Story and Photos by Tim Stetzer
I recently had the opportunity to take a trip to South Western Virginia with Condor knife designer, Joe Flowers, and JRE Industries head leather bender, Glen “Spen” Stelzer.
In full disclosure, I’ve been friends with these guys for years and was there the day Joe first got hooked up with Condor. With that said, I’ve seen most of his work over the years but haven’t actually had a chance to field test any of it in a while. So, I figured, what better time to play with some Condor knives than on a trip where I can pick Joe’s brain about the designs, while we’re using them?
I decided to check out a Nessmuk Trio, of sorts, with the Bushglider fixed blade, Bushcraft Tomahawk and Krakatoa folder.
I got to work with the three blades for a while at home before our five-day trip, where we stayed at a cabin along the New River, with hundreds of acres of woods available for field work. Let’s take a look at each of the designs and see how they fared.
Let’s start with the beast of the bunch, the Bushcraft Tomahawk.
Joe has done a fair bit of design work on axes by now, and I got to see his axe collection while at his house during our trip. While not as substantial as his machete collection, it’s still impressive. He has a lot of time behind axes/hawks and it shows with the Bushcraft Tomahawk.
I’ll be honest, while I appreciate a good axe, I don’t often bring one with me on camping trips. I’m more likely to have a saw and a solid knife, for light chopping or splitting. I know I’ll catch grief for that from the axe die hards, but it’s the truth. Car or base camp camping is a different story, but if I’m moving on foot an axe has to fill different roles for me to want to carry the weight—and the Bushcraft Tomahawk does.
The Bushcraft Tomahawk seems like a mix of Viking and American Indian styles to me, with its bearded head and hammer poll. It’s made from 1060 high carbon steel and has a forged finish and convex edge. It uses a 19-inch-long American Hickory handle and has a total weight of just over 31 ounces.
My Hawk was a prototype, so it has a couple minor differences from the final production model. The edge has a bit more curve than the final model and they experimented with a set screw, to tighten the head, although that was abandoned in favor of a traditional pressure fit.
The Hawk comes with a well-made, and well thought out, blade cover and sling. It’s based off a design by primitive skills instructor Steve Watts, that Joe learned while attending one of Steve’s classes. The cover is welted leather and is secured by a strap that goes around the handle and snaps in place.
A leather sling is attached that allows for two modes of carry. The standard mode allows the hawk to be hung cross body, so the head rides around hip level. A slit in the sling, about halfway up, allows you to slip the handle through, keeping the hawk tight against your body, so that it doesn’t bounce around when you’re moving or bending over.
We did a good bit of work with the Hawk, from chopping down saplings to splitting kindling. We also used the poll to hammer in tent stakes and did a little carving with it, by choking up on the handle and grasping the head, behind the beard of the hawk.
It’s small enough to carry on the sling, or strap to a pack, but not so big as to be a major burden in the field—like a full-size axe might be. There’s enough mass to it, though, making it a good chopper. It’s plenty for building shelters and keeping a campfire fed.
The Bushcraft Tomahawk is also a great thrower. Joe has a nice throwing range, at his house, where we spent some time with the hawk. I had my range within two throws and was sinking it steadily in the targets.
Axe throwing may not be a crucial survival or bushcraft skill, but it is a lot of fun and the Condor hawk performed exceptionally well at it.
The Bushglider builds on the popular Terrasaur bushcraft knife and uses the same grip, but with a blade shape and grind geared more towards hunting and general field use.
The Condor Terrasaur came out in 2018 and has been compared very favorably to the Mora Garberg, which costs almost twice as much. It has also been called a Garberg knock off, which is amusing since the original custom versions of the Terrasaur date back to 2009; well before the Garberg’s 2016 release. Either way, the Garberg is a great knife. So, if Condor is putting out a blade that folks think is comparable—at half the price—that sounds like a win in my book.
The Terrasaur uses a Scandi grind with an acute drop point, suitable for drilling and fine detail work, whereas the Bushglider is more of a clip point with a little more belly and a high flat grind with secondary bevel.
The Bushglider features an unsharpened top swedge, that runs about one third the length of the blade. It also includes a set of aggressive jimping, about an inch in length, on the spine of the blade, right where your thumb rests in a standard saber grip.
The knife is a full tang design, of 1095 high carbon steel, finished with a matte finish that Condor describes as “natural,” whatever that means. The blade is 4.2 inches long and 0.10 inches thick, or 3mm for everyone outside the US. Overall length is 9.1 inches, with 4.9 inches of that being the polypropylene handle.
The handle is molded over the full tang and is oval in cross section, with molded checkering and the Condor logo on both sides. There’s a lanyard hole that goes through both the grip and tang, underneath, that’s large enough to easily accommodate paracord. The tang extends slightly past the grip, for use as a striking surface or scraping.
The sheath is a simple—but very functional—tube style, made of the same polypro material as the handle. It has drainage holes in the bottom and a leather belt loop, riveted on. The Bushglider locks securely into place and is popped free by pulling on the handle, while applying pressure to the sheath with your thumb. There’s even a grooved spot on the sheath for you thumb, to provide a positive grip. The sheath and handle color match in your choice of Black, Army green, Safety orange and Desert tan.
The Bushglider has a good feel in hand. The grip is big enough and fat enough to fill the hand comfortably, while providing enough texture for a good grip—even when wet or slick with blood—without being overly large. It’s very well suited to a saber grip and excels in a hammer grip, which makes sense considering its wood carving oriented cousin, the Terrasaur.
The factory edge on the Bushglider was good but could be tuned up a little before use. Being 1095 it’s easy to sharpen and holds a good edge; although keep in mind, it’s not a fad wonder steel, it will need regular maintenance in both the form of cleaning/oil and stropping or sharpening.
We did a mix of work with the Bushglider, including some basic carving for tent stakes, batoning, trap making and fire prep. The spine is sharp enough to use with a ferro rod, although I may hit it with a file and sharpen it up a little more for that purpose. While it may not have been quite the wood worker that the Scandi Terrasaur is, it performed quite well and is probably a little more of a versatile grind for its more intended tasks as a hunting and general-purpose camp knife.
With an MSRP of $49.98, and street prices running a few bucks less than that, the Bushglider is an impressive piece of kit on its own—especially when paired with the Bushcraft Tomahawk for heavy work and the Krakatoa for finer tasks.
The Krakatoa is Condor’s second folder, following up on the Matt Graham designed liner lock Primitive Bush Folder.
The Krakatoa is a frame lock and overall beefier design. It uses a stainless-steel frame with your choice of a micarta or walnut handle scale on the presentation side. My sample had the walnut scale, which featured the Condor logo engraved into it.
Interestingly, the blade of the Krakatoa is 1095 High Carbon steel, with a Scandi grind. It’s an unusual choice for a modern frame lock but makes sense on a folding bushcraft knife, where a lot of users prefer carbon steel and a Scandi edge. It sets the knife apart from the myriad other frame lock folders out there too.
The 3.5-inch drop point blade features dual thumb studs, for ambidextrous opening, and rolls open smoothly. You can also snap it open with a flick of the wrist, once you thumb the blade about a third of the way open.
The handle is almost four and half inches long and provided a comfortable, solid grip for my average sized hands. Condor did a nice job of dehorning the edges too, so there was nothing to cause discomfort or hot spots during use. It also keeps the knife from wearing on clothing when you’re carrying it in your pocket, via the deep carry pocket clip mounted to the obverse side of the frame. This sets the knife up for tip down, right hand carry, which is perfect for me, although opinions on that vary.
Since folders are a relatively new thing for Condor, they looked at this project with a set of fresh eyes. They did a lot of in-house testing of other folders, and lock styles, on the market and Condor Engineer Jorge Umana started noticing where most common locks failed. He found that with common locks, they tend to break along the middle of the locking bar, where the lock flexes to engage the blade.
Jorge came up with the patent pending CondorLock to deal with this issue. By adding a polygon shaped cutout, at the bend point of the lock, the force of the lock is dispersed into the handle, relieving stress on the lock bar and creating an overall stronger, more durable lock. Now, I’m not an engineer but I think I got that explanation right. The end result, though, is a very strong lock that solidly engages the blade yet is still easy to disengage and should outlast conventional frame and liner lock designs.
The Krakatoa is something of a niche knife in the bushcraft knife world. There aren’t a lot of folding Scandis out there but they’re a nice option for folks who want a compact knife, that has the woodworking Scandi edge that we’ve become accustomed to with bushcraft blades. I see it filling three roles.
First, it’s a nice choice for times where a fixed blade may not be an option. What springs to mind immediately is how many US Scout troops have prohibitions on fixed blade knives. As misguided as I think that is, if you have to work within those parameters, a folding Scandi is a great choice for camp craft.
The other thing that it works well for is being paired up with a fixed blade and/or hatchet, like the Bushcraft Tomahawk. You can use the hawk and fixed blade for your heavy work and keep the fine Scandi edge on the folder reserved for detail work.
The final scenario I see the Krakatoa suited for is just plain old everyday carry, for folks who like carbon steel blades. Even if you aren’t a Scandi fan, it wouldn’t take much to put a convex edge on the Krakatoa, if you feel that gives you a little more edge durability.
The Krakatoa is a solid performer when it comes to EDC and field chores. I used it for much of the same things that I did with the Bushglider, as well as carrying it around in my pocket—out of the woods—for a few weeks, doing day to day stuff like opening packages, bags of grass seed and animal food, cutting rope/cordage and the like.
I always like how easy it is to touch up a Scandi edge on a strop, and that was certainly the case with the Krakatoa’s 1095 blade.
Having known Joe as long as I have, I hate giving him a big(ger) head by praising his designs, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say he’s done good work. He’s been at this whole designing business a good while now and puts in a lot of field time, getting to know what works and what doesn’t.
I can honestly say the Bushcraft Tomahawk is up there for my top choice in camp tools. It’s the right combination of features, function and size. The fact that it’s a great thrower doesn’t hurt either.
The Bushglider is just solid and a great all-around knife. Part of me wants to gravitate towards the Terrasauer, because I’m a Scandi guy at heart, but there’s really nothing that I can’t do with a Bushglider.
The Krakatoa is a relatively new venture for Condor, but Joe’s design work, coupled with Jorge Uman’s ingenious Condorlock, make it a very strong contender for an outdoor folder. The Scandi grind and 1095 blade make it stand out from the pack.
Whether you’re looking at any one of these tools individually, or you want to grab all of them and go for the trifecta, you really will be well served for your next woods adventure with a Condor in your pocket, on your belt or slung over your shoulder. K&G
Join the Conversation, comment on this story below. >>
Bushcraft TomahawkBlade Material: 1060 High Carbon SteelHead Dimensions: 6.2 x 3.9 inchesOverall Length: 19.2 inchesBlade Style: Bearded Axe with PollBlade Grind: ConvexBlade Finish: Condor ClassicHandle Material: American HickorySheath Material: Welted LeatherWeight: 31.1 ouncesMade In: El SalvadorMSRP: $89.98
BushgliderBlade Material: 1095 High Carbon SteelBlade Length: 4.2 inchesOverall Length: 9.1 inchesHandle Length: 4.9 inchesBlade Thickness: 0.10 inchesBlade Style: Clip PointBlade Grind: FlatBlade Finish: NaturalWeight: 5.6 ouncesHandle Material: High Impact PolypropyleneSheath Material: High Impact PolypropyleneMade In: El SalvadorMSRP: $48.98
KrakatoaBlade Material: 1095 High Carbon SteelBlade Length: 3.5 inchesOverall Length: 7 7/8 inchesClosed Length: 4 3/8 inchesBlade Thickness: 0.12 inchesBlade Style: Drop PointBlade Grind: ScandiBlade Finish: NaturalWeight: 5.64 ouncesHandle Material: Walnut Wood or Micarta, and Stainless SteelLocking Mechanism: Condorlock frame lockMade In: El SalvadorMSRP: $99.98 as tested
Bushcraft TomahawkCondor Tool & KnifeKnifeCenterSmoky Mountain Knife Works
BushgliderCondor Tool & KnifeBlade HQKnifeCenterSmoky Mountain Knife Works
KrakatoaCondor Tool & KnifeBlade HQKnifeCenterSmoky Mountain Knife Works
Tim Stetzer lives in Western Pennsylvania with his wife, 2 kids, and too many cats. He has over two decades of law enforcement and criminal justice experience, and is a police academy instructor. He is also a veteran of both the Army and Air Force Reserves and has been an avid outdoorsman since his youth in Boy Scouts where he first became interested in knives. Tim has written for various gun, knife and outdoors publications since 2006 and has designed or helped design a number of custom and production knives during that time.
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *
Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.