Story and Photos by Reuben Bolieu
ESEE Knives kicked off 2020 with S35VN steel, a new knife model and 3D scales, in Micarta and G-10.
With new steel for the legendary ESEE-3 and the new Xancudo fixed blade – not to mention revamping of their existing line-up – ESEE Knives really came out of the gates swinging, but I didn’t expect anything less from them.
Check it out.
Currently, the ESEE-3/4/5/6 models are available in black, yellow, orange, blue and tan G-10 and black micarta, patterned 3D scales. There are many variations and it may seem overwhelming at first. My favorite is, naturally, the orange 3D scales. Not just because they aid in finding your knife on the forest floor, but it looks like a Tiger too!
The 3D scales are not just an optically pleasing gimmick, they have real-use qualities. Up until now, the classic ESEE line-up had flatter scales, which were more streamlined, and a tad lighter. I feel that worked better for the Military/LEO crowd than the outdoorsmen, who did more camp-craft related tasks.
True, the ESEE HM series gave the classic line-up a more rounded, comfortable handle, but not as contoured, and definitely not nearly as flashy.
At one point, throughout your lifetime, you will lose your knife in the woods. This may only be for a few minutes, a few seconds or an eternity. We all know that frozen feeling of it, like the moment you realize you’re lost in the woods. However long it may be, it’s never a good feeling – especially if you lost an ESEE knife. This is why I am a fan of the orange scales.
For the opening Lockdown weeks of March 2020, I had my first look at the 3D scales, while at the home of lead instructor for Randall’s Adventure & Training, Patrick Rollins. He had both new Xancudo models – one with an oval cutout in the handle and one regular. He also had the ESEE-6 3D, in orange, loaned from Shane Adams (ESEE Knives Marketing Director).
Being a super lightweight gear snob – as I fancy myself – I naturally gravitated towards the small, nimble, 7.12-inch overall length and 3-inch blade of the Xancudo. The ESEE Xancudo is patterned after the popular ESEE designed Zancudo folder. Known for their stellar Rowen heat treated 1095 high carbon steel, they dove into the high performance, S35VN stainless steel part of the pool on this one.
This has been a long time coming for them, and ESEE Knives has always been known for listening to their customer fan base. As such, the ESEE-3 is also now available in S35VN with 3D scales, which may have been the first model featuring this new steel for ESEE Knives.
Wasting no time, there was work to do, so I got started with the Xancudo.
Patrick and I were building up his camp, behind the house, and were shooting a series of videos on bamboo cooking and fire-lays. So, the first thing I did was carve a few bamboo utensils, in a way I had seen them done in the Philippines – one end was a rice scooper, while the other end was sharp and pointy, for poking meat.
After cranking a few of those out, I went on to thicker, larger diameter bamboo to make a cooking chamber for an omelet we had planned – packed with wild onions, tomatoes, shrimp, eggs, and lots of garlic.
I made the cooking chamber with the help of a baton, made from a smaller piece of bamboo, to make narrow V-notches, just on the inside of each node. Once I was through the bamboo and saw a positive “V,” I turned the bamboo sideways and tapped the butt end of the knife, to lightly penetrate the knife tip into the bamboo walls, causing the top to split off, creating the lid.
Slicing the veggies were a breeze, due to the thin, sharp grind and zero drag of the satin like finish of the Xancudo.
Next up was making the tricky bamboo rice cooker. This was something I learned in the Philippines and was normally only done with a long blade. Since there wasn’t any leverage to chop, making the ever so critical cuts, I had to rely on a baton. I was afraid to split it, so I had to be careful, as bamboo splits when chopped at too flat of an angle. The work ended up going smoothly, but that isn’t always the case.
Two diagonal, steep cuts and a light lateral twist (pry) was all that was needed to complete the rice cooker. After all that work, the S35VN was still hair popping sharp. The Xancudo has been in use for the last 2 months and counting – every time I’ve been in the woods.
The Xancudo has a very simple, sturdy, versatile sheath, made of molded black plastic with a large hole to make it into a neck knife or carry it inverted with a carabiner, which is how I carry it. The pocket clip is metal and easy to remove with a standard Philips screwdriver.
The bruiser of the pair was the ESEE-6 3D, also in orange. Possibly the most well-rounded of the ESEE line-up, for its middle of the road like qualities. Being long enough to chop a little, yet not too cumbersome for crafts, the model 6 was perfect for this role in camp. This time around I didn’t need it to be a carver or notch maker, I had one of those in the Xancudo. Instead, it was responsible for big knife work, like splitting a little, fire duty, small branch and limbing work.
First off, I had a tarp to rig up, so I made several stakes out of green wood, left over from the shelter renovation. I’ve used the ESEE-6 in Peru when it first came out in 2008, but never with this much comfort.
The 3D handle was truly an upgrade. There was no way to lose it, I wish we had it in the jungle. The 3D handle had the type of contour that really came in handy when using the knife in the pinch grip – known as the chef’s grip. Surprisingly, this was the case when splitting wood as well as slicing.
Choking back on the handle gives the blade more reach and leverage, naturally. Chopping with this blade was kept to more realistic small diameter branches, rather than felling a tree or chopping through thick wood.
When making stakes, I usually just make a steep chisel on the end, rather than a pointy one. In hard ground a steep angled chisel works well. I chopped the finger-thick green wood at an angle, while backing my work on a stump. The thicker ones needed a baton to get through cleanly, which is the more practical way to baton a knife.
As usual, the coating wore ever so lightly, but I like the way their coating wears, gives it character. Cutting edge—unscathed!
The ESEE-6 3D handle’s sheath is the same standard model, plastic molded sheath, as before. As usual, the optional MOLLE Back and pouch can be combined to make a complete sheath system. This is one of the most versatile sheath systems ESEE offers.
With the new additions to their already stellar line-up I wonder what ESEE will do next. Maybe all of their models will have the 3D handle options eventually? Possibly new color schemes? As far as I can tell their new additions to 2020 have been well received.
Whether you’re new to ESEE Knives or are a longtime user, the new 3D models are sure to get your attention. K&G
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Xancudo 3D ScalesBlade Material: S35VN, 59-60 Rc.Blade Length: 3.0 inchesOverall Length: 7.12 inchesBlade Thickness: .125 inchesBlade Finish: Stone WashedWeight: 3.8 Ounces (Knife Only), 6 Ounces (w/ Sheath)Handle Material: 3D G10Sheath: MoldedMSRP: $186.00
ESEE-6 3D ScalesBlade Material: 1095 Carbon, 55 – 57 Rc.Blade Length: 5.75 inchesOverall Length: 11.75 inchesBlade Thickness: .188 inchesBlade Finish: Textured Powder CoatWeight: 13 Ounces (Knife Only), 18 Ounces (w/ Sheath)Handle Material: 3D G10 / MicartaSheath: MoldedMSRP: $218.06
ESEE KNIVES(256) 613-0372www.ESEEKnives.com
XancudoESEE KnivesBlade HQKnifeCenterSmokey Mountain Knife Works
ESEE-6 3D ScalesESEE KnivesBlade HQKnifeCenterSmokey Mountain Knife Works
Adventurer, writer, photographer, gear designer and survival instructor for Randall’s Adventure & Training, Reuben has spent most of his life hiking and backpacking through the wildernesses of the world. He has traveled abroad in extreme environments, from Alaska to the desert heat of Egypt – as well as the humid conditions of Southeast Asia and South America. He continues studying primitive survival techniques, construction and uses of knives and edged tools from places such as: South America, Australia, Philippines, Thailand, New Zealand, and numerous countries in the South Pacific and Scandinavia. Reuben has published many articles on survival, knife and tool use, woodcraft, shelters, and remains a lifetime student of survival.
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