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Hess Knifeworks, Blind Horse Knives & a DC Custom as well…


Hess Knifeworks, Blind Horse Knives & a DC Custom as well…


One of the main things I really looked forward to on my trip to the north country was a chance to try out the Blind Horse and Hess knives.  As you all know, I’m a great fan of the smaller Bark River knives with the Northstar having a special place in my ‘kit’.  In the bushcraft lineup, the Northstar is the touchstone against which I grade all others.


For reference, the Bark River and the Hess both have Convex Grinds while the Blind Horse Frontier Valley I took has a Scandi Grind.
Now, in an effort not to bore everyone to death with my praise for the Northstar, I didn’t take it with AND I didn’t want to fall back on my old reliable.  So here’s what I had.  The Hess Little Caper on the left, a Don Carter custom in the middle and one of the Blind Horse Frontier Valley’s on the right.  More on the Don Carter custom later.

These are the two I wanted to put up against the Northstar.

On first picking them up, I really liked the feel of the Blind Horse handle which has a rounded butt and was very comfortable for long term cutting.  The Hess has more comfortable angle of the handle in relation to the cutting edge, but I’d like to round off the squared butt.  A feature that I like about the Hess is the lanyard hole.  I didn’t take the time to rig one up, but I do like the option.

The Hess has a notch that has a biased edge for use with a FireSteel while the Blind Horse has the top of the blade set up to work with the FireSteel.  Very honestly, I much prefer using the top of the blade on the Blind Horse for one simple reason.  Unless you’re very deliberate with the Hess, you can run the edge of the blade along the FireSteel.  It’s worth repeating, that FireSteel throws a super hot spark which is NOT cutting edge friendly.

I was a bit concerned that the fancy Maple handle on the Hess could be slippery, that really wasn’t the case.  I prefer the rougher texture of the Micarta on the Blind Horse, but the Maple isn’t a problem.

Now, the real test came in cutting.  Remember, the Hess has a Convex Grind and the Blind Horse has a Scandi.

That Scandi grind is razor sharp and loves making those long, thin, slicing cuts.  The Convex grind on that Hess just wants to dig in and keep on digging.  In my experience (albeit somewhat limited), the convex ground blades I’ve used have all been similar in nature.  It’s almost like they challenge you to see how deep you can make a cut.  I honestly believe if you had enough strength you could push a cut through a 2×2 if you were strong enough. 

With the Scandi grind, it almost feels like the thickness of the blade starts to act as a wedge, limiting how deep is comfortably wants to go.  While the Hess has a blade that’s about .120″ thick it does have the advantage of being just slightly thinner by about .005″,  I’ll still credit the Convex grind as being a more aggressive cutting edge.

After several days of shaving wood chips for kindling, cutting various cordage, etc, both knives did an admirable job of holding an edge with the Hess slightly outperforming the Blind Horse.  The Hess has a 1095 blade and the Blind Horse an 01.  Again, I’ll credit the grind more than the steel or hardening.

Both knives were put back in their sheaths after several days use without wiping them down with any kind of lube and the Hess 1095 blade was much more tolerant of a little neglect than the Blind Horse 01 (bottom).

This is one of those comparisons where I really like the handle on this one, but I really like the grind on this one and so on.  Both knives had their favorable points (for me) and both had minor details I’d like to change.  It’s really going to come down to a matter of personal preference.

For me, the winner was the Hess based on a couple of things.  First the Hess has a distinct price advantage with a knockout looking handle.  In addition, I really like the 1095 blade.  The Convex Grind is a big enough selling point to me that I ordered a belt sander and a couple of 800 & 1400 grit belts.  (Not sure how many knives I’ll ruin learning how to grind a convex edge on my other EDC knives, but I’m gonna learn.)  I also liked the lanyard hole on the Hess.  The FireSteel striker on the bottom of the blade, not so much.  Likewise the squared off butt.

All said and done, I wouldn’t’ hesitate throwing either one in my BOB, but the Hess would have the slight advantage.  As a minor aside, the Northstar does have a thicker and longer blade so an attempt at a side by side comparison isn’t really fair.   I have no plans on getting rid of the Northstar, but I think the Hess and the Blind Horse have a story to tell and at the price they go for, make a pretty damned viable alternative. 

Now as for that Don Carter custom…..  Donnie sent me this knife over a year ago and I’d used it in camp last year but never did getting around to making much mention of it.  This year, every time I asked one of the cooks to try out either the Hess or the Blind Horse and give me some feedback….Donnie’s knife was already in their hand.  They’d say yah, I like the Hess or I like the Blind Horse.  Then they’d hand it back and pick up the DC Custom again.  If you can ever talk him into making one of these little gems for you, do it!

The only problem is, after using it, the head chef keeps asking me why I think I need to spend upwards of $75 on a good knife!  Tough question to answer……

Tags: &, Blind, Custom, DC, Hess, Horse, Knifeworks, Knives, a, as, More…well…

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A great look and discussion on these knives ! I have often thought of the Hess because it just appeals and the knifem,akers are some pretty experienced guys. For sure on my list!

I keep looking at the Hess as well , maybe a while though cos I have a pretty long wish list . Oh and a new found desire for Puukko's which I am trying to ignore !

Awesome that he got one of Donnie's knives and that he loves it so much. Donnie must be pretty proud of this mention. I know that I prositively BRIM with pride whenever someone gives me public mention.

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