The White River Firecraft Puuko is a powerhouse solo cutter and MVP combo player. White River Knife and Tool (WRK&T) is a small family-owned company that’s passionate about making top-notch American knives. The company name is inspired by Michigan’s White River, which runs through the family property in the Manistee National Forest. From decades of experience in manufacturing, WRK&T was spawned.
Its vision was to make knives with an impressive fit, finish, and functionality to a high standard and warrantied for life. As stated on the company’s website, “Many of our knives are designed for hunting or fishing. Others are for survival, camp, or everyday use.”
The company recently added a model to its Firecraft series designed by Jason Tietz. I put the FC-PKO to the test to see if it was a worthy member of this renowned family of knives.
FC-PKO WHITE RIVER FIRECRAFT PUUKKO
The puukko-inspired knife’s overall length is 8.1 inches and it weighs 4.6 ounces. It’s a classic drop-point, full-tang knife with a Scandinavian (Scandi) grind. It’s made of CPM S35VN sporting a Rockwell hardness of 58-60. The handle is made from Micarta with orange liners, and there’s an exposed pommel for thumping or thumping on. To complete the package, a Kydex sheath with ferrocerium rod is included to truly live up to the Firecraft name.
Atop the blade of the White River Firecraft Puuko is a fire notch for efficiently striking a Ferro rod and scraping tinder. The knife also features a polished stainless steel divot for use with a spindle when making a fire the old-fashioned way with a bow and drill set.
A combo is two or more items or people that complement each other. In this case, we’re talking about tools. Almost everybody will carry a reliable fixed-blade knife when traveling in the woods for a day trip, multi-day backpacking trip, or canoe trip. Factoring in weight, bulk, and, equally important, the weather will help develop a proper tool setup. If you are a one-tool-do-all disciple, you can take a few ideas from this and add them to your toolbox.
A good woodsman can get by with a fixed-blade for various outdoor adventures. With such a knife, you should be able to prepare camp food, make a fire, carve an impromptu eating utensil, cut cordage, and make traps and other tools. The FC-PKO checks all those boxes. In cold weather, when having a long sustaining fire is vital, a saw makes the perfect addition for cutting through wrist-thick wood or larger. A saw will also give clean flat ends that can easily be stood upright and split with a knife and baton. The saw and knife combo can easily feed a wood-burning stove without overextending any of the tools.
The second type of combo suited to the White River Firecraft Puuko is when it’s teamed up with a bruiser—a chopper. That’s right, a hatchet or big chopping knife, along with the FC-PKO, can build a Viking village. These two polar-opposite tools complement each other very well. One is tasked with chopping and splitting, while the other is the food slicer and carver. This is an excellent cold-weather combo when icy cold conditions mean splitting and feathering wood.
Most of the testing of the FC-PKO took place during the rainy fall and early winter in the Northeast—meaning firewood needed to be split. I initially leaned heavily on the hatchet and large chopping knife to chop and split wrist-thick pieces of wood. Once I had broomstick-thick pieces of wood, I used the FC-PKO to split them down further with a baton.
Eventually, I feathered the wood with the zero-grind Scandi to imitate small twigs and sticks, usually wet all the way through this time of year. To do this, you need a sharp blade and a little skill to emulate toothpick/matchstick-thick dry slivers, which are essential in firemaking. How much did I need? A lot!
Sure, a big blade or hatchet can do this. However, more skill is required, and more risk comes into play, which is why tool combos and trios work so well. Like a well-oiled machine or team—everything and everybody plays a part. The role of the FC-PKO is to fine-tune all the chopped and split pieces of wood that the heavy lifting tools do—and it absolutely excels at this.
Wooden tools and utensils are necessary in a camp and must be replaced often. A tool system can tackle that easier than just one cutting tool. Spatulas, wedges (gluts), digging sticks, and pot hooks are all much easier to make with a heavy chopping tool and a quick, nimble knife working together.
The FC-PKO with a high RC, usually associated with premium stainless steels, risks the chance of chipping, or worse, breaking. I let the hatchet chop rough pieces of wood for stakes by chopping a steep angle to act as the point to drive into the ground and a simple 90-degree at the top. From there, the FC-PKO took over. It beveled the top section for hammering and made a clean notch for attaching cordage. Pot hooks were done using the same recipe with the chopping tool cutting the broomstick-thick piece and the forked section of the branch, allowing the sharp FC-PKO to make a series of pot hooks.
As much as the combo team works well, the FC-PKO can be a stand-alone tool when just sticking to knife tasks. Splitting small-diameter wood no thicker than broomstick to thumb thickness was easy for the White River Firecraft Puuko in a tip-down scenario. With the blade facing away and my thumb on top of the nicely rounded pommel, I gripped the knife in an icepick grip. I could easily split thinner sticks with the sharp tip from that position.
I used the knife the same way when the wood was thicker in diameter, except I would hammer the pommel with a baton through the wood without any worries. There wasn’t any handle or blade damage while performing this task.
“…the FC-PKO can be a stand-alone tool when just sticking to knife tasks.”
Sectioning branches without a chopping tool is easy with two time-proven techniques. One is the simple beaver-chew cut, which slowly makes deep cuts around the stick until it breaks off, often leaving a rounded end. The other technique is using a simple heavy beater stick or, in technical terms, a baton and hammering on the spine, allowing the blade to shear through the wood.
BUILDING A FIRE KIT
A spindle, fire board, bow, and bearing block are needed to make a bow drill fire. The stainless steel divot built into the knife’s handle is a big plus and a huge time saver. Any part that can be carried along makes a difficult task a little easier. In this case, it’s the bearing block that the divot duplicates. The divot on the FC-PKO is friction-free, so there’s no need for lubrication, which is necessary on a natural hardwood bearing block.
Maximum friction on the fire board and the least amount on the bearing block is one part of the inner workings of a good bow drill set. The frictionless steel divot assures no need to lubricate it, thus giving you one less thing to worry about so you can concentrate on fire making.
The FC-PKO was made for carving and drilling. It sliced off wood quickly and cleanly while forming the spindle like a pencil—flatter eraser bottom and a sharper point like a pencil on top. The Scandi edge shined like a diamond during this task, whether using the belly curve or the flatter portion closer to the handle.
“The fire notch…will accommodate any size of ferro rod and will shower tinder with ferociously hot sparks.”
When slicing longer slivers of wood and removing a lot of material, I found angling the knife back works better. It’s the difference between cutting something straight-on or angled, like a guillotine blade. The blade’s tip drilled well due to it being close to being in line with the center of the handle. My index finger safely rested on the front portion of the handle with my palm over the rounded pommel.
The fire notch is a mainstay on the Firecraft series knives. It will accommodate any size ferro rod and will shower tinder with ferociously hot sparks. However, this doesn’t limit it to striking alone; it makes the best tinder scraper for fatwood, magnesium, bamboo, or poplar shavings. I planted the blade horizontally into a log firmly by using a baton. In that position, I scraped fatwood against the notch until I had a nice-sized pile to ignite. I used the ferro rod to scrape back against the notch sending a shower of hot sparks on the fatwood shavings and igniting them quickly.
The spine is rounded for absolute comfort when using different knife grips. As a bonus, it may also save a baton from getting shredded up too quickly. Only the notch area is sharpened for striking and scraping.
I previously used a knife (Rewild Gear Gasper 4) with a Jason Tietz-designed fire notch with exceptional results; the same goes for the new FC-PKO Puukko. Notch placement is in the best possible place on the spine where it won’t get in the way of thumb-assisted push-cuts or choking up on the blade when skinning.
A FINE FIRECRAFTER
The Firecraft series just got a little better. There are many reasons the FC-PKO belongs in the White River Knives Firecraft series. It has all the best features of its siblings, yet brings a new exciting touch to the table. The White River FC-PKO has definitely earned its place amongst the Firecraft series. The FC-PKO works well in a combo or trio; however, if you find yourself with only this tool, then you still have a distinct advantage. For more information, go to WhiteRiverKnives.com.
And be sure to check back with KnivesIllustrated.com for more of the latest news from the knife industry.
ABOUT THE FIRECRAFT SERIES
Designer Jason Tietz approached the Michigan-based company White River Knife & Tool several years ago. He was equipped with a few designs while looking for a knife company to produce a few prototypes for him. This partnership was the start of what eventually became the Firecraft series, spawning the Firecraft FC 3.5 Pro, Firecraft FC4, Firecraft FC5, Firecraft FC7, and now the Firecraft PKO. Jason also designed the Gasper 4 Knife for Rewild Gear.
White River FC-PKO
Blade Length: 3.7 inches
Overall Length: 8.1 inches
Blade Thickness: 0.125 inch
Steel: CPM S35VN
Weight: 4.6 ounces
Sheath: Kydex (black)
Designer: Jason Tietz
White River Knife & Tool