Story and Photos by Jim Cobb
With a design that includes cues that bring to mind the frontier days of America, the Shemanese is both great looking and eminently functional. It is an excellent example of a classic design, reimagined with modern technology.
Let’s take a look.
Craig Caudill is a woodsman, first and foremost. He is a well-respected authority and instructor on wilderness survival, as well as the owner and lead instructor for Nature Reliance School in Kentucky.
Craig is a student of the martial arts, having studied disciplines such as Aikido and Iaido for over twenty-five years. On top of all that, he’s a historian.
All of those interests, and more, were combined over the course of a decade to coalesce into the design of the Shemanese.
LT Wright has a well-deserved reputation as a top-notch knife maker. He’s also a genuinely great human being.
In their eastern Ohio shop, they make some of the best outdoors knives on the market. Their GNS and Bushcrafter models routinely appear on “Best Of” lists posted by wilderness survival instructors.
Shemanese, pronounced as SHAY-muh-neece, is the Shawnee word for “long knife.” This was a term they used for explorers like Daniel Boone, Simon Kenton, Lewis Wetzel, and George Rogers Clark.
It is from these folks that Craig drew inspiration as he was designing the knife. For those people, what we refer to as bushcraft, woodcraft, and survival weren’t hobbies or fun ways to spend a weekend. It was truly a way of life. They had to have tools that they knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, would hold up to real world use and abuse. After all, it wasn’t like they could rely on Amazon Prime to deliver a replacement the next day.
Every aspect of the Shemanese, from steel selection to handle material, was carefully chosen by Craig to bring this historical design into the modern day.
The Shemanese is what I would consider a medium to large knife. It is a foot long from tip to butt, with a blade that’s just shy of seven inches. Despite the size, it is surprisingly light, only 8.5 ounces. This makes the knife very quick and nimble in the hand, easy to manipulate and change grip as needed. Part of this stems from the thinness of the blade, at just 0.125 inch.
The knife comes with the buyer’s choice of leather or Kydex sheath. The former is equipped with a removable dangler attachment and has eyelets at the bottom, should the user want to secure the sheath to a thigh. It also has a ferro rod loop.
The leather sheath is built by JRE Industries and the Kydex option is supplied by Caudill. The Kydex sheath has several attachment points, so you could lash it to a pack or something else if desired. It also has adjustable retention, by loosening and sliding a bolt near the top of the sheath.
The handle scales are brown canvas Micarta. This lends a very traditional look to the knife, while also providing a great grip when it is in use. The handle has the fairly standard lanyard hole at the butt.
They chose AEB-L steel for the Shemanese. This is a stainless steel that retains an edge quite well, but isn’t an incredible bear to sharpen. Knowing that many users would be putting the knife to work in damp environments, including rain and snow, it was important to select a steel that would handle these conditions well, without incurring surface rust or other problems.
The Shemanese blade is canted roughly 11°, giving an almost curved appearance to the knife. This design serves a few purposes. Combined with the drop point profile it keeps the tip of the knife away from organs when field dressing deer and other game. This blade configuration is also useful when the knife is deployed for defense, which was another purpose that influenced the overall design.
The blade has a saber grind. This was chosen as it is good for both woodcraft as well as slicing. The idea is to provide a tool that will handle as many chores as possible. A Scandi grind is more or less the traditional choice for a knife that’s going to be used for wood carving and related tasks. However, this grind isn’t as whiz-bang awesome when it comes to food prep or other tasks that might require some finesse and fine detail. The saber grind is a good choice for both.
Coming from the LT Wright shop, as one would expect, it is absolutely razor sharp out of the box. The spine also bears their customary 90° precision. I am not exaggerating when I say that the spine on an LTWK knife is sharper than the blade edge on some lesser quality knives. This is useful for prepping tinder as well as for scraping sparks from a ferro rod.
One of the first things I noticed was the incredible balance. Many knives with a comparable blade length tend to be a little top heavy, simply due to the amount of steel extending from the handle. This is often a design element, as a larger knife is typically used for chopping tasks as well as other chores. With the Shemanese, because the blade is a little thinner than most, the knife is more balanced.
The handle is somewhat narrow, at least for a knife this size, but it is not at all uncomfortable. It is contoured with slight palm swells and just overall really locks into the hand.
Due to the gentle curve of the knife, some food prep tasks, like dicing or chopping veggies, works a little differently than it does with other blades. This isn’t a slight against the knife at all, but it is something to be aware of as it takes a little time to get used to it.
Now, the Shemanese is designed to be sort of a bushcraft fighting knife. Again, the idea was to provide the user with a knife that will handle as many tasks as possible. I’ll readily admit that I’m not a trained knife fighter in any way, shape, or form. However, I did find that the balance, as well as the overall shape, of the knife allowed me to transition between different grips quickly and easily with just a little practice.
I used the Shemanese off and on for several weeks doing chores outside, from cutting brush to slicing cordage. The handle was comfortable, even after extended use, and the knife was light enough to carry on my hip all day long without a problem. After a month or two, I put it through a few specific tests for this review.
I started with the Shemanese outside. Grabbing a dry-ish stick, I tried some feathersticking. It took a few tries to get the right angle, but it cut fast and easy. I then used the knife to bore a hole in an old board, mimicking how one might carve a divot for a bow drill. It cut into the wood really quick and the blade edge, combined with the fairly sharp spine, made the job quite easy.
While I didn’t have anything handy to do it with, the Shemanese is long enough that one could use it as a drawknife as well, shaving large sections of bark from a large limb, for example.
One thing to consider with this knife is that while you certainly could baton with it, I wouldn’t advise doing so. The blade is thin, so it won’t be whiz-bang awesome for any sort of chopping or batoning. Push comes to shove, and you have no choice, go for it. Just do so without going hog wild about it and you should be fine.
I wanted to see how the knife would handle some more delicate work, so I took it into the kitchen and sliced up some mini peppers. Normally I’d never use such a large knife for something like this, but that was the whole point. If this was the only knife I had, how would it handle? The Shemanese did great, even with picking out the seeds and pith. Each slice was laser-keen, with no drag or hesitation, even after the outdoor work.
At no time between unboxing and this review did I sharpen or touch up the blade edge in any way. This was intentional as I wanted to see how the edge would hold up. As it turned out, it is still razor sharp.
I’m not fond of the whole “one tool option” concept, just as a general rule. While I don’t know that anyone truly needs to carry 57 different knives with them at a given time, I do prefer to use smaller knives for smaller chores and larger knives for jobs that require them.
The Shemanese, though, really does great with bridging the gap between the two and providing the user with enough knife to handle almost any common task, without being too cumbersome.
The only mark in the negative column is that the canting of the blade can make some food prep chores awkward until you’re accustomed to it. And that’s such a minor thing it hardly counts.
All in all, I’d rate the Shemanese a solid 10 out of 10. K&G
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Blade Material: AEB-LBlade length: 6.75 inchesOverall length: 12.0 inchesBlade thickness: 0.125 inchWeight: 8.5 ouncesHandle Material: MicartaSheath: Leather or KydexMSRP: $289.00
L.T. Wright Knives(740) 317-1404www.LTWrightKnives.com
Nature Reliance School
With the motto of, “Come on, join in, let’s learn together,” Craig Caudill and his instructors encourage students at all levels of experience to actively participate in their learning, whether it is through one of their online classes or in person at their school in Kentucky. They have one-day sessions on topics like wilderness safety and an introduction to tracking as well as lengthier sessions.
Craig and his staff have taught classes to military personnel, law enforcement agencies, search and rescue teams, and the general public for many years. He is also the author of three books:
Extreme Wilderness SurvivalUltimate Wilderness GearEssential Wilderness Navigation (co-authored with Tracy Trimble)
Jim Cobb is a recognized authority on disaster readiness. He has written several books and is also the Editor in Chief for Prepper Survival Guide magazine. He is a longtime collector of knives, EDC gear, and defense weapons. Jim lives in the upper Midwest with his wife, kids, and a motley crew of dogs and cats.
Awesome write up. I am hopefully heading to the dark cont. for uncle Samuel later this year and will be getting something new and sharp. This knife with kydex has my eye
Eldridge I meant lol
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