The Story - One day, (that was long time ago, somewhere in 2000) after reexamining my humble collection & found out, that matter of fact I had nothing that could be
described as a heavy-duty camp or survival knife, what a shame :) Well, all I've had was Cold Steel SRK - kindda small and light for heavy duty applications, and Buck M9 which can hardly be
called field knife at all. So, I've started my research. What I was looking for, was a knife with a blade not less than 7 inches, tough & dependable (well, IMHO all good knives
should fit the later 2 criteria, but anyways), that can be used as a camp/utility knife, I hope I won't really have to be in the situation where I'll be forced to use my knife for
survival but ok, let's say, on which one could count in the survival situation too. By the time my research was over, I had 2 choices, one - Chris Reeve Project II, two - Busse Battle mistress, that arrived few weeks later :) & basically has quite
different field of use.
Why Project II? - Well, besides the fact that I liked this knife, I've had a few, more serious reasons.
- The Dimensions - Project II is large & heavy & strong for most heavy-duty use applications including chopping & prying;
- The Design - It's simple, Project II is made of one-piece A2 Tool Steel billet. This design eliminates the most common problem with the hollow handle knives, weakness of the handle-blade juncture; Ironically enough I was so wrong to believe this part of the statement. In theory this is true, in real world, that is exactly where CRK knife failed on impact - click here to see it on knifetest.com.
- The Steel - IMHO A2 Tool Steel (1.0% Carbon) is one of the best choices for large blades and swords, known for its high impact toughness & good wear resistance, if heat-treated properly. By the way earlier Busse blades were made of triple tampered A2 Tool Steel;
- The Handle - It's hollow, so you can keep few small & useful, like matches, needle, hooks, condoms, etc ;);
- The Maker - Mister Reeve is known for his reputation, while his knives are rather in high priced range, everything he makes is of excellent quality & the customer service is just great. Many companies claim - We stand 100% behind our products, but Chris Reeve Knives really does it; Here i'd have to give kudos to CRK, they did stand behind their product again and replaced broken knife mentioned above w/o any questions.
General- First thing you notice after opening the box, is the quality. The knife is very well made, no machinery marks, polished,razor sharp edge, comfortable handguard, nice lines, rounded spine, quality of leather sheath, etc. Project II is quite big - 12.75 inches overall length, blade heavy, handguard is really well designed & feels comfortable even under higher strains.
Project II Sheath is made of high quality leather, but somehow I don't really like it, the quality is just fine & the leather too, but the way it fits the knife, the nylon stud, can't really withdraw the knife fast, etc. Later on I got more used to it, but still kind of hassle to deal with that stud, but it better be there anyway, need some sort of guard to keep the blade in place.
Blade- 7.5 inches long, high saber grind, clip point blade made of A2 Tool Steel, covered with non-reflective Kalgard® coating. Clip point blade makes it more useful for many cutting operations than the spearpoint blade. At the same time it is thick & strong. Project II is quite heavy. Therefore, it should be a good chopper, at least for light & medium chopping. While 7.5 inches long blade may not be the best one for heavy chopping, let's not forget, still it's a knife, not an axe ;). However, unfortunately CRK Project II and Project I dont fare that well in chopping compared to similar knives of the same size. Although, I was pretty happy with its chopping abilities. The flat ground edge is mirror polished & razor sharp right out of the box. As usual CRK grinds relatively thin, high performance edge on their knives. So was the Project II. For the knife of that caliber, that is .25" thick 7" long knife Project II is a pretty efficient cutter. Although years later(2008) that doesn't seem so impressive.
Steel, Heat Treatment and Sharpening- A2 tool steel at 55-57 HRC provides enough strength to prevernt chipping even during heavy duty works. Obviously nothing is indestructible, so if you hit the rock or hard metal it will dent or chip. However, compared to other steels A2 is very tough. By the way A2 steel exhibits identical toughness at higher Rockwell hardness, 61 HRC to be precise. Obviously it is significantly more wear resistant at that hardness. The official explanation from CRK for choosing lower hardness is the ease of field sharpening. Apparently ease of machining is involved too, softer steel is easier to machine and wears tools less.
In my opinion that ease of field sharpening in general is highly overrated. Most of the people don't really sharpen their knives at all. And whoever does it, think how many times did you have to sharpen your knife on the soft rock? I've never had to do that. I'd gladly trade that ease of sharpening with increased edge holding that 61 HRC is offering. Like I said bakc then I was pretty happy with Project II edge holding ability. I guess mainly because I was chopping with it and using it for very rough cutting. Besides I didn't have experience with other hi-end knives that much. Today, I'm not gonna keep even a kitchen knife at 55HRC. And, yes HRC isn't everything, heat treatment means very much in terms of edge holding and toughness, however heat treatingthe steel below it's optimum hardness hardly qualifies as good heat treatment either. And 55HRC is way below optimum.
There is one more point I'd like to mention here. Even if you are on camping trip and you need to sharpen your knife while not having sharpening stone(interesting question is why wouldn't you take one with you) you can always align/touch up your blade using just about any more or less flat stone. This will work almost equaly well for easy to sharpen steels and hard to sharpen category as well. Now, mojor sharpening is different. Obviously reprofiling M2 or BG-42 blade in the field with a simple rock is very unlikely, people can't accomplish that at their homes with Spyderco sharpmaker, let alone rocks. However I am not sure one will be able to reprofile A2 at 55HRC using the same rock. Doesn't sound very realistic, I've sharpened that steel a lot and it's not that soft for rock reprofiling, trust me.