When traveling out into the woods for an extended period of time, one of the most useful tools a hiker can have is a knife. Bushcrafters and Survivalists spend a lot of money on knives each year. While some companies charge several hundred dollars for their knives other companies charge so little it raises a suspicious eyebrow.
What survivalists want, and need, are quality knives. Knives aren’t going to break or fail when they are sitting comfortably in their sheath; they will break when they are being used.
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One knife that is making the rounds through the Bushcraft community is the Schrade SCHF36. I picked this knife up a few months ago and have been playing around with it ever since.
When I first received it I was surprised by the daunting magnitude of this blade. The entire knife is a full quarter inch thick down the 1095, high-carbon spine.
While it doesn’t glisten in the sun it does come with a fairly coarse powder coating across the blade. In addition to the thick, full tang blade Schrade added some rubberized handles to the sides. The 5.05″ blade and 10.5″ overall length are just large enough for a multi-purpose knife without coming close to the mini-machete category.
This knife is heavy. If you’re a knife user who is accustomed to stainless blades this knife nearly doubled the weight. The finger choils stood out to me the first time I tried to use this knife. When a user grabs the handle there isn’t just a choil near the blade itself, but also on the underside of the handle, near the end of the knife.
I attempted to use this knife with my bare hands and quickly gained a few blisters in the process. This is not a knife to be used without gloves.
After a few months of continued use, the knife is showing ‘character.’ The powder coating on the blade makes it impossible to clean and, when batoning firewood, started to strip itself from the blade. While that isn’t a big deal, it is something that knife perfectionists, like myself, avoid.
The sheath has also been put through its paces. The nylon looks like it’s been a teenagers backpack, in a former life. The dust has started to creep out from the sharpening stone, leaving the residue of edges long past on my pants.
Deciding to take blunt force away and focus on the development of carving skills, I shifted the theme of my use from making firewood to carving needed accessories in my camp. The weight of the SCHF36 made it feel nearly unwieldy. It was quite difficult to make precision cuts with a heavy, thick blade. My hands quickly became fatigued from the strain of trying to torque the blade around my thumb, not to mention the horrible choil placement.
However difficult it was, I chalked it up to lack of skill and practice with the blade. Time went on and I adjusted to the knife. It still wasn’t as easy as a thinner, Scandi edge knife, but it adequately filled the need.
Overall, this knife has outperformed my expectations. For $30 it has held up to some intense abuse. It’s not going to look as fancy as some of those handmade knives, and it isn’t going to turn any heads either. It has been used hard and stood the test with moderately flying colors.
I contacted Schrade a.k.a. BTI tools, about the coating and coil issue. These were major downsides for me. They informed me that there was an updated version of the 36, namely, the SCHF51. A week later, I had it in my hands.
- Powder Coated 1095 High Carbon Steel Drop Point Blade with Finger Choil
- Ring Textured TPE Handle with Spine and Grip Jimping and Lanyard Hole
- Black Polyester Belt Sheath with Ferro Rod and Sharpening Stone
A few distinguishing characteristics of the SCHF51 compared to the SCHF36 are located in the handle itself. The choils were downplayed, smoother, and the choil on the underside of the grip was completely removed. This was a welcome change. Schrade also reduced the overall thickness of the blade making the handle itself thinner in the process.
A thinner handle usually means a thicker rubber but Schrade added a stronger, albeit smoother, rubberized grip. This full tang blade ran through the handle and increased the overall length of the handle by nearly ½”. Lastly, the horrible coating was removed and replaced with a smoother, tougher coating.
I was eager to take this knife out and see the improvements in action. The first slice into a log proved the upgrades were well worth it. The knife pressed through a small log, easily, with no catching. As the log split the blade was left untarnished, as fair as it was when it first made contact.
- 1095 High Carbon Steel Drop Point Blade
- Finger Choil, Ring Textured TPE Handle with Spine and Grip Jimping with Lanyard Hole
- Black Polyester Belt Sheath with Ferro Rod and Sharpening Stone
Comparing The Two
Side by side the SCHF36 and SCHF51 look almost the same. At first, my thought was that the blade itself is the same length. However, the SCHF36 has a slightly longer edge, compared to the SCHF51. When using them side by side the SCHF51 was easier to hold and use for batoning.
The longer blade allowed for more contact with either the wood or the baton. The SCHF has the advantage in comfort. When gloves are not available the SCHF51 was easier to hold and put less stress on the hand.
Neither knife was very good for creating tinder but the SCHF51 won, hands down, for comfort. This may be due, in part, to the longer handle and lack of underside choil and the thinner blade. Holding the blade at an angle to get the perfect shaving was much easier.
The SCHF36 just seemed to feel easier to hold, despite the jagged choil. There is something about the SCHF36 that kept drawing me back in.
Neither knife had a very even edge. One of the biggest complaints I have with Schrade has been their uneven edges. It is my opinion, that any knife which has an even bevel and an even edge tends to look as if it were of superior quality even if it isn’t superior. It may be a small detail for a large manufacturer to pay attention to but it is one that many knife enthusiasts care about.
With the SCHF36 and DCHF51, each knife’s uneven edge became taller near the curve and tip of the blade while remaining very short on the remainder of the blade. With high carbon steel, it can take a perfectionist like me, with a file, a few hours to even out the edge.
Schrade SCHF36 and SCHF51 aren’t custom made knives. They aren’t going to win an award for the best looking knives but they will surpass much higher priced competitors in quality, especially at the price point.
Found between $30 to $70 dollars, these two knives are a great entry into a ‘multi-purpose’ blade. Even with the extra weight, hand fatigue, and higher edge angle they can fulfill nearly every need of a survivalist, bushcrafter, woodlorist, or outdoorsman/woman with only a few hours of practice.
I recommend carrying a secondary, companion knife to the SCHF36 or SCHF51, for the fine tasks needed in a campsite. While this adds more weight, it follows the “One is None and Two is One” rule.
Stay tuned for our future reviews for the perfect companion knife to the SCHF36 and SCHF51.