Camillus Bush Crafter Fixed Blade Outdoor and Hunting Knife
By Chuck Hawks
Adolph Kastor began importing German made knives into the United States around 1873. This business became Camillus Cutlery in 1876 and expanded into manufacturing knives in Camillus New York. Throughout the 20th Century, Camillus produced many types of cutting instruments, from surgical instruments to fighting knives. In 1991, Camillus purchased Western Cutlery (founded in 1911). Unfortunately, foreign imports, labor union and management problems caused Camillus to close in February 2007, taking Western with it.
Acme United is a corporation primarily involved in the manufacture of cutting instruments. They own several companies specializing in various types of cutting tools and are the largest importer of cutting steel in the U.S. Acme purchased the Camillus and Western Cutlery knife brands in a bankruptcy auction in September 2007, re-launching Camillus in 2009 (www.camillusknives.com). The Western brand is also back in the marketplace and, as I write these words, the two brands are the fastest growing cutlery company in America. Most Camillus and Western knives are imported, but some fixed blade models are now completely made in the U.S.A.
It is one of these made in the U.S.A. Camillus knives that is the subject of this review. Unlike the many stainless steel outdoorsmen's knives on the market, the Bush Crafter's blade and full length tang is crafted from 1095 high carbon tool steel with a heat treated gray finish.
The sample Bush Crafter measures 8-1/2" long (overall) with a 4-1/8" long, mild drop point, fat belly blade (about 1-1/4" maximum width) that measures 0.122" thick across the backbone per my digital caliper. The blade's cutting edge is curved throughout its entire length and the slab-sided handle has an ergonomic curve for comfortable gripping. The Bush Crafter is supplied with a hand made, heavily stitched, leather belt sheath and a pull through leather lanyard.
The tan color grip panels are made from tough canvas Micarta. Canvas Micarta is made from canvas impregnated with resin under pressure. It is extremely durable and highly resistant to heat, cold, water and rot. Micarta, although not fancy in appearance, is excellent handle material for working knives.
The Bush Crafter is not a fancy knife. Indeed, it is quite plain looking with its dull gray blade (darker in real life than it appears in the photo at the top of this page) and absence bolsters or any sort of decorative trim. At first glance, one might wonder why it carries a 2014 MSRP of $115. However, the closer you look, the more attractive this Bush Crafter knife becomes, especially to experienced outdoorsmen.
It is a high quality tool. The overall fit and finish is excellent. The blade is sharpened to within about 5/16" of the handle, maximizing its useful cutting length. The utilitarian blade shape is functional for dressing and skinning game, as well as for general camp chores, such as splitting a mound of kindling for a camp fire.
Its thick, tough blade is designed for heavy duty cutting and chopping. The full thickness of the backbone and flat of the blade continues forward to within about 3/8" of the tip, adding to the overall strength of the blade. Only the (approximately) 3/8" wide edge grind reduces the blade's thickness. This is one husky blade, designed to be at home in the field.
The full size, nearly indestructible Micarta handle feels good in my medium size male hands and facilitates maximum cutting leverage, aided by the blade's wide backbone that easily accommodates a thumb when increased cutting pressure is necessary. The handle's length is suitable for large hands and its cross-section is suitable for smaller hands. I think most women will also find this knife comfortable to use. The Micarta panels are secured in place with Allan head machine screws, not rivets.
The Bush Crafter balances under the forward handle fastener. This gives it a secure feel in the hand and makes the knife easy to control. Its weight is ideal for a knife of this size.
The heavy duty sheath swallows the knife from the tip of the blade to about 2/3 of the way up the handle. This provides plenty of grip for positive retention without fumbling with snap straps. The sheath's pull through leather thong retention lanyard is a bit clumsy, but not really necessary. I held the sheathed knife upside down and shook it and the friction of the sheath alone kept the knife firmly in place.
The Camillus Bush Crafter is sharp out of the box and a few swipes across a hard Arkansas stone further smoothed the edge. 1095 steel has medium edge retention, but it is relatively easy to sharpen and will take an extremely sharp edge. Touch it up frequently to keep it sharp. Being a high carbon steel, 1095 is hard and has good tensile strength, but will rust if not protected. Wipe the knife with a silicon cloth or oily rag after use.
There were no big game animals requiring field dressing available at the time of this review, but rest assured, I am confident the Camillus Bush Crafter knife is up to the job. In fact, it is hard to imagine a task for which any 4" outdoor utility knife is suitable that the Bush Crafter could not accomplish with aplomb. I suspect that frontiersmen, such as Buffalo Bill Cody and Kit Carson, would have felt right at home with this knife.
Copyright 2012, 2014 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.