THE BURLS & STEEL OSPREY DIVES INTO CAMP CHORES WITH STYLE
Someone once told me that life is too short to hunt with an ugly rifle. I look at knives in a similar fashion. If you can afford a nice one, why not carry a nice one?
Custom knives come in all shapes and sizes and at an extremely wide range of prices. While I appreciate when great craftsmanship is elevated to the status of art, my knives are still tools. I want to use them, not keep them on display behind glass or hidden away in a vault.
As a result, I haven’t paid a four-digit price for any knife, unless you include a decimal point in there somewhere. Fortunately, many custom knifemakers make beautiful knives that are made to be used and enjoyed. One recent acquisition of mine that fits the category is my Burls & Steel Osprey.
Burls & Steel, located in South Carolina, was created by the husband-and-wife team of Ben and Sydney Spurrier. They are relative newcomers to the knife industry. Ben managed his family’s horse farm, and Sydney was a pre-school teacher. All that changed, according to Sydney, when Ben first started dabbling with knifemaking in 2015. He progressed quickly, and the couple founded Burls & Steel just three years later. Now, aside from raising their 2-year-old son, they are full-time knifemakers.
MID-SIZE IN MIND
The Osprey is what is usually called a bird and trout knife, although that name is limiting as these knives are among the most versatile and handy knives going. The Osprey is a full-tang fixed-blade knife. It has a 3.5-inch drop-point blade of Nitro-V steel and a beautiful, stabilized, box elder burl handle. The knife is 7.5 inches overall and comes with a deep, pouch-style sheath.
My knife preferences seem to be cyclical. While my attention could turn to traditional folders or austere tactical blades at any moment, right now my interests have been trending toward fixed-blade knives the size of the Osprey.
“We use where we live as inspiration,” said Sydney. “We wanted to create an outdoors knife that could go anywhere and everywhere, from fishing trips to hunting trips. It’s good for all of your outdoor adventures. It’s lightweight. It’s not too big. It’s not too small. It’s the perfect size to get the job done. You can just throw it in your backpack or your kit, or wear it on your hip and take it wherever you need to go.”
With an all-purpose, take-anywhere knife and South Carolina’s salt marshes in mind, they decided to build most of their Ospreys with Nitro-V stainless steel to make them more resilient to the elements and easier to keep free of rust.
One reason I like the Osprey so much is that it reminds me of a knife I carried for many years when hiking, hunting, and camping. Early in our marriage and on a strict budget, my wife gave me a two-knife set that included a Sharpfinger fixed blade and a small three-blade stockman folder. The set was made by Schrade, then made in the U.S.
I used both of those Schrade knives extensively and made lots of memories with them. Yes, these were budget blades. The steel was a bit soft, but their edges sharpened easily. The Sharpfinger was about the same size as the Osprey, and it too featured a cutting edge positioned below the handle. That shape formed a natural finger guard. I liked that, especially when field-dressing deer. What I didn’t like was that the Sharpfinger’s blade had a more upswept tip than I would have preferred.
While both the Sharpfinger and the Osprey are a handy size with a natural guard, the comparison ends there. The Osprey has a drop-point blade, although there’s an unsharpened swedge on the spine that gives it a nice point. And obviously the materials used to make the Osprey are a significant upgrade.
KITCHEN USE TOO
Carrying the Osprey on my belt on recent treks through the woods, I was revisited by that old feeling of being prepared for anything and capable of everything. It was not unlike that feeling of near invincibility I had when I was a foolish lad in my twenties carrying that inexpensive Sharpfinger.
“The Osprey is what is usually called a bird and trout knife, although that name is limiting as these knives are among the most versatile and handy knives going.”
As I use the Osprey more, I’m finding it not only will tackle just about anything I need it to do, but it will look good doing it. And for a knife that is likely to see time on camping trips, I was pleased to find that it does a pretty good job with food prep too. That’s not surprising as the Osprey is configured on a smaller scale not unlike many kitchen knives. In fact, Burls & Steel also makes some very fine culinary knives and “in-betweeners” they call Camp to Kitchen knives. Sydney believes these knives have influenced Ben’s outdoor knives too.
“A knife needs to be comfortable first and foremost for you to be able to use it,” she said, “and so Ben really pays attention to the shape of the handle, the shape of the blade, how all of that works together.”
By choosing the company name Burls & Steel, the Spurriers obviously are drawn to stabilized burl wood handles. And I have admit, I find them very attractive too. But the company has used Micarta, G10, and other handle materials and of course, you can get the material you want if you order a custom knife to your specs.
I love the size and shape of this knife, and I will use it often. It’s given me an incentive to try some of the other Burls & Steel models down the road. And even though I only met the Spurriers this past spring, I feel as though I’m now carrying a knife made by friends.
Burls & Steel OSPREY
Type: Full-tang fixed blade
Steel: Nitro-V stainless steel
Blade Length: 3.5 inches
Configuration of Blade: Drop point
Overall Length: 7.5 inches
Handle: Stabilized and dyed box elder burl with brass fittings
Other: Custom leather sheath
Burls and Steel