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The Kukri (Khukuri) Group

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The Kukri (Khukuri) Group

The khukuri, often shortened to "kukri" here in the U.S., is both a utility knife & a weapon.  The khukuri likely was derived from the Greek sword known as the kopis.  Usually shorter than a typical sword, but longer than a typical knife, the khukuri is often easily recognized by the canted blade.  Classically, the khukuri is thick, as much as 10 mm or more, with a leaf shape that flares out where the blade bends, the tip aligned below the user's hand.  This knife originated more for chopping & slicing than for stabbing.  

Nepalese in origin, the knife's utility was noticed by the Nepalese Ghorka (usually called "Gurkha" by foreigners) soldiers as having great potential as a weapon as well.  The Ghorka were known to be fearsome fighters, and their khukuri took on a mythical status.  This mythical status was only amplified as as foreign nations, including Singapore, India, and England brought Gorkha units into their own armies.

Today, the khukuri is still produced by several companies in Nepal, with their own virtual armies of blacksmiths.  The khukuri is also produced by manufacturers large & small all over the world.  Some are thick, some are machete thin.  And the khukuri has found its way off the battlefield again, as the utility of it's tip-forward design is simply undeniable.  

This group is dedicated to the khukuri, or kukri, in all it's forms, old & new.

Members: 9
Latest Activity: Jul 30

What is a kukri?

Classically, the khukuri was basically a hybrid of a sword & an axe.  The Ex-Gurkha Kukri House (EGKH) khukuri that I will show in photos here (with the brown wood handles & the desert camouflage scabbard) feels much more like an axe than any other large knife that I've ever held.  And with its 12 mm (0.47 inch) spine, it even resembles an axe.

One of the most intriguing kukris on the market to me is the Kabar Kukri Machete.  Cold Steel has a few kukri machetes of their own, but these are more classic machetes in their manufacture, stamped steel blades with thicknesses in the 2 mm to 2.5 mm (0.08 to 0.1 inches) range.  The Kabar Kukri, on the other hand, is just over 4 mm (0.165 inches) thick -- well over 1/8 thick, very nearly 3/16 (0.1875) inches thick.  How could it be a machete as that thickness?

In my opinion, the Kabar Kukri Machete really isn't a machete in the sense that it is a large thin blade meant mostly for cutting brush, grasses, & vines.  Rather, the Kabar Kukri Machete is a machete in the sense that a machete really is a large, often thin, knife.  And compared to my EGKH khukuri at 12mm, the Kabar's 4 mm thickness does seem rather thin.

However, in light of all this confusion on my part (albeit a beginner's confusion), it would seem more appropriate to call Kabar's Kukri Machete, & really all kukri in the 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch thickness, kukri knives, maybe anything under 1/4 inch to be kukri machetes, and anything over 1/4 inch to be, simply, kukris.  Most of the kukris in the American market -- the ones made by American-owned companies such as Kabar, Busse, & even United Cutlery -- would tend to fall into the "kukri knife" category.

Of course I may be splitting hairs here, since I'm still using the terms "kukri" and "khukuri" interchangeably.  And I haven't really defined what, in my understanding, qualifies a khukuri/kukri as such.

To my understanding, a kukri is a knife with a forward cant that occurs along the spine of the blade.  This definition helps to keep the kukri distinct from other knives such as bolo knives or knives with recurved edges & dropped points.  

Not that I don't like bolo knives or drop point knives with recurves -- to the contrary, these are some of my all-time favorite knife designs.  But I think it's important to keep such a distinctive blade design distinct from other knives that, while potentially attractive, simply are not kukris.  An excellent example of a knife that confuses the kukri buyer is the Gerber Gator Kukri Machete -- it falls into the category of drop-point recurve knife, maybe even as a bolo knife -- but it is far from being a kukri.

While I'm sure there will be those who disagree with this point of view, I don't believe the size or the handle shape have any impact on whether a knife can be deemed a kukri.  While a very small kukri will not be able to chop the way a very large kukri would, knives with drop points or clip points can be of any size and still be considered drop points or clip points.  

Similarly, I don't see the need for the handle to have the bell-shaped pommel to be considered a kukri.  This is because, simply, my definition of "kukri" revolves more around the design of the blade.  While the flares of the bell-shaped pommel help keep the knife in the user's hand while swinging the knife, a small kukri simply might not need this feature since it is unlikely to be used to chop or hack at anything.  

Further, a beak at the pommel to keep the knife from slipping from a user's hand is hardly unique to the khukuri knives of Nepal -- & this seems to be a design feature at least partially imported from the Greek kopis swords that likely spawned the khukuri.  While the bell shaped pommel is functional, likely it's also somewhat aesthetic as well.

Finally, there are so many kukri knives on the market today that do not have the bell-shaped pommel, it seems to be less essential to the design than the canted blade.  In essence, the canted blade, by my definition of a kukri, is a necessary element of the definition, while the flared bell shaped pommel is not.  

The khukuri, as an off-shoot of the kopis, likely started off as a weapon that was transformed into a knife that could serve both utility & weapon functions.  Such dual-purposed tools were common in Asia in recent millenia.  While the bell shaped flare is likely helpful in certain weapon swings, it is likely to get in the way more than a pommel with only one flare or beak to stop the pinkie from sliding off the knife while performing more mundane tasks (if nothing else, it is weight that most of the time is simply unnecessary).

While I feel fairly confident in my findings on these matters, I still admit that I am quite new to kukris.  The kukri is a form that has rather well-known and specific origins, at least to some degree, and my cultural knowledge here is very limited.  Admittedly I haven't contacted Kabar as to how the company chose the name "Kukri Machete" as opposed to "kukri" (there's a good chance they chose this name not to differentiate it from classic khukuris, but to differentiate this knife from the smaller "Combat Kukri" in its line).

I hope to hear from you if there's anything you disagree with, or anything you agree with, in my analyses.  I'd also like to hear from you if you like kukris (& even if you don't -- I was in the same camp for years, & then, one day, I just became a bit obsessed with kukris -- so trust me, I can relate).

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Comment by dead_left_knife_guy on July 30, 2017 at 19:14

I saw a great deal for the Kabar Becker BK-4 Machax and, as often happens, I started obsessing over it, especially after I ascertained that it has, in fact, been discontinued (I heard a rumor about the BK-5 being discontinued but, at least as of 2017, the BK-5 is still in production -- this was reaffirmed both by the online Kabar catalog & a customer service rep. with whom I emailed -- but I digress).

While the name of this knife implies that it's sort of a cross between a machete & an axe, in hand the name seems not very descriptive.  It's smaller than you might think, & it's quite light, at least when it comes to the Kabar Becker knives.

However, I couldn't help but include it on this forum page because Ethan Becker apparently inspired by the kukri when he designed the BK4.  A traditional kurki can be much better described as a cross between a machete & an axe -- though even then, I'd say kukris really are a blend more of a knife & an axe.  

While I can say that I would not consider the Machax to be a kukri for the simple reason that the cant occurs right where the blade meets the handle (as opposed to somewhere along the blade itself, I couldn't help but include the Machax here on this page, because of the clear connection to the kukri in its design.  (Sidenote:  it's great to be able to hear so much about a knife's design from the designer himself, & even better that Ethan Becker really seems to like to talk about his designs & knives in general.)

So here it is, the Kabar Becker BK4 Machax:

Comment by dead_left_knife_guy on July 30, 2017 at 18:59

Jay, I have a couple of the Cold Steel machetes with the painted edge, which I really dislike simply because it's just going to gum up whatever sharpening stone or belt I use to get it sharp.  Some chemicals will strip this coating pretty easily from what I hear, but I'm always hesitant to work with new chemicals.  That said, I've heard there are some stripping chemicals that are made specifically for the types of coatings that tend to come on knives, & I'd guess these are the best ones to use.

Comment by Jay on June 24, 2017 at 11:47

i have this kukuri, great little cutter, only issue the edge is painted i had to put a better one on it

Comment by dead_left_knife_guy on June 24, 2017 at 8:58

Never underestimate the amount of fun that can be had with a kukri trainer, especially if you're stuck indoors (I fidget with mine as if it were a very, very large pen).  :)  This is the Cold Steel Kukri Trainer, available for under $20 (even on Cold Steel's website!).

Comment by Jan Carter on May 29, 2017 at 21:13

Well it certainly looks like it could take a beating and still be one heck of a user for a long time to come with that 1085.  Kabar knows how to make a knife tough for sure.  Also this one seems to be reasonably priced.  Good buy!

Comment by dead_left_knife_guy on May 29, 2017 at 21:00

I pulled the trigger & finally purchased this one:  the Kabar Kukri Machete.  It's everything I expected it to be -- nothing short of incredible!

Comment by Jan Carter on May 17, 2017 at 10:32

Kukri throwing.  Not something I would have thought of.  Without the specific aerodynamics of a throwing knife or the toughness of an ax, I would have thought it would not hit the target straight on. It does sound like fun and I wonder if a kukri with better steel or better heat treat would respond in the same manner with a bend.

As they say, do not try this at home LOL.  I do not want anyone to take a prized kukri out and throw it at a tree please (Knife abuse)

Comment by dead_left_knife_guy on May 16, 2017 at 14:17

I bought three of these Indian-made kukris from BudK several years ago, not long after I got into knife throwing.  I bought three thinking they'd be good throwers at $20 a pop, but only recently tried throwing one.  It's incredibly fun, but with a low hardness, the blade's spine could be susceptible to bending.  Because of the torsion that can occur when a knife hits a target even slightly off the center line, I thought a kukri might be perfect for throwing, but in this case the spine simply may have been too soft.  I haven't been able to capture it in a picture yet, but this kukri now has an ever so slight bend in the spine that occurred after one particularly off-center-line throw.  Bummer.  However, for the moment at least, this has become my designated throwing kukri -- & it's incredibly satisfying to hit that target!  And I have two back-ups should this kukri become too warped to throw.

Comment by Jan Carter on May 5, 2017 at 19:14

so yes, I would assume the differences in the locking system have added to the security even after taking a beating.  Darn shame about the Tops though, I wonder what they would charge to do a complete repair.  Seems a shame to be reminded every time you reach for it

Comment by dead_left_knife_guy on May 5, 2017 at 11:51

And now, the one of very, very few Every Day Carry kukris:  The Cold Steel Rajah III folding kukri with Tri-Ad lock.  This is a knife I've been carrying for years, & I really, really like it.

 

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