THE RELIABLE RECURVE
American Outdoor Guide|January 2022
WHETHER IT’S TRUE TO THE DESIGN OR INSPIRED BY IT, THE KUKRI MAKES A GREAT ONE-BLADE OPTION.
Reuben Bolieu

What do video games, reality television, the British Army, Nepal, zombie-killing and post-apocalyptic movies have in common? The kukri knife. The reason? The kukri is quite possibly the most respected and emulated tool and feared-edged weapon.

Officially known as a khukuri, it's been shortened to khukri by the British and eventually, to the more widely known kukri name. In this article, I'll explore three kukri knives: one production, one custom made and one authentically made in Nepal. The goal isn't to compare any one kukri to another; rather, it's to point out the many variations and features found in these legendary knives.

KUKRI KNIFE

The history and tradition of the famed kukri trace back to the Nepalese people-namely, the Gurkha regiments that used this large chopping blade for combat and general utility. In the world of knives, a kukri is easily picked out of the wd because of its lengthy, drastically recurved, weight-forward blade.

The kukri is the most commonly used multipurpose tool in the fields and homes in Nepal.

Uses vary from clearing, chopping firewood, digging, slaughtering animals for food, cutting meat/vegetables, skinning animals and opening cans.

This recurring blade pattern has been copied, modified and reproduced by many custom knifemakers, as well as production companies that all love the legendary pattern. These are considered kukri-shaped and -inspired blades. Seeing a wide array of companies pay homage to the kukri by making their own versions is a sign that the design isn't going anywhere. In fact, the kukri seems to be gaining momentum.

ONE-TOOL OPTION

Years ago, online survival and knife-based forums were obsessed with the big question, If you could bring one knife/tool with you, what would it be? This would usually spark a barrage of arguments and opinions, as well as some good points.

While I have no desire to invoke that question again, I have my own thoughts and spoke about this with Alan Kay, winner of the History Channel's Alone, Season 1. He gets asked that particular question quite often.

End of the world, you get one choice: It would be a kukri. Kay said. With one hand, I can chop down trees, I can gather grasses for my mattress, I can construct shelters, and I can butcher, quarter and chop up game. As for the argument that smaller knives can do more-intricate work that the big knives can't, he has done that same small work with a kukri.

You can't say the opposite, he said. “You can't take a smaller knife and chop down a tree in as few strokes as I can with a kukri. I know it could be done, but it's much more , work, many more calories and much more predisposition to injury.

I agree with those points. Regarding the one-tool option and being able to make whatever tool you have with you work, Kay said in one video that a previous trainer told him, If you will do, it will do.

I've spent enough time in what I call blade culture countries, in which using one long-bladed chopper is rooted in daily living. They're the ones that do it all with one tool. They aren't surviving. They're simply living.

NEPALESE KUKRI

When I was searching for an authentically made kukri from Nepal, I saw a video with kukri guru Kay, who showcased a Nepalese kukri he uses that's designed by knifemaker Frank Gonzales of Knives By Hand.

Gonzales served with the Gurkha soldiers in the military as a forward observer and has a vast knowledge of the kukri.

This video prompted me to contact both Gonzalez and Knives By Hand. I was holding a Nepalese kukri from Knives By Hand in no time.

The modell received was the 12-inch Survival Kukri, which has an overall length of 17 inches and is made of 5160 leaf spring steel. It's absolutely stunning in appearance and feel! I've been to forges in several countries, but nothing ever came out this polished. For a large, thick blade, it had lots of finesse and charm.

This kukri has a sweet spot that makes it feel as if you're chopping with a hatchet or small axe. I wasted no time exploring that and took to some hard maple and oak. The convex edge made big chips and cleaved through wood with authority. (There's a different technique when chopping with a kukri. It's like learning a new tool, but it's worth it.)

The kukri has many uses: It's the consummate chopper, yet it can also deliver a certain amount of finesse when doing fire preparation and bushcraft. For instance, Alan Kay made a spoon with his kukri and feather sticks for his fires on Vancouver Island, Canada, during his experience on Alone.

With that in mind, I used the Survival Kukri for fire preparation, chopping dry wood, splitting it down for kindling and also used it as a drawknife to shave large curls for kindling in wet weather. Gripping the larger part of the blade and handle for drawknife work was an easy affair.

In addition, it chopped and batoned wood for my small wood stove and kept my campfires full of split wood. However, making tinder that was thin, fluffy and curly enough to accept a spark took a different touch to make them ignite from a ferrocerium rod.

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