Getting a good knife doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. While many custom knives go for several hundred dollars—or more depending on whom you’re commissioning the knife from—it’s more than possible to get a handmade knife without selling a kidney.
But are these handmade knives for those on a budget worth it? We aim to find out by taking a look at one.
BucknBear makes a variety of handcrafted knives that are surprisingly affordable for featuring flourishes like quality materials and Damascus steel. In this review, we take a look at the BucknBear Damascus Hunting Knife to see whether it’s worth your time. Because it is a custom knife, this model is no longer available for purchase, but there are similar models like the BucknBear Damascus Cali Hunter.
You’ll often find the brand spelled as Buck N Bear, but a representative insisted the official name is BucknBear, so that’s how I’ll be writing it throughout the review.
The products from BucknBear are touted as handmade items by skilled artisans and craftsmen. While not explicitly said anywhere, it’s likely these knives are from Pakistan, which is a common place to find relatively inexpensive Damascus knives.
Most knife enthusiasts will tell you that Pakistan has a reputation as a mixed bag for its knives in terms of quality. BucknBear explained to me that they have quality control experts who maintain a high standard throughout the entire process of production.
Over the years, BucknBear has grown its following and brand image. It’s not more evident than on the BucknBear Instagram page. You can tell they care about and love their knives, which is always a good sign.
On to the actual knife.
Before I get a knife to review, I usually do a little pre-research to see what others have said about the knife. Unfortunately, there’s pretty much no reviews of any BucknBear product out there, except for a few Facebook reviews and a positive video review of a BucknBear Damascus Lockback.
So I went into this completely blind and without any expectations. Needless to say, I was blown away by the knife upon receiving it. The hunter came neatly packaged in a branded BucknBear box, and the minute I took it out, I was smitten by its attractive look.
Again, since these are custom-made knives, there are limited quantities. The particular model I have is no longer available, but they do make pretty similar hunters, such as this BucknBear Damascus Cali Hunter.
Here are the specs for the one I received.
- Blade Length: 4.625 inches
- Overall Length: 9.25 inches
- Blade Material: 1095 and 15N20 Damascus
- Handle Material: Burlwood & Micarta
- Knife Weight: 13oz
- Sheath: Leather
- Price Range: $95
With some of the initial thoughts out of the way, let’s delve deeper into the knife.
The blade length of 4.625 inches is pretty standard for a hunting knife, though maybe on the longer side, depending on your task. With a drop point on the blade, the knife is more in the vein of a camp knife that’s designed to be a multipurpose outdoor knife. I’m definitely not complaining about that.
It has a polished edge with a recurve. Some people hate the recurve because it’s a little harder to sharpen, but it’s mostly a matter of preference.
Then, of course, the highlight of the blade is the Damascus steel. Modern day Damascus steel is made from at least two different steels that are folded over each other, creating a distinguishable pattern when etched. In the case of this hunting knife, BucknBear used 1095 and 15N20 steel—as they do in all their Damascus knives. These two steels are frequently used together in Damascus production because they complement one another.
1095 is a high carbon steel, and 15N20 has a high nickel content. This not only gives a nice contrast in the pattern but it also gives you a functional blade steel. 1095 has a high hardness level and strength, and 15N20 is a tool steel with good toughness. When combined, they give you a tough steel with great strength. BucknBear says its knives have a hardness of 58 to 60 HRC after heat treatment. We’ll talk a little more about that later.
Aside from the sexy twist pattern, the blade features some nice custom file work along the spine. Many Damascus knives include this type of file work with interesting patterns. It doesn’t add anything to the functionality, but it does add some extra flair to the overall look.
The BucknBear logo is also on the blade.
The relatively thick full tang extends down into a handle that’s absolutely gorgeous. It has a stainless steel bolster that gives the knife excellent balance. The balance point is pretty much right in the middle of the knife. Then there’s a burlwood accent piece that’s a deep brown and surrounded by brass spacers. Finally, black Micarta scales extend down to the butt of the handle.
The Micarta scales look to be attached with brass pins, and a lanyard hole offers extra security and different carrying options.
In terms of functionality, the handle is a plus. The Micarta scales have a light texture to give it some grip. The ergonomics are understated but appreciated. It conforms pretty nicely to my hand. Thanks to the knife’s blade, there’s a small finger guard that kind of acts as a choil. It’s just enough to keep the hand from sliding onto the blade when things are slippery.
I won’t spend too much time talking about the sheath. It’s a pretty standard leather sheath that fits the knife well. I believe it has some sort of inlay that appears to be snakeskin, but I’m not entirely sure.
Fit & Finish
Now on to one of the most important aspects of these Damascus knives that aren’t overly expensive: fit and finish.
I’m happy to report that this hunting knife is solidly built.
Everything fits together snugly and seamlessly. The stainless steel bolster blends almost perfectly with the full tang. If I’m being really nitpicky with the fit and finish, there’s a tiny portion that doesn’t line up with the bolster snugly. The brass spacers also have a very slight space between the bolster. Nothing I would make a big deal out of.
On other Damascus knives or cheaper imported knives, you’ll notice imperfections in the steel and worse (nicks, defects, and substandard edges). This does not have any of those. The Damascus steel looks fantastic and well-made. On extremely cheap knives, places will try to pull one over on people and actually draw on the Damascus pattern. One way to tell is by looking at the spine. If you can see the layers inside the steel, it’s legitimate. In this knife, you can see the layers in the file work. It’s a little hard to see in this image, but it looks like fingerprints.
A major complaint I have about the knife is its edge. It’s not as sharp as I would have liked. The simple paper test revealed it’s not up to snuff with other factory edges. It’s fairly sharp but not the razor sharp edge you should keep on a hunting knife. Hopefully that’s not indicative of other edges on their knives.
Another issue with some cheaper knives is heat treatment. Heat treating involves heating and cooling metals at extreme temperatures to achieve the desired hardness. BucknBear says it uses Rockwell testing equipment to maintain control over the hardening process and that its knives have a hardness of 58 to 60 HRC.
It’s pretty difficult to check something like that, but nothing I have encountered with the knife would lead me to believe otherwise.
Overall, the BucknBear Damascus Hunter is a great knife that I do recommend. While some people have moral qualms about buying imported knives from outside the United States (something I don’t fault people for), others are more worried about what kind of quality they’re going to get. BucknBear is just another in a growing number of brands with knives made elsewhere that are proving quality knives can come from other countries (I’m looking at you, Kizer!)
Many of these knives are made in limited quantities, so you probably won’t find this exact hunter, but BucknBear will often come out with pretty similar models. If you’re interested in checking out other products, check out the BucknBear brand page or visit the BucknBear website.
I’m looking forward to seeing more knives from BucknBear and hearing what others have to say as they continue to get more popular.