Review: Valley Forge Damascus Bowie, by Pat Cascio
There was a time, some years ago, when many of the knives coming out of Pakistan were pure junk, and I mean junk! This has changed over the years, and now some high-quality knives are coming out of Pakistan, at very good prices. I previously covered another Damascus fighting knife, made in Pakistan, and it was a 100% winter in my opinion. Today, we’re looking at another selection from Pakistan and it is imported by Cutlery Corner Network. They have television shows daily on cable television. Many of their knives are not up to par, in my estimation. Then again, a lot of people don’t mind purchasing cheap knives that aren’t worth a penny.
A quick review of what a Damascus steel is: It originated in Damascus, Syria, around 800 A.D.. It is usually two steels that are welded together – not with a welder, though. The two steels are heated and pounded until they become one steel – usually the equivalent of 1095 carbon steel – but not always. Once the two steels become one, they are folded over and beaten together all over again. This used to be done by hand, with a hot forge, a heavy hammer, and an anvil. Then, the entire process if repeated over and over again.
This particular Bowie has about 200 layers – each time it is pounded together, it gets stronger and stronger. Some custom knife makers used to produce Damascus steel blades with 500 or more layers – a lot of very intensive work, to be sure.
Damascus steel blades are hard – and super-tough, to be sure – they hold an edge a very long time, and it takes some amount of time to re-sharpen a dull(ish) blade – so don’t let a Damascus steel blade get too dull. Plus, these blades will rust, so don’t store them in a leather sheath, and keep them well oiled – I used a product called Barricade – I use it on all my firearms – carbon steel or stainless steel, to help keep them from rusting.
Valley Forge refers to this Bowie as a “skinner” – I don’t think so. This is more of a camp knife as opposed to a skinner – it is just too large to easily skin game. The overall size of this knife is 13 inches. The blade alone is 8.5 inches – and with the guard and handle it comes out to that 13 inches. The handguard is also forged Damascus, as is the pommel – nice touches, if you ask me. The handle is made out of white bone and walnut with very thin brass spacers – a most attractive knife. A fairly nice nice leather sheath comes with this knife. However, as I mentioned in my last review of a Damascus steel knife, DON’T store it in the leather sheath. It’s okay to put the knife in the sheath when you go afield, but you still need to keep the blade protected with a good oil or Barricade spray if you don’t want it to rust.
This blade came sharp, but not nearly as sharp as I liked, so I worked the blade on some croc-sticks and in less than 10 minutes the blade was hair-popping sharp. As already mentioned, this is a Bowie style of blade – designed by Jim Bowie, and many companies produce Bowie-style blades. I still I love this still of blade – it is practical and it is deadly-looking.
The blade itself is only 3/16th of an inch thick, so it is not a heavy knife to pack around or use – it is quick in the hand. There are two Damascene patterns on the blade, and I’m not sure what to call them. The upper portion has a mosaic look to it, and the lower portion, where the blade gets sharpened, is more like a waterfall – again, not quite sure what to call the two designs, but they are extremely attractive.
These Damascus blades are forged together using a hydraulic press, instead of pounding the two or more different steels together with a blacksmith’s hammer, until the desired number of layers are produced. The blades are then shaped to the desired form, and the handles are attached, and they are ready to go. I honestly couldn’t be more pleased with the sample I ordered. I paid for it out of my own pocket.
I didn’t do a lot of hard chopping with this knife, but it stood up to everything I tested it on. Very thick blackberry vines were no match – a single swipe with the blade cut them in half without any effort. Some small tree branches were no challenge, either. So, this would be a great camp knife. It will do what you ask of it – even skinning big game, but again, because of the size, the chore would best be done with a much smaller blade. I can always spot first-time hunters out there – they have huge “Rambo” knives on their belt. The experienced hunters have a smaller fixed-blade knife or use a good pocket knife for dressing out game.
If I were back in the “olden days” as they same – like when a single shot musket was used for hunting or even war, I would probably hang this big Bowie from my belt – and it would take care of whatever might come my way. I know some newie soldiers have been seen with big fixed-blade knives on their gear in the Middle East – if their company commanders would allow it – bet they didn’t use those knives in hand-to-hand combat though. Still, if they instilled confidence so be it.
I simply see this big knife as a showpiece – something I will keep on my desk or my workbench and I’ll show it to visitors – not that I have many people stopping by my digs – not without an invitation. I just had a friend stop by the other day to do some auto work for my oldest daughter and he was left speechless when I showed him this big knife.
After I had the edge on this Bowie sharpened to my liking, I also was able to easily slice typing paper with any effort – that’s sharp. I also tested it in the kitchen, cutting up some meat at various meals – no problem. I tested the blade stabbing it into stacked cardboard. With practice I was able to stab all the way up to the hilt – that is killing power, if you ask me.
I thought some yellow polymer rope might prove a problem, however, I could easily cut through it – two pieces together – again, that is cutting power. There isn’t anything magical about a Damascus blade, it is just good science, in my opinion. I love how strong it is, and how long it will hold a good, sharp edge – nothing to complain about there.
I don’t recall exactly how much I paid for this blade, but I’m thinking it was around $60 and I consider that price a steal, given the many man-hours that go into making such a knife. Back in the 1980s and early 1990s Damascus steel blades were selling for around $100 per inch. No matter how you look at it that’s a lot of money. So, in this case, progress in advanced knife-making is an advantage to the end user. My one regret is that I only purchased one of these knives – I should have purchased several of them, since they make for great gifts for the men in your life. I keep watching Cutlery Corner Network, hoping to see this blade on sale once again – when I do, I’ll be on the phone!
The major drawback to a Damascus blade knife is, as already mentioned, that they will rust – easily – if you don’t care for the steel. If you happen to notice any small rust spots on your blade, get bush and get them cleaned off – don’t use steel wool or anything like that – just use some oil and a cloth to get the rust off, and then make sure you coat the blade again, and using a heavy coat of oil, or Barricade (my personal choice) and leave the knife be – once again, don’t store it in the leather sheath. You could find someone making plastic of Kydex sheath and have them make one for your Damascus blade – however, it is still not a good idea to store your knife in one of those – they will also attract moisture – causing your blade to rust – just not as quickly as a leather sheath does.
If you’re in the market for something a little bit different in the way of knives – other than stainless steel blades, then check out the Cutlery Corner website, they have quite a few Damascus blades at really great prices.
I’ve owned a few Damascus steel folders in years past, and carried them on a belt, in a leather sheath before I knew any better, and in short order, they developed rust spots – not good. You need to keep a coat of oil on them. However, nothing cuts like those knives did – really! So, shop around and see if you can find a good Damascus steel blade. I’m confident that you’ll be glad that you did.