Tuesday, May 24, 2011

From Souvenir Drawer Queen to Field-Ready Camp Knife, by bmatt

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From Souvenir Drawer Queen to Field-Ready Camp Knife - by bmatt, an American Bushcrafter in Finland

I’m not one to tuck away knives (or any other tools, for that matter) in a drawer or closet, only to drool over them from time to time. I have knives because I need to, and also enjoy, using them. I’m not completely immune from this, however.

About 10 years ago, I was on vacation on the Greek island of Crete and happened to drop by a small knife shop which apparently was located on “knife row”. The shop was filled with a huge variety of knives, most of which were made by the owner, an older gentleman in his sixties. He didn’t speak much English, so we spoke in German, and he remarked that the knife I had in my hands is a good all-around, general purpose utility knife. I thought so, too, which is why I was looking at it in the first place. I also liked the natural materials and style of this uniquely Cretan knife, so I bought it. I’m not sure of the steel type, but I think it’s a well-tempered stainless. The spine thickness is about 3.5 mm, or a bit more than 1/8”, and the blade length is about 16 cm, or 6.5”. The handle scales are some kind of horn, I believe, and the rivets look to be copper. As for the engraving, I can’t read Elvish…I mean Greek…so that will remain a mystery. The knife, without the sheath, weighs 200 g, or 7 ounces. The balance point is right where the blade meets the handle.

Here are some before pics:



For some reason, I never used the knife much at all, so it always ended up sitting in some drawer, neglected. I thought numerous times about selling the knife, but never ended up going through with it, because it was a nice reminder of my Greek vacation. I’m really glad I didn’t let it go, because I decided to dust it off and finally do something with it. Now I have a 10-year-old new knife!

As you can see, the knife has some bowie styling to it, but it is certainly a traditional Cretan knife. The sheath was all wood, stained and varnished. The think I disliked most about the knife was the brass guard. It wasn’t huge, but it did get in the way, and wasn’t really necessary. I worked it with a coarse file for about an hour until I reduced it to an unobtrusive size. This was followed by a few minutes with 100-grit sandpaper to smooth it out. I was already much happier with the knife after this step.

Here it is after the filing, but before the sanding:

Next up was the bowie clip point. I thought I’d straighten out the clip to strengthen the tip and make it look less like a weapon. This was done with the same coarse file in about half an hour. 100-grit sandpaper was used on the spine to clean up the file marks. This was the extent of the work I did on the knife itself.

If I were to use this knife in the field, the sheath was going to have to be modified to allow belt carry, so I found some scraps of leather I had left over from another project (the vintage Gränsfors axe sheath), which started life as a belt (hence the holes). I carved out a groove on the sheath to help retain the leather loop that went around it. Next, I cut, glued and sewed part of the belt into a belt loop with waxed thread and attached this piece to the horizontal loop that went around the sheath. There isn’t any rhyme or reason to the sewing pattern. I just wanted to sew it enough to make sure that it would be a strong connection. To secure the leather to the wood, I applied a generous amount of glue to the wood, placed the leather loop in the groove and sewed it there, making sure it was very tight. I used a leather spacer between the two ends to make sure there were no gaps. The last step was to use a little brown shoe polish on the raw leather ends to both color them and protect them from water.


I’m happy to say that I no longer have any drawer queens. A few hours of my time and a few easily available tools and materials have turned my one and only souvenir knife into a field-ready camp knife. Now I’m itching to head out to the forest to put this knife into action. By the way, the steel does seem to be of good quality (I gave it a new edge, sharpened it well and did some light chopping and feather-stick tests). Luckily, I didn’t do all this work only to find out the knife was some aluminum-bladed, made-for-tourists junk! ;)



  1. The sheath is an old design, meant to be held under the belt, not on it.
    Nice looking knife, I like it.
    Can't sign in with google, can't even sign into my own blog!!!
    Regards, Le Loup.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Le Loup. I am familiar with the traditional carry method of the Cretan knife. I guarantee you that if I tried to carry this knife in the traditional way, it would neither be comfortable on my belt nor stay there for more than 10 seconds of hiking. This necessitated the belt loop.


  3. Hey! Great post and great knife. I have a couple of those as i'm from Greece but i have cheaper versions...Good thing is they are all full tang..If you post a photo of the inscription i can translate the "Mantinada" on the knife for you..Usually the write stuff about the lads of Crete and how lovable is the island.... One of mine reads: "Crete that gives birth to men, oh glorious Crete, for you every Cretan knows to live and die by" and the Second reads "Oh Crete, you never stood on your knees for no one, and all your enemies that have touched you, they paid it with their blood"....