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.
These are the two I wanted to put up against the Northstar.
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.
Now, the real test came in cutting. Remember, the Hess has a Convex Grind and the Blind Horse has a Scandi.
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……