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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: 11
Latest Activity: Feb 9

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 February 9, 2018 at 18:12

I would love to hear opinions from anyone who has purchased the new CRKT "Kuk".  The designer, Ryan Johnson, has a solid reputation for his own work (RMJ Tactical, some of the coolest tomahawks I could never afford to use).  The steel, 65MN, has held up well in some large knives (at least those made by Kershaw, but Kershaw is pretty good at heat treating cheaper steels, I don't yet know about CRKT). 

And the price is low, under $50.  So I will own one soon, but I'd still love to hear others' thoughts on this kukri.

Including on the thing's name.  Yeah, okay, I get it, "Kuk" is short for "kukri", & it's kinda small & definitely light for a kukri, okay.  But sticking with that name even after a similar term was thrown around in the 2016 election?  Bad move, CRKT....


Comment by Lars Ray on January 16, 2018 at 0:41

Thank you sir for the comments. 

I too encourage others to showcase their pieces for further review and discussion. I'm more of a conventional "true to form" kind of collector rather than a purist when it comes to defining particular categories and what fits and what doesn't. If we get too set in the standards - such as bell-shaped pommel or not for example - then we loose out on creative interpretations (unless that feature is indeed a defining factor). 

When I present a piece, I like to be asked "what leads you to believe that is a Kukri", or a Bowie, or a combat knife, or whatever. I find it non-threatening and allows me to offer my understanding, while at the same time it provides an opportunity for me to learn more or be corrected in my understanding. 

Every time I think I know a lot, I log on here and read a few blogs or comments and realize just how much I don't know!

Comment by dead_left_knife_guy on January 15, 2018 at 14:19

Those are some nice looking blade, Lars...  And good photography, too!

Thanks for the support on my little kukri essay.  It seems there are so few sources (in English, at least, that I have found), I thought it might be worth adding my own understanding as to what a kukri actually is. 

What really bothers me is how often knife companies mislabel large recurve drop point knives as kukri just to make them sound more exotic & up their sales -- all while misleading & misinforming their customers -- not cool, on multiple levels.

To anyone reading this, don't get me wrong, I really like other big knives too, including some with big recurve blades.  And I think it entirely appropriate to post photos of them here, as long as they're to show what a kukri is not, or even better, to get the opinions of members as to whether a knife actually qualifies as a kukri (I've seen some knives that I actually don't know, myself).  I'd love to have a dialog on something like this!

Anyway, I'm glad you're here, Lars, & I hope others will feel welcome here too!

Comment by Lars Ray on January 10, 2018 at 17:24

Here is my Kukri by Ash Blades...without a bell-shaped pommel. Compare to my 14" Kopis, also by Ash Blades.

My Kopis - 

Comment by Lars Ray on January 10, 2018 at 17:21

Finally...the “why” behind my joining this group. Simply, I really liked how dead_left_knife_guy laid out his argument (err, explanation), as to what defines a khukuri, or kukri. While I subscribe that the kukri is a class of knife all by itself, I am afraid the distinction lines are well on their way to being blurred – much like the lines of a bowie (small b) knife has become over the years. I think there are many reasons for this; marketing, consumer ignorance, fantasy, and interpretation all play a part of blurring the lines.

What I found interesting in the opening entry of “What Is A Kukri?” is the familiar comparison of the kukri to a machete, a kopis, the falcata, and bolo that takes shape in the dialog. It is true that there are many similarities between them all (to include features of each into a single blade), but the defining element was the statement “…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”.

I loved it! It defines the style while leaving open artistic elements as non-essentials, such as a bell-shaped handle or not.

What I also liked about the opening blog comments is that it sets the stage for what I hope to be a long and diversified exchange of defining elements of the kukri. I see this as similar to the debates over boot knife/dagger/dirk discussions, what makes a knife “tactical” or not, and all the elements of a Bowie knife (classic / modern) verses a bowie knife (small b - now a generic term for any large knife).

Personally, I see it as our responsibility as collectors and enthusiasts to keep the class pure – not in a snooty way, but in an AKC manner of speaking. I think a good and thorough review of questionable knives is good for the soul…like the mention of the Gerber Gator Kukri. Is it a kukri because Gerber named it that, or does it meet the real criteria of what a kukri is?

Sort of makes one go “hmmm”.

To further illustrate and tie into dead_left_knife_guy’s comment the kukri is an offshoot of the kopis, I will follow this up with photos of my kukri and a bowie-sized kopis, which, I might add, was marketed as a kukri. Just as all knives with a forward cant in the blade does not a kukri make, not all re-curve blades are a kopis. 

So there you have it - an expert way to contribute to the conversation, make a splash, show off some knives, and get the ball rolling. 

Comment by Lars Ray on December 13, 2017 at 22:47

Good eye on the 'ol Bird there Dead-Left....it is emblazoned with my family's amoral bearings. Having it engraved on a Kukri? Man, I wish I'd thought of that....that would be cool!

And yes...I do have a couple of Kukri to share with the gang here...just no photos yet...working to resolve that detail soon. 

Comment by dead_left_knife_guy on December 13, 2017 at 19:57

Welcome to the group, Lars!  I'm guessing you have a kukri or two already (& photos to boot).  Out of curiosity, have you ever engraved that Polish eagle onto a kukri?  Seeing your avatar, couldn't help but think how cool that would look.  Bonus if it was on a kukri made in Poland (I was watching one on eBay about a year ago, but someone else bought it before I could afford it)...  Again, welcome!

Comment by Lars Ray on December 13, 2017 at 19:33

Thanks all for letting me join as the 10th and latest member. I've read the threads...all very interesting and enlightening...I'm looking forward to contributing soon.

Comment by dead_left_knife_guy on December 9, 2017 at 18:08
Finally pulled the trigger on the Kabar Reinhardt Kukri (during Kabar’s Black Friday event) & Dwight C. McLemore’s The Fighting Kukri (during Paladin Press’ liquidation sale)...

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:


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