Thursday, January 20, 2011

Les Stroud's The Temagami Knife Review

Video Released 4/19/2011

NOTE: This article was written prior to the release of the Temagami as an analysis of the (then) released information about the knife. The Adventure Lifestyle Blog has received the Temagami and will release a new and current full review of this knife soon. Suffice it to say that a lot of the speculations I made herein are now irrelevant and incorrect as the final production version of this knife rolls off the line. Watch the video above to see the knife and our video review, released 4/19/2011.

Funny that I just posted on Bear Gryll's partnership with Gerber. I got an email from Les Stroud today offering pre-sales on his knife: The Temagami. This isn't a surprise, the knife has been in the works for quite a while. Les chose to partner with an international knife maker from Norway. The country chosen to do the work instantly buys my confidence, Norway is a European company with a good reputation and superb craftsmanship. The company, Helle, is one I have never heard of but it doesn't matter too much what company produces the knife so long as they follow good bladesmithing procedures. The Temagami appears to be a good knife. According to Les's site the knife has a "birch handle that's oiled with linseed". I like the look of a good wooden handle on a non-serrate carbon steel blade. Especially since they chose to put solid brass rivets in with it! Birch isn't the most durable wood ever but the colors compliment the brass and polished high carbon steel. 

Les's site also claims the blade is made of "carbon steel laminate". We can only guess as to what they actually meant by this but I assume that what they're getting at is trying to convince people that the blade is made of folded high carbon steel. Hooray! Oh wait... The necessity of folding steel to distribute carbon content equally died with the invention of the modern process of making making steel. Is it necessary to fold modern compounds of high carbon steel to make a better blade? Absolutely not, and if you're under the impression that a folded steel blade is better than one that isn't... well please go do your research.

They included "custom groves on the back of the blade" to facilitate fire-steel striking. That's not a bad idea, really, but first of all it's "the spine of the blade" not "the back". Second of all, where's the grooves on the spine where the tang meets the handle? I've had these on previous knives and they increase one's ability to handle the knife significantly by adding a good friction point to prevent slipping of the thumb. Speaking of slipping... a smooth wooden handle is prone to slipping of the hand on any stabbing actions. There's a rather small out-crop of wooden near where the bolster should be on this knife that acts as a slight barrier between the handle and the dangerously sharp blade, but not much. That's a little concerning, but if one handles the knife responsibly it should prove to be little problem.

The tang is almost a full-tang, in fact it's so close that I would rather just call it a full tang. You can see that it tapers narrow at the end because it's not visible through the whole witch of the pommel of the knife. This does not mean the knife is any weaker than a true full tang knife. It's obviously got a wide tang that protrudes back several inches through the handle as we can see that the two (I'm guessing here) 3/16" brass rivets are spaced a good distance apart and must both travel through the tang to sandwich the handle to it. It most likely then tapers slightly upwards and ends (where we can see it) at the pommel. The lanyard eyelet is a third, well placed, rivet. not only does it provide a place to put a lanyard, it gives the Temagami a third rivet in it's already beefy full-tang handle. Really solid construction if you ask me!

Les's decision not to include serrations gets this knife another thumbs up in my book. I hate serrated knives! What a waste of blade space. If I could somehow get my hands on the exact specs of the steel used for the blade and the heat treating processes they followed to manufacture these, I would be more confident in my review of this knife. However, let us assume that they heat treated this steel perfectly, and furthermore that the steel used in the blade is of the proper quality (this could be one of any number of different steel types). If we assume this to be true, then I would say this knife is a winner. Les Stroud's Temagami Knife gets five stars in my book.

You can pre-order this knife now from his website, available Feb 26th for $180 excluding shipping. If you're thinking about ordering this, let me tell you a secret... It's not worth the price. Unless you're ordering it for the sole reason that it's got Les's name on it, you'd be better off investing your money elsewhere. There are plenty of comparable knives for less money. But there are also plenty of poorer quality knives for more money... So I leave the decision for you, readers.


  1. The Price is actually $179.99. Its worth every penny:)

  2. I had mis-typed the price at $280, a simple mis-stroke of the key. Thanks for the heads up! It has been fixed earlier this morning.

  3. No worries Casey.

  4. i hate that most "survival" knifes are big and complicated with so many gadgets, features and other useless things like serrations, that they become to complicated to use. a jack of all trades but a master of none. the simpler the better. like what nessmuk might have used.

  5. Thanks for the info, Casey!

    I have to admit that my outdoor knife is nothing but a cheap, small kitchen knife... :-) Some of my friends have Opinel knives - I might buy one as well.

  6. I had never heard of them, however, a quick google search shows me a beautiful knife! I like the simplicity, the more complex, the more likely something will break... keep it simple I say. I would like to see a knife like that in person, it looks like a real beauty.

  7. I like Helle knives. Can't believe they put the firesteel striker on the back, found out it doesn't work then are remarketing it as a finger holder for more precise knife work. Give me a break -- nobody is stupid enough to fall for that.

  8. if you wan,t a good reliable knife. most outdoors men make and use one made for you. by you..only you know what you need and use in the bush i make knives for a lot of friends and i make theme help build it..go and make a knife you will love the exep..good luck and love life....

  9. I would like to offer some constructive criticism.

    Helle is a very well-known brand within the traditional european hunting and survival communities. They use a forged, laminated, high-carbon stainless steel alloy. This means several things. The cutting core is a hard, stainless steel alloy (which means it has carbides worked into the steel such as vanadium and chromium) which holds its edge very well. Because the cutting core is so hard, it is a bit brittle and a bit corrosion-prone. This is made up for by laminated softer, tougher (impact resistant) stainless steel on the sides. It is not folded, just laminated like a sandwich. This is not done to replicate outdated methods as you posture, but to strengthen the blade and prevent corrosion.

    Birch is a very lightweight wood. You shouldn't be banging it against a rock anyway, and the weight savings make a difference. Linseed oil is a nice finishing oil for knife handles because as your hands get wet with sweat, blood, or other grime, it gets grippier. This is true also of pine tar, another popular scandinavian wood finisher for knife handles.

    You make a lot of comments that are basically "this could be nice if it's done right," while admitting your ignorance of what that "right" should be. In the future, you should just leave these statements out. If you wish to comment on the steel, go out and do some research on Helle's steel first.


  10. Kenneth,

    Thanks for your input.

    Remember that this article analyzed the press release of the Temagami knife. When this was written, the Temagami was still in the design stages of its existence and I simply analyzed the speculation and information available on Les's site (which was a couple sentences).

    The speculation I made about lamination meaning folding was, as you point out, wrong. As we know now, with the knife out for retail and all information available, Helle produced the knife with a hard core and soft outer lamination. This is all well and good, and I hope you don't hold it against me that my pre-release analysis made an inaccurate guess.

    It seems rather counter-intuitive to say that linseed oil facilitates the grip of a knife in blood and water, since oil based finishes obviously repel water. While I have no research or hard evidence, I would imagine that an oil finish would trap the water and oil between the handle and your hand.

    If, as you suggest, linseed oil truly has been used for generations for this purpose, then who am I to argue against a time-tested method? As a plus, I do love linseed oil finished, I often use it myself for other applications.

    My general stance on this knife, pre-release, was that of "This knife has the potential to be really good if they do it correctly".

    Now, post-release, having used the knife and spoken directly with Helle about their processes, my stance on the knife is "This knife came out very nearly spot-on, and I really enjoy it!"

    I apologize that you took some of this content the wrong way. Enjoy yourself, and thanks for the input!

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