Goddard #66 Custom Hunting Knife
By Chuck Hawks
In April 2018, I attended the 43rd annual Oregon Knife Collector's Association Knife Show in Eugene, Oregon. This is the biggest knife show on earth, attended by bladesmiths, distributors, cutlery enthusiasts and collectors from around the world. Of the 371 display tables at the Show, a good number were rented by custom knife makers, many of whom call the Pacific Northwest their home; it is a hot bed of custom knife making.
Among the custom knife makers represented at the Show was Steve Goddard of Eugene, Oregon. Steve is the son of retired, internationally famous, knife maker and American Bladesmith Society member Wayne Goddard.
Back in 1973, Wayne Goddard built Custom Folding Knife #77 for me. I carried and used this knife on a daily basis for about 20 years and occasionally thereafter. Its blade worn from heavy use and sharpening, it has now been retired to a private collection.
About three years ago, Wayne finally became unable to continue making knives and Steve took over the family business. Wayne left a considerable number of partially completed blades and Steve has been making these into finished knives, as well as making his own knives in the Goddard tradition.
Wayne's knives are marked "WG" on the blade and Steve's knives are marked "SG." Knives begun by Wayne and finished by Steve are marked "SWG." The knife that is the subject of this article is one of the latter.
It is a fixed blade hunting knife with a hefty partial tang and a stag handle. The partial tang is about 1/2" wide and extends, internally, the majority of the length of the handle.
The highly polished ATS-34 stainless steel blade is 4-1/2" long, 15/16" wide immediately in front of the finger guard and 0.132" thick. The cutting edge is 4-1/4" long, leaving only 1/4" of full thickness steel in front of the hilt. Maximizing the length of the cutting edge is one of the hallmarks of a Goddard knife blade. Viewed from above, the blade remains approximately full thickness for about 3/4" forward of the hilt, before tapering gradually to the tip.
The blade has a straight bevel from the spine to the micro bevel that forms the cutting edge; it is not hollow ground. The cutting edge micro bevel is about 20 degrees, excellent for cutting tissue, flesh and skin. This is, after all, a hunting knife.
The blade's cutting edge is essentially straight for over half its length, then it curves gently upward to a drop point. This is the sort of moderate blade shape I have always preferred for field dressing game.
Goddard stainless steel blades are usually made of ATS-34 or 154CM, which are generally similar in performance and reasonably easy to grind and finish. ATS-34 is ideally hardened to HRC 60/61 for use in knife blades. It is widely used in custom-built knife blades, as it is tough and takes and holds an edge well. Containing 1.05% carbon and 14% chromium, ATS-34 is a true stainless steel, although not as stain resistant as the 440 series stainless steels, which contain 16% (or more) chromium.
A polished brass single hilt (finger guard) is soldered to the blade and the handle scales are made from very attractive elk antler with a single, wide finger groove immediately behind the hilt. The handle is approximately 4.3125" long, 1.17" wide and 0.67" thick in the middle. The scales are epoxied to the tang and secured by two copper rivets. There is a copper-lined lanyard hole near the butt end of the handle.
A laminated brown accent strip with a very thin black center line is inserted along the top and bottom of the scales, while at the butt end of the handle an ivory colored insert with thin red borders separates the scales. These inserts are the same thickness as the blade and tang. The handle treatment is both tricky and attractive.
Specifications (as measured)
Like all Goddard fixed blade hunting knives, the review knife came with a sheath. The brown leather sheath is a very heavy pouch type, the body of which is formed from a single sheet of approximately 5/32" thick saddle leather folded around the knife, with a spline (spacer) of similar thickness where the pouch is sewn together to prevent the sharpened edge of the blade from cutting the sheath's hand stitching. A small hole is left at the tip to let any water that might make its way inside the sheath run out.
A leather belt loop that will accommodate belts up to about 2" wide (depending on the thickness of the belt) is riveted to the back of the sheath. There is a rivet at the tip of the sheath's stitching and another at the top of the stitching for reinforcement. All of the rivets are copper, matching the copper rivets in the knife's handle scales.
There is no keeper to retain the knife. The sheath is formed to fit the knife and it extends about 1-1/2" up the handle. Friction retains the knife, which will not fall out if the sheath is inverted.
Weighing 5.4 ounces (8.3 ounces in its sheath, as it would be carried in the field), the #66 is what I would describe as an average weight hunting knife for its size. For example, my Randall Model 5 Small Camp and Trail Knife also weighs 8.3 ounces in its sheath.
The knife balances about 3/4" behind the blade. It is easy to maneuver and feels "just right" in the hand. The handle is a bit wider than most and it fills my medium size hands nicely. Guns and Shooting Online Gunsmithing Editor Rocky Hays also tried the knife and, like me, found it very comfortable. This knife is suitable for serious cutting chores.
The generous size handle allows a lot of cutting pressure to be applied, if necessary. The front placement of the single, wide finger groove is ideal for an edge down cutting stroke. It also fits the pad of my thumb when using the knife with the cutting edge up, as when opening the body cavity of an animal for field dressing.
As purchased, I would rate this knife sharp enough (SE) on Cutlery Editor Gary Zinn's sharpness scale. (See Knife Sharpness, Sharpening and Tools for more on this.) I used it to break down a cardboard shipping box as soon as I got it home and it performed well.
However, I try to keep my hunting knives in what Zinn calls very sharp (VS) condition. Therefore, I got out my hard Arkansas whet stone and gave the cutting edge on each side of the blade about a dozen strokes. I then gave each side about a half dozen strokes on the gray ceramic rods that came with my Lansky Master's Edge Sharpening System (crock sticks), using the 20 degree rod holes. I followed this with about a half dozen more strokes using the very fine white rods. I finished the brief sharpening exercise with a couple of light swipes on a butcher's steel and called it good.
After sharpening, the VS blade will slice fine curls from note paper, break down cardboard boxes with little effort, whittle curls from a pine stake and so forth. It is ready for any reasonable cutting chore in the field.
Steve and Wayne Goddard's #66 is a hand made, serious hunting knife that looks like a presentation knife. The design, quality and workmanship are excellent. I am sure Wayne is proud of how Steve finished this knife.
Copyright 2018 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.