Living in Houston during Hurricane Harvey, I saw multiple news reports of families getting trapped in their attics and drowning because they did not have the proper equipment. The same thing could happen to me; I’m not prepared either.
I started gathering all my prepping gear and quickly realized my kit was lacking a decent fixed-blade knife. I had a couple on hand, including some “gun show specials” aka those cheap Damascus knives you find at pawn shops, flea markets and, of course, gun shows. But nothing that would withstand hard use. (Sorry folks, in case you didn’t know those gun show specials are more likely than not made from Pakistani Damascus steel, which is just another name for scrap metal recovered from car bumpers, broken pots, discarded pans, and anything else found in the junkyard. Not a tool you want to rely on if your life depends upon it.)
I am a self-proclaimed folding knife/custom expert and geek, but fixed blades are not my specialty. I have a few in the collection but they never get used and just aren’t practical for my every day carry (EDC) needs. So I began searching for a perfect fixed blade for EDC.
I started my search with SEAL Team Six. I wanted to see what the best of the best carry into combat. I was a little shocked to see that they opted to carry a Winkler Knives Tomahawk. It seemed a little impractical to me, but then again I’m not a SEAL.
Daniel Winkler, the owner and founder of Winkler Knives, worked with the SEAL Teams to develop the perfect combat tomahawk. Every SEAL Team Six member is ceremoniously awarded one of Winkler’s tomahawks after surviving one year in Team Six’s storied Red Squadron.
Winkler’s got 40 years on the job and is a master bladesmith to boot. It’s no surprise then why elite military units have sought him out to create their tools of war. But while the tomahawk is badass, it’s not what I was looking for. I wanted a survival, SHTF knife. A knife that can slice, stab, chop — all without breaking.
So I ventured onto Knifeart.com since they are a retailer for Winklers, and I found what I was looking for: the Winkler Belt Knife.
The G10 digicam scales and CPM-3V Caswell Coated blade had me doing flips. Because the “CPM 3V is a high toughness, wear-resistant tool steel. It is designed to provide maximum resistance to breakage and chipping in a high wear-resistance steel.” The hot Caswell finish looks tough and ready to be beaten up with a full flat grind. The supple leather sheath it comes with that can be oriented in any direction had me sold.
The knife showed up quickly and I opted for the digicam handle since they are a KnifeArt exclusive. My first impression was, F#(< yeah! This blade is awesome! You can 100 percent tell this knife was made by hand; by someone who loves pointy-stabby things just as much as I do.
The blade itself is well balanced and has a nice weight to it. The Caswell finish is done right: dark, even and gorgeous. The flat grinds are decent (more on that later) and the blade is true and sharp. It’s hard to obtain flat grinds on knives these days. It’s impressive that Winkler, who is now Winkler II Foundry Knives, has found a way to continue that tradition. And not just an edge flat grind, a full flat grind that starts at the spine of the blade. That takes lots of skill to do, most knives you see these days have a hollow grind. I wouldn’t say the blade is scary sharp, but it will easily cut through paper. I wouldn’t expect a knife of this size or type to be an ideal slicer anyway.
You can tell the G10 handles were hand sculpted in the workshop, but it grips the palm of your hand and finger swell so nicely. The top spine sports small aggressive jimping for better control. I could see after a long day of use with no gloves, the jimping might irritate your thumb. The finger grove on the bottom of the blade is comfortable and large enough to give me confidence my hand isn’t going to slip onto the blade. On one side of the blade is stamped Winkler Knives CPM3v and on the other MADE IN THE U.S.A. I like the fact the handle scales don’t cover the handle completely to allow the user to see how the blade tapers and gets wider near the front. Small details like this are what make a custom knife special.
The leather sheath is made of extreme quality and thick stitching. The belt clip is high retention and the Kydex seems durable too. The sheath can be oriented horizontally or vertically. The knife even comes with extra spacers for your belt size and MOLLE loop straps.
- Brand: Winkler Knives II – Part of the Foundry Gear Exclusive Line
- Blade size: 4 1/2″
- Overall length: 9″
- Blade Material: CPM 3V – Black Caswell Coated – Flat Grinds
- Handle: Multi Cam G-10 – Sculpted
- Guard: Integral
- Sheath: Custom Kydex and Felt Lined Leather Sheath – Multiple Carry Options
- Weight: 8.9 oz.
When I first received the knife, I wore the new Winkler II Belt Knife, as is, in its horizontal position. Putting the knife on was a bit awkward. It has a metal spring belt clip, but you’re actually supposed to thread your belt through the metal part. I sat around with it on my belt for a few hours at my desk with no noticeable discomfort. Somehow a stack of papers on my desk got shredded. The blade profile on this blade is all around practical. It’s a chopper and slicer all-in-one. After handling it for a few hours I could tell it’s definitely designed for one main purpose: killing.
I can’t really go out and kill anything this time of year with a knife where I live, so I opted to take it with me on a few inner-coastal waterfowl hunts. I figured the salt water and harsh environment would be a good test to see how the leather and finish hold up. I was wearing waders, so I had the knife sitting in my blind bag the first day; not noticing the bottom of my bag was in the water, soaking the blade and sheath in brackish water for hours.
I ended up needing to cut some 14lb mono from a duck decoy. So I reached for my soaked belt knife, yanked it from its sheath and sliced that line so fast no one saw it happen. That’s when I noticed, deploying the knife from the sheath is difficult. But with wet hands and a slippery line to cut, the sculpted G10 handles gripped my hand like sandpaper and gave me the confidence to cut over open waters.
After returning from our hunt, it was time to do a bit more torture testing before using the knife to clean the fresh kill. There was a piece of driftwood laying in the backyard that needed some texturing. Wielding the belt knife, I started carving out chunks and pieces from this poor unsuspecting driftwood. It did quite a bit of damage to the log, and the blade showed no signs of edge wear or deformations.
Ah-ha! A palm tree! Lets cut some of those fronds down. It couldn’t really cut through the thicker one-inch-plus fronds, but it easily chopped those down while cutting through smaller ones. I repeatedly stabbed the tree where fronds used to be hoping to dull the knife or wear the coating in some way, but was unsuccessful. The knife is still sharp and the coating looks like new. I then went to baton through some old oak sitting around and that didn’t seem to put a dent in it either. I got about halfway through before I got tired of pounding the knife through the wood.
Running out of ideas, I grabbed another piece of driftwood, this one was harder than the last. I drove the tip of my knife as far as I could into the would and pried out a chunk of wood. I repeated the process a few times and nothing happened to the knife. No damage to the tip, it was amazing. The edge had no marks, the tip was fine and the finish held up great. Time to go filet some ducks.
I used the knife to remove the heads and wings of Teal with ease. I then removed the rest of the breast feathers by hand and separated the bird. Ah! Good ole two Shot Hevi-Metal always does the trick. We cleaned the feather and blood pools from the duck carcass and went to our cutting station.
I was a bit skeptical at first using the Winkler Belt knife to filet out some duck breasts, but it did a phenomenal job. We did not sharpen the blade at all after our torture tests. The jimping on the top helped me control the blade. I was able to breast out six ducks that morning with no problems. My hands were practically wet the whole time from rinsing the birds and the blade never moved. Over a three-day hunting span, we cleaned around 18 birds and never had to sharpen the blade.
The Winkler II Belt Knife is extremely nice, well made, and a practical belt knife that I am happy to own. It does have some issues to get used to, but it’s been an easy and enjoyable knife to carry every day for the past month.
First, the leather sheath. The retention is just a little bit too much for me. I’d personally like to see the retention a little lighter. Because it is a flat ground knife from the spine, it’s nearly impossible to get both sides symmetrical, and you can see on my knife that both sides are not symmetrical near the finger groove.
I wish the sheath would carry better in the horizontal position in the small of my back because that’s where I really want to carry it. Maybe I just haven’t figured out the clip system yet. The second, drawback is the price. At an MSRP of $430, it’s quite an expensive fixed blade. Although the high-end materials and handmade finishing make this an easier decision.
The jimping on top is perfect for controlling the knife. After three outings and cleaning 18 waterfowl, I haven’t had to sharpen the knife once, even after doing the “torture tests.”
I never put any Corrosion X or rem-oil on the blade to prevent rusting and nothing has happened so far. I’ve gotten compliments several times on how cool the digicam handles are and everyone asks to see it and are immediately impressed by the way it feels in hand.
The flat grind on the blade made it easy to strop and put back on the mirror factory edge. Hollow grinds are sometimes harder for me to get back in shape. I think it’s important to mention that I did no sharpening of the blade, just stropping, and was able to get it back to razor sharp in no time.
This new Winkler II Foundry Edition Belt Knife is now going to be my go-to outdoor/hunting knife. I don’t see anything being able to stop it. They even include a lanyard holder on the sheath and on the knife in case you’re afraid to lose it, you can tie it to yourself or use the lanyard for better chopping control. The quality and craftsmanship of this knife are unparalleled to any other knife in its category. I have confidence in the ability of this knife to get me through nearly any situation. I don’t doubt it would have easily torn up some plywood in my attic if I needed to escape rising flood waters.