The 18 inch Ang Khola became my second kukri. In one month interval. Those things are addictive for sure :) After getting my first khukri, which was 16.5 inch long WW II model and getting little bit familiar with it, I was clear I wanted a bigger blade :) I choose Ang Khola because it's a pure working blade, while WWII that I have is more of an all around type khukri. In other words Ang Khola has significantly better chopping ability. Ang Khola itself means "back-valley" or "back-hollow" as stated on Himalayan Imports web site. As you can see on the picture it has a very characteristic depression forged closer to the spine that redistributes weight more towards the tip, thus improving its chopping power. Besides I like the way it looks. Ang Khola style kukris come in various sizes 12", 15", 18", 20", 25" and even 30" monsters are available if you are up to challenge :) Obviously the longer the blade, the more is the weight to it. Considering my skills with Kukris, which is closer to nonexistent at this point, I choose 18 inch one. I figured since I was able to handle 16.5" more or less ok, I could try 18" Ang Khola as well. Besides it's a better chopper.
General- Ang Khola came in with standard setup, which is Kukri itself with leather sheath, plus karda and chakma. This particular Ang Khola(AK) has black, horn handle, although you can get it with a wood handle as well. I was just experimenting, so I've ordered horn, as WW2 already had wooden handle. First inspection didn't show any major problems with the knife. Considering that these knives are 100% handmade in Nepal and the price point, it's hard to complain about minor details. One defect, which apparently is fairly common is that the buttcap was separated from the handle, the gap was less than 1 mm, but it is visible. The explanation is obvious, those kukris are made in Nepal as I've mentioned already, quite humid area. Then they're shipped to Reno, Nevada, basically the desert :) Handle material shrinks and the separation is the result. Which is noting that important, can be easily fixed by treating the handle with some oil and minor work with the brass buttcap. In general kukris are real workhorses, made to be used either hard, or very hard. Also, owning kukri and using it means you have to know how to maintain it. Therefore sharpening, filling with epoxy small cracks in the handle, etc. are things that you should be able to do on your own. IMHO this is part of the fun, and beneficial for you as knife owner too. Both, karda and chakma had no problems.
Blade- Well, nothing to say, looks very impressive. 18 inch long, more than 3/8 inch think, over 2 lbs weight. Just by looking at it you know you're dealing with serious piece here. Generally kukris have common geometry, but that's only generally. If you check Himalayan Imports website and their forum on Bladeforums there are links to numerous places with loads of useful info regarding kukris, including their geometry. Overall there are over 2 dozen major styles, and then each of them has variations. Besides no 2 kukris are the same, each kami has his own preferences, style etc. Ang Khola has its own unique style. As I've mentioned above, it is a working blade, not exactly fighting knife, although if used as such, it'll inflict great damage no questions asked. Then, again, primary task for AK is field work.
The steel used in majority of HI kukris is 5160 spring steel. Source material is truck spring leaves, preferably Mercedes :) You can read a lot about that on bladeforums. Anyways, 5160 is held in high regards by custom makers, especially for large blades. When properly heat treated it can do amazing things. Obviously Nepalese kamis who have been making kukris for centuries have mastered their skills to very high levels. After all kukris are primary working tool in the field over there, and primary combat blade as well. After sharpening 2 kukris free hand I can testify that wear resistance is pretty good for the knife of that size combined with their toughness.
Sharpness and Sharpening- Ang Khole features full convex edge. NIB sharpness was satisfactory. It could slice hanging paper, but the edge felt somewhat rough. Since I've already had some experience sharpening kukris, I've proceeded to sharpen my AK using mousepad and sandpaper sharpening method. Frankly, it is not an easy job, but mainly my own fault. Simply put I've used incorrect method for sharpening a knife that big and heavy. Instead of pushing 18 inch and 2 lb knife back and forth on the sandpaper over mouse pad, I should've used sanding block. But at that time I didn't know it. Obviously, next thing I am gonna do is to get that block and try it out for next sharpening session. Depending on the use sharpening kukri can became quite frequent thing :) As usual you don't cut tomatoes with kukri. Digging, heavy duty chopping, such as brush roots when the blade contact with the soil is inevitable, that's the job. And so far the results were impressive. In short using the sandpaper/mouse pad method works well for the smaller blades, but not a good idea for kukris. I'll post an update as soon as I try sanding block. However, even using the wrong method I was able to achieve shaving sharp, mirror polished edge along all the edge. Update - eventually I did try sanding block plus sandpaper. Considerably faster than mousepad, but inthe end, I endedup with a belt grinder :) That's thefastest and works very well for curves.
Handle- Nothing new here, except the material, which was horn at this time instead of wood. Standard kukri handle. Can't say I like it the best, but definitely workable. Though it does require from you to have a firm grip on it. Which is a must during chopping anyways :) Now, compared to modern knives, factory or customs, it is no hi tech materials such as G10, Ti, Micarta, etc. However even during heavy chopping which included heavy impacts with the soil rich with rocks I didn't have grip security problem, though haven't tested horn handle yet. Well see.
Prolonged Heavy Use, Session I- This wasn't the first time I've used Ang Khola for rough jobs, but as usual those jobs were for a few minutes only. This time it was different. I've had to clear the brush in backyard. Earlier this summer I've already tried to do the same job with another kukri - WWII. You can find results of that experiment at the end of WWII kukri review. As you can see from the past experience the work at hand was far from easy or pleasant. However this time I would be working with the heavier kukri, and more importantly during those few months since the first experiment I've got a lot more accustomed to my kukris. Mainly in terms of handling them properly, especially during chopping. For curious folks here's a picture of Ang Khola and Foxy Folly in the bush, which is the very same thing I was about to cut.
For the experiment, and also to test my kukri skills, I've refrained from using the gloves ;) Essentially, the task was the same, as few months before. Clear the brush, cut out the roots. Except the weather sucked this time. Ang Khola, my new tool for the old job, is noticeably heavier than WWII used in previous brush clearing session. Also, the balance is more tip-heavy and it has more pointy tip, which proved very useful later during the work. I can't say clearing the brush has become very easy, despite of the new kukri and my improved skills. Yes, it was a lot easier this time, but still quite exhaustive job to do. Old brush acts like a spring if you hit the top. The roots were the same trouble to reach, either because of the covering brush, or the soil, speaking of which, it isn't exactly knife friendly either, clay with lots of small rocks embedded in it. In short worthy adversary for the kukri.
Anyway, despite of all those problems Ang Khola performed superbly. In the beginning, for the warm-up I've trimmed few branches on the lemon tree. Now, that was easy. Even 2 inch diameter branches were chopped off with a single blow. Ok, poor lemon wasn't the toughest tree out there, but still, 2 inch branch cut cleanly with a single blow does indicate a good chopping blade :) Along with better skills of the blade use, which was me in this case. Having remembered previous clearing experience I've started with clearing the brush tops from the side, aiming coupe inches above the ground, with more horizontally oriented swings. That allowed to proceed much faster with the brush itself, and saved my knuckled from being beaten by brush constantly, which was the case few months ago. Bear in mind, I was not using the gloves, and it would've been a lot worse. I still made a few mistakes with that, and springy brush whipped on my fingers few times to remind me to keep it right. Comparing (again!) to the previous time, or to be precise comparing Ang Khola to WWII, the former was able to chop more brush with a single blow, or same amount with less effort. Either way it saved the energy.
The roots are entirely different story. Considering that now they were cleared from the above, they were easier to access. However easier is a relative term here, as the roots have a tendency to dig in the ground :). Which was a major problem. This is where Ang Khola's pointy tip came very handy. Actually I've been using it for prying a lot, during the "rooting". With no negative consequences to the blade. Well, it is hard to damage 3/8 thick differentially tampered steel by prying out the roots even from the rocky soil. However, think of how many knives could withstand that sort of abuse, including digging, multiple violent contacts with therock, heavy prying... On several occasions I was usiing both hands and all my body weight to pry out the roots. Impressive results, at least in my opinion.
Chopping the roots was noticeably more difficult than the lemon branches. Same diameter 2" root would need at least 2 blows to chop through, but on the average it was 3-4 blows if it was not obstructed with another root, soil, etc. When working with roots contact with the soil and rocks in it is inevitable. Of course I was trying to be as careful as possible, but still it was not always possible to avoid the contact of the blade with the rock. Few times I saw sparks when kukri hit the rock. Overall I've spent around 2 hours working on clearing the area approx. 5ft by 4. Numerically that's more than twice better than the first time. Add here that I was not using gloves and I think the result can be considered as excellent. I don't think I'd make Gurkha warrior proud with my kukri usage skills, but for a software engineer I think I did pretty good :).
One of the most important aspects that made this ordeal a lot easier, compared to the first one along with the better chopping tool, was the right (or correct) and stronger grip. I am trying to emphasize this aspect because this is something you can always work on and easily improve. Obviously given your will and persistence. As usual the tool you are using can only go so far, and more than 50% the result is depending on you. I'm sure Ang Khola is a better chopper than WWII, no questions asked. Because it was designed as such, it has more weight to it, more tip-heavy, fullers in the spine and so on. Nevertheless it is not that better compared WWII to make day and night difference, or even 50% difference in chopping performance. Because this time I knew and could hold the knife using much firmer grip, which practically eliminated handle wobbling during chopping the results were much better. First of all, kukri handles which are very simple, and not ergonomic at all by today's standards are a lot less forgiving compared to modern hi tech knives. I've mentioned in the WWII reviews abrasions on my palm, those were caused by insecure grip and the gap between the but cap and the handle. Next, chopping itself is an impact type work, and whether you want it or not your're absorbing the recoil. Firm grip will make that a lot easier, absorbing the recoil with the whole arm, not only by palm. Obviously you need to have more developed finger and forearm muscles to have stronger grip. There are lots of exercises those will allow you to achieve very good results, whether in the gym or in your house. Well, that's all for now :)
- Blade - 355.60mm(14")
- Thickness - 6.35mm
- OAL - 457.20mm(18")
- Steel - 5160 steel at 58-60HRC
- Handle - Horn
- Acquired - 07/2003 Price - 100.00$
Last updated - 09/01/11