knife to do.
Phil opted to hang on to his Santa Fe. We both think he made an excellent choice!
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